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House Passes Budget Deal to End Government Shutdown; White House Defends Handling of Abuse Allegations. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 9, 2018 - 07:00   ET



[07:00:04] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off. John Berman joins me. What a night. It has been a roller coaster.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We had a shutdown.

CAMEROTA: We did have a shutdown. If you're just breaking up, we begin with breaking news for you. While you were sleeping, the federal government shut down. The House has passed a massive budget deal this morning to reopen the government, which was shut down for about seven hours. It's still awaiting President Trump's signature.

Both chambers are now advancing this two-year, $400 billion bill that gives Republicans a big boost in defense spending and Democrats billions for domestic programs. But there are major sticking points, including how much this adds to the nation's debt and what happens with immigration.

BERMAN: It adds a lot to the nation's debt.

Meanwhile, growing fallout over when top White House officials knew about abuse allegations against top 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, they are under scrutiny now also.

The White House is insisting that Kelly only became "fully aware" of the allegations after a photo of Porter's first ex-wife with a black eye came out. "Fully aware," what does that actually mean? Does that mean he knew about some abuse or some allegations of abuse? That certainly seems to be the case here. The White House not denying that. What they seem to be most upset about is that it became public at all.

Now, new questions on that, as well. Let's get first to our top story. We have it all covered. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill with the shutdown, the very brief shutdown that's almost over, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is almost over. That bill going to the president to sign to end this shortly. While most people were sleeping, that shutdown was occurring. About

seven hours or so. It was high drama we watched on both the House and the Senate side. The House Democrats slow walking their support, making their Republican colleagues sweat. On the Senate side, you had a lone Republican senator who essentially ran out the clock to make a point about hypocrisy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is adopted. Without object, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The House of Representatives passing an expansive two-year budget deal, voting to reopen the federal government amid a shutdown that began at midnight Thursday. House Democrats forcing Republicans to vote on the bill first, capping a dramatic night at the Capitol. After Senator Rand Paul prevented the Senate from voting ahead of the shutdown deadline.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: My intention has never been to shut down government. But my intention is also not to keep it open and borrowing a million dollars a minute.

MALVEAUX: The Senate ultimately passing the bill easily around 2 a.m. this morning, 71-28. The House following suit five hours later, voting 240-186. Overcoming opposition from conservative Republicans opposed to the increased spending and Democrats who have been depending a promise from speaker Ryan to bring immigration legislation and a potential solution for DREAMers to the floor for debate.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: As part of this agreement we have always expected that the House and the Senate would address the issue of DACA and the DREAMers.

MALVEAUX: Ahead of the vote, Speaker Ryan promising to follow through.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: My commitments to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment. Let me repeat: my commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment. We will solve this DACA problem.

MALVEAUX: Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also upholding his promise overnight, teeing up a pivotal immigration debate in the Senate starting Monday evening. McConnell unable to prevent the government from shutting down for the second time in two weeks after Senator Rand Paul ran out the clock, sounding the alarm about the budget deal's $400 billion price tag and chastising his fellow Republicans for supporting the bill, despite the massive impact to the national debt.

PAUL: 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. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty. MALVEAUX: Many of Paul's colleagues openly criticizing the Kentucky


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know why we are basically burning time here while the senator from Kentucky and others are sitting in the cloak room wasting everybody's time.

MALVEAUX: The 652-page budget deal devotes $165 billion to defense spending and $131 billion to domestic priorities. It raises the debt ceiling for over a year and includes nearly $90 billion in disaster relief. President Trump announced his support for the budget deal earlier this week.

[07:05:04] But amid the shutdown, a noticeable silence from the White House. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he'd love to see a shutdown if Democrats don't agree to his immigration demands, a statement the White House later walked back.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we don't change it, let's have a shutdown. We'll do a shutdown. And it's worth it for our country. I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get this stuff taken care of.


MALVEAUX: Fifty-thirty in the morning, after the vote, House members went running out the doors. They'll be back on Tuesday to get back to work on all of this. And members of Congress come back with some outstanding issues, first whether or not Ryan's commitment to immigration reform, the DREAMers is that real? What does it look like? And secondly, this staggering national debt now that this budget deal has been passed -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and associate editor for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard.

A.B., you were there in Washington. It's so interesting the Rand Paul story, right? He's turned into this, like, town crier on hypocrisy, you know, and the deficit, which is not endearing him, as we heard, to some of his Senate colleagues there but was to the House Freedom Caucus. I mean, strange bedfellows abound during this.

A.B. STODDARD, CNN ASSOCIATED EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, that's true. But this is sort of an old, you know, routine that several years ago he did a long filibuster, and everyone was hashtag "#StandWithRand." You know, excited. He has quite a following of libertarians that he -- many of whom he inherited with from his father, as you know.

