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House Passes Budget Deal to End Government Shutdown; Rand Paul Slams GOP Hypocrisy on Budget's Impact on Deficit; Source: Trump Dismayed Over Handling of Rob Porter's Abuse Allegations. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired February 9, 2018 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:55] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, February 9, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off. John Berman joins me. It's been a wild night here in the U.S.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We survived a grueling shutdown.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we did.

We begin with breaking news for you, because the House passed a massive budget deal just moments ago to reopen the federal government, which did shut down for about six hours while Americans were sleeping. This is the second time that this happened in just three weeks.

A few hours ago the Senate advanced this two-year, $400 billion bill that gives Republicans a big boost in defense spending and Democrats billions for domestic programs. But major sticking points remain, including how much this adds to the nation's debt and what happens with immigration.

BERMAN: A growing fallout over when top White House officials knew about abuse allegations against a key aide, Rob Porter. Much of the focus has been on chief of staff John Kelly, but others including White House counsel Don McGahn and communications director Hope Hicks, now under scrutiny, as well.

Now, the White House insists that chief of staff Kelly only became fully aware of the allegations after a photo of Porter's first ex-wife with a black eye became public. But that's deceptive language. Fully aware? Does that mean he know a lot about a little abuse? A little about a lot of abuse? The bottom line, the White House spokesman did not deny Kelly knew something, and now we know that McGahn did, as well.

We have this all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Phil Mattingly. Thirty-six straight hours, Phil, of reporting. But this shutdown over.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you nailed it. Just six hours of a shutdown, but a lot to actually get to the point of ending the shutdown.

John, let me set the scene for you. On the House floor just last hour, basically everything was frozen. Democrats withholding their votes. Republicans, most of whom had voted staring up at the vote wall, seeing where everybody stood. Nobody knowing what was actually going to happen next. And then Democrats started signaling no. No votes started pouring in. And then the yes votes, enough yes votes to actually push them over the edge.

John, I've seen a lot of House votes. I've watched many from the gallery. I've never seen anything that was that dramatic with something with such big stakes.

Now, if you look at this budget deal and why this actually got across the finish line, just take a look at the major opponents of it: $165 billion in defense spending, plus that's $131 billion in non-defense spending. That is a huge deal for Democrats, the former a very big deal for Republicans. More than $90 billion in disaster relief. That's for Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, those states ravaged by the hurricanes in 2017. You also have a suspension of the debt ceiling.

Basically, guys, if you look across this deal, you're seeing the removal of several self-imposed crises that have more or less plagued Congress for the better part of the last -- I guess we're saying years at this point.

You also have a couple health care provisions in there, as well, that are very important. A 10-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program, up from six.

What I'm saying is this was a massive deal, but it wasn't easy to get to this point. In fact, the chamber we thought was going to be easy was the Senate. And yet, the Senate is why things shut down. Why? Well, take a listen to Senator Rand Paul.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The reason I'm here tonight is to put people on the spot. I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, "How come you were against Obama's deficits and then how come you're for Republican deficits?" Isn't that the very definition of intellectual dishonesty? If you were against President Obama's deficits and now you're for the Republican deficits, isn't that the very definition of hypocrisy?


MATTINGLY: The senator laying out the concern of a lot of Republicans, guys. You saw conservative Republicans in the House who voted against this, conservative Republicans in the Senate who did, as well. The difference is Rand Paul refused to agree to a consent -- basically, to allow a vote to happen earlier in the Senate. John, as you know quite well, everything takes a long time in the Senate until it doesn't. What he wanted was an amendment. He wanted a single amendment vote

that would eventually unravel the deal. Senate Democratic leaders said Republican leaders saying, "Can't have it. If we open it up for one, we'll open it up for everyone."

Because of that, everyone had to wait. Past the midnight deadline, went until 1 a.m. for the first vote, past 2 a.m. for the second vote, eventually getting it through to the finish line. As we noted, it wasn't a difficult vote in the Senate. More than 72 total, 72 senators voted for it.

The big issue is always going to be in the House. House Democrats very clear. If DACA was not addressed for them. They were concerned about their willingness to vote on this. In the end, they got it across the finish line. But as I just recounted, it has not been an easy six hours nor a predictable one, guys.

