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Trump's Parade?; Biden Calls President Trump a Joke; Senior Trump Aide Resigns in Wake of Domestic Abuse Accusations. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired February 7, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But the deal was struck in the Senate. It is not clear whatsoever if the House will approve it.

Moments ago, in a rare appearance at the White House briefing, we heard from the defense secretary, James Mattis, who has been up on the Hill urging Congress to support this bill, saying his forces have been suffering under short-term solutions.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Our military have been operating under debilitating continuing resolutions for more than 1,000 days during the last decade.

Shutting down the government would be very damaging to the military for all the reasons I just cited about a continuing resolution, have be aggravated by the shutdown itself, where we actually send home all non-uniformed personnel, except for those in a few critical areas. It just paralyzes everything we do.


BALDWIN: Let's go to Capitol Hill to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

And so, all right, great news on the Senate side. Talk to me about the House.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Brooke, when you talk to aides right now in both parties, what I have been doing at least over the course of the last hour, they believe the votes will be there, they believe they will be able to get this done.

Now, this is going to be a process. There isn't going to be a big vote on this day. Tomorrow is when the Senate will vote on this, then kick this over to the House. And essentially they need to find 216 votes, some kind of combination of it from Democrats, some of whom are very upset about this because of immigration issues, and from Republicans, some of whom are very upset about this because of spending issues.

They believe they will get there. But there's no question about it there's work to do to get to that point.

I want to play some sound from the Senate leaders earlier, because you get a sense of what both parties are pitching to their members as they try and get this across the finish line. Take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This bill is the 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 the first real sprout of bipartisanship.


MATTINGLY: Brooke, let me take you through kind of the key components of the bill and why leaders feel like this will actually get the job done.

You have approximately $300 billion over the course of two years in new spending. Now, that is split between defense spending, which obviously Republicans are very happy about. You heard about Secretary Mattis, his pretty forceful voice on this, and non-defense domestic spending, which is a huge priority for Democrats, things like extending the Children's Health Insurance Program 10 full years, dealing with opioid epidemic, those type of things.

Those are very important pieces here. You also have increasing the debt ceiling, raising the debt ceiling until March of 2019. That takes another potential congressional self-mandated crisis off the table for a long period of time.

Then you have more than $80 billion in disaster relief. That's incredibly important for members from states like Texas, or Florida, Louisiana and obviously a lot of people very concerned about the dire situation down in Puerto Rico in the wake of those hurricanes.

Those are all really key components here. Those are the big sales job right now. I think obviously, Brooke, all eyes right now -- you can just look on the House floor, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking for more than four hours right now.

BALDWIN: She's still talking.

MATTINGLY: Exactly. Why? Because of DACA.

Right now, Democrats have made very clear over the course of weeks, if not months, that the defense spending of this was their key piece of leverage. Right? If they held on to that, that that would help them get to DACA at some point, because they knew Republicans had to have that.

What they're doing in signing off on this deal is they're decoupling those key things. You're losing a key piece of leverage, and that's extremely important in the House.

Here is kind of the way you read the tea leaves of what's going on right now. Leader Pelosi has already come out and said she is going to oppose this deal. But her staff was crucial to locking in this deal, along with Speaker Ryan's staff.

The domestic priorities on this were what Leader Pelosi wanted and was going for. And while Leader Pelosi is opposed to this deal, she's not saying she's going to actively going to ask her members to oppose it. She's speaking solely for herself.

They're not loose with words when they make those statements. Those statements mean something. You talk to other Democrats in leadership as well, they say, look, everybody is going to vote their own district, everybody is going to vote their own conscience.

Those are chosen words, saying, we're going to allow our guys to vote for this if they feel like they need to.

Where the votes are specifically going to come from, that's still an open question. Whipping, getting a sense of where everybody is right now is what is being worked on and will be worked on for the next 24 hours.

Democrats want some kind of commitment in the House from the speaker about some kind of DACA resolution. It is not very expected that they're going to get. But it is expected that at some point this will get over the finish line tomorrow.

The big question is exactly where the votes and how many of the votes they will actually end up getting, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

I have got our CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, who used to run up and down those halls for years and years and years.

If Phil is saying -- and he has talked to folks on both sides of the aisle -- he's confident that the House will get to 216 and pass this thing, and, as he pointed out, Nancy Pelosi was so key in brokering this deal, then why is she standing there for four-plus hours now saying no and demanding this vote on immigration?


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I saw you write that down. And it's because you're you that you picked up on what I did about Nancy Pelosi, because to people watching at home, it makes absolutely no sense.

BALDWIN: Not at all.

BASH: The answer is because she's getting attention, because she's getting attention for the issue she's upset is not in there.

