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White House Releases Speechwriter Accused of Domestic Abuse; President Trump Comments on Departure of Rob Porter; Tennessee Sheriff Caught on Tape Telling Deputies to Shoot Suspect in Car Chase. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 10, 2018 - 14:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, hello again and thanks so much for being with me this Saturday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Today the president appearing to defend White House officials accused of domestic violence. President Trump tweeting "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false, some are old and 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?" The tweet coming as the president is already facing fierce criticism over his response to the White House staff secretary Rob Porter's departure, saying this just yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He says that he is innocent, and I think that you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he is innocent. So you will have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job while he was at the White House.


WHITFIELD: All of this as another White House official resigns over the domestic abuse allegations. David Sorenson, a member of Trump's speechwriting team is out after his ex-wife alleged that he put cigarettes out on her hand and drove a car over her foot, that's according to the "Washington Post." Sorenson 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 from the White House?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, this is another example of how the White House seemed unprepared and didn't know really how to react to yet another crisis, a crisis of a completely different topic than they have ever had to deal with here during the Trump administration. This particular round of crises involved these domestic abuse allegations against not one but two different White House staffers.

And at this point the White House doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to say about the victims in the cases, the women who accuse their former spouses of this abuse, but instead finding the ways to come to the defense of the people that worked in the Trump administration, Rob Porter, the former staff secretary, as you saw there the president finding ways to say something positive things about him and his experience and not saying all that much about the allegations.

And the president seems to be in both of these cases finding ways to allow this process to play itself out, asking this morning on Twitter about due process, do these men deserve due process and the right to defend themselves against these accusation. But due process has not always been a priority for Donald Trump. You go back to the Central Park Five before he really got into politics. This was a group of young men accused of attacking a jogger in Central Park. At one point he took out a full-page ad in the "New York Times" calling for the death penalty to deal with this situation. Those men were later exonerated after someone else admitted to the crime. And even at this point Donald Trump has never conceded that he was wrong in that case.

And then of course there was his long campaign against the former president, his predecessor Barack Obama, where he accused him of being born in different country. It took quite a while for the president to come around on that topic even though Barack Obama had said multiple times that he was born here in the United States and that the president, Donald Trump, at that time had no real evidence to back up that claim. So once again this White House is dealing with yet another crisis as they have a number of big topics they're going to have to deal with in the coming week. Fred?

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

Joining me right now is CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" White House reporter Josh Dawsey. Josh, good to see you. It is exhausting, isn't it, but here we go. You sent out a tweet which reminded us why this is so exhausting just a few days ago highlighting the chaotic first six weeks of 2018 for the Trump administration. And this is your tweet. "This week, spousal abuse. One week ago the memo. Two weeks ago, Trump moved to fire Mueller against lawyer's wishes. Three weeks ago, shutdown. Four weeks ago, s-hole and porn star payoff. Five weeks ago, "fire and fury" and Bannon excommunication. Six weeks ago New Year's day."


WHITFIELD: Josh, never a dull moment. So that is quite the summation. So what next in the next 46 weeks of this year?

DAWSEY: Well, who knows what comes next? This week has bene particularly frenetic even by the standards of a Trump White House. He's had a lot of incriminations, a lot of finger pointing, potential of a staff shake-up, frustrations internally that White House lawyer Don McGahn knew about this for month, so did Chief of Staff John Kelly. There were not a lot of actions taken. Hope Hicks who was obviously dating Mr. Porter helped write the statement. There's just been a lot of frustration in the building this week. Several people I talked to who work in the White House describe this as maybe the roughest week of 2018 so far, and as you summarized earlier, it has not a boring year.

WHITFIELD: No, not at all. So is this setting the stage for White House staffing shake-ups?

DAWSEY: Well, that's the million-dollar question. The president is certainly frustrated with his chief of staff John Kelly. He has mused to others in the recent days that he could replace him. But as we know with this president, he has talked about replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He's talked about replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. At different times he's complained about a whole host of officials. And sometimes he makes a move like he did on the FBI Director James Comey and former chief of staff Reince Priebus, and other times he does nothing.

