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Singer George Michael Dies; Prime Minister Netanyahu Criticizes White House's Role in U.N. Security Council Vote; President-Elect Plans To Dissolve Trump Foundation; Will Trump Divest Himself From His Business Empire?; U.N. Security Council Demands End To Israeli Settlements. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired December 26, 2016 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People have been coming in all day. There's been a steady stream of fans, really, in shock about the death of the 53-year-old. We're hearing from his manager that they believe it was heart failure that was the cause of his death, but they're still looking into that.
It really is quite a sad time for the music world, as well, as George Michael had over 100 million albums sold. This is someone who's won two Grammys. And fans here we're talking to, people in this community, are just giving us these personal stories about when they met, how nice he was. A lot of times you hear about celebrities and then people saying when they meet them they turn out to be different people. Well, George Michael wasn't that kind of person. He was someone who was warm and welcoming to everyone he met.
And of course, he was a music legend. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Global superstar George Michael launched into pop culture history in 1984 as half of the British band Wham! singing the chart topping ballot "Careless Whisper."
LEE: By 1986, Michael launched an incredible solo career. His number one album "Faith" raising eyebrows with the first single. The risque lyrics and provocative video drawing sharp criticism of those wanting to bring awareness to the growing AIDS epidemic and need for safe sex.
LEE: "Faith" producing four number one singles, including "Father Figure."
LEE: "One more try."
(MUSIC) LEE: And "Monkey."
LEE: By the '90s, Michael became a more serious artist, celebrating his independence from the pop machine.
LEE: Refusing to appear in the video "Freedom 90" which featured cameos from top models lip-synching his lyrics.
But the late '90s were rough for the pop icon. He was arrested by an undercover police officer and charged with engaging in a lewd act in a park in Beverly Hills, leading him to reveal in a CNN interview that he was gay in 1988.
GEORGE MICHAEL: I don't feel any shame and neither do I think I should.
LEE: In later years there were drug-related arrests and a nasty car accident in 2010. He served a month in jail for driving under the influence of marijuana. But his career continued to flourish thanks to his powerful vocals. At nearly 50, Michael once again found critical success with his sixth and final album "Symphonica," a creative masterpiece backed by a full orchestra.
MICHAEL: I've been so lucky. I've had an amazing, amazing life.
LEE: Don, of course, he's going to be remembered for his music. But other things he'll be remembered for is his advocacy for the LGBT community as well as AIDS awareness. Also, he's going to be known, remembered for being part of Wham! which was the first band to perform in China after the Cultural Revolution in 1985. There has been a lot of outpouring of sympathies online. To read Madonna, she said "Farewell my friend. Another great artist leaves us." So this is someone who was truly loved by fans and as well as other artists.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and so young. Ian Lee, thank you. Appreciate it. So many of those songs bring back so many memories for me. My first boyfriend.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, OK. Well we don't want to go there. But --
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Should we be talking about the '90s, and seeing all the supermodels, what is it "Freedom 90" fashion, back in big club here in the '90s. This song would come on. This is the era of the advent of the supermodel. And you would see Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington, like all swinging on these big swings at the Roxy in Manhattan. It was a big --
HARLOW: You weren't there partying.
LEMON: Oh, yes. The late part of the '90s when I moved to New York City. But when you think about now, I can't tell if I like the videos or the songs or both of them equally as much. When you think about the "I want your sex" which is so controversial.
[10:00:01] HARLOW: Yes. Some radio stations wouldn't even play it.
LEMON: But now it's no big deal, especially considering what we said on our airwaves within just the last year about grabbing private parts and all those things, this is nothing. It's interesting how the culture evolved --
HARLOW: But interestingly, he did not want to be portrayed as this sex symbol. He got in a big legal battle with Sony over it, portraying him too much --
LEMON: He lost the rights --
HARLOW: Right. And that landed the supermodels in the video.
HARLOW: What a voice. What a man.
LEMON: Yes. There you go. Yes. He will be missed.
HARLOW: We'll talk about former boyfriends, now.
LEMON: Don't get me in trouble, Poppy Harlow.
