Return to Transcripts main page


White House Defends President Trump Amid Porter Scandal; Central Park Five Exonerees Slam President Trump for "Due Process" Hypocrisy; White House Blames FBI For Lack Of Security Clearances; Dems Blast WH for Failing to Release Nunes Memo Rebuttal Now; Pres. Trump: Up To Dems If They Want DACA Legislation to Succeed; GOP Immigration Plan. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 13, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight keeping them honest with a simple question: what's worse than a cover-up? The answer came today from the podium of the White House briefing room when the press secretary gave a master class and attempted gaslighting.

Now, in case you haven't seen the movie or read much about this particular kind of psychological manipulation, gaslighting is when someone tries to make you question your own reality and sanity. Its main weapons include lying, contradiction and denial.

At issue today, the now former staff secretary Rob Porter who resigned last week after news broke that two ex-wives had accused him of physical and verbal abuse. The White House still hasn't been able to put together a consistent explanation of who knew about the allegations and when they knew.

CNN has reported the White House counsel Don McGahn knew a year ago that this may come up in the FBI background check and learn more details over the past year. Last week, the world saw up this picture of one of Porter's former wives of the black eye.

Now, even after this picture came out, Porter denied the allegations. Now, today, the White House would have you believe that above all else, the president supports victims, the same president who has never supported victims or even mentioned them, the same president who spoke glowingly about Rob Porter just three days ago without saying one word about domestic violence.

Here's what Sarah Sanders said today.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president, along with the entire administration, take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be thoroughly investigated and above all, the president supports the victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process.


COOPER: The president takes a domestic violence very seriously. That's what she just said.

Now, just as a refresher, here's all the president has said about this case and it's alleged victims. This was on Friday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a obviously tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House and we hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully, he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he's also very sad.

Now, he also, as you probably know, 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.


COOPER: The president takes domestic violence very seriously.

Here's what he tweeted over the weekend: People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegations. 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 gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?

Remember, the White House says the president takes domestic violence very seriously, and we're supposed to believe that because Sarah Sanders said so today? She said it once and then she said it again and again and again. She repeated the same phrase four times in the briefing nearly word-for-word.


SANDERS: The president and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly. And above all, the president supports the victims of domestic violence, but the president also supports due process.


COOPER: So, if that's true, why didn't the president say that why didn't he tweet that why has he time and time again, this time included, supported the accused, not the accuser.

Today, Sanders was asked point-blank why we haven't heard the president say exactly what she said, that he takes domestic violence seriously.


SANDERS: I spoke with the president. Those are actually directly his words that he gave me.

REPORTER: But why hasn't he said that? He had the opportunity --

SANDERS: My job is to speak on behalf of the president. I spoke to him and he relayed that message directly to me and I'm relaying it directly to you.

I'm not sure how I can be any more clear. I think the president has exposed his views on this and I certainly have told them for everyone.

REPORTER: His views are that he wishes Porter well and that he believes that people should have due process, but he hasn't addressed the victims of domestic violence at all.

SANDERS: That's actually not true. If you were paying attention to what I just read to you.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, we were paying attention. You just heard it. The president has expressed support for Rob Porter, nothing about the women. The same way he expressed support for Roy Moore and Bill O'Reilly and Mike Tyson. The same way he called all the women who accused him of sexual misconduct liars, praising the alleged predators nothing about the women except scorn for his accusers.

Now, we all hear what he says and doesn't say and no amount of repetition from the podium, suggesting that we didn't hear what we thought we heard can change that. At the same time, it's insisting the president supports victims above all else, the White House is still bobbing and weaving on the timeline. Sarah Sanders says the White House learned of, quote, the extent of the situation last Tuesday, that's their new phrasing. Last Tuesday evening, and within 24 hours, Porter's resignation had been accepted and announced.

[20:05:01] She was pressed about reports that some of the White House knew about this for much longer, including the White House counsel.


REPORTER: We've reported and others have, too, that that Don McGahn, over a period of months, was told repeatedly by the ex-girlfriend, by the FBI, by others in the White House, about these accusations, and didn't do anything. Can you explain why no action was taken by Don McGahn, the chief White House lawyer?

SANDERS: Those allegations that have been reported are not accurate.


COOPER: So, she quickly batted that away in a very general statement, said those reports are not accurate. But moments later, listen to what she said when she was asked to clarify.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Are you saying that the White House Counsel never learned, until last Tuesday, that there was any allegation, of any sort, that was ever leveled against Rob Porter?

MS. SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to go into the specific details of how the process works, but I can say that we learned of the extent of the situation --

REPORTER: Who's "we"? When you say "we," who's "we"? Because I want to get to Don McGahn, specifically.

MS. SANDERS: The White House, generally.

