Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Israel Claims U.S. Engineered Settlement Vote; Israel Limits Diplomatic Ties With 12 Nations; Trump: "No Way" Obama Could've Beaten Me; Trump Names Counterterrorism, Cybersecurity Aide; Israeli Official: We'll Share U.N. Evidence With Trump; Israel: "Ironclad" Proof Obama Pushed U.N. Vote. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. John Berman is off today. If you're waiting for a thaw in the now frigid relations between the U.S. and Israel, you may need to keep waiting.

In the wake of last week's huge U.N. vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a vote the U.S. could have blocked, usually does, but this time did not, the Israeli government is moving ahead with more settlements. It just announced.

Israel is also curbing diplomatic ties with a dozen U.N. Security Council members that backed the settlement resolution. And still insisting the United States was behind the controversial resolution despite denials from the White House.

I spoke with the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister last night and asked him for the proof they have.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KEYES, SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What I'm saying is we have ironclad information from sources in the Arab world and internationally and we're going to share that information with the incoming administration through the proper channels and if the new administration chooses to share that information, that's their prerogative.

BOLDUAN: So are they lying then?

KEYES: All I can say is we have that information. It's very clear to us. It's not in doubt. We are going to pass it through the proper channels.

BOLDUAN: Why not share that information right now?

KEYES: Because I think that's something that should be shared with the new administration. That's their choice, whether they want to share it or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Let me bring right now, CNN correspondent, Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem. Oren, what more are you learning about the new settlement construction that the Israeli government announced?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is hundreds of housing units in two different neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. They were on the agenda for tomorrow's Jerusalem Zoning Committee before the Security Council resolution but that's exactly the point.

For Jerusalem and for Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel won't abide by this resolution and he's sticking to that. It's business as usual for Jerusalem. They will keep constructing in Jerusalem, despite this Security Council resolution.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it obvious, blatantly obvious, over the course of the last few days that he's furious, specifically at President Barack Obama but also at the other countries who voted for this. He's taken diplomatic steps.

He's limited ties or working ties with ministers and ambassadors for the countries that voted for this. That's largely a symbolic step. It doesn't have any practical effect. It doesn't affect trade. It doesn't affect security coordination or cooperation. It's a statement and a very big one.

That sort of displays Netanyahu's fury again not only at the U.S. but also at the other countries. It's temporary but his office has left it open-ended as to how long it will go on.

In terms of what he's done since then, we see that Jerusalem is advancing housing in East Jerusalem. This resolution won't stop them. That is what has become very obvious in the days since this resolution was passed.

Netanyahu making it blatantly clear, Kate, that he's done working with Obama. He has three weeks left to deal with him and he's already setting up for the Trump administration.

BOLDUAN: That's quite a message, loud and clear they are sending for sure. Oren, we're going to come back and continue this conversation just a second, but thank you for now. Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.

So soon this will be an issue front and center on the desk of President-elect Donald Trump. The president-elect was mostly quiet yesterday during his vacation, but did take to Twitter once again to slam the United Nations where that settlement vote just took place.

Trump wrote this, "The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad."

CNN's Jessica Schneider is in Palm Beach where the president-elect is today. Jessica, good morning.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. You know, this isn't the first time that Donald Trump has been vocal in his criticism of the United Nations. In fact, in the hours following that U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements, Donald Trump did take to Twitter as well, saying it was a big loss for Israel.

But of course in the overnight hours, we saw some more tough talk against the United Nations. Really, Donald Trump mocking the United Nations, effectively saying that it was ineffective, so Donald Trump launching into that Twitter tirade overnight.

The United Nations was not the only target for Donald Trump on Twitter last night. He also honed in and fired back at the current president, President Obama.

This coming after President Barack Obama sat down with his former senior adviser, David Axelrod, for a podcast and in that lengthy podcast, President Obama did say that if he were eligible to run for a third term, he believes that he would have won.

He believe also that voters would have embraced his message of what would have been hope and inclusion instead of what he believed was Donald Trump's divisiveness.

