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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

White House: We Could Have Done Better Dealing with Porter; Did White House Chief of Staff Ignore Abuse Allegations of White House Staff Secretary?; White House Briefing. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 8, 2018 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:01]

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: On Tuesday night, when there was a report issued.

QUESTION: And then, secondly, you have said that Rob Porter was terminated twice in this briefing. Is the White House now saying that Mr. Porter was fired?

SHAH: I just mean the process by which your employment status ends is termination.

QUESTION: OK. And then the last thing on that is you said that there are things that this White House could have done better with respect to this. Could you please detail that? What could the White House have done better?

SHAH: Well, I mean, again, I'm not going to get into a tick tock and all these detailed specifics. I think a lot of individuals were involved with the White House response to this, myself included. I think a lot of us could have done better.

Trey (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Raj. Just to clarify on Francesca's (ph) point, I have two questions for you. So Rob Porter was not fired by the Trump administration?

SHAH: No. Rob (ph) -- he resigned, and we accepted his resignation.

QUESTION: OK. And if I could follow up on -- you said the president was saddened. You've spoken with the president --

SHAH: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- about these allegations this morning. Can you give us a better idea about the concerns that the president had?

This is a gentleman who was in the Oval Office, very close to the president numerous times throughout the first year of this administration. What did the president specifically have to say about these (ph) allegations?

SHAH: He -- he was surprised. You know, he, like many of us, did not see that in Rob Porter, did not see what these allegations have brought forward. And so he was surprised by it, he was disheartened by it and he was saddened by it.

QUESTION: And if I can ask you about the memo from the House Intelligence Committee --

SHAH: Sure.

QUESTION: -- do you have any sort of update on the timeline? Has the president made a decision? And where does the review process stand?

SHAH: Well, the review process is ongoing, and, as we have said previously, we're using the same standards and the same process by which the Republican drafted memo was evaluated, that was voted out of the House Intelligence Committee.

It's going through both a legal and national security review. The president -- you know, I think we previously mentioned the president was briefed by the deputy attorney general the other day. When we have more information or an announcement, we'll make that available.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAH: John (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Raj. Two brief questions.

SHAH: Sure.

QUESTION: First, can you roughly say -- are there a lot of other people at the highest levels of the White House operating under a temporary security pass?

SHAH: I -- I can't get into that.

QUESTION: The other question, very simply: Are there going to be any further resignations by Friday or over the weekend?

SHAH: I have no personnel announcements.

Eamon.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks, Raj.

As we stand here, the Dow is off (ph) about 1,000 points or more. Can you give me the president's reaction to the stock market volatility that we've seen so far this week? And does the administration still view the stock market as a barometer for its own performance?

SHAH: Well, the president, like the rest of the White House, is concerned about long-term economic indicators and factors, and the fundamentals, in terms of the long-term, are very strong.

Again, unemployment and the labor market are very strong. Unemployment's at 4.1 percent. We saw wages rise on Friday for the first time -- not for the first time, but at a -- at a measurable level, for the first time in nearly eight years or nine years. And corporate earnings are high. And we believe that these long-term fundamentals demonstrate a healthy economy.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAH: Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you, Raj.

QUESTION: There have been reports President Trump is asking for preemptive military options for North Korea, amid concerns from some Pentagon officials. Yesterday, here, Secretary Mattis said North Korea is, quote, "firmly in the diplomatic lane, with viable military options."

That's a quote. Has President Trump asked for preemptive military options? And what is his view of the concerns expressed by Victor Cha and other experts that this would lead to catastrophic casualties in Seoul?

SHAH: Well, first off, I'm not going to get ahead of anything the president may consider. We don't telegraph, and the president doesn't telegraph his potential actions.

But our strategy with respect to North Korea is denuclearization. It's to provide as much economic and political pressure on that regime so that it would end its nuclear program -- and we've had a considerable amount of success, over the last year, pursing that strategy.

We've had dozens of countries reduce economic or -- economic or diplomatic ties with North Korea. Trade with North Korea with countries in the region has been reduced.

We continue to apply as much pressure -- maximum pressure on the regime. And, as the secretary of defense said, "We keep all options on the table, but the path we obviously would prefer is diplomatic."