Again, I can't get into the specifics. I can tell you that we were -- the process for the background was ongoing, and the White House had not received any specific papers regarding the completion of that background check.


COOPER: OK, so she switches when asked about the White House counsel to just speak generally about people in the White House saying we, and then she claims that the background check was still ongoing, that she didn't receive any papers about the end of it.

Now, the only part of the story that the White House was crystal-clear on today is that the president takes domestic violence seriously and above all else supports victims. And based on what he has said and tweeted, to borrow Sarah Sanders' much used phrase, that's not actually true.

CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta was at the briefing today. He joins us now.

Jim, I mean, it seems like we still don't have a timeline from the White House as to who knew what and when.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, Anderson, you can say that the White House is extending the timeline of the scandal because they're not giving straight answers at these briefings and we saw that again today. Essentially you heard, Sarah Sanders say that while they weren't aware of the extent of what Rob Porter was accused of until last Tuesday night and, of course, we know for a fact and never mind the fact that the deputy spokesman Raj Shah said that they were fully aware in that general area as well.

But, Anderson, we've known for months or they've known we know that they knew for months that this was lurking in Rob Porter's background, that he was having background check problems in the security clearance process. We know that, and until the White House acknowledges that, they're going to have trouble answering this question.

The other thing that is lengthening this process for the White House is just the way that the president has been going back and forth and all this, and I talked to a couple of Republican sources today, one who used to work for the campaign who simply said and this just gives you a sense as to how people are feeling about this in the Republican Party, a former campaign official who said the House is just not standing by the victims. A Republican source up on Capitol Hill asking the question, why is the White House hedging on domestic abuse?

And so, this is this is doing lasting damage obviously across the country as the public is watching this, but inside their own party as well.

COOPER: Jim, I mean you press Sanders on the president's tweet over the weekend, what did she have to say about it?

ACOSTA: That's right and you could see this unfold during the briefing where the press secretary came out. She read that statement from the president that she said was dictated to her by the president. She said they don't want to take any more questions on the matter and then, of course, every question was about this. And I just wanted to get to the bottom of why is it you laid this out earlier, Anderson, why is it the president was seemingly praising Rob Porter last Friday and sort of standing up for him and that tweet over the weekend when he was asking the question about allegations and how they can damage people, you know, throughout their careers.

And so, I pressed Sarah Sanders on that. Here's what she had to say.


ACOSTA: Is there a tone deafness there? Is there just a being on the wrong side of things?

SANDERS: I don't think the president being on --

ACOSTA: I mean, he had the opportunity to talk about it on Friday, and tweeted --

SANDERS: -- supporting due process for any allegation is not tone deaf. I think it is allowing things to be investigated, and a mere allegation not being the determining factor.

He's not taking a side necessarily one way or the other on any specific issue here. He's talking about mere allegations shouldn't be the determining factor for any individual; that there should be due process. I think anybody here, if they were accused of something --

ACOSTA: But I think these alleged --

SANDERS: Hold on, Jim. I'm not finished.

ACOSTA: Sarah, but I think these alleged victims were hoping that there would be something for them.

SANDERS: Hold on. Jim, hold on.

What I'm saying is, I think anybody here, if they were accused of something, would want the opportunity to go through due process.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: And the other the other area in all of this that they were giving us a straight story on would be the security clearances as we were reporting last late last week, the White House has dozens of staffers here who don't have a full security clearance. They're working off interim security clearances like the president's son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and when they were pressed on that today when Sarah was pressed on that today, she essentially said, well, that's up to the FBI, bunch of the FBI and the intelligence community.

[20:10:09] Anderson, as you know, we've been pointing this out, the background check process, it is undertaken by the FBI, they bring that information to the White House. It's incumbent upon the White House to act on it and, of course, Sanders left that out of the briefing as well.

So, it's one day after another dodging the question, giving incomplete answers, not giving the straight story and they're prolonging the timeline of the scandal not us, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Jim Acosta, I appreciate the reporting.

And I just mentioned, we still don't have a clear timeline and what the White House knew when. We're getting some breaking news right now on that timeline specifically as it relates to White House counsel Don McGahn.

This is new reporting from "The New York Times". Matthew Rosenberg joins us on the phone.

Matthew, what can you tell us about what Don McGahn was being told by the FBI and what he was telling them in response?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): We're told that it was in November that the FBI kind of came to McGahn and said, look, there's really a problem here that that Porter won't -- wasn't likely to make the cut for a permanent clearance and that McGahn kind of request of the FBI go out finish the investigation let's see what happens.

And now, look, I think it's important to understand that the way this works is the FBI and then the intelligence agencies, they kind of do their investigation and come up with any negatives, but it's all going up to the White House to adjudicate to the side, well, to give this guy clearance or not, and whether McGahn think he could delay this kind of final decision here or whether he just wanted more information, that's not entirely clear.

