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White House: "Pleased" Senate Has Reached Bipartisan Budget Deal; White House Staff Secretary Resigns Amid Domestic Abuse Allegations; Trump Tells Pentagon: Plan a Grand Military Parade. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 7, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you.

Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

To Capitol Hill, backing away from the brink. More than two weeks since the last government shutdown and just some 30 hours before it could happen again, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have reached a deal. Not just any deal. This could actually avoid future shutdown fears and stop gap solutions because it locks in budget caps over the next two years.

Moments ago, Senate leaders from both parties held it as a compromise.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This bill is a product of extensive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House. No one would suggest it is perfect but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving. First and foremost, this bipartisan agreement will unwind the sequestration cuts that have hamstrung our armed forces and jeopardized our national security.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: After months of legislative logjams this budget deal is a genuine breakthrough. After months of fiscal brinkmanship, this budget deal is a first real sprout of bipartisanship.


BALDWIN: That is the Senate. The House may or may not cooperate. Some Republicans have complained the deal was too costly. You have Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi taking to the House floor quite a while today insisting more needs to be promised to protect Dreamers, those undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It does nothing to even advance, even with a commitment without having passed legislation first, to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers in this House. Without that commitment from Speaker Ryan, comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.

We have no right to talk about Dreamers and to tell their stories and take pride in their actions unless we're willing to take action to support them. And we have that opportunity today, by asking the speaker to give us the vote, what are you afraid of?


BALDWIN: That's a request from Leader Pelosi.

Here is Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill.

Now, from what I understand, Phil, you know, Speaker Ryan's office have said repeatedly that Republicans, yes, intended to do this immigration reform bill, citing his spokeswoman, quote, one that the president supports. So, what's the issue?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That last part, that last piece is the part that Democrats have a serious problem with, one that the president supports. There's a lot of concern that the president will settle on anything at this point or that the four principles the president has laid out to this point are considered objectionable by Democrats.

What Leader Pelosi is pointing to, Brooke, is essentially the mechanism that's been set up in the Senate, where they're going to put a shell bill on the floor, and whoever gets 60 votes ends up winning. Now, that's not necessarily how the House works, but that's what Leader Pelosi is looking for. And I can tell you right now, according to many sources familiar with this, she's not going to get that.

Make no mistake about it, Speaker Ryan very much wants to deal with this and put it on the floor but he wants the sign off of the president before doing that. And this kind of underscores the issues right now with this deal. Now, keep in mind, this is an enormously consequential deal right now. Senator Schumer kind of laid it out, kind of moving, lurching from crisis to crisis on the spending side of things for what seems like years at this point, could be completely off the table.

It also includes more than $80 billion for disaster relief to places like Florida, and Texas, most importantly, Puerto Rico, who are ravaged by hurricanes. You also have some health care spending that's been considered very important and another crisis taken off the table, the debt ceiling will be increased until March of 2019.

The idea that you could clear the decks of all those items, that's exactly why Democrats were at the table. That's exactly why Democrats were willing to do this. Not just because of that but also because of the nondefense spending that would happen with this, more than $64 billion over the course of the next two years of increases in nondefense spending. That's opioid treatment, that's veterans' treatment. Those are key priorities for Democrats right now.

But as Leader Pelosi noted, the DACA issue, they have been looking at defense spending the Republicans want, Brooke, as leverage. This takes that away. And I think that's the concern you have right now with House Democrats and that's why when you talk about, Brooke, the House Republicans on the far right, fiscal conservatives who don't like the spending increases, the Democrats who are concerned about the lack of DACA resolution in this, they need to find the votes in the house to move this forward.

In the Senate, it's very clear. They believe they have a sweet spot there where you kind of lose the two polls and you get 60 plus votes with everybody that's left over. What Speaker Ryan is going to have to try and do is the same thing in the House, find enough Democrats to join with enough Republicans to move this forward.

