tv Wolf CNN February 12, 2018 10:00am-11:00am PST
flamboyant or even fine speeches. >> the workhorses in the senate. not show horses. nice moment in kentucky today. we'll see if it carries over to the immigration debate. that starts tonight. thank you for joining us at "inside politics." wolf joins you right now. hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington, 8:00 p.m. in jerusalem, 9:00 p.m. in somalia. wherever you are around the world, thank you for watching. baffled. the white house telling cnn they can't understand the president's position and foreign aide who is accused of domestic abuse. this as he defends rob porter and seems to defy the entire me too movement. open secrets. 30 to 40 trump administration officials operating without full security clearance, including the president's son-in-law jared kushner. what this means for america's national security. and getting warmer. the trump administration
indicating it's willing to talk to north korea but saying it's up to kim jong-un. so who blinks first? all of that coming up. let's start with the confusion inside the white house as officials try to get their heads around president trump's stance on rob porter, the former aide resigning over spousal abuse allegations. publicly the president has defended porter, saying the accounts are just mere allegations and shouldn't ruin someone's career. but reports say that privately the president considers porter, and i'm quoting now, sick. our senior white house editor jeff zel aeny. what are you hearing from the president to publicly stand by rob porter? >> reporter: we do know at this moment, first of all, white house chief of staff john kelly is still on the job here. he is the key to this equation. rob porter, who resigned abruptly last week, is perhaps
on the president's mind but the president did not answer questions about him, and the whole matter of security clearances just a short time ago here at the white house when he was doing an infrastructure event with governors and others from around the country. but the white house chief of staff was front and center in the room with the president, and he is indeed on the job here. now, this certainly has given an opening for many people who don't necessarily like john kelly to voice their concern. but we do know, as far as we can tell at this moment, the president still stands behind him. this is what kellyanne conway, the senior adviser to the president, told jake tapper yesterday on "state of the union." >> i spoke to the president last night. i told him i would be with you today, and he said, please tell jake that i have full faith in chief of staff john kelly, and that i am not actively searching for replacements. he said, i saw that all over the news today. i have faith in him. and he does. >> so that, of course, is the president's words through kellyanne conway, that the president has confidence in the chief of staff. but again, it is the question about rob porter.
the president, of course, standing by him publicly, but private some reports say he was not thrilled at all by what he saw. the question is there has just not been a sense of unified message or clarity here. weaver not hea we've not heard from the chief of staff, we've not heard from other advisers here, so until people come forward and answer other questions, maybe it will answer in the briefing this afternoon, there is still a cloud here hanging over the white house, wolf. >> that briefing has been delayed to, what, around 3:00 p.m. eastern? >> indeed. and this is the first briefing where sarah sanders has the opportunity to answer some of these questions and fill in some of the blanks on what the president said on friday. he said rob porter is a goodm . good man. he tweeted on saturday saying lives shouldn't be ruined because of this, but there is a question where the president stands on all of this. that is one reason for the press secretary to answer all these questions, wolf.
>> we'll get back to you, and let's bring in our panelists. rachel bay, our chief political analyst, gloria borger. lots of confusion. white house officials saying they're baffle ld d by what the president said in private as opposed to what he said in public. what do you think? >> i would be baffled, too, if i worked inside the white house. they're also concerned about a timeline offered by general kelly that they're not sure is accurate. did he lie to his own staff? i think there is a lot of confusion there. the president, you know, you heard kellyanne conway saying that, you know, that the president has confidence in general kelly. i know from my own reporting that the president has been calling around to people saying, well, if this job were to become open, would you potentially be interested in it?