She understood, because she is as sort of seasoned and tough as a legislator as they come, that, at the end of the day, we saw what happened in the Senate a few weeks ago. They tried to use the immigration issue as leverage for keeping the government open, and it didn't work.

BALDWIN: Right. They shut the government down.

BASH: They shut the government down. And it didn't work out so well politically, at least in the short term, for Democrats.

What Nancy Pelosi is doing is, she's making -- she's using the megaphone that she has by saying, you know what? I want to try to get a promise from the Republicans that if the Senate brings this up, that the House will bring it up as well. She's just trying to continue to shine a light on this issue.

Why? Politically. And Phil touched on this. There are many people in her party who are furious about giving up the leverage of immigration, giving up the leverage of the dreamer issue, and letting this whole package, which has a lot of things a lot of people want, from military spending, to help with health community centers, disaster relief for hurricanes.

A lot of people in the conservative movement and even Democrats who don't like it, because it is a lot of government spending, which is what many of them campaigned again for years. But, at the same time, they're kind of taking baby steps.

The question I think now, Brooke, after this happens, and assuming it will ultimately pass the House and our government will stay open and there will be a two-year budget deal, is then when the Senate turns to immigration, which technically is supposed to be tomorrow, when they start debate, how does that play out? That's a very big question.

BALDWIN: OK. That's what we watch for tomorrow on immigration.

Stay with me, please.

I also want to bring in some more breaking news that we're getting out of the White House. The senior aide to President Trump has resigned after two ex-wives went public with accusations of domestic abuse.

I'm talking about Rob Porter. He's Trump's White House staff secretary. He denies these allegations. Let me be crystal-clear on that. But he is stepping down anyway.

Dana is with me. But I also want to bring in Jeff Zeleny, our CNN senior White House correspondent.

And, Jeff, just starting here on this with you, again, Rob Porter has said he's denied this entirely, but yet he chose -- he's left the White House. Tell me more.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Brooke, a fairly abrupt decision to announce his resignation.

Now, just stepping back a bit, the White House staff secretary is a very important person in the West Wing, largely because they handle the information flow into and out of the office. It gives them a lot of proximity to the president.

Rob Porter was a longtime Capitol Hill aide. He worked for Senator Orrin Hatch and others on Capitol Hill. And for the last year, he's been inside this administration. But he did announce he was resigning today in the wake of that report of verbal and physical abuse of his two ex-wives.

This was first reported by "The Daily Mail." This is something that has been percolating a bit. Only yesterday, several White House aides stood by him and said they were going to support him. And then today he resigns when some photographs were published also online of a black eye of one of his former wives.

But here's his statement just a short time ago, Brooke. We did get this from Rob Porter.

Let's take a look at this statement. He says this. He said: "These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago. And the reality behind them is nowhere close as to what's being described."

He goes on to say that: "I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims. But I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."

But, Brooke, it also gets a little bit more complicated, because we're learning now that he is also having a personal relationship with Hope Hicks, the White House communications, who, of course, is very close to the president.

That was one of the reasons he was viewed so highly inside the West Wing here. It was one of the reasons he was being protected. So, certainly interesting he announced he was resigning today. We're not certain the date of the resignation. But it will be happening some point in the future -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Here's a quick follow, because I asked you last hour about, listen, if have you this photographic evidence and this black eye, despite the fact that he's saying, I didn't, I didn't, I didn't, you know, obviously he would go through some sort of background check.

And it's my understanding that one of the ex-wives brought this up with investigators as he was trying to get a job. Right?


ZELENY: Indeed, Brooke. And that is something that we're still going to be learning more

about. It's our understanding, our Jim Acosta and others are reporting that the FBI did learn through these interviews a routine interview to get a background check, a security clearance, that he did, indeed, have these allegations of abuse.

Now, we do not believe that there were ever criminal charges in this. But the FBI alerted the White House, we are learning, about this. It is one of the reasons he was never given a permanent security clearance.

That is one of the questions here the White House will have to answer. So far, they have not about if they knew about this, why didn't they do something at that time? This is something that is still developing here.

But certainly these background checks by the FBI are very routine. Everyone is hired at the White House. And then they go through background checks here for security clearances. That's apparently when this was learned, some point last year about abuse allegations.

Of course, it's all surfacing in the last couple of days at the report and some other reporting as well and then he decided to resign, rather abruptly, I would say, today, Brooke.

BALDWIN: What are you thinking on this? The fact that he's saying he didn't do it, but he's leaving a pretty big job, how significant is this?

BASH: A very big job.

Look, we don't know. As Jeff was saying, it's too early to know the real deal of the details. I don't know that we will ever know the real deal.

