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Netanyahu Doubles Down Against the U.S.; Remembering George Michael; Trump to Dissolve Trump Foundation; Miller Opts out of White House Job. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 26, 2016 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Hymns of one of the world's oldest Christian communities are being sung here once again. A small act of life in a country that's seen so much death.

Muhammad Lila, CNN.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for me. The news continues next.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Happy holidays. I'm Martin Savidge, in for Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for joining me.

We're going to begin with the diplomatic clash between the U.S. and one of its biggest allies, Israel. Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his outrage over Friday's vote at the United Nations.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The result of the voting is as follows, 14 votes in favor, one abstention.


SAVIDGE: The United States was the nation that abstained from voting. And by the U.S. not stepping in, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Security Council declared them, quote, "a major obstacle to peace with no legal validity."

Netanyahu then lashed out saying that the resolution was shameful and hostile.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. We knew that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away. And as I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don't take friends to the Security Council. I'm encouraged by the statements of our friends in the United States, Republicans and Democrats alike. They understand how reckless and destructive this U.N. resolution was. They understand that the western wall isn't occupied territory. I look forward to working with those friends and with the new administration when it takes office next month.


SAVIDGE: CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now from Jerusalem.

And, Oren, the prime minister showed no indication of backing down, did he?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: None whatsoever. He stood by his comments when he spoke tonight. This is essentially the third or fourth straight day of lashing out at President Barack Obama and at Secretary of State Kerry. And at this rate, it looks like it might continue. Netanyahu said his reaction has been measured, responsible and vigorous.

Furthermore, he promised Israelis that there would be no diplomatic fallout, long term at least. He said countries of the world would come to respect Israel for standing up for itself.

As for what he's done so far, Netanyahu summoned not only the U.S. ambassador, but the ambassadors of ten countries that voted for that resolution. The other countries, they met with the foreign ministry. It was specifically the U.S. ambassador that met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that is one more shot in what's becoming a long list of shots from the Israeli government pointed at the Obama administration.


SAVIDGE: And the Israeli officials seem to be worried that this resolution could be used against them, Israel that is, at a peace conference next month. Is that true?

LIEBERMANN: Yes, there's a - on January 15th there's an international peace conference scheduled for Paris. The French are trying to bring together the countries of the world to find some sort of consensus and make some sort of progress on a peace process. But Israel has made it very clear they have no intention of attending this conference, despite the fact that 70 other countries will be there, as will the Palestinians. Israel's specific fear is that that could lead to a follow-up resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would try to establish parameters, or conditions, on some of the most sensitive and difficult issues in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. That would be borders, Jerusalem/Palestinian refugees and more. That is something Israel is trying to avoid but knows very well it may be on the horizon before President Obama leaves office.

Martin, it's been blatantly obvious from Netanyahu that he's done working with Obama and he can't wait to work with President-elect Trump. SAVIDGE: Right, already ready to move on to a new administration. Oren

Liebermann, thank you very much for that.

There are more than half a million Israelis that are living in settlements throughout the West Bank and east Jerusalem, land that Palestinians claim is part of their future. So, as you would expect, Palestinian officials applaud the United Nations resolution. Here's more from a senior adviser to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.


HUSAM ZOMLOT, SENIOR ADVISER TO PALESTINIAN PRES. MAHMOUD ABBAS: It's a victory for the cause of peace because if Mr. Netanyahu means the two-state solution, he should be happy and celebrating this resolution. It's a victory for internationalism and the international responsibility to bring about peace and security worldwide. And this is not a resolution against Israel. This is a resolution against Israel's expansion.


SAVIDGE: And that is a perfect point at which to start discussing all of this. And for that we are joined by CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde and opinion contributor Frida Ghitis.

David, I'll start with you. It seems that this is kind of a rock bottom low certainly between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama. But what does it really mean in the long run, especially when you've got Donald Trump taking the office in 25 days?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I don't think it means much in the long run, frankly. I think criticizing Obama helps Netanyahu domestically in Israel. All politics are local and that's his most important audience, in Israel. And, potentially, Obama was sort of trying to boost his, you know, support in the Democratic base that opposes these increased settlements. So I think you'll have - you have two, you know, conservative governments. It will be the Trump administration and Netanyahu in a few weeks, and that will be a whole new situation for both countries.

[14:05:28] SAVIDGE: Right, we've already had that indication coming from the Trump administration to be that they are going to have a different attitude on this.

Frida, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. told CNN today that Israel blames the Obama administration for this vote. Let's liven.


RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: Look, it's an old story that the United Nations gangs up against Israel. What is new is that the United States did not stand up and oppose that gang-up. And what is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind that gang-up. I think it was a very sad day and really a shameful chapter in U.S.-Israel relations. DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Ambassador, what's the - what's the evidence that the United States was behind this gang-up? I've heard that - I've heard that a lot.

DERMER: Well, we have - yes, well, we have clear evidence of it. We will present that evidence to the new administration.


SAVIDGE: Now, Obama's national security adviser Ben Rhodes denies these accusations, but, Frida, let's explain, why did the Obama administration abstain from the vote? What's in it for the U.S.?

FRIDA GHITIS, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR, CNN.COM: Well, that's a great question, Marty. The United States, the Obama administration, has been planning for a long time to - to have one parting shot at Israel. And it's no - no secret that Obama and Netanyahu have had a very, very rocky relationship. I think that the paradox here is that the biggest losers from this vote are going to be the Palestinians themselves because this vote is going to produce exactly the opposite of what its intention was, which is, it's going to harden positions. We are already seeing the extremists on both sides hardening their positions. We see Netanyahu having to play to the Israeli right. So the biggest winners here are the Israeli right. We saw on the Palestinian side, we saw Palestinian/Islamic jihad were the first ones to jump out and celebrate. So this is really - you know, when you measure this as - by the standard that the Obama administration had offered when it vetoed a similar resolution a few years ago, does this - does this resolution bring the parties closer or further from an agreement? And I think there is very little doubt that this is a resolution that brings them farther apart.

SAVIDGE: David, you know, when we talk about potential long-term repercussions, we've got Senator Lindsey Graham now from South Carolina and he is proposing something which many might consider extreme. Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA (voice-over): I will respond in kind. Twenty-two percent of the United Nations' budget comes from the American taxpayer and I'm going to lead the charge to withhold funding until they repeal this resolution.


SAVIDGE: So defunding the U.N. Do you think that will work? Could that force the United Nations to go back on this resolution?

ROHDE: Well, it's politically popular to criticize the United Nations. This was a 14-0 vote by individual countries that sit on the Security Council. France voted for this. Britain voted for this. New Zealand brought up this resolution. France and China voted for it. So they should be the focus of the criticism. The U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. secretariat, you know, didn't do that. Those countries did. You know, and I think the countries that voted for this unanimously should be the ones who are criticized.

SAVIDGE: Sticking with you for a moment, David, I think as you heard the Israeli ambassador, Netanyahu plans to show the Trump administration evidence that the Obama White House coordinated this U.N. vote. What do you make of this dynamic and how is Netanyahu involving both Obama and Trump here, at a very difficult time after what was a very contentious election in this country?

ROHDE: It's unusual. You know, it's his right to only interact with the new administration. The Obama administration denies it, but it's - it's an effort. Everyone is looking, I think, to, you know, start anew with the Trump administration and it will be a huge challenge, I think, for the Trump administration how to deal with this policy. Tensions will be higher. And I think they'll immediately have to come up with some approach here. Maybe they'll, you know, punish the U.N., as has been proposed. Maybe there will be some kind of new Trump- backed peace talks. But this has been a very thorny issue, a very difficult issue for American presidents for decades and it will be for Trump as well.

SAVIDGE: And there's another one, Frida, for you, and that is Trump's choice for the U.S. ambassador to Israel says that he supports moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Sort of explain, what is the significance of that and how is it likely to inflame the current circumstance?

GHITIS: Well, there's a bit of a mystery surrounding anything - everything having to do with Trump. He has - he has said that he would like to negotiate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, where it is, is probably not a good start for that, but we'll have to see what Trump has in mind.

[14:10:05] You know, this whole issue of Jerusalem is very complicated. It's extremely emotional. And that's one of the reasons that - why this resolution at the U.N. was so painful for the Israeli people because it mentioned specifically east Jerusalem as occupied territory. And the only people who think that east Jerusalem will not be part - that west Jerusalem will not be part of Israel in the future are people who don't want Israel to exist. So if Trump moves the embassy to west Jerusalem to a part that is really not contested, that could - you could arguably make a case that doesn't - doesn't change the situation on the ground, that it doesn't - doesn't prejudge the outcome of negotiations. But there have been such a long time with the embassy in Tel Aviv that any move that has to do with Jerusalem would - has a risk of enflaming things a lot and achieving very little.

SAVIDGE: All right, David Rohde, thank you very much for your insights. Frida Ghitis, it's wonderful to see you again. Thank you both.

Coming up, President Obama's exit interview. His candid conversation with former senior adviser David Axelrod. What Obama now thinks about his message of hope and change that led him to victory in 2008 and why he thinks he could have won the election again this year. Also, the consequences of fake news. How a false report nearly caused

an international crises. What prompted the Pakistani defense minister to threaten nuclear retaliation?

