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Trump Defends White House Officials Accused of Domestic Abuse; Trump Refuses to Release Democratic Memo; Kim Regime Offers South Korean President Invitation, Attacks Pence in Media; Trump Increasingly Frustrated with Hicks Amid Abuse Scandals; White House Officials Face New Legal Questions Amid Abuse Allegations. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired February 10, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- twitter, writing, "Not only a fine masterful actor but simply one of the most delightful human beings with whom I have ever shared some long days on set. Your memory is a great blessing."

And we've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts right now.

Hello, again. Thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

A White House in chaos as President Trump is seemingly defending administration officials accused of domestic violence. Tweeting this, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true, some are false, some are old, some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?"

This, as the president is already facing criticism over his response to White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter's departure, saying this just yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: He says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So you'll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.


WHITFIELD: And yet another White House official resigning over domestic abuse allegations. David Sorensen, a member of Trump's speechwriting team, is out, after his ex-wife alleged that he put cigarettes out on her and drove a car over her foot, according to "The Washington Post." Sorensen denies the accusations and says he was the victim during the marriage.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is live for us at the White House.

Ryan, what more are you learning about the president's point of view?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, this is yet another example of the Trump administration forced to deal with a crisis they seem unprepared for and simply did not expect. To have two prominent members of the administration forced to resign in the wake of a sexual -- or I should say domestic violence accusations is something that the White House just did not seem to have the tools to prepare for.

And what's being criticized right now is the White House response. First of all, in the situation with Rob Porter, the staff secretary, that perhaps high levels of the administration did not act quickly enough to address this particular situation. In the vetting process. They either ignored or didn't pay close enough attention to the accusations against Porter by his ex-wives.

In the case of David Sorensen, the speechwriter, they did act quickly. Sorensen offering up his resignation right away. What we've seen in both cases, the Porter case and the Sorensen case is no effort by the White House, any of the top-level administration officials, and the president himself, to mention anything about the victims. Offer up condolences or thoughts for the victims.

In both cases, the president appears to be doubling down and defending the former members of his administration, essentially giving them the benefit of the doubt as he did this morning in that tweet you showed.

Fred, we should point out in David Sorensen's case, he offered up his resignation because he said he did not want to be a distraction to this White House, especially after what had happened with Rob Porter. He pushes back and claims that he is not guilty of any of these accusations that are leveled against him. He himself even claims to be the victim of domestic violence in this particular instance.

But, right now, it appears in many ways, Fred, the White House is flat footed when it comes to the response to this particular crisis. It is something, again, is going to be another cloud over this administration as they head into another big week with issues like DACA, immigration reform and potentially a big infrastructure package in the offing -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Ryan Nobles, at the White House, thank you so much.

President Trump refusing to release the House Intelligence Committee's Democratic memo about whether the FBI overstepped or was biased in surveillance of Trump campaign staff. The document is a rebuttal to the Republican memo that the president said completely vindicated him in the Russia investigation. The White House now says the Democratic memo contains classified information and is sending it back to the House Intelligence Committee for changes.

Trump tweeting this, "The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo, which they knew, because of sources and methods and more, would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon, they would blame the White House for lack of transparency. Told them to redo and send back in proper form."

CNN's Kara Scannell has details now.

So, Kara, Trump says he can't release this memo because the FBI and DOJ have concerns about national security, but the FBI Director Chris Wray expressed similar concerns over the Republican memo, yet the president ignored Wray's grave concerns. So what is going on here?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN: Well, Fred, this really just seems like it's a bit of politics at play here. The memos all relate to the foreign surveillance court's decision to -- the permission to one of the campaign's foreign advisers. The Republicans wanted to release their memo, three and a half-page memo, to suggest that there was political bias in obtaining permission to have surveillance from Carter Page. The Democrats on the committee wanted to release their rebuttal. The Republican memo was also objected to release by the FBI which said there were omissions that made it misleading.

Now, the Democrats have a unanimous vote by the House committee to release their memo. Their memo is 10 pages long. There are indications that they do get into some additional details, which the FBI has concerns about that might reveal sources and methods. It's interesting, though, that this time the president is saying that it goes too far. And he's sending it back to the House to see if they can work with law enforcement to figure out a way to redact it. If not, the House will have to decide if they bring it to a full vote and have the entire House should decide if the memo, as it is right now, should be released.

