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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Republican Peddles New Conspiracy Theory Focused On Obama; Trump, GOP Investigations Put Clinton Associate In Dossier Spotlight; Senior W.H. Officials Knew Of Aides Abuse Allegations Last Fall; W.H. Aide Abruptly Resigns Amid Domestic Abuse Allegations; Ex-Wife Says Photo Shows Evidence Resigned W.H. Aide Punched Her; Senate Deal Includes $300B in New Spending in Two Years; Interview with Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 7, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: And local government is not too happy. They want to know who is going it pay for it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks very much. That's it for me. Erin Burnett "'OutFront"" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: "OutFront" next, the center behind the so- called FBI secret society is peddling a new conspiracy theory, but he should have checked the facts first. Plus, a top White House aide resign accused of physically abusing both his ex wives. What did the White House know and when do they know it? And an openly gay U.S. figure skater reportedly snubbing the Vice President in Korea. Why is Pence so anxious so meet with him? Let's go "OutFront".
And good evening I'm Erin Burnett. "OutFront" tonight, conspiracy craze. Republicans are at it again. The conspiracy de jour is that President Obama had "personal" involvement in the Clinton e-mail scandal. So there's a 25-page report that is out now by the Republican Senator Ron Johnson.
And in it, he sites a text message between two FBI officials, yes, we are talking about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page again here. According to Johnson's report, Page texted Strzok about preparing talking points to then FBI Director Jim Comey because, and this is the operative line, "POTUS, President Obama, wants to know everything we're doing."
OK, that one phrase was enough for Senator Johnson to make the connection between President Obama and the Clinton e-mail investigation. And the current President of the United States did not wait for the facts, the context, or the details before tweeting about Johnson's report to his 47.5 million followers in all caps, "New FBI texts are bombshells."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders then came out calling for thorough review.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it further shows that there is a reason for all of us to have great cause for concern in this process and we hope that it's more thoroughly and fully looked at as we move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. There is though a big problem with this conspiracy theory. It is a very big problem, because it just isn't clear that the text was talking about the Clinton e-mail investigation. Here's why, because facts and dates matter, OK?
The text is dated September 2nd, 2016. That's the text, right, about POTUS wants to know what we're working on. Keep in mind, there are two dates that matter, vis-a-vis that date.
The FBI closed its investigation into the Clinton e-mail scandal two months earlier on July 5th, right? So technically the investigation was closed on the day this text was sent. And according to another text, cited in Johnson's own report, the FBI itself was not aware of the e-mails on Anthony Weiner's computer that caused the investigation to be reopened until about September 28th, OK? There is another text on that day that shows. That's the day they found that out.
Now to spill (ph) that out, that is 26 days after the POTUS text was sent. So, if the people sending the text were not aware that the Clinton e-mail investigation at anything were going on, they thought it was closed, how could they be talking about briefing the President of the United States on it?
The facts simply do not add up to the text having anything to do with the Clinton e-mail investigation. But what does add up is this timeline. Three days after that text about President Obama wanting to know everything was sent, Obama was at the G20 summit in China on September 5th. That's when President Obama met with Vladimir Putin and talked about Russia meddling in the election.
If you put that together, it does seemed, rather likely, that what POTUS wanted to be briefed about was everything related to Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election ahead of that meeting.
Let's just remember that Senator Johnson is the same man who used the text between Strzok and FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, to allege publicly that there was a mass conspiracy at the FBI against Trump, a so-called secret society.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: What this is all about is further evidence of corruption, more than bias, but corruption at the highest levels of the FBI. Secret society, we have an informant who's talking about a group that was holding secret meetings off-site.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was based on this text from Lisa Page to Peter Strzok, "Are you even going to give out your calendar? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society." The text exchange, you may recall, was revealed to be referencing a private joke between the two. And only after the idea was debunked did Johnson back down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, this text message seems to be common about secret society was in gist. Do you agree that it appears to be in it was in gist?
JOHNSON: It's a real possibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The lesson here is before you take on the FBI or a former President, both of whom are fair targets, right, but make sure you've got your facts straight.
Evan Perez is "OutFront" tonight. And Evan, I've laid out the timeline. You though have talked to a source who knows the context of the text about President Obama being briefed.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Erin. A source with knowledge of the text told us that the text message was actually related to preparations for President Obama to be briefed on their Russian interference in the 2016 election, not to Clinton investigation.