CAMEROTA: Phil, you're remarkably fresh for being been awake for 36 hours and reporting for us.

So I'm fascinated by Rand Paul's role, fascinated. I mean, so today, is he seen as sort of a thorn in the side of people and they're annoyed, or is he a hero? And how did all the people who yesterday were so annoyed by this bill, the House Freedom Caucus, the Democrats that you're talking about, because it didn't include DACA, how did they get on board?

[06:05:04] MATTINGLY: So with Senator Paul, I think it depends on who you're talking to. Right? The outside conservative groups were furious about this bill for the spending, were behind him 100 percent of the way. You talked about the House Freedom Caucus. They were very much aligned with Senator Paul. You had a couple of House members actually come over and hang out with Senator Rand Paul while he was kind of holding things up for a long period of time.

You talk to his colleagues. They were a little less thrilled. A lot of them wanted to get out of town Thursday afternoon and ended up staying here through midnight. A lot of them were questioning what was the actual purpose of this. Even if he got an amendment that was going to fail, what policy-wise were you trying to change?

Senator Paul made very clear he thought it was time to make a point, a point that this was hypocrisy, in his eyes. I think the more interesting element here, in the end, just because we saw it in the House floor, is what happened with House Democrats.

Guys, on Thursday morning, in a closed-door meeting, Leader Nancy Pelosi told her caucus, do not tip your hand. Even if you like this bill, and a lot of them do, keep in mind, guys, Leader Pelosi's staff was integral to negotiating this budget deal that she voted against. She told them: "Don't tell everybody where you are. Keep our leverage. We want a firmer commitment from Speaker Ryan about how he's going to address the DACA issue, the immigration issue going forward."

So guys, throughout the day and into the morning, Republicans didn't have a very clear view on where Democrats actually were on this bill. In fact, the drama that I laid out that happened on the House floor, one senior GOP aide just told me they had no idea that was coming. It was dicey. It was a high-wire act. But in the end, the government's back open and, potentially, a number of crises that always seem to happen are now off the table, guys.

CAMEROTA: Phil, thank you so much for explaining all of those machinations. Really interesting.

Let's bring in CNN Political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory.

John, you were listening to Phil's report there with rapt attention. All of the -- I mean, that was interesting to hear how Nancy Pelosi maneuvered this. "We like this bill, but don't say that. And you don't like it."

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there was poker playing going on there in the Pelosi household. Look, this was the "while you were sleeping" shutdown. But Nancy Pelosi actually was walking a fine line, as Phil explained. You know, she liked the product. She didn't like the process. That was her quote. She didn't want to give away her leverage. Because Democrats are still hoping that they can hold Ryan and Mitch McConnell's feet on fire on DACA. This is far from resolved. As folks wake up today, the government is open. And that's -- that's progress in this era.

AVLON: Yes, you know, shutdown happens in the woods, does it make a sound? Right? I mean, I think that's the question, David Gregory.

You know, America, I don't think was affected by this shutdown. But 535 members of Congress were up all night. So they were the ones hurt by this.

You know, Rand Paul's point, David Gregory, is hard to argue against. You know, he says that Republicans are hypocritical for fighting against spending and deficits. And the answer is, yes, kind of. Right? I mean, it's hard to say no.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree with that. There's no question. And I think, you know, Rand Paul is being consistent. And he's got principles in this -- in this area, particularly, that he cares about, about the deficit. And he's going to speak out about it.

Look, there's a lot here that's very interesting. What I think people have to walk away with is Congress is doing its job. Not only did they avert a real shutdown, which is a pretty low bar, but as Phil was saying, they took some issues off the table by doing a two-year deal. And we're living in were an era where we don't pass budgets anymore but just what they call continuing resolutions, which is just to put a spending Band-Aid on the government's business.

And now they did something a little bit more forward looking. There's a lot in here that progressives in America should like in terms of spending, whether it's disaster relief or other priorities. There's a lot more funding for the military here, as well. So there was some real progress. Democrats, as you've been talking about, Nancy Pelosi, this is this

whole question of how much leverage do they have to force an agreement on DACA? They tried that hand with the last government shutdown. It didn't go well.

And now maybe there's a basis to have, you know, a real process to get something done to protect the DREAMers. That's still going to be difficult. But I still think the White House and this president in particular wants a big immigration bill. And I still think, and I know a lot of Republicans still think, that's possible. So again, a lot very interesting here.

And the last point about the deficit, it is striking that -- that the Republican Party has moved in this direction to now being more comfortable with deficits, which we have not seen in the past 10 years.

AVLON: But no. But let's also just be real about this. The Republicans had deficits under Reagan. They had deficits under "W" when Dick Cheney famously said deficits doesn't matter.

But their position officially now is, you know, that deficits don't matter unless there's a Democrat in the White House. This decade began with a collective freak-out of Republicans. The Tea Party stormed the Capitol, angry about deficits that, in the face of a stimulus bill that was passed in a massive economic crisis.

And now, the combination of the tax cuts and this spending bill is something far greater than that. We're looking at trillion-dollar deficits. And as Ron -- as Rand Paul correctly pointed out, this is just rank hypocrisy on the part of Republicans.

[06:10:10] GREGORY: And Chris Cillizza, our colleagues, said, "Look, that the Republican Party that you're describing is now dead. I mean, it is now a return to what it was under President Bush, who you know, under you know, wartime, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

But let's remember the Tea Party revolution starts because of Bush, because of the bank bailout under his watch. That's what really gave the energy to the conservative Tea Party movement. It was just extended when Obama became president.

CAMEROTA: Here's the number. Let's just put it up, just because it's staggering: $20.6 trillion. I mean, what does it mean? You know, it's...

BERMAN: Let that sink in. Because this is the lowest in a long, long time. It's only going to get bigger. Much bigger now.

AVLON: A trillion dollars a year out. And you know, I know this feels like numbers to folks, and if you're, you know, Keynesian, you know, spending believer on the Democratic style, who cares? But if you're a conservative who said that excessive deficit and debt is a power that brings down empires, you should give a damn.

BERMAN: And also, by the way, the market, you know, obviously jittery right now, over-inflation. You add to the debt. That can be very inflationary. Keep your eye on that, as well.

All right, guys. Stick around. The White House defending its handling of the Rob Porter abuse allegations. This much is clear. Several top White House officials, they knew. They knew about the physical abuse allegations for months but did nothing about it.

CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with the very latest -- Abby.


Well, the question today is who knew what and when, specifically whether senior White House aides and White House chief of staff knew about these domestic abuse allegations against Kelly's right-hand man, Rob Porter.

Meanwhile, we are hearing that President Trump was not happy with how this played out in the public's sphere. And but it's not going to cost Kelly his job, at least for now, in part because there's simply no one to replace him.


PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump reportedly dismayed about the unfolding scandal over the White House's handling of the abuse allegations involving a former top aide, Rob Porter. But a source familiar with the president's recent discussions with associates tells CNN that Mr. Trump remains uncertain about how to solve the problem.

Other sources tell that CNN chief of staff John Kelly's job is secure for now, despite mounting criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should chief of staff John Kelly keep his job?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

PHILLIP: Kelly knew about the allegations against Porter for months, sources tell CNN, but continued to raise Porter's profile in the West Wing. Despite that, the White House insists that Kelly was not fully aware of the allegations until this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say fully aware. Was he partially aware?

RAJA SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I think we all became aware of the news reports that emerged Wednesday morning and some of the graphic images.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he know any of this back in November?

SHAH: Again, I'm not going to get into the specifics.

PHILLIP: A source tells CNN that White House counsel Don McGahn was also made aware of the abuse allegations in the fall after Porter told him that the FBI brought up the alleged abuse during a security clearance interview. The "Washington Post" reports that McGahn knew as early as January 2017 that Porter's ex-wives were preparing to make damaging accusations against him but only learned about the nature of the domestic abuse allegations this fall.

The White House conceding that the response to the controversy this week fell short.

SHAH: I think it's fair to say that it -- that you know, we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation.

PHILLIP: A source tells CNN that the president was not happy with this admission, despite expressing disappointment with his staff, including communications director Hope Hicks who has been romantically involved with Porter and helped craft Kelly's initial statement defending him.

President Trump has spent the last few nights phoning friends and former aides for advice about how to handle the controversy, amid backlash against his chief of staff over a number of issues, Mr. Trump even confiding in his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who he fired and replaced with Kelly.

Meanwhile, Kelly doing damage control, releasing this memo to staff, writing, "We all take matters of domestic violence seriously."

Porter has denied the allegations as a smear campaign against him. Porter's ex-wife tells CNN, when she spoke with Porter recently, he asked her to release a statement about the alleged abuse she's detailed online.

JENNIFER WILLOUGHBY, ROB PORTER'S EX-WIFE: 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.


PHILLIP: So today, the White House may very well be looking for an opportunity to change the subject, and we're still awaiting the president's decision about whether to declassify that Democratic memo about the FBI surveillance practices. That decision may come as soon as today, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby. Well, listen, there are too many questions for us to change the subject this morning.

So coming up, we will have more on the Rob Porter scandal. Beyond Porter, who is to blame? We discuss that next.



SHAH: There have been reports about the chief of staff. He became fully aware about these allegations yesterday. I'm not going to get into specifics regarding who may have known what piece of information, because they were all part of an ongoing background check investigation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: "Fully aware." Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah insisting that the chief of staff, John Kelly, only became fully aware of the abuse allegations against Rob Porter after a picture of Porter's ex-wife with a bruised eye became public. But CNN has learned that Kelly and other top officials had known for months about these allegations.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator, former White House communications director for President Obama Jen Psaki and CNN political commentator, former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter.

Guys, CNN has been reporting that folks in the White House knew for days. The "Washington Post" now reporting that, as well. And they have a graph, I think, which really illustrates exactly what went on here. And this has to do with White House counsel Don McGahn. Let me read it, because I think it's illustrative.

"In January 2017, when McGahn learned of the allegations, he wanted Porter to stay put, because he saw the Harvard law-trained Capitol Hill veteran as a steady and professional voice in the White House, according to people familiar with the matter.

[06:20:00] "His view didn't change in June when the FBI flagged some of its finding to the White House. Nor did he act in September, when he learned that domestic violence claims were delaying Porter's security clearance. Or in November when Porter's former girlfriend contacted him about the allegations, according to these people."

That's four times. And that's Don McGahn and the White House counsel. The legal watchdog here, Amanda, and he did nothing.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. The takeaway here is that beating your wife is not disqualifying to work in this White House. And should we be surprised? No. Because it is, in fact, a job requirement to be able to go and defend a man who talked about sexual assault on the "Access Hollywood" tapes. This is a job qualification to be a professional spokesperson of the Republican Party to go and defend Roy Moore.

How much more evidence do we need that the head of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, does not give a wit about the abuse of women? This comes from the top.

I mean, I feel like we dance around all these subjects. And to be able to talk about this in an honest way requires talking about uncomfortable things, like perhaps the rape allegation from his first wife, Ivanka [SIC]. Like, perhaps, the disgusting way he talks about Ivanka Trump to Howard Stern. Like the fact that he profited and made money by parading young women in his strip club and casino.

There's a pattern here. But because these subjects are so uncomfortable, I think we don't talk about them, and they continue to fester. CAMEROTA: I hear you, Amanda. I mean, listen, the other element here

is that when they say they became fully aware, Jen, it means that they saw the photograph. Right?

So once they saw it with their own eyes, then they had to do something about it, as opposed to when the women were just telling the FBI about it on or telling Don McGahn about it or posting blog posts about it. Then they could not believe it.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's exactly right, Alisyn. It's such an important point. Because as we have learned this morning, and as CNN has been reporting over the last 24 hours, we -- they knew more earlier than they admitted they knew.

But the reality here comes back to the most troubling piece, I should say, comes back to the fact that they knew of domestic abuse allegations more than a year ago.

And we're talking about and they're defending this by qualifying it and saying, "Well, these occurred, these reported abuses occurred before he served in the White House." Or "We didn't know they were as bad as we now know they are because of the photos."

And it comes down to a question of what level of domestic abuse is acceptable? What timeline of domestic abuse is acceptable? And what kind of -- and should any person who's been accused of domestic abuse in any timeline be serving in the White House in any capacity? They clearly knew all the details over the past 48 hours, including the photos, and they still made a decision to not only not fire him but to defend his honesty and integrity repeatedly over the...