his good friend tom barrack said, no, i would not. it was not, i want you to do this job, it was kind of one of those, well, if i were thinking about making a change. so if you're sitting inside the white house, of course you would be scratching your head about this, because it's completely dysfunctional. >> you probably saw that report, they're suggesting that rob porter was told to stay and fight these allegations. >> right, and so the discrepancy between stay and fight versus i told him there's the door 40 minutes after i understood the allegations were credible is your first disconnect right there. not to mention the fact this goes back to the beginning of the trump administration in terms of the number of times people in the white house were warned, that this was actually a concern. and they had reason to maybe ask questions about what the substance of this was and knew to some extent that it was about these issues, because porter was not getting fully approved for his full security clearance. so this is just -- it's remarkable that we've been talking about this for a week at
this point. it's not the first time the white house has had difficulty getting its stories straight, but to go on for this long is really striking. and indicates that, look, this started out -- rob porter -- domestic abuse is a problem. but for the white house, this is a management problem and it continues to be a management problem because they can't get their stories straight about what happened and what they decided to do. >> the scandal represents a significant embarrassment, very awkward situation for republicans -- generally the republican party has basically been silent on these latest allegations. >> it's starting to spill onto capitol hill which is where i work every day, and basically republicans are embarrassed by this. they don't want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. but there are a group of democrats who have vowed to get answers on this. they want to know who knew what when. was this on porter's security clearance? this is totally drowning everything that's going out this week. the senate is getting ready to take on this huge immigration debate this week where the
president's immigration proposal is actually going to get a vote. the president is out there talking about infrastructure, and nobody is really listening to that stuff because porter, six days later, is still taking up everything and sucking up all the oxygen. >> and look, the rnc, when steve wynn had to leave as the finance chair, they're not giving back contributions at this point because they say the allegations against him are unproven, and so, you know, you have this whole steve wynn scenario playing out on the sidelines to the rob porter snacenario playi out inside the white house. >> if you want to take a middle road, there were all kinds of options in the last 13 months. put him on administrative leave while you investigate it. none that fof that happened, ei. you show how much turmoil this is for the gop that we're comparing those situations, and they're comparing shows situations as well and that we're still talking about it a week later. >> then you have a president who has not talked about -- in the
case of rob porter, he hasn't talked about the women. he just talked about how terrible it is for rob porter publicly. >> he should probably take a cue, then, from kellyanne conway who has actually gotten -- her remarks yesterday were very delicate. she talked about not only these being accusations but also mentioning the police report and these women talking under penalty of perjury to sort of emphasize that this goes beyond a mere allegation, and you would think the white house would take a cue from that. not yet so far, at least. >> you would, indeed. also the other thing i would stress is this is one person out of over 30 people that don't have their full security clearance yet. the fact we're focusing on this one person, what are we not focusing on for the others? presumably they are not looking at these cases and the day-to-day functioning of the white house. in a way the fact this has continued on is really surprising and shocking and also means we're not paying as much attention to countless others. >> it's interesting, gloria,
because i know you look at the numbers closely. in the 2016 presidential election, the president carried 41% of the women's vote, 52% of white women. what do you think that's going to be now that he seems to be going against the me too movement? z >> it's honestly hard to predict, wolf. it depends who the president is running against, et cetera. non-college-educated white women, the president won by 27 points. a remarkable number. and the question i have is whether the me too movement, if the pendulum kind of swings to the other side, whether these women will be with donald trump on this or not, you know? i think there is a lot that's got to play out before we really know. i think the women who were not with him are not going to be any more with him, let's put it that way, and maybe the so-called -- well, these women -- we know
more of them are running for political office. we assume more of them will go out to vote, but it's these non-college-educated white women that he's so powerful with. the question is how this will affect them. i don't know the answer. >> what do you think? >> there was a report in the past 24 hours saying steve bannon, who used to be very close to the president and obviously not so much in the circle anymore, but saying that exactly, that he is concerned that the women are going to be so opposed to donald trump that this could potentially swing the midterm elections in 2018 and then again in 2020 have a really dire effect on his reelection. >> all right, guys. thank you all very much. dozens of white house officials still operating without a full security clearance including, as we reported, the president's son-in-law jared kushner. you'll find out what classified information they're actually seeing. plus a seismic shift in recent days involving nuclear tensions with north korea.