I will say that, in talking to people who worked with Rob Porter in the White House and before that on the Hill, but particularly in the White House, they're pretty surprised by this. Those who aren't privy to background checks, but just those who interacted with him as a colleague are pretty surprised.

They call him extremely soft-spoken. Someone said to me the kind of guy you say, what, what? Because he's not kind of an in-your-face sort of personality.

BALDWIN: Oh, wow.

BASH: Having said that, you know, just maybe a reminder that you don't always know people. But it is important to underscore, as you said, that he is denying these allegations.

But I guess you can deny allegations and understand a political liability when you see one or when you are one.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Dana Bash.

ZELENY: Brooke, it's also...

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Jeff.


ZELENY: It's also interesting to point out, as Dana was saying, we are getting some information as well that is showing that the White House is clearly trying to put the best possible spin or light on this.

Senator Orrin Hatch, of course, the longest serving Republican, Republican of Utah, on Capitol Hill, the White House released a statement from him, a glowing statement about Rob Porter, also going after the media for reporting these allegations.

It turns out that was entirely different than the statement Senator Hatch released himself out of his own office. Our M.J. Lee was talking with Senator Hatch and he said his statement -- he says this: "I'm heartbroken by today's allegations. In every action I have had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional and respectful. I do not know the details of his personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved."

However, the White House released a statement from Senator Hatch in his name and it says: "It is incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man's good name."


BASH: Boy, does that sound Trumpian.

ZELENY: Boy, it does sound Trumpian.


BALDWIN: So did he say that? Or is the White House saying he said that?

ZELENY: It was released. It was his printed statement released by the White House in the senator's name.

And we are told that the senator, once his office learned more about this, they wanted to release their own.

BALDWIN: Interesting.

ZELENY: But, again, Brooke, this shows, as I was saying earlier, the White House clearly trying to put a different light, a blame the media light on this.

And, again, we have to point out one of the people at the center of this is the White House communications director, Hope Hicks, who is in charge of messaging. We are told by multiple people familiar with the situation that she is having a personal relationship with Rob Porter here.

So, that is one of the complicating dynamics in this, no question, but certainly Orrin Hatch wishing his former colleague well, but also stepping way back from what the White House was trying to say under his name -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you very much. Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Next, marching orders. Secretary of Defense James Mattis weighing in on President Trump's request for a military parade as more and more veterans are speaking out, saying no to any sort of parade, and one Republican senator has actually called it cheesy. We will discuss that.

Also, she is Kim Jong-un's youngest sister now being sent to lead the North Korea delegation at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. What we know about her background and the role she has in her family. Keep in mind, this is happening as the vice president announces added pressure on North Korea ahead of the Olympics.


Stay with me.


BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin,

President Trump has given the marching orders. Now the defense chief says the Pentagon is preparing options for a possible military parade on down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Perhaps could happen this coming 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: And it was one of the greatest parades I have 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 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue. I don't know. We will have to try and top it.


BALDWIN: Before we talk about the feasibility and political implications of this parade, I want to take you back to the end of the Gulf War.


This is what was being broadcast right here on CNN the last time the U.S. held a military parade in 1991. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The parade featured military equipment. The Patriot missile got the loudest applause. You will remember 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: It's good to see the country showing their support. I think it's -- hey. It's good to see my daughter, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 called this a campaign rally for George Bush.


BALDWIN: Let's have a conversation.

Christine Quinn is with me. She's the former speaker for New York City Council. And Steve Lonegan is a former Republican for the U.S. Senate and he served as a former New Jersey national director for Ted Cruz's campaign.

Great to have both of you on.



BALDWIN: I want to start on the parade. We had talked to two veterans last hour. I was asking you in commercial. You said both of your fathers served in the military.

Chris, just starting with you, do you think it is a great idea, honor our military, have a parade, or too much of a Trump show?

QUINN: I will quote my father, Larry Quinn, '91, World War II veteran in the Navy. He think it's ridiculous, a waste of money.

Obviously, he believes and I believe him, that there's victories to be celebrate. They should be celebrated and Veterans Day should be a sacrosanct day. But the president clearly called for this parade because he had fun in France, because he liked watching all of the big guns and troops parade in front of him.

This really smacks of the president liking the way the North Korean leader dictates a little too much. This seems about Donald Trump and making sure everyone knows he has the biggest button and not about veterans' sacrifices.

BALDWIN: What do you think, Steve?

LONEGAN: Well, I think, coming out of New York City, which gives America the biggest military parade every single year, called Fleet Week, where we parade our United States Navy up the Hudson River and thousands and tens and hundreds of thousands of people from around the world come and enjoy seeing that, there's no reason we couldn't honor our military in Washington, D.C., as well.