COOPER: So, it could have been he just wanted more information or it could have been a stalling tactic on the part of McGahn.

ROSENBERG: Yes, exactly. And you know I think covering kind of behind all this is Kushner and his clearance. You know if you start dealing with everybody else's clearances, all the ones that have problems, then you got to deal with the problematic ones and, you know, there are questions about Kushner, his clearance. There were clearly questions about Porter and his clearance and what's

going on with the other clearances that are now being held up, is that -- are they being held up simply because once you clear them, you got to get rid of the problematic ones or are there other issues there?

COOPER: Do you know, Matthew -- I mean, can they just allow people to work -- continue to work on temporary security clearances that they give out?

ROSENBERG: Yes, they can. I mean, this has all been the president's decision. You don't have to have a final clearance ever. You know, the president says, I want this guy to see classified information, you can do it.

But let's be honest, the president can just give out classified information, he can declassify it, doesn't even have to. If there are Russian officials to the Oval Office, he can tell them classified information and that's not a crime.

COOPER: So, just to be clear: McGahn knew about this information with Rob Porter in at least in November. Is that correct?

ROSENBERG: That's what we've been told, yes.

COOPER: Can you say how many sources you have on that?

ROSENBERG: There's least one.

COOPER: OK. Matthew Rosenberg, appreciate that. Thanks very much.

With me now is Kirsten Powers, also Jason Miller.

Jason, I mean it's been six days since Rob Porter resigned. Is this smart of the way the White House has been handling this -- I mean or and is continuing to handle it because their stories keep changing and they keep saying, well, I'm not going to go into details on this when in fact, it's all about the details?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Anderson, you're right to the messaging right now from the White House just isn't good on this and I think there's an important point that we're missing that haven't heard brought up that much over the past few days, and that is that domestic violence is a crime.

And so, if these allegations against Mr. Porter are accurate and I have no reason to believe that they're not accurate, Ms. Holderness and Ms. Willoughby who were very credible, especially Ms. Willoughby on your show last week, and that very compelling stories, that would make -- that would mean that Rob Porter was then working as a chief of staff to a very powerful U.S. senator being someone who has committed these crimes, and then he's someone who somehow entered the transition, as someone who had committed these crimes. And somebody then brought him into the White House is someone who had committed these crimes.

And so, what I would want to know if I was the president United States or if I was General Kelly is who brought Rob Porter into the White House at this at the very beginning, who brought him into the transition, and quite frankly, I think Senator Hatch should be trying to figure out who the heck even brought him in. And so, this is -- I mean, this is problematic and I also don't think that it was good that Rob Porter resigned. I think when you have such overwhelming evidence like this, someone like that should have been fired.

COOPER: Kirsten, I mean one of the things I don't understand is that the president has no qualms about speaking directly American people via Twitter whenever he feels like it, why does he need to be issuing that statement that serves Sanders issued today through Sarah Sanders?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's a great question. I -- look, he had an opportunity first of all, he talks with Twitter all the time as you just said. But he also had an opportunity to say all this when he spoke on camera -

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: -- and talked about the situation where he pretty much only had nice things to say about Rob Porter and had absolutely nothing to say about the women that he victimized. And so, it's a little hard for me to believe that this is a White House that takes domestic violence seriously as we keep hearing from -- we heard this from Sarah Sanders today.

[20:15:04] We know that General Kelly sent out a memo internally to the White House about saying this.

But if you look at all of the facts and I'm not even going to argue about whether they knew about it a year ago or five months ago or whatever it is, the point is when they were confronted with it, when the story broke, they didn't fire him. And, in fact, they defended him. They said he was a man of integrity. This is what both the General Kelly said and Sarah Sanders said.

Sarah Sanders said something like she's never knew anyone who's worked with him has been is lucky, I'm paraphrasing, but you know are lucky to have known him. This is after the news broke. So, these are not people that are taking domestic violence accusations seriously.

COOPER: Jason, the other thing about the president's comments which I guess were on Friday if memory serves me correct, it wasn't as if the president kind of was walking down a hall and somebody with camera jumped out and, you know, surprised him and he kind of fumbled what he was saying. They assured the press corps into the Oval Office for the president to make a statement about this and that statement -- I don't know if somebody had advised him you know maybe you should say domestic violence is some is a serious thing that I care about, but he said nothing about that.

MILLER: Well and that, in a lot of ways, cuts against the President Trump that I saw in the campaign trail. I remember at one point I there's maybe a celebrity or somebody in Hollywood who there was a domestic violence allegation and it came up in conversation or is in the news that day, and the president really reacted very strongly to it, and I think he called call him a sick SOB or a sick puppy and I remember just the reaction that he was really ticked off he's like what kind of a lowlife would go and do this?

