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Another Government Shutdown Underway; Porter is Out, Kelly Faces Tons of Questions; Ex-wife's Plea Fall on Deaf Ears; Government Shutdown Version 2.0. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 8, 2018 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: And this is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.

Breaking news. The federal government on the verge of shutting down again. At midnight. Not so long from now. That's right. Our government has managed to stay open for a whole 17 days.

Congress so far unable to pass a spending bill to keep it open. We're going to explain exactly what's happening tonight on Capitol Hill.

And then our other big story, and it is a juicy. The chaotic Trump White House not doing a very good job of trying to explain its handling of the debacle of Rob Porter. Rob Porter is the former top aide to President Trump who resigned amid allegations that he abused two ex-wives.

The White House spokesman, Raj Shah, and what is clearly the understatement of the week.


RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's fair to say that, you know, we all could have done better over the last few hours, or the last few days.


LEMON: Wait. What was that? Was that the rarest things with the White House an admission of a mistake? Here's what our latest reporting tonight.

Is that, the president, President Trump didn't like that much that Raj Shah said what he said, that he admitted that they made mistakes. Of course it is true. But the mistake wasn't just how it was handled since the allegations became public. It's about how they were handled from the very beginning.

And it is John Kelly who needs to face questions about that. What role did Chief of Staff John Kelly play, especially in covering up for Rob Porter? What did he know? And when did he know it?

Multiple sources sell CNN that senior aides to the president including Kelly knew for months that Porter's ex-wives claimed he abused them. That Porter was having trouble getting a security clearance because of the allegations.

One of the ex-wives is Colbie Holderness. She tell CNN that she informed the FBI back in January of last year of 2017, a full 13 months ago that Porter punched her and that she shared photos with the FBI during an interview about Porter's clearance.

Are we to believe that the chief of staff was not aware of this? Spokesman Raj Shah saying today that the public release of the photos yesterday was a game changer for Kelly. Really?

First of all, why would it take a photo to be a game changer? Kelly's first statement, draft it with the help of communications director Hope Hicks who has been romantically involved, by the way, with Porter was full of praise.

Here's a quote. "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'm proud to serve alongside him."

Person who is in a romantic relationship with him helped to draft that. It is only after the Porter story blew up in the administration's face that Kelly released this statement. "I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society."

But also saying this, "I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation." That is hardly a statement of condemnation.

Chief of staff Kelly, please take note. Two ex-wives are alleging domestic abuse. One of them, Jennie Willoughby sharing her tonight just a couple of moments ago right here on CNN saying the verbal abuse by Rob Porter started shortly after their marriage began back in 2009.


JENNIE WILLOUGHBY, ROB PORTER'S EX-WIFE: Within the first probably two weeks I was already getting belittled and nitpicked and sort of systematically torn apart for small things and seeing glimpses of his anger.


LEMON: White House officials saying last night Rob Porter misled the West Wing. But maybe that's the best the Trump White House and its top employees can do.

President Trump himself faces allegations of sexual misconduct all of which he denies despite bragging on tape about grabbing women by the genitals which is assaulting women. The president has praised neo- Nazis, supported the candidacy of Roy Moore, a man who also faced credible allegations of child sexual assault. So what kind of behavior exactly is unacceptable to the White House

and the people who run it? Will Trump fire Kelly? Not right now according to sources who spoke to the president today.

So we have two big breaking news stories tonight to talk about. The Rob Porter scandal at the White House and we stand just hours away from the federal government's shutting down again.

I want to get right now to our CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly and senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown. This is a very serious and big news night here.

[22:05:01] Phil, I want to start with you. The government is preparing for a shutdown at midnight. What happened and what's going on right now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes. To put it plainly, Don, the government will shut down in two hours. There's no other way around it. Right now as it currently stands, the issue is not the support for the bill in the United States Senate. The issue is Senate procedure and they basically just ran out of time.

Rand Paul making very clear. He will ask an amendment vote to this $300 billion spending bill. Senate leaders, both republicans and democrats saying we can't give you that or else other senators will want an amendment vote as well and this whole thing could unravel.

So Senator Paul has made clear that is going to make the entire Senate clock run as long as it needs to actually get a vote.

Here's one way, Don, that this was actually puts me by a senior republican aide that I think sums it up pretty well. This is a remarkably stupid moment. The fact that they've almost blundered into this situation right now in the Senate, there are major difficulties facing them in the House, with House democrats, about DACA, about immigration that they still need to face off with.

