Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Sticks To Script At National Prayer Breakfast; Omarosa Manigault Newman Enters Big Brother House; FBI Lovers Texts Call Into Question Obama's 2016 Statement On FBI Probes; Rob Porter's Ex- Girlfriend Reached Out For Help. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 8, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And why is it the president is not a churchgoer? He doesn't speak their language, but he did put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. He is filling the lower federal courts with conservative judges. And He has take another step like the Mexico City policy or funding for abortions and Planned Parenthood and the like. He has tried to help them in the policy front so they're willing to look away on the personal front, is that fair?

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, that is fair. Yes, and I think you're right, this is one of the -- in a White House with the million story lines and a million narratives, this is one of the most fascinating dynamics of the Trump era. This is a line between the evangelicals and Trump, and how long they'll stick with him. It seems like they'll going to stick with him for a while.

But there's one sort of one incident after at other. You remember like it was it during the campaign that Jerry Falwell Jr., a bunch of evangelicals went to Trump Tower to meet with Trump. Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife take a picture with Trump in front of his new wall, and over his wife's shoulder is a picture of Trump and a porn star on the cover of Playboy, right?

I mean it's in the picture, they put out the picture like it just doesn't even matter. But when it comes down to it at the end of the day, it's exactly what you're seeing here, is that Trump is always sort of flip-flopping in his ability to sort of take both sides of an issue. He has been, over the last couple years, at least, pretty unequivocal when it comes to issues that are important to the evangelical right.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And on this, like on a lot of issues, Trump is viewed as something of an empty vessel that you can kind of spill him with. If you can get in his ear and fill him with what you want to fill him with, he will be good to you on your issues. And I think that's what evangelicals have found to be extremely effective.

They talk to him about the Johnson amendment, for example, which he's talked about publicly, that someone told him that they thought it should go away. And then he turns around and says, we've got to get rid of it. And that was viewed by evangelicals as a huge political victory, allowing them to use, you know, nonprofit money in politics.

You know, and past presidents, even Republican presidents, would not have gone so wholesale on an issue like that. It's just been effective if you're maybe the last person to talks to him, he might be what you want him to be on certain issues.

KING: And you heard Tony Perkins use the term given a mulligan. Essentially, they forgive some of his personal failings as they would, all the conservative now get mad about this. So I'm going to read from Erick Erickson writing in "The Resurgent".

"What he has done is cause a lot of evangelicals to embrace moral relativism. Truth trading truth for lives and a lot of people who wants that character matters to say it no longer thus. There are defenses of evangelicals voting for President Trump. There are no defenses of the evangelicals defending the president's sins."

So even among Christian conservatives, conservatives of faith, the president like in every other aspect of what he does has caused divisions and arguments.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPPORTER: And I did a lot of extensive reporting on this last year on Donald Trump's relationship with his religion, relationship with God, visiting the childhood church, visiting the church that he attended on fifth avenue. And there was this amazing anecdote from, I think, right after he was elected. He had this private meeting with two Presbyterian leaders.

And as soon as he walked into the room, he said, you know, I did very well with the evangelicals, and they sort of had to politely remind him, we're not evangelical, we're Presbyterian. And he was quizzing them on what the difference was.

So I think we all know at this point that this is not a man who necessarily has a personal and, you know, very close relationship or spiritual relationship even though he talks about his religion, his relationship with God in these kinds of settings. And I think that's why you sort of see this disconnect, that he understands that the idea of getting the evangelical vote is important, and he wants to act on that, but it doesn't necessarily come from a personal place deep inside of him.

KING: He studies the maps. He remembers the primaries, just ask Ted Cruz. And he remembers the key states that general election too for this one.

Again -- here we go this one hard or me. As we head to break, a live look at a celebration here. I wish were somewhere else. Philadelphia reveling in its Super Bowl win this hour people have lined up for hours and good for them, good for them, they should celebrate. No doubt crowding the streets well into the night, hoping to decrease the pulls.


[12:38:39] KING: Welcome back. It's another wild day at Wall Street. You could see here the big board down, right now down more than 500 points. Investors worried about inflation and rising interest rates. Latest around the selling once again erased all the Index's gains this year.

Time for check now of other stories on our political radar, the Pentagon its planning has begun for a military parade that's been requested by, you know who, by the president, but that planning still in its early stages.


DANA W. WHITE, PENTAGON CHIEF SPOKESPERSON: The president often looks for opportunities to honor and appreciate our service members. We are looking at several different options. Right now, the army is the executive agent on it. But we have it -- we don't have those options yet. We're still in the nascent stages. When we have those options, we will provide that to the White House and the president will decide.


KING: A long list of members of Congress from both parties say they worry about a cost of a major parade through the streets of Washington. The Pentagon says the ultimate decision belongs to the commander in chief.

Former President George W. Bush saying today he also believes Russians meddled in the election that put Donald Trump in office, which he spoke at a summit today in the United Arab Emirates. He didn't go so far as to say Russia affected the outcome of the 2016 election but the former president did say that evidence of meddling is "pretty clear".

And it's goodbye White House, hello Big Brother house. Last night was the post-political debut for the former presidential aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman when the new season of the reality show celebrity Big Brother premiered.

[12:40:04] She made it clear right off the bat, you'll get it right here at the (inaudible) environment of the TV show. Nothing she hasn't seen before.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ASSISTANT: Here in the Big Brother house, there are a lot of people who want to stab me in the back, kind of similar to the White House. One thing that I learned from politics is you have to learn know how to watch your own back, and in some instances, you have to watch your front too.

After the very interesting year I've had, I'm actually looking forward to being away from cable news, from Twitter, from the newspaper, from the press. I'm Omarosa and I'm --


KING: I could tell at the table here, everybody who covers the White House misses her very, very much. That's what I could tell. Next, a text message inspires more talk about a conspiracy that wasn't.


[12:45:05] KING: Welcome back. A tale now about fake news, it began with an alleged Fox News exclusive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about the president of the United States? Are they talking about Barack Obama? Does that mean he was involved in whatever they were doing? That's a bombshell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were so many buried bodies and there's so many secrets that everyone kept from us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first text that Griff talked about was Potus wants to know everything we're doing. The question is, was there a little club going on? Were they all exchanging information? Were they trying to rig the election?


KING: Deep state versus the Deplorable, Breitbart cried, text message from FBI lovers implicates Potus Obama. The gateway punted said, President Trump himself tweeted in all caps, new FBI texts are bombshells and what a bombshell it would be. President Obama interfering in the Clinton e-mail investigation, except that's not what happened.

And once again, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has some explaining to do. A report issued by his committee includes this text between two FBI agents, "Potus wants to know everything we are doing".

Now, that report from Senator Johnson's committee suggests President Obama wanted a briefing on the Clinton e-mail investigation. Wrong. A source familiar with one of the FBI official's thinking tell CNN that text did not refer to the Clinton investigation, rather it refers to the Russia meddling in 2016 election.

Peter Strzok was the top counterintelligence agent working on the Russia probe and the text came just days before then President Obama confronted Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting in China. The President Obama issuing a direct warning to the Russian leader saying, "Cut it out".

Is the United States Senate, can we at least get things right, get things straight? No? Am I wrong here to expect fact checking in the United States Senate?

BENDER: I mean, everyone makes mistakes, we'll do -- at least give them the benefit of the doubt here. This does seem to be a jump to a conclusion which for me, what is striking about this, this is exactly what the Breitbarts of the world, with the Ron Johnsons of the world, what the president himself has accused the Democrats are doing is accused the mainstream media of doing when it comes to this Russia investigation and the Russia probe. And here we have an instance of them doing exactly the same thing.

And as you pointed out, David, my colleague at the "Wall Street Journal", Del Welber, has spoken a lot of stories on these texts that encourage viewers to check out some of his stories, including the last one on the context of this e-mail -- sorry the text message. When the text message was sent, the Clinton probe wasn't even open. And this was just days ahead of some meetings in front of -- about the Russia interference.

PHILLIP: It's also fascinating to just watch the president mimic back what he's watching on television that morning. He used exactly the same language. He called it a bombshell, which is the language that was being used in that segment on Fox. And that's what's happening day in and day out with President Trump. He's not going to the source of this information, he's getting it sort of chewed through this spin machine, and then he's repeating it on social media to his 45 million followers.

KING: Forgive me, but he watches in the morning. This is the president of the United States who has access to every bit of information in the world that U.S. intelligence agencies can gather, and that's where he chooses to get his information. Good luck. Senator Johnson just a few moments ago asked about this and didn't back down.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: First line for us people to read the full report, and the texts speak for themselves and raise a lot of questions and we continue our investigation.


KING: The texts -- I'm going to take issue with the senator here. The texts don't necessarily speak for themselves. The texts show galactically bad judgment by people in very sensitive jobs who are in a personal relationship who should not be texting about such things even if they're joking. It's galactically bad judgment.

But you can't you have now members of Congress reading these text messages and reorganizing the planets and the stars without any evidence that they took whatever views they might have expressed in these text messages and actually took them to the office and change investigations or tamper with investigations or show bias in investigations. This is the world's greatest deliberate body they used to say.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: But I think it is a midwife by folks in the conservative media who are -- who want to believe the absolute worst when there has not been the demonstration. And, you know, it's not crazy to think that the Obama administration might have been doing bad things, you know, involving the Department of Justice.

There has been -- was quite of evidence in the Obama administration of that happening and as you said the FBI agents acting making some really, really poor judgments here and should be investigated. But I think that the jumping to conclusions is ultimately muddying what might otherwise be a legitimate case, because it all has to go to the extreme level of this sort of discredits any investigation into the president. It just was simply wrong.

[12:50:05] KING: I'll say the same thing I said about the Nunes memo that if you have actual evidence of bias in law enforcement agencies, dear God, put it out. But put it out in the bipartisan way so the people can believe it as opposed to this little cherry picking stuff. To the point where Kellyanne Conway, again, paid by you, the American taxpayer, here's about this and says wow.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR OF THE PRESIDENT: I saw people showing the clips of President Obama in introducing that he does not interfere or ask about DOJ of FBI investigations, so people are going up to square they are with the truth is. It is very concerning to see two people texting each other about this investigation. I mean texting each other about this investigation on and on. And now you see it goes all the way to the top, according to them, anyway.


KING: Texting to texting, she's good. Whether you agree or disagree, she knows what she's doing and she's good. Look we make fun of this sometimes, but this parallel universe thing is not healthy.

PHILLIP: It was in the morning by the way that was this morning after it had been debunked.

LEE: And clearly Washington has become a little bit to trigger happy in some of these situations, jumping to concludes, especially when it is beneficial to your party or it looks bad for the other party. I think to your point about President Trump watching television and then sort of going on Twitter to immediately react.

He's also doing that not in a vacuum. He's doing it because he feels like he's under siege. He feels like a lot of the headlines about him and the Russia investigation, those are pouring in those about looking good for him. So I think he sees something like this and wants to tell the world, wants to tell the millions of twitter followers that he had, you should be paying attention to this.

KING: And so you saw that Kellyanne Conway clip there that was this morning as you noted. She was asked about that a conspiracy theory -- unfounded but not asked about the story. Well comeback to just in a moment. One of the President Trump's top advisors out after allegations of domestic abuse. MJ Lee spoke to these accusers so she has some reporting. Next.


[12:56:05] KING: Some more reporting now on one of our top stories today. CNN has learned a third woman contacted the ex-wives of the now resigning White House aide Rob Porter. He's accused of serial domestic abuse. The woman apparently contacted them back in 2016 seeking advice on how to get out of a relationship with him. MJ Lee spoke to both of Porter's ex-wifes who do we know about these conversations.

LEE: Well this ex-girlfriend component is so fascinating, and the course of my conversation with the two ex-wives, they both brought up the fact that they were contacted by a women who claimed that she had dated Porter. And she was basically looking for help and advice. She said that she, too, like the ex-wives, were consistently abused by Rob Porter.

She was very unhappy, and she wanted to know from them, am I crazy here? You know, did this happen to you? How did you deal with all this? Can you give me some advice on how I can deal with these emotions that I'm feeling right now? And the ex-wives ended up talking to the ex-girlfriend to offer them their advice, to tell her she's not crazy, to tell her that they also experienced this kind of abuse from Rob Porter.

Now in the bigger context of the fact that Rob Porter is now resigned, you know, we're trying to figure out what of the White House know and when. You know, this is significant because this is not just one ex- wife, this is not just two ex-wives, this is now two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend who all say that they were abused by Rob Porter.

KING: And I want to read to third woman the ex-girlfriend wrote this, "I work in politics, and despite Rob's repeated abuse, some of which I think many know about, he continues to rise and I'm afraid to go against him." The woman wrote to Holderness in December 2016. "I'm sorry to bother you. I wanted to reach out and hear your story if you are willing to share, as well as how you broke out of it with him and mostly, how you recovered."

So here's clearly, again, Mr. Porter has denied these allegations but when you read this, this is a frightened woman seeking help.

PHILLIP: The idea that this is somehow a vast conspiracy requires that you believe that that conspiracy began several years ago before he entered the White House. It began with two ex-wives coordinating with each other and then coordinating with a girlfriend. It requires a lot of believing. That's what makes this story so surprising and, frankly, so important because I think there were a lot of people earlier this week suggesting, in these written statements sent out by the White House, that this was a vast conspiracy against someone who was rising in the Trump White House.

When they suggest that, you know, Rob in 2016, Rob Porter was not in the Trump White House. There was no Trump White House. So there are questions that need to be answered here about how this all fits.

KING: How this all fits now I want you to listen here this is Jennifer Willoughby, one of the ex-wives, speaking to the "Washington Post."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JENIFFER WILLOUGHBY, EX-WIFE OF ROB PORTER: I'm not at all surprised that people who work with him in a professional capacity see him as a model of discretion, integrity and character, because like I mentioned, I believe that he is. And I think professionally he is intelligent, and he is measured, and he is certainly someone that I would trust in that professional position. And in his personal life, he is also abusive and angry.


KING: What remarkable grace for her to say such complimentary things about somebody she who beats her. But to that point it's -- let the White House says he deceived us. It's their job. It's their job. They're supposed to have good people who can vet, and if the FBI came to us last year and said, he's not getting a clearance because of this, why was he still there yesterday?

WARREN: And to her point there it made also speaks to how Rob Porter had served and worked his way into this White House. I mean, he was ingratiated in this town. He worked his way through the Senate and a number of political institutions. Reince Priebus came to him. They knew each other from political days. And also what Reince didn't know was that he knew Jeric Kristoff from Harvard Business School.

KING: What would help Trump White House as they deal with this is figuring out how they deal with all their personal. So this all the time we have today, thanks for joining us.

INSIDE POLITICS be back tomorrow. Wolf starts right now.