that shoots the president's narrative, maybe that will cause people to focus on the other bad things a little more. >> the question is, is it limited? the question is can the president get those approval numbers up a little bit as people feel better about the economy.
stay with us. that will be the conversation throughout the year. have a great weekend. wolf blitzer is up in just a second. hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington, 8:00 p.m. in damascus. 3:00 a.m. in pyeongchang. from around the world, thank you for watching if you're joining us. abuse allegations against the top aide now zeroing in on the president's chief of staff and the white house counsel. what did they know and when did they know it? plus, new revelations from porter's ex-wife. how she says he asked her to downplay the allegations and how she's worried about the safety
of white house communications director hope hicks. and the image the entire world is talking about, the american vice president sitting just feet away from kim jong-un's sister as north korea steals the show at the olympics right in
the middle of a nuclear standoff. let's start with the white house, the growing porter problem, and allegations around the staff secretary rob porter. how did such an abuser rise so much in the white house, and how did the chief of staff look the other way until photos surfaced. director hope hicks, kaitlyn, has also now emerge ld d at the center of this storm. what are you hearing about her and the president? >> i would like to note that the white house just brought
reporters into the oval office because the president was meeting with one of his supporters, and he actually spoke about this rob porter scandal. this is the first time we're hearing from the president directly on this. he said that he wished porter well. he found out about the allegations against him recently. he remarked that it was sad but added that porter has denied these allegations, and that is something that people should keep in mind. we are seeing this is very much something that's on the president's mind here, wolf, but yes, we are learning that the fallout from this scandal relating to rob porter is affecting one of the president's relationships with his closest confidantes, top aides, and that is hope hicks. the president said he's grown increasingly frustrated with hope hicks and the way she handled this fallout scandal. the first being she did not consult the president when her and several other top white house aides drafted that initial, glowing statement that defended rob porter. and secondly, the president
believes hope hicks' romantic relationship with porter is clouding her judgment and the decisions she's making from a white house standpoint. overall, hicks believes the president is putting his priorities ahead of hers, ahead of the white house's. she's certainly not the only white house staffer being affected by this. john kelly has also come into the spotlight for what he knew and when. i should note that though their positions in this white house do not seem to be in jeopardy, there has been some buzz lately about the director of the office of management and budget, nick mulvaney. the president has been questioning his aides, his close friends what they think about mulvaney, and while they're not explicit, most think he's re-referencing that chief of staff position. >> it's interesting that all of a sudden this was not scheduled. the president and the white house, they alerted the white house press pool, that he was
ready to make a statement into the oval office. zpz. clearly the president knew he was going to be asked about this scandal. >> yerks s, he certainly did. rob porter worked very closely with the president. not only did he handle the paper flow that crossed the president's desk, whether it be an executive order or other memorandum -- >> hold on, kaitlyn, here's the tape of the president in the oval office. >> we wish him well. he worked very hard. i found out about it recently, and i was surprised by it. but we certainly wish him well. it's obviously a tough time for him. he did a very good job when he was in the white house, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. but it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he's also very sad now.
he also, as you probably know, he says he's innocent, and i think you have to remember that. he said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. so you'll have to talk to him about that. but we absolutely wish him well. he did a very good job while he was at the white house. thank you very much, everybody. >> thanks, everybody! thank you very much. >> you can see the president, some more questions are being shot at him, but reporters are being escorted out of the oval office. i'm going to get back to kaitlyn in a moment, but let's get some analysis of what we just heard. cnn political analyst david gregory is with us, our chief political correspondent dana bash. dana, the president was pretty enthusiastic in praising this individual who has now been kicked out of the white house. >> look, i don't know why i'm surprised, because i shouldn't be surprised. because particularly with issues like this, accusations on a
personal level, the president tends to rally around the person being accused because he has told many a friend this, because he felt like he has been falsely accused. having said that, the fact that he did not mention one word, one syllable, about these two women, plus apparently an ex-girlfriend, particularly the ex-wives, who are talking in great detail about abuse, physical, verbal abuse, is outrageous. i mean, i'm sorry, it just is. it just is. and it is tone-deaf to the times, it is tone-deaf to the situation that he has had, which is a person who has been in the closest proximity possible to this man alleged to have done some pretty horrible things. we've seen the pictures, but more importantly, we have heard from one of his ex-wives.
