Return to Transcripts main page
Father of Three Facing Deportation After 30 Years; John Kelly 'Shocked' by Aide's Abuse Allegations; Senate Leaders Announce 2-Year Bipartisan Budget Deal. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired February 8, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SYED HUSSAIN JAMAL, PROFESSOR: So at this moment, Alisyn, one of the things that we're dealing with -- this is the way we feel. Is the immigration judges, they're required to make a decision, right, quickly on an emergency stay of -- stay of motion for an emergency state request.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
[07:00:23] JAMAL: It is very frustrating, because the allegation in our motion is that the immigration judge did not do what they were supposed to do when they issued the departure. That's what our allegation is.
CAMEROTA: I understand. So you think that there has been sort of a technical problem. What do you want to say, very quickly, to these judges who are deciding your brother's fate tomorrow?
JAMAL: We're asking them to take up the motion. The motion is sitting in court. You know, let -- let the judicial branch do its job, right? I mean, we have -- we have three separate branches of government.
JAMAL: OK? They're equal branches. But they cannot circumvent one another.
JAMAL: It's the position of the executive branch is that he should be deported, let the judicial branch decide that.
JAMAL: And we're requesting that the judge take up the -- take up the motion soon.
CAMEROTA: OK. Understood. Understood. We understand that time is very much of the essence for your family.
To all of the Jamal family, obviously, we will be watching your story. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us.
JAMAL: Thank you. CAMEROTA: And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For
you, "CNN NEWS ROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kelly, he put a domestic abuser above what our country needs.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you that Rob has been an effective in his role as staff secretary.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: These allegations are really serious, and it still seems to me the general failed (ph).
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: This budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be very surprised if more than a couple of the caucus members would vote "yes."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they want my vote, they need to negotiate with us.
CAMEROTA: South Korea's president announcing a meeting with Kim Jong- un's sister as Vice President Pence arrives for the Olympic Games.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To have someone leading the delegation that's directly attacked the LGBT community, it just seems like a bad fit.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Pence denying a report that he requested a meeting with a gay athlete and was snubbed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This story is rock solid.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. President Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, under fire and with good reason. He's saying that he is shocked by domestic abuse allegations against a top West Wing aide. How can he be shocked when sources tell CNN Kelly knew for months that Rob Porter was accused by his ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse. Ex-wives. Two of them.
Kelly protected him. Why did it take until now for John Kelly to distance himself and the White House from Porter?
CAMEROTA: So that scandal is overshadowing a big deal in Congress. The Senate and the House are set to vote on a bipartisan budget plan to prevent a government shutdown of the federal government tonight.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she will not support that deal without Speaker Paul Ryan committing to an immigration debate next week. All of this going on. We will hear from President Trump in about an
hour when he speaks at the National Prayer Breakfasts in Washington.
We have all of this covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House. What's the latest, Abby?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, there are new questions this morning about the judgment of White House chief of staff John Kelly after allegations emerged this week that his right-hand man, Rob Porter, was accused of domestic abuse in his marriages with two women. And Kelly knew about those allegations for months and apparently did nothing about it.
PHILLIP (voice-over): White House chief of staff John Kelly expressing shock over what he calls, quote, "new allegations" of domestic abuse against White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
But sources tell CNN that Kelly learned about the accusations last fall and continued to the elevate Porter's profile in the West Wing despite also knowing that he had trouble obtaining a security clearance due to the alleged abuse.
Kelly is standing by an earlier statement calling Porter "a man of true integrity and honor, even after "The Daily Mail" published these shocking images of Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness.
Holderness tells CNN that Porter choked and punched her during a 2005 trip to Italy. Porter denies the abuse allegations from both of his ex-wives. But he resigned on Wednesday, saying in a statement, "These outrageous allegations are simply false. I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."
Two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN that President Trump only learned about the allegations against Porter this week and was upset by the reports. A senior White House official blaming Porter for, quote, "misleading the staff after the White House rushed to defend Porter after the initial report.
SANDERS: The president and chief of staff have had full confidence and trust in his abilities and his performance.
PHILLIP: Press secretary Sarah Sanders also calling Porter a person of "the highest integrity and exemplary character."
[07:05:04] Porter's second ex-wife telling her story to "The Washington Post."
