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Israel Cuts Working Ties With 12 Nations; 24 Days to Donald Trump's Inauguration; Trump Set To Fill Over 100 Federal Court Vacancies. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 27, 2016 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:15] POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fighting back, cutting working ties with 12 countries. Those 12 countries that supported the U.N. resolution condemning settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. This, as tension worsens between Israel and the United States.Joining me now is David Keyes. He is the spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thanks for being with us, David.


HARLOW: Last night on this network you said that you, the Israeli government, has "ironclad information" from sources in the Arab world and internationally that there was, essentially, collusion between the U.S. government -- the Obama administration -- and those other members of the U.N. who voted on that resolution that the U.S. abstained on, and you say this is the working of the United States. What is that evidence?

KEYES: Well, that evidence is going to be presented to the new administration through the proper channels and they can choose to share that if they'd like. But I can tell you that I, myself, have seen the information and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that information exists. And what it shows is that the Obama administration helped craft and push and lobby for this United Nations Security Council resolution which is so outrageous.

And frankly, it's an abandonment of a longstanding position of the American administration to protect Israel at the United Nations. This deeply biased body that, frankly, delights in lambasting the one liberal democracy in the Middle East and has a lot less time for those hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in places like Syria.

This United Nations resolution actually says that the Western Wall, OK, one of the holiest sites to the Jewish people -- a place where Jews have been for literally thousands of years, have prayed towards, have lived adjacent to for thousands of years -- that that somehow is illegally occupied Palestinian land.

HARLOW: David --

KEYES: That is outrageous, that is ahistorical, and that certainly pushes peace a lot further back. HARLOW: David, a lot to unpack there. Let's get to multiple parts of

it. First, though, it also says and leaves very open the door for negotiations. It says there will be no changes to the 1967 agreement "other than those agreed to by the parties through negotiations." But to your argument that, essentially, the American people, the Israeli people, the Obama administration should not see the evidence that you say you have seen with your own eyes. Walk me through that logic. Wouldn't it help you more in the court of public opinion to put it forward now?

KEYES: Well, the court of public opinion is not the only court there is and, like I said, we will pass those through the proper channels. But having seen the information I can tell you --

HARLOW: Why is the current administration not -- why is this administration that is in office for the next 24 days not the proper channels?

KEYES: Well, because this is the administration that was behind the crafting and implementation of the Security Council resolution.

HARLOW: Why not -- I just -- I'm having --

KEYES: But they know what they did, so --

HARLOW: -- a hard time understanding the logic that you wouldn't put it out there for the world to see now.

KEYES: I understand that. Well, "60 MINUTES" and even great hosts, like yourself, are not the only calculation in what we decide to divulge or not divulge. But again, this is ironclad, as I said yesterday. I've seen it myself. There's no doubt whatsoever behind it.

And, frankly, it's deeply, deeply disappointing to the state of Israel because you have a situation where the Palestinian authority is, frankly, paying people who murder Israelis, naming soccer stadiums after mass murderers, refusing to meet with Israel's prime minister after hundreds and hundreds of calls to begin negotiations without any preconditions whatsoever today, here and now.

You know, Ramallah is just a few minutes away from here. President Abbas would simply need to come to Jerusalem. The prime minister invited President Abbas to the Knesset, he offered to go the Parliament in Ramallah, and all of our calls for peace and actual negotiations have been turned down. The question is why --

HARLOW: So let's talk about the peace process. He --

KEYES: -- and the answer is deceptively simple.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the peace process.


HARLOW: We do expect to hear from the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later this week, laying out his vision, his hopes for what is borne under the next administration. As you well know, in Paris, on January 15th, 70 countries will get together for this peace summit. The Palestinians have said they support the conference. As far as we know up until now, unless you will say differently, Israelis not planning to attend. Why?

KEYES: Well, because what the internationalization of this conflict does is it gives the Palestinians an easy out not to sit down and make the hard choices. You know, Israel has made peace successfully with Egypt and Jordan, two Arab neighbors of ours, and those peace treaties have lasted for decades.

[07:35:04] HARLOW: It has, but it has demanded --

KEYES: And one of the reasons -- one of the main reasons --

HARLOW: -- different things from the Palestinians, as you well know. In the peace accord with Egypt, in the peace treaty with Jordan, Israel did not demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state. Same thing when you normalize relations with Turkey. That is a demand, though, in the peace talks with the Palestinians. Why is it different?