(CROSSTALK)

SHAH: Kelly (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Yesterday --

SHAH: I'll get to you in a second. Kelly (ph), yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- U.S. personnel in Syria were attacked. There were counter-strikes launched by U.S. forces. I wonder if you could give us an idea of the president's involvement in this and whether you have any indication that there were any Russian personnel involved in the strike against -- the attacks on U.S. personnel.

SHAH: Well, the president was involved and briefed. I don't know an answer on -- on Russian engagement, but I'd get back to you on that.

Kelly (ph).

QUESTION: When you consider the Porter matter now, do you think that there were personal feelings, relationships in the White House among the senior staff, collegial and friendship relationships, that clouded people's judgment on how this was handled?

SHAH: I think I'd point you to a number of statements that indicate that the White House was prepared to defend Rob Porter, based on initial accusations that we heard about and his denial.

And that was based on our experiences with Rob Porter. And so, I mean, to answer your -- to answer your question, I think that the initial response was based upon that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Did anyone recuse themselves from participating?

SHAH: The communications director did recuse herself from some matters concerning --

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I want to take you back, as it relates to the reports of e- mails -- or texts, I'm sorry -- between Lisa Page and --

(CROSSTALK)

SHAH: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Peter Strzok. From the podium, Sarah has said that those texts are evidence of political bias. Now, everyone has opinions. So is the -- is the view of the administration that persons who are not fans of the president should not be allowed to investigate him?

And also, can you point to any evidence, other than the text messages, that the investigation was conducted by people who were -- were biased -- other than these texts? I mean, was there anything in the way the investigation is being --

SHAH: Yeah, look, you bring up an issue that the president and others have talked about within the -- within the administration about political bias at the FBI and Department of Justice. And this predates this investigation.

There are a number of issues regarding how the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation was handled by the former FBI director, and others in the FBI that have raised questions. When it comes to the text messages that you -- that you reference, that's not the considered judgment of the president or others, but it is the judgment of the special counsel, who had them removed from the case because -- specifically citing political bias.

So there are a number of issues. There's a Department of Justice inspector general report that we've heard about that's going to look into this issue further. QUESTION: Raj, (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

SHAH: I think last question (ph). Yeah, I'll -- yeah (ph), go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Raj. Two questions.

QUESTION: First, on President Trump and Dr. Kissinger's meeting, President Trump tweeted that they would discuss China and also other areas (ph). Can you tell us more about their meeting?

SHAH: I think we'll have more information for you later on.

This is the last question -- Sager (ph)?

QUESTION: Raj, is -- is Vice President Pence or Ivanka Trump willing to meet with Kim Jong-un's sister while they're at the Olympics?

SHAH: There's no meetings planned whatsoever.

All right. Yeah?

QUESTION: Is the U.S. investigating reports of chemical weapons use by Bashar al-Assad in Syria?

SHAH: I'll have to get back to you on that. Thanks a lot, everyone.

[16:07:44]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

You were just listening to White House Press Secretary Raj Shah in his inaugural press briefing.

The White House seeming to backpedal quite a bit today in the face of a new firestorm over its previously staunch support yesterday for White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who, it has been revealed this week, has been accused by two ex-wives of domestic abuse, complete with police records and a photograph of a black eye.

Shah said moments ago it was fair to say that the White House could have handled the situation better. He claimed that Chief of Staff John Kelly was not fully aware of the allegations until yesterday, but he refused to get into specifics on what exactly Kelly knew and when he knew it, not to mention anyone else, what did they know and when did they know it.

My panel is here with me to talk about all of this.

Jen Psaki, former White House communications director under President Obama, my layman's understanding of this is that there's a background check done by the FBI. It's fairly extensive. They talk to your neighbors, former boyfriends and girlfriends and spouses and friends and parents and everyone. And then they give the findings to the chief of staff, the White House counsel, and the security guy, which is -- the official title is deputy chief of staff for operations. Is that right?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right, Jake, but there's a lot of gray area here, because I think some unanswered questions which Raj Shah may not be in a position to answer are, at what point did the FBI know?

