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CNN TONIGHT

Trump Allies Protects Accuser Than Victims; Democratic Memo Almost Forgotten. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 12, 2018 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: CNN Tonight starts right now.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Why do we keep asking why the president won't say what his spokespeople and surrogates are saying about domestic abuse, that is a grotesque and that it's wrong? Maybe it's because he doesn't believe it.

Why do we keep asking why he tweeted what he tweeted about wishing an accused abused well without even mentioning the victims. Maybe because he can't. Because he doesn't relate to those women. Because, doing otherwise would bring up his own shortcomings and the more than a dozen women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault.

He talks about the men needing to have due process, the same due process that he refuses to afford others. Like the wrongly convicted Central Park five for whom he wanted death. At the time he took out ads, in four New York City newspapers, calling for the death penalty for them.

And as recently as 2016 doubled down on it. And to this day he refused to apologize or even admit he was wrong. Due process for, take note, for accused beater of women, Rob Porter, for accused pedophile and serial harasser, Roy Moore, sue process for accused disgraced serial harasser Bill O'Reilly who paid out multiple settlements including one for $32 million.

For accused disgraced serial harasser Roger Ailes. There is more but I think I have made my point here.

And all of this leaves his White House now in turmoil again because his staffers, they don't have much to work with here. When it comes to who knew what and when about domestic violence allegations, against former staff Secretary Rob Porter.

In 30 seconds in today's White House briefing Sarah Sanders told at least four lies about the White House's handling of this scandal. We have to put the facts first here. So let's slow it down and go through her statement together. Ready?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Not true. And, boy, is that phrase the extent doing a lot of work there. Here are the facts, OK, everyone. Rob Porter first told top White House lawyer Don McGahn more than a year ago that his ex- wives might give the FBI potentially damaging information about him, that's according to sources who tell CNN Porter went on to describe the allegations and greater detail to McGahn and other top White House aides.

Porter's ex-wives have told CNN they talked to the FBI, one providing photos of the alleged abuse early last year. The bureau told the White House last spring according to people familiar with the matter.

So the White House has known for months that there were serious domestic violence allegations against a top aide, allegations that derailed his security clearance. Yet they are claiming they learned, quote, "the extent of Tuesday evening -- on Tuesday evening, there was a story in the Daily Mail." That's when they said they learned. So then, what did the White House do after the news became public on Tuesday?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Within 24 hours his resignation had been accepted and announced. We announced a transition was going to happen and within hours it did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The White House would like you to believe that as soon as they learned about the allegations against Rob Porter that he was kicked out. That is not true.

Here are the facts again. The chief of staff, John Kelly, praised Porter in a statement on Tuesday crafted with help from Porter's current girlfriend, communications director Hope Hicks. Quote, "Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can't say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him." OK?

And on Wednesday, Sarah Sanders after saying the president and his chief of staff had full confidence in Porter's performance announced that he would be leaving the White House, but in her words, it's her words, would stay on to ensure a smooth transition going forward.

And where was President Trump in all this? Uncharacteristically silent today. Leaving Sanders to read a statement she said was dictated by the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: The president and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly. Above all, the president supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Why won't he say it? That sounds nothing at all like the president's own words about Porter last Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well. It's a -- obviously, a tough time for him.

[22:05:02] As you probably know, he says he is innocent. And I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he is innocent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And then there is this. The president again, in his own words, tweeting this on Saturday. OK. These are his own words. "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is new recovery -- there is no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?"

Well, the president doesn't mention Rob Porter there, but, as he so often does, he is eager to defend the accused. And despite the statement he had Sarah Sanders read today, President Trump has completely failed to support two women making credible allegations of domestic violence. Even in the face of evidence like this.

Which brings us back to a question we have asked before. Who do you believe? The White House press secretary, reading out a statement dictated to her by her boss, or the president's own words, defending an aide whose ex-wives both accuse him of domestic violence? Who do you believe?

Let's bring in now CNN's Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza and Jeff Zeleny. Thank you all for joining us this evening. Good evening to you. Dana, you first. The White House can't seem to clean up this mess. How much of that is because not of Rob Porter, not of John Kelly but because of the president himself, his own words, his own actions?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It's all of the above. I mean, let's be clear. We are almost a week into this mess, as you called it. A week. I mean, can you imagine any White House, any operation that deals with communication on a regular basis that deals with process, that deals with, you know, kind of looking into what went wrong, otherwise known as crisis communication or crisis management, and it lasting a week, never mind that this being the White House and the presidency and the president of the United States.