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dozens of people are still operating with interim security clearances more than a year into the trump presidency. one of the notable names on the list, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser jared kushner. let's get some perspective from former cia operative bob baer. bob, is this unprecedented in your experience? how unusual is this? >> wolf, i've never seen this before where you've got people in the white house. they're given precedence for getting security clearances, and
remember, the white house is seeing the most secret stuff, special access programs from the pentagon and the cia, and for these people to be held up on a security clearance is very, very unusual. in fact, i'm not sure i've heard of it before. the question is why. even the white house doesn't know why they're being held up because the fbi does their investigation. they're looking for unexplained foreign contacts, financial entanglements or crimes. >> what about someone without a full security clearance having access to some of the most sensitive classified information. walk us through the kind of risk that potentially could pose. >> well, what happens, wolf, a lot of this stuff is transmitted to the white house electronically. so basically anyone that can get in the situation room can see this stuff, and there's no control over it. the cia is not there, the national security agency is not there to monitor this stuff, and normally you can't see it at
all, but once it gets into the white house, it's gone. and this is going to make the intelligence agency very reluctant to send on to the white house very secret stuff. i mean, i would be. >> we mentioned, we reported that the president's senior adviser, his son-in-law jared kushner, still does not have full security clearance, he has interim security clearance. that's been the case for more than a year now. the administration points to paperwork errors in filling out the forms, bureaucratic decisions. what do you make of that? >> i don't believe it, wolf, not for a minute. there is a problem. the fbi will bend over backwards to clear these people into the white house, and they do it very quickly. interim clearances just don't count. if you're in the federal government and you're having the same sort of problems, they will sideline you. they'll send you down to the library. you will lose access immediately if you can't clear a security, you know, background
investigation like this. so, again, this is very, very unusual, and it worries me. >> bob baer, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you. as north korea hits the world stage at the olympics, the u.s. suddenly warming up to the possibility of direct talks with kim jong-un's regime. you're going to hear why. and israel says a downed iranian drone was a copy of an american drone that iran intercepted years ago. what this says potentially for america's spy games. mileage warranty, or it isn't. for those who never settle, it's either mercedes-benz certified pre-owned, or it isn't. the mercedes-benz certified pre-owned sales event. now through february 28th. only at your authorized mercedes-benz dealer.
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south korea would react to a meeting with the north korea dictator. we're joined by pyeongchang, the site of the winter olympic games. will, was kim jong-un's sister's visit a diplomatic win or a diplomatic loss? how was it received? >> well, if you're kim jong-un, it was definitely a diplomatic win. he sent his telegenic younger sister kim jong to tong chang. they had photooptic games, handshakes. if your south korea's president, it was also a win because he ran on the platform of engaging with north korea, and he's now had the diplomatic meeting with kim and he may be heading to north korea in a couple months.
the vice president of the united states brought otto warmbier. he did not make a step forward. vice president pence had some discussions and said the u.s. can endorse this engagement as long as certain conditions are met. if max pressure continues, no money is being paid to the north koreans. they're being put in a box here, wolf. >> let's talk about these developments. we're joined by josh rogan and belle wong. josh, you spent a week with vice president pence. you interviewed him on the way back. he is now seemingly open to the idea of the u.s. and north korea engaging in direct talks. >> that's right, wolf. what mike pence told me is that in principle, the trump administration has always been
willing to talk to north korea. what they feared was the south koreans would move ahead of them and give north korea concessions just by talking. after having two private meetings with moon jae-in, one in his residence and one while watching speed skating, they came to an agreement of no concessions for talking. with that, pence gave him the green light for talking. it's a small compromise to keep the alliance together and allow moon to pursue his engagement with north korea, and it could lead to direct talks with the u.s., although that doesn't mean negotiations, that doesn't mean peace, it's just a small diplomatic opening. >> it shouldn't necessarily be all that much a surprise given the fact that president trump himself, as recently as last month at camp david, said he's open to having a phone conversation with the north korean leader. >> that's right, and vice president pence was talking to president trump every day that he was on the trip. rex tillerson has also said that he wants to have talks without pre-conditions, and they call
them talks about talks. so this is not a new idea, but the problem was the south koreans were moving ahead without, and that created a gap. what vice president pence did with moon jae-in, they closed that gap doing the work of diplomacy while seeing if this engagement will work. this engagement might not work. there are a lot of things that could go wrong. we'll have new sanctions, north korea could have new provocation and they might not want to talk to us. we don't know if they want to sit down with us. but, anyway, the door is open. what mike pence said to me was, if you want to talk, we'll
talk. >> listen to what rex tillerson actually said about this. listen to this. >> i think it's too early to judge. as we've said for some time, it's really up to the north koreans to decide when they're ready to engage with us in a sincere way, a meaningful way. they know what has to be on the table for conversations. >> so what's your analysis?
