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The Tragic Death of Hollywood Legend Debbie Reynolds; Trump's Mixed Signals On Transition; Brinkley Meets With Trump at Mar-a-Lago Resort; Netanyahu Vows To Give Sensitive Info To Trump Admin; Presidential Turf War; Kerry, Tough Talk For Israel; Two-State Solution In Serious Jeopardy. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 28, 2016 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And sadly, we begin with some breaking news. The tragic death of Hollywood legend, Debbie Reynolds, just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, died. This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon.
Debbie Reynolds died in a Los Angeles hospital tonight at the age of 84. Her son, Todd Fisher, confirmed his mother's death saying, "It's true, she's with Carrie." He also told CNN that just this morning, a grief-stricken Reynolds said she missed her daughter. Debbie Reynolds was a superstar in the 1950s and '60s.
Singing and dancing in classics like "Singing in the Rain," but her personal life made at least as many headlines as her boundless talent. CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Los Angeles for us tonight with more on this very tragic story. Leyla, thank you for joining us. What do we know of the circumstances surrounding miss Reynolds' death?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, so much has happened in just the last six hours. We started following this around 1:00 local time when we were told that the fire department was transporting her from the family's home to the hospital in fair to serious condition. She had been complaining about some sort of a breathing problem. And at the time when we reached out to her son, he simply said, pray for her.
An just in the last hour or so, we've seen quite the development with her son as you mentioned, now confirming her death. But as far as exactly what led up to it, all we know is that she had been complaining about that breathing problem when she was immediately transported to the hospital.
LEMON: Her son also released a statement saying that he had spoken to Debbie this morning. What else did he say?
SANTIAGO: Right, he actually, again, today, asked for prayers for her health and then later on, and this is a direct quote, he said, "She spoke to me this morning and she said she missed Carrie. She's with Carrie now." And he's not the only one who has said -- has commented from the family. Even her stepdaughter, also took to twitter to say, "Godspeed, mama."
So we're certainly seeing a family that has been through quite a bit in the last few days in coping with tragedy.
LEMON: Yes. We're hearing an outpouring from Hollywood. Also hearing from Debra Messing, who played her daughter in "Will and Grace." Leyla Santiago, I appreciate that. Thank you very much for joining us this evening her on CNN. Then the sad story, the passing of Debbie Reynolds just one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, marks the loss of one of the biggest and brightest lights of Hollywood's golden age. CNN's Stephanie Elam has more now.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Singer, dancer, actress. Debbie Reynolds was a Hollywood triple threat, and America's sweetheart. Her film career began at the age of 16 after being spotted in a beauty pageant.
ELAM(voice-over): Her star officially launched just a few years later after a spirited performance opposite Jean Kelly and Donald O'Connor, in 1952's "Singing in the Rain."
DEBBIE REYNOLDS, MOVIE ACTRESS: They picked me to put me in "Singing in the Rain" and they just locked me in a big old studio. And for three months I had five different teachers, one for tap and ballet, jazz, modern, and just work, work, work, you know, until I just fell apart.
ELAM(voice-over): Other notable roles followed including 1956's "Tammy and the Bachelor" which resulted in her number one hit song, "Tammy." She played opposite Gregory Peck in "How The West Was Won" and her performance in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" earned her an Oscar nomination.
ELAM(voice-over): Beloved on screen, at times Reynolds' life off screen overshadowed her success. She had two children with her first husband and crooner Eddie Fisher -- producer Todd Fisher and actress and author, Carrie Fisher. In 1959, the marriage ended in a highly publicized divorce when Fisher left Reynolds to marry her close friend, Elizabeth Taylor. A painful betrayal, Reynolds was able to joke about the scandal years later.
REYNOLDS: I was a girl scout. I really was a very simple little girl and that's what I was and he fell madly in love with Elizabeth. Now I understand, you know, so many years later and it's in the past.
ELAM(voice-over): Her second and third marriages also ended in divorce, each time causing Reynolds financial pain. However, she had quietly been collecting Hollywood memorabilia over the years that would prove a wise investment. In 2011, Reynolds sold Marilyn Monroe's white subway dress at auction for $4.6 million.
ELAM(voice-over): She also never quit performing. Though she stepped away from film for much of her career, Reynolds continued to entertain on Broadway stages and in Las Vegas nightclubs.
[22:05:00] In addition, Reynolds had several TV roles over the years notably playing Liberace's mother in the 2013 Emmy winning TV movie "Behind the Candelabra." Her wide array of work was recognized in 2015 when the Screen Actors Guild honored Reynolds with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Reynolds said she loved every minute she spent in show business in her 2013 autobiography "Unsinkable." She credited the love she had for her friends and family for her personal and professional resiliency.
REYNOLDS: I paid $20,000 for this sucker.
ELAM(voice-over): And it is that spark and sense of humor along with her talent that Reynolds will be remembered for.
REYNODS: I love you. Good night, everybody. Thank you.