JENNIFER WILLOUGHBY, EX-WIFE OF ROB PORTER: I'm not at all surprised that people could work with him in a professional capacity, could see him as a model of discretion and integrity and character. Because like I mentioned, I believe that he is. And in his personal life, he is also abusive and angry. PHILLIP: Two sources tell CNN that White House communications director Hope Hicks has been romantically involved with Porter and helped draft Kelly's initial statement.
Politico reports that an ex-girlfriend of Porter's recently contacted White House counsel Don McGahn to voice her concern after discovering that Hicks and Porter were dating. The scandal another blow for General Kelly, who sources say was at odds with the president last month. Kelly already coming under fire this week for saying this about undocumented immigrants who did not sign up for President Obama's DREAMer program.
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up.
PHILLIP: Since taking the reins of the West Wing, Kelly has also been criticized for falsely claiming that Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson took credit for securing funding for an FBI building.
KELLY: Even for someone that is that empty of valor, we were stunned.
PHILLIP: Kelly also sparking outrage by saying that it was a lack of ability to compromise rather than slavery that caused the Civil War.
PHILLIP: Chris and Alisyn, initially the White House said that Rob Porter would be transitioning out of his role in the coming weeks, but CNN is now learning that he could be leaving the White House as soon as today.
Meanwhile, President Trump will see him in a couple of hours at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington.
CAMEROTA: OK, Abby, thank you very much for all of that background.
Let's discuss it with CNN analysts David Gregory and Karoun Demirjian.
Did I just steal your read?
CUOMO: No, no. Chris, Alisyn, what is does it mean?
CAMEROTA: It's nothing.
And so let's just start with the timeline. And then we can get to your probing questions. Here's the timeline, because I know that it's really confusing but the point is, David, that John Kelly should have known. Because in summer of 2005, the first wife says Porter physically abused her.
June 2010, the second wife takes out a protective order against him.
January 2017, more than a year ago, "The Washington" -- according to "The Washington Post," both ex-wives share their stories with the FBI. Fall of 2017, a few months ago, Kelly and top aides become aware of
these abuse allegations. And he has security clearance issues. And then in recent weeks, according to Politico, his ex-girlfriend contacts the White House counsel after learning of Hope Hicks, the director of communications, romantic relationship with Porter.
What was John Kelly thinking, David Gregory?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know. But I think there is a lot of questioning to be done about how this was handled. When you have these kinds of allegations come forward against anyone in a professional setting, there's a lot that you want to and can investigate.
Because it's not just about, well, this is a claim that's made and what do you say about it? There are other records. There's photographs. There's, you know, records of going to an emergency room. You want to be very thorough about all of this. And I guess anyone can understand the chief of staff feeling like I think it's a terrific person. I've been around him. I trust his character and all these things.
But these are serious allegations that he came to finally say in a statement.
But I think you have to be very careful about really vetting this, trying to get to the bottom of it before you're going to say, "Hey, I'm behind you. You should stay and fight," as he apparently said.
And by the way, the other piece of this is you're working in the White House. So if you want to start communicating to the American people, you better be very clear about what you're doing and what you're saying. And the fact that there were shifting statements on this in a matter of hours -- a matter or hours is, at the very most generous, incredibly sloppy, if not something worse. And you have to be held to account.
CUOMO: Right. So you have the legitimate questions that David lays out, Karoun. And then you just have the facts that deserve scrutiny. To what he just said, here's the first statement from John Kelly.
"Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor. I can't say enough good things about him. He's a friend, confidante, trusted professional. I'm proud to serve alongside of him." No mention of two different women coming forward and saying. They're not just saying it; they've got legal redress. There are pictures, OK? Porter denies the allegations.
And then here's the second one: "I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There's no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I've come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition." So Karoun, one of two things must be true. OK? He knew and is lying
right now about not knowing. OK? Or he didn't know, and that may be even more troubling. Because this man, Rob Porter, saw the most sensitive classified information, because he is the passthrough to the president. He didn't even have permanent clearance. And we don't know why. Either way, this is bad.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And there's a buck stops here question, as well, when you're talking about the chief of staff and the White House and what he should have known, especially when you're talking about standard questions in an FBI background process. They interview the ex-wives. That information goes into the file. And if there's allegations raised, even if, as some White House aides were saying yesterday, they were generally aware, you can ask questions to get a more specific understanding.
CUOMO: Both wives went to the FBI in January 2017. It wasn't like word on the street.
DEMIRJIAN: Exactly. Even if you're not immediately presented with the details, you can see the details if you -- if you ask for them. And it seems like at least those questions were not asked. And the question is why? Because I mean, sure, this guy has a very strong reputation in Washington, D.C. He came from the Senate first. And he's got a lot of people behind him.
But as we often know, sometimes the professional persona doesn't match the personal life. So those questions, when those allegations are raised, they should be asked. If they weren't asked in this case, that's troubling and should be a lesson to learn from the next time.
If those answers were known better, though, than White House aides were letting on and they were dismissed, that's extra troubling. Because what does that say about what the people in the White House are potentially willing to dismiss and look away from when it involves very serious allegations of abuse. And that's -- that's, you know -- that's real.
GREGORY: I think we just also have to underline, this is not somebody working in a -- in a corporation where, you know, there are important standards of behavior and standing. This is about a security clearance. This is where you do have interviews by the FBI.
It's incumbent upon any White House, especially if you have somebody who's working in the West Wing to say, "Look, there are some things that are -- that are coming up in your background review. We're going to need to get to the bottom of these. There's some -- there's some questions that are raised."
Because any time this allegation comes out, let alone by two women, two ex-wives where there are photographs, where there, again, are other records of why she had to go to the hospital, what were the circumstances. And even Porter's statement saying, "Well, the real story behind those pictures is not what it claims to be." Well, we're going to have to have that conversation, unfortunately. You want a security clearance and all the rest. And to come out and be glowing in his support, which I don't think is
inappropriate by General Kelly, if that's certainly how he feels, without any mention to how serious this is.
Even Orrin Hatch, who also employed Mr. Porter, made a point of saying, "Look, these are really disturbing allegations. You know, we're praying for everybody involved." That was a lot more responsible than saying, you know, letting it be known that he wanted him to stay and fight and that he's just a great guy. And then only later say, "Oh, yes, by the way, these are really disturbing allegations, and in the process he's had to resign."
DEMIRJIAN: Troubling especially when these things need to come to light because there's -- the press starts to look into them and raise questions about this. And then there's that quick turnaround. It doesn't help the optics of the latest looks in terms of how seriously the White House is taking those allegations before various journalists started to -- to, you know, bring this to light.
CAMEROTA: Look, this is not only a problem for Rob Portman. This also casts John Kelly in a different light. You know, the idea that he is there to quell controversies, that's how he had sort of been depicted in his profile. But in fact, in the past week and longer, I mean, he's been creating controversy.
CUOMO: I think we probably don't pay as much attention to his statements because of who he's usually protecting, which is the president of the United States and how outrageous he often is. But I mean, if you think about it, you have this right now. You had where it started with Fredericka Wilson, where in the moment of that, you know, the widow of one of the men killed in Niger.
CAMEROTA: La David Johnson.
CUOMO: He gets into his fact, calling Fredericka Wilson an empty barrel.
CAMEROTA: And he got his facts wrong about what had happened with her.
CUOMO: That's exactly right. The DREAMers are too lazy. You know, I mean, here's the thing. You know what the best test is of this? I can't remember all of these things because so many have happened. It's the same thing we have with Trump all the time. You know, like we're no longer talking about the fact that they didn't put the sanctions in that had a veto-proof vote, because then there was the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing.
And we're dealing with the same thing with Kelly now, Karoun. You know, there are so many inappropriate things so many incendiary things you can't keep track.
DEMIRJIAN: Well, there's been quite a few this week, as well, especially with the comments about the undocumented immigrant kids. Look, this is -- Kelly came in. People assumed he had a rather sterling reputation. And now he's each of these things he says that says that does not fit the image of the general who's going to impose, you know, law and order in the White House and make everything work smoothly.
The fact that he's saying things that are very similar to the more incendiary controversial things that the president says are -- are shaking a lot of people. Because this is not what people expected when Kelly came into office.
[07:15:04] GREGORY: But let's just say -- but both things can be true. I mean, he can be doing a lot to instill discipline in the West Wing, and it can be a hardline guy who now, in his civilian capacity, isn't afraid to let his views be known.
And when you're chief of staff to Donald Trump, you realize you've got some room to do that. And he's taking that. And so, you know, there's a bigger picture about him and his effectiveness in the White House.
CAMEROTA: OK. David Gregory, Karoun Demirjian, thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right. So what else is happening in Washington, D.C.? It's a big day. Congress is set to vote today on a spending deal to avoid a shutdown of the federal government. That would happen tonight, by the way. Senate leaders say they have a deal on a two- year budget proposal. It would add half a trillion dollars in spending.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with the details. What do we know?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
Well, this big budget deal could be a huge victory for both Democrats and Republicans. You're talking about two years here. It's got goodies for both sides, and it's designed so that lawmakers will not say no to this deal.
We're talking about $160 billion in defense spending, $128 billion for nondefense domestic spending, $80 billion in disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged areas. A debt ceiling hike until March of 2019, taking it out those midterm elections. A $20 billion investment in infrastructure, $6 billion for opioid substance abuse programs. And a 10-year reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP.
And the president has reversed his position. Initially, he was taunting Democrats, saying that a shutdown would be good. We saw a tweet overnight now backing this bipartisan plan, saying that it was important for the military.
So what happens today? Look for a vote on the Senate side, likely to pass, goes to the House before midnight, before the government potentially shuts down for a vote there. That is where you're going to see the state of play. Things may change.
Some challenges here. The House Republicans, conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus looking at the deficit and the big price tag of this. They're not happy. And then you have House Democrats, the progressives who are looking at this. No immigration reform, no DACA deal. That underscored by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on the House floor yesterday, breaking all records with an eight-hour-long speech talking about the need to support the DREAMers here.
The big question, of course, is whether or not the fellow Democrats will go along with that or this budget deal -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Suzanne. So obviously, we'll be watching it. Thank you very much for that.
So the Rob Porter allegations are raising big questions about the judgment of chief of staff John Kelly. Do Republicans still have faith in him? We're going to ask a GOP congressman next.
[07:21:47] CAMEROTA: White House chief of staff John Kelly is under fire. Sources tell CNN he has known for months that top White House aide Rob Porter was accused by two of his ex-wives of domestic abuse. So why did Kelly protect Porter and continue to raise his profile?
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Hey, good morning. How are you?
CAMEROTA: What do these revelations about Rob Porter say about chief of staff John Kelly?
KINZINGER: Well, I know what they say about Rob Porter, which is he's got some serious issues and something that, you know, if in fact, this was known prior, it should have been dealt with prior.
I don't know the details of what John Kelly knew. I've learned on some of these stories that, right when they come out, you don't have all the facts. But look, there's no doubt in the business we work in in government service there's no room for anybody that is involved in spousal abuse. And, you know, this should have been dealt with or at least was dealt with now.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Our reporting is that John Kelly, the chief of staff, has known about this since last fall. And that, in fact, Rob Porter couldn't get a full security clearance.
CAMEROTA: He has -- if the chief of staff, John Kelly, has let Rob Porter continue to work in the Oval Office with this access to the president, he couldn't get a security clearance, I mean, with these -- these account from his ex-wives, did that cause you to lose some faith in John Kelly?
KINZINGER: No. I mean, look, John Kelly, in terms of a personnel question, again, a lot of details to come on out. I think if this was fully known, if in fact, that was the case, they should have moved on this a lot earlier.
That said, yesterday we bombed and destroyed 100 pro-regime forces in Syria taking a stand against the encroachment of Bashar al-Assad against our allies and frankly, a stand against the Russians. That's the direct responsibility of decisions by the president and by this chief of staff.
I have full confidence in this chief of staff and, frankly, a lot of the decisions that he's making with and around the president.
CAMEROTA: But OK, and I do want to get to Syria. I know that you want to talk about that, and I do want to get the details, because the American public do need to hear it from you. But how can you have full faith and confidence in John Kelly, knowing that he might have known about this?
KINZINGER: Again, I said, this is -- from basically hearing this yesterday, I'm uncomfortable coming out and saying, with some of the things that have been reported, here's my answer, and therefore, I do or don't have faith in the chief of staff. I think there's information.
Did he fully know? If he did know, did he make -- did he attempt to take action? If not, why? There are some questions there.
