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White House Insists Trump Supports Abuse Victims, Despite His Personal Response; Trump Budget to Add $7 Trillion to Deficit Over Next Decade. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired February 13, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly supports the victims of domestic violation.
[05:58:57] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said very strongly that he's innocent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president doesn't say one word about the lives that have been scarred.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just not believable. When the president wants to get a message out, he does it.
SANDERS: We learned of the extent of the situation last Tuesday evening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If somebody did know the full extent, how did the president not want to get rid of him?
TRUMP: We're going to have the strongest military we've ever had by far.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump outlining a budget that would balloon the federal deficit, despite steep cuts to social programs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the motivations was to stop the Obama deficit string, and now the Republicans are doing just as bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody says Congress is spending money like a drunk sailor, and that's not true. A drunk sailor stops when he runs out of money.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome your viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, February 13, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here is our starting line.
The White House insists President Trump supports victims of domestic violation, except that's the opposite of every public statement and tweet from the president, expressing sympathy only for the accused. One week into this scandal around one of the president's top aides,
the White House still refuses to give any details about when top officials learned about the abuse allegations against Rob Porter. Nor will they say if the president believes his ex-wives.
Instead, the White House wants you to believe that they only learned about the extent of the Porter scandal last week, but CNN has reporting that the White House's top lawyer, Don McGahn, knew about the allegations a year ago. Porter's first ex-wife, whose black eye photo exposed the harsh reality of Porter's alleged abuse, is now slamming the White House in a new op-ed. We will read that for you.
CUOMO: All right. And of course, there's so much more going on down in Washington. President Trump's $4.4 trillion budget is getting a lot of scrutiny from his own party. "Deficit reduction be damned" seems to be the motto for Trump, and conservatives are blasting the spending binge, which is expected to add trillions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade.
The president is already up and tweeting this morning, immigration on his mind. He says this is the last chance to fix DACA. That after March 5, it is over. The question is, will brinksmanship work? Remember, that deadline is an artificial one, imposed by Trump not by law.
The Senate has cleared the way to begin open debate on immigration. Republican leaders could force Democrats to show their hand and early by limiting the debate to only a week. The question will be can the Republicans get the 60 votes to advance any legislation to the House and protect DREAMers? Guess what? We've got it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House -- Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. So we are one week into this Rob Porter scandal that has roiled the White House, and top officials still won't say, or maybe they're unwilling to say, what they knew and when.
SANDERS: The president and the entire administration take domestic violation very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly.
PHILLIP (voice-over): Press secretary Sarah Sanders defending President Trump after she expressed sympathy for accused domestic abuser Rob Porter but said nothing about his alleged victims.
SANDERS: The president supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process.
PHILLIP: Sanders reading a statement that she says was dictated to her by the president. But that's not what Mr. Trump has publicly said.
TRUMP: Obviously, tough time for him. 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.
We absolutely wish him well.
PHILLIP: Sanders also addressing this tweet from the president a day later, calling for due process for the accused.
SANDERS: 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.
PHILLIP: The conflicting remarks leaving several party officials who spoke to CNN confused about Mr. Trump's stance. A former campaign official telling CNN, "I don't understand why the White House is hedging on condemning domestic abuse."
A member of the Central Park Five, who was wrongly convicted of raping and beating a jogger in 1989, accusing the president of hypocrisy for demanding due process for alleged abusers but calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five defendants.
YUSUF SALAAM, CENTRAL PARK FIVE EXONEREE: What we're seeing is clearly that there are two separate Americas. One another for blacks and people of color, and another America for whites and people of affluence.
PHILLIP: Rob Porter's ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, criticizing Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders' response to the allegations, writing in an op-ed, "While I cannot say I'm surprised, I expected a woman to do better." Holderness specifically citing Conaway's statement that she is not concerned about White House communications director Hope Hicks, who was in a relationship with Porter.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I'm sorry for any suffering this woman has endured, but in the case of Hope, I rarely met somebody so strong, with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.
PHILLIP: Holderness writing, "Her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong."