And saying good-bye to a pop icon. The life and legacy of George Michael.



GEORGE MICHAEL, MUSICIAN (singing): Yes, I've gotta have faith. Unh, I gotta faith. Because I gotta have faith, faith, faith. I gotta have faith, faith, faith.

[14:15:06] Wake me up before you go go, I don't want to miss it when you hit that high. Wake me up before you go go.

I'm never going to dance again, guilty feet have got no rhythm. Though it's easy to pretend, I know you're not a fool


SAVIDGE: Pop music world is mourning the untimely passing of one of its super stars. George Michael was found dead at his home west of London on Christmas Day. He was 53. Local police say they were called to the scene after someone found Michael unresponsive. They say that they are treating his death as unexpected, but not suspicious.

George Michael sold more than 100 million records in a career that spanned nearly four decades. His superstar status was almost instantaneous when he burst onto the pop scene in the mid-1980s. CNN's George Howell looks back on Michael's remarkable career and some of the controversies that also brought notoriety.


GEORGE MICHAEL, MUSICIAN (singing): Wake me up before you go go.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the song that had the world dancing. That hit "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go."

MICHAEL: Before you go go, because I'm not planning -

HOWELL: It was 1984 and they were the British duo known as Wham!

MICHAEL: Take me dancing tonight.

HOWELL: They had several top ten hits together, but really it was George Michael with that statement t-shirt, those moves that quickly took the spotlight, sealing his fame with this chart-topping song "Careless Whisper."

MICHAEL: Time can never mend the careless whispers of a good friend. To the heart and mind - HOWELL: Michael split from bandmate Andrew Ridgely in 1986 and launched his own solo career, never looking back but headed straight into his first big culture clash.

MICHAEL: Because you don't (INAUDIBLE) that's the way it goes.

HOWELL: The year was 1987. George Michael, looking the confident rock star, in a provocative video with an equally provocative title.

MICHAEL: I want your sex.

HOWELL: The song's lyrics were considered by some to push the envelope. The legendary Casey Kasem refused to even say the title of the song on his "American Top 40" radio show and some pop radio stations wouldn't even play the song until after dark.

MICHAEL: Well, it's playing on my mind. It's dancing on my soul.

HOWELL: Michael's lyrics speaking directly about sex bumped heads with not just conserves who thought he'd gone too far, but with a Hollywood desperate to bring attention to the AIDS epidemic and the need for safe sex. Michael would later say his lyrics were misunderstood.

By the late 1980s, George Michael was a bona fide superstar, garnering awards, hanging out with celebrities and royalty and delivering more hits, like "Father Figure."

MICHAEL: I will be your father figure, put your tiny hands in mine.

HOWELL: And one more try.

MICHAEL: So I don't want to learn to hold you, touch you.

HOWELL: And there was the hit song "Monkey."

MICHAEL: Why can't you do it. Why can't you (INAUDIBLE) monkey -

HOWELL: In the 1980s, George Michael saw the height of his success. It can be said the 1990s weren't quite as kind. Fewer smash hits and then this. April 7, 1998, Michael was arrested by an undercover male police officer charged with engaging in a lewd act in a park in Beverly Hills, California. It took no time for his arrest to become an international headline. On CNN, not long after the arrest, Michael confirmed what had long been rumored. He was gay.

MICHAEL: And I want people to know that I have not been exposed as a gay man in any way that I feel - I don't feel any shame for - I feel stupid and I feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way, but I don't feel any shame whatsoever and neither do I think I should.

HOWELL: In the years to come, there were more scuffles with the law, drug-related arrests, and a nasty car accident in 2010. Michael was found to be driving under the influence of cannabis and went to jail. In 2011, he fell ill with a severe case of pneumonia and had to cancel his European tour. But there was always the music. "Symphonica," his creative masterpiece

with a full orchestra, a critical success.

MICHAEL: The first time ever I saw your face.

[14:20:10] HOWELL: George Michael once said, "I still believe that music is one of the greatest gifts that God gave to man." Lucky for us, he left us plenty of it.

MICHAEL: Freedom, I won't let you down. Freedom, (INAUDIBLE) give you up. Freedom. You got to give what you take.

HOWELL: George Michael dead at the age of 53 years old.

George Howell, CNN, Atlanta.


SAVIDGE: We're going to take a closer look now at the indelible mark that George Michael left on the music world. Jennifer Peros joins me. She is a senior news editor for "Entertainment Tonight."

Jennifer, it's wonderful to have you here.


SAVIDGE: The pop music, I guess, is the way that we sort of always remember George Michael, at least being launched into fame, but he had a voice and he had talent that transcended that genre greatly, didn't he?