LEMON: How could you not love her? Debbie Reynolds' death is shocking, coming so soon after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher. Stars are outpouring or pouring out tonight and speaking out on social media. The first one I want to read is from Ellen Degeneres, and she says, "Debbie Reynolds was one of the last of Hollywood royalty. It breaks my heart that she is gone. I hope that my grieving was done on 2016." And there it is up on the screen.
And then Debbie Allen, the choreographer and actress and director says, "I can't imagine that Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds' family are going through this week -- what their going through this week. I send all my love." And then Albert Brooks also says, "Debbie Reynolds, God is holding you with Carrie in his hands. We will always speak your name." Again, that's not Debbie Allen, sorry. Those may have been out of order a little bit, but you get the sentiment coming from members of the Hollywood community this evening.
Again, we're going to continue to discuss this. Debbie Reynolds died just 24 hours after losing her daughter. Joining me now is Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, from NYU School of Medicine and Matthew Belloni, executive editor of the "Hollywood Reporter." Again Matthew, as I said, how could you not love Debbie Reynolds? Bubbly, beautiful, talented, smart, and we were just remembering Carrie Fisher 24 hours ago and now we have her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who's passed away. What's your reaction?
MATTHEW BELLONI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: I mean, it's obviously tragic development, but, you know, it's hard not to think that the two are related. I mean, she's been through -- she was already not in great health. Last year, the Academy gave Debbie Reynolds the Humanitarian Oscar, and she was unable to attend the ceremony to accept it.
So she hasn't been in the best health in recent years. However, what she's gone through in the past week had to just be overwhelming, and today they were apparently talking about funeral arrangements for Carrie Fisher when she started to get ill and ended up having to go to the hospital and passed way.
LEMON: Her son spoke to her this morning and released a statement, Matt, saying "Debbie spoke to me this morning and said she missed Carrie. She's with Carrie now." I mean, this really says a lot about Debbie, how she was feeling and how close she was to Carrie.
BELLONI: Right. Now, keep in mind, the relationship between Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher has been a tumultuous relationship throughout their lives. If you remember, Carrie Fisher wrote a memoir "Postcards from the Edge" specifically about this relationship with her mother. And that was then dramatized in the film version.
So it hasn't always been a pleasant relationship, but in recent years they apparently had reconciled and participated in a documentary that played at the Cannes Film Festival this year and will be on HBO next year specifically about the relationship between Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.
LEMON: Dr. Devi, I want to go with you. Given the circumstances, can this bring on a stroke, I mean not parent wants to lose a child. You don't expect it? I'll ask you what I asked you earlier, is it possible she died of a broken heart?
DEVI NAMPIAPARAMPIL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Yeah, I mean, it seems like it with the timing, right? So, there are a couple different ways that can happen. When you're under extreme stress, your stress hormones go up and that actually causes a lot of changes where your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up, your breathing becomes faster.
Now, most commonly if you have underlying medical problems and your body can't quite handle all those changes, then your underlying medical problems might come out whether it's heart disease or neurologic disease. But you actually can die of a broken heart, itself, even if you had no other medical problems.
We don't actually know why it's called broken heart syndrome, but it seems to be when that happens your heart, just part of it -- it's a pump, right, but it dilates and it's not able to pump properly anymore so you actually can experience this type of shortness of breathe. Your EKG and your other blood test may not look like you have hear disease but you actually start to have these symptoms of heart failure.
LEMON: We know that Carrie Fisher died of a heart attack, Dr. Devi, at the age of 60. She was on an airplane when she suffered the heart attack. From a medical perspective, what are some of the questions that you have? If she had been closer to a medical facility, it would probably have been better for her?
[22:10:00] NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Of course. I mean, being on the plane at the time, she seemed lucky that at least it was in the process of landing and could she could get to a medical center quickly. But in general, if something happens like that on the plane, you know, you may not have access to the same type of medical personnel.
Now of course with heart problems, there are two types of problems, it could be a mechanical problems where the heart is not pumping properly. There can also be electrical problems where essentially the power is not turning on properly, right, like if you're -- if that electrical system isn't working then that's why you need CPR. Someone should give you a little bit of a shock to actually get that heart started again. So it seems that she had both problems going on on that plane.
LEMON: And Matt said that they have reconciled in recent years. I mean, many people have turbulent relationships with their parents and with children but that doesn't, you know, diminish the love that you have for them.
NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Of course.
LEMON: Sop here she is, this is back in 2010 talking about her bond with her daughter, Carrie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you proud of your daughter?
CARRIE FISHER, MOVIE ACTRESS: Are you proud of me?
REYNOLDS: I'm very proud of my daughter. She is wonderfully gifted and a very special daughter. She's a great talent. No wishful thinking here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What's your reaction?
NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Well, Debbie Reynolds also tweeted when her daughter was in the hospital, right, that she thought Carrie was stable, so just the amount of love that she had for her daughter and perhaps her feeling that her daughter was going to be OK, then to have this sudden downturn. You know, it's just such a tragedy all around.