>> i think, first of all, we're making too much about this supposed gap between the two sides. >> between south korea and -- >> between the trump administration and the moon administration. >> in south korea. >> that's correct. i think to say south korea was way ahead with north korea was also not correct. i think this trip and the success in the breakthrough was very critical not because of this willingness to talk, which i think is actually very consistent. the trump administration's north korea policy review issued very early last year stated very clearly that it was maximum pressure and engagement. and secretary tillerson and secretary mattis have been very consistent about this. now, where we really achieved the significant breakthrough is, i think, a division of labor, that president moon -- and i hesitate to say the u.s. gave the green light to south korea, because i think the issues, inter-korean issues should be left to south korea to lead. now there is an opening, and i
think it's very positive to have articulated this division of labor that south korea can proceed, but absolutely without concessions up front on the nuclear issue. >> you've heard all the analysis, josh, that there is a good cop/bad cop routine going on, the good cop the south koreanss, the bad cop the u.s. >> my reporting shows when south korea announced these talks, they didn't consult with the u.s. in advance. they notified them. they learned about it when it was announced. that was a problem they had to fix. and you're right that, you know, there is an inter-korean dynamic and there is a u.s. dynamic and we have different interests. the u.s. interest is to protect u.s. security. moon jae-in has a whole different set of calculations. merging those and finding the overlap and at least presenting a unified front and knowing what you're doing, that is something that did not exist before mike pence got to south korea. after he left south korea, that did exist. that's what mike pence was telling me about. significant, it doesn't solve all of the problems but it
allows everyone to move forward and allows everyone to find out if this engagement has any legs. >> how do you think the north koreans will react to what the vice president is saying? >> i think, even though i regard all these developments as very positive, north korea ends up really in charge of the game here. because now what north korea has managed to do is it's not just dividing the allies. north korea has made cooperation and essentially avoiding war on the korean peninsula an issue with south korea, the republic of korea. now it's trying to make denuclearization a completely separate issue with the united states. that's the problem. >> let's not forget the south korean president, he ran on the notion of trying to establish a direct dialogue with north korea to try to ease some of those nuclear tensions. thanks very, very much. an important story. coming up, he's one of the most wanted men in the world. now cnn has ex clus clusive rep on the whereabouts of isis and why he temporarily gave up control of the terrorist group.
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this is a stealth drone operated by the u.s. military. in 2011, the cia was operating one of these drones over iran when they lost it. the united states asked for it back. iran said no. they said they were able to re-engineer the technology from that drone, although they weren't able to be 100% at this process because they tell us they were able to monitor it from the moment it took off until it entered iranian air space and they were able to shoot it down. now they're combing through that wreckage to find out exactly what the iranians did learn. they're also looking to see what its mission was. israel didn't tell me what its mission was, but they didn't believe it had authentic capability. was it a a reconnaisance mission? were they testing air abilities? when you hit mush push, when you
hit steel stop, benjamin netanyahu said they dealt syria a blow inside syria for retaliation for the use of this drone as well as being shot down by syrian anti-aircraft fire. they also went after a number of sites, iranian and syrian, inside of syria. now, the question is, was that enough steel to stop any potential further incursions? wolf? >> it sound like that is escalating big time. we'll see what happens in days to come. ian, thank you very much. at the same time, cnn is learning that the isis leader baghdadi was badly wounded in an isis stronghold in syria last may. they said his injuries were so severe that he gave up the control group for five months while he recuperated. it's unclear what airstrike
injured bagdadi railroad whether it was known as collateral damage. nick has that cnn exclusive. nick, baghdadi came at a time when they were already losing their grip on raqqa. >> a key time, and the news came in around may of last year when the u.n.-backed kurdish forces were responsible for kicking isis out that october. perhaps that's when he chose to flee the city itself. we know, as you said, for about four or five months he had to relinquish control of the organization. that was also when they lost control of the mosul city, the old city itself slipping out of their hands in about june or july. so there were moments of territorial change and loss for the group, too. the key question is exactly who fired the missile that appears to have injured him. the americans say they don't have an exact date and while