[19:05:03] President Obama, as you remember, has said that he stayed out of the Clinton e-mail investigation to avoid any political interference in what is a law enforcement matter. So that's why Senator Johnson, you know, highlighted this message because he says it indicates that President Obama was actually keeping tabs of the Clinton e-mail investigation.
But as you pointed out, you know, this text message is from September 2016, a couple months after the FBI Director James Comey cleared Hillary Clinton and said there were not going to be any charges. So the timeline that Senator Johnson put out just makes no sense.
And as you noted three days after the text message was sent, Obama was in China for the G20 summit and he confronted the Russian President Vladimir Putin about what the Russians were up to. So it appears that this is yet another one of these text messages that is being misinterpreted, Erin.
BURNETT: Misinterpreted, of course, for political purpose pretty clearly in this case. All right, Evan Perez, thank you very much.
And now let's go to James Gagliano, retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama, and John Dean, Nixon's White House Counsel during Watergate.
John, let me start with you. Let me just -- in the context of what Evan just reported from his sources, the timeline that we have laid out, I want to read again President Trump's immediate response to Senator Johnson. "New FBI texts are bombshells," in all caps. Your reaction.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Certainly not bombshells. In fact, I read the report before we went on air. And the whole thing is based on really recycling of old news, an effort to make more out of these exchanges in these texts that really exist there. And it's pretty pathetic when you dig a little deeper as you all have done and show what the timelines are so amiss and how Trump can just fire off a bombshell tweet shows how careless he really is.
JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: I think we got to be careful. I mean, Mr. Dean, I don't necessarily disagree with him there. But I think just as much as we need to be careful not to take a term like secret society and run with it, because flat two dimensional medium texts when you do investigations you've got to be careful to corroborate them as you try to at the top by matching updates and what make sense and other evidence.
But we also can't knock down the fact that we're not dealing with the text today in a vacuum. There were number of other ones that were unsettling. I'm confident that the office of the inspector general, which has the case, it's not bipartisan, it's nonpartisan. I trust he'll get to the bottom of this.
BURNETT: And that's, of course, where an investigation should be.
BURNETT: Not in the partisan sphere where Senator Johnson and others are trying to put it.
I mean, Juliette, when you look at the timeline here, the Clinton e- mail investigation closed on July 5th, the text about briefing the President Obama was sent September 2nd, and it was not until September 28th that the FBI became aware of the e-mails on the Anthony Weiner's computer.
In fact, when we go to the Strzok-Page texts, Strzok texted Page on that date, "Got called up to Andy's earlier, hundreds of thousands of e-mails turned over by Weiner's attorney, includes a ton of material from spouse. Sending team up tomorrow to review, this will never end."
Pretty clear that that's the date that Strzok, who was leading the Clinton e-mail investigation, became aware of the e-mails on Weiner's computer. So it was three weeks after his text.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: That's exactly right. So, you know, I feel like five days ago the Nunes memo came out like -- it's just like there's no there, there. And Senator Johnson gets an A for, you know, effort to give some story to the Trump White House but an, you know, an A plus for not reading his report. I mean, if the report is self contradictory internally and means absolutely nothing.
And I just want to get to why would President Obama have insisted on getting to know everything. At this stage, it is not -- the Russia investigation is a counterintelligence investigation which is implicating foreign policy but also implicating the Homeland. At this stage, President Obama is required to begin to notify people within the Homeland that their voting boost that, you know, state -- secretaries of state might ensure that there is not vulnerabilities. In other words, this is not investigation going to court. It's an investigation to protect us from a threat. And that's why he wanted to know everything.
BURNETT: Now, Juliette, what do you make of the point that James is making, that the politicization here, right? James is saying there is looking into what happened. These should be looked at, at the inspector general. But instead, we have a memo from Devin Nunes, we have a memo from Ron Johnson.
BURNETT: It is clearly put solidly within partisan politics, which the President is the first one to exploit without knowing the facts himself.
KAYYEM: That's right. I'm don't -- but I'm not on the, sort of both sides of this. I mean, there's absolutely sort of proof of the last couple months that Republican House members and Republican senators are using these little pieces to give, you know, sort of crumbs to the Trump White House, which then gets amplified on their media platforms which creates a narrative that makes this investigation political.
[19:10:10] But this isn't -- and the Democrats are doing it too. In fact, I don't want the Democratic memo to come out, the counter Nunes memo. I just think all of this is just sort of craziness at this stage, that the systems, whether it's the I.G., the foreign intelligence surveillance court, or the Mueller investigation really should not be played out. But it's not a both sides the same in this instance. There's just no -- I mean this is Senator Johnson and Nunes. That's just all it is every time.