We might as well show off what a great job the president is doing of rebuilding the American military, after eight years of Barack Obama, of sequestration, of demoralization of our military strength.

It's on the mend, it's getting stronger every day. The world knows it. Why not show off? Why not show off to our military how proud we are of them?

QUINN: But I think Steve just told the truth of what this parade is about, showcasing what Republicans believe is Donald Trump's successes.

That's very different than Fleet Week, which is a longstanding tradition to give our men and women of the Navy and the Marines a break and a celebration and a thank you.

LONEGAN: A longstanding parade, Christine. A longstanding parade.

QUINN: It's actually more of a gathering than a parade, Fleet Week, but longstanding, yes, as opposed to this. And that's about the men and women.

As you said, Steve, this parade the president is proposing would be about saluting the president's so-called good work. Political. Serving and supporting military. Very different.

LONEGAN: It's saluting the greatness of our military, of sacrifice so much in this longstanding effort in the Middle East losing men and women every single year.

Enough is enough. Let's tell the world we have the most powerful military on the planet Earth and they should stand down from coming after us.


QUINN: People shouldn't need a parade that salutes the president, as you said, the president's so-called successes -- I added so-called -- to know that America is the greatest might morally and militarily in the world.

We are losing that posture and that position and people seeing us that way because of the president's behavior.


LONEGAN: Our military is getting stronger every day. We're building our military forces.

ISIS is disintegrating because of this military. Their morale is being re-boosted after being demoralized under Barack Obama and his sequestration efforts. And it's about time we show the world what we're made of.


QUINN: But the world knows.

LONEGAN: The world doesn't know. You think the world knows.


BALDWIN: Let's listen to the secretary of defense, who jumped in to the White House press briefing and offered this when asked about it.


MATTIS: As far as the parade goes again, the president's respect, his fondness for the military, I think, is reflected in him asking for these options. We have been putting together some options. We will send them up to the White House for decision.


BALDWIN: Had a general was on last hour who pointed out more of the SecDef's sort of reticence. He didn't go on and on, which he thought spoke volumes.

He was of your camp saying, listen, if -- our military is a bunch of bad asses, pardon. We don't need to show the world. We just know we are.


That said, also, let me add one more piece of sound. This is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He weighed in as well.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display. That's not who we are. That's kind of cheesy and I think shows weakness, quite frankly.

But have a parade where you can display our finest and we can all say thank you and honor them would be fine. I would like to see kids marching. I would like to honor military families.


BALDWIN: OK. I just wanted to get those voices in the conversation as well.

Let's move on to our former vice president, Joe Biden, who was here at CNN last night. He was on with Chris Cuomo and offered this when it comes to the president.


JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just marvel at some of the things he says and does, like, what, two days ago, anybody that didn't stand up and clap for him was un-American and then maybe even treasonous?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: They say it was tongue in cheek. Democrats can't take a joke.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you, he's a joke.


BALDWIN: That's been the headline, coming from -- coming from a vice president calling the president a joke.

LONEGAN: Coming from a guy who plagiarized an entire speech from the British labor secretary, Neil Kinnock. People seem to forget. You have got to question who the joke is.

I think Biden is irrelevant. Nobody cares what he has to say.


LONEGAN: And the president, again, is presiding over the greatest economy we have seen in decades, the rebuilding of our American military, great economic growth, great stock market growth, despite little recent corrections, and a future economy that is going to be second to none over the last 30 years.


So, obviously, bringing up the speech from the labor secretary is really having to reach back in history to criticize Joe Biden.

LONEGAN: You learn from history, though.

QUINN: You do.

But Joe Biden has moved on and served this country well. And I think if you look at recent polling on the former vice president, it shows that many, many Americans care what he has to say and what he thinks.

But let's stop for a second. There is all of this upsetness that Joe Biden has said this about the president.

Let's remember all of the horrible things that Donald Trump said and did regarding President Obama's citizenship. He, in essence, called him an illegitimate American citizen, constantly, disrespectfully and demeaningly demanding his birth certificate, leading the so-called birthers movement.

You want to talk about somebody being disrespectful to the president of the United States and to the office of the presidency, it is our present president, Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, a man who has dedicated his life to service to this country, and whose family has sacrificed in the light of that.

LONEGAN: I hope Joe Biden runs for President Trump, so Donald Trump can beat him and send him into retirement once and for all.

QUINN: Well, if that's the pair, I don't think that will be the outcome.

BALDWIN: Steve and Chris, we will leave it. Thank you so much. Appreciate both of you.

LONEGAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Kim Jong-un's sister becomes the first member of the dynasty to ever cross the border into South Korea. What is behind her history-making trip to the Olympics and what we actually know about her coming up?