both of them, but particularly one to cnn about the details of the allegations of physical abuse. to not even have a nod to that and instead just profusely, effucibly praise the work that porter did, it's sad. >> the president went out of his way to point out, david, that porter says he's innocent. we absolutely wish him well. the president said he was surprised by all of this. he worked very hard. only found out about it recently. obviously a very tough time for rob porter. that's what the president said. >> and others who porter has worked for. like orren hatch on the hill has talked about how awful these allegations are, what a sad time it is for everybody involved. the president of the united states did not even talk about everybody involved, only porter, as dana says. it is part of a pattern of how this white house and how the public rallying around this
president has come to the aid of anyone accused of sexual misconductor or abuse and not thought of the person on the other layer of it. who knew what when? the core confidence of the white house. how you have someone as chief of staff, retired marine john kelly, who comes from a world of accountability and no b.s. now we're told he was somewhat aware of these allegations? they have a real problem. it goes to competence, it goes to truth telling, and it goes to a situation where you have someone without security clearance who has that close access to the president. look, this is another case of where this white house is underprepared and not up for the job. and they're going to have to deal with the fallout. >> or even more nefarious, not just not being prepared or up for it, but having their heads in the sand, which is even more
troubling. >> clearly they're parsing words, saying that the white house chief of staff john kelly was not fully aware. but for months he was aware of these allegations by the ex-wives. he was aware of the fact that for more than a year. they were denied security clearances by the fbi because there were serious problems in his background. >> the way the white house team is describing it is so painstakingly careful because they don't want to divulge -- maybe they don't know all the facts. maybe raj shaw, for example, or sarah sanders in the press, they don't know that about rob porter. that is all possible. but we broke the story when rob porter was denied this week, or was fired, that the white house
chief of staff at least had an inkling about it in the fall. >> and the white house counsel, top lawyer, he also had been briefed by the fbi. >> and there's more than one woman, two ex-wives, now a girlfriend has contacted. there is a background check process. i think anybody who would look at this would say it's appropriate to have a process and a fair process, but that's what the government does in a background check. when you have these kinds of explosion sieve allegations, you need to run them down. the times has reported on the fact that. maybe he's got his job. he's got a lot of his plate, -- people can make their own judgment about it.
we get a prominent picture of how this president is ruping the west wing. it's a bazaar of information saying, oh, he's talking to the former chief of staff. the president is thinking about replacements. there is no order. it's just a freefall over there. in the middle, by the way, of a sensitive time in our country. >> listen to jenny willoughby, the ex-wife who spoke to anderson cooper last night. listen to this. >> knowing rob the way that i do, he probably is able to, even if his clearance hadn't gone through and they knew it was because of problems in his marriage, i think he was probably able to spin it in such a way that it was minimized, that it was downplayed. i generally believe that chief of staff kelly thought that it was lesser than it was, and seeing those photographs, i wish that my interview would have been enough, but seeing those photographs sort of solidified that, no, this is, in fact, an
issue. >> rob porter is now in a relationship with the white house press secretary hope hicks. do you think he's changed? >> i don't think he's changed. >> does that worry you? >> it worries me for a lot of reasons. it definitely worries me because if i'm being frank with you, if he hasn't already been abusive with hope, he will. and particularly now that he's under a lot of stress and scrutiny. that's when the behaviors come out. if he hasn't already, he will. >> hope hicks is the 29-year-old white house communications director who has a very significant job, but she's had a romantic relationship with rob porter. >> and listen, i've had people say to me, oh, you know, you're being naive if you believe this, but others have suggested to me that part of the reason why somehow, some way this was pushed out was to be protective
of hope. people who knew that this was a possibility and were concerned about hope, because she is well-liked inside the white house. i just want to also say we're talking about really big issues of national security and about how a president should act, but we're also talking about a workplace issue that we've been talking about now for months and months and months. the white house is now a workplace, according to people i talk to, where people are very upset at, obviously not just that rob porter has these allegations against him, but most importantly, their boss, the chief of staff, apparently knew about this, had some indication about it, didn't do anything. but even more importantly, now that he does have all the information, put out a letter -- a memo to staff yesterday that had no accountability, no "i should have handled this differently," no "if i had known about this, i would have handled