LEMON: Matt, Debbie just finished a documentary that she filmed with Carrie Fisher, which will be released next year on HBO. What more can you tell us about that?
BELLONI: Well, the film has actually been shown. It was reviewed at the Cannes Film Festival this year and got very good reviews. So, it really delves into their relationship and the storied history that both of these actors and performers and writers have had throughout Hollywood. It really is a special film from our critics' perspective and I think
it's now going to get a lot of attention considering both its subjects are now not with us.
LEMON: I want you guys to take a listen to Debbie Reynolds talking about the entertainment industry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REYNOLDS: So competitive and, you know, you're rejected so much when you go in, unless you're on the top of the list and I've been everywhere. So I've been on the top. I've had the fans tear me to pieces, you know. All the different phases that happen to you as a star, and young, and then the middle age, and now I'm going to be 60 April. So I've been in the business no. I started at 16, it's 44 years.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: You were once the top box office draw. You've had every up and down you could possibly have, you've been on the front page of the newspaper. What do you think has been the resiliency factor? What do you think keeps Debbie going?
REYNOLDS: Well I think the love -- the love of entertaining. You just love what you do. There's more fun in this business than anywhere. You have to be very strong. You have to be religious or have your own faith of some kind because you can't let it get you down.
You can't -- the failure that happens to you, you know, the rejection is pretty tough sometimes so you have to stay really strong and hang in there. Believe in yourself. And you know that you're really good and you know -- you have to know that your fans love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I mean, timeless, Matt. And she had a great attitude. What was her reputation in Hollywood?
BELLONI: She was known as a survivor. I mean she had gone through one of the great tabloid scandals of all-time in Hollywood at a time before the internet and the culture as we know it today. And she survived. She made her way. She still worked.
She also had another business as a memorabilia collector where she spent years and years and years collecting a lot of the old MGM musical memorabilia and Marilyn Monroe's dress and a lot of other things. That she actually had a museum in Las Vegas at one point that was a home for a lot of this stuff and she just kept trudging along and she was a survivor.
LEMON: Hey, Matt, correct me if I'm wrong, which I find it kind of ironic and maybe poetic justice in a way. She had the dress that Liz Taylor had from "Cleopatra" or the costume that was part of her collection that Debbie Reynolds had, right?
BELLONI: I believe that is correct. I believe it was one of the costumes. But she had a lot of things. She, you know, she spent years and years, at a time when a lot of the old Hollywood studio memorabilia was being thrown out and discarded.
She saw value in this stuff and started collecting it and in part as homage to the past and, you know, the time that she grew up in, but also as I think a smart business that she knew that there would be value to this stuff and she amassed a pretty good collection.
LEMON: Yes. Another clip of Debbie Reynolds. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you call her up, do you really say, hi, this is Debbie Reynolds, your mother?
REYNOLDS: I'm just so used to saying it, you know, I say, instead of saying hi, I don't know why I say hi. I mean of course, she knows --
FISHER: Hello, dear, this is your mother.
REYNOLDS: Hello, dear, this is Debbie. Instead I forget --
FISHER: No, your mother, Debbie.
REYNOLDS: This is your mommy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:15:00] LEMON: You can see where Carrie Fisher got that personality and why she was so outspoken and had so much moxy, Matt.
BELLONI: Absolutely. And you know, one of the things that people noted when Carrie Fisher passed away yesterday was her candor and her ability to not only talk openly about the struggles that she had encountered in her life, but to turn those into her art and to turn it into memoirs and her one-woman show.
And a lot of what made up her personality and public persona. That directly came from Debbie Reynolds because there are a lot of things in her history that she's been very outspoken about and she went through a lot of personal issues at a very young age and lived through them all. And this was transferred on to Carrie.
LEMON: Dr. Devi, as a physician, physicians treat people who have addictions all the time and even who suffer from mental health illness, but what she did for those two causes really is invaluable.
NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Oh, of course. It's incredible. I mean, taking her own personal struggles is already hard to deal with it.
LEMON: Because of the stigma especially with mental health issues.
NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Exactly. And then to take all that and put it forward and help all these other people, I think that's incredible work.
LEMON: Matt, how do you think Debbie Reynolds will be remembered and honored?
BELLONI: She's one of the great Hollywood stars. She is a link to the bygone era of movie musicals where the stars weren't just actors, they weren't just celebrities. They were performers. They were singers, dancers. They were personalities.
And she worked in every medium. She was, you know, she could sing and dance. She also had a television show on NBC. She was, of course, a movie star. She did radio. She had a top number-one hit on the Billboard chart. I mean she really did everything and she lasted. She lasted for decades.
LEMON: She worked right up until the end. Remember, she was, Debra Messing -- she was Grace's mother on "Will and Grace" right?
BELLONI: Absolutely. And she would pop up in different shows and different things over the years. She slowed down in recent years, and as I mentioned, she wasn't able to accept her honorary Oscar last year which was a signifier that she wasn't doing very well. But she did work up until, you know, her 70s and 80s.
