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Interview with Yigal Palmor, the Spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry; Two Americans Diagnosed with Ebola Virus; Clock Ticking on Immigration Bill; Investigators Denied Access to MH-17 Crash Site; Theodore Wafer Going Back to Court Today

Aired July 28, 2014 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What was the prime minister's message to president Obama?

YIGAL PALMOR, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY: What the prime minister had to say to President Obama, he said to President Obama -- it is not something that we are going to disclose in public. But as you can see from what you hear from me and from your correspondents on the ground, there is a ceasefire that we have maintained since last night. That is the most important thing, and then there are diplomatic contacts going on in order to try to establish a long- standing arrangement.

President Obama has called on a demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and in the long term this is the most important thing that can ensure that other rounds of fighting will not take place every time Hamas fancies to shoots rockets on Israel.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Palmor, I want to get your take. Michael Oren, as you well know, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, he was quoted in the "Wall Street Journal" by saying what Israel needs is diplomatic cover at the United Nations. Most importantly he said this, "The best thing Secretary Kerry can do is stay out."

Do you agree?

PALMOR: Michael Oren has spoken in his current capacity as a private person. We believe that we have no great ally than the United States. We have no better friend than the United States and we are very grateful for that friendship and for the United States' help and assistance over the years.

I will also add that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are Israel's great friends and they have -- they don't need to prove that anymore. And this is the way the Israeli government treats them, as true friends.

BOLDUAN: Is United States and Israel on the same page right now today?

PALMOR: We are on the same page and we are clearly agreed that Hamas should not be legitimized in its control over Gaza and in its terror actions which are harmful, not just to Israelis but also to Palestinians, not just to people on the ground, but also to the possibilities of any diplomatic breakthrough in negotiations for permanent peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. There is a clear agreement that terrorism should not be allowed to prosper and the Gaza strip should be demilitarized.

These are the strategic key issues and on them we agree almost 100 percent.

BOLDUAN: But one final question though. You agree with them 100 percent, on the same page as the United States. But then what do you make of the proposal that was reportedly put forth by John Kerry to the Israeli government, leaked in the Israeli press that many thought -- many in Israel thought leaned very far away from Israeli interests?

PALMOR: Not just many in Israel. I think there wasn't one single observer or pen did in the Israeli press whether from the right wing, the left wing or the center, the conservative part of the press or liberal part of the press who did not criticize that document.

Now, that said, one should distinguish between criticism at a document and what it means and the criticism to the person of John Kerry. We, of course, do not share any kind of that criticism towards the person of the secretary of state. We don't need to -- well, I will say it again. He is and always has been Israel's loyal friend. We have no grievance whatsoever in that respect.

The paper itself is more than debatable. You've seen the reaction of all the Israeli media. I think nothing more needs to be said.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Palmor, one of the main goals going into this on the part of Israel is not only to inflict pain on Hamas and to take out their rockets and their weapons that they have, but more importantly is to take out the tunnels that have been dug into Israel. How many tunnels have you found? How many tunnels have you taken out?

PALMOR: As we speak now 36 tunnels have been uncovered, 36 tunnels that are crossing into Israel. We don't know about the quantity of tunnels that are crisscrossing Gaza territory without trying to penetrate Israeli territory.

The IDF has now destroyed approximately 16 or 17 tunnels at this moment and they are continuing their operations to blow up and destroy other tunnels. I think it's quite clear we cannot allow any kind of such tunnels to cross into Israeli territory especially as we know what their purpose really is.

I mean, if it had only been for the purpose of smuggling cigarettes, it would not have been good, of course. But we know that Hamas has used them on various occasions and has planned on using them again for major territory attacks on communities in the south of Israel and, therefore, it is essential that we destroy all of them.

BOLDUAN: Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry -- thank you very much for your time.

PALMOR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Coming up next, coming up next hour, we're going to get the Palestinian perspective by speaking with the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. That's coming up.

John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Kate.

Next up for us on NEW DAY, the spread of Ebola has now sickened two Americans trying to help prevent the spread of the disease in Africa. We'll tell you how they're doing and how the fight against this deadly disease is coming along.

Also, Congress still has a lot of work to do before the summer recess. Is a deal possible on immigration? That's the debate, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN ISACCS, SAMARITAN'S PURSE: Yes, she has certain clothes that she wears for the role that she was playing. But the disease can be spread as easily as walking by somebody and brushing their arm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: That was Ken Isaccs, the vice president of Christian aid group, Samaritan's Purse, responding to another American aid worker in Liberia testing positive for the Ebola virus. It comes right after an American doctor found out he was infected. The recent diagnosis shows how difficult it can be to protect against Ebola, a highly contagious disease.

