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tv   At This Hour With Kate Bolduan  CNN  February 14, 2018 9:00am-10:00am PST

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years, and maybe less, we're looking to get it down to one year, if possible because when the money goes out, we want them to be able to spend the money, not wait around for many, many years while they get their permits, $50 billion for rural infrastructure, including broadband internet access. rural communities have not been treated fairly. so we're going to spend $50 billion on rural infrastructure and internet access, which is so important. a work force initiative that invests in our most valuable resource, the american worker. and we're doing a lot of that. i had a phone call this morning with prime minister abe of japan. i suggested he invest more and open up more plants. they announced, as you know, a number of plants are coming in to michigan and other states. we want them to bring in more. they will do that. he said they will do that. we expect to have some announcements pretty soon. we have a lot of companies moving in, a lot of people
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coming in to the united states. they were leaving and now they're coming in, all good for our workers and good for our country. more power for state and local governments to choose projects. we want them to choose the projects. they want the most important projects because they know best the needs of their people. so we want these states to be very much involved in the choice of where this money goes. after spending trillions of dollars overseas rebuilding other countries, it is time to rebuild our own country and to take care of our citizens. the money we've spent overseas, not to mention in the middle east, where as of two months ago we had spent $7 trillion, and yet if we have to fix a road, we can't fix it. if we have to fix a tunnel, we don't do it because we don't have the money. we spent $7 trillion in the middle east. it's ridiculous. the american people expect all of us to work together to serve
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their needs. this is an issue where i really believe we can find common ground between republicans and democrats. it's the infrastructure issue. it's something great for our country. it's something that our country needs. and again, we have democrats here. we have republicans here. we've had other meetings. we will have meetings in the future, including new meetings with this group. this is a very capable group of people. i think we're going to come up ultimately with a solution to the infrastructure of our country, which is in very poor condition. we're extremely happy with the bill that was passed because we had to take care of our military. our military was in bad shape. now we've had the big e spending ever, and our military will be stronger than it's ever been before. we needed that. i want to cut costs, but we needed that. now i want to spend that money on the military wisely. i want to see if we can get twice the planes for half the price, essentially. we're going to make sure we buy
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maximum equipment and other things with the dollar, not that it's going to be wasted. so our military will be in better shape than ever before. now what we're going to do is have our discussion. we appreciate it. thank you all very much. thank you very much, everybody. >> president of the united states ignoring questions. a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the white house, trying to promote his infrastructure plan, which has uphill sledding on capitol hill because of both democratic and republican objections. the president also again trying to sell his agenda at a time his white house is frankly in a deepening crisis. the president refusing to answer questions at the end there about what he knew and what other people on his staff knew and when they knew it about allegations a former top white house adviser, rob porter, had physically violently abused two of his ex-wives. shifting mood in the republican party today. the chairman of the house oversight committee says that
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committee wants to ask questions. speaker paul ryan speaking out about this. let's get straight to our jeff zeleny at the white house. jeff, i want to start with this question. last night this town was abuzz with rumors that once again the president was about to pull the trigger and change his chief of staff. john kelly is on the job this morning. turns out it was just buzz last night. but that buzz is emanating from the building behind you, which has to make it hard for anybody to do their job, i would assume especially the embattled chief of staff. >> john, no question. there was so much talk last evening. a lot of it coming from the white house, but even more coming from outside the white house. there is no question that people who have not been happy with the chief of staff, people whose own access has been restricted have taken this opportunity. they smell blood in the water, if you will, to go after john kelly to suggest that he's on the verge of being out. we've seen some officials and aides and former aides do this publicly, like anthony scaramucci. he said yesterday john kelly should go. others have been saying privately he should go. but john, the reality here is the president, we are told,