BURNETT: And Senator Johnson, of course, jumping from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory even when he himself was forced to admit that the secret society was probably a joke, probably was the word he used.
John, Nunes is also now looking at the state department in his effort to try to discredit the dossier itself, right? He says information was passed to Christopher Steele, of course, he is the author of the Trump dossier through the Obama state department from Clinton associate, Sidney Blumenthal. I know you have known Sidney for a long time. What do you make of it?
DEAN: Well, it was Trey Gowdy who just suggested this. He didn't actually name Sidney as I read the story. And I think it's ludicrous. And so what? You know, I'm sure that Christopher Steele collects information from countless sources. Sidney passes and shares information and always has. It's been his style. So I don't see anything there at all.
BURNETT: All right. Because, James, what matters here, again, as we made the point again and again and again, what matters is what turns out to be true and what doesn't.
BURNETT: It doesn't matter if someone frankly with the political motive gives you information. If the information is true, that's what matters.
GAGLIANO: True. Motivation is important. Is a source operating because they want money? Is it revenge? Are they Dudley do right and just want to do the right thing?
GAGLIANO: Or is it a political apparatus? So that is important to disclose. Does it discredit everything in it in? No. Those things need to be filed and as far as the memo points out, there were four different judges that were three renewals. Each of those renewals of that FISA application required separate independent evidence.
BURNETT: Right, which came from -- whether they might have picked up.
BURNETT: Right, to make the point. If it was nothing, that wouldn't have continued. And I think we've made that clear. Plus, of course, for any one not fully aware, that initial application did include the fact that the dossier was paid for by a political group.
Next, breaking news, the White House supporting a Trump insider accused of domestic abuse by both of his ex-wives. Hope Hicks, the woman he's dating helped draft his defense. Was there a cover up?
Plus the spending bill Trump backs includes $300 billion in new spending in the next two years alone, rather fitting for a man who calls himself the king of debt. And was the Vice President snubbed by a member of the U.S. Olympic team?
[19:16:28] BURNETT: Breaking news, the White House tonight coming to defense of a top aide with an alleged violent past. Rob Porter, the White House Staff Secretary, you see him in the center there, resigning today. Following allegations that he abused his two ex- wives, including Colbie Holderness, his first wife who released graphic images showing abused right eye, which she claims was from the White House staffer. CNN learning senior White House officials became aware of the allegations in detail in early fall of last year, yet applied for and granted Porter in term of security clearance.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Pamela Brown is "OutFront". And Pamela, despite these troubling accusations, the White House says Porter is a man of character, integrity, and honor. There is a court -- there's a restraining order in here. I mean, there is a lot of evidence.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And I've spoken to several people today, Erin, here at the White House, some who have expressed shock. They viewed Rob Porter who was seen as a rising star in the White House, a staff secretary, somebody who worked very closely with Chief of Staff John Kelly and with the President coordinating the flow of paper work to his desk as a mild mannered lawyer.
Others have expressed frustration that nothing who is done sooner because we have learned that back in the fall, top White House officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, were made aware of some of these allegations of domestic abused, physical and verbal abused from two of his ex-wives. The ex-wives spoke to my colleague, MJ Lee, detailing some of these allegations. And they said they actually told the FBI about this during the course of his background check.
Now, we are told by a White House official that he continued to have his interim clearance despite these allegations coming to the attention of top White House officials. And we're also told that there was a mad scramble once it became clear these allegations were going to be made public that White House officials quickly tried to come to the defense of Rob Porter.
In fact in all the statements that have come out, they're all defending him and there is no mention of the ex-wives or mention of domestic abuse. In fact, Rob Porter himself, I should say, he has come out strongly to defend himself and to deny these allegations saying, "My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump administration. And we'll seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House." So he turned in his resignation today, Erin, but he is going to stay here for a period of time.
BURNETT: I mean it's pretty incredible. And by the way, the two ex- wives, there's also a third woman he dated seriously who reached out to those women before any of this happen because she said he was also abusing her. We're going to talk about that more in a moment.
But I want to get to the point you're saying, Pam, one person at the center of the White House response to the allegations against Rob Porter is Hope Hicks who we've learned is in or, I don't know as of this moment, but had romantic relationship with Porter.