Typically, an initial background check is not that lengthy. It takes long to get to a security clearance, which they keep referring back to, but there were a number of White House staffers who were kicked out of their jobs last February, February 2017, for not passing the background check, and my recollection is that there were certain standards or certain bars you had to pass even to get into the White House, even at more junior levels.

So, for example, people who had smoked marijuana in the past, that was something, even if you're a press assistant, you have to explain that and make sure that it's something that there's a waiver on.

So, it's a little perplexing why this has taken over a year and why this was not known earlier. And I'm not sure they have answered those adequately at this point.

[16:10:00]

TAPPER: And the two ex-wives, Abby, said that they -- both of them talked to the FBI and were honest and forthright about the domestic abuse and the relationships they had with Rob Porter.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

I think it is still unknown if the FBI found out about those things, if they would have briefed people within the White House prior to completion of some kind of investigation into their background, and if they did, at what point did that happen?

I think we also should point out when that Raj Shah said that John Kelly was not fully aware of the allegations, he used the word fully, which is a qualifier that is doing a lot of work there.

We don't know what fully means, but our reporting says that he knew some of this, at least, in the fall of last year, and if any of that included allegations of domestic abuse, I would argue that would be a major red flag, that it should not take photographs of these women coming out for them to act on it.

And even as The Daily Mail was reported this morning, they came to the White House and presented the allegations to them, and yet, still, the White House put out a raft of statements defending Rob Porter.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Saying he had the highest character and integrity, yes. I think that somebody did ask Raj Shah -- and we will ask my team in the control room to get this bite -- I think somebody said, what do you mean by he didn't fully know? And I think Raj Shah said -- he referred to the visual, meaning he had seen the photograph of, I believe, the first ex-wife with the black eye.

Amanda Carpenter, you are also a former communications director. Can you think of a way where the White House could have handled this worse?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The bottom line of this is that they protected an abuser.

And guess what is the job qualification to work in the White House? Is to protect someone who talked favorably about sexual assault on the "Access Hollywood" tapes. That's the job qualification in this White House. There's a pattern of behavior. They kept Corey Lewandowski on staff as a campaign manager after he bruised a reporter.

TAPPER: Michelle Fields, yes.

CARPENTER: Yes.

This is the same president who laughed along with Howard Stern when he says disgusting things about his daughter. I don't know how the people in the White House let this man date Hope Hicks, get alone in a car with him.

TAPPER: Rob Porter, you're referring to, yes.

CARPENTER: Yes, knowing this was in his file.

They protect abusers. There's no way of getting around it, and I guess people will say, well, it doesn't matter. You can still be a good president, you can still do your job.

No. If you are willing to defend someone who hurt somebody in this fashion, you have no boundaries, you have no restraint, you have no respect for the law. And if you tolerate people who do this to people they say they love, what will they do to the people they don't know?

And that's why I think this matters to a normal person. These people don't have restraint. And it's disgusting to watch. My heart is pounding. It's infuriating to see people go to the White House and defend this, as a conservative, as a woman, as an American, as anyone.

TAPPER: So one of the things that you -- an interesting point that you just raised is Rob Porter is not the first person in the White House to be accused of domestic abuse.

Steve Bannon had been accused of domestic abuse by his -- I believe his first wife. Andy Puzder, who was the secretary of commerce or labor -- secretary of labor nominee -- am I getting this right? Yes, who withdrew his nomination, I think, mainly because of nanny-gate issues, but his ex-wife actually put on a disguise and went on "Oprah" and talked about the abuse, although, now she denies that there was any abuse.

I mean, this is something of a pattern.

PSAKI: Yes. No doubt.

And I think Amanda couldn't have stated it better in terms of what we are seeing here in terms of acceptable behavior and why that is. There's so many aspects of how they handled that that are telling about what kind of a White House this is and kind of what it represents.

You started with the president, himself, of course, but I think the last 24 hours told us also a lot about John Kelly. We thought that he was going to come in and be a moderating, stable force. He's a military guy, he's a family man.

And he's come in and his clarifying statement last night still defended him, Rob Porter, again. And that tells you about what kind of acceptable behavior it is.

Now, it's been reported, as you said, that Hope Hicks helped draft this, which is obviously a very poor judgment call.

