Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Speaks Live in Israel; Comey Agrees to Testify Before Senate Intel Committee. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 22, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Donald J. Trump. Ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Donald J. Trump, president of the United States of America.
[06:00:07] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you and shalom. It is wonderful to be here in Israel. President Rivlin, Mrs. Rivlin. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mrs. Netanyahu. Thank you very much. I am deeply grateful for your invitation and very, very honored to be with you.
On my first trip overseas as president, I have come to this is sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and state of Israel.
In this land so rich in history, Israel has built one of the world's great civilizations. A strong, resilient, determined and prosperous nation. It is also a nation forged in the commitment that we will never allow the horrors and atrocities of the last century to be repeated. Now we must work together to build a future where the nations of the region are at peace and all of our children can grow and grow up strong and grow up free from terrorism and violence.
During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope. I have just concluded a visit to Saudi Arabia, where yesterday I met with King Salman and with the leaders from across the Muslim and Arab world. In that visit, we reached historic agreements to pursue greater and greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism and its evil ideology.
My future travels will take me to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican and then our NATO and European allies.
We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to the region and to its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony and prosperity and peace. But we can only get there working together. There is no other way. Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, I look forward to working closely with both of you during my stay. We love Israel. We respect Israel. I send your people the warmest greetings from your friend and ally. All of the people in the United States of America. We are with you.
Thank you and God bless you. Thank you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. You are watching live video, live pictures of President Trump in Israel. This is the second leg of his first overseas trip. He landed there less than an hour ago. He just spoke at a welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. You saw there that he was greeted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
So let's talk about it. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning. John Berman is here with me.
Great to have you.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Really remarkable ceremony here as the president landed in Israel. He flew from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. This is the first direct flight, we are told, ever for anyone flying from Saudi Arabia, Riyadh. Of course, Saudi Arabia, the heart of the Muslim world. Here to Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem, where the president will be going very shortly, the center of the Jewish faith as well as the Christian faith.
The president will be going to Jerusalem in just a little bit. There's a lot of history that will be made in the next hour here after the president departs this airport. He'll be the first president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the first sitting president to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, as well. And these are visits that are fraught in many ways, very, very complicated. So we will see how they will play out over the next several minutes.
Again, the president greeting members of the U.S. delegation over there, as well as the Israeli delegation. There was some controversy about this, because members of the Israeli cabinet, they did not want to attend this, because they were not all going to get a chance to meet, to shake the hand -- the hand of President Trump. But Benjamin Netanyahu said, "No, no. You're going to be there. You're going to be part of this welcoming ceremony." And perhaps the concession was that they would get to shake the hand of the United States.
CAMEROTA: I mean, of course, that's not the only controversy. This is a trip of high expectations and tension and controversy.
So let's get reaction now. We want to bring in our panel. We have CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray. She is in Jerusalem. Also joining us is CNN political analyst David Gregory; CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller; and associate editor and columnist at Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard. Great to have all of you.
David Gregory, tell us what you see as you watch this historic visit.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think as the Israeli prime minister noted with some pride, this is a president who is putting Israel at the center of his foreign policy. It's his first foreign trip where he's coming to the Middle East. He's putting an emphasis on reconciliation between faiths, reconciliation between his rhetoric as a candidate and how he wants to conduct himself as a president on the world stage.
But coming to Israel sends an important message about two things. One, the relationship between the United States and Israel, what the president referred to as an unbreakable bond; but also, an alignment of foreign policy vision. The president lining up with Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia yesterday and singling out Iran as an enemy, which is precisely the world view that the Israeli prime minister has, as well. An Israeli prime minister who railed against the Obama administration's emphasis on a nuclear deal with Iran. And while that is continued under President Trump, here rhetorically yesterday there was this emphasis on isolating Iran as the country responsible for spreading the fires of war throughout the Middle East.
So I think there will be kindred spirits. There will be an attempt by the Israeli prime minister to become some kind of a peace process. Aaron can speak about whether there's real conditions to get that started.
But I think the symbols, including what we can talk about, the visit to the Western Wall, are powerful message to send to Israel and Jews around the world.
BERMAN: The president said we have a rare opportunity to bring peace to the region. Aaron David Miller, that's a pretty high bar. That's a rare opportunity that has been sought reached for by many U.S. presidents.
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is indeed. I've spent most of my professional career trying to figure out a way to bring Israelis and Palestinians, and Arabs and Israelis together.
But for today, John and Alisyn, I think the key is for both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu to demonstrate that the channel has been changed, that the tension and dysfunction from the Obama years has now been replaced with a greater understanding, a greater willingness to manage differences in the U.S./Israeli relation and do it quietly and discreetly.