LEMON: Let's talk about, again, the mother/daughter relationship. Sometimes when you have kids who are movie stars and they also go into acting, they're overshadowed by their parents. But these two seemed to work in tandem, Matt, and they seem to love each other.
And it's also interesting that they also seem to embrace every role that they were in. Carrie Fisher wasn't concerned about being sort of typecast as Princess Leia and Debbie Reynolds wasn't concerned about being typecast as America's sweetheart.
BELLONI: No, absolutely not. And if you look at the roles that Carrie Fisher took, obviously she was cast in "Star Wars" when she was 19 years old but she didn't let that role define her. She really branched out into other areas, becoming a top author and becoming a screenwriter, and I think the influence of her mother probably played a big role because she -- she was born into celebrity. She was born into stardom.
So that wasn't the end all for her. It was always the jumping point for doing other things. And, you know, if you look at what happened with "Postcards From the Edge" which was Carrie Fisher's memoir about her relationship with her mother, that was adapted into a film and if you look at the actors who played them, Shirley MacLaine played a loose version of Debbie Reynolds and Meryl Streep played a loose version of Carrie Fisher. That's pretty amazing actresses to play these two women.
LEMON: Yes. And this was definitely, they say you can -- don't address -- Dr. Devis, affairs of the heart. This is an affair of the heart between a mother and daughter. Yes. Thank you. Thank you very much, Matt. Thank you, Dr. Devi.
Now, I want to bring in now a legend, an actor, director and producer, Carl Reiner. He's on the phone. He starred with Debbie Reynolds in the film "Gazebo." Mr. Reiner, thank you so much for coming on this evening and my condolences. How are you going to remember her?
CARL REINER, MOVIE ACTOR (via telephone): Well, it's sad, sad, sad and unbelievable. You know, when you get to be 94 and people go at 60 and 80, you say that's not fair. It's just not fair. Hello?
LEMON: Yes. What are you going to remember most? You worked with her, as I said, in the film "Gazebo." There's a picture of you with her we're looking at --
REINER (via telephone): I worked with him in the thing called "Gazebo," her and Glen Ford and found her just the most delightful human being. I remember first seeing her in the, you know, what do you call it, the one she made with Gene Kelly.
LEMON: "Singing in the Rain."
REINER: "Singing in the Rain." I just watched it the other night. Two nights ago, I just decided to watch it because it makes me smile. And I kept remembering that she learned to dance in six weeks. She never danced before. Such an extraordinary basic talent, and danced with Donald O'Connor and (INAUDIBLE) greatest dancer in the world, and Gene Kelly. And I remember applauding while I'm watching and said look at that girl go.
[22:20:00] Kathy Selden, I never forgot that. The great Kathy Selden. Anyway, and later on, she did a TV special and she asked me to write, produce and act in it with her and I did one called -- with did (INAUDIBLE) Ed Murrow where I interviewed her as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Anna Magnani, and she was spot on. She was unbelievable. Her impressions of Zsa Zsa and every character she did, was unbelievable.
Her talent was immense. And then her daughter -- maybe one of the most unforgettable evenings I ever spent because I'm a one-man shows. I put them on one hand the great ones I've seen. (INAUDIBLE) Williams was there. Then Eddie Fisher doing "Wishful Drinking" on stage and did two hours of just doing her life and I sat there and I said, this is one of the best things I've ever seen in the theater, on a one-man show.
The only one that could come close to it is Billy Crystal's "700 Sundays." But I remember going backstage to say this is one of the best things I've ever seen in my life. And I've been in theater for a long, long time. Two tremendous talents passed away within a day of each other. It's unspeakable, unheard of.
LEMON: And, you know, you mentioned that -- two incredible talents a day of each other, unspeakable. And you mentioned Zsa Zsa Gabor. We just lost Zsa Zsa Gabor maybe two weeks ago an December 18th. Mr. Reiner, I really appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much and again, our thoughts and prayers are with you having worked with Debbie Reynolds and knowing her very well. We'll be right back.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president-elect starting his day today tweeting, of course, he said "thought it was going to be a smooth transition, not." but tonight, at his Florida resort, he says he is getting along well with President Barack Obama. So, which is it? CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live for us in Florida tonight. Sunlen, Donald Trump took a few questions tonight outside of Mar-a-Lago. What did he have to say?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really a rare moment for president-elect Donald Trump, Don. Mostly he's been spending his time here at his resort behind closed doors, holding meetings and spending time with his family of course over the holiday, but today he emerged a few times in front of the reporters assembled here at his resort, you know, giving thumbs up at times. Other times talking to press, answering a few questions.
But notably, it was his last appearance before press just a few hours ago where he came out and took questions from reporters for over six minutes. Really a grab bag of topics, talking about the questions about his charitable foundation and what might become of that.