This, as the White House continues to insist that senior officials only learned about the, quote, "extent of the allegations" last Tuesday. CNN has reported that White House counsel Don McGahn knew a year ago that Porter's ex-wives could present damaging information on him to the FBI. And chief of staff John Kelly learned about the allegations last November as Porter struggled to get approval for a full security clearance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you have a vetting problem?
PHILLIPS: Sanders blaming the FBI for the backlog of dozens of White House staffers continuing to work without permanent clearances.
(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIP: Well, we'll be looking at President Trump's Twitter feed to see if he uses it to say what he believes about abuse victims with his own words. He's already been tweeting about infrastructure and about DACA this morning. He also has a couple of meetings on his agenda, one with sheriffs and another one to mark African-American History Month, Alisyn and Chris.
CAMEROTA: OK, Abby. Thank you very much for all of that.
[06:05:13] Let's bring in CNN political analysts Alex Burns and associate editor for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard.
Let's just start with this very messy message that's coming out of the White House about Rob Porter and the ex-wives' allegations. So yesterday, Sarah Sanders, as you heard, said that the president supports women and victims of abuse.
A.B., how would we ever know that? What is the evidence of that?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Because she said it over and over and over again.
CAMEROTA: Though the president has not.
STODDARD: And he has not said it. She wanted us to know that it was, quote, "dictated" from him. We know he's down the hall and obviously loves to talk to the press when he wants to.
But also, it's worth pointing out to everyone, Friday seems like a long time ago, but he was not caught on the tarmac. They brought the cameras in and the reporters in, knowing this would be a question; and he defended Rob Porter and said it was sad and that he was going to have a great career.
CAMEROTA: And didn't mention them.
STODDARD: He did not mention them.
CUOMO: Well, he did by implication of saying, you know, a lot of this stuff is false. A lot of this stuff is false, and a lot of people's lives are ruined.
STODDARD: The tweet on Saturday, which we discussed yesterday, was a disaster. And that's why Kellyanne rushed to the cameras on Sunday to say that women have done well in this economy and on and on, because they knew that that "mere allegation ruins lives" tweet on Saturday was such a mistake.
CUOMO: Right. Especially because of the context, Alex. You know, we've been covering the "#MeToo" stuff very much. Inappropriate behavior at work matters has to change. We haven't seen the systemic change we need to.
Domestic abuse is an entire different echelon of concern in this society. It's a scourge. People die because of this. He knows this. He ignored it on purpose. So it's really not an open question. You know, does he support, does he not support. The answer has to be
no. Because he tweeted twice this morning. He could come out and clear it up whenever he wanted to. One simple statement: "Victims of domestic abuse, not on my watch." Make some grandiose statement about how it will never be again, everybody cherishes women. He hasn't done it.
What other explanation can there be other than he does not want to? It is bad for him in some part of his mind?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I don't know that there is any explanation. And it does sort of feed the further questions that the White House has tried really, really hard not to answer about how much the president knew, how much the people around him knew and how much did they choose to ignore about Rob Porter?
That if the president were to come out and make a big statement to the effect of "We have absolutely no tolerance for this kind of thing, it's unacceptable in society in any form," then you really, really have to answer the question, well, how long did folks at the White House even have an inkling of this going on.
CUOMO: We know most of the answers now. We know even the due process thing, that's a red herring, because due process, of course, matters in the criminal justice system. But this is a man who has absolutely no hesitance about putting out a statement politically, which is certainly within his right and you could say within his role as a leader. You don't have to wait for the system here, especially with the facts you have.
BURNS: Sure, but Chris, my point here is that it appears that the system turned up this information about Rob Porter well before he was terminated.
BURNS: By the way, well before he resigned from the White House. So how does the president go out and claim zero tolerance if that's your actual record?
CAMEROTA: I mean, Kellyanne Conaway over the weekend talked about whether or not she worried about Hope Hicks. Right? So from the reporting that we have, Hope Hicks is still involved with Rob Porter. Who knows? I mean, obviously, you never know what goes on behind closed doors, but that's the reporting. And so she was asked if she -- the ex-wives have expressed fear for Hope Hicks, because he's -- they don't believe a changed man. And how would he be if you haven't had counselling.
CUOMO: His last girlfriend, who works in the government also, reached out to Don McGahn and said, "You should be careful about Hope Hicks."