BROWN: That's right. She has been in a romantic relationship with Porter for some months now and she is actually been involved with the White House response. According to one of my colleagues, she actually helped draft the statement from the White House yesterday alongside Chief of Staff John Kelly, that statement coming out yesterday.
John Kelly saying that Rob Porter is a man of true, integrity, and honor and went on to say very nice things about him, so apparently Hope Hicks, his girlfriend, who he's been involved with was involved with the crafting of the message. She is the communications director, but it is interesting to note that she didn't recuse herself given that the personal relationship she has with him.
[19:20:05] BURNETT: Certainly a conflict of interest. All right, Pamela, please stay with me. I want to bring in MJ Lee and April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.
MJ, let me start with you. Pam referenced the statement that Porter released that reads in part, "These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described." Hard to describe what it would be, but you had a chance, MJ, to speak to Porter's two ex-wives. What did they tell you?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Erin, to point out the obvious, their allegations are very troubling. The first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, married Porter in 2003 and she tells me that there was constant emotional and verbal abused. And that the physical abuse began almost immediately after their wedding. During their honeymoon in 2003, Holderness says Porter kicked her thigh during a fight.
And then for years she said he choked her and would throw her on the bed, put his body weight on her grind his elbow or knee into her body while yelling at her. Then in the summer of 2005, Holderness says the couple was in Florence, Italy and that during that trip she said Porter punched her in the face. She shared photos from that alleged incident with CNN. You can see there the bruises on her face.
And now the second ex-wife who married Porter in 2009, Jennifer Willoughby, she tells me that she also endured deep emotional abused from her ex-husband and in some instances she said things did get physical in 2000 -- and then for example, Willoughby says Porter punched a glass cane on their front door and eventually the police came and encouraged her to take out a protective order against him and she did that. And CNN also obtained and reviewed a copy of that protective order.
And also in the December of 2010, Willoughby said that she and Porter had a fight and she went to take a shower and she tells me that he grabbed her from the shower by her shoulder making her feel very frightened.
BURNETT: These are really troubling and upsetting allegations that you're sharing, MJ. There's also this. Both of the women you spoke to, Porter's ex-wives, told you they were contacted by a third woman who was dating him. She found out -- she reached out to them. What did you learn about that?
LEE: That's right. I mean this is an additional twist in this pretty dramatic story. The ex-wives told me that they were each contacted by a woman last year who claimed to be Porter's girlfriend at the time and this woman we are told was reaching out to Porter's ex-wives, essentially for help in various Facebook and text messages, which were shared with and reviewed by CNN.
This woman said that she too was abused by Porter and that she didn't know what to do. That woman currently works in the federal government, but CNN is not identifying her and we have not been able to reach her. Again, Porter has denied all of these allegations.
BURNETT: April, look, this is pretty upsetting to hear, OK? And the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly did know quite a bit about it. And yet he put out a statement after the story broke. So after the story broke, so he knew some substantial part of it. He knows the full amount, but he did know.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes.
BURNETT: And he put out a statement which said, "Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can't say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him." He didn't mention anything about the women.
It's pretty hard to understand this, April, if he knew about Porter's past, he knew about security clearance issues, because he was made aware of it during that time, at least. He still cleared him, pushed for him to be cleared. He's put this statement out. I mean, how damming is this for Kelly?
RYAN: This is not just damming for General Kelly, it is also damming for the administration. I mean think about this, this President received 51 percent of the white married women's vote. And this is not goes well. And it goes back into some of the history that we heard about this President with women, about how -- what he thinks about women and things to that nature and things that he said. It's like it doesn't really matter and that's the question. Now, looking at what Rob Porter did for the White House, he was the staff secretary, it's a very important job.
RYAN: It's a job that he basically -- I mean, he basically is the keeper of all things, all the paper, and he's in box for the President, it's overwhelming. And I guess they are trying to keep him around because there is an issue of who will fill that very important position.
This is a man who actually -- he doesn't have a national security clearance, but he was dealing with issues of top security intelligence, things of that nature as well. So it's one thing to worry about the job, but it's another thing to worry about the American public, people, women, who support this President.
BURNETT: April, to the point -- I mean, Juliette Kayyem was telling me that the FBI would have done everything possible to clear Porter for a full security clearance because of what you say. He is such a senior member of the President's team.
[19:25:05] Look, look at pictures everybody. Maybe you didn't know who Rob Porter is. You know who he is now. He is at the President's side constantly. They are together often one on one. But the FBI was not able to make that interim security clearance. There they're together, the two of them, permanent, April, because there were serious issues. And yet even if the story broke, Sarah Sanders today acted like the President of the United States who is with him all the time was not in the loop.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the President have any concerns about these domestic violence allegations raised against Rob Porter?
