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President Trump Delivers Speech From Israel; President Trump to Visit Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired May 22, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OFTHE UNITED STATES: We are not only long time friends, we are great allies and partners. We stand together always.
This moment in history calls for us to strengthen our cooperation as both Israel and America face common threats from ISIS and other terrorist groups, to countries like Iran that sponsor terrorism and fund and foment terrible violence, not only here but all over the world. Together, we can work to end the scourge of violence that has taken so many lives here in Israel and around the world. Most importantly, the United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon -- never, ever -- and must cease its deadly funding, training, and equipping of terrorists and militias. And it must cease immediately.
On those issues, there's a strong consensus among the nations of the world, including many in the Muslim world. I was deeply encouraged by my conversations with Muslim world leaders in Saudi Arabia, including King Salman, who I spoke to at great length. King Salman feels very strongly and, I can tell you, would love to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Many expressed their resolve to help to end terrorism and the spread of radicalization. Many Muslim nations have already taken steps to begin following through on this commitment. There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran, and it is indeed a threat. There's no question about that.
I thank both you and Prime Minister Netanyahu for your commitment to achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I also look forward to discussing the peace process with Palestinian President Abbas. Young Israeli and Palestinian children deserve to grow up in safety and to follow their dreams free from the violence that has destroyed so many lives.
The United States and Israel can also bring safety and greater prosperity to our people through stronger ties of trade and commerce, already our two countries do a great deal of business together. We have a strong foundation on which to build an even closer trading relationship that benefits both of our countries. I'm going to try and narrow that trade deficit just a little bit. Is that OK? Huh? He doesn't mind. He wants to keep it the way it is, I understand.
(LAUGHTER) Today we have so many incredible opportunities before us, and my hope for this visit is that we seize every single one of them. I am thrilled to be here on behalf of the American people. I know Israel and America share the same goals, and I have great confidence that we can achieve tremendous success together. We can achieve all of our goals together.
President Rivlin, I look forward to working with you and to seeing more of the sacred land and getting to spend time with the remarkable people of Israel. Thank you very much. Thank you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, listening there to President Trump speaking with Israel's President Rivlin there in these prepared remarks. We have a copy of these prepared remarks so we were able to follow along and see the, you know, truly historic things that President Trump is bringing with him to Israel, and saying, and the new policies that he wants to establish in terms of a relationship with Israel.
So let's bring in our panel to discuss it all. We have CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray. She is live in Jerusalem. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory, CNN global affairs analyst Tony Blinken, and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Farah Pandith. It's great to have all of you with all of your perspectives.
David Gregory, just tell us what you heard there.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's a couple of really significant things that we should address this morning. Number one, the fact that President Trump is making Israel and the Middle East such a priority so early in his administration represents a major shift.
[08:05:00] And in this case, with regard to the relationship with Israel, this shift is toward Israel's way of thinking about national security, is it a shift toward not only Israel, but to Sunni states who consider Iran an enemy. And it is a marked contrast from the work of the Obama administration, which sought to negotiate and did negotiate with Iran a nuclear deal that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed at every possible turn. And Trump agrees with that. Even though he has kept the agreement in place, he is coming out here this morning with the Israeli president saying that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon.
So I think, strategically, the president is signaling to Israel, and to Sunni allies in the Middle East, that there is a different emphasis in terms of national security and America's foreign policy that's much more in line with the thinking of the Israeli prime minister. It harkens back, to me, to the immediate 9/11, post-9/11 period when the Bush administration got very close to the administration of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching a tree dedication. They planted a tree in honor of President Donald Trump right there. And obviously when you plant trees in Israel, it's even greater significance. The planting of trees and making the desert green over the last 100 years is something that's been very important to the Israeli people. Now President Donald Trump has a tree of his own in the Holy Land.
Tony Blinken, David Gregory brought up the issue of Iran. And in fact, the president's remarks with Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president, were very brief. Within those very brief remarks, the focus on Iran was notable and disproportionate. He said the United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon, must cease its deadly funding, training, equipping of terrorists and militias.
If there is one message, one thread of the president's visit so far, whether it be to Saudi Arabia, his speech to the Sunni leaders, in this stop in Israel, it is making Iran the common enemy.
