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FBI Blamed for Security Clearances; American Olympian Injured; Olympic Update; White House Porter Scandal; Party of Fiscal Responsibility; Dreamer Deal Before Deadline. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired February 13, 2018 - 08:30   ET



[08:33:28] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Why are high-level aides allowed to work with classified information without permanent security clearance?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Once again, that's a question that the FBI and other intelligence communities, they make that determination. That's not something that's decided by the White House. It's the same way that it has been --


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's not on us. It's on the White House. And, by the way, with a little nudge and wink to, you know what, we have some problems there, too. That's Sarah Sanders saying exactly that explicitly and implicitly.

But what is the truth of how security clearances work, what the process is and whose call it is ultimately? Because the reality is, you've got between 30 and 40 White House officials and political appointees still operating without full security clearance.

We've got somebody who knows the answers. Isn't that nice? CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell.

Good to see you, sir.


CUOMO: All right, so this -- let's do this a little sarcastically. It's not the White House's problem, it's on you guys. You're slow, you're inefficient and that's why this backlog is going on with people like Jared Kushner and Rob Porter. Their hands get thrown up because, look, it's all about the FBI, man. It's your process. You're not getting it done. That's why these guys don't have full security clearance. True?

CAMPBELL: So, let's break it down. First the slow and then we'll get to the inefficient. So, in the run-up to an administration, the FBI will surge resources

to the team that does these background investigations. So it's not like they're just sitting around, you know, waiting for -- to finish one until they get to the next. So the slow, I don't buy. The inefficient is the same way. It's, you know, they pour resources into this process.

[08:35:03] And it's important to remember, at the end of the day, it's not up to the FBI to grant a security clearance. And I just want to say that, you know, for the good of the viewers here, and so they understand, the FBI is the investigative arm. They conduct the background investigation. They hand it over to the White House, or whichever the client agency mat happen to be. And that agency makes the final determination on whether someone is suitable for access to classified information.

CUOMO: All right, so, at the end of the day, it is up to the executive, that means the White House, to decide if any of their employees or appointees get security clearance. And they do it with the guidance of the FBI, but it's not on the FBI, it's on them. True?

CAMPBELL: Correct. The president can hire whomever he wants and he can grant classified -- access to classified information to whomever he wants. The FBI simply looks into someone's past and provides that information to say, look, this is what we found. This is, you know, for -- up to you to decide whether or not to grant that access.

CUOMO: So, one, that's a convenient end run around an existing federal law where you can't give people classified information if they don't have the proper clearance. The executive gets around that because they can say who gets clearance.

CAMPBELL: They do. And that's the power of the president. And I don't think anyone begrudges him that.

CUOMO: Right.

CAMPBELL: I just think that these attacks on the FBI to say, well, you know, for some reason it's in their -- the ball's in their court and they, you know, they messed ups here, I think that that's unfair.

CUOMO: Right. That's called political convenience is what that's called.

CAMPBELL: Yes. And if I could add also, I mean, you know, I -- I left the FBI, a career that I loved, so that I could speak out against these unfair attacks on the bureau. And this is just another example of that.

You know, what's more troubling than the accusation that somehow the FBI is at fault here is the -- is the deafening silence from those who know the FBI. I mean where is the Department of Justice? Where is the attorney general? For that matter, you know, where are some of our former employees who kind of like to stew and, you know, write op-eds and, you know, stew in places like LinkedIn and trash the FBI leadership. But when the bureau is being attacked, the silence is deafening.

CUOMO: Well, it's a tough environment right now also. But, look, you're saying your piece. Other people will as well. And we'll go on the facts as we get them.

So what is your take on how this works with Jared Kushner not having final clearance from the FBI in terms of their investigation, someone like Rob Porter not having it? Why would it be taking so long? My suspicion is, they could prioritize, the White House, if they're in control and say, Josh, do Jared Kushner. I don't want some -- you know, some random assessment process. Do him now. I want him done. I want Porter done. They're very important to me. Couldn't they have said that?

CAMPBELL: They could have said that. And, you know, as I said before, it's either one or two things. I mean it's not unusual for an FBI background investigation to take up to a year. And we're, you know, basically at that year point. But the longer you get past a year, it becomes, you know, potentially more troubling because it could be one or two things. It's either the FBI has found something that they're really concerned about, that they're trying to mitigate, or you have someone whose history is so complex, financial dealings, travel, that they simply have to pour through that. So it's not unusual that it would take a long time. But the longer we get away from Inauguration Day, the more potentially troubling it is.

CUOMO: All right, so we let facts and the absence thereof fuel fairness. So let's put Kushner to the side because he has to qualify as somebody who has a sophisticated background. Something would be unusual even at the White House level in terms of all the transactions and all the dealings. So until we know more, put him to the side.

Porter, we know from "The New York Times" and from other sourcing that the FBI said, this guy is not likely to get permanent clearance from us. And that it was communicated to McGahn and maybe others at the White House that there were issues involving domestic violence with this man. If that got there, isn't that enough for them to have acted on Rob Porter?