TAPPER: That's a huge conflict of interest.

PSAKI: An enormous conflict of interest.

But my additional reactions beyond that were you have the chief of staff going out there and reading it. You have this White House press secretary and reading it and not questioning it.

TAPPER: You mean his defense, yes.

PSAKI: And part of your job in any of these positions is to say no sometimes and say, it's not acceptable. That doesn't represent my values or the values of the White House.

And you don't see anyone standing up like that either, and that's part of the problem there.

PHILLIP: Yes.

I think one of the challenges with this White House has been from the very beginning, who are the people coming in the door here? They have had trouble finding qualified candidates for a lot of these positions and have ended up where they are, with a lot of people who have issues in their backgrounds.

[16:15:03] And I reported over the course of the last year the challenges of not just bringing people in, but when people like Rob Porter leave, who replaces them? It's a real challenge for this White House to find people willing to come in to that building and deal with a whole raft of issues, and what it leaves them with is with a lot of candidates with a lot of problems who are not fully checked out before they are given really important jobs in the most important building in the world. TAPPER: The president always saying, of course, that he only hires

the best people. I think that that is a subject for debate, obviously.

I want to bring in CNN's Pamela Brown at the White House right now.

Pamela, a lot of tough words on the panel here for the Chief of Staff John Kelly. What are his prospects after this? Is this -- is the president -- does he still have confidence in Kelly?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, sources tell us, Jake, that the president is upset with John Kelly and his handling of the Rob Porter situation. He's been frustrated with him over the last several months for various reasons, but, certainly, this appeared to be a tipping point for him. He was very upset because as you all pointed out, there was the initial statement from John Kelly fiercely defending Robert Porter making no mention of the domestic abuse allegations, and it was not until last night that Kelly released a second statement acknowledging those domestic abuse, the alleged domestic abuse.

Now, today, Raj Shah said really the only no data point to impact this second statement from John Kelly was a picture showing one of Rob Porter's ex-wives with a black eye that Rob Porter, himself, had taken a picture of when he was pressed about that, he admitted the White House could have handled this better, but that does not really add up either, Jake, because the initial allegations came out the day before alleging serious physical and verbal abuse, and as we have seen John Kelly came out fiercely defending Rob Porter.

So, we are told, though, that in terms of his future here, John Kelly's future at the White House, there's no consideration to fire him. People that I spoke with and my colleagues and others have spoken with say they don't want to rock the boat too much, that it would cause too much instability despite all the venting about him. But, of course, we'll have to see what happens here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this Hope Hicks item for a second, if we could, Amanda, because Hope Hicks, long time aide, very trusted confidant of President Trump. She's the communications director, and it's been reported that she has a personal relationship with Rob Porter. They are both single, so nobody's suggesting there's anything untoward about that.

But the fact that according to our reporting and reporting in other media outlets, she had a hand, she was playing a role in the defense of Rob Porter during all of this. That doesn't seem wise.

CARPENTER: Well, I mean, there's so many conflicts of interests in the White House starting with Donald Trump relying on his daughter and son-in-law to be chief advisers, and then you add to that that Hope Hicks is defending someone she's dating, which is unusual to date someone in the workplace, especially a place like the White House. Perhaps it's on the up and up, but usually, you have to go through the advisers, go through this kind of thing, but let's assume that's all out the window.

I wonder about Hope Hicks. Did she know this was in his background? How do you feel if you're Hope Hicks and you're dating this person and people in the White House know this is a man who committed violence against women, and she didn't get a heads up? I don't know, maybe she did, maybe she didn't, but I think a lot of people wonder about the state of Hope Hicks, possibly what she's been subjected to while she's worked for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: One of the things that we talk about how this process would work, the FBI would interview everybody for the background check. I have a hard time understanding or believing rather that nobody knew that the staff secretary, which is for people at home who don't know, a very important and high-ranking position in the White House. That the staff secretary had two ex-wives, and both of them accused him of domestic abuse, and told that to the FBI, the idea that Don McGahn, the White House counsel, John Kelly, the chief of staff, and Joe Hagen (ph), who is in charge of security, the deputy chief of staff for operations, that at least two of the three didn't know that.