And he's been proposing budgets to cut 75 percent of government, you know, since he got to the Senate. And it goes nowhere. But he likes to get up and make a stand.

And of course, everything he said was right. And his colleagues on the House side, he has a bunch of like-minded Republican fiscal hawks in the Freedom Caucus who also oppose the bill saying, you know, this would grow government by 15 percent. And this is the opposite of what we were sent here to do.

But of course, it was, in working with the Democrats, the speaker was able to allow the Freedom Caucus to moan and groan and vote no, pick up 73 Democrats and get the bill through. And that's usually how these funding bills, when the two parties get together and overspend, are passed.

BERMAN: As you know, everything Rand Paul says is right. What he didn't say was that the tax plan that he just voted for also will increase the debt by a lot more, frankly, than the spending bill they just did. If deficits and debt are his sole concern and the primary concern, there's the debt right there at $20.6 billion. And then you have to look at the whole picture. And John Avlon, when Paul Ryan -- sorry, Rand Paul brings up the hypocrisy, when you deal with Paul Ryan, I mean, this is rank hypocrisy. His whole career...


BERMAN: ... his existence, his raison d'etre, the writes treatises and reads, you know, Ayn Rand books about this kind of thing. And now it's a big giant never mind.

AVLON: Yes. That's basically right. I mean, look, he's saying that he sincerely cared about it in the past or made PowerPoint presentations warning about the decline of the American republic if deficits and debt.

And now he's in the speaker's chair, and he is presiding over a ballooning of the deficit and the debt. Budgets higher than anything Obama passed. And I think that's so important to remember, because hypocrisy is the unforgiveable sin in politics.

In the Trump era, it barely passes a mention. But this is -- this is real. There will be a reckoning for the combination of these tax cuts and this budget bill. And it just bears repeating. Republicans only care about deficits and debt when a Democrat is in the White House. That is incontrovertible now.

CAMEROTA: And yet, let's look at some of the details, look in the budget. It will make a lot of people very happy. These are things that people -- here's the thought. We have -- it's been shut down for seven hours. But we think it will reopen by 9 as soon as the president signs it.

Listen to this. So are Republicans happy with the $165 billion for defense spending, $131 billion on non-defense spending that the Democrats had pushed for, $90 billion on disaster relief. Obviously, Puerto Rico, Houston. People have been clamoring for that. The debt ceiling hike until March 2019. Thank goodness we get a moment's peace. Twenty billion on infrastructure investment. Everybody says they wants that.

And look at this: $6 billion for the opioid and substance abuse programs. So many people are desperate in -- you know, for treatment centers to have more beds, to have more help. Ten-year reauthorization of the CHIP program, Children's Health Insurance Program. So this will make a lot of people happy, A.B., except for the deficit hawks.

STODDARD: Right, that's true. And what's interesting about what's happened to the Republican Party that, you know, had to answer to the Tea Party for overspending in the Bush years, self-correct, and you know, they won elections again in -- midterm elections in 2014 on this notion that Obamacare was going to, you know, be a job killer and break the economy; and also strong reaction to the bailouts at the end of the Bush years.

[07:10:04] And so you see that they've obviously pivoted away from overhauling Medicare and entitlement spending, because that's really the driver of our debt. Because the president doesn't believe in touching those programs.

And they've accepted truly that most Republican voters now are Trump voters. And Trump is a big spender. And that this is no longer a priority of their base. Their base is looking for a stronger safety net from the government, both in retirement programs, in opioid recovery treatment programs. Everything.

And so you're really looking at a party that's turned away from -- from fiscal austerity and is into spending like Democrats, because that's the way President Trump likes to spend.

AVLON: Except, I mean, you know, the president is the self-styled king of debt. And yes, that's an absurd thing for the alleged Republican Party.

But Paul Ryan is still making noise that he's going to take on entitlement reform. He says that's going to be his No. 1 agenda. Not support the president on it, not support Mitch McConnell. But that's how he's going to try to square the circle and not give up the ghost of caring about these issues. But you go to Reagan. There was big spending and deficits in the context of the Cold War. W., we saw the same thing.

If this bipartisan had passed without the tax cuts, it would be a lot less offensive. It would be a sign of government actually working, just trying to address people's needs. On top of the tax cuts, while the economy is raising, this is actually going to have an ironic impact. Bad for the long-term economy and deficits.

BERMAN: The "Washington Post" calls this the biggest spending bill since the stimulus, which Republicans largely opposed when the economy was in dire straits.

All right. A.B., John, stick around. Thanks so much.

The White House defending its handling of the Rob Porter abuse allegations. This much is clear. Several White House officials 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 all the developments

-- Abby.