it differently." no accountability. >> perhaps she knew general kelly knew about some of this and then thought, whoa, i may have made a presumption that was wrong. again, i go back to process. if you have a background check process that is holding up his security clearance in a workplace that happens to be the west wing, you're going to have to get to the bottom of this. these are serious allegations. then it's complicated by, you know, hope hicks apparently being -- dating him and then being involved, in deliberations about whether he should be fired. that is so inappropriate. again, it's just part of a broader problem in the west wing. >> if this was minimized, it certainly would not surprise me, gi that he would choose to go to those accused and profess their
side of it since he's been accused himself. but just with his attitudes about women, not surprising he would say, oh, i'm sure this is overblown. >> the president also seems to be upset that the deputy white house secretary raj shaw said yesterday in that briefing, yes, the white house could have handled this entire issue better. he doesn't like to acknowledge that kind of -- i don't know about you, but i could feel the breath of fresh air come out of the laundry room. of that level since the president has been in office for that reason. because he watches his briefings, he has an expectation that you don't show weakness, you don't say you're sorry, you don't say what the reality is, but for reporters, and for the american public, it gave, i think, raj shaw a lot of credibility. >> you were once a white house
correspondent, so you're familiar with the routine there. they put out a lunch lid, meaning there's nothing going to happen, but then they break the lunch lid, they call into the press pool and they say, go into the the oval office. you know the with the wants to speak about this. why would the president want to issue these very strong -- verbal abuse, physical abuse of ex-wives and maybe a former girlfriend. >> one thing about president trump, he's a transparent guy. there's not much left to the imagination. whatever advice he's getting, he doesn't care. he's going to let it be known because he'll tell us and tell the public directly, or he's going to leak it to people and other people are going to talk to him and word's is going to get out about having questions about john kelly and being frustrated, on and on and on.
it's kind of one thing after another. again, on a day when we're in the middle of this volatility. >> again, it's their decision and their actions that undermine their credibility. >> the notion of the president -- and i'm just looking at some of the words that he said -- he did a good job while he was in the white house. it was very sad when we heard about it. i think touf. he says nothing about the ex-wives. >> we were all sitting here with our jaws on the desk as we were watching that tape roll live, for that reason. again, it shouldn't be surprising because this is vintage donald trump when it comes to accusations to very much talk about the person who is being accused and not
necessarily -- >> you know what i'd like to do, if we can? i'd like to queue up that tape one more time. i want to make sure we didn't miss anything. we'll listen very closely once again to the oval office, calls in the cesspool and they ask him a question clearly about the scandal. here's his answer. >> thank you all very much. i appreciate it. well, we wish him well. he worked very hard. i found out about it recently and i was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well. it's an obviously tough time for him. he did a very good job when he was in the white house, and we hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. but it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he's also very sad.
now, he also, as you probably know, he says he's innocent, and i think you have to remember that. he said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent, so you'll have to talk to him about that. but we absolutely wish him well. he did a very good job while he was at the white house. thank you very much, everybody. thank you. >> all right, so there were follow-up questions. clearly the president wouldn't go further than that, but that was pretty surprising to see him speaking so highly of rob porter. >> he isn't thinking about this in a completely thoughtful way, thinking about everybody involved. he's clearly, if anybody is giving him constructive advice, it would have been to speak to the world about this in a way that acknowledges the allegations of abuse, how serious a matter this is, how it was mishandled within his administration, and the reverberations which, by the way, include somebody he really
cares about in rob porter. i know people personally who have worked with porter on the hill and who are in a state of shock about this, who adore this guy and are trying to process all of this. there ought to be a process, and there ought to be some fairness, but i think at the same time we have to scrutinize what facts we know about and hold the white house accountable for that. >> you would have thought he would at least have said what others have said in white house statements, that how abhorrent domestic violence is, how it must be condemned. in addition to saying his heart goes out also to the ex-wives. >> yes. david, as you were talking, something else occurred to me because this is such a weird sort of triangle or square, whatever you want to say, of relationships. hope hicks is as close to donald trump as you can get without being a blood relative.