I mean, that in and of itself is just mind boggling, that it's self- inflicted wound after self-inflicted wound. It's almost like every single time either the president or people speaking on his behalf open their mouths, they make the story worse.

And so there is no question that it is the president that really compounded things on Friday, as you played there when he invited reporters into the Oval Office and didn't mention the alleged victims, the ex-wives of Rob Porter.

The press secretary tried to clean it up a little bit today. But given the president's own words on Friday and the tweet that you read, it's just not believable. Because when the president wants to get a message out, he does it, himself.

LEMON: As I read that tweet I was like, who is he talking about? Is he talking about himself? Is he talking about Rob Porter? Who exactly is he talking about?

Jeff Zeleny, let me bring you in. Jeff Zeleny, so you can see he's at the White House right now. During the election there were at least 15 women accusing Donald Trump of things like sexual harassment, sexual assault, lewd behavior. Is this part of the reason why the president continues to treat Rob Porter like the victim?

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Don, it certainly explains a mindset, it certainly explains a president's window into how he thinks. I mean, we -- this is not the first time that this story line has played out here.

In fact, sadly, it played out again and again and again during the end of the campaign and indeed, since then with the Roy Moore Senate race in Alabama and others.

And as Dana said, she was absolutely right, the president, more than anyone else, knows how to use that megaphone in terms of tweeting or going on television. He spent almost an hour in front of the television cameras today talking about infrastructure.

Never mind the message that has been completely overshadowed by this entire mess of their own making here. But again, at the White House briefing our colleague, Jim Acosta asked Sarah Sanders again if he was tone deaf, if the White House was tone deaf about this. Watch what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Is there a tone deafness there? Is there just being on the wrong side of things?

SANDERS: I don't think the president, being on supporting...

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: I'm talking about on Friday...

SANDERS: ... due process for any allegation is not tone deaf. I think it is allowing things to be investigated and a mere allegation not be the determining factor. He is not taking a side, necessarily, one way or the other. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Now, not taking a side necessarily one way or the other, I am not quite sure that's true. Because, as we saw the president in the Oval Office on Friday, he was clearly taking the side, he was taking the side of Rob Porter. Someone, of course, whom he knows and someone he has worked with alongside for more than a year and someone who he likes and respects.

[22:10:01] But he was indeed taking a side. There is no question about that. So the unanswered question tonight at the White House remains. Why didn't someone in the White House counsel's office or the White House chief of staff's office and there were a couple chiefs of staff over this period of Rob Porter's time -- why didn't they get that information from the FBI and act on it.

Why was he and in fact some other more than 30 White House officials and political appointees working without a permanent security clearance? Those are the questions that matter, Don, going forward here. This is more than an H.R. situation. The security clearance one is an important one. And that's one frankly today that Sarah Sanders didn't have an answer for.

LEMON: Yes. And we're going to talk about that a little bit later in the broadcast.

ZELENY: Sure.

LEMON: And the other question you ask a lot of people at the White House is, how do you sleep at night because I don't -- I don't really understand it.

Chris, CNN is reporting privately that the president is calling Porter quote, "a sick puppy" while in public he is dismissive of the allegations, that leaves several White House officials confused.

Does he really believe this behavior is sick? And if he does, why not say so? Was it for all the reasons that I said in the opening, that he just can't bring himself to do it because it brings up his own shortcomings?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: Yes. I mean, that strikes me as spin. This is not typically a president who is resistant to voicing what he says privately publicly. At least that hasn't been the case.

I mean, when I heard that last night or early this morning I thought, it's similar to me saying, well, when no one is in the gym I make every shot I take. Now when I go out and play in the game I never even hit the hoop, but privately I am a great three-point shooter.

You know, I mean, it's a little bit self-serving to say I condemn it privately but publicly I need to be a little more sort of a bit more removed. I do think it all comes back to him -- Dana touched on this. Look, I always think that we're best served when we follow the tweets. I know people roll their eyes at that, but I think the tweets are the

best expression of who he actually is, what he is thinking at any given moment. So I think you saw the tweet on Saturday, very clearly sort of voicing skepticism about the allegations made by Rob Porter's two ex-wives and then the White House via Sarah Sanders today reading a prepared statement that was apparently according to her dictated by the president.