HARLOW: All right, definitely turning to much more serious news now, turning to politics. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently running out of patience with President Barack Obama, irate over the U.S. refusal to veto U.N. Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu is signaling an interest, more than an interest to start working soon with the Trump administration. Our Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem with the very latest. Look, this is nothing new but Benjamin Netanyahu not mincing his words here.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's new here is the level of criticism. We've known these two had a strained relationship. But it's incredible to see the speed at which it's deteriorating here in its final days. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu breaking effectively diplomatic protocol in his criticism here, lashing out not only at President Barack Obama but also at Secretary of State John Kerry.
Think about this. On Christmas Day here in Jerusalem here in the holy land, Netanyahu summoned not only the U.S. ambassador but also the ambassadors from 10 countries that voted for the Security Council resolution. But they all met at the foreign ministry. It was the U.S. ambassador in particular who met privately with Netanyahu. Netanyahu expressing his fury not only in that meeting but also at the cabinet meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements. But way agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. As I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don't take friends to the Security Council.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu making it very clear he's very willing to work with president-elect Trump when he takes office in a few weeks. Don, this story isn't over yet. Israel is still concerned about what might be a follow-up resolution that would try to set parameters, conditions, essentially, for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
LEMON: Ian, thank you very much, I appreciate that.
I want to bring in the ambassador now, Ron Dermer. He is the Israeli ambassador to the United States and is a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you so much for joining us.
RON DERMER, AMBASSADOR OF ISRAEL TO THE UNITED STATES: Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah.
LEMON: Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to you, as well. I have to ask you, do you know anything about this meeting yesterday?
DERMER: With the American ambassador?
DERMER: Yes, I just want to say something to Oren. The reason why the only ambassador that the prime minister of Israel met with was the American ambassador is that's the only country where we have any expectations to actually stand with the at the United Nations. 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 --
LEMON: Ambassador, what's the evidence that the United Nations is behind this gang-up? I've heard that a lot.
DERMER: We have clear evidence of it. We will present that evidence to the new administration through the appropriate channels. And if they want to share it with the people --
LEMON: Why not present it now --
DERMER: Like I said, we will present the evidence to the new administration, and if they want to share it with the American people, they're welcome to do it.
We are deeply disappointed by this decision that was made. Look, I listened and heard a lot of the talks over the last three days about what this Security Council resolution means. It's very important to understand it because people can get lost in all the details.
The Palestinians are trying to wage a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. They do not want to negotiate peace with us, which is why they've avoided negotiations for eight years. It's why Arafat walked away from Prime Minister Barak at Camp David. It's why Abu Mazen never answered to Ehud Olmert's sweeping offer in 2008, and it's why they've avoided negotiations with us for eight years.
What do the Palestinians want? What they want is to blame Israel for the lack of peace and to internationalize the conflict, to have boycotts and sanctions against Israel, to take Israeli soldiers to the ICC. And what this resolution just did is it gave the Palestinians ammunition in their diplomatic and legal war against Israel. And the United States not only didn't stop it, they were behind it.
LEMON: OK, so I have to ask you ambassador, because this is only the first resolution that's critical of Israel that the Obama administration has allowed to pass. It doesn't impose sanctions on Israel. And previous presidents have gone much further. In fact, George W. Bush allowed multiple U.N. resolutions --
DERMER: That's all false.
LEMON: That's not false --
[08:10:01] DERMER: I am going to tell you the facts because my sense of history goes back beyond breakfast. What happened was in President Bush's waning days of his administration there was a resolution that had to deal with the end of the war in Gaza and Israel acquiesced to that resolution. We're never happy with Security Council resolutions --
LEMON: So you're saying it didn't happen?
DERMER: Not only --
LEMON: You're saying it didn't happen? It did happen.
DERMER: No, I said that it did happen but Israel acquiesced to it. Look at the time what Israel said in response to it, and you'll see --
LEMON: So my question is --
DERMER: The last time -- LEMON: Why all the ire for President Obama when it has happened since
1967. Technically since 1967, consecutive U.S. administrations starting with Lyndon Johnson and continuing through George W. Bush they've made it clear to their opposition against the settlements. Again the question is why the ire --
DERMER: We're --
LEMON: I will let you answer. Why the ire for President Obama when no ire for George W. Bush or previous presidents?
DERMER: Look, the fact that we have a difference of agreement with the United States over settlements is not new. That's an ongoing disagreement that we've had. But this is the first resolution in the United Nations, in the Security Council, since the days of Jimmy Carter, 36 years ago, which by the way, also happened in December at the end of his tenure of his administration.
So to bring a resolution to the Security Council is not just something that Israel opposes, it's something that Barack Obama opposed. In September, 2011, he stood at the United Nations and he said these issues should not be handled at the U.N. Security Council. They should be handled through negotiations. We agree on that.
We have a disagreement with the administration over settlements. But you don't take, as the prime minister just said, you don't take your friends to the Security Council. And this is why it was such a breach of American policy.
Look, let me ask you a question, Don. Does the United States government believe that the Western Wall is occupying Palestinian territory? Yes or no.
LEMON: You'll have to ask the United States government that. But I want --
DERMER: Well you ask them --
LEMON: In response to what you just said before that, the Obama administration says that this abstention is in line with previous administration stances on settlement activity. This is Ben Rhodes, listen.
DERMER: Not since Jimmy Carter. And I would --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Absolutely not, Jim. The fact of the matter is bipartisan policy of the U.S. government for decades has been to oppose settlements. We've seen an acceleration in the growth of these settlements. And, frankly, if these current trends continue, the two-state solution is going to be impossible. And the peace that people say that they want, that we badly want for the people of Israel, a secure Israel living side by side with the Palestinian state, that goal will become impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What's your response, Ambassador Dermer?
DERMER: The response to that is we have to separate the issue of us having a disagreement with the United States over policy, with bringing something to the U.N. Security Council. This is totally against American policy as it was enunciated by President Barack Obama himself. I don't believe that this administration publicly will say that they think the Western Wall has occupied Palestinian territory. But they just didn't veto a resolution that says precisely that.
I don't believe that this administration will say publicly that they support boycotts and sanctions against Israel. But this resolution actually encourages that. I don't think this administration will say publicly that Israel should return to the 1967 lines. But this resolution says that. I don't think that this administration will say that settlements are illegal. You know what, last week the administration pulled back from when their own spokesman misspoke at the State Department, they pulled it back and said no we think settlements are legitimate, not illegal, and there's a difference in international law, but yet they did not oppose it.
This resolution was against American policy. And guess what? We're not done yet. What you have right now with the administration is a runaway train when it comes to Israel's policy, and we may see another U.N. Security Council resolution against Israel before January 20th.
LEMON: You say it's a runaway train, but in September the Obama administration offered Israel its biggest military aid package ever, $38 billion over 10 years. This is the most military aid given by America to any country. Is that action of the administration, is that an unfriendly act against Israel?
DERMER: No, of course not, and we expressed appreciation at the time. But this act is an unfriendly act because it gives ammunition to our enemies who are waging a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. And we hope very much that the administration will not do more damage to Israel before they leave.
And I want to say something. We do not believe that this action represents the will of the American people. The president-elect Donald Trump opposes, he publicly called for the administration to veto it. Members of Congress of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, were against it. And I don't believe the American people believe that the Western Wall is occupied Palestinian territory.
LEMON: With all due respect, a recent Brookings poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans favor U.N. resolutions demanding a halt to settlements. That's a majority of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, that there should be some sanctions toward Israel to bring about peace.
DERMER: Why don't you do a poll and see what percent of Americans think the Western Wall has occupied Palestinian territory? We're celebrating Hanukkah this week, 2,200 years ago the Maccabees were lighting that menorah on the Temple Mount. And now all of a sudden, 2,200 years later the United Nations is going to say that we're on occupied Palestinian territory. This is absurd.
Look, if people thought that this resolution was going to make Israel capitulate and go down on its knees, they're sadly mistaken. Israel will stand taller than it's ever been and we will respond to this action by the international community. You saw what the prime minister did yesterday, but I think that's just the beginning.
LEMON: Benjamin Netanyahu said he's going to review his ties with the U.N. Do you think he's going to pull out?
DERMER: No, I don't think that we're going to pull out. I think we want a seat at that table as biased as the U.N. is, we are a member of the community of nations and we will fight for our rights there. But I hope that the new administration will have the comprehensive review of policies at the U.N. not just towards Israel but also towards the United States.
The U.N. is a cesspool of anti-Americanism and anti-Israel activity. I hope the new administration with bipartisan support in Congress will look at those programs, and not simply give a blank check to all of this anti-American and anti-Israel hostility.
LEMON: Ambassador Dermer, thank you. I appreciate your time.
DERMER: Thank you.
HARLOW: All right. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe preparing to write a new chapter in U.S.-Japanese relations with a visit to Pearl Harbor. Abe arrived in Hawaii today ahead of a joint appearance with President Obama tomorrow on board the "USS Arizona" Memorial.
More than 1,000 Americans were killed in the Japanese bombing back in 1941. This meeting comes just months after President Obama visited Hiroshima where the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb in 1945.
LEMON: A magnitude 7.7 earthquake strikes off the coast of Southern Chile. You can see it chopped up this road. A tsunami alert was issued afterwards, but has since been pulled. At least 5,000 people by the coast evacuated as a precaution and fortunately, there were no deaths reported. Fortunately no deaths reported -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Look at this. This little boy melting hearts -- around the globe. This is a picture of Michael Brown taken after he was adopted. Just look at that pose. Look at that smile. The picture taken after more than 800 days in foster care. The 3-year-old found his forever family and became an internet sensation. At last check this picture has more than 57,000 retweets and more than 142,000 likes.
LEMON: What do you say after that except for aw and congratulations to the forever family, right? Don't cry on me.
HARLOW: I'm not crying. Pretty cute kid. I love the hug.
LEMON: Congratulations to the family as well. They have a great kid there.
In the meantime, Donald Trump says he will dissolve his charitable foundation to avoid any conflicts of interest, but will he separate himself from his far bigger problems that could be and that's his business empire and political conflicts there? We're going to ask one of his supporters in Congress next.
BLACKWELL: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. President-elect Donald Trump says he will dissolve his charitable foundation to avoid any suggestion of a conflict of interest. But it's not clear what further steps that he's going to take to separate himself from his business empire.
CNN's Ryan Nobles live in Washington with more. Good morning to you.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, good morning. And we're still waiting to learn how Donald Trump will separate himself from his global business empire and the details on that aren't expected until after the New Year. But dissolving his charity is another step by the president-elect, to remove his personal life from his presidency.
In a statement, Trump wrote, quote, "To avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as president, I've decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways."
Now logistically, it shouldn't take much to shut the charity down. It currently has no employees, and hasn't raised funds in some time. But legally, it is a different story.
A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was a Hillary Clinton supporter, has launched an investigation into the charity during the campaign, said the foundation cannot dissolve itself until his investigation is complete.
Schneiderman has been investigating how Trump used the foundation to settle personal business dealings. Now this news comes at the time -- at the same time, I should stay of a staff shake-up for Trump's incoming administration.
His White House communications director, Jason Miller, has said that he is not going to take that job because it would be too demanding for his young family -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much for that. Let's discuss all of it and more with Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. He's a conservative Republican. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Merry Christmas, Sir. Thanks for being with us.
REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT PERRY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. Good morning, Ma'am.
HARLOW: Good morning. I'd like to get you take on what Ryan was just reporting. The president-elect coming out this weekend saying he will dissolve his charitable foundation, a bit of a roadblock is the current investigation. But that brings up the bigger, broader, more important question, and that is what is he going to do with all of these business ties, all of the ways he's interconnected with these global businesses and he takes office in 25 days?
Does it concern you at all, despite being a supporter during the campaign, does it concern that he has come out and said OK I'm going to get rid of the charitable foundation but nothing else has been clarified and he postponed the press conference where he was going to explain all of it?
PERRY: I think this is probably fairly intricate stuff at the President-elect Trump level. Every single federal elected official goes through this. It's standard fare that they have to dissolve and distance themselves from previous or current allegiances from business standpoints so that there is no conflict of interest.
Like I said, it's standard fare. It might be more complicated in his case just because of the scope and the level of his dealings. But I'm sure there are literally teams of lawyers working to make sure that he is in compliance with --
HARLOW: Right. It's just that he hasn't -- it's just that he hasn't come out and said that he necessarily would extricate himself fully. He hasn't said that indeed he'll use a blind trust. He hasn't said indeed that he'll have someone else completely overseeing this.