Also, notably talking about Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on the Middle East today at the State Department and also touching on this kind of public spat that has emerged between him and President Obama over the last few days that really has boiled over today and that phone call that the two of them had together, which it seems from both sides, was an attempt to lower the temperature.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: He called me. He called me. We had a very, very good talk about generally about things. He was in Hawaii and was a very, very nice call and I actually thought we covered a lot of territory. Lot of good territory.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you satisfied with the transition thus far?
TRUMP: Well, our staffs are getting along very well and I'm getting along very well with him other than a couple of statements that I responded to and we talked about it and smiled about it. And nobody's ever going to know because we're never going to be going against each other in that way.
I'm very, very strong on Israel. I think Israel's been treated very, very unfairly by a lot of different people. You look at resolutions in the United Nations, you take a look at what's happened, they're up for 20 reprimands and other nations that are horrible places, horrible places, that treat people horribly, haven't even been reprimanded. So there's something going on and I think it's very unfair to Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: So Trump there taking very few questions from the small group of the pool reporters there assembled on the estate. Notably, Don, as you very well know, Donald Trump has broken with tradition of past president-elects. He has not held a full-scale press conference since being elected and tonight he gave us a little more clues into when that potentially might happen. He said he will be holding a press conference in early January. Don?
LEMON: Six minutes is something, though, Sunlen. By the way, I saw something interesting, boxing promoter Don King was standing next to Donald Trump and he was holding up a few signs including an American and Israeli flags. What was that all about?
SERFATY: You know, this was an interesting moment for sure, especially someone we did not expect to be with Donald Trump today, but we do know that Trump is hosting a large dinner, 300 invited guests over at his resort here tonight. We're not sure the other guest capacity, who the other guests are, but Don King likely one of them.
And he did come out with Donald Trump when he talked to reporters, carrying both Israeli and the U.S. flag and he was asked by reporters, is this a message you're trying to send to the president-elect of course, on the same day that you have the current administration, Secretary Kerry giving this big speech on the Middle East peace process. And Don King responded back, he said the Israeli flag is about peace, we want everyone to come together.
It's this leader -- pointing to Donald Trump -- that can make that happen. And notably Donald Trump, himself, today, was really critical of the Obama administration before secretary gave that big speech saying -- indicating that the Obama administration, he thinks, has done damage to the friendship and the relationship between Israel and the United States. Don?
[22:30:00] LEMON: Sunlen, I probably could have answered my own question. The answer to that question is, its Don King, what do you expect? Thank you very much, Sunlen. I appreciate it. Now I want to bring in CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, also CNN political analyst Rebecca Berg and political commentator, David Swerdlick.
[22:30:07] My goodness, does the news ever stop? I mean, you know, we have Debbie Reynolds. We got Israel today, Carrie Fisher. So, let's talk about this, Douglas, interesting that you met with the President- Elect today at Mar-a-Lago. So fill us in on the details. What did Donald Trump want to talk about?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I just got to talk to him about the presidential history. I'm going to be covering the inauguration for us here at CNN, and asked him a little about the inauguration. He said he is going to write his own and that he wants to keep it kind of short. People don't have to freeze out there listening to a longwinded speech. I talked to him about why he likes Ronald Reagan, a little bit about stories about Nixon. I pretty much kept things on a presidential studies front. I was a little bit surprised how much he was talking about helping the veterans. I think today he had heads of people like from mayo clinic and Cleveland clinic, Johns Hopkins coming looking on how major medical institutions can do more to help the veterans affairs and that seemed to be something he was very engaged about.
LEMON: So you said he is going to write his own speech, is that what he said?
LEMON: I thought Steven Miller was writing?
BRINKLEY: Well, that is when -- I don't know, that is what -- he said he'd like to do his own speech, that he is done, written bestselling books and knows how to frame things and he sees the importance of making a speech. You know, we've had high ratings for the debates. I think he is starting to get in the zone that we're looking at how this inaugural is going to be watched and he is going to put a lot of effort into it. I was also surprised, Don, interested talking about helping national historic sites like the White House or Lincoln Memorial, repair things, the deferred maintenance of the national park service, his interest in NASA. It was a wide-ranging bits and pieces we talked about.
LEMON: Ok. David, let's talk about the Obama/Trump transition, ok? Remember, this is a month ago. These two guys appeared to be on friendly terms, Trump even calling Obama, "very good man" and then fast forward to today, Trump tweets "doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O. statements and road blocks, thought it was going to be a smooth transition, not." So, this is for David Swerdlick, by the way. But just a few hours after that tweet, Trump told reporters the transition is going smoothly and they talked today. So what is really going on here?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: So, Don, start with that press conference just a couple of hours ago and I think the conciliatory words that you heard coming from President-Elect Trump reflect the fact that maybe a recognition throughout the course of just today that he is in a fraternity of six. Clinton, Carter, Bush, Bush, Obama, and now him. It's a small group. He is got to sort of understand that he is one of these groups of presidents and future presidents now. And that, you know, if he is going to ratchet up the tension with President Obama, he is got to do it sort of guardedly.