And second, I really believe an effort to be made by each man to demonstrate that they alone -- they alone have the capacity to move this relationship and Israeli peace-making forward.
Mr. Trump because he's inherited a new alignment between Israel and the Arab states; and Mr. Netanyahu because he has the capacity, so he believes, to manage this relationship; and next near, he will become the longest governing prime minister in the history of the state of Israel, surpassing Israel's greatest prime minister, David Ben Gurion.
But below that lies some tension and some real contradictions that are going to have to be deftly managed.
CAMEROTA: And Aaron, I just want to stay with you for one more second, because as you say, you've devoted, you know, the better part of your adult life to trying to figure out Arab-Israeli peace. And you had this moment recently where you met with Jared Kushner. The man that President Trump has tasked with figuring this out, his son- in-law. And what advice did you give him?
MILLER: Well, I actually told him, Alisyn, that I wished -- wish my father-in-law had as much confidence in me as his father-in-law appears to have in him, because he's given him mission impossible or at least mission implausible. We both admitted that this is -- this is hard.
I think, had I been able to sit down and talk to him, I would have said, look, the reality is important as the mediator is, the so-called man or woman in the middle, the more important reality is the two guys who sit to your either side. Are they willing to demonstrate the leadership and the ownership to essentially make the decisions that would allow a skillful and willful mediator to bridge the gaps?
[06:10:03] BERMAN: Christiane Amanpour joins us now, as well. And Christiane, as you watch what we are seeing here, you know, it is notable that, in some ways, President Trump probably more popular in Israel than he is in the United States right now. The same was probably true in Saudi Arabia. And as we note this president who is, at times, seen as unconventional, there are unconventional stops on this trip in Israel. It was unconventional flying from Riyadh; unconventional to go straight to Jerusalem and very highly welcomed, by the way, by the Israeli leadership that the president will be in Jerusalem in a matter of hours. What do you see here this morning?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, it is a very significant tri. As you've all said, for the president of the United States to make his first trip to that part of the world is an unusual departure.
The flight of Air Force One to Israel from Riyadh, yes, that was the first time, but it is not a significant breakthrough. The president and his people had hoped to be able to bring back from Riyadh an agreement from there that Israeli flights would have overflight rights.
We don't believe that he's been able to secure that or that telecoms, direct phone calls, would be re-established between Israel and parts of the Arab world. We don't believe that that's happened either, because we haven't heard about it.
What he's done, though, in Israel and in Riyadh is actually tack back from campaign rhetoric to more traditional bipartisan U.S. foreign policy. Yes, in Riyadh, he talked a lot about the need to fight terrorism. That is no different from the other presidents who've been there, particularly since 9/11, and said the same thing.
In Israel, he is saying a lot about peace, trying to bring all sides together, talking about the three great Abrahamic faiths which have, you know, their holy sites in Jerusalem. But he is not talking about moving the Israeli embassy, as he said on the campaign trail. Many presidents, many talk about moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is unlikely to happen. He's not talking about, either, other such issues that the Israelis really want.
Also, as you know, he's going to go and meet with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, president of the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, there's been a lot of settlement building in the occupied West Bank since President Trump was elected. But this, again, a trip to Israel is a very traditional allied trip
that a U.S. president will make. And of course, the success bar is very, very, let's say, low. Because across the Arab world and in Israel, they just want anybody but Obama. So this also showing deep friendship by Trump to the Arab leaders and Israel is something that they like a lot.
CAMEROTA: Let's bring in our Sara Murray, who is in Israel. Sara, set the scene for us if you would.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are awaiting the president to arrive here in Israel. He will be arriving by helicopter. And he has a very busy day ahead of him. He's going to continue to have a meeting with President Rivlin. And then afterwards, as you guys were sort of previewing, he's going to visit a No. 1 of holy sites. He's going to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is one of the holiest sites in Christianity. And as you guys mentioned, an historic visit to the Western Wall, the first time a sitting American president visited the Western Wall, the holiest site for those of the Jewish faith to pray.
And then we're going to sort of turn back to diplomatic meetings this afternoon. The president has made clear that his ultimate deal, his ultimate goal is Mideast peace. He'll be meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, who he was just greeting there at the arrival ceremony.
And then later on this evening, President Trump, his wife, the first lady, Melania Trump, as well as Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife will all dine together.
Now, it is worth noting, as Christiane pointed out, that there aren't necessarily high hopes in this trip. That all of a sudden, the president is going to arrive and is going to be here for two days for meetings and have a major breakthrough on Mideast peace. It will be very interesting to see what he does say about these meetings and about this Mideast peace process publicly.