I will say, Brooke, the votes are expected on this tomorrow. Over next 24 hours, you're going to have leaders in both parties trying to sell this deal, trying to make this happen.

[14:05:01] You're also going to have a lot of bullets flying from people, particularly Democrats who are very unhappy that we are now at this point. But we'll note once again, it's a point that could take crises off the table, at least on the spending side, for a long period of time. And that is not a small thing, as you know quite well.

BALDWIN: We will hone in on what could happen in the House. Bullets flying, so says Phil Mattingly. Thank you for that. We're going to analyze a bit more in a second.

I also though want to go in. More breaking news, this is something that Sarah Sanders was just asked about in the press briefing, that the White House staff secretary Rob Porter has resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse by not just one but two of his ex-wives.

Our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is live for us in Washington.

And, you know, they were just asking about this. Tell us more about the allegations involved and why did he left?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, certainly an interesting development here. Rob Porter is someone who is not known as a household name, of course. But he is very critical inside the West Wing of the White House.

And he is a staff secretary, which means that he is largely in charge of all the information coming to and from the Oval Office. He brings, you know, documents and news reports and briefings and other matters. And he was a former chief of staff to Senator Orrin Hatch on Capitol Hill. He has worked inside the administration since the beginning here and he's largely been also responsible for writing speeches and other matters.

His profile has been growing. Well, the resignation is becoming abruptly after the report from reported two of his ex-wives, as you said, said that he physically and verbally abused them. The White House just yesterday when this was coming out, they were defending him, saying that he's a good worker, the ultimate professional. But today, the resignation came. And this is a brief statement that we have now from Rob Porter. Let's take a look at this, Brooke.


ZELENY: It says this: These allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described.

He goes on to say: I've been transparent and truthful about these vile claims but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.

Brooke, the photos he's talking about is one that shows a black eye and other matters here. So, you have a sense that they moved so fast here because they knew this was going to be a big issue. Again, I am told that the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, and others urged him not to resign.

But he did resign his position. He will be leaving some time in the future. As we heard Sarah Sanders say not immediately but certainly leaving the White House, Brooke.

BALDWIN: How, Jeff, was the White House -- in order to get a job, right, you're vetted. There are background checks. I mean, if you're talking about the word of these two women with photographic evidence, they say, of abuse, how is this not caught before he walked in that front door?

ZELENY: Brooke, that is a great question. And you are hired first and then the background check comes later for your security clearance. That is something that is fascinating here, someone who had such access to the president and, indeed, the Oval Office, still did not have his permanent security clearance. He was operating on a temporary one.

That is one of the reasons, we believe, that came out of the FBI investigation, routine background check here. That was unusual, more than a year in here, year into the administration, he still did not have his full-time security clearance. He often was with the president on the road. He was in Davos, Switzerland, just a couple of weeks ago with the president, would travel frequently but did not have full-time security clearance.

So, that certainly was an interesting flag here. We do know he will be resigning his position from the White House, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Do you know -- one more, Jeff, do you know if Ivanka Trump played a role in this decision at all?

ZELENY: I do not know if Ivanka Trump played a role in this decision at all. Certainly, Rob Porter was viewed as a very popular figure inside the West Wing. He is someone who came of Washington. He was working on Capitol Hill. So, he was essentially a tour guide for other folks here who was instructing newcomers like Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and others of how Washington worked. But I do not know if Ivanka Trump played a role in this, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. OK. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much on that reporting.


BALDWIN: Let's broaden now the conversation. I've got David Chalian joining me, CNN political director. And CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel.

David Chalian, just first to you, Rob Porter, again, not a name a lot of people at home know. But are you surprised?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I'm not surprised that a resignation came with the allegations that are out there, that they sort of seem, you know, unsustainable scenario for someone to serve at the highest levels of the White House day in, day out, with allegations of spousal abuse, allegations he is deny in denying in the remarks read by Sarah Sanders, but one that just having the allegations out there would just make it so optically terrible for the White House to have this person working day in, day out.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: What are you thinking?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And it wasn't just from one person. These were both of his former wives.