WHITFIELD: And you know, when you summarize the first six week, in just this past week on, you know, this incredibly serious and disturbing set of allegations of a domestic abuse, and the president did come out yesterday, and he, you know, voluntarily, and he called the White House reporters in, and he voluntarily had the comments, but he focused the attention on Rob Porter.

And then this morning he would tweet that lives are being shattered by a mere allegation, and he still has not made any direct reference to the women, you know, whose lives have been disrupted as a result of, you know the allegations and their alleged experience. But in an indirect way, is he commenting on them, these women, and their credibility just as he has said during the Roy Moore allegations, saying hey, he said he was innocent, and once again, he said Rob Porter, he says he is innocent. Is he in an indirect way making, you know, a reference to these women?

DAWSEY: It can be read that way, and certainly his critics are reading it that way. I think the president has fastidiously said over and over to believe the defense of a man who accused of such behavior, from Roy Moore to Roger Ailes to Bill O'Reilly to a whole number of contemporaries who he has defended. The president has defended himself from accusations of sexual abuse from accusers last year on the campaign trail. And the president has long said when the men defend themselves that, you know, they deserve due process and they deserve a right to have their say.

Now that said, a lot of folks are noting that there are pictures here that the president has not commented on the women, he has not wished the women well. There has been a lack of curiosity from his White House for months to figure out exactly what happened. And here it seems striking to people that, you know, he is immediately defending Rob Porter and saying that he could be innocent without seeming to look at the other side of the situation.

WHITFIELD: All right, and in perhaps this is emboldening the Me Too movement, emboldening many more women who have been reticent about coming out, talking about their experiences and these allegations, and perhaps hearing this, the way it's being played out, only encourages more people to feel just as courageous. Josh Dawsey, thank you.

DAWSEY: Thanks for having me. WHITFIELD: So this is not the first scandal to hit Trump's orbit.

The Trump White House and the president have come to the defense of multiple individuals accused of some sort of misconduct. We've laid out some of it. More straight ahead.

Plus a Tennessee sheriff caught on camera instructing his officers to shoot to kill in order to keep his cars from being damaged.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The allegations against Rob Porter and David Sorenson out of the White House are disturbing but seem to be part of a pattern and draw attention to other allegations that have been made against Trump associates and against the president, himself. Here is CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In 2016 in Jupiter, Florida, following then candidate Donald Trump's press conference, a bizarre altercation caught on tape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe he just did that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that chlorine?

KAYE: That is then Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields claiming Trump's campaign manager at the time Corey Lewandowski had grabbed her tightly by the arm and yanked her down. Lewandowski denied it ever happened, calling the reporter delusional on Twitter. Despite the several angles on video showing the incident, then candidate Trump also insisted the reporter fabricated the whole deal.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody said nothing happened. Perhaps she made the story up. I think that is what happened, OK.

KAYE: In the end Jupiter, Florida, police charged Lewandowski with simple batter, a misdemeanor, but those charges were later dropped.

Trump's pick for labor secretary Andy Puzder withdrew his name in part after claims of spousal abuse came to light. The fast food executive's ex-wife had aired the couple's dirty laundry on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" while in disguise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once I made that break and once I made it public, and remember my ex-husband was a public figure. Everyone knew him and knew what he was doing. And once I made that public, he vowed revenge. He said I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.

KAYE: Later Puzder's wife sent a letter to the senators calling her ex-husband a kind man and saying he was not abusive. Mr. Puzder denied it all. The man Trump chose to be his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, also

once faced charges for misdemeanor domestic violence as "Politico" first reported. A Santa Monica, California, police report from January, 1996, details an altercation between Bannon and his then spouse that left her with red marks on the left wrist and the right side of her neck. The report also said the woman complained of soreness to her neck.

The responding police officer described the woman's eyes as red and watery, saying she appeared to have been crying. A spokesperson for Bannon told "Politico" that Bannon had a great relationship with both his ex-wife and their twin daughters. The case was later dismissed.