But then of course Donald Trump did fire back in the overnight hours tweeting this, saying, "President Obama said he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say no way. Jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, standing for Obamacare, et cetera."

Of course, Donald Trump did rein in and hone in on the American anger as it pertained to trade and jobs leaving, and Obamacare, seems like he's doing the same thing in his Twitter, his tweets overnight.

[11:05:07]So while it does seemed calm and serene here at least by view at Mar-a-Lago, Kate, we do know that Donald Trump has been quite busy on Twitter and quite biting as well overnight.

BOLDUAN: They've also been busy, they just made an announcement on a new top adviser to Donald Trump. What did they announce?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Thomas Bosert is a veteran when it comes to national security issues. In fact, he served as deputy homeland security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and since 2009 he's run his own national security consulting firm.

The Trump team is sort of billing this as an elevation of the post which is called assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. They're looking to actually put this in line with the national security adviser.

Saying that Thomas Bosert will be working hand-in-hand with retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, essentially Bosert will handle the national security and transnational security issues. Whereas Flynn will be looking at the international security issues.

Thomas Bosert will be advising soon to be President Trump on issues like counterterrorism as well as cyber-security which is interesting, considering the recent revelations of those Russian hacks. But something that critics might seize on as it pertains to Thomas Bosert is actually an op-ed that Bosert wrote a year ago in November 2015, a few months after Donald Trump launched his campaign.

It was an op-ed that dealt with the conflict in Syria but it also touched on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thomas Bosert actually defending George W. Bush, saying in particular that the use of military force in Iraq and Afghanistan was and remains just.

Interesting, of course, because Donald Trump honed in repeatedly on that throughout the campaign. Saying that he did not believe it was just to go into Iraq. Saying he had repeatedly condemned it.

When we know, of course, he didn't always have that view. But Thomas Bosert spoke out quite definitively about it in that op-ed but obviously not an issue now that Donald Trump has named him to be assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. That announcement coming this morning -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And interesting that they're elevating kind of the level and import of that post. It will be interesting kind of what that means for the structure within that White House and that inner circle advising Donald Trump. Jessica, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.

So with me now, Dana Bash, CNN's chief political correspondents. John Phillips is here as well, CNN political commentator, a Donald Trump supporter, and talk radio host in Los Angeles.

Doug Heye is here. He is a CNN political commentator and former communications director for the Republican National Committee. Bakari Sellers is a CNN political commentator and former Democratic member of the South Carolina legislature. The Brady bunch. We're back again. Great to see you guys.

Exactly. I'm not sure, I never know which direction to look in. So as Jessica just ended, talking about this new appointment from the president on his top homeland security adviser, Doug, you know Tom Bosert well. He worked under George W. Bush. What do you make of this appointment? What message does it send?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I worked with Tom at the Small Business Administration, which is where he was before going into homeland security work. I first met him in 2003. Tom is a smart diligent person who knows these issues about as intimately as anybody I can think of.

And for folks like myself who are hesitant or negative on Donald Trump, these are the kind of hires that Trump makes that's very reassuring to folks not just in the national security and homeland security community, but also to Republicans who are looking for reasons to support Donald Trump.

He could not have made a better hire for this position than Tom Bossert. I'm really excited and proud about this pick. BOLDUAN: Dana, what do you make about the change in the organizational chart here that the Trump transition is going to elevate kind of the level of this position that Tom Bosert will have, to be kind of more in line with his national security adviser, Michael Flynn?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting and it is going to make for, no surprise, a very different kind of White House, not just in terms of what Donald Trump wants to do but how he run the runs it. Traditionally the national security adviser is kind of the buffer or the door, the keeper if you will.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BASH: Between the Pentagon, the State Department and other national security agencies, and the president. So the question is whether the national security adviser is still going to be that person or not. And whether -- and the other question is whether or not perhaps because Michael Flynn is somebody who has a lot of friends but also gives some people a little bit of pause.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BASH: As a person in that position, whether that is why this other position was elevated to pretty much the same level.

BOLDUAN: That's fascinating. Guys, let's go from the announcement that the transition is making to the statements that the president- elect is making on Twitter.