Today's question is who knew what when? Especially when it comes to John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, and other senior aides and these allegations of domestic abuse against Kelly's right-hand man, Rob Porter.

When it comes to President Trump, it's clear that he was upset about how this was handled publicly. But sources tell CNN that Kelly is unlikely to lose his job over this, in part because Trump has no one to replace him with.


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 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.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: 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 on Wednesday morning and some of the graphic images.

ACOSTA: 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 may be a day that the White House is looking to change the subject amid the controversy over this issue. We are still waiting to hear about when President Trump might declassify that Democratic rebuttal to their GOP memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses. That decision could come as soon as today. And of course, President Trump still has to sign that budget bill so that the government can reopen -- John and Poppy -- Alisyn.

[07:15:23] CAMEROTA: I got it here, Poppy. No problem. I'll take it.

We are also getting some new comments from the vice president about all of this while he is overseas for the Olympics. We'll bring those to you. And what does this Rob Porter scandal say about how officials in the White House see the abuse of women? That's next.


CAMEROTA: Vice President Mike Pence pressed by reporters about the scandal that's gripping the Trump White House, the domestic abuse allegations involving former staff secretary Rob Porter.

But it's a reporter's follow-up question to Mr. Pence yesterday that's getting a lot of attention now. Listen to this.


[07:20:00] MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on our way to the Olympics, and I learned this morning of those developments. We'll comment on any issues affecting the White House staff when we get back to Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I just briefly follow up on that and ask, this is now a number of times when you've found out -- you're vice president, you're No. 2 in the administration -- where you found out about something very late after a number of other senior staff, even in the West Wing, have found out about it. I understand we're standing here, but can you comment on why you often seem a little bit out of the loop on some of this major news?

PENCE: You know, it's a great honor for me to serve as vice president. And President Trump has been incredibly generous with the responsibilities and opportunities he's given me to serve.


CAMEROTA: I'm not sure that was an answer.

Joining us now is CNN political commentators Symone Sanders and Alice Stewart.

Alice, the vice president has been in the dark about a lot of things, or reportedly in the dark. Obviously, he didn't know about Michael Flynn. Michael Flynn lied to him. He didn't know about the Russian meeting with Don Jr. with the Russian lawyers. He didn't know about the e-mails with WikiLeaks. Why is the vice president so in the dark?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a lot of people are putting this -- putting blinders on when it comes to this. The problem with that...

CAMEROTA: So willful blindness?


CAMEROTA: He's not really in the dark. He does know?

STEWART: A question everyone at that level of the White House, what they knew and when they knew it. The problem with that is, if you continue to sweep your dirty laundry over the rug, you're going to trip over it. And they tripped over it big time here. And that's a serious problem.

More importantly, what did John Kelly know, the chief of staff? What did the president know? When did they know it? And here's -- there's a history and there's a pattern with this White House with regard to domestic abuse and with sexual harassment.

You go down the whole laundry list of this administration. We're talking about Roy Moore, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, the president himself and now Rob Porter. There's a history of denying this, trying to downplay it. They denigrate the women, and they defend the men. And that is extremely disturbing.

CAMEROTA: So at some point you have to draw the conclusion this isn't just all coincidence, Symone. This is a pattern. It shows how they feel about accusations like this. And now we know from CNN reporting and others that Don McGahn, White House counsel, and John Kelly did know about these accusations. They did know that Rob Porter wasn't getting a security clearance because of them.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And so the question, for me, becomes, Alisyn, whose job was it in the White House to go to John Kelly, the chief of staff, to say, "Hey, domestic violence really should be a nonstarter"? Whose job was it to impart upon folks at the highest levels of our government in this White House that it is not OK, we should not be supporting Rob Porter.

CAMEROTA: Why do they need someone to tell them that? Why don't they know that?

SANDERS: I mean, Alisyn, it's so concerning and disturbing. But the fact of the matter they clearly need someone to tell them. Because this White House knew very early on the disturbing pattern, the history of domestic violence of Rob Porter. They just didn't care.


SANDERS: What made them care was the media. And that's why, in my opinion, thank you, because the journalists are so important.

CAMEROTA: Well, there are two people who tried to tell them. And those were Rob Porter's ex-wives. And so they talked to the FBI. One of them, at least, went to Don McGahn, because she was so concerned that Rob Porter was compromised because of his domestic violence past.

So here is Jennifer Willoughby, his second ex-wife, talking to Anderson Cooper last night. Listen to this.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Rob Porter is now in a relationship with White House press secretary Hope Hicks. Do you think he's changed?


COOPER: Does that worry you?