CAMPBELL: I think it would be. And just to clarify, I mean, again, it's not the bureau that would grant the security clearance. So I am --

CUOMO: Right.

CAMPBELL: I don't want to imagine that the FBI would have said, look, we're not going to grant him clearance. That's not their process. They may have said, it's -- it would be very difficult for someone, you know, with this background to, you know, to -- for us to, you know, deem him suitable, maybe an informal recommendation. But -- so that's the first part.


CAMPBELL: The second part is, again, there's an interim security clearance process where it -- which allows people to start working on day one and has been reported through various networks that information was provided by the FBI, you know, to the White House indicating, hey, we found these issues. But, again, it's not a legal issue. It is more of an administrative issue.

CUOMO: Right.

CAMPBELL: I mean he's someone who we want to be working around. This is someone who is suitable for access to the nation's most classified information.

CUOMO: One more quick thing, because I've got to go. Is this all done at once or is it done often piecemeal by the FBI? They learn something, they pass it over. They learn something, they pass it over. Or is there a special paper where it all comes at once?

CAMPBELL: Well, that's a good question. And also, you know, I (INAUDIBLE) when I watched the briefing with the word "extent." You know, we didn't learn the extent of this information, which, you know, again is a very interesting way of saying, we didn't have the full picture. But as has been reported, the FBI, you know, whenever they find something that may be potentially troubling, they pass that information over.


CAMPBELL: It is a back and forth. And they, you know, because, again, at the end of the day, the FBI wants people who are trustworthy, who are suitable in those positions. So they're not going to sit on something like this and wait, you know, to have a piece of paper to send over.

CUOMO: There is no final paper. It can be done piecemeal. Important facts. Thank you very much, Josh Campbell.

[08:40:02] CAMPBELL: You got it, Chris, thanks.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, Chris, there was this scary moment involving an American athlete at the Olympics today. We'll bring you an update of what went wrong on the luge course. That's next.


CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news for you right now. There was a scary moment for Team USA at the winter games. Olympian Emily Sweeney was injured in a very frightening crash on her final run in singles luge.

Coy Wire has all the breaking details for us live from South Korea.

Do we know how she is, Coy?


The good news is that she is in the hospital. The doctors said no broken bones. She did walk off the ice on her own. But you can imagine these athletes with nothing more than a helmet for protection shooting down the ice track at around 80 miles per hour. Erica Sweeney is the rider's name. We will keep you up to date on her progress.

The big news here and around the world, 17-year-old, the California kid, Chloe Kim, the snowboarding sensation, making history here in Pyeongchang.


WIRE (voice over): Seventeen-year-old first time Olympian Chloe Kim becoming the youngest woman ever to win gold on snow at the Winter Olympics. The crowd favorite, crushing her competition with back-to- back 1080s in her final run, garnering a near perfect score. Kim, now the third U.S. Olympian to win gold in freestyle snowboarding events at these games.

[08:45:20] CHLOE KIM, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: I'm so hyped to be here and to land the runs I did today. It's just been such an amazing honor.

WIRE: Thirty-one-year-old Shaun White making his debut in Pyeongchang, taking first place in the qualifying round for the men's snowboarding halfpipe. The two-time Olympic gold medalist hoping to secure his third gold after a disappointing fourth place finish in Sochi.

And Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher finally winning gold in the men's Alpine confined event after a thrilling slalom show catapulted him to the top of the leader board.

After winning bronze in the team figure skating event, American skater Adam Rippon addressing his refusal to meet with Vice President Mike Pence because of his position on gay rights.

ADAM RIPPON, OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST: I don't want my Olympic experience to be about Mike Pence. You know, I want it to be about my amazing skating and being America's sweetheart.

WIRE: Japanese speed skater Kei Saito becoming the first athlete to be suspended for failing a doping test at these Olympics. Saito insisting the violation was unintentional.


WIRE: Let's get your NEW DAY medal count. Norway still leading the way with 11. Netherlands and Canada tied with ten. Germany has nine. The USA currently with six. And France with five.

Chris, of note, Team USA's decorated speed skater and five-time Olympian Shani Davis, who voiced his disapproval of four-time Olympian luger Erin Hamlin being chosen over him to be the flag bearer at these games, failing to medal in the men's 1500 meter speed skating. He will get another shot at a medal in 10 days in the 1000 meters.

CUOMO: All right, buddy, thank you for the update. Keep them coming. All right, allegations of abuse against White House Aide Rob Porter becoming public because of this powerful photo and because of reporting that rebutted what the White House was putting out. It has been a week. And the White House is still struggling to contain the fallout because the issue matters more than the president's convenience. That's part of "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:50:33] CAMEROTA: Former Obama White House Communications Director Anita Dunn was just on with us this morning and she gave the White House some free advice for how to handle the Rob Porter scandal.

Let's discuss this and more with CNN political director David Chalian in "The Bottom Line."

So, David, Anita Dunn said that what the president should do is today he has this meeting with the National Sheriff's Association and other law enforcement. Obviously they're on the front lines of getting the domestic violence calls and responding to them. So it would be the perfect venue and set-up to talk about statistics for domestic violence and to appear to sound as though he's on the side of the victims. Is there any chance that the Trump White House takes this advice from Anita Dunn?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I love when you ask me to predict the unpredictable.

CAMEROTA: Yes, your crystal ball.

CHALIAN: Yes, I don't know. First of all, I would just add one more piece of advice to that. He should only do that if he actually believes that, right?

CAMEROTA: Why? Why? Why?

CHALIAN: So -- so -- well, just to be --

CAMEROTA: If he did it, don't you think that it would silence some of the talk around why he's not speaking out about domestic violence?

CHALIAN: I just think presidents are most successful at communications strategy when they're speaking their true feelings about something.

But here's -- yes, I do think speaking out against this is the right thing to do. And this criticism that has been hounding the White House now for days, that we are to believe the spin coming out about the president being upset, it just doesn't square with everything we know about this president. When he's upset about something, he makes it known himself in his own voice on his Twitter feed. And that hasn't happened yet here.

CUOMO: Well, also, look, it's not going to go away. Domestic violence matters too much in this country criminally. It is a cultural scourge. And as long as the media stays on its game and doesn't get distracted, eventually he's going to have to clear this up. But, now, look, there's plenty of out there to distract. You've got

the immigration debate going on. You have this beguiling budget proposal that they just came up with, which basically says, yes, we're Republicans, but we're going to explode the deficit and we don't think it will matter to our voters. Are they right?

CHALIAN: They are somewhat I think. I mean I think voters care a lot more about their personal finances at the kitchen table than they care about their country's finances rite large. And I think it's hard sometimes for voters to connect the two.

Obviously there are fiscal conservatives out there where budgetary matters are primary, but they're very few and far between. It's just not a primary voting issue for most voters heading to the polls.

There is -- you are right to note, Chris, that this has been a sort of Republican rallying cry for quite some time. So there is some danger in sort of depressing your base. But, again, this does not rank -- in fact, it ranks near the bottom, not the top, of voters' priorities.

CAMEROTA: But it is interesting, David, right? So no price to be paid politically, you think, for deficit exploding and for hypocrisy?

CHALIAN: Well, I think the hypocrisy piece, there's a little bit more of a potential price there. Again, though, I don't think that the core of the advertising coming from Democrats in the fall is going to be calling out members of Congress on the Republican side for being hypocrites. Hypocrisy doesn't wear well. It's not a feature you want to be campaigning on or be tagged with. But I think that we are likely to see the midterms turn on issues more about health care, overall tax reform than on the budgetary issues.

CAMEROTA: Right. And, of course, one party has not cornered the market on hypocrisy. It's just sometimes when it's so naked, it's just amazing to watch it play out.

CUOMO: Maybe so, but it's got to be something that resonates with people.


CUOMO: And people think pocketbook and wallet first. That's true.

CAMEROTA: I get it.

CUOMO: And the deficit, you don't pay for it directly. So I get that. I get why it ranks low.

Do you think that --

CHALIAN: Yes, voters tend to think short term not long term. That -- that --

CUOMO: Yes, no, I hear you. I get it. And it makes sense because their exigencies are about themselves and their kids and that budget.


CUOMO: And what the government does to impact that should matter most. I get it.

Immigration. Do you think they'll get a deal done before March 5, and do you think March 5 is a real deadline?

CHALIAN: Well, the president seems to suggest March -- or at least the chief of staff does, that March 5 is a real deadline. A couple weeks ago the president was floating out the notion that he could extend it. Perhaps we'll see the president extend it if they're really not on the precipice of a deal.

All sides keep saying they want a deal here, Chris. So that leads me to think that there are people from everywhere trying to work out a deal here. But this process does not seem one to invite a real deal because with this open amendment process that Mitch McConnell has promised, everything that can get added could be one person's poison pill, you know, might be one person's great amendment. It gets hard to get legislation to get through both chambers and on the desk of the president for a signature.

[08:55:17] CUOMO: But he controls what amendments make it onto the bill. Proposing and it being added are two very different things.

CHALIAN: Well, he's saying anything that gets 60 votes gets added. That's where Mitch McConnell's point is right now.

CUOMO: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

CUOMO: All right, how about a little "Good Stuff"? You ready?

CAMEROTA: How about it?

CUOMO: All right, next.



CUOMO: "Good Stuff."

Louisiana police officers ban together and help teenagers in need. It all started with two brothers, OK? They were stealing candy. Officer Gayland Conrad (ph) decided not to send them to juvey. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Found out that they was steeling because, you know, they was hungry. They was pretty low on food.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Instead, the officers bought them groceries and delivered them to them. Turns out the boy's family is low on cash and food because of a flood that nearly destroyed their home. Now thanks to the officers, contractors are even coming in to help out.

[09:00:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, I thought they was bad guys. But they're good people.


CUOMO: Steeling is wrong, but imagine if instead of criminalizing need --