And that's I wish we had seen that same emotion from the president on Friday because I know that he hears this and he just absolutely horrified.

And going back to a point that I was making a little bit earlier also, Anderson, is the fact I think this process really let the president down and again going back to the fact of who brought Rob Porter into the White House, who brought him into the transition, who the heck made him a chief of staff in the U.S. Senate, this is a process that by the time the fact that he was in the White House for this long I think is problematic.

And we can't put the president of the United States in this position. That's not fair to him. That's not fair to the White House. That's not fair to the country.

COOPER: Kirsten, I mean Jason is intimating that, you know, this burns like a fire within the president and he's spoken out hearts about this. I mean, the only tweet I recall from him as a citizen was about a Chris Brown and Rihanna and he said something to the effect of once an abuser always an abuser, be crazy if Rihanna goes back to Chris Brown.

I mean, Kristen, does it -- you know, he had an opportunity to talk about Bill O'Reilly, he had an opportunity to talk about Roger Ailes, you know, he defended Mike Tyson, it does seem like, you know, there is a pattern here.

POWERS: The problem is I'm sure it's true that that if somebody hit their wife and he knew for a fact that I happened that that would be offensive to the president. I'd be very surprised if that's not true what's the problem that we're having here is that he doesn't believe the women. So, he doesn't actually seem to think that this happened despite all the evidence that it did happen, and that's what we saw with the Roger Ailes situation, that's what we saw the Bill O'Reilly in situation.

I interviewed him about the fact that he was defending Roger Ailes and told him that, you know, I found it problematic and he said, I just don't believe that he did. This isn't that -- he's just not that kind of person. He never did any of those kinds of things in front of me and why would these women complain, they said nice things about him before?

All the things that people say when they don't understand domestic violence, they don't -- they don't understand that a woman actually can say a nice thing about somebody and actually have been either sexually harassed or abused by them. So, you know, I think that he -- in this situation and we saw all through the White House that these accusations were made and it seems that the assumption was that the women weren't telling the truth.

COOPER: Yes, Kirsten Powers, Jason Miller, we got to leave it there. Thank you very much.

Coming up, the president's newfound appreciation for due process, it certainly didn't apply when he took out ads calling for the death penalty for the young man accused in the Central Park jogger case. Those five young men were subsequently exonerated after years in prison. I'll speak with two of them, next.


[20:21:39] COOPER: As we reported today, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president takes domestic violence seriously, despite the fact he hasn't said that himself and has in fact only spoken and tweeted support for the accused. Now, the other part of Sanders statement is more in line with what the president tweeted this weekend, lamenting that there's no due process for the accused.


SANDERS: Above all, the president supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process. Everyone should be treated fairly and with due process. He certainly supports the victims of domestic violence above all else and believes that they should -- everyone should be treated fairly and with due process.

The president simply saying that there should be a due process. Supporting due process for any allegation is not tone deaf. There should be due process.

But the president also supports due process because I think anybody here if they were accused of something wouldn't want the opportunity to go through due process.


COOPER: Well, that's certainly true. You'd want to go through the opportunity for due process.

But the president talking about due process is a notable exception to the president's, well, I should say there is a notable exception to the president's newfound love of due process. It is, of course, himself.

When he thinks the president wasn't born in the United States or that Hillary Clinton should be jailed or that police officer shouldn't be so careful about not banging the heads of suspects when they place them in police cars, or how about when he bought full-page ads that ran in newspapers in New York demanding the death penalty for the young man accused of attacking a jogger in Central Park?

They were exonerated years later after spending years in prison, but the president has never admitted he was wrong and he's never apologized.

The irony was not lost on one of the exonerated. Raymond Santana is his name. He tweeted to the president, quote: You should have spoke like that back in 1989. You called for the death penalty. We were 14 and 15 years old.

Raymond Santana joins me, along with Yusuf Salaam, both members of the exonerated Central Park 5.

Raymond, were you surprised to hear the president suddenly calling for due process now when obviously he rushed to condemn you and all the others in 1989 to death?

RAYMOND SANTANA, CENTRAL PARK 5 EXONEREE: When I first saw the tweet, it -- I wasn't surprised because of all of the stuff he has done already leading up to this. It was just like, all right, here we go, another day that he does something that's dumb and is ignorant.

But it goes back to '89 and it goes back to us saying we told you so, you know? As far as, you know, the public, the general public. So, it wasn't really surprising. It was just one of those, like, here he goes again. And we told you, once again, this is who you are dealing with. This is the president.

COOPER: Yusuf, you said when it comes to President Trump, the due process, that there are two Americas. I'm wondering what do you mean by that.

