Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Signs Bill Re-Opening Government After Brief Shutdown; President Trump Upset on the Handling of Rob Porter Abuse Allegations; U.S. Markets Open After Dow Plummets 1,000 Points; Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired February 9, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Been there for four months trying to recover from that tragedy.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Inspiring story. That is all for us. Time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" this morning with Erica Hill.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Erica Hill in for John Berman and Poppy Harlow. Following a lot f news for you this morning.

First up, the latest government shutdown which ended just moments ago. The president announcing the signing of that spending bill that made its way through Congress a few hours after the midnight deadline.

Plus a historic moment at the Olympics. You see there on the right side of your screen, Vice President Pence at the opening ceremonies for the Winter Games. The woman who is also highlighted in this picture sitting behind him to his right, that's the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and the first member of the North's ruling dynasty to ever set foot in the South.

We are live in Pyeongchang.

Plus a White House in crisis, a top aide accused of spousal abuse is gone. But the questions are not. In fact, they're only growing as is the pressure on higher-ups who didn't act sooner.

We begin, though, with the rarest of achievements on Capitol Hill these days, it seems. A long-term bipartisan budget deal.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is there with the latest for us -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right. Good morning, Erica. Well, it was actually going on nine hours, this government shutdown, much of it happening when many Americans were sleeping. And we just saw that Trump tweet about 8:40 in the morning saying that he did sign this bill. And he said that it was good for the military. He also said it meant jobs, jobs, jobs.

This was a couple of hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan's office actually sent over that bill after it was approved. So there was some confusion this morning about where federal workers needed to be. But now that has been resolved. But, Erica, it comes after a night and an early morning drama that

happened both on the House and the Senate side that we've got a chance to see to make this thing happen.

On the House side, it was the House Democrats who slow-walked their support for this bill. This was something that needed Democratic support. And you saw the faces of Republicans as the Democrats waited until the very last minute. They were sweating it out, whether or not they would get that support. They did. This was something that was somewhat of a strategy by Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader, to make sure they could get maximum leverage or at least make their colleagues feel uncomfortable.

Earlier in the evening it was drama on the Senate side. This was a lone Republican from Kentucky, Rand Paul, who refused to go along with his fellow senators. They needed 100 unanimous votes to make sure that they could move the vote up just a little bit earlier to go ahead and meet that midnight deadline when the funding ran out. He refused to do so.

In fact, he was on the Senate floor many different times making multiple speeches essentially saying that this was a bill that was way too big, way too expensive, and chastising his own party for being hypocritical. Take a listen.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If you were against President Obama's deficits and now you're for the Republican deficits, isn't that the very definition of hypocrisy?


MALVEAUX: There is a lot that's at stake here. This is a game- changing bill. This is $400 billion, close to a two-year deal. But really changes the way that the government is being funded now. It is a two-year plan. It includes $160 billion for Defense, $131 billion for non-Defense, $90 billion for disaster relief as well as raising the debt ceiling through the midterm elections. Also provides $20 billion in infrastructure investment, about $6 billion for drug abuse programs and a 10-year reauthorization of the CHIP program.

So these are things that both Democrats and Republicans really wanted and supported. But the big outstanding question, Erica, essentially is what happens to the Dreamers? Is there a DACA deal to be had here? That still has to be sorted out through Congress and get to the president's desk -- Erica.

HILL: And that is the next step. Suzanne, thank you.

Moving now to the White House and the fallout from the downfall of a close trusted aide. Officials won't say for the record who knew what, when about abuse allegations against the now former staff secretary Rob Porter.

Porter's second ex-wife, however, is speaking out. Last night Jennifer Willoughby telling Anderson about the incident that prompted her to seek a protective order just months into their marriage.


JENNIFER WILLOUGHBY, ROB PORTER'S EX-WIFE: He came to the apartment where I was staying and refused to leave. And after he did ultimately leave and I had closed the door and locked it behind him, he returned a moment later and punched in the glass.


HILL: CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House with more this morning -- Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica. This story continues to be a loadstone around this White House's neck at this point.

We are learning overnight that President Trump has been upset with the way that this has been handled in the public.