[11:10:08]This back and forth that it's now become between who would have won in this mythical land of Barack Obama running against Donald Trump in this election and who would have won. You have Obama, John, playing a little bit of Monday morning quarterback, saying he would have won if he could have run in a third term with his vision of hope and change.

But then the president-elect not able to let it go. Saying no way would -- he should say he would win but I would say no way. Why do you think this as it was posed to me last night, why do you think this gets under his skin, even this conversation?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think a lot of these guys like to play the fantasy baseball. Barack Obama's very confident he would have won a third term and Donald Trump is very confident he would have defeated him. I think Hillary Clinton lost for essentially two reasons.

One was specific to her. People did not believe that she was an honest and trustworthy person. However, the way the process was set up, I don't think the more electable Democrats could have gotten out of the primary and into the general election.

The other aspect is that people were just tired of the Democrats. The Democrats have lost Middle America. Just take the top of the ticket race off the table for a minute because it was such an atypical election.

Look at that Senate race in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a blue to purple state and Rod Johnson ran and won his first Senate term in a midterm election when you have a much more conservative electorate.

He was running against a Democrat who won several statewide elections in the state of Wisconsin before Russ Feingold and Rod Johnson beat him. He had no business winning that election in a state like Wisconsin and he did. So the tide was against the Democrats in general just from the party label.

BOLDUAN: So Bakari, I know who you probably think would win in this mythical matchup so I won't ask you that question from your perspective, but since the election, when you see how the president- elect and President Obama have interacted, it's fascinated all of us.

That they have played very nice. They've been very careful with each other, to not criticize each other very publicly. Do you think, though, with this kind of strange back and forth, that this shows signs that that truce, if you will, is breaking?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no, I think that when people focus on the fact that the president said his message of hope and change would have been one that wins, they actually -- they miss out on the nuance. I'm not surprised that Donald Trump missed out on the nuance.

But that's not the headline. He was talking about the goodness of the American people. He was talking about the fact that the American people still believe in those concepts of hope and change.

Even though people may have disagreed with some of the policies that he put forth, he was stating to David Axelrod, he could still go to those people and they know he was pointing in the right direction.

Between he and Donald Trump, the president is doing something that even Donald Trump advisers say is graceful. You look at the way that Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are interacting. You look at the way that Barack Obama and Donald Trump are interacting.

I don't think anything is stalling. I think he's doing his final task as president of the United States which is transitioning power. However Donald Trump wants to -- whatever he wants to do on Twitter, you have to understand there's going to be a level of respectability.

There's going to be a level in this office that we all hope that Donald Trump will one day become. Barack Obama is showing that grace right now to the president-elect. And I hope that on January 20th, he will then begin to carry that mantle of the president of the United States, something we can all respect.

BASH: Can I just say one thing? I actually agree with Bakari and feel like the person who should be smarting from President Obama's words is Hillary Clinton. I mean, basically what he was saying is he could have done it better. He could have articulated it in a way that she didn't and perhaps she couldn't is what he was saying. SELLERS: Joe Biden said the same thing.

BASH: Not something necessarily -- not necessarily that is something that is healing to the Democratic Party, but that's what happens when a president sits down with somebody who he is -- our colleague, David Axelrod, who he has known for decades, who really helped launch him to become not just, you know, a state senator, a U.S. senator and president of the United States.

So -- and then on the Donald Trump part, you know what, he's going to respond to this I think by Donald Trump standards, the response was pretty, pretty tame.

BOLDUAN: You don't have to look much further than just a few weeks back in his Twitter feed. Doug, I was talking to Senator Santorum. He ran of course against Donald Trump in primary, a longtime Republican senator. Last night, he said that he thinks -- he hopes, he doesn't know if it will happen, but he thinks when it comes to Donald Trump's Twitter habits, it will change come January 20th.

Not that he will completely get off Twitter, but he will be more reticent, more careful in what he says and how he says it on Twitter. Would you put any money on the fact that that might happen?

[11:15:11]HEYE: Would I put any money on it, probably not. But that's where I think we all have hope and change in our own hearts about Donald Trump's Twitter habits.