YUSUF SALAAM, CENTRAL PARK 5 EXONEREE: You know, what we're seeing and this is the great thing about what is happening now in the shape and the way that the country is moving. What we're seeing is clearly that there are two separate Americas. One America for blacks and people of color, and another America for whites and people of affluence.

You know, I mentioned the fact that with what he is doing for the good old boy's club, you know, in his own affluence, he's saying, hey, look, let's not rush to judge. You know, the guy said that he is innocent of these crimes -- these particular charges. As a matter of fact, he strongly said it.

We strongly said the same thing back in 1989. We strongly said that we weren't the ones who did this crime and their rush to judgment at the behest, I want to say, of a person like Donald Trump, taking up those ads early on, the whole city, the jury pool was muddied.

[20:25:07] And so, they looked at what was going on and said these guys had to be guilty of something, look at them.


Raymond, I mean, at the beginning of the president's campaign, one of the other five accused, Kevin Richardson, said to "The Washington Post", this man is for some strange reason obsessed with sex and rape and black and Latino men. I'm wondering, do you think -- I mean, A, do you agree with that? And do you think that's the issue here?

SANTANA: Well, I mean, to point to Yusuf's point also, you know, with the good old boys' club is that this man has positioned himself where he is at the top and everybody else is inferior to him. I mean, at the end of the day, race does play a part in this, right, because here we were black and Latino boys 14 to 15-years old, and he didn't mind giving us the death penalty.

Now, you know, here you also have women who he is speaking out against, you know, with the sexual assault stuff. And I mean, at the end of the day, this is his character. It all plays a part of that. There have to be somebody on the top and there has to be somebody on the bottom. And he chooses to stay on the top and he wants us all of us to be on the bottom.

COOPER: You know, Yusuf, the president has never -- or Donald Trump when he was a citizen, has never apologized or said, yes, you know, it was a mistake to call for the death penalty for you because obviously, you were all exonerated both through confession and DNA evidence. It wasn't as if it was through some sort of, you know, legal trickery in court or anything. Even as recently as 2016, President Trump was still saying all five of you were guilty of the crime.

Do you want an apology?

SALAAM: You know, I think that we've given up hope that Donald Trump is going to be anything other than who Donald Trump is right now. It amazes that he still stays on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of everything really. It kind of like it's just this weirdness going on in the White House. I mean, we all hope that we are going to wake up from this nightmare.

And every day -- every single day, we wake up and we realize it's not a nightmare. We're actually living this thing out. So, very early on, I said, man, you know, it would be great if Donald Trump took out full page ads saying that he was apologetic, maybe even great to -- hey, we needed housing when we first came home. Hey, give us a house, give us an apartment to live in, you had all of these pieces of real estate, that would have been wonderful and excellent.

But at the same time, I realized that I can't count on an apology from a person who doesn't know what it is to apologize. You know --

COOPER: Raymond --

SALAAM: -- I'm through with that.

COOPER: Raymond, I mean, if an apology is not possible, would you at least like him to acknowledge that you were correctly exonerated?

SANTANA: I mean, at this point, Anderson, we're beyond that. We're talking about a man who had called for the death penalty. If he had it this way, we wouldn't be here right now. Our kids wouldn't have been born. We would just be whispers.

And so, at the end of the day, I think we're beyond that. I mean, the man had -- he had a time where he could have said I was wrong and I apologize or I just messed it up. But he has stood fast on his course in saying that we're still guilty. So, at the end of the day, we're beyond apology. It's more like, it's going to be a continued and ongoing battle between the Central Park 5 and Donald Trump.

SALAAM: You know, not only that, Anderson, I want people to really understand and go into the -- go into the really investigatory process of finding out what happens when you have a Central Park 5. What happens to the families that Central Park 5 comes from? Those people who were accused say we were children. The hopes and the dreams and the aspirations that we had, we are just trying to realize some of that --

COOPER: You are talking about the ripple effects of this on everyone.


COOPER: Not just on you five.


SALAAM: Yes, exactly. And so, when he said that -- when he sent the tweet the other day about, you know, peoples' lives are being ruined just from -- just from an accusation, I took personal offense to that. So, at this point, if Donald Trump came out and said, hey, you know, what guys, oversight, it slipped my mind, I apologize -- it has to be something so far more than that. Something -- I mean, that wouldn't be enough at this particular point. That wouldn't be enough.

COOPER: Yusuf Salaam, Raymond Santana, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

SALAAM: Thank you.

SANTANA: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, more on the question so for security clearances at the White House. A former aide Rob Porter worked under an interim security clearance, the same applies for up to 40 others in the administration right now. Who the White House blames for the delay in background checks when we continue.


[20:32:53] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As many as 40 White House administration officials still do not have full security clearances including the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner. And indeed Rob Porter who resigned last week as White House staff secretary. Well today Sarah Sanders said in fact well don't blame us.


SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: This is a process that doesn't operate within the White House. It's handled by our law enforcement and intelligence community. And we support that process. It's the same process that has been used for decades for other and previous administrations. And we are relying on that process at this point. I do think that it's up to that same law enforcement and intelligence agencies to determine if changes need to be made to their process.


COOPER: Keeping them honest that's not true. Justice correspondent Evan Perez joins me now with the facts. So, where did Sarah Sanders mislead us today, I mean how is the process really work?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, I mean that was truly astounding. The way it works is that the FBI does the background investigation on people who are applying for security clearances and that's what happened with the Rob Porter investigation. The White House chose to basically tell the FBI keep digging, keep investigating and they came back again and presented their findings to the White House. That is how the process works. The White House decides who gets a security clearance and that's happened here with the Rob Porter investigation the FBI found this information very quickly. And so we're doing that investigation, they reported that to the White House as they were doing it. And the White House chose to basically tell the FBI keep digging, keep investigating, and then they came back again and presented their findings to the -- to the White House. That is how the process works. The White House decides who gets the security clearance base on the investigation that the FBI does, they provide the raw information but it's really up to the President to decide who he wants on his team at the White House Anderson.

I mean the, you know, the President is frankly the ultimate classification authority, he is the ultimate authority on who gets security clearances. If he wants to have Rob Porter get a security clearance, he can do that. What's astounding today was simply that, you know, they were basically saying this is not us. You know, they were taking no ownership of what really is the function of the White House, the White House counsels office, the White House security office. These are the people who would decide based on what the FBI found whether or not Rob Porter or anybody else gets a security clearance. It's just not true the way she said it.

[20:35:05] The FBI addressed this last week by the way, they issued a statement on Thursday and I'll read part of it to you. Says the FBI, "does not grant deny or otherwise adjudicate security clearances for individuals on behalf of these agencies nor does it make any security clearance recommendations after the FBI has completed background information, it provides the information to the agency adjudicator authority who determines whether to grant or deny security clearance". That's plain simple the way the process works. This is a White House responsibility, Anderson.

COOPER: Amazing. Evan, thanks very much.

California Democrat Jackie Speier is a member of the House Intelligence Community, I spoke to her earlier.


COOPER: Congresswoman, for Sarah Sanders to suggest that this investigation is ongoing, I mean that just defies how these FBI investigations work. The FBI passed along what they discovered about Rob Porter and it's left in the White House hands. When you heard her claim it is still a ongoing process, I mean does that make sense to you?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No it makes no sense to me. When the FBI does a security clearance evaluation, it is completed and handed over to the agency and the individual either gets the security clearance or doesn't get the security clearance. They're tripping all over themselves because they had knowledge and chose not to act on it. And then because it came out in a news paper, they then had to scurry around and come up with some alibi.

COOPER: What do you think it says about this White House? A, that this happened initially, and kept this man on, but also now that they seem to target to covering it up.

SPEIER: It would suggest to me and I think to most Americans that this is a White House that doesn't believe the rules apply to them. They have another 30 or 40 persons in the White House right now who have not received security clearances and are operating on what is called the temporary security clearance. So they have access that some of the most highly classified information, are targets potentially for, you know, any number of blackmail and other circumstances.

COOPER: I mean, Jared Kushner being one of those people.

SPEIER: And I would say that has a lot to do with it. That's why they're not acting on the 30 or 40 other ones because Jared Kushner can't pass a security clearance and he's been operating on a temporary security clearance. I think what they're going to do is just have everyone continue to have access and have temporary security clearances. And at some point Congress is going to have to step in and say you are violating the law.

COOPER: I want to ask you about the tweet that the President send over the weekend, where he said, people 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 accuse, life and career are gone, is there no such thing any longer as do you process. I wonder what your reaction to that? I mean is their a difference between due process and believing someone who says they've been abuse?

SPEIER: You know, I was furious by that tweet, Anderson, and I think that virtually anyone men or women who sees the testimony and the photographs of the former wives and the former live-in girlfriend of Mr. Porter, there is a pattern of behavior here that is frightening and yet the President doesn't say one word, not one word about the lives that have been scarred by the actions of Mr. Porter. And is totally focused on the abuser. One of his ex-wives got a restraining order against him. So there is plenty of evidence.

COOPER: Regarding the Democratic response memo, what is the status of it now, can you say? SPEIER: So the status of the memo is that the FBI and the Department of Justice now are going to meet with the minority members of the committee and particularly Adam Schiff is the ranking member. And the chairman what if any has to be redacted. Ironically, the President issued the memo and redacted nothing and yet there were sources and methods that were actually made public.