KEYES: Well, it's different because the Palestinian narrative today, unfortunately, is based on the same Palestinian narrative from even several decades ago, and that is that there's no real place in this Middle East for even a tiny Jewish state and that's why their maps talk about Tel Aviv and Jaffa as settlements, not outposts in the West Bank. That's why they're educating their children that eventually all of this land will be Palestinian and that's actually what's at the core of the conflict. The persistent Palestinian refusal to accept any Jewish state whatsoever.

HARLOW: As you heard the spokeswoman just --

KEYES: If you want proof you can just look --

HARLOW: As you heard the doctor just tell Don Lemon -- or if you didn't hear it, she said we recognize the state. We do not recognize it as a Jewish state. She says there should be a separation of religion from the state. Some are pointing, as you well know, David, to the Palestinians using this U.N. Security Council resolution perhaps as part of their argument to potentially make a case in the ICC, in the International Criminal Court, against Israeli leaders.

Do you believe that that is the eventuality of what is -- what is -- is that part of what upsets the Netanyahu administration so much about this U.N. Security Council vote?

KEYES: Well, I hope it doesn't move in that direction but it's nice that Hanan Ashrawi comes on CNN and talk about recognition, but you can also quote other advisers like Nabil Schaff (ph) who said -- and you know, I'll quoted in the original Arabicif you're curious -- (foreign language spoken). Two states for two peoples. We will never accept that. And it's really the "two peoples" part that is the differentiation here because many leaders, like (INAUDIBLE) for example, will say well, of course we want one state now and eventually later we'll have the second state as well, so all of this land will be ours. What a tragedy --

HARLOW: As you know, David --

KEYES: -- that we can't live at peace with our neighbors --

HARLOW: As you know, David --

KEYES: -- because of this horrific incitement.

KEYES: David Friedman, who the president-elect has tapped to be his -- to be the ambassador to Israel, has said that he believes that a two-state solution is more a narrative. He has not been supportive of a two-state solution.

A few more questions I want to get to. "The New York Times" front page today is reporting that it is --

KEYES: You can ask him about that, but as the prime minister's spokesmanI can tell you that his position is clearly --

HARLOW: I understand what Netanyahu's position is.

KEYES: -- favoring two states for two peoples living side by side.

HARLOW: I understand that. I understand that. I'd like to get some clarity on this "New York Times" front page report this morning, David, and that is that Israel is intending to build 600 new settlements in east Jerusalem and that that is what a top official is telling "The New York Times" is part of the first installment of 5,600 new settlements there. Is that true?

KEYES: You know, I think what really needs to be discussed here is not the approval or not approval of a few hundred apartment buildings --

HARLOW: No, but that's -- David, that's my question.

KEYES: -- because that has never been the core of this conflict.

HARLOW: Is "The New York Times" correct in their reporting this morning on that?

KEYES: I understand but I just want to make a very quick point and that is the following. Almost every timeI come on television someone will ask me about a handful of outposts going up on the presumption that the presence of Jews in Judea is somehow a great barrier to peace. You know, over 1.5 million Arabs live inside of Israel as full citizens. They serve on the Supreme Court, they serve in the Knesset, they've reached the heights of business, and the police force, et cetera, et cetera.

That's not a barrier to peace at all. What that shows is what a pluralistic and open society looks like. And I sincerely hope that one day the basis of a Palestinian state will not have to be that as a precondition, first, every Jew must leave that territory --

HARLOW: Can you --

KEYES -- especially when you add to that the idea that Jerusalem is somehow an occupied place. That's what this U.N. resolution effectively --

HARLOW: So will you not -- all right --

KEYES: -- says.

HARLOW: So you will not, and correct me if I'm wrong, confirm "The New York Times" reporting. Before I let you go, I'll ask you exactly what Don just asked in the last interview and that is what do you believe the prospects for peace are under President-elect Trump?

KEYES: Well, I think that it really depends on the Palestinians. I think American involvement can be a wonderful thing and, hopefully, what that means is that they can convince the Palestinians, at long last, to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East and to cease this diplomatic war against Israel whereby, even an inch of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East is too much. I'm actually very hopeful about the future.