CAMEROTA: So all of them are sounding this siren. And Kellyanne said something to the effect of, "Well, Hope Hicks is, you know, a strong woman," implying, at least as the first wife heard it, that if you're strong... CUOMO: It wouldn't happen.
CAMEROTA: ... it would never happen to you. So here's just a little portion. She wrote an op-ed, she was so motivated by this to "The Washington Post": "I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realize the toll his behavior was taking on me."
Obviously, that's -- victims often feel that way, that they're stripped of their dignity during this.
STODDARD: Kellyanne Conaway could sell me swampland. She is one of the most articulate, most persuasive, no matter what she's talking about, true or false. And I remember listening to her on Sunday -- tell that to Jake -- and thinking that is really -- what it took also for that woman to write that, to answer back and talk about her experience was unbelievable.
This is just not going away, and they haven't found a way to contain it. It's not only such a powerful issue. We've talked about the silence and the acquiescence of congressional Republicans who are running for reelection this fall, not understanding what -- how loud this speaks about them as well as the White House.
But you can really tell. Mike Shields and Jason Miller were on "ANDERSON COOPER" last night, admitting this has been completely mishandled.
[06:10:10] And Sarah Huckabee Sanders not only didn't know how to handle this balance between what the president meant on due process and his seriousness, you know, and his empathy for domestic violence victims, but they don't actually have the timeline figured out. She said 40 minutes, or Kelly said 40 minutes. Then she said 24 hours.
And this is just -- I just see no end in sight, particularly because of something like that editorial that she wrote last night combined with what Chris is saying, which is that the president is adamantly refusing to touch it.
CUOMO: And it's just too big a deal. We have a documentary coming out in a little bit about this. The way that women shake when they talk about this years later. The fear they have that the system doesn't respect this.
You know, now you have the president of the United States literally being the physical form of that system and never saying, "Well, yes." At least Kellyanne said, "I have no reason not to believe these women." You have one woman with a black eye, another one who got an order of protection to get out. You've got...
CAMEROTA: That's called due process, by the way. Getting an order of protection is the due process.
CUOMO: And this is a man -- look, today we have one of the Central Park Five on. This is a man who has every bit of comfort jumping to a conclusion when it suits him. In similar situations -- although frankly, we've never seen him botch something as egregious as this, when he's going after allegations from women to say it was inappropriate conduct -- somebody touched me and I didn't want it -- he jumps right now out there to defend people. But not here. He still has not, to this moment, said, "By the way, I think women who are victims of domestic abuse, the penalties should be harder." He hasn't said it.
BURNS: No, he hasn't.
CUOMO: And he won't would be my guess. Now he can't.
BURNS: It would be surprising if he did, especially because the pattern with him also is that not only does he not want to say things like that to begin with. But once people start to demand that he say something, he sort of clams up. And decides, "No, no, no. You can't pressure me to say anything I don't want to say."
I do think it's striking now the divergence between the public message that the White House as an institution seems to be putting out on this and what the president himself will say. And it's just -- it's just the latest illustration of the reality that, at the end of the day, there's only one person who speaks for Donald Trump. And if his surrogates and aides are out there saying that he believes X, Y and Z, if it doesn't actually come out of his mouth, how much does it really count for?
CAMEROTA: It is also just the latest illustration, I think, of how the president is behind the times on this. Things have changed since the president was elected. Things have changed. The world has shifted. I mean, the Harvey Weinstein thing happened after that. The "#MeToo" moment, all of this national conversation.
And the idea that he's sticking to his original talking points, which are so off-kilter sounding now of, "Well, there's good people on both sides, you know?" That thing that he does. There are very fine people on the other side that we have to protect. That's the wrong message right now.
CUOMO: One in four women experience some kind of domestic violation. One in seven men. I just think that this is a different order of magnitude of what's happening in the society. And he also is playing on the exact fear.
Again, I'm just fresh into this stuff because of how -- how steeped we are in it right now for this documentary. If you punch somebody in the face, you probably go to jail. If you punch a spouse in the face, you probably do not go to jail as long. There are states that don't even have these types of laws. He is playing on every point of weakness in terms of what these women need to help them and some men, as well. It's not a male problem. Some men are affected.
Trump supporters are pushing this point: Why aren't you talking about the men? And they're bringing up all these other B.S. concerns to help defend him. I think that is the real fruit of the poisonous tree in terms of his not coming out strong on the right issue. He now encourages others to do the same. STODDARD: What's so outrageous is Axios reported that behind closed doors he says he's a sick puppy.
CUOMO: How many times have we heard that?
STODDARD: That men who beat their wives cannot be rehabilitated. And of course, when -- when Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist, was in the White House who was once accused of roughing up his wife in some way -- and I don't have the exact details -- he nicknamed him Bam-Bam, which I guess was funny at the time.
So whatever they're doing to leak internal conversations to show that he's disgusted and what Alex says the divergence between that and total silence and then these robotic statements from -- from women in the White House saying they're speaking for the president. It's just not working.
CAMEROTA: And it just makes no sense.
A.B., Alex, thank you.
CUOMO: All right. So the White House is proposing a budget. It adds $7 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. That is not typical GOP think. What happened to fiscal responsibility? We'll tell you next.
[06:18:33] CUOMO: All right. Conservatives not happy at the president of their party. Why? $4.4 trillion budget proposal, tons of spending, ballooning the deficit in a way that we haven't seen in a long time. Seven trillion is expected to be added over the next decade. Nearly a trillion to the deficit in the next year. An increase of 89 percent from last year's projections. No matter what numbers you throw out, they ain't pleasant.
Let's bring back Alex Burns and A.B. Stoddard. So A.B., traditionally, the out party becomes deficit-sensitive, right? The GOP certainly owned that. The Democrats are chirping about it now. When you have the purse strings, you tend to spend more.
What is the theory of the case from the White House about why the spending and the deficits are worth it?
STODDARD: Well, in fairness to President Trump, he did, of course, in a Trumpian fashion some point in the campaign, say he could balance the budget in a couple of years.
But that was -- you know, that was an entire campaign built on the fact that he was going to offer a deeper safety net, never touch entitlement spending, which is the driver of our debt. And he really broke with the Republican Party on that quite emphatically. He never promised them what is sort of, you know, the doctrinaire Republican government shrinking and budget cutting policies whatsoever. He has toned down the talk about it. They've gotten through a failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare and do tax reform, but he has not committed in any way to the Freedom Caucus mission to -- of fiscal rectitude.
[06:20:15] So this break in the party is really interesting because you see people trying to blame -- you know, Congressman Jim Jordan is trying to blame it on Paul Ryan. All of the Freedom Caucus people, Mark Meadows, super tight with Trump. So they're angry and they're outraged, but is it Trump's fault? Or are they going to blame it on congressional leadership? And that will have serious consequences for this fall's election.
CAMEROTA: So in terms of the broad brushstrokes of this plan, it would add a lot to the military defense spending, and it would cut social programs like Food Stamps, like federal housing assistance, and so what's the thinking?
CUOMO: Student loans.
CAMEROTA: Sure. So what happens in this case? If you need Food Stamps, then what?
BURNS: Well, realistically what happens here is that the White House puts out this document. They talk about it for a week, and then it goes absolutely nowhere, right now? This is now a ritual. We've seen it under Democratic presidents. We've seen it under Republican presidents. The White House puts out its draft spending plan, and Congress says, "All right, thanks. We'll take it from here." Right?
And each one of the programs that they proposed cutting has a powerful constituency on the Hill, including really, sort of esoteric sounding programs, Appalachian Regional Authority, right?
CAMEROTA: Wow, impressive, Alex.
BURNS: And these sorts -- I mean, well, last year the president proposed eliminating all these regional authorities, and then you had, you know, governors from red states. You had Mitch McConnell coming out and saying, "Absolutely not. That is helpful to us." Right?
So in reality, most social programs have a constituency in both parties. And they don't want to hurt their own voters. And that's why the president was the essential political genius of President Trump in the Republican primaries is recognizing that Republican primary voters don't really want to cut spending for themselves any more than any other voters, want to cut spending for themselves.
And it is, in a lot of ways, the role that President Trump has played in essentially making the Republican Party more honest about what it is and what its voters stand for. That there was this, you know, sort of pose for a long time that this was a party of fiscal responsibility when, in reality, it's an anti-tax party. Right? And those are two very, very different things.
CUOMO: Well, now as a result, though, you wound up having a one-two punch here. You had resistance to taxes. So they lower the taxes. That's going to create less revenue for the government. That's going to create more borrowing. That's going to become more debt and bigger deficits. On top of that, now they have the spending. So it's a one- two punch, and they're trying to get the conservatives to swallow it. Will they?
So far, the answer has been yes. They swallowed the blowing through the spending caps of sequestration that the GOP conservative loves back in 2011 and 2013, when it was Obama. And the tax cuts that ballooned the deficit. They got the conservatives to swallow that, as well.
STODDARD: Well, on the tax cuts people like Rand Paul said, "I vote for tax cuts and then I vote for spending cuts right after." And because he didn't get them, he didn't support the spending bill, and a lot of the Freedom Caucus members didn't, as well. Well, and that's why they're threatening the speakership of Paul Ryan over this issue. And Mark Levin in radio talk show world is, you know, disgusted and everyone is horrified by the spending bill that passed last week.
But again, President Trump got it through. He's going to claim it as a victory, because he wanted to increase military spending.
This is where the agenda gets stalled. I posit that, without any solution on immigration, they can't get to anything else on the agenda anyway, and they're in quicksand.
But there's no infrastructure. You can get any -- unless you're willing to actually not have a majority of the majority on the House floor and do bills with Democrats, which thus far the leadership has refused to do, you're not going to get criminal justice reform. You're not going to get infrastructure. You're not going to get anything. And that's something they haven't been willing to do.
They want the Freedom Caucus on board. They want to do bills with the majority of the majority. You're not going to get infrastructure and you're not going to spend money again the government doesn't have. So what is the rest of the agenda for 2018? Cultural wars that Donald Trump likes to stoke, thinking it's going to galvanize his base to turn out for Republicans, as well. Congressional Republicans know that's probably not true.
CAMEROTA: Well, this morning he's talking about immigration. That's what's on his mind. Here's what he's just tweeted in the past hour. "Negotiations on DACA have begun. Republicans want to make a deal and Democrats say they want to make a deal. Wouldn't it be great if we could finally, after so many years, solve the DACA puzzle. This will be our last chance. There will never be another opportunity!" Exclamation point. "March 5 the deadline."
CUOMO: Imagine if he doesn't extend that deadline, if they don't get a deal.
CAMEROTA: Well, that sounds like what he's saying. He's not going to extend it.
CUOMO: It's all on him.
BURNS: We'll see. A court has already issued an injunction sort of blocking the enforcement of that deadline for now. That's not indefinite, but this pretense that March 5 is a hard deadline, that's not currently true. It could become true again, but it's not currently true.
It is -- to me the whole DACA saga is such, from a political standpoint, is such a tale of political mismanagement by the White House. That if, a year ago, the president had said, "You give me $25 billion for the wall, and you can have your DACA program," and Democrats would have voted for it and it would have seen as a master stroke from a guy whose signature promise was laughed at and laughed at, and now he has it.
[06:25:12] CAMEROTA: Really, I'm just curious, though. I just want to challenge that. You think that -- that a year ago Democrats had the appetite to give 25 billion for a wall that they hated?
BURNS: Maybe six months ago. No, Democrats certainly don't want to fund the wall. But at this point they're dying to fund the wall.
CUOMO: They folded pretty fast. They folded really fast. And this was a big political win for the president they're willing to get him, because they're saying the DREAMers are their priority.
But now they keep adding more and more things. These four pillars. You know, three of them are not the DREAMers, and all three of them are really offensive to Democrats.
BURNS: And to a bunch of Republicans, too. That it's not -- this proposal can't get -- it's very unlikely this proposal can get even 50 votes in the Senate, let alone the 60 it would need to pass.
CAMEROTA: All right. A.B. Stoddard, Alex Burns, thank you both very much for all of that context.
So now to this, a record-shattering day at the Winter Games. American Chloe Kim now the youngest female snowboarder to ever win Olympic gold. Oh my gosh, look at her. A live report from the games and all the excitement next.