GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOUS, ABC NEWS: And we are joined now by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. Kellyanne, thanks for joining us –
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Hello George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — this morning. Lots to get to this morning, just peeling (ph) off the end of that piece there though (ph), I’ve also been told that you’re on the short list, possible short list for chief of staff, that the president is very high on you.
Would you accept if he asked?
CONWAY: That would be news to me. I spoke with the president last night about this very issue, and he wanted me to reemphasize to everyone, including this morning, that he has full confidence in his current Chief of Staff General John Kelly, and that he is not actively searching for replacements.
He also has full confidence in Hope Hicks as communications director and long serving aide. There are a lot of – I think un-sourced and thinly (ph) sourced stories out there, but when it comes to those two individuals, the president is – has full confidence in their performance.
And I would also say, I do serve at the pleasure of the president, it’s – I think it’s incredible important to focus to subvert your ego to the greater good, which is for the country. And I consider myself one small molecule trying to push for an agenda that makes us more safe and more prosperous.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to more on that coming up, but first – so he hasn’t complained? The president hasn’t complained on the phone about John Kelly and Hope Hicks to his friends and associates?
CONWAY: He hasn’t complained to me, and I spoke with him last night and asked him this question pointedly. He asked me if I was going on any shows, I said yes, I said and I would like to hear directly from you and not just speculate or not even say from perspective what I see, which is day in and day out working with his two – with John Kelly as my Chief of Staff.
And the president wanted me to reemphasize that this morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good to hear that. Let’s get to the president’s tweet from yesterday, I want to put it back up for our viewers to see. President writing, people’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false, some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?
Does the president believe that Rob Porter is falsely accused?
CONWAY: Well Rob Porter no longer works at the White House. These stories were breaking overnight on Tuesday and again on Wednesday morning, and by Thursday he was out of the White House.
And you have to look at the result here, Rob Porter’s gone from one of the top aids to Donald Trump, our president, to no longer working there. I think the president, like the rest of us, were shocked and disturbed by the allegations.
This is not the Rob Porter any of us have worked with, but George, you – you’re looking at contemporary in use (ph) police reports, at pictures, at detailed allegations by these women.
And yes, we are a nation of laws, we are a nation of due process, and all sides should be heard out. But you also can’t ignore what you see in front of you, and I think that’s what – what we’re all saying.
I think – look, we take domestic abuse very seriously, child abuse, drug use, sexual harrassment. All of these are serious issues but they’re not Republican or Democratic issues. These are scourges on our society of (ph) many, many decades.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. But Kellyanne, you just said you take this seriously. You just said the president is shocked. The president himself has not said that. He didn’t say he was shocked, he didn’t say he was disturbed by this — by these allegations, he didn’t say that he was taking domestic violence seriously, he said you have to pay attention to the fact that Rob Porter says he’s innocent.
And then he talks about mere allegations, people being falsely accused. So let me ask you again, does the president believe that Rob Porter is falsely accused?
CONWAY: The president believes, as he said the other day, you have to consider all sides. He has said this in the past about incidents that relate to him as well. At the same time, you have to look at the results. The result is that Rob Porter is no longer the staff secretary. It is — it is — the president tells me that he learned just this week, when the rest of us did, what these allegations are, what — these pictures, the contemporary news (ph) police reports, the detailed information as (ph) having been provided to the FBI.
And we are all trying to process that against the person that we worked with for over a year. But this president has — I think he’s doing a great job for America’s women. We have to look at the full picture. You have 800,000 women took new jobs last year because of his leadership. You have women who work at over 300 companies now that are getting wages and benefits and capital investments happening within their own communities. We are a safer, more prosperous nation, that includes all of us, including the nation’s women because of Donald Trump’s leadership.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m trying to figure out why, then, the president sent out the tweet yesterday. Anyway, (ph) is there no such thing any longer as due process. You know, that’s usually applies to court proceedings. But let’s take it in this context. Didn’t the wives — ex-wives of Rob Porter follow due process? They went to the FBI over a year ago, made their testimony over — over a year ago, Colbie Holderness provided the photo that we all saw this week.
