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Omarosa Out at White House; New Farenthold Accusations; Trump and Russia Interference. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 14, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:30:06] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: One of President Trump's most high profile assistants, Omarosa, is out at the White House. It is nothing new for the former "Apprentice" contestant who, of course, was fired from his reality show.


DONALD TRUMP, "THE APPRENTICE": Omarosa, go out and sell paintings or whatever the hell you're doing. Omarosa has to go. You're fired.


CAMEROTA: Well, the official line is she's resigning. But in typical Omarosa fashion, there's plenty of drama surrounding all of this departure.

Joining us now for the back story is CNN political analyst April Ryan with her reporting for American Urban Radio Networks.

April, how devastating will this be to the country and the country's business with the loss of Omarosa?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not at all. The problem is, no one really knew what Omarosa did. She -- we know she talked a lot with many of the presidents of HBCUs. She wanted to be the head of that. She was really trying to lead up that effort that the president really championed because of her. She at least attended or went to -- attended three HBCUs. So she felt passionate about that.

You know, she felt passionate about Haiti. She wanted to be the ambassador to Haiti. That didn't happen.

She was really lost. She didn't know her place I guess in the White House. And no one knew what she did. And she bucked the system. She bucked Reince Priebus. And she definitely bucked General Kelly.

You know, she had a salary of $180,000.


RYAN: And she was a friend of President Trump. But she -- yes. She was a friend of President Trump. And, you know, and he cherished that friendship. She used to have walk-in access. And that is where the problem begins.

CAMEROTA: OK. First of all, I mean --

RYAN: General Kelly wanted to set up parameters to keep the president focused.

CAMEROTA: April, you're giving us a lot of information. I man that she actually did have some sort of cobbled together role and $180,000 is a huge salary for somebody who you can't say what their job description is.

And also, look, we were -- I mean some of this is tongue in cheek, but --

RYAN: Taxpayer money.

CAMEROTA: Taxpayer money.

RYAN: Taxpayer money.

CAMEROTA: Of course. I mean -- yes, that -- we all thing Donald Trump was paying that out of his own pocket. And so there is drama surrounding Omarosa. So tell us your reporting of -- was there some sort of blowup at the White House holiday party with her?

RYAN: Some sort is an understatement. So apparently, according to my sources, my credible sources, you know, at the Christmas party, one of the two Christmas parties that night, it was actually election night, that night, you know, General Kelly approached Omarosa and he said, I need to talk to you. And she said, sure, I want to have full access again. Full access meaning walk-in privileges at any time into the Oval Office, being able to go in and out of meetings as, you know, per what she wants to do any time. She wanted full access. Just free and clear. And he said no. She said, if I don't get it, there will -- all hell will break loose or there will be a price loose. And he said, OK, all hell is going to break loose. And that's where it started.

And apparently people heard it. She was allegedly vulgar, cursing. And sources are telling me -- multiple sources are telling me she was with her husband at the time, who's a pastor, and she's a minister herself.

The next thing, that didn't sit well. They negotiated some kind of out for January 20th. From what I'm hearing from the White House is that there is some sort of signed resignation, negotiated resignation for January 20th.

But then, later on, it did not sit well with her. She proceeds to try to get into the residence, the White House. Again, remember, she did not have full access anymore.


RYAN: So Secret Service is saying they did not escort her out, but someone did. Secret Service or someone called -- called General Kelly. General Kelly came back.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

RYAN: You know, Omarosa has been a thorn in General Kelly's side. It's not just one thing but it's a multiplicity of things.


RYAN: And the way I understand it, one thing that really got to General Kelly is that she said, I helped elect this president. I brought the black vote. He said, no, you didn't. It was really ugly. You know, there are -- there are other stories reporting that she tripped alarms when she went into the White House, but one of my sources did say she tried to break in. But what we do know is she tried to get into the residents to talk to the president.


RYAN: According to sources, General Kelly told Omarosa that the president signed off on this in the first fight, in the first altercation.


RYAN: And then -- but she said, I'm still going to call him. And General Kelly said, this is not like going to the principal's office.


RYAN: So, I mean it's high drama. I mean we've never seen anything like this before.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like it. I mean it truly sounds like a reality -- something that would be captured --

RYAN: I mean it's (INAUDIBLE) a reality show, so, yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it sounds like something that would be captured on a reality show.

Before --

RYAN: But this is the people's house. This is where -- this is where war and peace comes. I mean everything in between. This is not a place for that.

[06:35:01] CAMEROTA: Yes. I'm just going to end on this note. We have a long, long list of the departures in just the first year. Maybe we could put it up on screen or scroll it. I mean --

RYAN: Not even a year.

CAMEROTA: Yes, less than a year there have been -- I mean many of them, as you know, high profile like Mike Flynn, or Sebastian Gorka or Steve Bannon or Anthony Scaramucci or Reince Priebus or Sean Spicer and then some just highly dramatic like Omarosa.

RYAN: Reince Priebus. Sean Spicer. CAMEROTA: April Ryan, thank you very much for all the scoopage (ph) on that one.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's not a word.

RYAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: It isn't.

CUOMO: Arizona Senator John McCain hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center due to side effects from ongoing cancer treatment. The war hero is a fighter and he is fighting this aggressive form of brain cancer. The same cancer that took the life of former Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau.

Now, that's relevant because when Biden appeared on "The View" yesterday, John McCain's daughter is on the show, as you know, Meghan, and they had some moment. Here it is.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST ON "THE VIEW"/DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: I couldn't get through your book. I tried. Your son Beau had the same cancer that my father was diagnosed with six months ago. And I'm sorry.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: But there's a lot of hope for him.

MCCAIN: I think about Beau almost every day. And I was told -- sorry -- that this doesn't get easier. But that you cultivate the tools to work with this and live with this. I know you and your family have been through a tragedy that I couldn't conceive of.

BIDEN: Well, look -- look, look, look, look, look, look --

MCCAIN: What would you tell people -- it's not about me, it's about everyone here.

BIDEN: No, no, no, no, it is about everyone. But, look, one of the things that gave Beau courage, my word, was John. Your dad -- you may remember when you were a little kid, your dad took care of my Beau. Your dad, when he was a mill aide (ph) work with me, became friends with Beau. And Beau talked about your dad's courage. Not about illness, but about his courage.

And, look, there's a lot of things happening. And any of you who have somebody who is diagnosed with glioblastoma, which is about as bad as it gets, there is breakthroughs that are occurring now. There's four (ph) things that are going on. And its -- and it could happen tomorrow.

Like, for example, at the University of Pennsylvania, where I teach now, there is -- at the Abramson Center, what they've found out is a thing called a CAR (ph) t-cell. What they do is they -- is they take the cells, your t-cells, your immune system cells, out of your body and they reinforce it with an antigen. And that goes in and that finds the cancer cell, because the cancer cells can hide from the -- your immune system. And they've had a breakthrough with a new drug dealing with child leukemia. And it's working.

There's other things called -- they -- they -- they have a -- what they did with Beau is starting to happen now. They're using this CAR (ph) t-cell and using an -- a -- they inject a virus and it generates into the cancer. In --


BIDEN: And so -- so there is hope. And if anybody can make it, your dad -- her dad is one of my best friends.

Her dad --


BIDEN: Her dad goes after me hammer and tong. We're like two brothers who were somehow raised by different fathers or something because of our -- because of our points of view. But I know, and I mean this sincerely, and I've said it all -- even when your dad got mad at me and said I should get the hell off the ticket -- there's -- no.

And do you remember what I said about your dad? I said I know, and I mean this sincerely, I know if I picked up the phone tonight and called John McCain --


BIDEN: And said, John, I'm at 2nd and Vine in Oshkosh and I need your help, come. He'd get on a plane to come. And I would for him too.


BIDEN: And this is the guy (ph).


CUOMO: First, Senator McCain is never somebody to let anybody get the last word. So on Twitter he said, thank you, Joe Biden, and the entire Biden family for serving as an example and source of strength for my own family.

He didn't even talk about himself. That's so signature John McCain for anybody who knows him. But what an unusual moment on television.

CAMEROTA: I watched it play out live. I just happened to catch it. And I saw that something was happening when I saw Meghan starting to cry there. And, God, Joe Biden has such that human touch. He's so special in that way that he can zero right in. He knew just what to say to her to turn her from, you know, crying to laughter. And he does that. He knows how to sort of go between poignance and humor in that way. And it just was -- it was a special moment, you know? I mean -- CUOMO: Well, look, she needed it. He is a very empathetic guy. But it was also a window into something else. Take the cancer out of it. Take all the emotion out of it if you want. There was something in there that people don't get to see anymore.