Now, maybe it's possible that since Reince was chief of staff when Porter was hired, maybe Priebus knew instead of John Kelly, I don't know. But it does -- I mean, Raj Shah said he would not do a tick- tock, but I'm sorry, in the name of transparency, that's exactly what we need.

PHILLIP: Yes, it is required. And I think it's important -- you know, even if it was the previous chief of staff, the idea that that kind of information would not be passed on to the subsequent chief of staff is really surprising, in part because these kinds of allegations are like a ticking time bomb.

[16:20:02] It's a problem. And it should be apparent from the very beginning.

I mean, CNN is reporting that John Kelly was aware that there were abuse allegations against Rob Porter. The question of how much -- how extensive that knowledge was is open for debate, but the idea that no one in the White House knew, we knew senior advisers in the White House were aware this was a problem, and, you know, that fact alone, I think, would surprise most people and would cause them to raise alarms about this person continuing in an extremely sensitive and high ranking position.

TAPPER: I want to roll some of the sound from the press briefing. Raj Shah, the deputy White House press secretary in his first White House briefing dealing with one of the ugliest scandals of the Trump presidency so far.

I want to go to SOT 1. This is what our own Jim Acosta asked the White House, how they could be standing behind Rob Porter, which they did for quite some time, even after the domestic violation accusations had come forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: How can this White House still be standing behind him when Mr. Porter appeared to be acknowledging he had --

RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's fair to say that, you know, we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with the situation, but, you know, this was a Rob Porter that I and many others have all dealt with, that Sarah dealt with, that other officials including the chief of staff had dealt with, and the emerging reports were not reflective of the individual who we had come to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: First of all, that explanation, I just want to take the back half of it for a second, the idea that he wasn't running around the White House punching women in the face, that it makes it surprising to them to learn he's a domestic abuser reveals quite a tremendous amount of ignorance about what domestic abusers look like. They look like everyone, every man, and some women as well.

But, Jen, I wanted to ask you about the part they did acknowledge -- this was the one part of the press briefing they acknowledged they could have handled this better. Does a press secretary go out there thinking, like, OK, I'm going to acknowledge this much wrongdoing or this much mishandling?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: He probably had that in his pocket for survival purposes with the approval of anyone from Trump to Kelly and others. I think you touched on an important point here, though. We're talking a lot about process and FBI checks. Ultimately, this is about a domestic abuser working in the White House, the people's house in a very high-level position.

And what he was suggesting or presenting as the reasons for supporting him were things like, this happened a long time ago. There's a long process. We're not going to prejudge that.

And look, if you're an average person sitting at home, you're thinking, but wait a second, this guy abused two ex-wives, what are we talking about here?

TAPPER: By the way, it wasn't that long ago either. I mean, it was in the 2000s.

PSAKI: Sorry, before he worked at the White House, which is the most irrelevant and absurd point. He's an abuser -- he is an abuser then, he is an abuser now.

So, look, Raj Shah is not in an easy spot here. He is still choosing to work for this guy, but, ultimately, this is not about FBI process or background checks. This is about whether John Kelly and Donald Trump think it's OK to have an abuser in the White House, an they do.

TAPPER: I want to play the sound I referred to earlier, SOT number four, about what changed, why was the Kelly initial statement different from the Kelly second statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

REPORTER: To be clear, what was so shocking that had changed? You said it was shocking. What was he referring to?

SHAH: Yes, it was the full nature of the allegations, particularly the images.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Particularly the images. So, basically, if the first ex-wife did not have a photograph with a black eye, then quite possibly, Rob Porter would still be in the White House and the White House would still be defending him or at least not believing his ex-wives.

CARPENTER: Yes. They were going to do anything to defend him until they couldn't. Photographs, you know, things like audio change that.

How many times have women said they've been abused and hurt, and no one believes them until they have some kind of irrefutable evidence whether it's audio, video, or a photograph? In this case, the photograph was the only thing making them back down.

PSAKI: That Rob Porter took and admitted to taking the photos.

TAPPER: Yes.