The Middle East is changing in many important ways, but what has to happen in order for peace to come about is that the Palestinian authority needs to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It needs to cease paying salaries to people who murder Israelis. It should stop naming soccer stadiums and schools and streets after mass murderers.

[07:40:03] And it should accept Prime Minister Netanyahu's many calls to begin the peace process here and now. Peace is too important and both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace with mutual recognition, and I'm very hopeful that in the future that can come about.

HARLOW: David Keyes, we are all hoping for peace. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

KEYES: Thank you very much.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: We are just 24 days away from witnessing history when Donald Trump takes his oath, becoming the 45th president. What can we expect at the inaugural ceremony? We're going to get a sneak peek from a member of the inauguration team, next.


HARLOW: It is just a little more than three weeks away. President- elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office, becoming the 45th president. Mr. Trump will address a big crowd who will be there to join him and perform. Let's ask the director of communications for the presidential inaugural committee, Boris Epshteyn. Good to be with you.


LEMON: Happy holidays. Why aren't you here in New York with us? Is that because you're planning this big event?

HARLOW: You got a lot of work to do?

EPSHTEYN: That's exactly why. I miss you -- I miss you guys. I'm here in D.C. planning a wonderful uniting event. It's very exciting.

HARLOW: So what -- yes, let's get to it.

LEMON: Can we talk to you about the guy who's writing the speech? And we all know -- I know Stephen Miller. He's been on -- he's 31 years old, a former aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions. Known as a Trump speechwriter. His voice is closest to Donald Trump. Can you tell us what his message is going to be on January 20th?

EPSHTEYN: Well, I can't tell you the message because, you know, obviously the speech is still in the works. Stephen is somebody who is so smart, a really a wonderful man who I've gotten to know very well, and he'll be working with his team on this very important address. There will be talk -- they will be talking about uniting America, bringing American together. We are now in the post-politics, post-campaign season and that's the messaging around this inaugural --

[07:45:16] HARLOW: That's interesting --

EPSHTEYN: -- is make American great again for all Americans.

HARLOW: -- because we -- he's perhaps most famous for writing the president-elect's remarks at the -- at the RNC -- at the convention, and those were ominous dark remarks, law and order, a big focus on I, alone, can fix it. So it sounds like you're saying this is going to be a very different -- completely different tone.

EPSHTEYN: Well, Poppy, that was your take on those remarks. For me and a lot of Republicans --

HARLOW: No, those were his --

EPSHTEYN: -- and an overwhelming majority --

HARLOW: Those were his words.

EPSHTEYN: Poppy, may I answer?

HARLOW: I -- you know, America's broken and I, alone, can fix it.

EPSHTEYN: Poppy, may I answer?

HARLOW: Of course.

EPSHTEYN: So, as -- though, as part of the speech -- another part of the speech was dreaming big and not downsizing your dreams was a part of that message as well, as has been the message since the election, so I'm expecting a great address. Among that, again, talks to Americans about dreaming big. About making sure that we are a city on a hill one more time. And I'm looking forward to a strong address that talks to all Americans.

LEMON: I want to know what role will the children -- the Trump children -- and Melania have in the inauguration.

EPSHTEYN: Well, the family, obviously, is a huge part of the president-elect's life and there will be a specific role for them -- an important role -- and we'll be rolling out that information as time goes on.

LEMON: There's also been some controversy about getting -- who's going to perform. I know the Rockettes are -- some of them are saying on social media that they are backing out of this. They don't want to do it. What's your -- what's the reaction from the Trump camp?

EPSHTEYN: Well, Don, by some I think you mean one, and the Rockettes of Madison Square Garden, which runs the Radio City Rockettes --

LEMON: There's been more than one.

EPSHTEYN: -- put out -- it's been one -- put out a statement which said that actually more women applied to be part of the inauguration performance than there were spots for those. And we are so honored to have the Radio City Rockettes perform at this inaugural, as they did in '01 and '05. They're a great representation of what's best about America.

HARLOW: You know, it's interesting. Kellyanne Conway said something on "FOX NEWS" last week. She said, "This is the people's president." And, as you know, he tweeted a few days ago not -- basically, and I'm paraphrasing here -- I'm not interested in celebrities attending. I am the president for thepeople. I want the -- you know, the real people there and the people that got him -- got him elected.