there were dominant forces dropping bombs around syria, they weren't entirely clear about trying to kill bagdadi. it represents a man on the run. the notion of him being injured in may, it depends on testimony from isis detainees and refugees as well. now they believe he may finally be on the run in the syrian iraqi border area known as jazera. that is one where they are putting a lot of pressure right now trying to find him and cut off an isis escape route perhaps around the valley, maybe even into iraq. but this final end game against isis something the u.s. is putting intense pressure to this final figurehead, if you like,
of isis, bagdadi himself. only seen in public once. wolf? >> they don't know who warplanes leveled that attack that wounded bagdadi? >> they are aware he was injured in may. they don't know exactly when in may. they are confident he was injured in way. because they can't tell exactly what date that was, they can't tell exactly who was in operation in the skies above raqqa that particular day. it's important to have that kind of detail to know he was out of action that long. it certainly traces perhaps some sense as to why a message emerged in september allegedly from mr. bagdadi himself in which he tried to prove to himself and others in the russian claim that he was alive. wolf? >> thank you for the reporting on that story. just coming in to cnn, a letter sent to the apartment of donald trump jr. in new york that contains an unidentified
white powder. our jason sarah rocarroll is gew information. jason, tell us what you learned. >> reporter: this happened around 10:00 a.m. this morning. a letter was apparently delivered to donald trump jr.'s upper east side apartment. his wife opened that letter this morning shortly after 10:00 a.m. a suspicious substance, a white powder, fell out of that envelope. and as a precaution, vanessa trump and two others taken to a local hospital here in new york city. again, this just as a precaution. she did not apparently have an immediate reaction to after she had opened that envelope. the experts issued
decontamination efforts again. we just want to emphasize this again just as a precaution. vanessa trump and two others taken to a local hospital after she opened an envelope at the couple's apartment, that envelope containing a suspicious white powder at their upper east side apartment. wolf? >> once you get some more information, let us know, jason. thank you very much. that's a disturbing story right there. coming up, a cnn investigation finds relief money meant to fight famine and drought in africa is funding the terror group al shabaab. an exclusive report coming up. plus the royal cprevious administration making statements at the unveiling of their official portraits and why it turned emotional.
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they are in a humanitarian crisis trying desperately to escape the famine and the fighting in somalia. now they're being terrorized by al shabaab. sam kylie shows us how foreign aid for the refugees is ending up in the hands of terrorists. >> reporter: the center of somalia's humanitarian disaster and a source of ready cash for al shabaab terrorists. first of all, we need to talk to the guy who knows most about the financing. >> okay, fine. >> reporter: somali national intelligence offices are taking us inside a secret prison for al shabaab.
captured a few days earlier, this former al shabaab fighter was at the front line of it's fundraising, collecting thousands of dollars of road tolls, much of it taken from trucks delivering food for refugees. it's a cycle of exploitation that has victims at its very core. hundreds of thousands of them. many in receipt of money from foreign donors. this is budan refugee camp. there are a steady flow of refugees coming in here every day. it's impossible to access without an escort from the af r african union, and people fleeing here are fleeing drought and they're fleeing conflict. it's those two combinations that are so profitable for groups like al shabaab and other warlords. this family once had dozens of goats and seven cows. drought and conflict have driven heron to the road and now she has nothing.
but destitute, she is still a source of income for al shabaab. 270,000 refugees now live in bidoa and more come every day. and this is where the terrorist group profits. now an agent for the government, this man was an al shabaab tax collector for eight years. merchants bring in food for sale for refugees, pay al shabaab to get to bidoa and tax them there, too. and if they don't pay? >> they are captured and killed. >> reporter: he told me al shabaab made about $3 on every bag of rice delivered to bidoa. you say this doesn't work. they are always paying tax to al shabaab. >> that's correct. >> reporter: it killed many in
2011, many in 2012 and many last year. they switched to cash directly last year and that shifted to moving food from merchants. but al shabaab has continued to profit. >> there is actually an incentive for al shabaab to capture people in bidoa and just scrape off three bucks a bag. >> i think that's probably right. and the thing is how doumit gate and manage those kind of problems? and what is the more althoughta? >> the u.n. estimates this generates $5,000 a day for the terrorist group. the country's roads have become al shabaab's financial blood supply. 22,000 african troops have been fighting the terrorists, but they're due to pull out in two years.