PEROS: Absolutely. You know, when George Michael first came out on the music scene so many years ago, you know, everybody wanted to label him as this pop star. You know, not just for his lyrics and his songs, but for the character he was and the type of person he was. But he also, you know, stepped into the R&B and soul community of music, and he was the first white guy and first homosexual guy to do so. So a lot of people now, such as Justin Timberlake, Sam Smith, Robin Thinke, they have George Michael to thank for leading their way into that area of music.

SAVIDGE: No, that's very true. Radio host and entertainment lawyer Mo Ivory said about George Michael, quote, "I don't remember categorizing George Michael as any kind of artist. He's not a black artist or he's not a pop artist. He we just an artist. And he just brought so much diversity of audience and diversity of people to his shows." And that's the end of the quote. How rare a talent was Michael?

PEROS: Very rare. I mean George Michael was the whole package. I mean just those catchy songs that he had written and performed for so many years. He was the entire person. He was a celebrity that everybody loved. I mean he had impacted so many people in the music world, Elton John being one of his close friends, as well as Madonna. But, yes, he - he wasn't just a singer. He didn't just have talent. But he was a person that could really just connect to his fans and let his fans know that, you know, no matter who you are, no matter what type of person you are, no matter who you love, it's OK. It's OK to be yourself and be who you are. And everybody will love you just for that.

So, of course, the (INAUDIBLE) - you know, the last few years of his life, we are just starting to put together how the last - how he spent the last couple months, especially. Of course there's new details that are going to be coming out about his last days, but I do think today, while the news is starting to sink in, I think this is just another major blow to the music world got in 2016. Of course, after the passing of David Bowie and Prince. George Michael will definitely leave a big hole in the music world. This is going to be a tough one to swallow.

SAVIDGE: And, you know, we look back. And as we do that, we look at all his commercial success. Wham! is one of those. But it was later in his life, at the very end, that we began to see that he was a much deeper talent. I mean it was not just a pop artist.

PEROS: Absolutely, yes, he just wasn't a pop artist that stood on stage, and in amazing clothes and put on a show as well as sang very beautifully. Yes, he was - he was just an icon. A legend. Somebody that a lot of people will always remember as kind of changing - changing the way that the music world and pop stars and R&B singers, you know, the way that their careers are shaped.


PEROS: So, I definitely think he's going to be remembered as somebody who has changed the music world forever and somebody that's going to be greatly missed.

SAVIDGE: And I am among his many fans. So, Jennifer Peros, thank you very much for that insight.

Next, President-elect Donald Trump announcing that he will move to dissolve his charity, the Trump Foundation, to effectively end any conflict of interest questions. But the New York attorney general says, not so fast.

Plus, President Obama saying in an interview that he could have won if he had run for a third term as president. Why he says Hillary Clinton lost. That's next.


[14:28:06] SAVIDGE: In just 25 days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as thee president of the United States. And right now his team is frantically working to untangle him from potential conflicts of interest. The president-elect just announced a plan to dismantle the Trump Foundation, which is under investigation in New York state.

I want to bring in CNN's Jessica Schneider.

And, Jessica, he says he wants to close it down, but, you know, the New York attorney general is sort of saying, not so fast. We have an investigation underway. It isn't just his call to make, is it?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's exactly right, Martin, the New York attorney general saying quite simply, it's not that easy. Saying that the president-elect can't simply shut down his foundation, in particular because of the legal entanglements it's already in. The New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, his spokeswoman releasing a very succinct statement, putting it this way. I'll read it for you. "The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete."

Now, Attorney General Schneiderman, who was a Hillary Clinton supporter during the campaign, he launched this investigation in the midst of the campaign, amid allegations that Donald Trump had actually used the foundation's funds to settle some of his own personal dealings. So that is all still under investigation.

Donald Trump did release a statement, not at all mentioning the investigation, but saying that he would, in some way, find a way to continue his philanthropy. It's worth noting, however, that Donald Trump has not donated to his own foundation since 2008 according to the Foundation's own tax records. And right now there are not any employees at the foundation, so presumably it would be easy to dismantle, but the attorney general's office in New York saying, not so fast, this needs to wait until the investigation is complete.


SAVIDGE: Also, Jessica, I want to ask you about Jason Miller. He is the man who was going to be the communications director in a Trump White House, but he's apparently changed his mind. What happened?

[14:29:59] SCHNEIDER: Yes, that's right, you know, just two days after it was announced that Jason Miller would be the communications director for the next White House, Jason Miller actually put out a statement saying that he would not accept the role after all. And Jason Miller actually cited his family, saying that his wife is expecting their second daughter