But they essentially ran out of time in the Senate. And now once again, as you noted, for the second time in 17 days, government is about to shut down.

LEMON: Pamela, to you now. The White House is now taking precautions for the shutdown. But do they think it was going to happen?

PAMELA BROWN, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, I think that they were optimistic, cautiously optimistic that it wouldn't. That no one would really actually have an appetite for another government shutdown when the other one happened just in the last few weeks.

But today the White House held a meeting with staffers from different agencies to prepare for such a scenario as Marc Short, the legislative affairs director said, you know, we need to take every precaution here. And as the clock continues to click toward midnight, I think there is some anxiousness for sure, Don.

LEMON: And let's talk about this the Rob Porter scandal, OK, Pamela. The White House keeps changing their story. They refuse to clear up the time line about when Kelly was aware of the allegations and now CNN is learning it is because of a tick-tock that would be damming to them, correct?

BROWN: That's right. A source familiar with the matter tells my colleague Jim Acosta that one of the reasons the White House has not released a tick-tock is because it would be too damming.

Today you heard the deputy press secretary Raj Shah say Chief of Staff John Kelly wasn't, quote, "fully aware of the allegations until just this week."

And then when pressed on that, he only would say that he didn't -- he hadn't seen the picture of the black eye of one of Robert Porter's ex- wives. I can tell you though, that sources say that Chief of Staff John Kelly and other senior White House aides knew at least some of the allegations, knew at least some of them this past fall knew about the ex-wives and the verbal and physical abuse.

But Rob Porter all along had strongly denied these allegations and had said that it was a smear campaign but it certainly has raised questions why more wasn't done earlier, why he continued to work here at the White House with that interim security clearance.

I should note that the president, according to the White House did not find out about this until this week. And he is upset by the way that it was handled particularly by his chief of staff. There was the one statement Tuesday night, and then as you pointed out, there was the follow up statement last night where it seemed as though, John Kelly was sort of backtracking and acknowledging the domestic abuse and the victims in this case.

LEMON: I get another question for you, Pamela. And it involves -- we have some new reporting tonight about the president's reaction to Raj Shah's press briefing today.

BROWN: Yes, that's right. So, as we all well know, the president doesn't like admitting wrongdoing and admitting mistakes. And even though the president wasn't happy with the way that it was all handled this week, he wasn't happy either that Raj Shah actually admitted that it could have been handled better.

But I can tell you what Raj said is the sentiment among all the officials I've spoken to in the White House. There is certainly a feeling that if they can go back and do it all over again, they would have handled it very differently and would not have come to Rob Porter's strong defense as quickly as they did before letting all of the facts sink in. Don?

LEMON: Phil, before I let you go, so now we wait? You said the government is definitely shutting down in less than two hours?

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's right. The next vote will be at 1 a.m., barring some major change that we're not expecting right now. The Senate will vote at 1 a.m. then Senator Paul will have the opportunity to speak again on the floor for another hour and then they should get the final passage vote for the Senate.

Then, Don, obviously everything kicks over to the House. Right now, House estimates at least according to a notice just send to republican lawmakers that the vote will probably take place sometime between 4 and 6 a.m.

I want to make one thing clear. Right now, republicans don't know where democrats stand on this. They are going to move forward no matter what I'm told. They believe it will be a short shutdown. They believe they will get the votes to actually move this forward.

So this could be cleared up before most people in the federal government wake up tomorrow morning. But at this moment, there is a lot of uncertainty except for one thing, that the government will be shutting down at midnight.

[22:09:56] LEMON: Yes. That's certain and it is certain that we don't know what's going to happen. So, thank you. Whether it's going to be cleared up by the time people wake up. Thank you, Phil. Don't go too far. And don't go far, Pamela, we may need you. It's a big news day here. A big news night.

So now I want to bring in CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash, also Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor at large, and senior political commentator, David Axelrod.

OK. Gosh, where do we start? Dana, so let's talk shutdown since that's where we left off with Phil. There are problems on both the right and left...


LEMON: ... with this bill to keep the government open as Phil just said.

BASH: No question about it. And the fact that Rand Paul threw what it looks like a temporary wrench in the Senate in this is kind of poetic since he is one of the people who came in, was swept in on the tea party wave back in 2010, and at that point was making his own party's leadership -- they're lives a little miserable because he would stand up and fight against spending or against, you know, FISA warrants and things he believed in.