SANDERS: I haven't spoken to him about that specific concern.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't talked about -- the President about this --
SANDERS: I doubt whether or not he has specific concerns, I haven't asked him that questions (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he seen the photos of Rob Porter's ex-wife with the black eye?
SANDERS: I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Let me say this, my sources say that everyone knew, that he made it clear what had happened and they were OK with it. But Sarah, of course, is going to defend the President because it does not goes well for someone who stands so close to the President to be involved for these things to be alleged about him. So what Sarah did today is not say yes or no about the President's understanding about this, giving him wiggle room to figure this out. It's buying time. But this is a major issue.
This man who allegedly physically abused two wives and possibly a girlfriend, and then had police involvement and the FBI could not say, "Yes, give him a security clearance," and he's dealing with top intelligence paperwork and he's also a manager of other people in that White House as well. He deals with the records and things that -- anything paper. This is huge. This is big.
BROWN: And can I just jump in really quick?
BURNETT: Yes, Pam.
BROWN: I'm sorry, I thought you were done. Sorry, April. I just want to say, you know, I found that the statement interesting today from Sarah Sanders where basically she said, you know, we cannot comment on security clearances. I'm told that that was basically kind of sending the message. That, "Look, we knew about the allegations that we were letting it be investigated in the proper channel."
What I find interesting and what I think we really need to get down to is what did the FBI tell the White House exactly about these allegations, because we know the FBI knew from the ex-wives. What would happen is the FBI would turn over the findings to the White House and then the White House would decide whether to give that security clearance that the permanent one to Robert Porter or not. So my outstanding question as we haven't been able to get an answer to is whether that actually happened, whether those findings were communicated.
BURNETT: Right. And Pam, quickly before we go, Sanders also refused to say when Porter is going to leave, right? He said he's going to leave --
BURNETT: -- but they -- she said it's not immediate. So now you have a guy (INAUDIBLE) that is out there still working with the President, still with all this top secret highly classified stuff. I mean, being paid for by taxpayers. I mean, seriously, he's not leaving immediately?
BROWN: Yes. I think that was one of the -- raise some eyebrows today when Sarah Sanders said at the podium. "Look, he turned in his resignation but he's not going to leave immediately. He's going to ensure a smooth transition."
Now, these are serious allegations. These are allegations of physical and verbal abuse. And I think it is shocking to a lot of people. I know we've spoken today in the White House that he isn't leaving immediately.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all three very much. Obviously more to come on this story.
And next, Republicans who slammed Obama for adding to the debt are now about to make him look like chump change. And what about that military parade the President wants? Remember of his own party calls it, "kind of cheesy."
[19:31:11] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news: the Senate gearing up to vote on a bipartisan budget deal that could keep the government from shutting down. It could though face problems in the House, not a done deal. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking against the bill for eight hours, the longest speech ever reported on the House floor today. It was pretty stunning.
Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.
And, Sunlen, why is Pelosi and other Democrats coming out against the deal?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they wanted to see a DACA fix in there, Erin, and put simply, they are unhappy that it's not. And many Democrats will have a hard time coming around to supporting this budget deal on the table from the Senate because they want more assurances from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. They want assurances and a commitment from him that he will put a debate on the floor and hold a vote on immigration legislation similarly to how we saw Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell commit to. So, they are trying to use this time to pressure him to make commitments to do that in the House side.
Now, that said it's not only House Democrats that aren't happy about this budget deal. There are many fiscal conservatives in the House, House conservatives who have been very unhappy in the last 24 hours about this bill, what it adds to the deficit. We're using some pretty fierce rhetoric over the last few hours, describing as disgusting reckless. This deal is fiscal insanity one member put it today.
The Senate will tomorrow send this bill. They'll pass it and they'll send it over to the House and then it's up to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Of course, facing some Republican defections means that he can only get it passed through if he has some Democratic support.
That said, aides and lawmakers I have talked to you today here, Erin, say that there's a sense that this can -- a shutdown can be avoided when it the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night, but how they cobble together the votes to get there, of course, it's a story as it plays out over the next 24 hours -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sunlen, as you know, got 28 hours or so left here on the clock.
You know, as Sunlen said, the deal on Capitol Hill involves a lot more spending and that is let's be clear spending of borrowed money. Borrowing by the United States and the first fiscal year of the Trump administration is up a staggering 84 percent from the last year of the Obama administration.
And borrowing, borrowing, borrowing is something President Trump knows a lot about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the king of debt. I'm great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me.
I am the king of debt. I do love debt. I love debt. I love playing with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Trump, of course, does know debt. He declared bankruptcy for his companies four times. And now, Trump and Republicans are borrowing one and a half trillion dollars for the tax cut alone.
It is quite an about-face for Republican leaders who were so deeply worried about government spending out of control back when Obama was president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Our debt is a threat to this country. We are on the verge of a debt crisis. Our debt -- it's already bigger than our economy. Our debt -- it's a sign of overreach. It's a sign the federal government is doing too much.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The national debt threatens our way of life. The Democrats spending spree has brought us to the brink of an economic calamity. Who proposes more spending as a solution to a debt crisis?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You do, Senator.
The Republicans have been doing that now. It's funny how hypocrisy is. Once Republicans got power in the White House, all the worries about debt, economic calamity and spending went out the door. The budget deal on Capitol Hill includes $300 billion in new spending in the next two years alone.
And let's be clear, Democrats are guilty too. They like it. The Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jumped in today tweeting in part that the deal would, quote, finally consigned the arbitrary and pointless sequester caps to the ash heap of history.
The deal does get rid of the sequester that limited spending on things like the military, it also removes all spending caps. Clearly, a blank check is something Democrats and Republicans can agree on when someone else down the line will pay the horrific bill.
There are though a few who are holding firm.
Republican Congressman Mo Brooks is OUTFRONT. He sits on the House Armed Services Committee and is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Congressman, thank you for your time tonight.
Do you support this Senate budget deal?
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: No chance.
BURNETT: No chance. Just you don't like this fiscal irresponsibility in it.
BROOKS: I don't like the idea of the United States going into a debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy, thereby destroying a country that it took our ancestors centuries to build. And this bill is a major step towards that insolvency in bankruptcy. If the numbers that we're getting our accurate you're looking at roughly a $200 billion to $300 billion increase in this year's deficit, it will blow through the trillion dollar mark according to most estimates for this fiscal year, with every subsequent year having a trillion dollars or more in debt.
Quite frankly, the only people I know who should be supporting these bills are the debt junkies who like that in spending bills and I'm not a debt junky. It doesn't make difference if it's President Trump or President Obama or Chuck Schumer or Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or John Boehner, debt is bad for America. It works against you 24 hours a day. It's $20 trillion right now and going up, and we're being warned that we're facing a fiscal crisis by some very sharp people and we pay a lot of money to, to give us that kind of intel.
BURNETT: Look, as I pointed out, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the leaders of your -- on Capitol Hill, they had. They sang a really different tune, you know, of a world in crisis when Obama was the one borrowing money. Trump's borrowing a lot more and they're and they're pushing it. They're pushing the drug.
The president himself as you know, sir, is going to be the one that has to sign off on this. He seems very happy with all of the spending, and I just want to play for you again the comments that he has made publicly about debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm the king of debt. I'm great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me.
I am the king of debt. I do love debt. I love debt. I love playing with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's the president obviously, Congressman, and Trump owned companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection four times. Do you trust the president's instinct on running up debt?
BROOKS: Well, there's a different situation between an individual or business that is borrowing money for capital purposes or operational purposes. That's their money. It's another situation when you're talking about an insolvency and bankruptcy of a nation.
Look at Venezuela by way of example. They've had financially irresponsible leaders for a number of years now, and they're paying the price. Last year, their inflation rate was roughly 800 percent. You've got a lot of other factors.
Another indication of damage, 75 percent of their population over recent 12-month period had an average weight loss of 19 pounds. Their economies collapsed 22 million to 23 million Venezuelans can't get enough calories to sustain their body weight.
You can look at Greece, another nation that is toyed with this. And keep in mind, they've been bailed out three times by the European community. So, they're not a worst-case scenario but their unemployment rate is rivaling what we suffered during the Great Depression.
That's not where America wants to go. It's not where America should go, but it's where this debt crazy spending bill takes us.
BURNETT: So, amidst all this and you're on the armed services committee, the president wants a military parade. It is a parade that could cost $20 million or more, depends on what he gets. General Mattis, as you know, didn't really answer questions about the parades cost, but the head of your caucus, the Freedom Caucus, Representative Mark Meadows said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I think that that's a rounding error on a $760 billion, you know, effort, you know, a parade or two is not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: If he cares about money, if you care about money, Congressman, is anything a rounding error? I mean, $20 million, $30 million, a parade, oh who cares that we're already running up the debt so much?