COOPER: So you're saying in the Republican memo, there actually were sources and methods, so the White House was paying attention -- they say they're paying attention to, you know, the FBI when it comes to Democratic memo. You're saying they didn't pay attention the FBI on the Republican one.

SPEIER: On the Republican one, you know, the FBI and the Department of Justice both said they had grave concerns that this was reckless action to make this memo public and release what is and in fact classified information. The President before even reading it said that he was going to release it.

[20:40:15] So -- I mean this has been a political process from the very beginning. The President have been tweets I'm vindicated because he thought this was going to be his silver bullet. That somehow the investigation would come crumbling down because of this, you know, memo that everyone basically said after every (INAUDIBLE) like, there is no there, there.

COOPER: Congresswoman Speier, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SPEIER: Thank you.


COOPER: Just ahead, what some female supporters the President Trump, think about his comments defending Porter, Randi Kaye finds out.

And as Republicans reveal their immigration plan. Will the President get his wall in exchange for deal in DACA? I'll talk to Univision's Jorge Ramos about that.


COOPER: As the Senate gears up for even more debate on immigration whether hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers will be allowed to stay in the United States. President Trump today said it was all up to the Democrats to ensure the passage of any agreement.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I hope the Democrats are not going to use it just as a campaign. You know, they've been talking about DACA for many years. And they haven't produce. We started about talking DACA and I think we'll produce. But if the Democrats want to make a deal, it's really up to them.

[20:45:00] I can tell you speaking for the Republican Party, we would love to do DACA. We would love to get it done, we want border security. And the other elements that you know about chain migration you know about, the visa lottery you know, about. But we think this a good chance of getting DACA done if the Democrats are serious and they actually want to do it.


COOPER: Joining me tonight is for his state on this Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.

Jorge, you hear the President, how much does a DACA deal fall on the shoulders of the Democrats right now?

JORGE RAMOS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: Well I think it keeps, is not going to be easy for them of course to accept everything that President Trump and the Republican want. They're not proposing immigration reform, they are proposing immigration revenge, because they don't only want to have the DACA students, but also they want a wall, they want more border security, they want to end the so-called chain migration which is really family reunification and then the visa lottery. I don't see the impossible that went, you know, for the Dreamers what they're asking them is the impossible, because Republicans are saying, you know, we want to legalize you.

However, we want to deport your father, your mother, your siblings. That simply an impossible choice for them.

COOPER: But -- I mean it is don't you think it is up to the Democrats to make some concessions here since they are in-control or either Chamber of Congress, I mean Republicans do hold the cards?

RAMOS: Well, the fact is that Republicans with this negotiation, they want the change the essence I think of the United States. I mean do they really want to make America white again is that the deal? What I seen from the Democratic side understanding from and from talking with the Dreamers, is that they're willing to negotiate DACA for a few miles of wall, maybe 300, 350 miles of wall. That's as much as they can go. But to tell them that from now on, everything is going to change, that chain migration has to stop. In other words that family reunification is no longer going to be the immigration principle that is going to guide us into this tolerance, diverse, multi-cultural, and multi-racial country. I don't see it so -- the way I see this DACA for just a few miles of wall but nothing else.

COOPER: To those in the Republican Party who say who are talking about chain migration and see it as an issue and talk about merit based migration, what is in your opinion wrong with merit based migration. In terms of somebody's professional capability, somebody's educational background.

RAMOS: Right, I think family reunification has merits too. I think it has word beautifully since 1965, I mean look 40% of all of the founders of Fortune 500 companies are immigrants or sons of immigrants. So in other words, this is a system that works and when they talked about chain migration, what they are really saying is, you know, we want to have a white country again. We want to go back to 1965 when almost 80%, 90% of the people were non-Hispanics white. That's no longer the idea of this country. I think -- I think we had agreed after 1965, that we want a diverse multi-cultural (INAUDIBLE) country. And the way they want to do this I think they want to reverse this incredible demographic trend that by 2040 is going to make America a minority majority country.

COOPER: If the President does get a wall build or at least part of the wall, does get a deal on DACA, that would be a big win for him, don't you think politically?

RAMOS: Probably. But it's again a useless wall. First, Mexico is not going to pay for that, then he's not stop immigrants and --


COOPER: Do you think that would matter to the President base at this point, whether or not Mexico pays for it?

RAMOS: I don't know. He keeps on insisting on that. But I agree, that's not really important. But if he wants the wall, if he wants -- look, the border between Mexico and the United States is almost 2,000 miles. There only physical barriers in 700 miles. If President Trump wants another 300 and 350 and with that, we can get a Dream Act. I think most people would accept that. But to go beyond that is going to be impossible. Again, what we are asking the Dreamers, is to legalize them and then to deport their parents and Democrats believe me, they don't want to have 100 kids the following morning in their office telling them that they betrayed them. So as much as they want a deal here, it would be a wall for DACA but nothing else.