If you go back to a couple days after the election, that clip you played of President Obama did his job, he sort of signaled to Americans and to the world that we would, as always, have this peaceful transfer of power and orderly transition of administrations, but in between these two events, these are guys who clearly disagree fundamentally on a lot of public policy issues. They disagree strongly and they're not obligated to agree. They're obligated to hand the baton off to one another. They're going to have these disagreements.
We've seen them in the last couple days with the U.N. with the arctic drilling. They probably will continue to, but there's a difference level of communication and understanding that I see, I defer to David on the historical precedent, but I think I see between these two guys knowing they're both presidents of the United States.
LEMON: Rebecca, I want to know what your take is, what do you think prompted this turf war? I spoke with David Axelrod. You know he did the podcast, the interview with the current president. I spoke with him this morning. David Axelrod. He said, well, you know, it wasn't a swipe at him, at least he doesn't believe, at Donald Trump when the president said that if he had run against Trump, he would have won. What do you think? REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The timing, Don, did seem to
suggest that remark was at the heart of this disagreement and at the heart of Donald Trump's response on twitter today, but, you know, it's interesting to me that actually now they're just letting this go to the past and moving on and letting bygones be bygones here. Donald Trump has said in the past that when provoked, he will punch back, and he did that in this case certainly, but now that they've had this conversation, I think it's fascinating that they are moving forward, seemingly with a positive tone in their relationship and focusing on the transition once again.
There's always going to be a political component to this, especially, because they're from opposing parties, and certainly President Obama has made comments about George W. Bush's administration that have not been flattering, even though they had a very peaceful transition between them. And so I think we can expect, still, there to be this rivalry politically, but I think it's fascinating that Donald Trump, someone we think of as sometimes being pretty thin-skinned and personally thin-skinned can be strategic and decide that he needs to work with the president on this transition for the betterment of himself and the country.
[22:35:26] LEMON: Douglas, I want to ask you about this one president at a time thing that we normally have, when President Bush was asked a question when he was President-Elect, he said I'll defer you to the president who's in the White House. Clinton did the same thing. President Obama did the same thing as well. Donald Trump has not done that. What kind of president does that set?
BRINKLEY: You know how we keep talking about unprecedented here at CNN, and it is unprecedented, but it's a combination, Don, of two things. One, Donald Trump is who he is and he is not following all the rules. He likes to shake things up a little bit and the other part of it is, you know, the media cycle. Every day we're covering everything in the transition, I think things get magnified a little bit. But you know in foreign affairs it gets very dangerous as we're seeing in Israel, we are seeing with Russia, Vladimir Putin, or Netanyahu saying I don't care what the U.S. Government says right now, I'm waiting it out until January 20th. That is very problematic in a dangerous world. So, I think Trump should try to tone down some of this foreign affairs talk until after he gets sworn in. But alas, he doesn't play it that way.
LEMON: Yes. Rebecca, speaking of foreign affairs, the current president, Barack Obama, preparing to announce sanctions and covert actions against Russia as early as tomorrow as retaliation for meddling in the U.S. Election. And we know Donald Trump doesn't believe Russia was involved, so to use Trump's language, is this a road block?
BERG: Well, it's very interesting, Don, because Donald Trump was actually asked about this, this evening at Mar-a-Lago and according to the pool report, he basically shrugged it off. He said, regarding the potential for Russian sanctions, that we should just move on from this issue of Russia hacking the United States, hacking our political process, essentially, and he also said that he sort of blamed computers, said that computers and cyber security were really the problem here, that it wasn't Russia at fault. This really puts him at odds, John, with congress moving forward.
Republicans and Democrats in congress, you essentially have 99 senators right now who are all on the same page on this issue, pretty much, and think that something needs to be done to address what Russia did and so it's going to be very interesting once Donald Trump is sworn in next month to see how he addresses this issue with congress, with people in his own party disagreeing with him, and saying that we should take a stand against Russia on this.
SWERDLICK: Don, slightly -- President-Elect Trump slightly boxed himself in a couple weeks ago when he went out on that Sunday show and said that he didn't really put much credence in this CIA reporting when he could have simply just said, look, let's wait for all the facts to come in rather than trying to sort of disavow.
SWERDLICK: He winds up with a little bit of a problem.
LEMON: That is got to be the last word, thank you panel. David, I will see you a little bit later on in the broadcast.
When we come right back, tough talk from Secretary of State John Kerry today aimed at Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but why now, just weeks before Donald Trump takes office?
[22:41:46] LEMON: With less than a month left in President Obama's presidency, America's top diplomat, John Kerry, making a speech today, with some tough talk for Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Netanyahu calling the speech deeply disappointing. So let's discuss now with Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel's permanent representative to the U.N. Welcome back. We saw each other. We spoke this morning before Secretary of State John Kerry gave his speech essentially saying that the Israeli settlements put the two-state solution really in serious jeopardy. Let's listen a bit then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Israeli Prime Minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements. The results is that policies of this government which the Prime Minister, himself, just described has more committed to settlements than any of Israel's history, are leading in the opposite direction, they are leading towards one state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What's your reaction? Did this speech change anything for you?