BROOKS: When you have the kind of insolvency risks that America faces, every penny that the federal government spends is important and you have to prioritize. Would you rather spend that money on ammunition or weapons capabilities for our soldiers who are risking their lives, would you rather spend it on a parade?
Personally, I'd rather spend it on the things that help train our soldiers make them better war fighters and also empower them to win with minimal loss of life when we ask them to go into combat. That's my preference.
BURNETT: All right. Instead of a parade.
Thank you so much, Congressman Brooks. I appreciate your time tonight.
BROOKS: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, standoff in South Korea. An American figure skater reportedly refusing to meet with the head of the U.S. Olympic delegation none other than the Vice President Mike Pence.
And the White House doubling down on the Nunes memo, not backing down, and its claims that the memo vindicates President Trump.
[19:43:29] BURNETT: New tonight, the vice president snubbed by an openly gay U.S. Olympian. Figure skater Adam Rippon reportedly rejecting a meeting request with Mike Pence who is leading the U.S. delegation in South Korea. Rippon criticized the vice president, telling "USA Today", quote: You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?
The skater appears to be referencing a statement from Pence's 2000 congressional campaign Website which reads: Resources should be directed towards those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.
OUTFRONT now from Pyeongchang, "USA Today" sports columnist Christine Brennan who's reporting this story.
And good morning to you. What a beautiful morning it looks like there where you are, Christine. So, tell me what happened.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Well, back out January 16th, Erin, I spoke with Adam Rippon, who just made the U.S. Olympic team. He is openly gay and actually at the time was the first openly gay figure skater to make the U.S. winter Olympic team.
And I talked to Adam about a lot of things. I asked him about Mike Pence leading the delegation to the opening ceremonies which are tomorrow here, and Adam Rippon did not mince words and said what you said, that Mike Pence the man who funded a gay conversion therapy, I'm not buying it, and went on to be very critical of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
He also -- Adam Rippon has already said as has Lindsey Vonn, the skier, that they will not attend the White House ceremony after the Olympic Games. So, that's what Adam Rippon did. I reported it.
Within an hour of it being posted online at "USA Today", Erin, we heard from the vice president's office which really was surprising and basically understood that they were very upset with what Adam Rippon had said, which led to a statement from them.
[19:45:06] And then I have new reporting that I've been working on for several weeks and frankly had quite a few people wanting to talk about this that the vice president was so stung by Adam Rippon's comments that he wanted to have a conversation with him. That was January 17th and Adam Rippon decline the request to have that conversation.
BURNETT: So, as you mentioned, the vice president's office obviously has been responding immediately to your story. They are -- they are obviously aware of the import that it carries. They just sent me an email with the statement, Christine, saying the "USA Today" report is false and should be corrected. VP's office did not try to arrange a meeting with Mr. Rippon at the Olympics.
So what's your response to that? What are your sources say, Christine?
BRENNAN: Well, as a journalist, I've been doing this for quite a while, Erin, and I am very comfortable with my sources. I had two sources that I refer to in my piece in "USA Today" that's online right now and will be in the paper tomorrow. I also had other sources who were so off the record they did not want to even be revealed as sources.
BRENNAN: But nonetheless, you can rest assured that these people know exactly what they're talking about. There is no doubt in my mind that Mike Pence requested to have that conversation with Adam Rippon and Adam Rippon said that he did not want to talk to the vice president.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Obviously, a significant report there.
BRENNAN: Thank you. BURNETT: Christine, thank you. Enjoy your day in Pyeongchang.
And next, Devin Nunes, the man at the center of the controversial GOP memo. Beloved in his hometown, does a Democrat stand a chance of beating him especially with this message?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's really nothing more than a Donald Trump stooge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Jeanne Moos asks, who isn't raining on Trump's military parade?
[19:50:27] BURNETT: New tonight, the White House tripling down over the Nunes memo, insisting the president is vindicated, that the memo proves the Russian investigation is politically motivated. It is a claim disputed by a number of Republicans.
But for Congressman Devin Nunes, that memo made him a national name, as well as a target and a hero in his hometown.
Dan Simon is OUTFRONT.
BUD BRUMLEY, NUNES SUPPORTER: I think Congressman Nunes is a great congressman. Everything he has done I agree with.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in the town of Nasilio (ph), part of California's Central Valley, Congressman Devin Nunes is a hero.