[13:05:58] WHITFIELD: Is there anything to the fact they could compromise national security?

SCANNELL: The intelligence community believes it does. They think that even just the mere release of the limited information in here does go to sources and methods and could erode the trust that the U.S. intelligence community has with foreign allies who, you know, will give the U.S. information. They don't expect it because it is intelligence and it is secret to ever see the light of day. There are real concerns by the intelligence community that this is damaging.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kara Scannell, thank you so much.

Let's discuss these developments with my panel. Joining me now is Margaret Talev, a CNN political analyst and a senior White House correspondent for "Bloomberg News." And Lachlan Markay, a White House reporter for "The Daily Beast."

Thanks to both of you for joining me right now.

We'll get to the memo and the discrepancies about the release in a moment.

But first, Margaret, you know, I want to talk to you about the president doubling down on his support of his staff members who resigned after domestic abuse allegations, Rob Porter and David Sorensen. And the president tweeting today. I mean, he spoke yesterday and then he follows it up with this tweet today: "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true, some are false, some are old, some are new. There is no recovery for someone false accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process."

So, Margaret, the president, you know, once again, not making any mention of any support for the women, the accusers, not talking directly about domestic violence. He didn't do that yesterday when he was in front of the cameras. He chooses instead to talk about those who are accused and their lives being turned upside down. Is the president also indirectly making a reference to the accusers by omission, you know, by saying these are mere allegations? Is he belittling the seriousness of these allegations?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Of course, it is important to have due process if you're talking about a criminal proceeding. But in this reporter's case, there's photographic evidence, which White House officials themselves found so moving and kind of unchallengeable that it tips the scales from whether or not they felt that Mr. Porter could stay to a decision for him to go immediately, I'll say immediately in quotes, because immediately followed at least several weeks, several months walk-up.

But there is a difference between due process in law enforcement proceedings and how long you get to stay or whether you should get to be in a position as important as anything for any White House working for any president of either party. And particularly as job sensitive as somebody who is supposed to have top-secret clearance handling red folders, handling really vital information, getting their own briefings on what the president heard and in his daily brief. There are considerations. And anyone who holds a position like that. About whether they're vulnerable to blackmail, whether this have good judgment and whether they send the sort of signal and image that a White House wants to project about some of the most powerful and important and sensitive positions in terms of, you know, the flow of power and the management of authority in the world, literally in the world.

WHITFIELD: So, Lachlan, you know, there are a lot of messages, aren't there, being sent about the accusations, how the president is addressing them, how perhaps he didn't at first, you know, and this resignation of two, you know, key staffers also helps reveal the president's tendency to side with men who are accused of misconduct or abuse. I mean, who can forget the Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, and the president at the time, you know, he said he is innocent. The president kind of reiterated that vernacular again when talking about Rob Porter. He says he is innocent.

Why does not the president take an opportunity to show some deference to these women accusers? Why does he not say outright domestic abuse is horrible, terrible, and it's wrong, and these accusations are troubling? He hasn't used any of that language when addressing these latest issues.

[13:10:39] LACHLAN MARKAY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it's hard not to see a little bit of projection in what the president is saying because, of course, he has faced a number of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct himself by people, including one of his ex-wives. So once you establish the standard that an accuser in a case like this is to be believed by defaults which, you know, is what a lot of people would approach these types of questions saying, you know, he, ipso facto, lends credence to people accused of similar things when you have the Republican Party out there bashing, for instance, Democrats taking money from Harvey Weinstein and then it turns out the finance chair of the Republican National Committee, Steve Wynn, has faced similar allegations. This is going to keep coming up precisely because the president left these allegations against himself unaddressed. And it's simply untenable for him to express the position that women in cases like this are to be believed, period. That puts him in a very difficult spot.

WHITFIELD: Margaret, he opens himself up, you know, to address -- I mean, he has been able to avoid to a degree, right, by saying even though at first he was on "Access Hollywood" tape and then later, you know, he said the tape must have been doctored, I'm innocent, that hasn't happened either. But if he were to address these latest incidents involving his own White House staffers, is it your belief that his belief is he would then be opening the can of worms for answering questions about his own or allegations against him and his own admitted behavior?