GANGEL: What they lay out sounds very similar in both cases. Also I think it's worth mentioning that in "The Daily Mail" article, the FBI apparently interviewed one of his former wives who told the FBI about these incidents. So, this may be one of the reasons that his security clearance was held up.

But I just want to say, I did hear several weeks ago rumors that Rob Porter might be leaving.

BALDWIN: You did.

GANGEL: And then it went away. And I'm just wondering if they knew "The Daily Mail" piece was coming.


GANGEL: But he is considered very well-respected by people who work for him. He went to Harvard. His father, Roger Porter, was head of the domestic policy council for President Bush 41. He goes back a long way in Washington. I'm told General Kelly really liked and respected him and wanted him in this job.

BALDWIN: I just got handed a piece of paper, a statement from Senator Orrin Hatch, who Rob Porter served as his chief of staff at one point. Let me read part of this statement for you.

He writes: I am heartbroken by today's allegations. In every interaction I've had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted adviser. I do not know the details of Rob's personal life, domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved.

So, yes, go ahead, David.

CHALIAN: Brooke, I just want to note, the White House put out statements from several people and they put out a statement from Senator Hatch that is entirely different in tone than that statement. So, this is the statement came from the senator's office and clearly changed what I guess seemed to be the initial statement that went out by the White House.

So, there are two Hatch statements out there. One distributed by the White House. One distributed by the senator's office that is the one you just read. And the other just sort of completely different in tone.

So, I imagine we're going to hear more about this throughout the day.

BALDWIN: Actually, I've got it now. The first statement released by the White House is this.

It is incredibly discerning to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this and shame on the politically, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man's good name. I know Rob. I've known him for years, both as a close friend and a personal adviser. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.

You are correct, David Chalian, in the very different tone between those different statements. Thank you for pointing that out.

Let me move on to this spending deal. And, David, just staying with you, the fact that we have the secretary of defense briefing reporters at the White House, you know, talking about the ramifications, how, you know, sort of catastrophic this would be for the military if the government were to shut down again. He said he was optimistic and went, the House did earlier this week and the Senate give us the budget to carry out our responsibilities.

What's the state of play right now? What are you really looking at?

CHALIAN: Well, what I'm really looking at is -- I know this may shock our audience after looking at so much inaction due to partisanship but there may be a bipartisan sort of governing phase about to break free in Washington here. So much of today's politics, Brooke, as you and I have talked about time and time again, it's dictated by the polls, by the left of the Democratic Party, by the right of the Republican Party.

This is a moment where the governing majority of the center from both sides seems to be getting a deal through the Senate and, you know, Paul Ryan sounds like he expects this to pass the House. Yes. You will have people, Nancy Pelosi, an example representing the left wing, of her party at the moment and House Freedom Caucus members representing the right wing who are going to create a bit of drama and express frustration with this deal.

But there may be a governing bipartisan majority at the moment to get this matter, this budgetary matter through both chambers. And you heard Sarah Sanders today. Having the president's backing of this, and saying it's positive, that's going to help bring on those conservative members in the House, too.

BALDWIN: Just some numbers, Jamie. Senate bill goes to military and nondefense spending. Pentagon would see funding boosted by $160 billion, $80 billion toward disaster relief to places like Texas, and Puerto Rico, and Florida.

[14:15:02] And it is I think noteworthy, and I know you talked to a lot of Republicans who are mostly deficit hawks, right? Now you see ka-ching, ka-ching, which is great for our military and folks who need the money. But still, it's almost like they're becoming the party of spending.

GANGEL: So, the cap is going up.

BALDWIN: Right, right.

GANGEL: But everybody is getting a little bit of what they wanted. And I think as David said, it's better to have something than nothing --


GANGEL: -- and not look as if you can't do anything. At some point, the consequences of --

BALDWIN: Not doing anything.

GANGEL: -- not doing anything is no good, especially when you have midterm elections.