DANNY DANON, MEMBER OF LIKUD PARTY: No, it was a failed attempt to defend the indefensible. Secretary Kerry tried for 72 minutes to explain that one-sided change resolution that passed at the Security Council last Friday and we are still not convinced.
LEMON: What would you like to have heard him say?
DANON: There was a major contradiction in his words, he said he was urging both sides to negotiate but at the same time while accepting the resolution of the Security Council, he encouraged the Palestinians not to negotiate with Israel so the U.S. policy was both sides should negotiate directly, by accepting a resolution of the Security Council, the U.S. changed its policy and Obama in 2011 came to the U.N. and said to all the nations to promote peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, they should do it by themselves, not one side with the resolution of the Security Council. I was not convinced by Secretary Kerry what changed. Why now?
LEMON: The settlements were just one part of the speech. That is the sticking point. So the question is how does building permanent buildings in the East and on the West Banks, how does that help Israel achieving a two-state solution?
DANON: It is not about the settlement. For the Palestinians, everything, Israel is one big settlement. Not willing to recognize Israel, period. Talking about Tel Aviv, talking about east Jerusalem or west Jerusalem, look what happen in Gaza, we evacuated in 2005 all the Jewish communities, settlements, from Gaza. What happened after that? Hamas took over and sent 20,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel.
LEMON: Explain to me and the audience when you say it's not about the settlements. What do you mean it's not about the settlements?
DANON: I will explain to you.
LEMON: That is a whole sticking point.
DANON: When you speak about the Palestinian organization, founded, it was founded in 1964, before Israel occupied, in quotes, the west bank. It was in order to liberate Israel. So the resistance is with the existence of Israel, period. Ask the Palestinians today.
LEMON: Mr. Ambassador, with all due respect.
DANON: The Jewish state.
[22:45:00] LEMON: With all due respect, the Secretary of State also pointed out the wrongdoings of the Palestinians as well and said that both sides had to work together. So, again, I'll ask you, how does building...
DANON: Personally, I would appreciate if someone would analyze the 72 minutes and would see how much time the secretary spent on the issue of the settlements and how much time he spent on the issue of radical Islam, terrorism, Hamas in Gaza. You cannot ignore the reality of the Middle East and blame Israel for everything. By the way, the U.N., we are used to it, but the fact that the U.S. teamed up with Venezuela, Malaysia, and synagogue, to pass such a one-sided resolution, that is unprecedented.
LEMON: Given such an uproar, though, especially by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wouldn't you expect him to spend more time trying to explain the U.S. actions and the United Nations actions?
DANON: The policy of the U.S. was always to support constructive resolutions. What will happen after this long speech? Whether we are actually going to have to engage with the Palestinians now, we want to engage with them, but after the speech, after the resolution at the U.N. the Palestinians will not come back to the negotiation table.
LEMON: I'm going to play what Prime Minister Netanyahu said today specifically on the U.N. resolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We have absolutely uncontestable evidence that the United States organized, advanced and brought this resolution to the United Nations Security Council. We'll share that information with the incoming administration. Some of it is sensitive. It's all true. You saw some of it in the protocol released in the Egyptian paper. There's plenty more. It's the tip of the iceberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now, again, ambassador, the United States completely denies that the U.S. was behind this resolution, so why not release the information now to the current administration?
DANON: First of all, let's look at the facts. In 2011, there was a very similar resolution coming to the Security Council. The U.S. decided to block it and vetoed that resolution. 2014, there was another resolution. The U.S. blocked the resolution without vetoing. They convinced the member states not to support this resolution. So when the U.S. wants to stop a resolution, they know how to do it. And fortunately, what happened last Friday, it was a different ball game. The U.S. actually walked on this resolution. We know it for a fact. And some countries support this resolution.
LEMON: You keep saying it, you and other representatives keep saying we know it for a fact but have not presented any concrete evidence.
DANON: When the Prime Minister of Israel, when he is saying that we have the evidence, you better believe him. We will share it with President-Elect, with the new administration and we hope to see a change, because we are used to the fact that U.S. is protecting Israel, he is the umbrella in the Security Council, but unfortunately, it wasn't the case last week. In the Security Council, the pen holder on every resolution regarding the Middle East and Israel, particularly, is the U.S.
LEMON: So what difference does it make now to present the information now or later? What's the difference?
DANON: Because we are not in a position now to start to argue with the world, when there was a meeting in D.C., toward the Palestinians, we have the capabilities to know what happened in those meetings and unfortunately, unfortunately we know for a fact that the U.S. not only supported the resolution, they encouraged the Palestinians to move forward to the Security Council.
LEMON: Thank you, ambassador.
DANON: Thank you very much.
LEMON: When we come right back, a little over three weeks Donald Trump will take the oath of office and the Obama administration will be history. So why wage a war of words with Israel right now?