And the fact of the matter is even right now when you do have as Phil has been reporting, true bipartisan compromise on this bill that would keep the government running and do many other things, you have the rules of the Senate that allow one senator to delay things.

And in this case, probably not stop it but at least delay to make a point. And he's doing it because he can. And he's trying to stay true to the principles that we all saw the tea party really evolve because of, because of very big spending.

And the fact of the matter, is Don, this bill is so antithetical to every single thing that republicans have been campaigning on since they swept into power in 2010. Big spending, not to mention the fact that it is a big bill, 600-plus page that's a lot of people haven't read. I would venture to say most people haven't read who are voting on it.

LEMON: I got to say, Chris, as I was sitting in my office tonight watching Rand Paul, I got a lot of people who reached out to me said, are you watching? Are you watching? You know, Rand Paul. I love this. He's calling out B.S. on the floor. What's your reaction to that?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: Well, so, I was watching it live and a bunch of it. And I throughout to myself, OK, I'm not a total idiot when in 2015 I wrote Rand Paul could win the republican nomination because that piece of Rand Paul is very compelling.

He is charismatic. He, to Dana's point, he is where the entire -- tonight is where the entire Republican Party was in 2010, 202 1, 2012 when Barack Obama was in the White House.

Twenty ten Paul Ryan would be nodding his head in agreement with everything that Rand Paul said. I would go as far to venture Paul Ryan could have given a speech like the one that Rand Paul gave right around the 6 p.m. hour.

What you've seen, Don, is a capitulation within the Republican Party to Donald Trump. Donald Trump performed a hostile takeover of the Republican Party in 2016. For ten-ish years it was defined by shrinking spending, reducing the deficit.

Suddenly you had a guy who was the self-proclaimed king of debt as your nominee and Donald Trump doesn't care about debt and deficit nearly as much as the people who are in charge before.

So you get a trillion dollar deficit from the tax cut. You get $300 billion in spending in this bill. Rand Paul standing up admittedly standing up and not going to make this not happen at least in the Senate but standing up and saying, wait a minute, we were the party that was complaining about exactly this when Barack Obama was in the White House.

LEMON: Yes. They did say, however, he went on a little long. But I mean, nothing compared to Nancy Pelosi. So, listen, David, I want to bring you in now. I want to play something we heard from Rand Paul earlier today. Watch this.


RAND PAUL, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: When the democrats are in power, republicans appear to be the conservative party. But when republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party.

You see, opposition seems to bring people together and they know what they're not for but then they get in power and they decide, we're just going to spend that money too. We're going to send that money to our friends this time.

The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty. The dirty little secret is that by and large both parties don't care about the debt.


LEMON: David, you must be like finally. President Obama was hammered by the republicans over the debt and the deficit.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes. Well, look, one of the differences is that President Obama took office in the midst of an epic economic crisis.

[22:14:59] And most economists other than very ideological ones agreed there needed to be a jolt to the economy in order to keep the economy from slipping into a depression.

And so he supported a stimulus bill, the recovery act to get that done. And there was a great -- there was a great deal of -- this approbation on the republican side of the aisle about that even though it was clearly necessary.

Now we are in better times, and yet we've seen a tax bill that adds $1.5 to the debt and now this spending bill that will add hundreds of billions of more.

What Rand Paul is doing is pulling the cover off of all of this. And it's embarrassing to his colleagues. And he knows it's embarrassing. And he wants to embarrass them. And what his real message is this is Washington politics as usual.

BASH: Exactly.

AXELROD: And for Donald Trump who is going to change Washington, this seems very much like the same old game. And Rand Paul is calling him on it.

BASH: You know...


CILLIZZA: And by the way, just quickly, Don, remember, Rand Paul in that speech to David's point, Rand Paul says I know this makes people uncomfortable. I want it to make people uncomfortable to just exactly that. So, trying to expose the fact that both parties seem not really to care. They care about sort of being in power more than they do their commitment to ideological...


LEMON: Hey, Dana, I'll give you the first word on the other side of the break.

BASH: Yes, go ahead.

LEMON: I want you guys to stick around, so stay with me.

BASH: No problem. LEMON: More breaking news. The federal government preparing to shut down at midnight in less than two hours if Congress does not passed a budget deal. But you heard what our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly said there. The government is going to shut down whether it's back open tomorrow morning by the time most people wake up, we don't know.

But we're going to be on the air and cover it for you live.

And up next, the White House engulfed in chaos over the scandal involving Rob Porter, the top aide who resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse.


LEMON: The Trump White House in chaos over its handling of the scandal involving Rob Porter. Rob Porter is a top -- the former top aide accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives.

Back with me now, Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza, and David Axelrod. Dana, I promised you the first word. But I just want to talk about the White House not being transparent on the details of who knew what and when regarding this Rob Porter story, particularly when it comes to Chief of Staff John Kelly. This, I want you to listen to the deputy press secretary and then we'll talk.


SHAH: The reports are troubling. And I think the statement from Wednesday night reflects the Rob Porter that we had seen in the news reports and some of these credible allegations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So to be clear, what was so shocking that had changed. You said it was shocking, what was shocking?

SHAH: Yes. The full nature of the allegation, particularly the images.


LEMON: So, Dana, Gloria and I talked about this last night. Gloria said, you obviously don't need a photo. I agree with her. BASH: Yes.

LEMON: But I said this photo, you know, it is proof. It puts it right there in your face. But it's unbelievable that the White House is saying that they took photographs for John Kelly to take the allegations seriously. That's not true. John Kelly urged Porter initially to stay on, saying that he believed he could weather this.

BASH: Look, there are so many unanswered questions to what Kelly knew and when he knew it and what he did or maybe actively didn't do about it. But I think that what you hit on as you were coming to me, Don, the whole question of transparency is really important.

And the difference in what I am seeing and feeling and hearing from people who are in and around the Trump White House and I've heard from so many of the other self-inflicted crisis that we've been talking about night after night for the past year plus of the Trump presidency is a lot of internal dismay, morale issues, concerns, and people really upset with their boss, not the president, but the chief of staff for handling this so poorly and so clearly a critical personnel issue.

Maybe, a national security issue because of the job that Rob Porter had and the state secrets that he was responsible for moving back and forth.

But you know, even today, tonight our Jim Acosta got ahold of a memo that Kelly wrote to staff inside. And immediately I was hearing well, you know, it was nice that he addressed his staff. But there is no accountability in there.


LEMON: Do you want to read it, Dana?

BASH: Yes. Sure.

LEMON: Yes, here it is.

BASH: There is no accountability in there which was very frustrating to people inside the White House.

LEMON: This is the memo to the White House staff that Dana is referring to. It says, "While we are processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against the former White House staffer, I want you to know that we are all -- we all take matters of domestic violence seriously. Domestic violence is abhorrent and has no place in our society."

But they didn't. They knew for a long time. David, go on. What did you want to say?

AXELROD: Yes. I was going to say that is a pitifully late memo. The fact of the matter is that Porter couldn't get clearance in the White House for 13 months.

LEMON: Right.

AXELROD: If you're the chief of staff, you're going to get to the bottom of why that is.


AXELROD: And what clearly happened here, what clearly happened here is that he is a well -- a highly regarded person in the White House. He's very close to the chief of staff. He's a useful person in the White House. And they look the other way.

LEMON: Yes. Because...

AXELROD: And they didn't go as deep as they wanted to. And let me just add one other thing.


AXELROD: The fact that the chief of staff took talking points from Hope Hicks who everyone in the White House apparently knew was involved with Rob Porter, the fact that he allowed her to construct those talking points was another thing that just boggles my mind.


AXELROD: I mean why wouldn't you say you shouldn't be involved in this?

LEMON: There is another thing, David, though. Because a source tonight is saying that Rob Porter's ex-girlfriend called the White House counsel Don McGahn in recent weeks to inform him of abuse allegations.

AXELROD: Yes. Look, I heard --I heard one of the ex-wives with Anderson in the previous hour and she was very compelling. She said, look, Rob Porter is a bright, talented and often very kind person. But he has this other side to him. And it may be that people in the White House haven't seen that other side.


AXELROD: But I saw it. Obviously others have seen it.

BASH: They definitely had it.

LEMON: Hey, Chris?



AXELROD: Yes. So, I mean, I understand why they don't want to face it.

LEMON: They knew about it. But they didn't see it.

AXELROD: But they had an obligation to face it.

[22:25:01] LEMON: Obviously, you're not going to show up at the White House -- I don't know what goes on. Maybe they scream at people, I don't know, or punching walls or hitting women on the job, most domestic abusers don't do that.


BASH: But he -- but he was the opposite of that.