TALEV: It's possible. That may be part of his consideration. But I think he and his aides also feel that that issue was pretty exhaustively litigated before the election and the American people voted for him and that he won the presidency election. But this is a matter certainly of optics and the message it sends to Americans across the political spectrum. And that's why you saw the Vice President Mike Pence all the way over from the Olympic Games finally jump in himself and say there's zero tolerance for domestic violence. I'm not convinced that played well with the president, but it's something the vice president thought needed to happen. We have yet to hear the same input from both Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, from Melania Trump, the president's wife, who in their own ways, and Ivanka in particular, have positioned themselves as real advocates for women's rights. The president has put all of those people in his sphere in a difficult position because of the way he has chosen to handle this over the course of the last couple of days in these public remarks and the Oval Office spray yesterday and then on Twitter this morning.

WHITFIELD: And then quickly, before I let you guys go, just going to change gears a little bit, with the discrepancies over the release of these, you know, memos that you know scrutinize the FBI's involvement, whether it was overzealous or not, pinpointing, looking into the behavior of Trump campaign advisers.

I wander, Lachlan, you know, is this an issue of convenience or is it an issue of national security? That this White House is reticent about releasing the Democratic response but was quick to release the Republican synopsis of things?

MARKAY: I think it's a legitimate concern on the part of the law enforcement and intelligence communities. And, in fact, FBI Director Chris Wray predicted this exact problem. And of course, the Republican memo a tempted to implicate the so-called Steele dossier in the foreign intelligence surveillance warrant against Carter Page. They said that warrant would not have been sought without the Steele dossier, which of course, contained all sorts of salacious and unverified allegations about President Trump. And the FBI said at the time that in order to provide the full picture of all of the evidence that went into making that decision, you would necessarily by definition need to get into sources and methods that we simply, we, being the FBI, simply are not comfortable disclosing. So yes, it is a legitimate national security concern. It's also one that was entirely foreseeable. And that illustrates the problems with releasing that Republican memo in the first place and the omissions that I think were very consciously made, you know, on the part of Chairman Nunes and other Republicans on the committee.

[13:15:01] WHITFIELD: OK, but then, Margaret, Devin Nunes, even the White House, justified this action as saying it's about transparency. So if, on one hand, the argument is the Democratic response is just too long, has too much information, is that not the transparency that the White House, that Nunes, anybody else, was looking for? But now it's not convenient or it's not right?

TALEV: As the president said, there's no upside in giving the Democrats what they want. What he's done now is basically present a challenge to his own party in Congress. The last time we really saw this kind of, like, sort of standoff or one of the last times was over Russia sanctions. As you remember, back then, but this was months ago, the Republican-led Congress did pass those Russian sanctions, kind of force the president's hands to sign it. I think the president's question is, are they going to do that again or has he sort of successfully brought the Republican majority in line behind him, this close to the primaries for the midterm elections? So the next step really is in the House Republican's court about what do they do? Do they help him or do they say, hey, we already voted to let this thing go, we're going to make sure this in large form gets out? That's where the debate lies now.

WHITFIELD: All fascinating. All right, fascinating, confusing. You know, really, you've just got to keep following all of it because, you know, I know this is also there's so much volume, it's also confusing a lot of people so it's important to have guests like you to help break down and remind and help tie it all together.

Margaret Talev, Lachlan Markay, thank you. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: Still ahead, an historic picture, North Korea, South Korea unite under one flag at the Olympic ceremonies. And an invitation, which would mean the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than a decade as Kim Jong-Un extends an offer to the South Korean president for a visit.


[13:21:18] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A major diplomatic move at the Winter Olympics. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un, has extended an invitation to South Korean president to visit North Korea. The offer was made through his sister, Kim Yo-Jong, who is at the games in South Korea.

And at the same time this was happening, North Korea's leaders were attacking Vice President Mike Pence in an editorial in North Korean state media, accusing him of, quote, "nasty and shameful behavior," while at the Olympics. It went on to say, "Pence's blind act and abusive language is a disgusting sight, reminding one of Trump's craziness."

You recall seeing the photograph we just showed you of Kim Jong-Un's sister and Vice President Mike Pence sitting within feet of one another at the opening ceremonies at the Winter Games.

Among other things, the vice president met with North Korean defectors while he was in South Korea.