Interesting report in "Politico" this week. Two people familiar with the discussions said that you guys are banding about the idea of perhaps that he might skip the traditional congressional luncheon that follows and wade into the crowd -- join the parade. Are we going to see that?

EPSHTEYN: Well, there are a lot of rumors out there. I wouldn't trust any of those rumors unless they come from the presidential inaugural committee or the transition or the president-elect, himself, so --

HARLOW: And it's great that we have someone from the inaugural committee on the show this morning, so break the news for us.

EPSHTEYN: Well, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to be breaking those news. We are very exciting about this inaugural. It's a historic moment. A moment of peaceful transition of power.

LEMON: Come on, Boris. Why are you here, man?

HARLOW: We woke up at like 2:00 in the morning. Give us some news. LEMON: We were so excited that we had you on to tell us the information and you're not giving us anything.

EPSHTEYN: I'm here to talk about the amazing event we're going to have. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Rockettes, Jackie Evancho singing the National Anthem, and all of America being represented here in Washington, D.C., which is exactly what we need.

HARLOW: OK, but on a -- on a -- on a much more serious note, as you say, addressing all of American. As you know, there is a huge march that is being planned now for the day after inauguration -- for Saturday -- largely being dubbed and largely a women's march. As you know, the relationship between the president-elect and many female voters was more than contentious during the election. How will he -- how will he address that as he will be the sitting president? How will he address the protests? How will he handle that?

EPSHTEYN: Well, I'm not going to accept the premise of it being a contentious relationship between the president-elect and women. Women in overwhelming numbers voted for Donald Trump. Not the majority of women but we received a great amount of support from women in this election, one.

Two, we very much respect the first amendment and we understand that people choose to protest. As long as they do so within all laws, rules, and regulations they're welcome to do so. And we -- you know, we're here to see their concerns and we understand that people have concerns, but we welcome them to our side as well. We hope some of those will come to D.C. and change their mind. Instead of protesting, come celebrate with us.

LEMON: I've got to ask now --

HARLOW: Will he come out and talk to them? Will he come out and talk to them?

EPSHTEYN: We shall see. Lots of time left.

LEMON: I've got ask you this. As someone who is, you know -- who is the head of "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE" Donald Trump loves celebrity. Does he -- are you guys having trouble finding celebrities to participate in the inauguration, as had been reported?

EPSHTEYN: Not at all, Don. You know, this is not Woodstock, it's not Summer Jam, it's not a concert. It's not about the celebrities. As Donald Trump, the president-elect, tweeted himself, it's about the people and that's what we're concentrated on. The Rockettes represent the American people. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir represents the American people. The other folks who will be coming to this inauguration and will be performing at the inauguration represent the American people and that's what we're concentrating on.

LEMON: Do you have a list beyond the three that you just -- or a couple that you just listed -- the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Rockettes, and the young lady who is doing the National Anthem -- [07:50:04] EPSHTEYN: We'll be -- we'll absolutely be rolling more out, no question about it. I actually broke the news about the Rockettes on CNN's air last week and we are excited about the other ones we'll be rolling out. But let me say one more time. It's not about the celebrities, it's not about any one entertainer, it's all about the people. That's what this inaugural is concentrated on.

LEMON: Right, right. The world is watching. Thank you Boris Epshteyn. We appreciate it.

HARLOW: Thanks, Boris.

EPSHTEYN: Have a wonderful day.

LEMON: You, too. Donald Trump may be eager to nominate a ninth justice to the Supreme Court but that's just the tip of the iceberg. The president-elect has dozens of federal judicial vacancies to fill. How could he reshape the judiciary? We will discuss.


LEMON: The president-elect will have more than 100 federal court vacancies to fill when he takes office on January 20th in addition to filling the Supreme Court vacancy that has been open for months now. How will Trump reshape the judiciary?

Let's talk now with Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst and the former -- a former federal prosecutor. So let's see, the "New York Post" reported yesterday that he has -- he will inherit more than 100 court vacancies, nearly double the number of President Obama, not to mention the Supreme Court. This is big.

[07:55:05] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's huge. President Obama was president for eight years, as we all know. He appointed 326 judges. Donald Trump, in his first term, will have 100 just from the very beginning so, I mean, it just gives you an idea of what a big opportunity it is. Now, he can't fill them all very quickly. It's a fairly elaborate process. He's going to have to solicit names and the Senate is going to have to go through them. But since all federal judges serve for life this is a chance to extend a president's legacy well beyond the four or eight years.