BASH: Not that this matter but he was the opposite of that. He was known as somebody who was incredibly mild mannered, so soft spoken apparently that sometimes you couldn't even hear him in meetings.

Again, there is no rhyme or reason. And, you know, I'm certainly not going to profile what it means and what it takes to be a domestic abuser.


BASH: But if you're not looking for that and if you work with somebody side by side especially in the hours as David well knows that you work with people in the White House, that's why that you're seeing the shock and dismay.


LEMON: Hey, Chris, I know you want to get in. But let me just say this...

AXELROD: But Dana, but the fact...

LEMON: Go ahead, David. Quickly. I want to get Chris in.

AXELROD: Yes. I was just saying, the fact that there was a hold on his clearance for 13 months meant that people who needed to clear him had really deep concerns.

BASH: Absolutely.

AXELROD: And that should have been a big red flag.

BASH: No question.

LEMON: Chris, before you respond, though, because this is another misleading thing we need to point out. And it's from the press secretary from the deputy press secretary in the briefing today saying that Porter had been terminated. But that's not what happened.

CILLIZZA: No. I mean, that's -- he resigned and the resignation was accepted. That's the story. And by the way, as recently as 24 hours ago, John Kelly was urging -- Dana touched on this earlier, John Kelly was urging Porter not to resign and saying he could weather it.

So, I mean, I guess you can try to rewrite history but it's not true. To me, Porter we sort of, we know the deal there. What I think we should need to focus on is John Kelly.


LEMON: Do you think he can weather this? Do you think he'll stay there?

CILLIZZA: I don't know...


LEMON: He's supposed to be the one -- he's supposed to be the one putting out fires. And he is the chief starting fires. CILLIZZA: Right. He's the chief of staff. Staff. Right? And remember,

when he came in, Don, he expressly said I'm not going to be the guy who is going to manage the president. I'm going to manage the staff, right? He said that publicly.

I'm going to make sure we are all working to make it the best possible scenario for the President of the United States.

To David's point, how incurious do you have to be if you're the chief of staff to say wait a minute, this is one of the five people who spend the most time with Donald Trump on a daily basis, right? This is someone who vets everything that the president sees, goes through Rob Porter's hands.

It's kind of odd that he hasn't had this security clearance proof and according to our reporting in the fall, last fall Kelly had some inkling. If you have some inkling of not wife, wives alleging abuse, don't you think that it's your duty literally as a chief of staff to protect the President of the United States to investigate that at some level? I mean, that to me...


AXELROD: Hey, listen, especially because we've been told that General Kelly is the ultimate detail guy.

CILLIZZA: Correct.

AXELROD: He's the guy who makes things run.

LEMON: I've got to run.

AXELROD: So how does the ultimate detail guy ignore that detail?

LEMON: I've got to run. But I have to say, you know, I'm romantically involved with someone and then you ask me to draft...


LEMON: ... a memo.

CILLIZZA: Someone should have stepped in and said you can't do that.

LEMON: David, you point that out. It's just mind boggling that would even happen.


LEMON: All right. Thank you. I appreciate all of you. When we come back, much more on how the White House mishandled the allegations against Rob Porter. Sources telling CNN that John Kelly's job is not at risk. But should it be? If he knew about the allegations against Porter for months now. So what happened to him being the adult in the room? We'll discuss that more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: The White House is in damage control again tonight with the clock ticking down to the country's second government shutdown in two weeks. They manage to keep the government open for 17 days.

CNN has learned that knives are out also for the Chief of Staff John Kelly after he allowed Rob Porter who is accused of domestic abuse to serve as a top aide to the president. Accused by two ex-wives, by the way. The president though, reportedly sticking by Kelly tonight.

I want to bring in Chris Whipple, he's the author of "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency," and that important to note here. And CNN political commentator, Joan Walsh.

So good to have both of you. He's supposed to be the gatekeeper. And as you said from the very beginning, when John Kelly was hired, you said that that is the most important position. Maybe more important than the president, right?


LEMON: The White House chief of staff. But here's what you also said. It makes you long for the days of Reince Priebus.

WHIPPLE: Well, you know what? I mean, look at this White House. Every time we think we hit rock bottom, the bottom falls out. I mean, it does almost make you nostalgic for Reince Priebus. And I bet Trump is probably missing him a little bit as we speak.


LEMON: What position is Kelly in tonight you think?