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still believes in and has confidence in and does not blame his chief of staff for this whole episode. not saying he's not particularly thrilled with him, but he does not blame him entirely for this. as we stand now, john kelly is still the chief of staff. we're told that's not changing any time soon. as always, john, it's a one day at a time proposition around here. >> so help me further on that. a couple days ago it was the president himself on phone calls floating the possibility of changing his chief of staff or floating the idea, what if i did this person, what if i did that person. last night it seemed to be coming from other white house aides and around the town from trump allies and people who, some of them frankly, don't like general kelly. we have heard kevin mccarthy, the house majority leader. we've heard gary cohn and nick mulvaney. those are the names you hear most often when this comes up, sometimes from the president. why those three? >> well, john, there's no question the president is trying
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to feel people out. they're trial balloons, if you will. float these names and see what the reaction is. house speaker, kevin mccarthy, without question has developed a close relationship with the president. he was asked this morning on capitol hill if he's up for the job. watch what he said. >> i understand you've had some conversations with the president recently. wondering if you can confirm that you've talked to him about exploring the opportunity for chief of staff. are you interested in that position at all if he offers it, and would you serve him if you are asked? >> he got called on just because of the jacket. >> first of all, i have not spoken to the president about anything about a job and i never have. there is no job opening. >> so making clear there is no job opening, saying he's not spoken to the president about the job, but we do know kevin mccarthy is close to the president, and he has worked on a close relationship, even giving him his favorite skittles. so john, the reality here is if there is a change at some point,
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those are three possibilities. again, right now important to emphasize we're told that the president is just fine with john kelly in this role. also probably fine with watching him sweat it out a little bit. >> jeff, appreciate it. come back if the story changes in the course of the next 50 minutes or so. on capitol hill today, the top republican in the house showing support. the house oversight committee says it will have an investigation of who knew what when about rob porter. and listen to the speaker here very clearly giving his opinion on those who commit domestic violence. >> i mean, come on. clearly we should all be condemning domestic violence. and if a person who commits domestic violence gets in government, then there's a break down in the system. there's a break down in the vetting system. that breakdown needs to be addressed. >> here with me in studio, julia davis of "the new york times," and mary katherine ham with "the federalist." i don't think we need to translate, but just in case, when the speaker says, come on, everybody should be condemning
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domestic violence, there's a certain person who works at 1600 pennsylvania avenue who had rob porter in his employ who has not. that would be the president of the united states. >> that's right. he actually came out last week after the allegations were well known and after rob porter had resigned and said essentially it's a tough time for him, very sad, he expressed sympathy for porter, but no sympathy for the women who are his alleged victims. he didn't make any sort of generalized statement about domestic violence or no tolerance for that. he has sent out sara huckabee sanders to say that to reporters this week, but he's been given opportunity after opportunity, including as recently as yesterday at the white house by reporters who were present for events with him to say his own piece about domestic violence and if he considers it unacceptable. he's not taken that opportunity. >> another opportunity right there. >> he's avoided talking about it. and it's clear that he does not want to make an issue of it, whether it's because of his own allegations and his past or because he doesn't find it unacceptable, nobody can dmoe.
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but that is the substance of what we've heard from the president, which is essentially nothing. >> the story is in its eighth day. everyone is asking why he doesn't put out a perfunctory statement. i have a theory about why. there may be some element of political signaling to a certain type of trump voter who grew up in the '50s, grew up in the '60s, has a very different conception of gender roles. it's not that they condone violence, but i think there's a backlash many of these people feel to the me too movement. they don't like women on the stree streets making demands. nostalgia is a core part of his repeal. >> unless they can recruit a lot of archie bunkers, i'm not sure that's the right message. >> you might have said that in 2016. >> you're right.
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we have misunderestimated what was going to happen in these situations. i want to come back to the general kelly situation. the white house says the president is on board. we know the president has been making phone calls, asking outside advisers, what do you think. that undermines the chief of staff. now we know that -- i don't know if he can have a senior staff meeting because it would be a circular firing jasquad in the sense they're split again. we have a factional white house saying it's general kelly's fault, others saying it's hope hicks and sara sanders, who dragged this out. again, the people are supposed to be running the united states government in a circle, mad at each other, not trusting each other, blaming each other. what is the status? last night -- let me add this before i toss it. last night i was at dinner, getting calls that kevin mccarthy will say no if he's asked. no, way, he's talked to some of his colleagues and they've convinced him to take the job if
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he's asked, assuming a phone call might be coming. that didn't happen. one of these mysteries of bizarre donald trump washington. but what is going on? >> i would say the status is very uncertain because this is a changeable situation. anything can happen. the president could be struck with the idea now is time to make a change. the testimony by the fbi director was really damaging. that was really something that extends this scandal. on mccarthy, i'm still having a hard time seeing why he would take the job, honestly. he's the majority leader. paul ryan's future is kind of uncertain. we're talking about the very -- the lack of job security in that job. why would you take that job? nick mulvaney makes more sense to me as someone who's already in there. we all know this could happen this afternoon or it could not happen for weeks. >> but again, general kelly is coming to work in a building where if you believe what sources are saying, and we
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believe what these sources are saying, not that they can effect this to happen, but among those who say, no, let's make it gary cohn, the president's daughter and president's son-in-law. so you're john kelly, work for president trump, but you know about jared kushner and ivanka. what do you do? >> so all of these things, as you were saying, are buzz until the second they're not. someone is imminently going to be fired until they're not fired or they are. there's no way of predicting how the shoe drops on that. i do think this feels different than some of the other turnover because kelly made mistakes. mcgahn made mistakes. it's clear cut that's something that happened here. they're not being undermined for though reason. and those guys were supposed to be the stabilizing force. so if the stabilizing force is destabilized, then it's a whole different brand of upset. when scaramucci in a blaze of glory went out of the administration, i don't think anybody expected he was going to have a perfect and disciplined tenure there. kelly is a different story.
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when you talk about whether he should go, perhaps in other situations a person who had done this would go. but what is behind door number three? >> that's a great point. scaramucci now among those on twitter saying kelly has to go. so consider the source, but he does still talk to people inside the white house. he's doing that on their behalf. this is people who work for john kelly and john kelly's boss at various moments undermining him, which is a hard way to run a railroad. to your point about people getting the attention here, here's a republican chairman of a republican committee in congress, the house oversight committee, saying i need to investigate the republican president's white house. i want to know who knew what, when. >> who knew what, when, and to what extent, and if you knew it in 2017 and the bureau briefed them three times, then how in the hell was he still employed? >> will the oversight committee be launching an investigation into this? >> we did last night. >> amen in the sense that democrat or republican, congress
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should conduct vigorous oversight of the executive branch, especially when you have a person allowed to stay on the job for months and months and months, credibly accused of horrible actions. this is not running a red light or not paying your taxes. the white house in the conflicting and shifting answers of the last week now is of the idea that this didn't get to us, it might have been in the white house security office in a file somewhere. i mean, that's a total copout. think about it. even if you accept their judgment. this was in a file. they knew the guy couldn't get a permanent security clearance. he was in one of the most sensitive jobs in the administration. if you accept their argument it didn't get to john kelly, they didn't ask, hello. in a way, that's almost worse than knowing he has a problem but we're personally loyal to him so we're going to stall and give him some time. >> and we now know that john kelly did actually make an effort last fall to get his hands around this problem of the
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fact there were so many people in the west wing and throughout the white house that had interim security clearances. he held a meeting and said we're not going to issue anymore. and for people under interim security clearances, we need to get them finalized and resolved. it strains the imagination to think that after he gives that instruction, somebody senior, either in his office or in the council's office or joe hagan, to whom the white house personnel security office reports, wouldn't then have gone back and said, okay, what's the problem with this person, what's the problem with this person, what is the problem with rob porter. and given they had the fbi files by then, we know, it's impossible to think somebody didn't point it out and say, well, this must be the issue for him. what are we going to do? >> and they have refused, in part maybe because right hand doesn't know what left hand is doing and they don't have their facts straight. but they have refused to give us, the american people, the public, a consistent timeline we can all agree on as opposed to
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shifting explanations every day. perhaps with the house committee looking into it, they'll demand the right documents. >> trey gowdy is retiring. he's not sticking around. he's not running. i sensed from him, you know, a real interest in getting to the bottom of this. i think what we've all been talking about is there's a growing problem for the republicans with this me too movement. i'm sure there is part of the base saying there's a backlash, but the voters they're going to need are the ones who are saying what's going on with this white house, you know, that they harbored a credibly charged domestic abuser, you know, the president is paying off a porn store. th -- star. this is all about treatment of women. i think republicans on the hill are concerned about this and want some real answers from the white house. >> every professional communicator in d.c. knows the story is not going to go away until they stop shifting their explanations and offer one consistent, clear version of events about what happened. to go back to john kelly briefly, the countdown clock seems to have gun with hbegun w.
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we know president trump in the past has gotten bored with people, gotten upset with people. it's not clear to me he's going to go. i was texts one aide moments ago who said this is survivable for kelly, in theory, because the president has a bias. it's not clear who would replace john kelly. it's not clear who wants that job even. so there are a lot of open questions. with people like reince priebus and sean spicer, it was weeks or months before they got pushed out. with other people, like scaramucci, like tom price, it was pretty instant. >> should read my inbox from last night. it's interesting. we have to take a quick break. when we come back, the president didn't like his first fbi director because he didn't think he was loyal enough. how about the second?
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welcome back. the president, who fired his first fbi director because he
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didn't believe him loyal enough, got a stiff series of messages yesterday from his second fbi director. first, christopher wray shredded the white house line that officials didn't know about domestic abuse accusations against rob porter because, as white house officials were saying, his background check was still in process. nope. >> the fbi submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in march and then a completed background investigation in late july that soon thereafter we received request for a follow-up inquiry, and we did the follow-up and provided that information in november. >> and during that same hearing, also this, when wray was asked if he would share details of the russia investigation or if he agreed with all those presidential tweets calling the fbi a mess, in tatters. >> i'm not going to discuss the
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investigation in question with the president, much less provide information from that investigation to him. you know, there are 37,000 people in the fbi who do unbelievable things all around the world, and although you would never know it from watching the news, we actually have more than two investigations, and most of them do a lot to keep americans safe. >> he also said that his agents are trained not to pay any attention to the noise on social media. pretty clear who he was maybe talking about there. but it's fascinating. the fbi director is supposed to be independent. the fbi director is supposed to call it as he or she sees it. knowing the history, what do we make of donald trump and christopher wray after that? >> well, i think first of all, you don't mess with the fbi. i think that has become clear from the testimony yesterday and from wray's attitude about all of this. the white house earlier this week went out and told all of us at the briefing when we were
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asking about rob porter, well, you know, you'll have to talk to the intelligence agencies and the fbi if you want to know why this clearance could have happened when there were bad allegations in his past, specially laying it at the foot of the fbi. they had to realize there was going to be push back. you have wray wanting to show he's going to be independent, he's not going to succumb to these requests from the president for loyalty, which we know he likes to make, and that he's going to try to be a neutral arbiter, even with all this political sort of vitriol coming at him from the white house, from a president, when the president is normally supposed to stay very far away from even talking about an investigation that involves him or his administration. >> i assume this is one of the things that doesn't go over too well with the president, though, as he does watch coverage of it. >> i think that's certainly true. there's also the strange element of trump where he doesn't like someone just to be prostrate. he doesn't mind someone pushing
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back every now and then. i think wray got out of it fairly clean when he was at one point asked to get rid of mccabe and did not at that time. it helps he doesn't have the super emo show boaty james comey affect about him. i think it's a better look for the agency and looks more professional and is less likely to rile the president. >> i thought his demeanor actually struck me because he seemed very calm and confident and enjoying what he was doing and saying. he liked delivering that message. and i talked to democratic senators last night who were involved in that, and they were still surprised at how definitive his answers had been, and they didn't anticipate that going in. >> i think that -- you could tell, to your point about the demeanor, that he was looking for, and yesterday was a chance, to have a public platform to send a message to his employees, to the agency, which has been under constant attack from the president, from others in the president's orbit, and from
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republicans in congress, including the devin nunes memo, which we know the fbi director objected, asked the president not to make it public, the president did declassify it and make it public. now the fbi director yesterday could have said, asked and answered, we were on the record about that a week ago, but instead he offered this. >> we had then and continue to have now grave concerns about the accuracy of the memorandum because of omissions. we provided thousands of documents that were very sensitive and lots and lots of briefings, and it's very hard for anybody to distill all that down to 3 1/2 pages. >> calm, relatively soft spoken, but we have grave concerns about the accuracy of the memorandum, the very memorandum the president says vindicated him. >> the president fired one fbi institutionalist who wasn't going to do his bidding and got another fbi institutionalist who's not going to do his bidding. as james comey was before and christopher wray is now, they're caught in a very difficult po
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position. as the fbi director, you're going to want to defend your bureau and convey that the fbi did its job. he's in a very difficult position because the president and his allies are launching frontal attacks on the fbi. what is he to do? he can't agree with that. i'm sure he doesn't personally, but he can't give credence to that if he wants to be the fbi director and have the confidence of the people who work for him. >> another points the democrats wanted to make yesterday, you have all six of these intelligence chiefs up there, all say there's no question russia meddled in 2016, all said there's no question they continue to meddle. jack reed asked the fbi director, well f th, if this is happening, the president has asked you to do something about it, right? >> has the president directed you and your agency to take specific actions to confront and blunt russian influence activities that are ongoing? >> we're taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt russian -- >> directed by the president?
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>> not specifically directed by the president. >> again, candid, honest, not specifically directed by the president. the point being made by a lot of democrats and i hope made by every american. i get the president -- you know, don't question the legitimacy of my victory. you won, sir. you'll be president for three more years. the idea he won't speak out and condemn this, there's the fbi director saying not specifically directed by the president. >> well, he doesn't see those two things as different issues. we understand you want something legitimate, but what about the issue of the fact that a foreign power, russia, tried to interfere and wouldn't you want to direct your intelligence agencies to prevent that from happening again. he sees that as the same thing. if he does the one, he's essentially conceding the other. he's not willing to do that. >> i'm a little skeptical that should trump specifically direct wray to do something about anything related to russia, that anyone would think that was an awesome idea. so a little bit of a catch 22 there. >> delicate language. he is trying not to thumb the president in the eye because
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that's the way you get fired in this administration. but he's also telling the truth because he's before congress and believes in the institution he's serving. all right. up next, the senate now debating immigration and what to do about daca, the dreamers. and who to blame if nothing gets done. >> only in a 1984 world where up is down and black is white would the american public blame democrats for this. they know where trump stands. introducing dell cinema. technology with incredible color, sound and streaming.
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welcome back. the free-wheeling, open-ended immigration debate we were promised in the senate so far is anything but. that could change today. senator jeff flake of arizona promises a bipartisan group of lawmakers will produce their idea, their plan today, but as we wait, a bit skeptically, to see if that makes a difference, democrats are sensing a bit of a political trap. the majority leader promised an open-ended process. let the best plan win.
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yet, the same majority leader says the only plan that can win is the president's. >> they're stalling. why? because they know no matter how long they spend in closed-door negotiations, they can't change the fact that the president has spelled out a fair and generous framework that will be necessary to earn his signature. these guys can't take yes for an answer. >> cnn's phil mattingly is our choice to cover the free-wheeling debate on capitol hill. live with the latest. phil, let me get to the bottom line. is there a proposal that exists, the president's or otherwise, that can get to the magic 60 votes needed to pass the senate? >> in a word, no. at least not yet. you talk about the president's proposal, which has turned into legislative text. that is hovering right around 50 votes, maybe it'll lose a couple republicans, maybe picks up a democrat or two from a red state. that clearly has no path
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forward. there's another bipartisan bill out there from senator chris coons and senator john mccain. that can't get 60 votes. the one ray of hope the democrats are clinging to right now is that bipartisan proposal that senator flake was talking about. obviously they've been working on that for weeks, trying to get it to the forefront, trying to get republicans and democrats to agree on what's a very, very complex issue. we are told the text of that proposal will be released today. that is probably the best shot for 60 votes, but john, you laid out the key issue here. this isn't just what can get 60 votes in the united states senate. this is what can move forward in the house. this is what the president is willing to sign. i think the interesting element here is when you talk to democratic aides involved in this, they make the point that, look, if we get something across the finish line, the president wants to deal with this issue, he'll figure out a way to get behind it. that president and his team over the course of today have been working behind the scenes to basically beat back any democratic amendment. they've been sending out opposition memos on bipartisan amendments we've seen up to this point. they've shown no indication they're willing to walk away or
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walk back from their four-pillar plan they have out there. what's going to change where the president is right now? the key point here is for anything the senate moves on to have any future in the house, the president doesn't just have to say, okay, the president has to get behind it and push it. short of that, there's no clear pathway right now, which means right now there's more questions than there are answers, john. >> and quickly, phil, on this question, forget the hundred senators for a minute. think about the eight or ten democrats who might be in peril in this election year. do they sense a bit of a trap, that the republicans are going to try to get them to vote, cast some votes on some amendments that might show up in campaign ads? >> yeah, they don't sense it, they know it. there's already a vote that's out there right now from senator pat toomey related to sanctuary cities. you have a couple democrats in a tough spot with the president's poez because it addresses daca and because it addresses border security, family migration, those types of things. you're going to see those senators face very, very difficult votes at this point and sometime soon. nobody likes this debate, and that crew of ten senators know
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that. i think democrats are confident that they can keep their members together enough to stop any amendments or anything moving forward their don't like. but the reality is this is what the nrsd is very happy about right now. there's going to be difficult votes for these senators to take, and that's why senator mckom mcconnell is not mad that this is the free-wheeling debate he promised. >> yeah, his definition of free-wheeling. phil mattingly on capitol hill. thanks. there's gambling in the casino and politics in the senate. shock. >> this is the first free-wheeling debate ever on the senate floor. the big question was does the senate know how to have debates anymore? i think we know the answer. the democrats are also wondering, where is that nice senator mcconnell who last week helped us back up the trucks to the federal treasury and empty it out? he was really a good guy on that deal. i mean, i think they were naive going into this if they thought mitch mcconnell did not have some game plan going forward that was bad for them. he's caught them. but i still say yeah, the
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democrats are going to have to take some tough votes, but then you make the republicans take some tough votes. but take some votes. this has been embarrassing. >> they promised this debate where everybody could offer their amendments. everybody's in private meetings because they're afraid to offer their amendments. some of them will come up. listen to the democratic leader here. it appears, shockingly, right now there's no compromise in sight. so the political positioning begins. if this collapses, the deadline comes, maybe some of these dreamers are being deported. democrats say that's the president's fault. you heard leader mcconnell saying the president offered you a compromise, it will be your fault. here's the democratic leader's take. >> if at the end of this week we are unable to find a bill that can pass, i sincerely hope that's not the case due to the good efforts of so many people on both sides of the aisle, the responsibility will fall on the president's shoulders and those in this body who went along with him. >> when the blame game starts
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before they start voting, it kind of signals that they don't think they're getting anywhere, right? >> this is why free-wheeling debates don't happen in the senate. there's always someone who wants to make a point and cut campaign ads. it's a political trap for democrats. it makes them look like they don't care about enforcement, and they're on the wrong side of public opinion on that, unlike many other issues on immigration where they are on the right side. the puzzle i see in the senate is not about daca or border security. the two sides agree on that. you can probably get 90 votes for that. the problem is legal immigration. cuts to family based immigration, sibling sponsorships, adult children, and the visa lottery. i don't see how you can get 60 votes with that. i don't see how you can get 60 votes without that until the president and mitch mcconnell get behind something where there's a sweet spot to do daca for the wall, daca for border security. >> and meanwhile, over in the house, where this issue is even more complicated than it is in the senate, and it's very, very complicated in the senate, the house speaker paul ryan says don't ask me any questions right now, i'm watching the senate.
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>> at the end of the day, we want to have a solution. we'll see what the senate does this week. frankly, i have no idea what the senate is going to produce this week. we'll also have the president engaged to make sure we have something that if it lands on his desk, he's going to sign it and that's very important. >> a bit of a punt and maybe they won't make me do this after all. wouldn't that be nice. >> i mentioned back during the shutdown that i was mystified that democrats thought this was a great idea to get themselves all on the record about a bunch of immigration things that they're on the wrong side of the american public on. they're on the right side when it comes to daca but not a lot of other things. i think there's a -- i don't want to be too polly anna about, this but there's a chance to get a goldilocks bill. the house -- ryan has pulled some rabbits out of his hat. that being said, this is congress and goldilocks will probably get mauled by bears and no one lives happily ever after. >> we're going to save the tape on that and come back to it when
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we get to actual votes. up next, out of pocket and under scrutiny. president trump's personal lawyer now admits he paid more than $100,000 out of his own money, he says out of the goodness of his heart, to a porn star just weeks before the election. he says he's done nothing wrong. (avo) if you're burdened by belly pain and constipation,
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the energy conscious whopeople among usle? say small actions can add up to something... humongous. a little thing here. a little thing there. starts to feel like a badge maybe millions can wear. who are all these caretakers, advocates too? turns out, it's californians it's me and it's you. don't stop now, it's easy to add to the routine. join energy upgrade california and do your thing. time to check some other stories on our political radar today. president trump's long-time personal lawyer insisting he didn't break any campaign finance laws when he paid $130,000 to a porn star mr. trump allegedly had an affair with more than a decade ago. cohen says he paid with his own money and told "the new york
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times," quote, neither the trump nor the trump campaign was a party to the transaction with ms. clifford and neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly. mr. cohen would not say why had wrote that check to her just days before the campaign. the va inspector general says the chief of staff altered an e-mail that led the department to pay for his wife's expenses during a trip to europe last year. it also says the secretary improperly accepted tickets to wimbledon and directed an employee to plan leisure activities for him and his wife. he blasted that report as, quote, a direct assault on my character. he denies any wrongdoing. and senator tammy duckworth has a unique problem, how should a sitting senator having a baby handle maternity leave? it's literally never come up before. the illinois democrat is expecting a child while in office. >> it's going to change some senate rules because i'm going to make sure it changes some
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senate rules. for example, you're in the allowed to bring children on to the floor of the senate at all. so if i have a vote and i'm breastfeeding my child, especially during my maternalit leave period, what do i do, leave her sitting outside? i can't leave her with a staff member. that's a conflict of interest. am i not allowed to vote? can i not do my job? what are some of the requirements there? and i'm even being told right now that i can't technically take maternity leave because if i do, i won't be allowed to sponsor legislation or vote during that time period. >> time for the senate to figure out how to fix all that. senator duckworth expecting a girl due in late april. we wish her the best there. we hope she figures this out. let's come back to the story about secretary of veterans affairs. the latest trump cabinet member to face questions about high-price travel, taxpayers paying for things.
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this particular allegation that they essentially doctored an e-mail to justify the wife's expenses. problem? >> what's with this administration and the travel? i mean, there's been so many instances of this. the first-class travel, the use of the military jets, and now this. i think this is actually very damaging, john. in the context of washington. once you start to manipulate things to make it look like you didn't do that when you did, it's bad. i think this looks bad. there >> there's a cultural issue. i don't know the specific facts surrounding what the secretary is alleged to have done, so i don't want to gloss over what appears to be an attempt at a cover-up, but there's a cultural issue with this administration. it seems that nothing is impermissible for folks who work in the white house, for folks who work in the agencies. there doesn't seem to be a lot of instances that we're aware of when publiclily y or privately someone says you've crossed a line. this is the kind of thing that can happen when you have cabinet secretaries, senior staff at the
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white house, senior staff at federal agencies who don't feel like there's any kind of consequence for doing something like this. >> there's also a cultural issue at the va, which has among the most sacred jobs of our federal government. it's one of the more infuriating areas where they just cannot get their stuff straight. it's been a disaster for a long time. >> a penny wasted anywhere in the government is wrong, but a penny wasted at the department of veterans affairs, i would agree with your point, may be especially wrong. we'll keep track of this one. up next, capitol hill mired in gridlock. more members of congress are saying they've had enough.
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my ci can worry about it,ine. or do something about it. garlique® helps maintain healthy cholesterol naturally. and it's odor free. and pharmacist recommended. garlique.® today, honesty is a side effects of retirement. congressman trey gowdy, a demon to liberals for his handling of the house benghazi investigation, isn't running for re-election this year, and he's not shy in making clear he
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thinks congress is broken. even worse. >> i like jobs where facts matter. i like jobs where fairness matters. i like jobs frankly where the process matters. and it's not just about winning. and it's not just about reaching a result. >> and so facts don't matter in congress? >> i think what matters in congress is finding a group and then validating or ratifying what they already believe. >> that's actually kind of sad. it's actually kind of sad from a guy who i remember when he came to congress, a straight shooter, then the benghazi thing put him into a polarization world. there he says, i'm going home. facts don't matter. you find your tribe and say whatever your tribe wants you to say. >> i don't think he has totally clean hands on this because of benghazi. i think he has been a frustrated member of congress. there's a lot of them who are. it's also -- and i've talked to republicans.