PHILLIP: But has not explained how they came about. He suggest in his statement that the story behind them is different from what his ex-wife is alleging, but as to my knowledge, he's provided no additional information about what that could be, and there's also, we should mention, a third woman who says that she was his girlfriend who apparently, according to our reporting, CNN's MJ Lee spoke to her, she reached out to the ex-wives in 2016.

[16:25:02] This was before the Trump White House, this was before Rob Porter was staff secretary, and wrote to them saying she was being abused.

So, there's a whole story here, some of which has nothing to do with photographs, that show a really troubling pattern of alleged behavior that I think the White House has still, to this day, not explained why none of that was sufficient for them to even give of word of acknowledgement that some of the women's allegations were worth looking into.

Remember, the John Kelly statement and other statements release by the White House this week accused these women of a conspiracy against Rob Porter. They did not acknowledge any of the allegations being worth looking into until that photograph or at least that's the story they are giving. TAPPER: So, I mean, obviously, if Chief of Staff Kelly and White

House counsel McGahn and the security guy Hagan, if all three of them, and we don't know, but if all three of them had learned of this and they kept him on board, either they didn't think it was a big deal, or, and I suspect this to be the case based on the initial statements, Porter sold them a bill of goods and said it wasn't true, that these women are crazy or whatever, and they said they believed him.

The reason I say that is I didn't pluck that out of thin air -- if you read the reporting, CNN's reporting, "Daily Mail" broke the story, "The Intercept's" reporting, the pattern is that the second ex-wife says I knew about the abuse of the first ex-wife, but Rob told me they had a crazy tempestuous relationship, and it was both of their faults, and I believed him, and then it happened to me.

CARPENTER: I mean, listen, it's really messy, but in this White House, these stories, these lies are not disqualifying. That's what it gets down to. I mean, you have to ask, if people are willing to look past a police report, look past all of these things, what other kinds of ethical behavior are they looking past and continuing to enable?

This is a White House that just is not run on the up and up, and I do think there's a self-selection problem. Good people will not put themselves in a situation to work with people like this. And so, thus, you have a terrible pool of applicants going to work for Donald Trump, which, again, talk favorably about sexual assault on the "Access Hollywood" tapes. I mean, this is just a problem when the leadership is so unseemly at the top.

PHILLIP: I think it's also hard to overstate the degree to which someone like Rob Porter was viewed as a highly pedigreed person in the White House.

TAPPER: Sure, Harvard.

PHILLIP: He graduated from Harvard, his father worked in previous administration, in the Reagan White House, in the H.W. Bush administration. He worked on the Hill. He was the chief of staff for multiple senators.

He's someone who in this White House was viewed extremely highly as someone who kept the trains on the tracks, and so it is -- you know, for a lot of folks in the White House, very unsettling to find this, but it's important to know, you know, abusers do not always look like what you think abusers look like, and that's why it's important to not allow that to be the rationale for just dismissing allegations out of turn. I think a lot of people at the White House were surprised, but they also clearly acknowledged they did not act up when the evidence was clearly in front of them.

TAPPER: The reason why someone like Rob Porter would be subjected to a background check is, A, whether, you know, the possibility that maybe he would exhibit violent behavior in some sort of work setting and no evidence of that at all, but, B, because it would be hugely embarrassing to President Trump if this ever were to come out. That's why people like this don't get jobs at the White House. That's

the whole purpose of the FBI background check.

PSAKI: Yes. There's a self-protection aspect of this typically as well. Now, I think if you look at Kelly's statements and the statements of others, what they often referred to is kind of his, you know, versions of his pedigree, you know, his background and the fact he helped the paper process, and things along those lines. No, none of that matters when you talk about what he's accused of, but he's somebody who I think people looked at, and they thought, you know, he was fine, he seems fine, we need somebody who's good, and so, we'll let him slip in, and we have a pipeline problem and we don't have good people who are going to deliver on Kelly's desire to right the paper process and run a smooth, you know, internal briefing process. So they let him slip.

TAPPER: Kelly, obviously, relied on him a lot and referred to almost as if he were a deputy chief of staff, Rob Porter, and Kelly has really tried to make sure that the White House runs more efficiently. Kelly, according to Pamela Brown, our CNN White House correspondent, is now finding himself the target of the ire of President Trump.