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Trump Defends Porter; Ryan Criticized Over Budget Deal; Military Plays Catch-up on Gun Ban List; White House Struggles with Story. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 12, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:51] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This scandal, and that's what it is, surrounding former White House Aide Rob Porter continues to grow with the president praising and defending Porter in the face of domestic abuse allegations by two of Porter's ex-wives.

Joining us now is Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Always good to see your face, congressman.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: My pleasure, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, let's start with something that's obvious and then get into some more subtle matters of politics.

When it comes to supporting women who are victims of abuse, do you believe that there is a responsibility on leaders like yourself, and certainly the president of the United States, to step up and recognize that reality?

BROOKS: I think that there's a responsibility on all of our parts to make sure that we know what the evidence is and have the facts at hand before making a decision. All too often there's a rush to judgment.

I'm a graduate of Duke University. I remember very well that Duke lacrosse team where one person, a lady, accused the team of engaging in sexual assaults, ruing their reputations for a considerable period of time, disrupting their season. And then after everything was said and done, when the evidence all came in, it turned out that she was lying, for whatever reason, they were innocent and a district attorney was removed from office.

CUOMO: Right.

BROOKS: So I'm not real fond -- I'm a litigator. I don't know if you've been in court, but I'm a litigator and it takes a while to accumulate the evidence for you to be able to make an informed judgment and I think that's what we need to do in these kinds of situations. And I'll defer --

CUOMO: Go ahead, Mo. You'll defer?

BROOKS: Those kind of personnel matters to the people who are in charge and the courts will be the ones that will make the ultimate disposition.

CUOMO: Well, look, I hear what you're saying about Duke. I know it all too well. The prosecutors name was Nifong. He got thrown out because he lied. He knew that Crystal Mangum was probably telling him a bogus story, but he liked the publicity and the notoriety of that. I know because I was on the ground there with ABC News and we helped change the timeline in a way that was fundamental to revealing that the story about those young men down there was false. So I hear you on that.

I don't understand the parallel to the current situation. If somebody comes to you, Mo, and says, this woman's got a black eye, there was an order of protection, there's another woman who echoes the same type of sentiments about this situation, that's not nothing. I'm not talking about where someone came forward and said I don't like the way Mo Brooks treated me at the office and has nothing else to support it. This was real here and it was ignored in order to support someone that the White House liked.

BROOKS: Chris, to me, this is kind of soap opera news. I'm not in a position to evaluate who's telling the truth and whose not.

CUOMO: Domestic violence is soap opera news?

BROOKS: I haven't -- I haven't looked at the evidence. I haven't talked to a single witness who has personal knowledge. And I really much prefer, if I'm going to be on your show, to talk about public policy matters, deficit and debt, immigration, things of that nature. But when you start talking about personnel matters or what's going on behind closed doors in a marital relationship that I know nothing about, I'm just not comfortable commenting on that.

CUOMO: No, I hear you that you don't know the facts. But just let me give you one chance to clear something up. You don't see domestic violence as just some matter that what happens behind closed doors, right? You know that in your state it is a major problem. I looked at the numbers last night. It's a scourge in your society. Women are brutalized on a regular basis. The men are not punished commensurate with the actions. It's different than other assaults in your state and others. This is a real situation. It's not just a personal matter. You'll recognize that, no, congressman?

BROOKS: I was an assistant district attorney in the Tuscaloosa district attorney's office and I was the district attorney in Madison County and I'm familiar with prosecutions of this kind of domestic abuse, assaults. And, yes, it does occur and, yes, when there is an assault, criminal activity, it needs to be punished.

CUOMO: All right. We'll leave it at that. Just that we keep it as -- in the front burner of importance.

You want to talk policy, let's do it.

You've been asked to swallow a lot in this administration. This tax policy is going to balloon the deficit. You guys were pushed into voting for it within your party. The spending caps that were just blown through, the party wound up giving enough votes to get it through. Now an infrastructure offer is coming from the president. It's going to cost 200 billion -- that's the estimate from the federal government -- and then push states to have to match the money. That's a lot asking for you guys to swallow. Will you? Will you be in favor of this type of infrastructure spending?

[08:35:26] BROOKS: Well, I haven't seen the details, so I'm not in a position to make an evaluation. But I am very much concerned about our deficit and debt. And basically here's where we are. Spending is, obviously, totally out of control. It looks like we're going to have a trillion dollars deficit this year. When I came in to the United States Congress, one of the motivations was to stop the Obama era deficit string, four straight trillion dollar deficits. And now the Republicans are doing just as bad as Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid did in 2009 and 2010 when they had control of the United States Congress. And we all need to do better, OK? We could --

CUOMO: Well, you've got to say worse, Mo, you've got to say worse.

BROOKS: We had -- OK.

CUOMO: The spending ratio had been down because of sequestration. You just blew through those caps. Now it's -- the ratio's higher now.

BROOKS: Look, I voted against the spending deal.

CUOMO: I know you did.

BROOKS: I think that it was a debt junkie's dream. I think it jeopardizes the future of our country. I cannot use words that describe how dangerous this situation is. But it is extremely dangerous to put the United States in a position where we may go insolvent and bankrupt sometime in the near future.

Now, spending cuts is where we ought to go but, obviously, as you've seen, that's not going to happen. Spending restraints is the next best thing. But as you've seen, that's not going to happen with this Congress and this White House. The other alternative, massive tax increases in the neighbor of 40, 50, 60 percent income tax increase, whatever it may be now, to balance out a trillion dollars deficit. That isn't going to happen.

So when you talk about the tax cuts that happened in December, that's kind of a Hail Mary pass in a football game to try to minimize the risk of a national insolvency and bankruptcy. You're hoping -- and in a football game it's a one in five, one in 10 chance, whatever it is, but you're hoping that you're able to stimulate economic growth enough to where even though you have lower tax rates, you have a stronger economy, more revenue because you have a higher gross domestic product.

CUOMO: Right.

BROOKS: That's the strategy behind that. But I'll readily concede that it is a Hail Mary pass, but it's the only option you've got left when you have a Congress and a White House that is unable to constrain spending, is unwilling to increase taxes to pay for the spending. Hail Mary's it. That's why you had that tax cut in December.

CUOMO: I hear you, but -- but your speaker, member of your party, Paul Ryan, is saying it's more of a third and two is what he's saying. He's saying it's not a Hail Mary pass. He's saying this tax bill, he was behind it. He believes it's the right way to grow this economy. The spending caps, he was behind that in order to create more.

Now, they'll say that they wanted to help the military and the military was held hostage so they had to do that, but you know that this was a choice on his part. Do you believe that the speaker has your full confidence?

BROOKS: Well, when you say if I believe the speaker has my full confidence, I don't know of anyone else that I would vote for right --

CUOMO: Do you back him as the speaker? Do you believe he's doing the right job?

BROOKS: I don't know of anyone else that is running for speaker of the House. And right now, if I had to vote today on whether to retain Paul Ryan as speaker of the House, I would vote to do so. It's about a comparison. You have to have alternatives. And Paul Ryan is it. And he's got a very difficult situation interacting with this White House, this Senate and all the different groups of congressman in the House of Representatives. And, quite frankly, he's done a pretty good job of juggling five and ten and 15 balls all at the same time. A very difficult task. And so I'm comfortable with Paul Ryan.

Do I have reservations about busting through the spending caps last week and nondefense matters? Absolutely. I mean here's -- here's where we proposed a budget last year and we fought over with it with the Democrats. The Democrats wanted a budget up here. The compromise was way up here. That's craziness. And, yes, so I have reservations about that and I have reservations about the threat that poses to the United States of America going forward.

I have reservations about the impact that's going to have on the stock market. You've already seen a depressing effect there. I have reservations about escalating interest rates that are going to make it more costly to do business for people to buy homes. There are a lot of cascading effects to what was done last week. In my judgment, it was the worst piece of legislation I have voted on since I've been in the United States Congress and there's not another bill that's a close second. That's how bad that debt junkie's dream bill was last week.