LEMON: It sounded nothing like anything the president would say.

CILLIZZA: No. The president knows, by the way, that -- he has got a phone pretty close to him. If he wants to tweet something like what Sarah Sanders said out, he could. Jeff mentioned he spent almost an hour talking about infrastructure. He could have at the top of that issued a statement about this. Does it matters more when it comes right from the president of the United States?

So I just, I tend to listen to the tweets here. And that would suggest he just doesn't believe what the White House official line is.

LEMON: Dana, let's talk about the victims here. I think it's very important. And if you listen to them they're very credible especially Anderson had one on last week very credible, very well-spoken.

Colbie Holderness the first ex-wife of Rob Porter is out with a new op-ed in the Washington Post. It says in part this, Dana.

"I never imagined myself in the situation I am in now. No one could at. I'm not a partisan, I'm not an activist, far from it. In fact, Willoughby and I don't seek to tell our stories in such a public way. Didn't seek to tell our stories in such a public way. Rather, others sought us out in the course of investigating Rob. I also never imagined I would be in an abusive relationship. The real ugly side of Rob's abuse came out after we married following three years of dating.

Monday, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee again decline to say whether the president believes Willoughby and me. While I cannot say I am surprised I expected a woman to do better."

She is powerful and she is absolutely right on.

BASH: I think that in addition to explaining more of her story and the story of Rob Porter's other ex-wife, both who say very clearly that he abused them verbally and physically, the point of it was to also talk more broadly about abuse.

And to talk about the fact that, you know, people are questioning whether or not a strong person could deal with this, whether a strong person would fight back. And noting that people who are asking that don't understand what domestic abuse really is.

I mean, unfortunately, I'm sure all of us either know or know of people who are about as strong as they come and you would never guess that they allow...

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: And Dana, they don't understand that now. Women...

BASH: Exactly.

LEMON: There is like some camaraderie, in a sense, because they feel that they have support and, if they tell their story, at least now they will be believed and maybe back then they may not have been believed but times have changed now.

BASH: They have changed. But it doesn't make it any easier.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: I mean, look, like she said, the last thing in the world that any of these women wanted were to have to write op-eds in newspapers, where they have to have their names.

(CROSSTALK)

[22:14:59] LEMON: Doesn't that sound familiar to the Roy Moore situation?

BASH: Yes. Sure.

LEMON: Same thing. The reporters sought them out.

BASH: No question. No question.

LEMON: Yes, go on, Dana. Sorry.

BASH: No question. But I guess the point is that, no question. But I guess the point is that just because the movement is allowing sunlight and the movement is encouraging people to speak up, it doesn't make it easy.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: And it doesn't mean that people inside the White House and elsewhere really understand what it means to be a victim of domestic violence and don't -- aren't giving the -- giving credence to the idea that women who are abused can be very, very strong and look as tough as they come in public but get into situations where they are victims.

LEMON: How sad that is. You have a woman speaking for the White House and then another woman who is also involved with a man writing up the note trying to excusing the behavior. It's just tone deaf is not -- there isn't a better phrase for it.

BASH: I understand that. But I also feel like this should not be about gender. Whether it was a woman standing at...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, I'm saying because Colbie Holderness said that, she's I expected a woman to do better. BASH: No, no, totally, absolutely. I completely get that. It was in

her op-ed. But I think on that point whether it's a woman standing at the podium or a man standing at the podium, it should be the same level of understanding.

LEMON: All right. Stick around, everyone. Because when we come back I want to talk about a huge story at the White House may be hoping you had forgotten. The president refusing to release the democrats' memo responding to GOP charges of anti-Trump bias in the Russia investigation.

[2:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: As this White House stumbles through one crisis after another, you might feel like your head is spinning. But don't let it distract you from the big story, the Russia investigation.

I want to get to breaking news now on that right now. Let's bring in back in CNN's Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza and Jeff Zeleny. So, Jeff, there's new -- CNN has a new reporting tonight about President Obama's meeting with then FBI Director Jim Comey last year to discuss sharing information on the Russia investigation with the incoming Trump administration. What do you know about that?

ZELENY: Don, this is pretty interesting. This is about a meeting that happened on January 5th, 2017, so some 15 days or so before President Trump was sworn into office.