[22:52:23] LEMON: Secretary of State John Kerry taking on Israel today, on the issue of settlements, in the final weeks of the Obama administration angering Israel's Prime Minister and provoking President-Elect Donald Trump. Let's discuss now with human rights attorney Noura Erakat, and CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller who served both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state on the Middle East -- Middle East affairs. Thank you, both, for joining us this evening. Aaron, I'm going to start with you, it's December 28th. They're packing boxes at the White House. Why would John Kerry make a major Middle East policy speech right now?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think the U.N. Security Council abstention, Don, and the speech basically were designed, because I think the administration knows what's coming which is basically the demise of what's left of the two-state solution and I think they felt compelled at least to put their fingerprints on it to create a frame of reference in which they demonstrated they've done everything they possibly could and basically to single out settlements enterprise even though John Kerry admitted that it's not the only or the primary obstacle to why we don't have a two-state solution to basically set the parameters and to discharge those responsibility that they cared deeply about.
LEMON: Having said.
DAVID MILLER: And in the end, if I can, it's likely to produce the opposite of what the administration intended.
LEMON: So, listen, let me ask you then, you served both Democrat and Republican secretaries of state. Then why the uproar, why so -- why are people from the Israeli side, especially Benjamin Netanyahu, so upset when it appears this resolution is no different than other resolutions that have been, you know, put together, brought to the table in the past?
DAVID MILLER: I mean it's a very good question given the fact the United States have voted many times for Security Council resolutions far more critical of Israel and abstained on them as well. I think in the end, the Prime Minister, I suspect, feels very frustrated. He tried to mobilize the President-Elect and President el-Sisi of Egypt to turn this off and he couldn't, and second, I think the Prime Minister also knows that despite the fact that the incoming administration is going to be much more positive for him, that he is increasingly going to be caught in a very tough place, hammered between international communities that will look upon this resolution as a way to build momentum against settlements and by his own right wing who may use the incoming Trump administration to advance their own agenda on the ground. So we're entering a very fraught period.
LEMON: Is it a losing battle for the Prime Minister?
DAVID MILLER: Is it a losing battle? In 2018, a year or so from now, Benjamin Netanyahu will become the longest governing Prime Minister in the history of the state of Israel, surpassing even David Bengorian, arguably Israel's greatest Prime Minister. So the reality is staying in power as a reflection of a Prime Minister that most Israelis will either tolerate and/or support is a key objective. So is it a losing battle?
[22:55:00] LEMON: I meant that in terms of because he is isolating -- he seems to be isolating Israel.
DAVID MILLER: I mean, yes, I mean, I think the louder the Israelis yell about this, the more inspiration and power they can give to the Palestinians.
LEMON: All right. I want to bring Noura now. Noura, thank you for being patient, I want to get your reaction to what the ambassador told me in the last segment, Noura.
NOURA ERAKAT, HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: The ambassador was pointing out that Palestinians haven't recognized Israel. It's not clear exactly what he demands of Palestinians when they recognized Israel twice in 1988, again in 1993, recognize the status of Israel. Israel has been in existence since 1948, became a member of the United Nations since 1949. What exactly is being asked of Palestinians beyond that recognition? What we've been hearing is they want Israel recognized as a Jewish state.
And what we're not interrogating is that 25 percent of Israel's population is Christian and Muslim Palestinians who are native to that land. Asking Israel to be recognized as a Jewish state is like saying the U.S. is not for Americans, the U.S. is for white folks, and so everybody else will be secondary in status, a status that Palestinian citizens of Israel already experience as a fifth column. But now if the Palestinians recognize it as such, they're basically going to say, we're ok with an explicit racist apartheid regime and we should be condemning Israel for that request, rather than berating Palestinians for failing to fall into line with that.
All Palestinians have asked for are basic rights. The right to movement, the right to family, the right to dignity, the right to work, the right to education and we're here debating whether or not that is a valid demand. And Palestinians are not waiting for anybody to tell them that it is, because we know that is a moral, political, legal right.
LEMON: Aaron, I want to put up this exert from the Palestinian Liberation Organizations response to the secretary's speech. Said the minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities including in and around occupied east Jerusalem, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations. I mean, that sounds like an opportunity, renewed peace negotiations in exchange for a settlement ban. Should Israel take it seriously?
DAVID MILLER: I mean, Don, it's fortunate, frankly, for all of us that we don't have direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, because given the fundamental mistrust and lack of confidence between the two sides, and the galactic, truly galactic gaps that exist on issues relating to border security, refugees in Jerusalem, another negotiating process is going to end in failure and that is, in fact, the real tragedy here. We're going to remain trapped, I fear, Don, between the two-state solution that is too important to abandon and yet one that is too difficult to implement.
LEMON: Aaron, Noura, I wish we had more time. I'm sorry, Noura I have to get to the top of the hour. We'll have you back. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Sorry about that.
When we come right back, out breaking news tonight, the passing of a Hollywood legend, Debbie Reynolds dies just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher.