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White House Officials New About Porter, scrambled to Protect Him; Source: John Kelly Knew of Abuse Claims Against Porter for Months; Hope Hicks Was Dating Porter, Helped Draft White House Response; Cyber Chief: Russia "Penetrated" Some Voter Rolls; Taking Aim at Olympic Committee over Abuse; South Korean President to Meet with Sister of Kim Jong-Un. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 08, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00:] REP. TED YOHO, (R), FLORIDA: It is. And that points out another problem of the fights that we have, these short-terms spending fights. We've got to focus on getting this government running and doing what it's supposed to do so we can work through these things so much quicker and we can focus 20 years down the road. We need to look outside of what's going on here in America. We need to prepare for what China is doing, the growth of China, the aggression of China. And we can't do that if we're focused on short-term crisis management.

And this is where I fault the leadership of the majority party, which I'm in, is that we need to raise up our days so that we're looking down the road, we're looking not just at the end of this Congress, but 20, 50 years down the road, so we don't always operate in short-term spending crisis management. It's the worst way to spend the American people's money. And we've been outspoken about this since we've been up here, and we'll continue until it changes.


YOHO: It's a priority in the House and in the Senate also.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Congressman Ted Yoho, thanks for joining us.

YOHO: Thank you for having me on. Have a great day.

BLITZER: You, too.

A truly extraordinary moment. The first relative from the North Korean dynasty crossing the border into South Korea. Who Kim Jong-Un is meeting with, his sister. And the chance that Vice President Mike Pence, who is now in South Korea, will hold talks with the North Korean regime as well. We'll discuss that, get new information, when we come back.


[13:35:37] BLITZER: We turn back to one of our top stories, the very disturbing allegations of domestic abuse against top White House staffer, Rob Porter, who resigned yesterday, expected to be out of the office as early as today. Multiple sources telling CNN that senior White House aides have known about the allegations against Porter for months, including White House chief of staff, John Kelly. Kelly apparently learned about the allegations last fall, months ago, when Porter was denied a top security clearance. Still he was allowed to continue working in the White House all this time.

Let's talk more about the process of obtaining a security clearance. Joining us, Attorney John Berry, who represents people trying to obtain clearances, others who are denied clearances.

John, thanks very much for joining us.

JOHN BERRY, ATTORNEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You have a lot of experience in security clearances. What does it say that Rob Porter couldn't get permanent security clearances for more than a year even though he worked on a daily basis with the president and the White House chief of staff.

BERRY: It's very shocking. There seems to be two standards in the security clearance process. One for those that are higher up and one for those involving every other federal employee and contractor. I cannot imagine someone with this type of access being allowed to go on when there are security clearance issues. You just don't see that.

BLITZER: The FBI does interviews with friends, relatives, associates, someone who is applying for security clearances, but also questions the individual himself or herself, right?

BERRY: That's correct.

BLITZER: Now, when the FBI questions these individuals, if that person lies about something, that's a crime, right?

BERRY: That's a criminal offense.

BLITZER: In this particular case, let's say the FBI asked Rob Porter, is there anything in your past that could cause any serious problems for the U.S. government if it came to light, and if that person, if Rob Porter, for example, didn't talk about these allegations of spousal abuse, would that be a lie?

BERRY: Yes. I mean, depending on what part of the SF-86, which is the form that's used, depending on what the nature, if there was a criminal issue or some other issues. When you're filling out that form, you have to do it accurately, completely. You don't generally get to amend it. And if you lie, that's a criminal offense. And some people do get charged for that.

BLITZER: So, potentially, he could be in legal trouble in addition to all of his other problems, legal trouble if he lied to the FBI, if he denied that there was any spousal abuse with his two wives?

BERRY: Or if he was not 100 percent in his description. There could be a lie, there could be an omission, there could be a number of factors that could cause an issue.

BLITZER: So I assume the FBI is now going back and looking at the document he filled out and the interview that he gave to see if there was a formal lie. If there is, he could have legal troubles, perjury in front of the FBI. Even if you're not under oath, you cannot lie to the FBI.

BERRY: Yes. No, you absolutely cannot.

BLITZER: All right, John, thank you very much. John Berry, helping us appreciate this process.