But there's no doubt, if somebody is in office or is in a position of public trust, and that's been the allegation against that, things -- it needs to be adjudicated, and it probably should have been adjudicated sooner. I don't think that necessarily jumps to the level of saying, "I don't have faith in General Kelly."
CAMEROTA: OK. I understand. And I understand that you're saying that you need more details. But the fact that Rob Porter couldn't get a full security clearance, shouldn't that have raised some alarm bells?
KINZINGER: It should. But look, there's a lot of people that can't get a full security clearance for any reason. So that, in and of itself, maybe, maybe not. I don't know if he needed a security clearance for his position. A lot of them, you don't if you're simply a kind of a secretary position or a media position. I just don't know.
And again, I get what -- what -- it's a legitimate question to ask me. But it's also -- I'm uncomfortable moving forward in saying here's the answer when I don't know all the details. Because that's a pretty big deal.
CAMEROTA: I understand. But still, I mean, you do know that yesterday they find out and they put out a glowing statement about Rob Porter. Does that show bad judgment?
[07:25:05] KINZINGER: Look, again, I think this guy obviously has real issues. He should not have worked in the White House. And I think he's gone now. That's a good thing. The question is why wasn't he gone earlier? What did or didn't we know? And we'll find out answers. And if there is anybody else with this kind of a situation, it ought to be dealt with.
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the budget, because obviously, the clock is ticking. The Senate has passed this budget plan, $500 billion in new spending. Will the House go along with this?
KINZINGER: Yes, I think so. I think it's going to be bipartisan. It's not pretty. Governing is difficult. We have to rebuild our military, though. We've neglected it for a long time. If we don't do this, we're going to spend way more money in the future.
In order to be able to add military spending, the Democrats, who have some leverage in the Senate, said, "We want to add some to domestic spending." We're doing that. A lot of them are Republican priorities.
So look, any time you ever come to a deal, no side is going to be happy. That's how you usually know you have something that works.
KINZINGER: But I think ultimately, we have to see all the details, because we've only seen kind of top lines. But I think this thing passes, and we can get out of this cycle of crisis after crisis here.
CAMEROTA: And just out of curiosity, what has happened to the Republicans claiming the mantle of fiscal conservative, as being that way?
KINZINGER: We still do. We still do. The difference is when you give tax cuts, you reinvigorate and re-inspire an economy, which we're seeing happen right now. Massive economic growth. People are hiring. That's a good thing. So business that finds itself in debt will still invest in expanding its operations, because that will help it to get out of debt.
But on the other side of things, with something like this, look, the No. 1 priority I have is to protect this country. And as a currently serving military guy, I can tell you, sequester isn't working. The only way to reverse sequester is to spend more. And unfortunately, that's what we're going to have to do.
Seventy-five percent of federal expenditures, though, aren't even controlled by Congress. And it's something we're not even talking about.
CAMEROTA: OK. That leads us to Syria. Tell us what's happening in Syria. What's Assad doing right now?
KINZINGER: Well, Assad is trying to maintain power. He's being held up by the Russians and the Iranians. They are as much to bear for the 500,000 dead Syrians and 50,000 dead children as Bashar al-Assad is, because they're enabling him. But basically, inaction in Syria has led to this complicated situation
where now you have Turkey, Syria, Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia and all these different actors basically standing there saying, "Hey, we want Syria to be beneficial or to look like to be free" or to be whatever Russia wants in this case. And right now, you have Iran, in essence, trying to build a land bridge.
So the existence of our forces there, Bashar al-Assad and his associated forces approached our base and, frankly, we did what we said we would do, which is protect ourselves. And early indications are over 100 dead pro-Assad forces. And there are some speculation. I don't want to say I have confirmation, I don't. But there are some speculation that there are Russian contractors involved, as well.
CAMEROTA: OK, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you very much--
KINZINGER: Any time.
CAMEROTA: -- for speaking about all of this today with us.
KINZINGER: You bet. See you.
CUOMO: All right. So what is what we're hearing from Congressman Kinzinger tell us about the bipartisan deal that we are seeing in the Senate? Of course, he's in the House. You need both to get a law. What's going to happen with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats? Will they support this bill? They have their own reasons not to, next.