he relies on her, he adores her, it is mutual. they've been together since it was basically them and nobody taking them seriously. the fact that one of the ex-wives went on cnn, somebody who says that she was abused by rob porter, saying that she is -- based on his pattern, she is convinced hope hicks will be a victim herself, and the fact that that said in such a personal way, not just about the guy but a woman involved here, is another reason why it's really striking that he didn't also see that perspective, at least in this case. >> no. it's a really good point. and it's also, you know, there is nobody around who apparently can professionalize this operation. you know, we've heard friends of the president who say that the president likes to lead, you know, through a kind of chaos theory. it doesn't work. it's not to say he hasn't achieved certain results in terms of what he's tried to do
as president, but this is a day after day of constantly undermining themselves and their effective and their credibility. it has real reverberations. >> i think this is going to generate a lot, a lot of commotion. >> on a day he's trying to sell the budget. >> there is a lot going on right now. dana, david, thank you guys very much. there is more breaking news, including reaction from a republican congressman on the president's remarks. also an historic moment. the vice president of the united states sitting a few feet away from kim jong-un's sister, the first in the korean dynasty to step over the korean border. we have a back story on the seating chart. also, a navy s.e.a.l. killed osama bin laden with a few choice words who wants a major military parade here in washington. that and a lot more coming up.
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a truly extraordinary moment of the opening ceremonies at the olympics in south korea. look at this. kim jong-un's sister, and a few feet away in the next row, vice president of the united states, mike pence. let's go to will ripley. he's joining us from pyeongchang in south korea. also joining us global affairs correspondent lisa lavin. she's traveling with the vice president. she's now in seoul. will, tell us about this highly unusual scene. >> reporter: an unusual scene, an unusual day here in pyeongchang, wolf. you had the vice president arrive here with fred warmbier, the father of otto warmbier who died after being back in american custody. he called it totalitarian regime, then at the olympics, these figures, kthe sister of km
jong-un and the head of state are there in the vip box just a few rose from eaws from each ot. the vice president actually switched seats to be farther away from the north korean delegation. the united states trying to encourage south korea to distance themselves from north korea, but the north korea is putting on what they call the charmo fen offensive. they're trying to use this opportunity to drive a wedge between washington and seoul. >> you know, at least the vice president tells me, showing the pictures only a few feet away from kim jong-un's younger sister. no sign of even a handshake, noan no acknowledgment, no conversation, right? >> that's right, wolf. the vice president wasn't interested in pleasantries. there was a lot of speculation
that the vice president might meet with some members of the north korean delegation, and all week the vice president was very coy. he said we'll see what happens. but all along he said if i do have a chance to talk to them, i'm going to deliver the same message i've been delivering all week, which is a very tough message, wolf. the vice president didn't want -- he wanted to deny the north koreans this propaganda victory. and that's why he went to japan, met with the south koreans, and that's why, knowing that the north koreans were going to be in that box, he wanted to sit shoulder to shoulder with president moon and japanese prime minister abe to show how steadfast that alliance is. but he wasn't interested in shaking hands. he didn't take an opportunity to go meet the north korean delegation at a reception before the opening ceremony. and so i think both the north koreans and the u.s. are kind of rebuffing south korean president moon's efforts to try and
translate these olympics into some wider dialogue. the vice president's aide said that if the north korean delegation, if kim jong-un's sister came over and talked to him, he would have responded, but he wasn't going to make thatovtha that overture. >> good reporting, guys. there's more breaking news we're following here on cnn. the president commenting now for the first time on his former aide, the one accused of domestic abuse. president trump defending rob porter who has been fired and does not even mention the alleged victims. stand by. more on that when we come back. your insurance company raises your rates. maybe you should've done more research on them. for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise your rates due to your first accident. switch and you could save $782 on home and auto insurance.
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ex-white house staff secretary of very serious allegations that he abused his two former wives and maybe an ex-girlfriend as well. here's what the president said in the oval office in response to reporters' questions only moments ago. >> we wish him well. he worked very hard. i found out about it recently and i was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well. it's an obviously tough time for him. he did a very good job when he was in the white house, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. but it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he's also very sad. now, he also, as you probably know, he says he's innocent, and i think you have to remember that. he said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. so you'll have to talk to him about that.
but we absolutely wish him well. he did a very good job while he was at the white house. thank you very much, everybody. >> all right, let's get some reaction to this and other issues. representative in florida, members of the foreign affairs committee is joining us. thanks for having me on. >> what do you think of the president's statements? >> this is a serious matter. it's just one more public official found to be despicable and shaking the public's confidence and the people that are engaged by the people to help run the country. >> i was surprised the president didn't use this opportunity -- he is the one who invited the press pool to come into the oval office knowing -- you know they were going to ask him about this, this he didn't condemn domestic violence, that he didn't say anything about the two ex-wives or the girlfriend who claimed that there was abuse, verbal abuse, physical abu abuse. he simply seemed to defend his former white house staff secretary. >> we need to get to the bottom of all the facts.