And the president, himself, had also once faced allegations of domestic abuse. His first wife Ivana alleged in a divorce deposition that Donald Trump has raped her back in 1989. The accusation was first revealed in a 1983 book about Trump written by a former "Newsweek" reporter. Just before publication Ivana composed a statement for the book, saying "I felt violated as the love and tenderness which he normally exhibited towards me was absent. I referred to this as a rape, but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense."

After Trump announced his run for the White House, Ivana said the story is totally without merit. Donald and I are of the best of friends. Donald Trump has always denied the allegations.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Still to come, a man suspected of driving on a suspended license is shot and killed by the deputies chasing him. Coming up, the shocking order the sheriff gave caught on body camera footage.


WHITFIELD: All right, a quote now, "Shoot him." That was the order from a Tennessee sheriff to his officers during a chase with an unarmed man that turned deadly. That sheriff was caught on tape telling his deputies to take him out so that he would not damage the patrol cars by ramming into the driver's vehicle. Kaylee Hartung is joining me now with more on all of this very confusing sequence of events.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of details. We've got to chronologically, Fred.

So it was last April when officers attempted to pull over a 33-year- old white male Michael Dial. They suspected him of driving with a suspended license. But he kept on driving. This was not a high speed chase, though. Officers say they never went faster than about 50 miles an hour.

As the chase crosses from Dekalb County in White County, dash cam video shows patrol cars using the pit maneuvers to try to ram Dial's pickup truck and the trailer off the road there, as you see there. From what I observed in watching this video, you never see Dial's vehicle as the aggressor, and yet orders came from the White County sheriff through the dispatcher to take him out by any means necessary including deadly force.

About a minute later the first shots are fired and Dial was killed. The sheriff who gave that order was not involved in the chase, he did not have eyes on any danger the suspect may or may not have presented. But what happens next is key to why Dial's widow has filed a federal lawsuit against the parties involved.

After arriving on the scene and reassuring the officers who fired their weapons that they were following his orders, the sheriff then leaves the scene with one of his deputies. And unbeknownst to either of them, a body cam was still on and recording after being thrown into the back seat of the car. Listen to what is recorded.


ODDIE SHOUPE, WHITE COUNTY, TENNESSEE, SHERIFF: I told him, I said take him out. I don't give a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard shots fired, shots fired.

SHOUPE: I said, don't ram him, shoot him. Don't tear up my cars up. Now I have two cars tore up again.


HARTUNG: So there is the Sheriff Oddie Shoupe suggesting he would rather his officers shoot and kill Michael Dial in this low speech rather than damage their patrol cars. The sheriff's office won't comment because of the pending lawsuit, but also captured on that hidden body cam the sheriff saying he afraid Dial would kill somebody if they didn't kill him first. The district attorney has ruled the shooting justified. He's standing by that, and Sheriff Shoupe continues to lead his division.

WHITFIELD: Keep you updated as I know more information will come out. Kaylee Hartung, thanks so much.

And thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you again tomorrow afternoon starting at 2:00 eastern time. But first in this week's "Turning Points," 23-year-old Victoria Arlen is an ESPN host, but 12 years ago she was in a vegetative state suffering from two rare diseases. She beat the odds learning how to walk and dance again. Here's her story.


VICTORIA ARLEN, ESPN HOST: I'm Victoria Arlen. I was on season 25 of "Dancing with the Stars." I learned early on that extraordinary challenges lead to extraordinary victories. I was 11 when I got sick with transverse myelitis which affected my spine and acute disseminated encephalitis which affected my brain. So the lights go out as of 2006 for me as far as memory goes. And then it was January of 2009 where all of a sudden I was aware. I went into fight mode.

I was told that I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I grew up where I didn't think that I could swim without the use of my legs, and my brothers strapped on a life jacket and jumped in the pool with me, and then two years later I was in London at the London Paralympic games winning the gold medal. It was the first time that we all cried happy tears.

I started to do appearances and then eventually landing at the doors of ESPN.

I'm Victoria Arlen.

In 2013 we discovered a program called Project Walk and just kept pushing, and then by April of 2016 I was walking. "Dancing with the Stars," it was something that I dreamed of. Every team we stepped into the studio, it is like we were continuing to redefine what was possible.