CNN's Will Ripley is in South Korea and he's been tracking the vice president's reaction.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we know that Vice President Pence spoke with reporters on Air Force Two on his way back from South Korea about this announcement that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit North Korea at the earliest possible date. The vice president telling reporters he does not think this potential summit between the two Koreas dilutes what the U.S. and South Korea and Japan and other allies have been working so hard on, which is this maximum pressure campaign, sanctions, diplomatic isolation. Vice President Pence also making a point to say he doesn't think there is anything that is threatening the alliance between South Korea and the United States, even though many observers believe North Korea's intent here is to try to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul. That was the apparent mission of the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. He sent his younger sister Kim Yo-Jong to South Korea to deliver this invitation, and what the United States called, conduct a charm offensive. She is certainly a younger telegenic face, considered charming. You saw her smiling, interacting with South Korean officials, including the president and others. Officials from other countries as well. She is a new softer face on this regime, which has tested so many missiles, conducted nuclear tests and really alienated much of the world through activities. But now appears to be trying to win back at least the South Koreans to perhaps gain some concessions.

But whether or not this summit will take place, there's certainly a lot of roadblocks that stand in the way. On the North Korean side if joint military drills resume after the Olympics at their full-scale, that could kill the summit. Of course, from the South Korean and United States perspective, if North Korea doesn't indicate willingness to talk about denuclearization and no progress to be made whatsoever from the summit, that could also derail this before it begins -- Fred?


WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much.

I want to bring in now Sue Mi Terry. She is a former North Korean analyst for the CIA.

Good to see you.

So this is obviously a significant diplomatic move for North Korea. But what do you make about the timing? Is there something to North Korea trying to drive this wedge between South Korea and the U.S. or is this simply extending an olive branch?

SUE MI TERRY, FORMER NORTH KOREAN ANALYST, CIA: No, it's absolutely part of North Korea's plan to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, to create a fissure in the alliance. It's all a part of Kim Yo Jong's charm offensive. He doesn't lose anything by offering a summit. North Koreans know the South Koreans will always love a summit. Every South Korean president wants to have a summit. They already had a summit in 2000, a summit in 2007. In the first summit in 2000, President Kim Jong-Un (ph) had to give the North Koreans $500 million in cash for that summit to realize.

So my concern here now is, what will North Korea demand for this summit to be realized? And what would President Moon do? Because he knows, you know, Washington is not going to be happy if we have to make any kind of unilateral concessions.

[13:25:21] WHITFIELD: Interesting. So what would South Korea be willing to give if, in the past, it means offering pretty sizable payment for a summit? But if the invitation is coming from North Korea, with the backdrop of the Olympics games, will there have to be something? Exchange that South Korea has to give before actually saying yes to the invitation?

TERRY: Well, North Koreans typically demand, but we'll see what Kim Jong-Un is up to. South Korean president is in a difficult spot now. Because there was a backlash after the 2000 summit. There was a backlash after the 2007 summit. Even now with the peace Olympics, so- called peace Olympics, there's some domestic backlash against the Moon administration, even coming from the younger generation, people who thought it was unfair that South Korean female hockey players had to do this joint thing or why do they have to march under the unified flag. So there is some backlash there. So I don't think President Moon can make too much of a concession or so the Trump administration will not be happy about that. So I think President Moon will be in a difficult spot and has to navigate through this, you know, what's going to be a little bit of a difficulty for summit to be realized.

WHITFIELD: How has all of this kind of a prelude to the ongoing military exercises in the region? Or, I mean, might this kind of diplomacy taking place by simply the virtue of, you know, North Korea's presence at the Olympic Games, alongside with the vice president's presence, is that kind of -- any kind of inference to how it impacts the potential military exercises that are ongoing?

TERRY: North Koreans also demanded that U.S./South Korea joint military exercises should be suspended. And South Korea might ask for, at least a scaled-down version of military exercises. So it's really up to Washington and Seoul how we move forward after the Olympics and Paralympics are over on March 18th. What kind of joint exercises are we going to do? I think maybe scaled-down version is a compromise. Might be one possibility.

WHITFIELD: Do you think after March 18th, after Paralympics, it's just going to be resumed to what has become the normal, you know, the norm there as it pertains to North Korea? Or do you see there really could be a page being turned here before our very eyes?

TERRY: Page can only be truly turned in the Kim Jong regime has decided they're going to pursue a different path. Perhaps give up nuclear weapons or at least stop testing through these provocations for a while. Only then I think some sort of peace for little longer is possible. But if they're back to, you know, missile and nuclear testing, after the joint military exercises resume, we're going to be back to the tension you've seen in 2017.