if the facts had been presented by the investigators, then it's a really bad situation. one good thing, at least, the security clearance investigation process worked well and ferreted a lot of things out. >> i'm not so sure it did work so well because he had temporary security clearances for more than a year. he was the one that would hand-classify documents to the president. all those documents would go through him and the white house chief of staff john kelly and he would give those documents to the president. but early on the fbi apparently determined, based on interviews with ex-wives and others, this guy was not going to get top secret security -- permanent top secret security clearances but he was still left on the job for more than a year. >> if they knew that, he shouldn't have been on the job. >> they interview the ex-wives. you get security clearances, you go to friends, to neighbors, you talk to everyone and see if there is a problem, because you're dealing with one of the most secret, confidential,
classified information out there. it's not just him, apparently. there are a whole bunch of others, including the president's son-in-law, jared kushner, who also have not been given top secret security clearances, permanent security clearances by the fbi. >> i'm not sure this interim security clearance business is a very good idea at all. i know in the diplomatic world, you don't go to post until you're cleared. black and white. >> you have experience in that area so you know. it's not just them, there were apparently a whole bunch of others who got what they call interim clearances, but it's not the permanent clearclearances, certainly if you're dealing with the most sensitive information, you want to make sure that that person, man or woman, has the permanent top secret security clearances and potentially couldn't be subject to blackmail from an enemy. >> that's a big part of what the questions are all about, to make sure you can't be undermined like what happened here.
>> the problem here is that apparently the white house chief of staff, john kelly, he knew the fbi wasn't going to give him the clearances. the white house counsel, don mcgahn, who is the top lawyer at the white house, he was told by the fbi there is a problem, he's not getting these security clearances, it's going to drag on. but they let it stay on that. they clearly liked him and maybe professionally he was doing a solid job, but there was this other issue that was preventing the fbi from saying, you know what, he's going to get clearances. >> i think that's a bit of a problem. it's like congressmen who want to serve out the rest of their term by committing some heinous acts. i just have problems with that. >> if the president called you and said, what do you think we should do? should he get rid of these individuals who allowed rob porter, the the white house staff secretary, to stay on the job even though he wasn't getting permanent security clearances, even though there were these alleged incidents in his previous marriages? >> i think they need to revisit the entire interim security clearance process.
if we're going to have clearance, then get him clearance. >> but should those individuals like don mcgahn or others who knew about this, should they pay the price and resign? >> i would have to think about that. from the little biti re i read t it, it looks like don mcgahn did let him stay there and kelly didn't respond. while i have you, let's talk about north korea. did the vice president of the united states, from your perspective, you got a lot of diplomatic experience, foreign affairs experience, did he not have the opportunity even reaching out casually and going over to the younger sister of kim jong-un and saying, you know what, this is a tense situation -- or forget about substance, just simply say hello? >> no, i don't think he did. i think the hard line, combined with some of rex tillerson's comments about no regime change
and not taking over the peninsula, have been kind of a good cop, bad cop that's gotten us further than we've ever gotten with china. so any show of weakness or friendship would have aided north korea's efforts to subordinate south korea with the olympics. >> so you think this is good cop, bad cop, president moon of south korea, they're going to have lunch in a few hours in seoul. this is the first time that someone from the dynasty has been to south korea from north korea. so you think he's a good cop, as far as he's concerned, but the tough rhetoric is forcing the north koreans into a more positive direction? >> as you know, moon has said a few problematic things since he came into office, such as the thaad system, things like that. i think it's good for moon to hear that our hard line is our hard line. we want to see them denuclearize north korea. >> but the fact they're getting such a warm welcome from kim
jong-un in south korea is pretty interesting. >> it's going to be interesting to see if this is just a play or what happens after the olympics are over. >> what do you think is going to happen? >> i think they'll go back to being north korea. >> you don't think this is a moment that could change the discourse on the peninsula? as you know, the north korean regime, they've got nuclear weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and sooner or later, those missiles are going to potentially get anywhere in the united states. >> i don't think we're at the point where that will happen. i think south korea needs to think long and hard about its allies to the east and across the pond and protect it. >> congressman rooney, thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks for having me on. coming up, the white house refusing to explain why ex-aide rob porter was allowed to handle sensitive classified information while on a permanent security clearance. and the dow, look at this,
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moments ago in the oval office over at the white house, president trump told reporters he was sad when he learned that his former staffer rob porter allegedly abused two of his ex-wives. the president also said he hopes porter has a great career ahead of him. he didn't express sadness or sympathy for the women. the president's comments come just as we learn that porter was just one of many white house officials working without permanent security clearances. according to the "washington post," dozens, yes, dozen dozen of west wing employees have yet
to obtain permanent security clearances. instead they're handling sensitive information, very often very sensitive information, with interim or temporary approvals. according to politico, the fbi has informed the white house chief of staff john kelly that pla it plans to deny multiple aides permanent clearance for their backgrounds. john kelly was granted permanent clearance. i want to join with a former special agent who resigned from the bureau because of what he sees as attacks going out for the fbi. it is pretty amazing that so many white house officials who have classified information but are denied permanent security clearance. >> let's remember that the interim security clearance is granted for a particular reason, and that's to allow someone to begin working on day one while the full investigation
continues. it's not unusual for an fbi background investigation to take up to a year, but we have to keep in mind the longer that investigation goes, it's reasonable to assume that either means there were issues trying to be mitigated or perhaps you're dealing with someone whose background is so complex, perhaps financial dealings, foreign travel, that kind of thing that would take a long time to resolve. >> when you're seeing rob porter, the white house staff secretary, whose job is to present documents, classified documents, to the president of the united states, and he's yet to get those permanent clearances, that's a pretty powerful message the fbi is sending the white house. >> it is. one thing i want people to keep in mind is that someone in his position as staff secretary doesn't just ferry documents. he also has to read them, right? a person in his position would have to determine if there are coordination gaps or other issues the president needs to resolve, so he's actually diving into this information. it's someone you would want to have clearance, someone who has gone through that process. i think the issue we're seeing
here is the interim security process is being used as a long-term solution to a problem that it was not meant to be. >> there are a lot of white house officials, including the president's son jared kushner, who have yet to get permanent clearances, even though they're working with very sensitive, we know there are varying degrees, confidential, secret, top secret, sensitive, compartmented information, even higher eyes only. when the president gets, for example, presidential daily brief written -- i don't know if he's going to read it or not read it -- there's a report out in the washington post that he doesn't read those. it would be the staff secretary who would present a document like that from the president, presidential daily brief. what is the classification of that? >> it would depend on the information on a given day. that is the most highly classified documents in the government. the ceo of intelligence community but also not only the
president's daily brief but all the multitude of documents that come to the president's desk every single day has to pass through that press secretary. >> if it has sensitive information about north korea or china, sensitive information, that sensitive, compartmented information, with someone with intermittent temporary clearances be allowed to look at that? >> we don't know what access that person has or what they're seeing on a daily basis. it's not the fbi that makes the decision whether or not they get a clearance. they don't even make the recommendation. that fbi is recommending against clearances. >> if they're not giving the clearances, in effect, they're recommending against the clearances. >> the ultimate decision is up to the white house. speculation on my part is that perhaps you have a white house that you have people that weren't in government in a lot of different positions. they may have asked the fbi what do you think about this? i can imagine fbi agents saying this person is not someone we
would hire. if they're not going to grant a clearance, then they're relying on these interim clearances, essentially troubling. >> very troubling. josh campbell, helping us better appreciate all the sensitivity of all of this. the president's remarks, defending his ex-staffer who resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse. what he said and who he didn't mention in those remarks. all eyes are on kim jong un's younger sister. is north korea stealing the show? try cool mint zantac. it releases a cooling sensation in your mouth and throat. zantac works in as little as 30 minutes. nexium can take 24 hours. try cool mint zantac. no pill relieves heartburn faster.