BERMAN: A.B. Stoddard, this comes on the heels of all the reports in the United States over the last eight or nine days. Reports that were damaging to this White House. One of them is that the president inside the Oval Office shared with the Russians very sensitive, some people called it classified information that had been provided to the United States by the Israeli intelligence services. Do you think that, A.B., follows the president into the meetings that he will be having with the Israeli leaders today?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Without a doubt. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to describe to us the other day the lack of interest around the world in headlines back at home in the U.S. about the Russia investigation and the sort of controversies engulfing the Trump administration. But that's not true. World leaders are watching this very carefully.
They have prepared these visits with President Trump to the varied specifications of his schedule, his attention span, what he likes to eat. And they're actually really rolling out quite an experience for him. I wonder if he's going to actually want to come home. After dreading this trip all these weeks in advance, I think he's having a wonderful time.
But I think he's getting a reprieve from those kinds of pressures. I doubt anyone in those meetings are raising any of this. The staff, of course, is working behind the scenes to try to strategize about how to deal with this when they return.
But they know this is a man who speaks off the top of his head in private. On the trip, he's been very disciplined in public, remaining Teleprompter Trump and giving very good, direct speeches without going off script. So, so far, a success. But everyone knows what he's going through at home.
CAMEROTA: The president is heading now to Marine One. You see him walking there with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And he will be flying to Jerusalem, where we just got that scene setter from our Sara Murray.
David Gregory, what are you looking for and watching today, including the tension?
GREGORY: Well, again, as we watch the choreography of this visit, as Aaron was saying, it's so significant, because it represents a changing of the channel, that you would have a president make Israel a priority so early in his administration. Something that President Obama did not do, was criticized for not doing. So you have that.
You have a like-minded approach to foreign policy and policy -- security policy in the region between Netanyahu and President Trump.
It's going to be a question of how much effort the Trump administration wants to dedicate to the notion of peace between -- between Israelis and Palestinians.
And on this other issue of sharing intelligence, this is something that, in the Israeli press, has been a major issue. You've got a former director of Mossad, who called Bush a bull in a china shop or a Hebrew expression that is similar to that. And that he said that -- he talked about withholding intelligence from the CIA.
So I think this very definitely will come up, perhaps not at the top leader level, but certainly among officials who go back and forth.
But again, I think the -- the choreography of the trip, particularly the visit to the Western Wall, there was some discussion of whether the Israeli prime minister would accompany President Trump to a visit to the Western Wall. That's so significant politically, very significant religiously. And it sends a very strong signal that we'll see later to the Israeli people and to the rest of the world about how the United States views the Jewish character in both Jerusalem and Israel, which is a message that the Israelis very definitely want sent.
BERMAN: We just saw an interesting picture right there. It was almost a team photo of the Netanyahu family and the Trump family, the two leaders with their wives there, their hands clasped, as they begin this trip. And I think that is an image that both leaders very much want to send to their domestic audiences, that they are united.
And one thing that does happen when U.S. leaders visit Israel or any country, is that the host country likes to show off, likes to point to the important things for that country it wants to portray. And we believe this is President Trump's first visit, Donald Trump's first visit to Israel.
And Aaron David Miller, that is a moment of huge significance for anyone interested in history. Because until you are there, until you see for yourself the land which is of monumental importance, but is so, frankly, very, very small, it's hard to understand some of the conflicts at play, Aaron.
MILLER: I mean, I think examining the real estate and, of course, this is a president who knows quite a bit about real estate. It is critically important.
You know, I've been on any No. 1 of helicopter rides with American secretaries of state and Israeli prime minister and defense ministers when they fly over Israel's narrow waist. And I'm actually a little surprised -- I think time is the biggest enemy here of the president's schedule -- that some effort was not made by an Israeli prime minister who is fundamentally devoted and determined to demonstrate how small, physically, a country Israel it is and how vulnerable, that that helicopter ride was not included.
I only say one other thing, John, and that is no president in his right mind would dare schedule the first presidential trip to the Middle East, which is usually a place where American hopes and dreams come to die. And the fact is, it's a testament to what the president believed was a warm reception in both Riyadh and Israel that -- and Jerusalem that, in effect, President Trump felt comfortable enough to venture out into this region.
BERMAN: It's a risky trip. A trip that we are seeing play out before our very eyes. The president now on Marine One. He will head to Jerusalem, where he'll have a bilateral meeting with Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, and then this historic morning continues.
[06:20:13] CAMEROTA: Absolutely. It is filled with so much expectation, as well as possible tensions. So we are keeping an eye on all of this for you. But...
BERMAN: Can the president escape what has been chasing him here in the United States? All the issues surrounding Russia, the former FBI director, James Comey? He will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The potential fallout from that when NEW DAY continues.