WHITFIELD: Sue Mi Terry, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

TERRY: Thank you for having me on.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.


[13:32:55] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, is finding herself in an uncomfortable position. Her personal and professional lives now in the national spotlight in the wake of the domestic abuse scandal surrounding form White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, who Hicks has been dating. And now potential strain on Hicks' close relationship with the president.

A source tells CNN President Trump is becoming increasingly frustrated with Hicks after she failed to consult him on the initial White House response to the Porter allegations. The president is under the impression Hicks has let her romantic relationship with Porter cloud her judgment and has put her own priorities over his, the president.

Joining me now, Eleanor Clift, Washington correspondent for "The Daily Beast."

Eleanor, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: You wrote an in-depth article on Hope Hicks for "Town and Country" magazine. It was a fascinating read. That really was based on her life, who she is, before this scandal broke. You talk about her being a graduate of, you know, Southern Methodist University and how she is the daughter of a former NFL, you know, P.R. executive. She did have some experience in the world of public relations. Worked eventually with Ivanka Trump. But then somehow caught the eye of Donald Trump.

So tell us a little bit about how she became so close to the president, brought in, and then now how she is handling all of this. [13:34:28] CLIFT: She had just been working for Ivanka Trump's

fashion line for a few months when, as you put it, she caught the eye of the president. And she did work on some Trump projects, so he got to know her. And was just a short while later that he decided he was going to run for president. And he asked her to be his press person. I don't think he asked her. He actually told her.

And I think she was a little nervous about that at first. And I thought, oh, well, that's because she was from Greenwich, Connecticut, sort of the center of establishment Republicanism. And this wasn't the kind of Republican that the folks in Greenwich would think would be a great person to work for. But she was mostly concerned about whether she knew enough and would be good enough. And so her friends counseled her, oh, it will just be a few months and the campaign will be over and you can go back to working for Ivanka Trump. Well, he won. And he relied on her throughout the campaign.

And then she became White House communications director. Very unusual choice for the job since she rarely speaks in public. She -- I mean, I've only heard her say a few words a couple of times. And she works all behind the scenes. But a family friend told me she's always been very good at dealing with people who were older. She knows how to deliver, you know, bad news and she's never confrontational. I think the president really came to trust her as someone who has no other agenda but his, which is why this episode now with her relationship with Rob Porter has gotten in the way, because now, oops, she has an agenda other than Donald Trump.

WHITFIELD: Which is interesting, because, you know, while you write, "She was always generally in the background, even though you would see her, you wouldn't hear from her very much. She's very good at the crisis management."

But then she has come to the forefront in a couple of ways. That she helped to craft the Don Jr statement while on Air Force One when they were coming back from overseas. She played a part in that. She's been investigated and asked about that from Bob Mueller's team. And then now playing a part in crafting a statement about Rob Porter. She's dating him. She's now -- it's also being reported now that she was told about these allegations. It did rattle her. But then fast forward, somehow, she was involved in crafting the statement, which was very complimentary about him.

And she's also dated Corey Lewandowsky, who was also accused of, you know, roughing up a female reporter.

So what is this, you know, is the president upset about the relationship? Is he upset about her crafting of the statement? Is it he's upset that she is now front and center, and often that doesn't usually bode well when someone else kind of upstages the president, good or bad?

CLIFT: She comes out of this family that has an advertising background. And one of the mottos has been a statement by David Ogilvy, who is kind of the master of advertising, and it was, quote, "Never get between your clients and the foot lights." So the fact she's even getting attention, I'm sure Mr. Trump does not like.

But her judgment really does come into question. The Air Force One phone call and the crafting of the statement, which was full of lies, she apparently did without any consideration that this could be obstruction of justice. Now, she has since all lawyered up and she is in the middle of the Mueller investigation in terms of she's spoken with him, she has been told she has to tell the truth. And so I think her role, and just being present in a lot of these situations, her role becomes critical. Then her judgment with the crafting of the statement about Rob Porter. I'm not clear exactly what she knew about his background and what he told her. Here, maybe romantic impulses got in the way where she wanted to believe him. But, you know, she mishandled that. And it's an embarrassment.