COOPER: So, to immigrants being protected by DACA right now, how much faith do you think they should have that something is going to get resolved. That their protections will be extended by -- by the March 5th deadline?

RAMOS: Well and then probably nothing will be extended after March the 5th and that's the risk. But there's also plan b, and plan b is DACA will probably real immigration reform not this immigration revenge. After 2020, I mean, unfortunately that might be plan b.

[20:50:00] But I don't think the Dreamers will take anything that will affect their parents. Look, when somebody is trying to hurt your parents, and your brothers and your sisters, you'll always remember. So I don't see any way in which the Dreamers can accept anything that is going to hurt their own family. I don't think they are going to take it.

COOPER: Jorge Ramos, thanks very much.

RAMOS: Thank you Anderson.

COOPER: Up next President Trump has sympathy for a former aide accused of verbally and physically attacking his ex-wives and how women who voted for him see the scandal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Back to our top story, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisting that President Trump takes domestic violence very seriously. The President has not said those words himself. Instead he has tweeted suspicion over the "Me Too" movement and defended Rob Porter, the former aide accused of verbally and physically assaulting his two ex-wives. Porter of course has denied the accusations against him. The question tonight, will the women who supported the President at the polls now walk away or will this have any impact at all? Here's what our Randi Kaye found out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the President walked on water, the press would say he doesn't know how to swim. He's become a little bit, I guess, over criticized.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These Republican women from Miami all support President Trump. And to say strongly would be an understatement. But what about this weekend's tweet about how people's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation? It was just right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said, some are guilty, and some are not. And not every accuser is telling the truth. And I think that's important to know.

KAYE (voice-over): In his tweet, the President didn't mention Rob Porter by name, but he also failed to mention porter's two ex-wives, who claim they were physically abused by the now former White House aide.

(on-camera): Some might look at this tweet and say the President is dismissing Rob Porter's ex-wives.

MANLI CANCIO, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think that he's speaking generally. I think he's speaking from his own position as someone that has been accused, wrongfully accused. So I give him the benefit of the doubt.

KAYE (on-camera): Do you think the President's compassion may have been misguided.

[20:55:09] CLAUDIA MIRO, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I don't think that it means that he doesn't have compassion for women. I think that if you leave something out of a sentence, or you leave someone out, it doesn't mean that you're not thinking about them.

IRINA VILARINO, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think that we're victimizing the President, if you will, by the sense that every single word, every single tweet that he puts out is being scrutinized to the last molecule. I think what he voiced is valid. Should we take the victims into consideration? Absolutely. But should lives be condemned without due process? Absolutely not.

KAYE (on-camera): So despite this tweet, you all do believe that he is a great supporter of women --



KAYE (on-camera): -- and stands up for women's issues?


KAYE (on-camera): As women, do you expect your President to be a voice for women?

LOURDES CASTILLO DE LA PENA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: He's not my moral leader. He's not my marital counsel. He is our President, and he's doing a great job as President.

KAYE (on-camera): When you look at this picture, though, what do you all feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a terrible situation.



KAYE (on-camera): Should he have said from the start, in a tweet or elsewhere, that there is no place for domestic violence in our culture, in our society?

MIRO: I think that what he said was what he was feeling at the moment, and that was what came -- you know, and that was enough.

KAYE (voice-over): If these women could get an audience with the President about publicly addressing matters of sexual abuse or assault, most say they'd tell him not to change a thing, though one had this piece of advice.

VILARINO: Maybe he should tweet, domestic violence is never tolerated. Me too. Maybe he should do that.

KAYE (on-camera): Are you joking, or are you serious?

VILARINO: Well, no. In part I'm joking. In part, I'm serious. But listen, we're never going to make everybody 100% happy.


VILARINO: Unfortunately that's just the truth of the matter.


KAYE: And Anderson, only one of the women that we spoke with today actually thought the President perhaps should have shown a little more consideration towards Rob Porter's two ex-wives, but they all agree that this reason that the President talked only and tweeted only about Rob Porter is because he knows Rob Porter. Porter worked for him. They said he doesn't know these two ex-wives, so why would he be tweeting about them? The women also said that it's not the President's place to play judge and jury in an investigation and in a situation like this.

And, Anderson, i also asked these women about the fact that the President has supported other men who have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault such as Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, and also Roy Moore of the Alabama Senate race. And they said to me the only reason they believe the President supported Roy Moore was for the good of the party, so he could hold on to that Republican Senate seat despite these disgusting allegations against him. They said that was only for the good of the party, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Randi Kaye, thanks very much.

Up next, the conflicting White House stances on accused domestic abuser Rob Porter and the questions about a possible cover-up.