[09:05:03] He's been upset with several aides including John Kelly and Hope Hicks who we know was involved in the drafting of some of the problematic statements released by the White House earlier this week. But we've also learned that John Kelly's job is not likely to be on the line as a result of this, in part because there's really no one to replace him.

On the other hand, Kelly is doing some damage control within the White House. He sent out a note to staff last night talking about domestic violence and saying that there is no tolerance for that in the White House.

In addition to all of that, we've learned that there are other White House officials who may have been aware about these domestic violence allegations including White House counsel Don McGahn who sources tell us was told earlier in the fall about these problems with Rob Porter getting his security clearance. Apparently Porter told McGahn that the FBI brought these domestic violence allegations up in his FBI interview as a part of his clearance process.

Now Jennifer Willoughby, the second ex-wife, on television talking more about this publicly. And here's what she had to say about the interactions that she's had with Rob Porter since their marriage ended.


WILLOUGHBY: Another thing that he wanted me to say was that I had taken some liberties with this therapeutic post, which it was for me, that I had taken liberties with that therapeutic post and when I thought about it, I didn't. The things that I said were factual statements. He was asking me to downplay it. And he was asking me to emphasize more the relationship that he and I have now as opposed to what I experienced in our marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: So Willoughby says that her interactions with Porter continued up until even this week when all of this was exploding out into the public sphere. She also expressed some concern for Hope Hicks, again, the White House communications director, who is in a romantic relationship with Rob Porter -- Erica.

HILL: Abby Phillip for us at the White House with the latest. Abby, thank you.

Joining me now to discuss CNN political analyst Alex Burns and Josh Dawsey, and CNN contributor Salena Zito.

And I just want to -- I'm glad you're all sitting here because I'm going to need you to stick for a moment. I just want to tick through a list of some of the things that have happened since the last government shutdown three weeks ago. I'm going to keep the list scrolling because these are, again, just the highlights.

So we've got the back and forth on the president sitting down with Mueller and Mr. Trump's attempts to fire Mueller. FBI deputy director McCabe is out, as is the Nunes memo. The State of the Union, plus these allegations of treasonous un-American Democrats. There's the all-time high for the stock market, two major plunges in under a week. A White House staff secretary who is out amid allegations of domestic violence, and those two government shutdowns.

So with all of that is happening, one of the things that is not happening is a real discussion on immigration. We haven't tackled DACA or immigration.

Does a budget, Josh, give immigration anymore momentum? The president said negotiations are going to happen. I don't think we've heard that assurance from Paul Ryan yet.

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think we have either. And you have a March 5th deadline. Democrats last night have said they wanted a shutdown for a DACA deal in the next continuing resolution. The next budget deal. But obviously didn't happen. And we're stick at loggerheads on how to handle immigration.

You haven't seen much focus at all from the White House on it. You haven't seen a ton of focus from Capitol Hill on it. And you have a deadline that, you know, is now about three, four weeks away for this program that President Trump has said he wanted to keep but he wants all sorts of concessions in exchange. And Democrats do not want to give him those concessions.

So I don't think we're much further along on immigration than we were several weeks ago when we shut down the government last time.

HILL: As we look at all of this, we also heard Rand Paul which we heard more about from Suzanne calling out his own party about the hypocrisy when it comes to the deficit. Republicans want and need to obviously hold on to both Houses in 2018. In fact, the president tweeting this morning that they -- there need to be more Republicans in Washington at this point. Salena, though, is this the type of governing that they can run on for

the midterms?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I mean, everything that you've mentioned, right, we're all drinking out of a fire hose every day on news. But I think last night -- I think what we're missing about last night is something that we've missed in the discussion after the election in 2016 because everyone was so sort of focused on the shock that President Trump won. Well, one of the things that, in the exit polling and interviews that I've done with people is they wanted to see what happened exactly this morning. I think it was this morning when we finally -- they finally signed the deal and the president signed off on it, is to see more people working across the aisle on issues that impact Americans in their daily lives, and not just economically, but also with the military and with bigger problems like the opioid crisis.

And so that part, that component of governing right now is actually settling and pleasing voters because this is -- they're sort of tired of all the right and the left and Republican and the Democrats.

[09:10:12] They want to see governing. They want to see things get done and they don't just want to see it from one party.