WHIPPLE: Well, I think he's in the dog house, obviously with Donald Trump. I mean, we will see if this turns out to be a firing offense. I talk to one republican former White House chief of staff who said to me, quoting Jim Baker that, this isn't just a firing offense. This is a hanging offense. As he once said about Don Reagan.

But you know, six months ago, I would have said that the guy who had a lock on the title worst White House chief of staff in modern history was Don Reagan, the disastrous White House chief for Ronald Reagan. I think Kelly is giving him a run for that title.

I mean, not only has it been his complete inability to speak truth to Donald Trump, but now the one thing he supposedly was good at which was making the trains run on time in the West Wing it turns about -- it turns out to be a complete illusion.

LEMON: Yes. And he's saying well there are no plans of firing him tonight. They wouldn't say that as you -- because...


WALSH: No. LEMON: You were making a point about -- you made the point in the break about Flynn.


LEMON: Well, Flynn has a confidence. And then all of a sudden I'm on the air right after they said that reading. Well, you know... (CROSSTALK)

WALSH: He's been fired.

LEMON: ... he's been fired.

[22:34:59] WALSH: Lot of confidence.


WALSH: And I think what is so interesting about this Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times have a great piece out tonight and she talks to one of Barack Obama's staff secretaries. This man then went to work for the NSA as the general counsel.

He told her that he saw far more classified information, sensitive information as Obama's Rob Porter, same job as Rob Porter, than did he at the NSA. So this is a job, this man couldn't get full clearance. He had interim clearance and he was handling the most sensitive secrets that the president sees and maybe doesn't see because we know he doesn't read very much.


WALSH: So the idea that John Kelly would let this go on would not dig to the bottom of it, would not -- would not see this.

Leave aside the women, which is horrible. But this is the Donald Trump White House obviously so no one cares about women so leave that aside for a second.


ALSH: Just look at the national security implications. Just look what he's now done to the president. I mean, it's really kind of stunning.

LEMON: And you got -- you've got -- Jared Kushner doesn't have a...

WALSH: Right.

LEMON: ... permanent clearance as well. I mean, you think, you know, you have a former reality TV show star now currently reality show TV star who was in the White House who would show up at meetings where, you know, sensitive information would be tough discussed and it's a small place.

WALSH: Right.

LEMON: You overhear things when you're in the White House. WALSH: Sure.

LEMON: So, you know, you got Omarosa who is now on a reality show whispering and talking about, whispering secrets.


WALSH: Whispering secrets. Yes, scaring people.

LEMON: You got Porter and you have Jared Kushner who doesn't have a permanent one either. This is what -- I want to -- this is reporting tonight. It's from the New York Times. The New York Times reporting that President Trump called Reince Priebus to express dissatisfaction with John Kelly.

This is Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker. And they write this. "The idea that the president would confide grievances over Mr. Kelly with the person he pushed out to hire Mr. Kelly is yet another indication of how upside down Mr. Trump's world can be. In the West Wing, various characters fall in -- as I just said -- fall in and out of favor with such rapidity that it is never entirely clear who has the president's ear."

I just said that! Didn't I?


WALSH: Thank you. Yes.

LEMON: What are your thoughts on that?

WHIPPLE: It doesn't surprise me at all. I mean, I happen to know. I mean, Donald Trump has a phone that is not monitored by Kelly. He calls Priebus all the time. They talk frequently. You know, I -- and I think obviously he used to talk to Bannon almost every other day. And until his ex-communication after the Michael Wolff's book.

I wouldn't be surprised if they're talking again soon. Trump is a guy who again, you cannot -- you cannot manage him in that sense. I mean, he is going to talk to whomever he wants to. And it will be interesting to see how this plays out with Kelly because he's obviously in the dog house.

LEMON: So I'm going to give you the last word here because -- This is -- I want to get this reporting in. This is CNN's Maggie -- or M.J. Lee, I should say, reporting that Porter's ex-wife, Colbie Holderness told the FBI Colbie he punched her in the face, gave them the photo to prove. This was in January of 2017. That's more than a year ago.

So, for folks were saying well, Kelly didn't know. Is that -- is there an excuse for him not knowing?

WALSH: No. There's no excuse. He either chose not to know or more likely did he know and he didn't care. He thought this man was more important to him than the stories about these women. He thought they wouldn't get, he thought they wouldn't be believed. We have the Daily Mail to thank. You know, they broke -- they broke

this story. And suddenly they have to come out. They lie. They have Hope Hicks apparently, Rob Porter's girlfriend, participate in crafting a statement for John Kelly that, you know, that it's just ludicrous.