CAMEROTA: In that first statement. Even John Kelly.

PSAKI: And then, but even John Kelly's statement that was supposed to be cleaning it up, made a statement that everyone would agree with, which is domestic abuse is terrible, and then he went on to defend Rob Porter.

So the handling of this has been not just poor communications skill. It has been so upsetting and angering in the sense that they have justified and validated a domestic abuser as somebody who can serve in the White House.

BERMAN: Raj Shah, the deputy White House spokesman, gave his first public press briefing at the podium yesterday. It was a near impossible job for him, I think, to field some of these questions.

And listen to what he said. Listen to how he described the last 48 hours of the White House response.


SHAH: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: OK, first of all, yes. Second of all, Amanda Carpenter, our Pamela Brown is reporting that the president was upset that Raj Shah went out and said it publicly. The president was upset that he went out and admitted they could have done better there.

I was surprised, given that there's been other reporting and spin that the president is, you know, very concerned and upset about these abuse allegations and only found out about all this very recently. Only Raj Shah saying they could have done better.

CARPENTER: Of course they could have done better. But maybe better than that, they could be better.

That's the problem. This comes from the top. They constantly turn a blind eye to ethical questions, to uncomfortable situations, to anything that could possibly make them look bad.

And I think we have every right to ask, given this information, what in the world is going on in that White House? What is going on with Hope Hicks? It is not normal in a White House to be able to date a colleague in the open. Like, you know, they're adults. Can she date him? Yes. Is it ethical behavior to date a colleague in the inner circle in the White House? No.

[06:25:10] Is it normal ethical behavior for the president to rely on his daughter and son-in-law as chief advisers? Of course not. This White House is so rife with conflicts of interest, weird relationships that wouldn't meet the standard in any other White House.

And by the way, what is going on with Melania? It seems at this point in time, she only speaks to America through her fashion choices. And everybody's trying to read the tea leaves there. There is some craziness going on. And we don't know everything that is happening, but it's clearly not on the up and up.

CAMEROTA: And we also deserve to know what's happening, actually.

So Jen, when Raj Shah says, "I can't get into the specifics," our Jim Acosta has reporting that he doesn't want to give a tick-tock, as it's referred to, of when people knew what because it's too damning.

But listen, their salaries are being paid by taxpayers. Don't they owe us some specifics? Aren't we owed the answer to this? Why aren't they engaging in transparency?

PSAKI: Yes, absolutely. And when he said they could have done better, too, Alisyn, he means how they put out communications statements. And he means that they had to go up -- out and clean up earlier statements that they had done. And that is simply just not acceptable.

As Amanda said, they could be better, and they should be better. This is not just about how they're handling as a communications team. But you're right, we deserve to know more. There has -- their story on the tick-tock has been a a mile -- has had a whole mile wide from the beginning.

Because the way a background process works is that the FBI would -- would indicate to the DOJ, who would then indicate to the White House counsel, even as the process is ongoing, if there are major flags.

Clearly, we learned this morning that's exactly what happened. And Don McGahn has known for over a year.

And beyond that, it's just not believable that the White House chief of staff, that the president, in my view, despite the reporting, didn't know anything about this.

So it comes back to the point you raised earlier about the photos being public. What changed? Photos became public. And they were forced to take some action. And even that action really didn't -- didn't pass the bar.

CARPENTER: Yes, and one note, I think. Last night Anderson Cooper, Porter's ex-wife, Jenny Willoughby, went forward and said she believes that he will continue to abuse women, even Hope Hicks.

I mean, this is a four-alarm fire in the White House to have someone in this position where he can potentially act vindictive, act abusive towards women in this massive position of power that he enjoys.

He attempted to manipulate her story from the White House so it wouldn't hurt him, to change her truth. This is something that -- all-hands-on-deck situation we should be looking at.

CAMEROTA: I'm so glad you brought that up. Because that was a fascinating interview. We'll play portions of it coming up. And this is a compulsion. Unless you get treatment, you don't change that kind of violent behavior. We've seen tons of examples and patterns of it. So her warning to Hope Hicks is really important.

Amanda, Jen, thank you both very much.

CARPENTER: Thank you, Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. The winter games officially under way in South Korea. We'll take you there for the pageantry and the protests next.