GEORGE ANDERSON, NUNES SUPORTER: I really respect him. I think he is a great, great, great man and I think he's done really good work.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you. Thank you.
SIMON: Nunes won this district easily in the last election. And while his memo alleging FBI wrongdoing has been vilified by Democrats and even some in his own party, his supporters --
ANDERSON: We like his aggressiveness to get things right and do things honestly and get some justice, you know? Get some justice.
SIMON: -- remain fiercely loyal.
JULIE TERRY, NUNES SUPPORTER: I think he's doing a good job. 2 SIMON: Julie Terry may not seem like a typical Nunes or Trump supporter. A Mexican immigrant, she is completely behind both men.
TERRY: He is the only one that had guts enough to put out a memo that brings out the whole truth. Nobody wanted to do that.
SIMON: Supporters say good luck if Democrats think they can oust him.
TOM LEWIS, NUNES SUPPORTER: (INAUDILE) to get unseated. So, from his perspective, I don't think that is going to hurt him at all.
SIMON: These Nunes opponents beg to differ. Every Tuesday for about a year, they have been protesting outside his district office.
Among those in attendance is Andrew Janz, a local prosecutor who is a Democrat now running against Nunes for his seat.
ANDREW JANZ, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: He's really nothing more than a Donald Trump stooge.
SIMON: Janz says he's received big money, $400,000 in contribution since the Nunes memo was released on Friday. The campaign also gaining attention after putting up this, a billboard showing Nunes and President Trump as toddlers under the control of Vladimir Putin.
It is an aggressiveness Janz believes will make the race a competitive one. He claims internal polling shows a generic Democrat down by just five points.
(on camera): What do you say to the naysayers who believe there is no way you can beat Devin Nunes?
JANZ: Look, I'm not a political pundit. I am going to do my job. I'm going to be out there every day talking to the voters. And Devin Nunes -- my opponent -- is really a poster boy for what is wrong in Washington right now.
SIMON (voice-over): But here in Central California, the Nunes supporters are not budging, and the controversial GOP memo is making him even more popular with his base.
(on camera): President Trump said that he should be a great American hero. Do you agree with that?
BRUMLEY: About Nunes?
BRUMLEY: Yes, yes, I do. I kept with him pretty good.
SIMON: So, despite a flood of contributions and volunteers flocking to help the Democratic challenger Andrew Janz, political experts say at this point, it would appear that Nunes has a safe seat. And if things got especially close, he could call on his good friend Donald Trump to do a campaign event for him and help raise money for his already sizable war chest -- Erin.
BURNETT: Of course, Trump does owe him.
And, next, if Trump wants a parade, will he really get one? Jeanne Moos looks at the options.
[19:57:50] BURNETT: Tonight, a Republican senator says putting on a parade to show military might is, quote, kind of cheesy. But Trump wants it.
Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The forecast is for continued rain on his parade.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fantastic waste of money to amuse the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a Napoleon in the making here.
MOOS: Napoleon because President Trump pretty much said, I want what they are having, after attending France's Bastille Day parade. 2
TRUMP: I don't know. We're going to have to try and top it.
MOOS: But the idea has faced withering fire online.
The president has been photo shopped playing with toy soldiers. Read one tweet, military parades are for insecure countries. They're the national equivalent in the midlife crisis sports car.
President Trump was compared to the dear leader, and North Korean parades.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's the rocket man now?
MOOS: Even those on the right seem torn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a blast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. It seems like a waste of money.
MOOS: The parade idea has definitely spurred on. The president's bone spur's nickname.
But one Iraq War vet, Senator Tammy Duckworth pinned on the president for getting draft deferments.
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: And I have a message for cadet bone spurs.
MOOS: Now, the nickname is being paraded around. New rule: five-time draft dodgers with bone spurs don't get to throw grand military parades.
The president is depicted with a bone spur badge.
On the late show, they introduced G.I. Joe's buddy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cadet bone spurs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go get the bad guys. You go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Avoiding playing soldier to date models.
MOOS: Barbra Streisand may have sung.
BARBRA STREISAND, SINGER: Don't bring around a cloud, don't rain on my parade
MOOS: But she rained on his in a tweet. So, now, the Trump wants whatever Kim Jong-un has.
Critics have not just a bone, but a bone spur to pick with the president's parade. Let's hope it's not on a windy day.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And thank you for joining us.
"AC360" with Anderson begins right now.