There are also, you know, real processes at work. That come into play in this, when it's the president of the United States. Donald Trump is president-elect, sure, but he's still a private citizen.

When you're POTUS, that Twitter handle, it's a much bigger deal. I don't think we should be surprise surprised that Barack Obama thought he would win or Donald Trump thought that he would win.

No politician has ever said, you know what, I probably would have or should have lost that campaign. As Frank Sinatra taught us, a Monday morning quarterback never loses a game.

BOLDUAN: You even brought in Frank Sinatra. Dana, of course, exactly, Dana, exactly. What should we expect, Dana, from the inaugural speech? We know his longtime speechwriter, Steven Miller, is going to be crafting it. What does that mean? What are your expectations?

BASH: It means that Steven Miller, I hope he's sitting somewhere sweating because I would be. I mean, this is as big as it gets. He certainly has written the few very big prepared speeches that Donald Trump gave during the campaign. But this is a whole new ball game and we really don't know what to expect, which is I think true for pretty much everything when it comes to Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Par for the course. Guys, great to see you. Thank you.

So tis the season to break out in a fight apparently. Massive brawls happening at more than a dozen malls the day after Christmas. Why? And it was all caught on tape. That's ahead.

Plus, a daring shawshank-style jail escape. This time, it was not a poster covering it all up. It was a toilet. One inmate is still on the loose and considered dangerous. An update on the manhunt and what happened that's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:20:21]

BOLDUAN: First, the U.N. Security Council votes to condemn the Israeli government for continuing to build in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the U.S. doing nothing to stop it.

Then accusations and denials that the Obama administration was behind the controversial resolution. Now Israel essentially says they're moving ahead no matter what your resolution says. Just this morning announcing plans for hundreds of new homes to be built in East Jerusalem.

Back with me now is CNN's Oren Lieberman in Jerusalem, CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, and CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein.

Elise, a lot of this comes back, when we look at the resolution that passed, we heard over and over again, I heard it from David Keyes, the spokesman for Netanyahu, last night, they have ironclad proof that the Obama administration was behind this.

That they orchestrated this, they colluded to get this resolution introduced and through. You have new information about what proof that is even though they're not talking about it. Tell me.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the Israelis are not being explicit about how they know this, but I just spoke to a senior Israeli official just a short time ago and they're sharpening the accusations against the United States.

Saying that the Obama administration led by his secretary and staff pushed the approval of the U.N. resolution and also basically saying they're hearing this from Arab sources, that Secretary Kerry was what they're calling a covert partner in every detail of the resolution, right.

So it's from its drafting to its conception to pushing it through some of these other members and pushing for a vote. And then accusing the administration of covering this up by having the Palestinians, led by an adviser to President Abbas, Sayid Aricat, pass this through Arab League.

And worked kind of behind -- the Egyptians hiding behind their skirts, and allowing themselves to have plausible deniability, which now the administration is certainly vehemently denying this.

And they say that they are going to share this information, the Israeli official tells me, with the incoming Trump administration. If you talk to senior U.S. officials, Kate, they vehemently deny that they were involved in crafting this and pushing it through.

Secretary of State John Kerry has talked with U.N. Security Council members, officials say, about, you know, what the U.S. was considering, whether its options about laying out the speech with a vision that Secretary of State Kerry is supposed to do later this week or other types of options.

But they say that the U.S. never really knew what this resolution was going to say and this is why they couldn't vote on it. But Kate, what officials are saying is the very thing we're seeing today, that the Israelis are announcing new settlement construction, it was already in the pipeline.

But now they're going ahead, is the very reason why the U.S. had to push forward this resolution and vote -- not necessarily push forward, but abstain from it, because of the unprecedented acceleration of these settlements that they've been trying to get the Israelis --

BOLDUAN: Ron, let me get you in on this. This might be lost on some people when it comes to this ironclad proof. Please explain to me why project that you have the ironclad proof, that you're going to share it with the administration incoming and not provide it now? Please explain.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think, you know, what we have seen from Benjamin Netanyahu over his career is that he has essentially allied with one party in the U.S. debate more than I've ever seen from any other foreign leader.