He hasn't made indications or said publicly that the Americans should be concerned because he will do that. In fact, he's noted the law that sort of odd part of the law that exempts the president and the vice president from having any financial stake while they are running the country.
[08:25:04]PERRY: Once again I think that he's leading it into the lawyers' hands. I'm not an attorney, but I suspect answering prematurely might be problematic for anybody at that level and you want to make sure you get it right. So with all due respect, he's probably waiting for them to come up with all the answers so that it can be comprehensive and correct.
HARLOW: We have a lot I want to get to. But he did say throughout the election that he thought he was going to win, therefore he could have had his attorneys working on this for months and months ahead of time so that when he takes office in 25 days there would be no questions to the American people.
But I want to move on, because Don just made some news in his interview with the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, and I'm not sure if you heard it.
HARLOW: Good you heard it. So you heard him say --
PERRY: I did. HARLOW: To Don essentially at the beginning of the interview that that Israel has evidence that there was essentially collusion between the United States and the United Nations that proves that they were pushing this, when it comes to the resolution on Israeli settlements. They were colluding behind the backs of Israel.
Don asked of the evidence. He said we have evidence, but they're not going to present it they said until president-elect is in office. And then it will be up to the Trump administration whether they want to present it to the American people. There's a sitting U.S. president. Do you agree with them on that?
PERRY: Well, there is a sitting U.S. president that worked against a sitting Israeli prime minister, in his last election. So with all due respect I think that Ambassador Dermer rightly understands that this administration is really not friendly to Israel, is not going to give them a fair shake and not be above board.
So what is really the point of bringing the information forward now only to be squashed and quashed and put to the back room and the back pages of history by this current administration? I think they're looking for, and rightly so, a more favorable venue in a President- elect Trump administration. So I think --
HARLOW: So the fact that the Obama administration has signed the largest MOU ever to any other country, $38 billion over the past ten years, or the fact that this is the first time in eight years that this administration has supported or has abstained, rather, and has, has, has allowed a resolution critical of Israel to pass the U.N. Security Council, the first time.
Whereas with both former President George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, it happened multiple times, you, you, you still believe that this administration is no friend of Israel and should not even have evidence of, of, of alleged collusion?
PERRY: Well, first of all, when you say it has passed multiple administrations without a veto, it hasn't. This is the first time that it has passed. I mean, it makes the western wall an illegal -- an illegal place for -- for Jewish people to be, and can't even legally go to Hebrew University if you look at the strict construction of -- of the resolution.
So when you say it's the first time, it's the first time that the United States hasn't vetoed it. It's the first time this thing has passed, and so I think it's very different. Along with the foreign aid let's remember what that was a response to.
That's a response to the Iranian nuclear deal, which really puts Israel at peril. So, it's cost all Americans this, what seems to be a proclivity of one person and an ideology that he himself alone almost holds, and then ask the rest of the government to support.
While most Americans probably do support reducing or quitting settlements in what's called the occupied territories, they would also probably be in favor of stopping stipends by the Palestinian authority to terrorists that murder Jews, and get paid to do it or their families are paid to do it.
They just need the information to have the full picture. Understand that since 2000 Israel has offered to stop settlements, and has offered to come to the table, and give the -- essentially give the territory back -- territory back to the Palestinian Authority.
But the Palestinian Authority has not been interested in even negotiating or coming to the table. Those facts need to be known, as well.
HARLOW: Congressman, I have one more question for you before you go, and that is, a meeting that you had that you're taking some heat for, controversial meeting you had a meeting with a group called Act for America. This is a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the largest anti-Muslim group in America, the Anti-Defamation League calls it anti-Muslim.
The first -- the woman who you met with Bridget Gabriel, the founder, said this in 2007 about Muslims in America. Practicing Muslims, people who believe the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, prays five times today, this practicing Muslim who believe in the teachings of the Koran cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States. Your response to those who criticize this meeting?
PERRY: My response is that as a representative of Congress, I meet with people from all different groups from all different ideologies, from different religions and so on and so forth, whether I agree with them or not. I'm a representative.
Number one, I just don't meet with terrorist organizations. Number two, really look at the Southern Poverty Law Center, as the -- as the arbiter of who is a -- hate groups or terrorist organizations is ludicrous. They themselves have listed people like Dr. Ben --