I want to give you an idea about the people. We know she's a missionary from North Carolina. She was there in Liberia living with her husband since 2013. She is gravely ill, and we're told that she is in isolation. Her husband at this point is being monitored, has not shown any signs.

Now, this doctor, Dr. Kent Brantly, he is from Indianapolis, in Monrovia treating patients. These aid workers are so brave going into the line of fire when you think about the fact that they're right there on the ground. We know they take extra precautions to make sure that they're not getting infected or transmitting the disease.

He however started noticing he was getting symptoms last week and he started to isolate himself. He's in isolation right now. We're told that he is not out of the woods yet but that he is doing well. The key here is that survival increases when detected early. Again, Ebola has a high fatality rate. This is key in this situation of this American doctor.

Let's take a look at where we're talking about. We know the Ebola outbreak, the current one right now is really centered in West Africa. As of July 20th, they're saying 1,093 in people in sierra Leone and Liberia are thought to be infected. That's from the World Health Organization. What's more sobering, 442 of these people have died so far.

The biggest concern here, two things, they're concerning -- the concern is that the fear is the virus will spread to Africa's most populous nation which is Nigeria. And then, of course, there's always concern someone can get on a plane and come here to America.

So, this is something we're going to keep watching. An outbreak has already now infected two American aid workers. We're going to have a doctor, a physician that's going to talk to us a little more about what we should know and how we can make sure to watch this world outbreak as it continues.

That's it from over here. Kate -- I was going to say Chris, but you're John.

BERMAN: I am, indeed. Confirmed second source on that.

BOLDUAN: Second source to prove this is John Berman.

BERMAN: Yes.

BOLDUAN: A range of issues is facing Congress before lawmakers head for their August recess at the end of the week. Chief among them, a package to curb the surge of undocumented immigrants along the U.S.- Mexico border. Both chambers appear deadlocked at the clock is ticking.

So, will we see any last-minute deal? Seems there has to be a last minute deal to get any kind of deal these days. But let's see.

Let's bring in Margaret Hoover, CNN political commentator and Republican consultant and John Avlon, CNN political analyst and editor in chief of "The Daily Beast."

The line in Washington when I was covering Congress was there's nothing like jet fumes to get them to reach a deal. Whenever it gets close, that's when they'll actually make a deal. But what do you think? Can Congress actually leave town without reaching any sort of agreement after the uproar both sides had over this, Margaret?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I -- Kate, I do not think they can. It would be incredibly irresponsible from a public policy perspective and also, frankly, just freaking doing your job. I mean, humanitarian crisis, that term has been used hundreds of times of the last few weeks, and to simply let it lie -- both sides have mud on their face on this one. Both sides are pointing fingers. They need to find a way to land the plane and to get it done.

BERMAN: You know, just freaking doing your job, I remember that from "School House Rock."

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: John Avlon, let me ask you, if Congress does pass something, a skinny down version, not the $4 billion the president wants, if they pass something, $1 billion, $1.5 billion, does the White House need to sign that?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it would be a major mistake to walk away from that. I mean, here's the thing, everyone, as Margaret said, is using the phrase crisis. But this is a time when polarization is so bad, that crisis doesn't even compel action. It's simply enough to criticize.

So, the question is will they get their job done this week? Is there a chance in hell they'll actually extend their recess or their working time toward the recess --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

AVLON: -- it wouldn't bet on it.

Remember, Harry Truman called Congress back to deal with the crisis, this team will probably sit it out.

BOLDUAN: I'm willing to say, don't -- you know, magic happens in those hallways when they are about to leave --

AVLON: Magic happens.

BOLDUAN: Magic happens when they're about to leave for their break. I'm more cynical about it this time because of how partisan things are, because I think the American public has given up on what they expect Congress to do.

HOOVER: Sadly, I think so many in Congress have also given up on what they think their body can get done.

BOLDUAN: Take a stand though, right?

HOOVER: Yes, show leadership, show leadership and lead the country. As we know, there are sicknesses on the border. There are thousands and thousands of children on the border who need to send a strong signal to these countries that they cannot continue to allow their children to flood across the American border.