>> that will affect the >> absolutely. it will leave a vacuum. >> and a vacuum would leave al shabaab better able to exploit refugees. thanks to sam for that exclusive report. other news we are following here in washington as the presidency looks to dismiss the me too movement one responds to the defense of a former aide accused of domestic abuse. plus, the white house getting ready to respond as the spotlight turns to the chief of staff, the white house counsel among others. you are looking at live pictures from the briefing room. we are standing by for the briefing. we'll take it live. stay with us. ♪ it takes a lot of work to run this business. but i really love it. i'm on the move all day long... and sometimes, i don't eat the way i should. so, i drink boost to get the nutrition i'm missing.
lady obama were back in the public eye in washington for a rite of passage today. the couple's official portraits for the smithsonian's portrait gallery were unveiled today. they both selected their own artists. former president obama chose kehinde wiley and said the portraits lifted people up. >> that was something that moved me deeply because in my small way that's part of what i believe politics should be about is not simply celebrating the high and mighty and expecting that the country unfolds from the top down, but rather it comes from the bottom up. >> our white house reporter kate bennett joins us now. michelle obama also had some pretty powerful words at this ceremony. >> yeah.
michelle obama was thinking about the impact the painting would have on future generations and girls like her. >> i'm also thinking of the young people, particularly girls and girls of color. in years ahead they will come to this place and see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on this wall of this great institution. i know the impact that will have on their lives because i was one of those girls. >> a lot of people are saying the portrait doesn't look hilik her and in some ways it is not the portrait you might expect of a first lady or even of a president.
i think the opportunity to pick artists that have more of a cultural representation whose work reflects social justice or messaging was paramount to them in this case. michelle obama, again, her face isn't smiling, her hand is resting but she spent many hours with the artist so she could capture what she felt was michelle obama. >> tell us more about the artists they selected. >> wiley is exceptional. he typically paints hip-hop figures and average african-american men he finds on the street. he does so in a way that reflects the old masters. he sets them in portraits that are regal and feel empowered and different. the background, you might just think it is greenery and beautiful. but the flowers represent barack obama's past. so there is a chicago city flower, lilys and jasmine
representing africa and hawaii. certainly everything in the portrait is symbolic. he did portraits of big gie smalls and l.l. cool j. >> the former president spoke about being out of the public spotlight for a little while. listen to this. >> we miss you guys. [ applause ] we miss you guys and we miss those who worked with us on this incredible journey, carried yourselves and worked so hard to make this country a better place. >> it's not every day the two of them are out there publically. it's been more than a year now since they have been in the
white house. >> they were just out on the town for michelle obama's birthday though. in these moments when we see them together interacting you can tell they really respect each other and each other's work. it was funny today when barack obama thanked the artist for capturing the way his wife worked in her grace and beauty and also her hotness. >> let's face it. kehinde relative to amy was working at a disadvantage because his subject was less becoming. not as fly. michelle used to joke, i am not somebody who is a great subject. i don't like posing. i get impatient. i look at my watch. i think this must be done. one of those pictures must have worked, why is this taking so long? >> those portraits are at the national portrait gallery. others will be hanging at the white house. >> these are the official portraits for the gallery. his will be in the hall of
presidents. hers will be where other first lady portraits are at the national portrait gallery. the public can see them, check them out in person. >> a lot of people will want to see them. thank you, kate. that's it for me. thank you very much for watching. i'll be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "the situation room." in the meantime, the news continues right now. wolf, thank you. hi, everyone. you're watching cnn. a new week and a new intensity to the scandal in the oval office. moments ago the president declined to answer questions linked to the terminated white house staff secretary rob porter. he left his job last week after allegations that he abused his two ex-wives. stoking the wirestorm is the president's own mixed messages on porter. you have several white house officials who are, quite frankly, confused over president trump's conflicting take
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