But it passed. I wish it hadn't. We are where we are.

CUOMO: And, for the record, Mo Brooks said he wasn't just a no on that spending bill, he was a hell no. But it just shows, there's a diversity of thought within your own party on this, not to mention the Democrats who have another take on it as well and which side the president comes out on and the White House, we never know until it happens.

Mo Brooks, appreciate your candor. Thank you for being on NEW DAY, as always. BROOKS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Be well.


[08:40:01] HILL: Up next, a CNN exclusive. The U.S. military scrambling to add thousands of names to a gun ban list in the wake of that church massacre last November in Texas. We'll explain why.


HILL: A CNN exclusive now. The U.S. military, we're learning, has added thousands of dishonorably discharged military personnel to the FBI's list. That list which bans them from buying guns. This after a year's long backlog in reporting those names to the FBI. And it comes after an ex-airman, who should have been banned from owning a weapon, killed two dozen church goers in a small Texas town last November.

CNN investigative reporter Jose Pagliery joins us now with his exclusive reporting.

So this is not just a few names of people who were missing, this is more than 4,000?

JOSE PAGLIERY, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Right. And what's getting at -- what we have to get at here is that this is not a partisan issue. There are laws on the books that are met to keep bad guys away from guns. Criminals, convicted criminals, cannot get guns. When you try to buy one, you have to fill out a form and state that you haven't been dishonorably discharge from the military. That you haven't been convicted of a crime. And when -- if you lie, the FBI has a huge background check system that's supposed to check for that.

[08:45:02] But what we're learning now is that there was this huge backlog where the military was not submitting names to the FBI. So the FBI had nothing to check. And so this report shows just how wide that gap actually was. There's at least 4,000 names that were just added after that shooting in November and this is -- this is just the start.

HILL: So if that's just the start, it also begs the question of, I mean what do we -- what do we mean when we say backlog here? Was it just the messages weren't getting through? Were there not enough people in those jobs that needed to pass on that information? I mean what does that really mean? How do we get to that number? It's high.

PAGLIERY: So, there have been multiple inspector general reports from the military over the past 20 years that have sort of touched on this. Some of it is cultural. They just didn't think that these case was important enough to move on to the FBI. Other parts is that it's a document backlog, so they just never got around to actually submitting the paperwork, as in this case with the Air Force.

But what we need to remember here is that this paperwork needs to be submitted. It's just not that hard. And if the military was able to add 4,000 names in just two months, you have to wonder two things, how many more names there are to add and why they couldn't do this before.

HILL: Two very important questions. More of your reporting can be found at It's great. Thank you, Jose. Good to see you.

PAGLIERY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, an important story there.

President Trump's response to the Rob Porter abuse scandal exposing a major disconnect with the Me Too movement. Will the White House pass the credibility test after this crisis? Part of "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:50:31] CUOMO: All right. So, what did we learn today? You combine an apparent truth abuse with an obvious disrespect of domestic abuse and security clearances and that is the recipe for a major scandal in the White House. Now what is going to happen? How big a deal is this? How does it get corrected? That is the starting point for our "Bottom Line" with CNN political analyst David Gregory.

What are you supposed to do in this kind of situation and what do you expect to be done by this White House?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's what constitutes scandal for the Trump White House. You know what we've been talking about this morning, what we saw play out all over the weekend was a two headed monster. You know, the White House saying, oh, look, we did the right thing, we got rid of this guy, so don't pay attention to not telling the truth about it, all of the bungling, all of the chaos. And then a president, who on his own is saying, oh, this stuff doesn't matter. You know, what about due process? What about how good Porter was? And issuing a statement and speaking publicly with obvious disrespect for the victims in this circumstance, abused women, part and parcel of his attitude toward women going back to the campaign and throughout much of his adult life, and a very cynical effort, in my judgment, to say that this is a different and a new cultural flash point that he's going to weigh in on. Don't pay attention to what we're doing in my White House, let's pay attention to how society is being undermined in a way to stir up his supporters.