But, you know, the president is -- his sympathies lie with Rob Porter and certainly not his accusers. So I'm not so sure that if he had been consulted in those initial statements that they would have been all that different. But she proceeded, apparently, without full knowledge or, yes, I think this is a huge blemish on her record. She's been so good at staying out of the way, survived all of the turnovers there, so this is -- this is a crash ending

WHITFIELD: A crash ending, right.

CLIFT: -- perhaps to the relationship she's enjoyed in the White House.

WHITFIELD: You're right that she was like a daughter, so it will be interesting if he will be the father-like figure and, you know, keep her under the wing there or if she is an employee who potentially could lose her job over this type of, you know, upstaging of the president.

Eleanor Clift, thank you so much.

CLIFT: Thank you, Fredricka.

[13:40:07] WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.

Still so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

But first, one company is going green with the help of spiders. CNN's tech correspondent, Rachel Crane, has the story.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How we get rid of our old clothes isn't exactly environmentally friendly. According to a 2014 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, 80 percent of our old clothes and shoes end up in landfills.

Bio fabric company, Bolt Threads. Bio materials come from an unusual source.

(on camera): Where did the inspiration from this micro silk come from? DAVID BRESLAUER, CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, BOLT THREADS:

Silk without spiders. There's nothing like it. It's been around about 50 years. But no one can make it.

CRANE (voice-over): Spider silk is surprisingly strong. Making it in a factory starts by isolating the proteins that make it so tough. They recreate them here in these tanks.

BRESLAUER: We're pumping sugar in continuously. The yeast are eating it. They're breathing, in oxygen, out carbon dioxide. They're making silk. The end of this, we'll harvest this out and clarify the silk away from everything else.

CRANE (on camera): How long does the process take?

BRESLAUER: This is about a three-day process.

CRANE (voice-over): While Bolt Threads uses yeast to recreate spider silk, at Modern Meadow, they're using yeast to grow leather.

DAVID WILLIAMSON, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, MODERN MEADOW: In terms of genetic engineering of yeast and we get our yeast to make our collagen.

CRANE: You're basically trying to tell the collagen mirror yourself after cow collagen?

WILLIAMSON: Or any kind of collagen.

CRANE: They call their bio leather Zoa, and it's designed and look to feel like leather, but it removes animals from the leathermaking equation.

ANDRAS FORGACS, CEO, MODERN MEADOW: It takes a huge environmental footprint to make leather. We're about being able to create materials that allow us to be consumers for the long run.


WHITFIELD: The White House is facing new legal questions after two top staff members quit following allegation of domestic abuse. And the question now turns to who knew about the accusations and when did they know it? Sources say senior White House officials, including White House counsel, Don McGahn, learned more than a year ago about Porter's alleged abuse. Rob Porter, the secretary of the White House, his alleged abuse.

Here to discuss, civil rights attorney and law professor Avery Friedman, and criminal defense attorney Richard Herman. Both professors, may I remind you.



(LAUGHTER) Richard, you first.

If Don McGahn, the White House counsel, knew about the allegations of domestic violence, but didn't act, does he face any legal issues as a lawyer?

[13:45:22] RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Well, Fredricka, Don McGahn finds himself behind a rock and a hard place. With his legal education and his military background, he knows what's ethical. He knows what's legal. And he knows what is right. On the other hand, he's confronted with a president, a narcissistic, fragile individual who acts like a child. So he has to temper what he tells the president, how he tells him, and how he interprets the law for him.

Because clearly now the president says allegedly he didn't find out about Porter until a couple weeks ago.


HERMAN: It just seems insane because McGahn knew at least a year ago. He was briefed by the FBI on this. He saw the pictures of the black eye when Porter beat the crap out of one of his wives. He even got direct phone calls from girlfriends of Porter. I mean, he had all this information.

WHITFIELD: In November, right.


In other administration, Fred, White House counsel, under those terms, would be terminated. But we're in a whole other world here with the Trump administration.

One thing about McGahn, because he's been so close with Trump not only in the campaign and in the presidency, he is a person of interest in the Mueller investigation. And it will be wise for him to lawyer up.



WHITFIELD: So, Avery, the FBI had this information, talked to the ex- wives, saw the photographs as Richard, you know, is reminding us. A girlfriend reportedly came forward and also said she was a victim of abuse. So when the president tweeted out today that these are mere allegations and that people's lives are being ruined and they should be given due process, what's your response to him from a legal perspective as to whether these allegations are credible, you know, and if they should be given, you know, this sort of attention, the photographs, and if those who are accused here, the case of Rob Porter and David Sorensen, are they not being given due process?