And this was a meeting that President Obama at the time was having with the FBI director, James Comey. And he was talking about essentially how much information should be shared with the new Trump administration about the Russia investigation.

You'll remember by that time the Obama administration had ordered up an investigation they said that they want the FBI to look into it. There was a sense that they were creating a paper trail, if you, to try and get to the bottom of this or start this investigation before they left office.

Now all this is coming out in a letter that a couple of republican senators, that Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were sending specifically to Susan Rice, the national security adviser.

She sent herself an e-mail documenting that meeting that happened on January 5. She sent herself this e-mail on inauguration day.

A bit in the weeds here, Don, but the point is that the Obama administration was urging the FBI and others to follow this investigation by the book. So that, again, is putting on the boards, if you will, the fact that this investigation was going on.

The republican senators are raising this as our Manu Raju and Jeremy is reporting tonight, that you know, asking if they indeed did follow it by the book. Of course, we've since learned so much more than was known at that point in January 2017 about the dossier, about everything else.

So that's why this is coming up at this point. But, again, it just is one more piece of evidence that this was being discussed and, in fact, was a worry of the Obama administration in their final hours here at the White House about what they should tell the incoming Trump administration about all of this, Don.

LEMON: I want to turn now to the memo.

JEZELY: Sure.

LEMON: The top democrat on the House intel committee is planning to meet with the FBI after the White House blocked the release of the democratic memo that rebuts the GOP Nunes memo. Is this this memo going to see the light of day without political redactions, Dana?

BASH: It's hard to imagine that the answer is yes if this is the process that is used. Because the fact that Adam Schiff, the top democrat on the House intel committee is having to and meet with the FBI and talk about redactions means that it's going to be a different process than you saw with the republican memo.

The only one option that is being discussed on Capitol Hill among democrats to avoid that is a very risky one. And that is to put it before the entire House of Representatives and have a vote to sort of force the republicans' hand to prove that -- or to put them in a box, basically, to either be for or against transparency.

If the republican memo came out, then the democratic memo should come out as well. We'll see if it gets to that point. A lot of it depends on how these meetings about potential redactions go. But I think as we talk about this, we have to repeat over and over again, these are political memos written by what should be a bipartisan intelligence committee, which -- that is very partisan, but it should be something that they're working together on to get to the bottom of what Russia did and what happened in this country, particularly as we're just nine, ten months away from another election.

LEMON: That's a little too level-headed. I mean, come on, Dana. But Chris, I want -- I want -- I know you want to weigh in but then let me read this and then you can weigh in.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Sure. Sure.

LEMON: This is what the president tweeted this weekend. He said, "Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew because the sources and methods and more would have to be heavily redacted where upon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency. Told them to redo and send back in proper form."

Now that is a Jedi mind trick if I had ever seen one right there.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

LEMON: He wants American to take his word that the democratic memo is very political. But given the president's track record with the truth, that's hard to judge without seeing it because you have to go in and do fact checks and do research every time this president says something to make sure he is telling the truth, which is not very often. But go on, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Well, and also, by the way, given his willingness to embrace conspiracy theories from Barack Obama who wasn't born in this country to Muslims who are celebrating on 9/11. To Ted Cruz's father may have involved in the JFK assassination to biggest inaugural ever.

(CROSSTALK)

[22:25:03] LEMON: To Trump tower was wire tapped.

CILLIZZA: To most well watched state of the union. I mean, you know, like, so. He is right that it's a political document. To Dana's point, there is a republican political document and a democratic political document.

But I can feel like this got glossed over a little bit because he vetoed the release of it or sent it back to the committee late on Friday.

In releasing the republican memo, the Nunes memo, he -- Donald Trump, without question, ignored the advice of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray who said, don't do this. We have grave concerns about its factual accuracy given what is left out. OK?

Now, a week later Donald Trump says, can't release the democratic memo, FBI has some concerns about it. I mean, you can't -- it's very hard to -- the FBI leadership didn't change, right. Chris Wray is still Chris Wray, by the way, Donald Trump's pick to be the head of the FBI after he fired Jim Comey, that didn't change in that week.

So it's really hard to say, well, the republican memo, it's OK to ignore what the FBI -- and again, their words in the FBI statement, grave concern. And then the following week, well, we're going to have to -- you know, I mean, it's just two different processes.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The grave concern on this one is that it may show them for what the first memo was.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, they're both political documents, right?

LEMON: Yes. Again, they're both political.

CILLIZZA: I think we should take them both with a grain of salt.

LEMON: I've got to run.

CILLIZZA: But the process he is using is just not equal.

LEMON: Thank you all. Always a pleasure. See you soon.

BASH: Thanks, Don.

ZELENY: Thanks, Don.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, the president said he would 100 percent release the Nunes memo against the advice of his own Justice Department before he even had a chance to see it. Yet, the same concerns are the exact reason the White House is punting on releasing the democrats' version.

We're going to talk to a member of Congress who has seen -- who has seen it and if she thinks that -- what she thinks it might bring in the light of day. We'll see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: President telling democrats on the House intelligence committee to redo their rebuttal to the so-called Nunes memo which claimed the FBI abused its surveillance authority. Is he stone-walling to avoid releasing the memo?

I want to bring in now Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, she is a Washington democrat who sits on the judiciary and budget committees. It's so good to have you on. Thank you so much.

PRAMILA JAYAPAL, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: It's great to be with you, Don.

LEMON: Congresswoman, the president tweeted about the democrats' memo over the weekend and you have seen the memo. Do you agree with his take on this? He is basically saying you knew that it was going to be, you know, that it would have to be heavily redacted, that that was sort of the plan there and send it back, bring it in proper form.

JAYAPAL: This is just more of his obfuscation and obstruction. Because everything that was said in the republican memo, the FBI said shouldn't be released and Donald Trump had no problem releasing it.

I did read the democratic memo. And while I can't talk about what's in it I can tell you that there is nothing in there that is going to be hugely damaging to our national security. You know, he seems much more concerned about the FBI's opinion on this memo than he did on the last one.

This is a big nothing burger as one of my colleagues said. There isn't that much in this memo to start with in terms of, you know, really trying to exonerate him. That's what he claims that this memo is going to do. That is not what the memo...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You're talking about the republican memo now, right?

JAYAPAL: The republican memo. That's correct. LEMON: OK. So let me ask you. I've been wanting to ask a democrat

that. Do you think you overplayed it then? Do you think that from the very beginning you should you have said, this is political, you shouldn't take nothing -- if this memo is released then don't believe it because it was -- and then just go about your business, instead you've brought more attention to it than was deserved?

JAYAPAL: Well, I do think -- when I actually saw the memo, I will tell you, I thought, what is all the fuss about...

LEMON: Right.

JAYAPAL: ... because there just isn't anything in the memo. And so I know that there are a lot of calls to release, and I do think the democratic memo has a number of points that says why the republican memo was wrong on a number of counts, and I think that that's -- since the republican memo got released, it's important to release our side of the story, if you will.

But none of anything that's contained in these two memos is actually about Trump and Mueller's case against him. I think all it does, frankly, is show him to be very desperate. He is desperate. He is, you know, clinging to straws. He is trying to find some way...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Desperate for what? Trying to...

JAYAPAL: ... to continue to undermine the FBI.

LEMON: So because of?

JAYAPAL: I think he is afraid. Yes, I think he is afraid of what Mueller is finding out. The noose is getting closer and closer to the Trump administration and the White House. And I think that they have realized that it would be a big deal for them to fire Mueller.

So the other way to go about this is to try to undermine what the FBI has to say and basically to go on TV or go on Twitter or wherever they are and continue to say that these memos somehow show that there is this big conspiracy theory against Donald Trump and that the FBI was biased when it is just very clear that that's not what's going on.

And if you read the republican memo, in some ways it actually makes the case for why the FBI was on Carter Page and on all of these issues long before, you know, the dossier, the Steele dossier came about.

So if anything, I think it actually strengthens the case that there were lot of issues with Carter Page and some of these people connected to the Trump administration long before the Steele dossier came out.

LEMON: Do you think he'll release the democrats' memo?

JAYAPAL: I don't see that he'll release anything that actually presents a fairer picture. I think he's going to say that he can't do it and somehow he's going to talk about the FBI which I find laughable because he has just spent the last several months trying to tear down the FBI.

He didn't listen to the FBI for the republican memo so all of a sudden we're supposed to believe he cares deeply about the FBI.

[22:35:01] LEMON: Yes.

JAYAPAL: But it's unfortunate, Don. I don't see him releasing -- you know, allowing for this memo to be released. And I think that it just -- I think, to me, it's just another sign of, again, how desperate he is to prevent the Mueller investigation from continuing or from having credibility.

If he can't prevent it from continuing, then let's prevent Robert Mueller and the FBI from having any credibility.

LEMON: I enjoyed having you on. Thank you, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Thank you so much.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, more questions about the hold up of Robe Porter's security clearance. Why the White House overlooked questions by problems in Porter's application, and what about the dozens of other high level White House staffers operating with interim access. I'm going to ask a former special FBI agent and someone who worked alongside a staff secretary exactly how the vetting process works.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: White House trying to get past the Rob Porter scandal, but it's exposed some deep flaws in our national security.

Let's discuss now. CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory special agent.

[22:40:01] And Bill Antholis, he's the director and CEO of the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Good evening to both of you. Thank you for coming on. Bill, I'm going to start with you. You say Rob Porter is not just a political scandal but a national security scandal too. How so?

WILLIAM ANTHOLIS, CEO, MILLER CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, the staff secretary at the White House is, in many cases, the final valve through which any information flows to the president. And that includes top secret code word security at times. That is code word intelligence and other analysis in the federal government.

So you have to have a top secret clearance in order to handle that information. And what we typically know about these interim clearances is that they are not top secret. To get a top secret interim clearance it requires a special waiver.

And what we don't know is whether he had one of those or not. Those special waivers are usually done only in emergency or national security crisis situations. So I think we need to find out, first of all, did he have such a waiver. If he did not have such a waiver, was he handling classified information? And if he...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And if he was --

ANTHOLIS: ... what was the workaround there?

LEMON: So if he is handling classified information and didn't have a waiver, what does that mean?

ANTHOLIS: Well, it means somebody without a top secret clearance has access to, for instance, the president's daily briefing, the intelligence briefing that comes to the president, that's usually loaded with top secret information.

He shouldn't see that. Everybody who has gotten a security clearance who goes from the step of interim to top secret knows that that's a document that's off limits if you don't have a top secret clearance.

LEMON: And should you be handling this information...

(CROSSTALK)

ANTHOLIS: And that doesn't apply just to him.

LEMON: ... let's say you do have one of those waivers. Should you still be handling the information if you don't have a permanent security pass?

ANTHOLIS: Well, you are allowed to. I mean, there is a process laid out by the director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush by which you can get a waiver. There's two ways to do the waiver. You can do 180 days and then reauthorize it, which would essentially take you to about January 15th, 2018. Or you are get a one-year waiver but the one-year waiver cannot be renewed by that directive which, as far as I know, still governs national security intelligence.

LEMON: And this was longer than a year. And for Jared Kushner, as well. Josh, I want to bring you in. Because dozens, I mean, Jared Kushner as a White House staff yet to go beyond an interim clearance including Jared Kushner's attorney released a statement just a short time ago saying, "I have inquired and been told that there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner's level whose process is delayed like this.

That it is not uncommon for a process to take this long. In a new administration, some taking as long as two years. That Mr. Kushner will take longer than usual because of the extent of his holdings, travel and lengthy submissions and that that there was no concern about the process Mr. Kushner's ability to do his job.

This is just the latest and unnamed sources quoting second hand hearsay concerning Mr. Kushner that likely others will be shown to be untrue."

So Josh, does this process really take up to two years? Why would that be?

JOSH CAMPBELL, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, CNN: I flagged that as well when you put the quote up there on the screen. I mean, two years is a stretch. It's not unusual for the FBI to take up to a year to conduct an investigation. Sometimes you are digging into people who have very complex backgrounds, maybe its financial records, maybe its travel.

Again, it's not unusual to go up to a year. The farther you get beyond that it does raise some questions. I mean, is this something that we're trying to -- that the FBI is trying to mitigate, maybe an issue that they found or maybe there is so much data they still have to get through. But I would say two years is a bit of a stretch.

LEMON: And when you look at the number of people who don't have their permanent security clearance, I mean, that's a folks. Is that unusual?

CAMPBELL: So, the -- one thing I'd point out is, you know, the FBI is taking a lot of hits lately, especially today with regard to the process and how that all works. I will say that -- you know, I know this from experience working with colleagues. That in the run-up to a new administration the FBI will actually surge resources to the team that conducts this background investigations.