The question is, does it stand? You know, is this different? Is there a price to pay? And to me how many times have we asked that question, is there a price to pay for Trump with congressional leadership? With his party faithful? With women voters who came out for him in 2016? Will it be different in a midterm year, which is a tough year?

CUOMO: All right. We were just getting told that we have a little information on this.

HILL: Right. We're just looking this up right now.

CUOMO: Who gets -- who gets there faster? There's some reporting, David, that we're getting -- you know, look, this is what happens. They do these kinds of things in the White House and then the staffers start chirping.

HILL: Right, because there's some news (ph).

CUOMO: And they start pushing back and they're upset. So now we're hearing it again.

HILL: And that's our reporting that we're having is that officials are expressing confusion over the president's conflicting remarks on the domestic abuse allegations. Look, there are also -- so there are the president's remarks. There's what we saw on the Sunday talk shows as officials were being sent out. There is this conflicting timeline that's been an issue, even before the president's statement on Friday on camera and his tweet over the weekend.

But to your point, David, it also brings up the question of, I mean when is enough enough? And that's a question that we've been asking for well over a year at this point. And if this isn't it, I mean then what would be?

GREGORY: Well, I think the -- to the extent that you still have people within the White House who are talking about this, who feel burned by what happened here, whether they think they were lied to by the chief of staff, John Kelly, you know, the president made a point of saying, you know, on Jake Tapper's show on "State of the Union" that, no, the president has full confidence in his chief of staff.

We know that can change. It depends how much heat there is. The president certainly doesn't like negative attention, if it has to do with anybody else. He'll take the negative attention as long as it's attention, as long as he's at the center of it. So we don't know if this internal discord is actually going to grow and become worse.

There's the question of Hope Hicks, who the president was apparently upset with, his communications adviser. And let's remember, how do you talk about this to the outside world? How does Kellyanne Conway make a decision to go out on Sunday and talk the way that she did. That's in concerts with advisers like Hope Hicks, unless she's recuses herself because she's apparently been dating Porter all along.

So this is just messy. And this kind of mess is something that, as I pointed out earlier this morning, the president doesn't mind showing to the world. But what we have to remember, whether we think things are different now or not, when there's a crisis in the world, in the financial markets, on the international stage, when you have processes that aren't working, a staff that doesn't work well within an administration, that can be extremely dangerous.

CUOMO: Well, that's the concern is that they can't deal with what should be lay-ups. What's going to happen when the game gets really difficult, when the consequences are severe.


CUOMO: Now, here's the good news for the president and filed under the category, David, of maybe the luckiest man in the history of presidential politics. If my twitter thread is any suggestion, and it is, his supporters are with him to the point that they are happy to go out there and suggest that domestic violence is overblown and that the president is right to do this and if you're going to criticize him about this, what about all these other things that, you know, you should be criticized for and Democrats should be criticized for and anybody else should be criticized for. His base is with him. That's significant.

[08:55:16] GREGORY: Well, and we'll just see how long that's the case. I agree with you, it is significant. And I agree that what the president does, especially when feeling cornered, is he looks to cut -- touch a rail in our culture wars. You know, a third rail that can -- would burn other people, but he's willing to just go and touch it. And to use this episode to say what about due process, you know, what about people who are falsely accused, it's going to resonate with a lot of people who have been saying that in the context of the Me Too movement.

I think it's a hideous example, in this particular case, but it's going to touch enough people to fire people up and say, yes, you know, the president's right.

And, again, what he wants to do is still be the guy who is willing to say things that aren't said, who's going to, you know, shock the system in Washington. You talk about security clearances. There may be enough people who think, oh, that's just official Washington hang up and not something truly that matters.

HILL: Absolutely. David Gregory, always a pleasure. Thank you.

GREGORY: Thank you.

HILL: Thanks for letting me sit with you today.


HILL: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what, time spent with you is time well spent.

HILL: A prince among men, this one.

CUOMO: CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman picks up right after this quick break.

Thanks for being with us.

Thank you.