FRIEDMAN: Well, due process is a function and a basic when it comes to a court of law. We're dealing with the court of public opinion. The idea of this president, who has a record that is challenging, concerning the rights of women, frankly, he finds himself in a position where he ultimately, at least according to "The Times," refers to Porter as bad garbage. I don't think he needed the adjective. The bottom line, which is it? Is he an honorable guy or is he bad garbage?

What's interesting to me is I'm actually one of the few sympathetic to John Kelly, Fredricka, because he was relying, among others, on Hope Hicks, who crafted this statement that Porter was an honorable man with integrity. Well, all he knew was what he was told. It is true. I agree with my colleague that the White House counsel knew about Porter 13 months ago. And you know what, if you're guarding the president, Fredricka, if your responsibility is to deploy discretion and thought, given his record, the best thing he could have done is said, you know what, Mr. Porter, you're well credentialed, you can get a job on Wall Street, thank you for your service, and get him the heck out of there, instead of permitting this crisis to brew. That's exactly what happened here.

WHITFIELD: So, Richard, you know, is there an obligation from the White House counsel to do something more with allegations like this? Is it strictly morality, you know, a moral issue, versus a legal issue, even though as a lawyer, as a counsel of the White House, they know what to do with this kind of information? Or is it really predicated on the accusers? If they don't do anything with this information, if they're not pursuing charge there's no obligation that anyone within the White House has?

HERMAN: There was a direct obligation on McGahn. Porter was denied national security clearance.

AVERY: That's right. Boom, firework.

HERMAN: Why, why, why.

WHITFIELD: He was given interim clearance is how it's being described.


HERMAN: Right, but not permanent.

WHITFIELD: It wasn't denied. It's just that the White House didn't make it full. So it's interim.

[13:49:54] HERMAN: The FBI, Fred. The FBI denied him. And he had an obligation in this interview to be honest --


HERMAN: -- talk about allegations against him. If he failed to do that, he's going to have a problem.

These women that came forward, Fred, right, Trump, you're entitled to due process. He never once said anything about what they went through. You know, maybe it's true and he feels sorry for them. He never once said that. The hypocrisy of Trump, but the hypocrisy of when Al Franken issue came up, to post and tweet pictures of him, yet here --


HERMAN: -- no more, we need due process now. And this man is charged 19 times, and a self-professed sexual predator and sexual attacker, Fred. What do you expect from him? He cheered on the Neo-Nazis --


HERMAN: -- and supported Roy Moore. And this administration is not dialed into the --


WHITFIELD: All right, so, really quickly, Avery, you are disputing all or which part of that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I mean, look, you want to assign significance to the women who accused Trump. That's legitimate. But to tie it all in is troublesome when it comes to this particular event. The president was not sympathetic to the victims, and that is true, but in dealing with Porter and what you do, I'm the one hand, he said, well, I wish him well, and on the other hand, he said off of the record, he is bad garbage. At best, there's inconsistency.

But bottom line, I must say it to you, your interview with Eleanor Clift, the legendary Eleanor Clift, with this legal segment coming up was breathtaking. Thank you for that. That was just wonderful.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you, Avery.

Hey, you all are wonderful and that is why we see you every weekend.

Always good to see you. Avery and Richard, thank you so much.


WHITFIELD: And we will be right back.


[13:56:24] WHITFIELD: All right. Checking the top stories, the autopsy report is back on that Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock. It said that he had anti-anxiety medication in his system and it confirms Paddock died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Paddock is responsible for the worst mass shooting in U.S. history after killing 58 people during a country music festival.

The Centers for Disease Control says instead of peaking, this year's deadly flu season is getting worse. And 63 children have died from the flu this season and more than 150,000 cases have been reported so far. Still a shortage of the antiviral drugs and vaccines. And the CDC says there are likely many more weeks of the flu to go.

"House of Cards" and "The Wire" actor, Reg E. Cathey, has died. He was 59 years old. The details around his death have not been released. The creator of "The Wire" paid tribute to the late actor on Twitter, writing, "Not only a fine masterful actor but simply one of the most delightful human beings with home I ever shared some long days on set. Your memory is a great blessing."

And we will be right back.