[06:39:59] I was very lucky. You know, I know Joe Biden personally. I've known him for a long time. I know John McCain. They used to be friends down there. They used to fight on the ideas, not on the insults of individuals. It used to be that way. I lived it. I watched it.

It is not that way anymore too often. And I hope that that was a reminder for people. Even on top of the cancer and the sentimentalities, this is how they treated one another down there once.


CUOMO: It didn't matter that they were in different parties. It didn't matter that John McCain said, get off the ticket, you stink, to Joe Biden. They still believed in each other as people and decency was the rule.

CAMEROTA: And that brings us to 2020 because Joe Biden seemed to leave the door open to a possible run.

CUOMO: He does. Now he says there's no reason for him to not leave the door open. It doesn't do anything for him to close the door. That it's nothing more than that. But, we'll see.

CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, there are new accusations against Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold. A former senior aide coming forward to describe the vulgar and abusive behavior she received. The details, next.


[06:45:24] CAMEROTA: Ok, now to a CNN exclusive for you.

New allegations against Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold. A former senior aide describes lewd and abusive behavior that forced him to seek medical treatment. The House Ethics Committee is investigating and CNN's MJ Lee is live in Washington with more.

What have you learned, MJ?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, we're hearing a new damning account from a former senior Capitol Hill aide who describes an intensely hostile environment inside the office of Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold. Thirty-one-year-old Michael Rekola was Farenthold's communications director in 2015 and he tells me that the congressman, who is a Republican, was verbally abusive, made sexually demeaning comments and jobs, and regularly berated his staff.

Now here's one especially egregious comment that Rekola says the congressman made. In July 2015, Rekola was getting ready to leave town for his wedding and he says that Farenthold, in front of other staffers, used a crude term for performing oral sex that I'm not going to use on air, telling him, quote, better have your fiance do that before she walks down the aisle. It will be the last time.

Now, Rekola says that Farenthold then joked about whether Rekola's now wife could wear white on her wedding day, a clear reference, he says, to whether she had had premarital sex.

Another former Farenthold staffer tells me that she was there and remembers Farenthold making the crude oral sex comment and the congressman tells CNN that this part is untrue.

And another disturbing detail is that Rekola tells me that Farenthold regularly referred to aides as a profanity that we'll shorthand on air as f-tards. Rekola said, quote, every time he didn't like something, he would call me an f-tard or idiot, he would slam his fist down in rage and explode in anger. He was flying off the handle on every little thing. I couldn't find a way to control it.

Now, in this instance, the congressman acknowledged to CNN that he did regularly call his aides f-tards. Farenthold said the offense word was used, quote, in jest, not in anger, and in hindsight I admit it was inappropriate.

CUOMO: Very different than what we've been hearing. It involves a man. It's not sexual, I guess, unless you want to look at sexual connotation of the language.

CAMEROTA: Well, yes.

CUOMO: So what does this mean for Farenthold?

Well, but I'm saying it's different than threatening language or predatory behavior towards an individual.

CAMEROTA: Sure, but it's certainly sexual language that he's using.

CUOMO: It's going to be contextual. But I'm saying, he's already under an ethics investigation. So what does this mean now?

LEE: That's right, the House Ethics Committee is already investigating the congressman and whether he sexually harassed another former aide, Lauren Greene. And what's potentially significant here is that Rekola told CNN exclusively that he has reached out to the House Ethics Committee last week and has volunteered to help with that ongoing investigation.

But, as you know, because the committee typically does not comment on existing investigations, it didn't comment for this story.

But if I could just put all of this in broader context, Rekola's decision to speak out to CNN makes him a rare male staffer to come forward with allegations of misconduct against a member of Congress. Most of the people who have come forward so far to say me too so far have been women, even though aides say that Capitol Hill can be a really hostile workplace for both women and men. And Rekola told me, quote, I want staffers on Capitol Hill to know that they are not alone.

Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, MJ, thank you very much for all of that exclusive reporting.

So, also, new reporting about how White House efforts to convince President Trump to accept the intelligence community's finding on the Russian election meddling. How do those play out inside the White House? Details from one of "The Washington Post" reporters who broke this story, next.