HARLOW: Perhaps most shaping his legacy when it comes to the judiciary is the SCOTUS pick -- the Supreme Court.

TOOBIN: Correct.

HARLOW: And as you know, Mitch McConnell's strategy worked. Basically, block, block, block, block, block. We're not even going to take it up for a vote and therefore the next president will be able to make the nomination to replace Antonin Scalia. Two big, sort of front-runner names out there that we're hearing -- Diane Sykes, Bill Pryor. Do you agree and what do we know about them?

TOOBIN: I think they are -- they are likely choices. Bill Pryor is from Alabama. The new attorney general is from Alabama. He is a -- he's been on the federal appeals court since the second Bush administration, known for his fierce opposition to Roe vs. Wade, the abortion rights decision, which is something Donald Trump said he wants on the Supreme Court.

Diane Sykes is from Wisconsin, also a very important Republican- leaning state these days. Somewhat older -- she's 58 years old. That's a little older than a lot of presidents want to pick someone on the Supreme Court. But both very conservative. Likely to be anti- abortion rights, anti-affirmative action, pro-corporate, anti-union. I mean, this is what Republican judges, by and large, stand for.

HARLOW: But interestingly, do you remember a few months ago, Jeff, when the president-elect said something pretty confusing about what was established law. What had already been decided by the courts, he essentially said, talking about Roe vs. Wade.

TOOBIN: Well, he was -- well, he was talking about same-sex marriage --


TOOBIN: -- and he was saying, basically, I consider that a --

HARLOW: Yes, but Roe vs. Wade isn't.

TOOBIN: Even though the court has reaffirmed both of those decisions in recent years, I think as so much with the law, what Donald Trump was doing was mostly political as opposed to legal. He was saying look, same-sex marriage has been accepted by the country. I'm not going to quarrel with that anymore. But abortion rights is an intensely important issue to the people who support me. Even though Trump, himself, has been pro-choice in this past he is determine to reward his supporters with a pro-life --

LEMON: Do Democrats have any recourse because Merrick Garland -- Republicans wouldn't even entertain. Was it 52 nominations still outstanding from the Obama administration?

TOOBIN: Yes, then they will all go away. I mean, none of the -- none of those people will be re-nominated. They don't have much recourse because the Republicans control the Senate, you know. This is why control of the Senate is so important because it means the party in control of the Senate controls the calendar and they can slow down or speed up judicial nominations as they please.

You are going to see Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, say as soon as we get a Republican -- a Trump nominated to the Supreme Court, let's have hearings right away. Let's get the court back to full strength after they delayed, you know, for a year.

HARLOW: Let's talk about what President Obama and his appointments has done to the face of the judiciary, right. I'm talking about across the board not, obviously, just to the Supreme Court.

TOOBIN: It's -- as Don said, diversity is the real legacy. I mean, there have never been as many women judges nominated, as many African- American, Hispanic, gay and lesbian judges who are out. Something that has basically never happened before, there are now quite a few.

LEMON: Does Trump keep that going?

TOOBIN: We'll see, I don't know. It's an interesting question. I mean, you just look at the constituency of both parties. It certainly seems unlikely that -- but the number probably won't be zero.

HARLOW: His sister, as you know, is a senior judge, right, on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

TOOBIN: And not an especially conservative one.

HARLOW: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, she is certainly more conservative than Democratic appointees but she is not nearly as conservative as Bill Pryor or Diane Sykes, and Donald Trump has often spoken admiringly of his sister's philosophy. But this is something where if you remember talking to Paul Ryan and all the Republican leaders during the campaign they were saying we may not like Trump that much --

HARLOW: Cruz, too.

TOOBIN: -- but --

HARLOW: The courts.

TOOBIN: -- the courts are what really matter.

HARLOW: Yes. Jeff Toobin, good to have you. Thanks for coming in.

TOOBIN: Good to see you both.

LEMON: We're following a lot. Let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president-elect going after President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If a year from now there is an issue, I might weigh in.

LEMON: Trump tweeting there is no way Obama would have defeated him.

OBAMA: I'm confident that if I had run again I could've mobilized the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A state is a state for all its citizens.