BERMAN: On the subject of leading the country and who is leading the country, there's a CNN/ORC poll. Which has some people talking here. I think it's fairly delicious.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: The only poll that matters is the one on election day. But there are others polls that matter almost as much. This one, tested what would happen if the presidential election from 2012 were held today between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Well, we know how it turned out the first time. This time, if it were held today, Mitt Romney would win by nine points. Now, let that sink in for a moment here because we also asked the question what if the election were held between, say, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney? But look, look. Hillary Clinton wins this by 13 points. So how do you explain this? BOLDUAN: What is going on?

BERMAN: In these competing bizarreo worlds, what can happen?

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: The swing between Romney and Hillary Clinton suggests that there is such a thing as swing voters. It also suggests that one of President Obama's problems with his approval rating is a sense that he hasn't been a strong leader in an executive sense. But again, this is all, you know, Mitt Romney is watching these polls today saying that and a buck would get me a cup of coffee.

BERMAN: At least among some voters it's him, its the president that's the issue, its not the policy. Hillary Clinton is not so far apart.

HOOVER: That's exactly what it is.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: What we know is the president has an extremely low approval rating and this is his sixth year in office. This is very common for presidents in their sixth year in office to have low approve ratings. Lest I enumerate all of the presidents who have had bad approval ratings. This is more about President Obama's failure to lead or his lack of popularity than it is about either Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney.

BOLDUAN: But isn't it also, and I'm going to make a quick segue over to the Darth Vader poll. Isn't it also a little bit about the fact that the president is in office, is always greener pastures when you're looking at who isn't in office. They've combined the favorability polls. Yes, we're going to go "Daily Show" on you right now, that Darth Vader actually has a higher favorability rating than any presidential candidate out there including Hillary Clinton. What's happening?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton was actually asked about the possibility of facing off against Darth Vader when she sad down with Fareed Zakaria. Let's listen to what Hillary told Fareed.

(BEGING VIDEOCLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you make of the fact that Darth Vader is pulling ahead of every presidential candidate? What's the deeper meaning of this?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the deeper meaning is that people love fantasies. Sometimes when we're so frustrated with the gridlock in Washington, we would like some deus ex machina figure. Darth would not be my choice, but you know somebody, perhaps a slightly more positive attitude and his presentation, to come in and just fix it.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

AVLON: Points for deus ex machina. In a semi serious point, I mean this is something that our founding fathers actually worried about, not Darth Vader. But when things get so chaotic in a democracy, there are sometimes a temptation for a strong man. That's the serious point underlying the weirdness.

BERMAN: You're saying Darth Vader is the strong man of this scenario.

BOLDUAN: Margaret, you don't have to go there. Just let it sit. The fact that Darth Vader is --

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: She's the one who called Dick Cheney Darth Vader. Maybe she really just wants Dick Cheney back.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Margaret Hoover, thank you so much for being with us. Enjoy the rest of your morning.

Next up for us on NEW DAY, MH-17 investigators turned away from the crash site moments ago. So how do they now proceed? Can they do their jobs at all. We'll speak with one of them about the next steps.

BOLDUAN: Prosecutors argue a man who shot a young woman on his Detroit porch, they argue he is responsible for murder. He says it was anything but that. We're going to have the emotional testimony as the trial picks back up coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The man accused of gunning down a Detroit woman on his porch will be back in court today.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

PEREIRA (voice-over): At issue in the case, whether Theodore Wafer was defending himself or whether he pulled the trigger with ulterior motives? So did Renisha McBride pose a threat? We'll have legal analysis in just a moment. But first, Alexandra Field has more on what is expected today and a recap of last week's emotional testimony.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prosecutors make their case for murder against Theodore Wafer. Another half dozen witnesses are set to testify before they rest. A ballistics expert, more law enforcement officers, one of Wafer's neighbors and a friend of Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old woman shot and killed on the doorstep on this Detroit area home.

THEODORE WAFER: I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun banging on my door.

FIELD: Emotional moments marking the first week of the trial. McBride's mother tearing up on the stand, talking about the last time she saw her daughter. Family members leaving the courtroom at one point over come by pictures of Renisha, and the jury hearing what wafer told police minutes after the deadly shooting.

WAFER: So I open the door kind of like who is this? (inaudible)

FIELD: McBride's death has sparked fury, some describing the shooting as racially charged. Wafer's attorneys argue the 55-year-old was defending himself in his home. He woke up terrified by heavy banging noises in the middle of the night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Picture window was rattling, the doors were jiggling, the knobs were jiggling.

FIELD: Much of the case hinging on Wafer's screen door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could have called 911, but he didn't. His actions that night were unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable.

FIELD: McBride was unarmed. Her blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. Hours before her death, she wandered away from a car accident. Family members say she may have gone to Wafer's looking for help. Alexandra Field, CNN, Detroit, Michigan.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

PEREIRA (on camera): Let's dig deeper with Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Good morning.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.

PEREIRA: Glad to have you here to help us go through this. There's so much riding on this and so much involved and so much emotion. Initially he said, Mr. Wafer said that he shot Renisha by accident, then later said that he did it in self-defense. Can you shoot somebody accidentally by self-defense?

TOOBIN: That's a big problem in his defense in this case. It would be one thing if this was a straight-up Trayvon Martin-Zimmerman defense in the sense that, I was threatened, this is how I defended myself. I acted reasonably under the circumstances. He's got sort of a twist on that which is, well, it was reasonable, but I didn't even mean it in the first place. That is, I didn't even know my gun was loaded and it just went off. So I think his defense is, frankly, even weaker than Zimmerman's because he doesn't have a consistent story in what he's saying.

BOLDUAN: Going from there, what do you think are the important factors to remember -- the important factors going forward in this case? What he intended to do or what his state of mind was, did he have a real reasonable fear for his safety, how she acted or ultimately just what she did?

TOOBIN: I think state of mind is really the issue in this case, because there's no doubt what happened here. He shot her, she died. The issue was was it an accident, or was it a reasonable response to what he was seeing, or was it simply a crime? I think those are the sort of three possibilities and all of them go to what he was thinking at the time.

BERMAN: How does the defense then make the case that it is reasonable? What are the determining factors there for both sides on that issue?

TOOBIN: It's sort of a classic jury case in that regard. Reasonable is one of those words that is always going to be defined in the eyes of the jury. You can never really give a clear definition of reasonable other than what the jury thinks is reasonable. I think what makes this case so sort of racially charged and so uncomfortable and disturbing is a white homeowner, black woman knocking on the door in the middle of the night. What is the reasonable response? Frankly, I don't think under any circumstances shooting through a door is reasonable.

PEREIRA When you're in a place of safety, right?

TOOBIN: Right. He was not, it doesn't seem to me anyway, threatened in the way that could possibly justify shooting.

PEREIRA: Let me ask you, we learned in Alexandra's piece that Renisha had a high blood alcohol level. What does that matter?

TOOBIN: I think it doesn't really matter if you were dealing in a strictly rational world. Jurors hear that, they may think, well, she really was threatening. Remember, the key issue we're always talking about in this case is what does Wafer think? He has no idea she's drunk. All he hears is banging on the door. What is the reasonable response to banging on the door? I mean, as you said earlier, he could have called 911. He could have not answered. Shooting through the door accidentally, under any circumstances just seems irrational to me.

BOLDUAN: I've heard from some commentators that this case is important not only in the Detroit area, but also beyond and why there's a lot of interest in it is it could set a precedence for self defense within one's own home. What do you think about that?

TOOBIN: Michigan has a law called which is called the castle doctrine. Your home is your castle, you have sort of a greater legal right to defend yourself when you're in your home, and that's the law that he's trying to take advantage of. Still, though, you have to behave reasonably and shooting through a door, it's just hard for me to see --

PEREIRA: Especially when you think the gun is not even loaded.

TOOBIN: It doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

PERERIA: There's some holes here. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for talking to us today.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Good to talk to you all. BOLDUAN: We've got a lot of news going on, including some breaking

news we want to get to for you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BOLDUAN: Good morning everybody. Chris is off, John Berman is here with us. We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. We're following breaking news at this hour out of Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): An international inspection team that was headed to the MH Flight 17 crash site, they have been turned back by pro- Russian separatists. A CNN team on the ground says there's regular on going shelling in the area right now.

BERMAN (voice-over): This comes as Russia has been firing back at critics. They're denying any role in downing the jet or any responsibility for the chaos right now in Ukraine. This despite new American satellite photos that allegedly show Russia launching attacks into Ukraine. Joining me now is Michael Bociurkiw, he is the spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He is part of that team, that international team of monitors, sent to evaluate the crash zone that have now, we understand, just moments ago have been turned back. Michael, can you hear me?

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, SPOKESMAN FOR THE OSCE: Yes I can hear you. Good morning.