They didn’t go public, they went to the FBI. The FBI held up, (ph) reported this to the White House, Rob Porter’s security clearance was held up, yet nothing happened for months and months and months.
CONWAY: Well I understand that the process in place is one that has gone on for many, many years. And of course, we’re all subject to it, George. Perhaps you were as well when you worked in the White House. And the — we respect the process and we also rely upon it. I know I submitted my FBI obviously, I got my clearance last year. But obviously, (ph) I have an interim clearance. And what I understand is, from White House Counsel’s office, is that there are a lot of — there’s a lot of misinformation.
And there’s a lot of information going out in the public right now being reported as fact by people who couldn’t possibly know. And — and so they won’t discuss individual FBI investigations. We have to all respect that, I believe. But at the same time, an interim security clearance was granted to Rob Porter to allow him to continue. That is the case for others who work in the White House currently and in other White Houses.
But this is a processes that’s gone on a long time and we respect and rely upon that process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but the point is, Kellyanne — of course I was subject to the same processes. In most White Houses, you talk to former staff secretaries, former — people who’ve worked on this in the past, if credible allegations from two former wives about domestic violence were brought forward, the permanent security clearance would be denied. Rob Porter did not get the permanent security clearance and that person would no longer be working in the White House.
Are you now saying that Don McGahn and Chief of Staff Kelly were not told before this week about the allegations against Rob Porter? Because that is what has been reported. You said this is false reporting.
CONWAY: No, no. What I’m saying is false reporting is — is some of the information about Rob not getting a permanent security clearance. He was not denied one. The process is ongoing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn’t get it. But —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — and the FBI brought forward these allegations, they found the allegations credible. That was the reason he didn’t have the permanent security clearance, correct?
CONWAY: And people like me are learning that just this week when everybody else is – when you’re learning it. So what I – what I’m saying to you is that there is a process in place that we rely on, and we respect, and that was being followed here.
I’m also told that that is why investigations continue and not why they are ceased. There probably are instances, I would – I’m guessing now, that there are probably instances where the FBI is looking at someone’s background check and says this person cannot, will never get a security – and actually poses a threat to the nation, shouldn’t be working in this White House.
That was not the case here as far I can tell. But let me repeat myself, does not beat (ph) women.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well – hold on – let me – let me interrupt you right there, because you just said something. Colby Holderness has said she told the FBI that she thought Rob Porter was vulnerable to blackmail because of these allegations.
These allegations were brought (ph) more than a year ago, they were found to be credible, they were presented to the White House chief of staff and the White House council, yet nothing happened.
CONWAY: But George, I personally don’t know that to be true, so I’m not a good source for you on that. I personally don’t know to be true who received that information and when.
I would not account, especially the president, I’m not royal (ph) council, I’m not chief of staff, I’m not others within that line. I would not be made privy to that, and – and good because that would – that is about somebody else’s investigative process that probably should not be shared broadly.
Let me repeat, I am very well aware in having read those articles many times now, that what these women said to the FBI, I’m very aware of the contemporary in use police reports (ph) and very aware of the pictures.
And – and so that, as one backdrop, the other is that you really have to ask the individuals who were in the direct line what they knew and – and I will tell you something else, that it’s – it’s actually good that the rest of us don’t know things like that, because this information affects all of the people involved in any one investigation, including – including the women who came forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I do appreciate that, in fact we did ask for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to join us this morning, we were told that he was not available. But – but you say you spoke with the president, has the president seen the testimony of the two former wives?
Has he seen the pictures, does he believe them?
CONWAY: I know the president has read the articles, I know he saw exactly what the rest of us saw. It is not clear to me that he has seen any underlying documents that the FBI may have in possession.
So – and again, he accepted the resignation within – within 48 hours of these stories running, resignation tendered, resignation accepted, clearing out your desk. His staff secretary no longer works there, and it’s a – it’s a disappointment in terms of what the president said the other day, that this is somebody he worked closely with who we – we didn’t – nobody suspected this, nobody knew this.
He was a highly competent member of the senior staff, but all that melts away when – when confronted with this information in terms of whether or not this man can continue in this job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Kellyanne, why can’t the president say so? You know, there does seem to be a pattern here, when a friend or an ally, a man of the president’s gets in trouble, these allegations of – of – of abuse or sexual harassment, the president’s sympathies immediately go to the man whether it’s Bill O’Reilly or Roger Ailes or Roy Moore or Rob Porter.
Why is that and do you understand the problem that creates for the president?
CONWAY: What I understand is that this is a man who shows great compassion and understanding for – for women on many different issues. I frankly, wouldn’t work there if that were not the case.
I could be dozens of other places for lots of money, why would I – why would someone like me and many other women be there? He is an excellent boss to work for, an excellent boss for women, for working mothers frankly, and I believe he’s there.
I know that he’s there as president of the United States because he wants to do well across all Americans, in other words do good for the country and we are a more prosperous nation.
Unemployment among women is at an 18 year low That should matter to people. And I do see him express sympathy. And he has many times come to the aid of women privately, whether he has secured employment for them or given them a hand up, read an article about them and had his team back at Trump Tower contact them and try to help them, that’s the Donald Trump I see and I know. And I really would ask everyone else to — to look at that many times as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well —
CONWAY: You can — you can feel many different things about the same situation. But I — I know that he has great empathy and compassion. In fact, when he had the press pull in on Friday when he made those comments, he was meeting with two gentlemen who he invited into the Oval Office because he had read their story about they attending (ph) the inauguration. He sent them money and they used the money for their ailing father.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. But at the time he talked about —
CONWAY: That got no coverage.
STEPHANOPOULOS: At the time, he talked about Rob leaving, pointing to Rob Porter, saying he was innocent, as you know. There’s been a strong reaction to this from Democrats —
CONWAY: He did not say that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — on Capitol Hill. He said — he pointed to Rob Porter, saying he is innocent. That’s exactly what the president did say. But I want to talk to Kirsten Gillibrand. She put out a tweet responding to the president yesterday. She said the president has shown through words and actions that he doesn’t value women. It’s not surprising that he doesn’t believe survivors or understand the national conversation that is happening.
If he wants due proves for the over dozen sexual assault allegations against him, let’s have Congressional hearings tomorrow. Do the president’s accusers deserve due process?
CONWAY: George, let me say something. Those accusers have had their day on your network and elsewhere for a long time. They were trotted out again late last year. And I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand or anybody else who protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying. I don’t need a lecture from her or anybody else. And she since, of course, has said that President Clinton had resigned.
But let’s call this for what it is. That’s a Democratic party bereft of any ideas and any accomplishments. Every single thing that’s happened has been without them. In the course of a month, her Democratic party voted to shut down the government, sat on their hands when patriotic things were being said and honored at the State of the Union, including a 12 year old boy who put flags on 40,000 veterans’ graves. Oh, and not a single one of them voted for a tax cut that is already helping millions and millions of American workers, including women.
So this is about a party auditioning for 2020, perhaps herself included, going so far to the left. Remember what they said, that they’re not going to deal on anything until they get DACA. The president put forth the first piece of document to Congress on DACA on October 8th. What are they doing? He has said he will — he will give a pathway to citizenship for the 1.8 million. But he also has the budget caps (ph) going.
We have 6 billion for opioids, we have 4 billion for veterans, we’re going to fund our militaries, General Mattis has said we are. Where is the Democratic leadership?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You done? (ph)
CONWAY: And yes, these are all very serious, serious considerations when it comes to women in the workplace. I’ve been talking about it for — for years myself. And I’ve been a victim of it myself. But — but the fact is it can’t — you can’t look at the victim based on her politics or where she works and you can’t just talk about this issue in a context without recognizing that this is a Democratic party bereft of other ideas and accomplishments.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You packed a lot into that answer. I want to ask a final question on this subject. On Thursday, the president’s spokesman, Raj Shah said that this situation could have been handled better by the White House. Does the president believe that as well? We’ve been told that he was unhappy with that admission by Mr. Shah.
CONWAY: Well the president looks at it very swift (ph) that all of these stories and the photographs and the contemporaries, the details were coming out into public view late Tuesday into Wednesday, resignation tendered and accepted, out of the building by Thursday. He took very swift action and the person no longer works there. There was no go take a breather, get yourself the help you need, come back, do a different assignment in some other agency or department.
He’s gone. And that is — that is handling the situation very expeditiously. And one that caught all of us, very unaware.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well I’m not sure it caught –
CONWAY: I think all of us (inaudible).
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m not – I’m not sure it caught all of you unaware. You just admitted that you weren’t in the loop on this and there’s credible reporting that –
CONWAY: I’m glad to not be in the loop on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That – that both Chief of Staff John Kelly and the White House Counsel had known about these allegations for – for several months.
CONWAY: Well, General Kelly tells me otherwise. General Kelly has said otherwise, and you would have to ask him the questions fairly (ph) I can only speak for what I knew and the conversations I’ve had with the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he’s now – he’s now denying that he knew about these allegations for months?
CONWAY: You would have to talk to General Kelly about that. But I wanted to tell you from the president’s perspective, did (ph) you ask me a question about what the president thought.
This is what workplaces everywhere across the country should see, a swift action and it is Rob Porter who felt he should resign and he did and the president is saying that while he was there he did a very good job, he’s talking about his work performance, his output, and at the same time the person no longer works there because of what you and I have seen and read.
And if – listen, the – all of these issues, apart from this White House, apart from ABC, apart from any work place, issues of child abuse, drug use, domestic abuse, intimate partner abuse, these have been scurgers (ph) on society for decades, George, and if everybody wants to have a serious conversation about it, let’s have it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: All right, that is not what we’ve heard from the president. One final question on this release of the democratic memo that has not been released now, the president says he wants more redactions subject to what the FBI decides.
But it’s (ph) getting some criticism, not only from democrats, but also republicans. Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan saying both the republican and democratic FISA memo should be released.
I’ve read both memos, neither one endangers national security, the American people deserve the opportunity to read both memos. Do the American people deserve that?
CONWAY: The president is inclined to declassify the memo, but it went through the same process meaning legal counsel and national security team looked at it and they feel that it needs – that it reveals sources and methods, that were not the case in the republican memo, so now it’s going back to the Congress, George, so that they can do what they need to do so that the memo can be released.
And I understand Congressman Schiff, you’ll have to ask him, and I understand Congressman Schiff is complying with that process as well. So the president is inclined to do – to have released both of them, but the democratic memo is much longer, it’s much more involved, and those who are in a position to know national security and — and — and lawyers have said that it contains sources and methods that could be very compromising. So they want to make sure that that is cured before it is released to the public. But look, this president has called for transparency and accountability.
We know now that — through Christopher Steele, that the whole reason for the FISA warrants being — being granted in the first place, to — to survey (ph) a –a former campaign advisor who Donald Trump has said he’s never met and who Cart Page said he never met Donald Trump, we know that the entire expenditure that was paid for by the Democratic National Committee, paid for by the Clinton Campaign, this president has been victimized by this fo over a year.
And so we have to be very careful about investigating all of this. But in terms of sources and methods, that — that is not just a congressman on a T.V. (ph) appearance saying this is what I think, this is what I know. This is serious business. And if it takes a little bit extra time to get the — get the transparency and accountability out there, we should all respect that. The president is inclined to declassify it the way he did the other.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there’s a lot of dispute over whether both were handled the same way. But we have got to leave it that. Kellyanne Conway, thanks very much for your time.
CONWAY: Thank you, George.