BALDWIN: That matters.

Jamie, thank you so much. David Chalian, thank you.

Coming up next, marching orders. Moment ago, Secretary of Defense James Mattis weighed in on President Trump's request for this big military parade. This, as we have now heard from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, calling this idea, in a word, cheesy. We'll discuss that next.

Also, breaking in the Russia investigation, subpoenas for former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Steve Bannon. Those details coming at you next.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:20:36] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.

REPORTER: The parade featured military equipment. The Patriot missile got the loudest applause. During the war, it got the name Scud buster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This parade meant we're finally home, this is finally over and the American people appreciated what we did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, to me, meant that going through Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield was worth it. And made me realize just how much, you know, the people back here, you know, are standing up for us and appreciated what we were doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see the country showing their support. I think it's -- hey, it's good to see my daughter, you know?

REPORTER: There was controversy over having a victory parade from anti-war activists, to Arab representatives who said there should be no celebration over the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis. Some even call this parade a campaign rally for George Bush.


BALDWIN: All right. So, we went to the archives for that. That was a CNN report from June of 1991, the last time United States held a major military parade to mark victory in the Gulf War.

So, now, President Trump is issuing marching orders all of his own. The chairman of the joint chiefs confirms initial planning has begun for a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. One option is to hold it on November 11th of this year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I, also happens to be Veterans Day. The president was reportedly inspired by France's Bastille Day parade which he attended with French President Macron last year.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was one of the greatest parades I've ever seen. It was two hours on the button and it was military might. To a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue. I don't know. We're going to have to try to top it.


BALDWIN: So let's talk about this now.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN military analyst is with us. Steve Rogers, a member of the Trump campaign advisory board and also a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent.

So, welcome to all of you.

And, Barbara, first to you, hearing from the secretary of defense at the top of that White House briefing, you know, he's pretty political on this, saying it shows the president's respect for the military.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: He was indeed. He was asked why do it, why spend the money? Look, when Jim Mattis wants to answer a question, he answers it at length. He did not want to answer this. All he would say is that it shows the president's respect and affection for the military and they're developing options.

Make no mistake, what this means is the Pentagon will give the president options for the kind of parade he wants. He will pick. He will decide. There's not really anything anybody can do about it. He is the commander-in-chief.

There have been military parades. But why are you not seeing a huge rush of public support for this idea? Already we're seeing bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill.

You know, look, one of the questions is one of tone and substance. The U.S. military right now never really did come home from the Gulf, did it? The wars have continued for 16 years. U.S. forces directed into conflicts which have largely been conducted in countries of the Islamic faith. There is international sensitivity that has carried on all these years about it.

And that's one of the major reasons culturally the U.S. military celebrates its troops, celebrates their service. Americans celebrate all of that. But the U.S. military, as you know better than anybody, Brooke, does not have a long tradition, a cultural affinity for celebrating a big ostentatious display of tanks and missiles rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, tanks and missiles rolling down the streets of any American city.

In this country, it is about celebrating the service of the troops, not doing something necessarily that a president wants, just because he wants it. There has to be a good reason for all of this, thanking the troops, respecting the troops. Why do one of these very major, very rare parades where you are going to see tanks on the streets of Washington?

BALDWIN: Yes. Barbara, thank you.

[14:25:01] General Hertling, let me begin with you on the conversation and you remind us where you were in '91, if you were, you know, overseas, fighting the good fight, and how you see the idea of this big military parade.

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I have to laugh, Brooke. I was still in Iraq. A lot of the forces had already returned to the United States. I was stationed in Germany. So, we were some of the last folks to get out of Iraq.

And it was funny because we read about it in "Stars & Stripes," about this big victory parade when we were in the middle of the desert. I'll never forget. A young soldier came up to me and said, sir, I'm sure glad I'm here than having to do that stupid parade in Washington.

Now, that's a commentary from one soldier. It's anecdotal but Barbara Starr is exactly right. The U.S. military does not do parades like this. It is not part of our culture. In 1991, it was a victory parade after a four-day ground war that was monumental in terms of its operational brilliance, it was a welcome home ceremony for the troops.

Yearly parade, walking down Constitution Avenue or Pennsylvania Avenue just isn't in the culture or the heritage of the U.S. military. It belongs in other countries. I'm not going to say whether it's right or wrong. It's not all dictators that do this. Some democracies do this as well. It's just not part of our heritage.

BALDWIN: Steve, you know, President Trump more or less has said he more or less wants the pomp. Do you see this more about the president or more about, you know, our brave men and women in uniform?

STEVE ROGERS, FORMER LT. COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY RESERVE: Brooke, Americans love parades and they love their military. And, you know, it's not just about weapons and tanks but the people who will be marching.

Look, you're going to have Medal of Honor winners, as far back as World War II, marching in that parade. You're going to have veterans from the VFWs, the American Legion and on and on.

So, what a grand way of doing a few things. What is honoring the people of our military. But, Brooke, this has started a conversation. I hope the conversation continues about the real mission of the United States military that's not being taught in our schools today. And our military is doing great things.

So, there is no downside to this. I'm so proud of being in the Navy. My son fought in Fallujah in the Marines. I asked him about it. He says, Dad, this would be great.

We're going to honor the men and women. So, it's not just about showing off weapons. It's about honoring the heroes of this country.

BALDWIN: General Hertling, doesn't Steve have a point? Listen, I know I've spent enough time around soldiers and sailors that it's not a me, me, me culture. That said, what's wrong with Americans wanting to celebrate you?

HERTLING: It's fine that Americans want to celebrate you. But, Brooke, I'll tell you, honestly, you know, for the last couple of years there's been a thank you to our soldiers, you know, thank you for your service.

You talk to most military people, the ones that wear the uniform, that embarrasses them a little bit. They don't like to be thanked. They served. You know that. You've been to places where it happens.

You know, it was interesting, last night, I did an unofficial, unscientific Twitter question just out to all the military veterans and military serving and I said what do you think of this parade? It was probably a thousand to one saying we don't do parades.

One guy, one command sergeant major retired said, you can get something out of everything, which he's right. You can get all kinds of things out of any training event. But 1,000 to 1 said this is dumb. Lindsey graham tweeted out something saying he supported this parade that President Trump wants to do. Take a look at his Twitter feed. There were hundreds of people --

BALDWIN: He said it's cheesy.

HERTLING: Well, now, yes, but the first one said I support just troops, not a show of force with equipment.


HERTLING: You could see by the answers on his twitter feed how many people told him it was the dumbest idea yet. It's just not part of the American tradition.

ROGERS: Brooke, we remember watching the scene of troops coming off planes into airports and people spontaneously thanking them and applauding them and the tears coming down the cheeks of those troops.

General, with all due respect, there's nothing wrong with thanking our heroes and this is a great way to do it.

HERTLING: There isn't anything wrong with thanking our heroes, Commander. But what I'll tell you is having a parade with military equipment and marshal intent down Pennsylvania Avenue once a year is not the way to do it. We do not flaunt our abilities like that as a major world military power. We do it quietly and behind the scenes.

ROGERS: I'm proud of our military.


ROGERS: I'm proud of showing off our military -- and I know you are. I'm not saying you're not. You're a fine general, believe me. But I think this is the opportunity to show the world that we have a great fine military but more so to thank the men and women in a grand way.

HERTLING: We don't need a parade --

ROGERS: Maybe you don't.

HERTLING: -- to show the world we have a fine military. We do that every day.

ROGERS: We don't need a lot of things.

HERTLING: There are 140,000 U.S. Army soldiers deployed in 179 countries around the world. They are showing the world what a great military we have. We don't need a marshal parade to do it in my humble opinion.

ROGERS: Well, you know who will determine that? The American people, when hundreds of thousands show up.