[06:52:29] CUOMO: All right, we are learning new and important details about how President Trump and his administration are handling or not handling the threat of Russian election interference. A new "Washington Post" piece out this morning says the president continues to reject evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. But it is why he rejects that evidence that is going to command your attention.

Let's bring in one of the members of the reporting team, "Washington Post" national security correspondent Greg Miller.

Greg, thank you for doing this. Congratulations on your team reporting.

What do you see as the several big takeaways for people from this report?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think there's a couple of things in here that are new. Our piece opens with efforts shortly after the election, before Trump was inaugurated, by his inner circle to get him to come to terms with this, to try to convince him to accept this rock solid case that Russia had interfered in the election, had tried to help him, and his refusal.

And then it just sort of goes forward from there. The implications of that rejection for nearly every part of the government that deals with Russia policy. The CIA, the State Department, other security agencies, the FBI. I mean it's just -- it's sort of an infection that goes through and impairs the government's ability to deal with what happened to the United States election in 2016.

CUOMO: So tell me if I have this right because I was just skimming through. I mean there's a -- this is thick. You know, this is a thick report. People are going to have to take their time on it.

MILLER: Sorry about that.

CUOMO: No, look, man, look, reporting takes times. It takes layers. Good for you guys for putting in the work.

It seems that it's not just that they don't deal with or that they don't meet or that they don't consider or push for policy. It's why. That Trump will not tolerate and takes any suggestion of Russian interference as being bad for him. And, as a result, the entire group around him has decided to avoid it, even though the interference is a foregone conclusion.

MILLER: That's right. So it amounts to his own personal insecurity about this issue. And this is what we say in the story, that this is to us without obvious precedent in history, an American president, because of his personality insecurities, refusing to accept what even most members of -- senior members of his administration regard as objective reality.

And, Chris, you just touched on this -- part of the -- that it's not just that they don't meet. You know, the president has never convened a National Security Council meeting on this issue after an entire year in office. It is that they've tried to undo, in many cases, the punishments that the Obama administration put in place on its way out of office before handing the reins of power over to Trump.

[06:55:17] You remember these compounds, in Maryland and New York, these Russian-owned estates that the Obama administration seized and kicked Russians out of. I mean there were -- we document in this story just repeated efforts, this persistent exploration of ways to give those back to Russia. This reflex, this impulse, to continue to try to do things nice for Putin that President Trump seems unwilling to do for even close American allies.

CUOMO: And now, what is the best sense of why? I mean I get -- the logic is fairly simple. Every time you say interference, it means that I didn't win fair and square. I don't want to talk about it. OK, I get that. Then there's, well, the sanctions that were passed 98-2 and still weren't put into effect. There are the efforts to repeal previous and pre-existing sanctions of the kind that you mentioned and others. The logic there isn't as continuous. Why does the reporting suggest they're going so far to placate Russia?

MILLER: Well, I think that part of it is, White House officials would tell us that, look, the president really believes that if he could only have this relationship with Vladimir Putin that he covets, this bond, if he were only allowed to proceed with that, that they could solve a lot of the world's problems, Syria, Iran and other really difficult and tractable issues. So part of it is this conviction on the part of the president that he -- that his charisma, that his personal ability to have relationships with leaders, is the key to solving problems, not policy.

CUOMO: Greg, thank you very much.

This isn't even close to unearthing what is in this piece. People are going to have to read it. There are a lot of layers. There's a lot of subtext. There's a lot of work that went into this. Thank you very much for this. Best for Christmas to you and your family.

MILLER: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Thank you.

Alisyn. CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, the GOP tax bill nearing the finish line, but why are Republican leaders pushing so hard for a bill that is so unpopular at the moment with Americans? We discuss all of that, next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're just days away, I hope, from delivering a truly amazing victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the rush? What's the hurry? We don't have a crisis on our hands.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: This is an absurd piece of legislation. What we need to do is pay attention to the middle class and working families.

[07:00:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do the right thing, Roy. It's time that we heal.

ROY MOORE (R), FORMER ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Because I believe the heart and soul of our country is at stake.

TRUMP: As the leader of the party, I would have liked to have had the seat.

CUOMO: Senator John McCain