The boundaries in this White House are so creepy. You know, I feel like we're dragged into a real housewives episode.


WALSH: Not analyzing the politics of the country and where we're going now. We're talking about gossip. But it matters.


WHIPPLE: And it's a tribal mindset.

LEMON: We got to go, Chris.


LEMON: Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Joan.

WALSH: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. When we come back, more on our breaking news tonight. The president said Tuesday I'd love to see a shutdown. We're less than 90 minutes from him getting his wish. He's going to get his wish. But the holdup this time is someone from his own party.


LEMON: So our breaking news tonight is the government is set to shut down at midnight eastern, not very long from now if Congress can't reach a budget deal. And there's a big holdup in the Senate.

I want to bring in now Hawaii democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. Senator, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us here late this evening.


LEMON: So, here we are again...


HIRONO: Yes, we're all waiting for Rand Paul to sit down.

LEMON: I know 17 days later after there was a shutdown 17 days ago, can you explain to folks at home why are we going into a shutdown again?

HIRONO: Well, thanks to Rand Paul we're not able to get to a vote on the budget deal that involved a lot of compromise and has some really good items in it but Rand Paul objects. And why he is objecting to this bill which he's saying adds to the national debt but he was very happy to vote on the $1.5 trillion added to the national debt when he voted for the huge tax cuts for the richest people in our country not too long ago.

LEMON: Did you ever expect that we would be in this position tonight?

HIRONO: I was hoping not. But it's hard to predict what Rand Paul will do. Obviously, he's doing what he's doing. And it is, thanks to him that, we are going to see a government shutdown at midnight tonight.

But I'm hopeful that we'll get to the underlying bill so that everybody can vote up or down and then the bill still has to go to the House for their approval as kind of hard to tell what the House is going to do with it. But let us hope that we'll at least get to vote on the bill up or down in both Houses.

LEMON: But my question, did this come as -- I think this came as a bit of a surprise to the general public because they thought OK, well, republicans and democrats are -- have come to a bipartisan agreement.


LEMON: Do you think was a bit of a surprise?

[22:44:59] HIRONO: Well, the last time there was a shutdown, you know, there was so much emphasis on protecting the DREAMers and so I think a lot of people thought that when the DREAMers were taken out of this bill. And I certainly didn't like that happening that everyone thought that there were going to be -- there was going to be a meeting of the minds, but it takes one senator like Rand Paul to everything up and that's what he's doing.

LEMON: And that's what happened. Do you believe that the issue Senator Rand Paul is bringing to the floor the issue of debt and spending, is that worth shutting the government down over?

HIRONO: When he voted for the $1.5 trillion addition to the national debt and by voting for the tax bill. I would really welcome Rand Paul being much more consistent. So why he didn't do this with the tax bill which should have died in my opinion, and why he is taking this bill to put forth that same argument I do not know. An argument that he didn't raise with the tax bill.

LEMON: Do you think it had anything to do with the president needing a win before the end of the year?

HIRONO: I really don't know what the president want. On a day to day basis I don't think he knows what he wants.

LEMON: Do you think he should play a role here in this?

HIRONO: The less the president plays a role in any of the deliberations in the House and Senate, the more likely that will be able to get some things done.

LEMON: Yes. Senator, I appreciate your time.


LEMON: You have lots of work. It's going to be a long night. And we will be on air covering it for you.

HIRONO: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you for joining us.


LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, a source telling CNN that Rob Porter's ex-girlfriend called White House counsel Don McGahn in the past few weeks to tell him about the abuse allegations. I'm going to talk about this next with CNN's chief legal analyst Mr. Jeffrey Toobin.


LEMON: New questions tonight about who knew what and when about former White House aide Rob Porter. The White House has changed the story multiple times. The firestorm centering on the actions of Chief of Staff John Kelly and also White House counsel Don McGahn.

I want to bring in now CNN chief legal analyst, Mr. Jeffrey Toobin. I want to ask you about the White House counsel, Don McGahn. I want to make sure I get this right his role in this story.