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it's not that fun looking down the road and you might be in the minority and you might not be the chairman or the committee chairman anymore. i do think that figures into it and people find religion a little bit object wn the way af they've had their run. >> many people are retiring. gowdy is not wrong that facts are not valued as much in congress. the voters that people usually seek after and try to win -- >> the vice president being asked about rob porter. let's listen. >> no place in america for domestic abuse. you said when i return to washington, i'm going to look into the matter. what have you found? >> well, this administration has no tolerance for domestic violence, nor should any american. as i said, and as the white house has said, i think the white house could have handled this better. i still feel that way. that being said, any more
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counsel i have on this, i'll share with the president of the united states. >> are you 100% confident that general kelly has been fully honest and transparent in his explanation of rob porter's departure? >> there are very few americans or american families that have served this nation more honorably or sacrificed more for this country than the family of general john kelly. john kelly's service in uniform, his distinguished service at our department of homeland security where we saw a dramatic reduction of illegal crossings at our southern border, and his distinguished service as chief of staff gives me and the president great confidence in this good man. and i want the american people to know, not just john kelly but family members in uniform here
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and gone have served this nation with a love and patriotism and passion that should inspire us all. >> so it sounds like you think he should stay. >> john kelly has done a remarkable job as chief of staff for president of the united states. and i look forward to continuing to work with him for many, many months to come. >> you did a lot of overseas travel on behalf of the president. this year you plan an aggressive midterm campaign schedule. you're off to the great state of texas. >> you've been listening to the vice president of the united states, mike pence, being interviewed. he said the white house could have done a better job handling the rob porter saga, scandal. he said that he believes the president still has full confidence in john kelly. he talked very favorably of john kelly. he said he has condemned domestic abuse, the white house has condemned domestic abuse. i'll come back to the issue, the president has not personally
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condemned km condemned domestic abuse. >> i thought it was notable what he did not say. the question was did he belief that john kelly had been fully forthcoming and honest about what happened when. he avoided answering that because he probably doesn't know or maybe he does know and doesn't want to say. he said he would share his counsel privately with the president. he also said he looks forward to serving with john kelly in the months to come. i don't know how many months he means. certainly wasn't a complete, you know, john kelly is here to stay. >> very careful and cautious. >> when he said he still is not satisfied with the way this has been happened lndled, i think t indication he feels like they've really dropped the ball here, either before or after the allegations became public. we know he was one of the ones who was most critical internally of donald trump when the "access hollywood" tape came out. >> worded carefully enough he's not taking a position publicly on whether kelly should stay or go.
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that was a strong statement against domestic violence. >> it's a perfect example. pence is a traditional political figure. if you take what he said today and give it to the president to say eight days ago, you have a very different situation. he will not act that way. >> even in the president's friday statement where he wished rob porter well, served at the white house, you can wish him well despite the allegations. if you say, but i have great empathy, great concern for the women involved is here and for all victims of domestic abuse, this is an issue we need to take seriously, and if the white house didn't take it seriously enough, we get the message. could have done it all. >> it reminds me of the charlottesville situation where people expected the president to come out and say something, and he just seems to have this innate resistance to once this happens that you're not going to force me to do that. and i'm not going to do it. i get the same feeling this time. obviously vice president pence,
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they prepared for this question. they knew it was going to come. for him, it was an actual criticism of the white house. that was new. but i don't think this gets the job done like you said. the president himself needs to. >> if he feels he's being pushed into it, maybe he should consider it would help him. thanks for joining us. see you back here this time tomorrow. hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington. up first, the trump administration under new scrutiny over the rob porter scandal. the white house faces more questions about the handling of domestic abuse allegations against porter, and the vice president saying he stands by the white house chief of staff john kelly. >> are you 100% confident john kelly has been fully transparent in his departure of rob


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