We'll have more on the scandal inside the White House that's unfolding. We'll take a closer look at Hope Hicks' role in this, who has been involved with that now-former aide, Rob Porter.

And all eyes on the Dow right now as it continuous a steep decline, almost 500 points, 493 down right now. We'll update on you that. Stay with us.


[13:43:08] BLITZER: It's one of the most powerful jobs at the White House, communications director. It's a position held now by Hope Hicks, a very trusted confidante of the president who has largely stayed out of the spotlight. But now she's front and center with the Rob Porter mess. She's been romantically involved with Porter. She helped craft the White House response over the abuse allegations against him.

Joining us now, our political correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, tell us a little about Hope Hicks because she has a very important job.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She does have an important job. And she's very close to the president. She was working with the Trump Organization before Donald Trump decided to run for president. He hand-selected her to work on his campaign, to be his spokeswoman, and then go to the transition, and obviously, promoted her to this role of communications director in the White House. In terms of sheer proximity, there's the Oval Office and then her office is right outside of that. So she's dealing with the president all day on all various issues that will come his way. She probably has the closest relationship to him in the White House than anyone who is not related to him.

BLITZER: She's only 29 years old. But she's worked for the president and as a private citizen for several years. He trusts her. Clearly, he elevated her. Talk a little bit about her role now in this whole scandal that has emerged.

MURRAY: It's not that she is trusted by the president, but she's trusted by the family. She worked with Ivanka Trump closely when she was at the Trump Organization. She is as close as you can get without being a Trump family member in Trump's orbit. Now she's in a difficult position because she was romantically involved with Porter. She did help craft these positive statements, initially, from John Kelly, about him. That's a position you don't want your communications to be. You don't want someone to have a conflict of interest in an issue as sensitive as this and be writing these kinds of statements. So that sort of casts her in a negative light.

And one of the things we've seen in this White House is you're dealing with a lot of people who have never worked in government, never worked in an administration, so they tend to make errors like that, where you think, OK, maybe with a little bit of time, with a little bit of hindsight, we would have said Hope probably she shouldn't be involved in drafting these statements.

But she was in this case. Now the question is, is there additional fallout, is there additional fallout for John Kelly, for instance, who knew about these allegations and stood by him anyway? And is there additional fallout for Hope Hicks for being involved in writing these positive statements, continuing to get more and more information and realizing how serious these allegations against Porter really were?

[13:45:37] BLITZER: And additional fallout, potentially, for Don McGahn, the White House counsel, and other officials who may have known about this for months but didn't do anything about it.

Thank you very much, Sara, for that report.

An alarming revelation from the president's cyber security chief. Why the intelligence community now believes Russia penetrated some voter rolls during the 2016 election.


[13:50:25] BLITZER: Revelations of Russia's breach during the 2016 election. Democrats on the Hill are demanding new hearings on hacking following comments by the Department of Homeland Security's cyber security chief.


CYBER SECURITY CHIEF, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I can't talk about classified information publicly. We saw targeting of 21 states. An exceptionally small number of that 21 were actually successfully penetrated.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Jake Tapper, the host of CNN's "THE LEAD" and "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sundays.

Give us some perspective on this because it sounds pretty stark when someone, this expert on cyber security says the Russians penetrated voter rolls.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR & CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's no evidence they actually changed votes, but we heard this for some time, that Russians got successfully got in to some systems and attempted to get into 21 systems.

The biggest news, I think, is not necessarily that interview but the fact that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in an interview with FOX, and Mike Pompeo, CIA director, in an interview with the BBC, both this week have talked about the Russians continuing to do it. Not just in 2016, but they continue to do this in 2018. And Tillerson, himself, said I don't know that I would say we're better prepared. So there's a real question about if this vulnerability from 2016 is going to rear its head again this year.

BLITZER: We hear these warnings about Russia's involvement from these top officials, but not from the president.

TAPPER: No. Because I believe he perceives anything having to do with Russia and the 2016 election to be an attempt to delegitimize him when, obviously, some of it is, but a lot of the alarms are being sounded by his own officials and individuals who care about the integrity of the vote doesn't have anything to do with that. It has to do with just protecting the integrity of the vote.

BLITZER: You've got an important interview with Aly Raisman, the gymnast, that will air later today on "THE LEAD." Give us some background and tell us about this. Our viewers will be pretty interested.