WILLOUGHBY: It worries me for a lot of reasons. I mean, it definitely worries me because, if I'm being frank with you, if he hasn't already been abusive with Hope, he will. And particularly now that he's under a lot of stress and scrutiny. That's -- that's when the behaviors come out. And if he hasn't already, he will.


CAMEROTA: That's chilling, Alice. I mean, that she is taking to warning, on national TV, Hope Hicks, the director of communications for the White House, who's in a romantic relationship with him.

STEWART: Sure. And the fact that no one at the White House is saying, "Hope, run fast the other direction."

CAMEROTA: We don't know what they're saying inside the White House. We just don't know. Because, by the way, they're not being transparent about any of this.

STEWART: Sure. And I think to Symone's point, who in the White House should have told John Kelly that domestic violence -- excuse me -- is a non-starter. Look, no one should have to be told that.

And Raj Shah yesterday, in the press briefing, said, "Look, we could have done better in this situation." No, they could be better. They could get better. And they could set a better example for the American people on this. And that is a critical step moving forward.

They clearly -- this isn't a P.R. mistake. This is not a P.R. crisis. This is a character crisis. And now is the time for them to clean up the mess that they've made here and set an example to women across this country. You should speak out. You should have a voice. You should not take, whether it's domestic violence or sexual harassment, you should not take that.

[07:25:15] And we want to, as a White House and as an America, set an example for opening up the dialogue and not defending those who do this but also defending the women who are victims of this type of behavior.

SANDERS: And I agree...

CAMEROTA: This is a character issue -- go ahead, Symone.

SANDERS: I agree with Alice. Except that the fact of the matter is that these women did come forward. They did alert everyone from the FBI, to the White House counsel, John Kelly and Lord knows who else knew, and they did nothing. Nothing until the public pressure from the media and the scrutiny that Rob Porter was on that caused Rob Porter to resign on his own fruition. And the White House still issues a statement in support.

You had folks like Senator Hatch, who is a great -- you know, for all practical purposes, should have been great on this, who said, you know, I'm just encouraging Rob to keep a stiff upper lip.

Who's keeping the stiff upper lip are the women who have been repeatedly subjected to his verbal and physical abuse. And so at this point, folks are asking why do more women not come forward? This is exactly why. Because at the highest levels of our government, even when it's just so crystal clear and the writing is on the wall, the good old boys' club is still protecting abusers, sexual predators, and Lord knows what else.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, I mean, let's just play a moment of Raj Shah, who is the spokesman in the White House, talking about this because they are being less than transparent. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Fully aware." I don't understand what that means. What does that mean John Kelly knew or didn't know?

SHAH: I do know, for instance, that he had not seen images prior to his -- the statement on Tuesday night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he know of the allegations?

SHAH: Sorry. Say that again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he know of some of the allegations?

SHAH: I'm not going to get into the specifics of what may have emerged from the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said he was not fully aware. So I'm just trying to understand.

SHAH: I understand. I'm saying specifically on images, I don't have every single detail. I'm not going to get into every single specific. We relied on a process.


CAMEROTA: In other words, Alice, he didn't believe it until he saw the picture of her with a black eye. So them going to the FBI and telling their story, them going to Don McGahn and telling their story, them posting a blog post about an incredible personally searing experience, didn't believe until they saw the picture.

I understand how compelling that picture of a black eye is.


CAMEROTA: Of course, we all saw it. But don't be -- doesn't the White House owe us some answers about the specifics?

STEWART: They owe us a lot. They owe us a timeline of who knew what and when they knew it.

But here's -- another thing that I found disturbing is what they said, is all of this happened long before he was in the White House. That doesn't matter. It doesn't matter when it happened. It matters that it did happen.

And they also, to point out, that they said, when they became fully aware of the charges against him. It doesn't matter when it happened. It doesn't matter the level of domestic abuse. It matters that it happened. And the fact that they didn't immediately terminate him right on the spot when they became aware of this is troubling.

And we brought up the point of the fact that he can be compromised. Anyone who can go to work as he did clearly and perform his job in a stellar fashion, which is why many of them are defending his integrity in the workplace in such a way, but then go home and have this as part of his personality, that is someone that -- the fear is he can be compromised, he can be blackmailed. And that's a security risk for someone that has interim security clearance for top levels of information at the White House.

CAMEROTA: And reportedly -- right. Reportedly the ex-wife was the person who was so concerned about this that she brought it up with the FBI.

Symone Sanders, Alice Stewart, thank you both very much for the discussion -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Alisyn. Thanks.

Turning now to the Russia investigation. Should President Trump talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller? CNN has learned the president wants to or says he wants to, despite concerns from his lawyers. Former independent counsel Ken Starr joins us. He gives us his take next.