Because CNN has learned an ex-girlfriend of Rob Porter has contacted McGahn, informed him of abuse allegations. She also alleged that she had -- that he abused his two ex-wives. So what should Don McGahn have done here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: He should have convened the people at the White House who decide who gets a security clearance. Because ultimately that is up to the White House, it's not up to the FBI, and say, look, we need to make a decision here about whether this person can have a security clearance, because he is subject to blackmail from several women. And he did nothing. And nobody did anything.

LEMON: So I'm asking you something, if you had the answer to then you probably wouldn't be working here you'd be out on your yacht somewhere because you could predict it. Why didn't they do it?

TOOBIN: Well, I actually think, you know, yacht -- I don't get a yacht. But I don't think they cared about domestic violence.

LEMON: Really?

TOOBIN: I think -- I think it was, you know, it was an old boy's network, he had an ugly divorce, you know, addictive ex-girlfriend. They didn't care. And you know, they had their wagons circled around Porter yesterday when the stories ran. It was only the photograph of the woman with the black eye that -- that finally forced them to acknowledge what they should have acknowledged months ago because they knew it.

LEMON: So it's not known what McGahn did with the information. And we don't know.

TOOBIN: It's not.

LEMON: We don't know what the chief of staff knew as well. Is it fair to say that the White House, if they did nothing -- you said they don't care. It was only -- they thought maybe it wouldn't become public?

TOOBIN: Right. I mean, the only thing -- you know, I mean, what's so tragic about this story other than of course the underlying conduct, is that the women did the right thing. You know, people say women should report what they went through. And they did report it.

They went to the FBI. A couple of them went to the Mormon Church. And nothing happened. And the only thing that motivated the White House to act finally was the press when the Daily Mail and The Intercept did their stories it was too embarrassing for them to keep employing this guy. But if the press hadn't got involved he'd still be there today.

LEMON: So here is the thing, because the church did nothing, the White House did nothing, the FBI can tell them about it and it's up to the administration, one reason he hates the press so much and calls us fake is because we can put the stories out there and maybe something has to be done about.

TOOBIN: And you know what? And we do a good job a lot of the time.


TOOBIN: And the Daily Mail and the Intercept did a great job here, and you know, good for them.

LEMON: I want to talk to you about this. Let's talk about Patty Hearst.


LEMON: Let's turn to that now because you are the executive producer of the CNN special series "The Radical Story of Patty Hearst." It's a fascinating story and I want to play a clip from that.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every communication that came out just had the obsessive need to sort of tell myself what are the chances this coming out, OK? And I remember there are times I would say this is -- there isn't a 20 percent chance she is getting out of this. It just seemed like hopeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't really want her life to be in jeopardy. That didn't advance our political goals. So what we did to demonstrate that she was not our enemy was we trained on her how to use a little shotgun.

If we got in the circle she would have a shotgun and she would have been able to defend herself if cops came in and actually tried to kill her too.

She is not a stereotypical Hollywood victim. I'm sure she is trying to calculate her next move.


LEMON: Interesting. So at the time people were divided on whether she was a victim or an accomplice. How do you see her role?

TOOBIN: Nineteen seventy four, that's when this crime took place.

LEMON: I remember.

[22:54:58] TOOBIN: It's -- that question, victim or accomplice is at the heart of all six hours of this documentary. Two hours Sunday night, two hours each of the two following two Sundays. And you know, it's a big complicated story.

And she -- I also wrote a book about this a couple of years ago called "American Heiress." And you know, my book, I conclude that she really was a participant that she did join the SLA. The documentary treats that subject somewhat differently.


TOOBIN: What did I say?


TOOBIN: It's Symbionese Liberation Army.


TOOBIN: Yes. Which was this terrorist group. And the documentary sort of lays out the different theories and let the viewer decide for him or herself.

LEMON: I can't wait.

TOOBIN: It's really -- you now, I'm involved obviously so I'm biased. But it's really good. And the two people in that, Stephen Weed was her fiance who was in the house when she was kidnapped. And that second person was Bill Harris who was the person who carried patty Hearst her out of the house did never done on camera interviews.

LEMON: You're involved in the most fascinating stories, Patty Hearst, O.J. Simpson, the Supreme Court, and on and on.

TOOBIN: I'm trying.

LEMON: Thank you. And CNN.


LEMON: Thank you very much. The radical story of Patty Hearst, a six- part original series premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. right here on CNN.

And when we come back, we are one hour away, that's when we come back, from a government shutdown. One hour and just a little bit now. Another government shutdown. We're going to bring you the latest. That's next.


LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us. Eleven p.m. on the East Coast.