CAMEROTA: Very busy day here. President Trump landed in Israel a short time ago for his first foreign trip and his own first personal trip ever to Israel. And he appears very pleased to have flown way from the cloud of the Russia investigation back home. Fired FBI director James Comey now agreeing to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with all of the latest for us.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning.
Well, certainly, it's going to be a busy week here on the Hill despite the fact that the president is overseas. Numerous committees on the House and the Senate side looking into the Russia/Trump investigation here, and they will continue in earnest. They're also reacting to the developing and breaking news that happened over the weekend.
[06:25:06] First and foremost, that James Comey has agreed to go before and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That is good news to senators there, reacting to that over the weekend.
We heard from Senator Marco Rubio, saying that there was a cloud that hung over the administration, impacting everything. They want to get to the bottom of this. Senator John McCain still calling it a Watergate-style investigation in size and scope.
The other breaking news over the weekend, reacting to "The New York Times" bombshell report that said President Trump, in his Oval Office meeting with Russian officials the day after he fired Comey actually told them why he wanted to do it, what it was about. In his words, saying, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."
Well, many, numerous -- numerous officials on the campaign, as officials in the White House, reacting to that, asked about that. They are not denying he had discussions, but they are trying to characterize it in a different way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think what the president was trying to convey to the Russians is, look, "I'm not going to be distracted by this -- this -- all these issues that are here at home."
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The gift of the conversation was that the president feels as if he's hamstrung in his ability to -- to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been, obviously, so much in the news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And also, what we're expecting in the news, looking forward, this is not going to be until Memorial Day. That is when Comey is going to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. We do expect the attorney general, Sessions, to also go before a Senate panel this week on Thursday to get more of these same type of questions -- Alisyn, John. BERMAN: All right. Suzanne Malveaux for us on Capitol Hill, thanks
We want to bring back our political panel to discuss. David Gregory and A.B. Stoddard and joining us now, CNN political analyst David Drucker.
We heard from White House insiders, administration officials, mot denying the subject. The context of the meeting with the president and Russian leaders where he called fired FBI director James Comey a nut job.
One notable thing: while the White House and administration officials are trying to brush this off, is Republicans are not jumping to the defense of the administration here. Some seem outright shocked. John McCain this weekend said he was speechless. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: With the appointment of Mr. Mueller, we're now at that stage of a scandal. And now the question is how is it handled? Is it handled the way Watergate was where drip, drip, drip, every day, more and more? Or do we handle it like -- like Ronald Reagan handled Iran-Contra?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: David Drucker, as I said, you know, John McCain also said he was speechless by the reports of that Oval Office meeting. This is something that Republicans are having a hard time with this morning.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They really are. In the past couple of days, in my conversations with them, they were initially pleased to see Robert Mueller appointed, because this, in their mind, maybe sweeps this off the table for them, let's them get back to work, and we're going to stop bugging them: "When are you going to do something about this? What do you plan to do about this?"
But now they realize that when you have an investigation with a special counsel, it can go in all sorts of directions. You don't know when it's going to complete. I talked to Republican strategists and members of Congress. They're worried this thing could complete right in the middle of an election year next year or in the lead-up to 2020. And if it doesn't fully exonerate Mr. Trump and people around him, it could be a huge problem for Republicans.
And I think the point here is they've reached, I think -- for the moment at least, they've reached a point where they're done with, "Oh, Trump's unconventional. Well, Trump's different but he won, but look at the opportunities we have." They're tired of it. They're concerned about it, and they want it to stop.
CAMEROTA: Do you see evidence of that, that they're actually tired of it and want it to stop? Because there's been some silence.
STODDARD: David and I have had conversations with them all along. They've been tired of it since January 20.
CAMEROTA: But it has shifted.
STODDARD: But they were obviously publicly always defending the president. They now see him as a liability. The House is in play. There are 24 seats away from a minority. These approval No. 1s of Trump's in these districts. Remember, the Trump districts never matter. It's the swing districts that matter, that Hillary Clinton won or Trump won by less than 7, 5, 4 points. Those members are vulnerable to being washed out next year, and Republicans losing the majority in the House.
They're going to look out for No. 1 one, and that's them. So there's been a shift since the revelations, the last, obviously, two weeks have seemed like eight months. But -- but when you got to the point where Mueller was named, as David points out, they kind of hoped, I thought, in some of the conversations, they hoped that Comey would not come to testify. Because he'd be designated a witness by Mueller, and that could provide them some quiet. Now he's going to come and testify. It's going to consume the news.
And as David said, they're sick of racing down the hall, trying to avoid answering these questions, because this is something they have to defend at home. It's becoming more and more difficult to defend him.
BERMAN: We know Steve Bannon left the overseas trip. He is back at the White House, we are told.