So if there is a backlog it's not like the FBI isn't providing a resources there. It's more likely that it involves the actual people and their backgrounds. And again, you know, it's not unusual to have an investigation that runs a year, an interim clearance is there for a reason, it allows people to do their -- start doing their jobs on day one.

But the interim clearance was never meant to be a long-term solution to a background investigation problem.

LEMON: Right. Right. Right. Bill, what kind of staffers...

(CROSSTALK)

ANTHOLIS: And it says...

LEMON: Go ahead, Bill.

ANTHOLIS: Yes. And it says pretty clearly in the last directive that one year is a max on these things. That means that, that if you are going to probably do a second authorization, it has to come with an explicit waiver. And this I think applies less that Jared Kushner than it would to Mr. Porter.

Which is that waiver says that they have to be trustworthy, of high character and it requires the commanding officer, whoever that is, McGahn, McMaster, General Kelly to -- or the president himself to essentially vouch for them.

[22:45:05] It has to be in writing. You actually have to formally submit to the director of national intelligence.

LEMON: If it takes this long under -- Bill or Josh, so you can, Josh is the last -- does it -- does this signal that something may be wrong with the person who is applying for this clearance if it's taking this long and they have to keep getting temporary waivers or extensions to have whatever it is?

CAMPBELL: Yes, it certainly it could. I mean, again, you know, when you look at the individual and their background, it could mean one of two things. Either, you know, as I mentioned, that maybe the FBI has flagged something that they are trying to mitigate. Maybe there's an issue, maybe it's serious, maybe it's not.

But again, they're trying to explain why is this in your past what happened. We need to know more information to determine if you're suitable for access to our nation's secrets. As I mentioned, or it could just be you have someone whose background is so complex that it takes time to get through. But the longer that takes, the more red flags it raises.

LEMON: Interesting. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The Trump administration releasing its budget blueprint for 2019. Critics already saying it's going to make the federal deficit much, much worse.

So let's talk about it now. CNN's senior economics analyst Stephen Moore, he's a former senior economic advisor to the Trump campaign.

[22:50:01] And Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of the council of economic advisers under President Obama. I'm looking forward to this.

Stephen, since you work for us, I'll start with you first. So, one of the selling points for the president's budget has been increased economic growth. It will cover the deficit spending, that's what they say. So we learned today that it's likely not the case. The president -- the president's plan increases the deficit by $7 trillion in the next decade. Is this budget irresponsible?

STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST, CNN: Well, look. I mean, it really started, Don, with what happened last week with the budget deal that was reached between the republicans and the democrats in Congress. And I can't defend that.

You know, I think that the republicans have been hypocritical when it comes to their anti-big government and fiscal conservative credentials. Where we rammed through by $300 billion these spending caps.

President's budget that came out today, there's some things I like about it, but I am concerned about the pension for spending here.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Did you help writing in any of this.

MOORE: I guess the answer is, I am troubled by it.

LEMON: So you think it's irresponsible. But did you help write any of this? Does any of this your own doing?

MOORE: This particular budget, no. I mean, now look. There is a big component of this for infrastructure spending. I'd be interested whether Austan wants to see that spending happen. It's going to be an interesting innovative proposal that will cost a lot of money but could rebuild the nation's infrastructure.

LEMON: OK.

MOORE: But on balance, look, the answer to your question is, we're spending too much money.

LEMON: OK.

MOORE: We're borrowing too much money, we did way too much of that under Obama as well.

LEMON: I got you. I got you. Just for time purposes, I want to get Austan. Austan, there is another concern with the budget, that it could overheat the economy, bringing up inflation, especially coming right after the tax cuts. Do you think that's a real threat?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER BARACK OBAMA CHIEF ECONOMIST: That's a possible threat. You remember, we're piling this on top of the already cut taxes for high-income people, big corporations, by almost $2 trillion. So you're going to get -- we're going to get some extra juice in a very hypocritical way.

They attacked Obama for doing far smaller, at a time when we really needed it. But I think if you look at the budget document that the president put out today, you're going to be incensed.

America is going to see what he proposed. At the same time, there are these massive spending -- and they used up as much revenue as they did on the tax cut. It cuts Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars, proposes a cut in Medicare. It goes back and funds those things in Obamacare that Donald Trump ran on campaigning against, saying they were bailouts for insurance companies.

He proposes fully funding that stuff. And the infrastructure, which was supposed to be the crown bipartisan jewel, is in fact a net cut of federal spending on infrastructure.

LEMON: OK.

GOOLSBEE: It's turning it over to the states.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Now wait a minute.

GOOLSBEE: And asking them to pay for it.

LEMON: Let Stephen respond. Go ahead, Stephen.

MOORE: OK. A couple of things. I mean, first of all, you know, for Austan to talk about the debt, you know -- with all due respect, Austan, you worked for the president who took our debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion. So, come on.

I mean, this, you know, Obama was the king of borrowing. And look, I'm not defending what republicans are doing here. I think a pox on both their houses.

But the other point is look, the tax cut is working, Austan. And we're seeing a big increase in growth, we're seeing businesses come home. You know, the new Fed report says that we might grow 5 percent this quarter. That never happened under Obama. That kind of growth.

Look, it's all about jobs and the economy, getting it moving. I don't believe that more government spending is good for the economy, but I do think this tax cut is really ramped up growth in a big way. Seventy percent of Americans today rank the American economy as good or great. That's an incredible change in two years.

LEMON: Go ahead, Austan.

GOOLSBEE: Donald Trump inherited the lowest, among the lowest unemployment rates of any president in the last century.

MOORE: That's true.

GOOLSBEE: So it's great that the economy continues to chug along. The growth rates assumed in this budget document, just look at them, Don. They're unbelievable. They're at least 50 percent higher than all the private sector forecasts. That's the rosy scenario times a million...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Austan...

GOOLSBEE: ... and they are cutting Medicare.

MOORE: OK. So, Don.

GOOLSBEE: Why cut Medicare?

MOORE: First of all, Don, you asked me if I had anything to do with this budget. The only thing that I always preached to Donald Trump was, we can get to 3 percent growth. Now Austan, I know you don't believe we can. But look, I'll bet you two beers...

(CROSSTALK)

GOOLSBEE: It assumes more than that.

MOORE: ... we're going to get 3 percent to 4 percent...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, Austan is not the only one. Independent analysts don't believe you can either.

MOORE: OK. We'll let's see. Let's see what happens.

GOOLSBEE: It assumes more than 3 percent.

LEMON: OK.

MOORE: We've already grown at 3 percent.

LEMON: So, listen. Republicans roundly criticized President Obama's spending. You just did now, right?

MOORE: That's true.

LEMON: Even though you called him the king of what spending?

GOOLSBEE: Could we make one comment about that? Barack Obama comes into office...

LEMON: But it was that Donald Trump is he's the king of debt.

MOORE: He adds trillions of dollars to increase debt.

[22:54:59] GOOLSBEE: yes. When Barack Obama came into office, we're in the worst recession of our lifetime.

LEMON: That's true.

GOOLSBEE: So of course the deficit explodes. And he shrank it over the course of his eight years.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Now trillion dollars of borrowing the last...

GOOLSBEE: Potentially cutting the deficit in more than half.

LEMON: Yes.

GOOLSBEE: Trump is doing the reverse.

LEMON: All right. But let me put this up and then you can talk. I just want viewers to know what we're talking about.

MOORE: Yes.

LEMON: This chart is from the White House. The only two presidents in two generations to make headway in cutting the national debt are democrats. So...

MOORE: Wait a minute, wait. This chart makes no sense. Obama did not cut the national debt, he increased the national debt from 11 to $20 trillion. That chart makes no sense.

LEMON: This is deficit.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: No.

LEMON: Deficit.

MOORE: I mean, the deficits were gigantic during Obama's years in office. So I just don't find any truth on that.

GOOLSBEE: The deficit was cut in half. And Trump is going to more than double it.

MOORE: Yes.

GOOLSBEE: We can't get past that. Obama starts with large deficits in the recession and cuts them in half. Trump's going to double it.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: The second deficit was 1.3 trillion.

LEMON: All right.

MOORE: I mean, come on, those numbers were...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you, guys.

MOORE: Look, the bottom line here...

LEMON: I've got to go.

MOORE: ... we're spending too much money in Washington, I agree with that.

LEMON: I think everybody agrees with that. Thank you very much.

When we come back, what the White House doesn't want you do know. What they're not saying about Rob Porter and how long they knew about the allegations of domestic abuse and why they won't release a democratic memo.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)