TAPPER: Obviously, she's a gold medal award-winning gymnast, part of the team in 2012 and 2016. She's been very dismayed at the way that both Michigan State and the USA Gymnastics, but also the U.S. Olympic Committee have tried to, in her view, covered up what's going on and really not tried to get to the bottom. She's calling for the U.S. Olympic Committee to start a truly independent investigation, one in which all of their data and e-mails is available for the investigators, one in which the investigation is released to the public at the same time of the Olympic Committee.

And she gave me an example of something that people in the public don't know about, an incident that happened in 2011 that will surprise you. Take a look.


TAPPER: From my reporting, I understand that, in 2011, one of your fellow athletes, in a car with somebody who was going to become an Olympic coach, talked about Nassar abusing her.

ALY RAISMAN, FORMER GOLD-MEDAL GYMNAST: Yes. When I was in the car with her, you know, like I said, we would talk about it amongst ourselves and one of my teammates described in graphic detail what Nassar had done to her the night before. And John Geddert was in the car with us and he just didn't say anything. I don't know what he did or didn't do from there.

I know he didn't ask us any questions. But that just is why we need the full, independent investigation to really get to the bottom of who knew about this, because, you know, we -- I can't even really remember all the times we would talk about it. But I think we talked about it a lot because we were very confused, and we would always convince ourselves that, you know, we were the problem. But the fact that John Geddert overheard us -- I know Maggie Naples

and I were overheard by somebody else in another training camp. Concerns me who else overheard us and didn't do anything about it. We need an investigation.


TAPPER: Now, we should point out, we reached out to John Geddert, who went on one year later to be the Olympic coach in 2012. We did not hear back. We reached out to his attorney. He is being investigated already for other alleged abuse practices. Aly doesn't know necessarily that he heard, but said she was in the car and this other girl, in 2011, was describing the abuse. John Geddert was in the car with them. Didn't say anything. And according to what we know, the Olympic Committee found out about the abuse of Nassar in 2015. Nassar was still abusing people through August 2016. Now we have Aly Raisman saying, hey, an Olympic coach may even have heard about this in 2011.

[13:55:13] BLITZER: Glad you did that interview.

Much more will air later today at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right?

TAPPER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Jake, thank you so much for doing this.

The extraordinary moment unfolding as we speak. The first relative from North Korean dynasty crossing the border into South Korea, Kim Jong-Un's sister. Who is she meeting with? That, and more when we come back.


BLITZER: A historic meeting is set to take place on the sidelines of the Winter Olympic Games. The president of South Korean will to have lunch with the sister of Kim Jong-Un over the weekend. And it comes as the Vice President, Mike Pence, who is South Korea, says fresh sanctions against the regime and issues a warning against its nuclear program.

CNN's international correspondent, Will Ripley, is following late- breaking developments from Seoul -- Will?


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of significant developments here. We saw two very different scenes unfolding in North Korea and South Korea.

In Pyongyang, the North Koran capitol, a massive show of force. Kim Jong-Un unveiling more intercontinental ballistic missiles at one time than we've seen before. Telling the world North Korea is a nuclear power and will not back down despite increased pressure from the United States, including a vow by the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to implement a new round of unprecedented heavy sanctions. The vice president and South Korean President Moon Jae-In speaking together in South Korea.

Mike Pence talking about pressure. President Moon talking about diplomacy and confirming he will have lunch with the sister of Kim Jong-Un, Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the ruling Kim family to step foot on South Korean soil in history, even though there are questions about what could actually be accomplished with this meeting. As historic as it is, there are no North Korean diplomats who will be attending. And North Korea says they have no desire to engage in diplomacy with the United States at the Olympics, no intention to talk with the United States.




RIPLEY: Also happening, protests. People here in South Korea, outside a North Korean concert venue, clashing with police, saying South Korea is getting taken advantage of here, that North Korea is getting everything it wants, an all-expense paid trip to the Olympics, and South Korea is making concessions with no guarantees of any diplomatic breakthrough or lasting peace beyond the Olympics. In fact, there are indications that North Korea is already preparing its next moves, given that the United States will kick off joint military drills with South Korea after the Olympics. In the past, North Korea has launched missiles or conducted nuclear tests surrounding drills like this. What will Kim --