I mean, from his trip to oppose the Iran deal to this, basically saying I'll work with Donald Trump, but not with the Obama administration. He has allied his government with the Republican Party in the U.S. and created enormously polarizing situation along our own partisan lines.

But you know, I think the larger question here that gets lost is what does collusion or -- even mean? I mean, every country on the Security Council voted for that resolution.

BOLDUAN: Right, it's no secrets that the United States is against settlements.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Great Britain and France voted for it. China and Russia, which are not usually subject to dictate by the U.S., voted for it. Japan and Spain and New Zealand voted for it. Which is why you have the domestic opposition in Israel making the argument that Netanyahu's approach, essentially a deep freeze on any kind of meaningful peace process while trying to create facts on the ground in the settlements, has essentially isolated Israel internationally. There is a very broad range of countries that voted for this. It was not a fringe idea of only in the west wing of the White House.

[11:25:09]BOLDUAN: Oren, Elise mentioned the speech that Secretary Kerry will offer in the coming days, kind of laying out the Obama administration vision for Mideast peace in these final days. The Israeli, are they concerned, worried about this? LIEBERMANN: Well, first, a speech like this in the closing days of the administration is not without precedent. Bill Clinton did it right at the end of his administration. He laid out what's now known as the Clinton parameters, which was his vision on peace and how he would deal with the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jerusalem borders refugees and a few other topics. Now, fast forward a few years, it's Secretary of State Kerry's turn. He's made it clear, Kerry and Obama both, have made it clear that they've always wanted to do something here. They didn't do it until a few days ago.

But the resolution itself doesn't mean anything without some sort of follow up. That follow up could be a Security Council resolution. Instead, though, Kerry just wants to lay out his vision, how he would have dealt with again the most sensitive issues.

The Palestinians are taking it seriously because they believe it will lead to progress. They see it as hammering out some of the most difficult issues. The Israelis are taking it seriously for the exact opposite reason, they don't want it to happen. Yet they know it's going to.

So they'll be listening. The parameters themselves, how to deal with these issues, may not have any immediate effect and yet it's the U.S., the idea here has long been the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, peace to that conflict, runs through Washington.

So even if Netanyahu doesn't like Kerry, doesn't agree with him, this has to be taken seriously, especially with an International Peace Conference just a few weeks away on January 15th, just before Obama leaves office.

BOLDUAN: Right and on that note, Ron, I mean, whenever we hear from Israeli officials, they do make the point that they look forward to working with the incoming administration --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BOLDUAN: -- on all this. Trump was very vocal leading up to and after the U.N. vote, no question. Do you think that all wounds are healed here in this relationship which seems at an all-time low? Just the moment that Barack Obama's out of office and Trump is in?

BROWNSTEIN: No, I think you'll see a different strategy from the Trump administration. It's hard to argue, looking at everything, the security agreement, the military aid that Barack Obama is not committed to Israel's security.

But clearly he has an independent different vision of what path leads toward a more, you know, the best chance of long-term security and stability than Benjamin Netanyahu.

What Donald Trump has signaled is that he's going to be more differential to the Netanyahu approach, much more supportive of the way Netanyahu defines the best chance of long-term security for Israel.

It's hard to argue the Obama approach has worked. We're at loggerheads with Israel. It's not clear more deference is going to produce a better outcome given the stalemate on the ground in Israel and the growing international isolation of Israel. It's going to be a much more differential approach.

BOLDUAN: Important moment in this relationship history for sure. Guys, great to see you. Thanks so much. We'll watch that very closely.

Also this, a historic trip, Japan's prime minister visits the "USS Arizona" Memorial at Pearl Harbor for the very first time. The emotional and historic moment set to happen live very soon. Details ahead.

Plus, less than one minute, that's how much time the Secret Service would have to move the president-elect to safety if there is a real threat. So how do you protect the president-elect when he lives at one of the busiest intersections in the world? The plans and the huge challenges, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)