HILL: They may want to see more governing, the president very clear in his tweets, though, that he does not. Tweeting out this morning, "Without more Republicans in Congress, we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our military. Sadly we needed some Dem votes for passage. Must elect more Republicans in 2018 election."

Alex, as -- I mean, as we break that down, it's not entirely surprising to see this come from the president. But while Americans may want to see bipartisan efforts here, the president, who largely stayed out of this process, clearly doesn't.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he doesn't. And I think Salena is absolutely right. That that was something that we heard through the election from folks who are supporting President Trump, then candidate Trump, was that they thought that he would be able to go to Washington and break down some of the walls between the parties.

The fact that the parties did work together on something last night is sort of interesting as a development in Washington and in terms of the balance of power between Congress and the White House. But President Trump had very, very little to do with that, as you just said.

So I do think going forward, when we look at issues like DACA, when we look at basically everything else that might be on the congressional agenda this year, I think the president kind of has to prove at this point that he is still relevant to legislation, that he can go out there and he can certainly denounce legislation, he can throw a wrench in the works especially in the House where Paul Ryan has indicated that he probably won't move immigration legislation that the president opposes. But it's not clear that President Trump at this point or really at any

point has played a hands-on, constructive role in shaping a policy agenda. I think you do need to look at what happened last night, and really everything that's happened starting with the tax bill as the product of the Republican leadership and occasionally some Democrats who work across the aisle.

HILL: Well, it calls up two questions of leadership there, the Republican leadership but also the leadership coming from to top as you point out, Alex.

I want to shift now to the discussion about the White House, which we're just talking about with Abby. The big questions here are again who knew what, when about Rob Porter. And one thing that really just stuck out to me that was glaring is this, you know, a White House source telling our own Jim Acosta, there's a reason there was no tick tock at that White House briefing yesterday because, quote, "it's too damning."

So while there may not be, as we heard from Abby, anyone to replace John Kelly at this point, Josh, how does he survive this? He's the chief of staff. These are the people he's in charge of.

DAWSEY: Well, he survives it if the president wants him to survive. I mean, our accounting of this is that, you know, starting last -- early last year, 2017, chief White House lawyer Don McGahn was made aware that there could be accusations from his ex-wife. The summer -- last summer the FBI gave findings to the White House of some of the accusations made by the ex-wives.

By the fall John Kelly knew about this, wanted to keep Rob Porter on the job. And then around November Rob Porter's ex-girlfriend came to the White House, to Don McGahn and said, I want you to be aware of these two ex-wives, which he already knew about.

The White House knew about this for months and they, you know, chose to believe Rob Porter. Even Tuesday as the first "Daily Mail" story came out, they put out statements out on the record saying that they felt Rob Porter was a man of integrity, that Rob Porter was doing a good job, and they wanted to keep him in the White House.

So really only after the blackened eye photos emerged on Wednesday morning did you see a change of tune. And now you have a situation where, you know, the facts that go back six, seven months, there are a lot of questions. Why didn't anyone take these accusations seriously? Why didn't anyone say this could be a problem?

White House sources saying that internally they never saw those signs. He was professional, he was smart, he was a good colleague. But outside of the office, the women tell a totally different story.

HILL: It was something we'll continue to dig into ahead throughout this hour and in our next. We're going to have to leave the discussion there for now.

Josh Dawsey, Alex Burns, Salena Zito, thank you. We are counting down at this point to the Opening Bell. Investors

bracing after the Dow plummeted a thousand points entering correction territory.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, how are things looking at this point?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. So it looks like in about 20 minutes when the Opening Bell rings the Dow could pop into the triple digit. But don't get too comfortable because that volatility that we've been seeing through the markets this week is expected to hold on with a vengeance.

If you look at what happened yesterday the Dow lost more than a thousand points, its second biggest point drop ever. And it put the Dow right into correction mode. It put the S&P 500 into correction mode as well. And if you're keeping tabs on your 401(k), it means the Dow is in the negative for the year.

What's got investors all upset -- inflation and higher interest rates possibly. So that will continue -- those sentiments will continue throughout the day -- Erica.

HILL: Alison, thank you. We'll check in with you again in a short bit.

A stunning moment just a couple of moments ago at the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. Just feet apart here --