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if it's severe stop taking linzess and call your doctor right away. other side effects include gas, stomach-area pain, and swelling. ask your doctor if 90 days of linzess may be right for you. 2018 olympic games are officially under way in south korea. north korea's actions right now continue to make headlines. let's discuss this and more with my next guest, tom donnelin. north korea, it's pretty
fascinating what's going on right now. the younger sister of kim jong un is there. they were together with -- she was there, only a few feet away from the vice president, mike pence. he didn't reach out, she didn't reach out. was that a missed opportunity? >> i don't think it was, no. the north korean -- by the vice president. i think north korea has a clear set of goals. they're trying to split the alliance and head off additional sanctions and reduce the sanctions already on them. this came about from a new year's day speech that kim jong un, the head of north korea, gave, offering to come to talks and come to the olympics. it's an effort, again, to get out from under sanctions at this point and normalalize the view of north korea in the eyes of the international community. we have to see what transpires after this. will all this -- it's fine to reduce tensions. will this result in or translate into serious results about resolving the nuclear threat? >> let me play a clip.
this is only a month or so ago. president trump was open to having a dialogue, a direct dialogue with kim jong un. listen to this. >> yeah. >> are you willing to engage in talks with kim jong un right now? >> sure. i'm always willing to talk. very firm but absolutely i would do that. no problem with that at all. >> it was hard to understand but he said sure i've always believed in talking, absolutely i would do that. i don't have a problem with that at all. but the vice president, apparently, had a problem talking with the younger sister of kim jong un. >> it has to be set up. i oversaw the pressure campaign on iran for almost five years. and that pressure campaign ended up being successful in bringing the iranians to the table. but there has to be a path. we should continue our maximum pressure campaign which the vice president said he was going to do the other day. you also have to present a path to negotiations.
there needs to be a way for them to come to the table thachl diplomacy move is coming, right? but after the good feelings of the olympics here, i think we'll go back to higher tensions. we'll resume our military exercises, they'll likely to resume their testing. we have a couple more cycles here, i think, before we get serious talks. >> you were the national security adviser, apparently dozens of white house officials still don't have their security clearances. they're working on the basis of these temporary clearances. >> i think a lot of this has roots in the transition. >> what do you mean by that? >> you had a chaotic transition and unprecedented number of senior white house officials leave as a result of different issues. i think there wasn't a normal, appropriate, intensive vetting coming in and you pay a price
for that, going forward. second, you normally would give priority to the assistants of the president who handle the most sensitive information. >> that would be a top priority of the fbi to get these guys cleared. >> absolutely and they will bring forward issues. it's an unusual circumstance to have this many senior people without clearance. >> you were president obama's national security adviser. i assume you work closely with the white house staff secretary and the white house chief of staff? >> i did. >> did the white house staff secretary when you were there have interim, temporary clearances? >> i wasn't really with the clearance security stts. >> you assume. >> you certainly assumed anyone handling information in the white house -- >> someone delivering the presidential daily brief to the president, you assume, has security clearances. >> you would assume they had the ability and appropriate clearances that allowed him or her to handle that information. >> so, what's your bottom line assessment? what's the scandal that's unfolding now at the white house? apparently top officials, including white house chief of staff john kelly, white house
counsel, don mcgahn, they've known for a long time that there was a problem with the staff secretary, allegations of abuse of two ex-wives. >> that should have come to his supervisor, who is the chief of staff. and it should have been dealt with. if i were the chief of staff at the white house today, i think the appropriate way to go forward here is to do a priority review today of the security clearances that key people in the white house have, to work with the fbi to see if there are any issues and to resolve them and to get on board the staff that has the appropriate protections, appropriate security clearances and are free from anything like being vulnerable to blackmail. >> do you know john kelly at all? >> i worked with him during the course of the -- >> is he up to the job? >> very. >> it looks like he made some major blunder. >> very fine military commander. but the white house -- the white house chief of staff job is a multi-faceted job, exceedingly difficult job, has all kinds of aspects to it, including number of political and serious management challenges.
>> even if you're a four-star general doesn't necessarily mean you're qualified to do all of that. >> it's a challenging job. it's especially challenging work. frankly, with a president who doesn't approach the job in the ways that other presidents have. >> fair point. tom donilon, thanks for joining us. i'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in the situation room. meantime the news continues right now. wolf, thank you. hi, everyone, i'm brooke baldwin on this friday afternoon. here is what we have for you. moments ago in his remarks, the president of the united states defended his former aide, the one accused of abusing his former wives and, oh, yeah, the president didn't say a single word about the women. not one. we're talking about former white house staff secretary rob porter. this week's i