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: John, you know, you're exactly right and this is the common denominator the president is trying to find, both with the Arab states and with Israel. It's ironic, because he really dug into that line about Iran never getting a nuclear weapon. And of course the nuclear agreement reached by President Obama is exactly that. And it's an agreement that President Trump has maligned but it does more than anything we've been able to do to put far into the future of prospect of Iran getting enough materiel for a nuclear weapon. So hopefully he'll sustain that agreement.
Everyone is united around that principle, and there's a lot to be done to push back against Iran's objectionable activities, whether it's support for terrorism, whether it's destabilizing activities in various countries. But there's a danger of over-calibrating and over- correcting on this.
Iran just had a remarkable election and despite all of the manifest imperfections of that election and the system, nonetheless, the candidate who is the most pragmatic, the one who wants to open Iran to the world, and if he's going to do that, to behave a little bit more responsibly around the world, Rouhani, won a resounding victory. There's change in Iran. There's demographic change. There's societal change. Young people want to be connected to the world. We have to walk a very fine line between, on the one hand, making sure we are pushing back against Iran's objectionable activities, but not closing the door on a relationship as this country evolves, because that will only reinforce all of the hard-liners in the country who want to keep Iran stuck in the past.
That's the line the president has to walk, and it's difficult to do that if you're actually putting all of your focus on bringing people together in this crusade against Iran.
CAMEROTA: Well, there you go. I mean, Farah, that's exactly -- it seems as though it's very clear which side of the line President Trump is on. I mean, in his speech he just said there is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors, he told Israel, that they have common cause with you in the thread posed by Iran. And, as Tony says, this moment is an interesting and ironic time to say that, because here is this more moderate, more modern President Rouhani, who has just been elected. So what's the calculus here?
FARAH PANDITH, ADJUNCT SR. FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: You know, I think you have to put these two speeches side by side, what he said yesterday in Saudi Arabia and what he said today in Israel. Each of these speeches are careful, they're measured, they're calculated, and they're very sensitive to the audiences that he's speaking to. And I think you need to connect it in that way.
Yesterday when the president spoke to the room of more than 50 leaders from Muslim majority nations, he was very specifically speaking about the ideology that underpins extremism. And I think that was really important for us to hear, both in the room and here in America. But backing up that kind of proclamation, that he finds it very important that we debunk the narratives of the extremists, he talked about wanting to learn lessons of the extremism.
[08:10:03] And he also talked about the need to have Muslim voices speak out against the terrorist organizations; connects very nicely to what he's trying to do on this speech.
Today, as he just delivered this speech about how he looked at the region, my thought was really about how the words that he's saying obviously are speaking to not just Israel, but it's speaking to the global population of where this administration is positioning itself around all these issues. And I would like to see a change in the credibility gap that he has right now when he's speaking to Muslims around the world to do more to fight extremism.
This president needs to follow up his words with action. And if he is learning from the issues of extremism over the course of the last 15 years, as he said in his speech yesterday, we need to see both here at home and abroad the change in sentiment around the push of hate speech that's gone forward, a debunking of this idea that we can have an "us" and "them". And most particularly, Alisyn, when he gave this speech in Saudi Arabia, I'd like to see him make a deal with the Saudis that's good for America, which means to stop the incitement of hate, and anti-Semitism is very much a part of that.
BERMAN: We just saw the motorcade leave. They are now headed to the old city of Jerusalem.
And Sara Murray, White House correspondent who is with us as well, Farah was just saying that so far the remarks have been careful and deliberate. This next part of the president's itinerary is risky in a way; risky in the sense that he is visiting sites that no sitting U.S. president, Sara, has ever visited before.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's going to be interesting to see how --
PANDITH: That's right, and there's a reason for that.
BERMAN: Go ahead, Sara Murray. MURRAY: Yes, I mean he's visiting more sensitive territories. His
first stop we're expecting to be the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is a very holy site in Christianity, perhaps the holiest site. And then after that, the Western Wall, which as you were pointing out, an American president has never visited before as a sitting president. It's an area of contention as to whether it is in Israel. That's something we saw the president's advisers stumble over in the weeks leading up to this trip, saying only that the Western Wall is in Jerusalem.
We know that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to accompany President Trump on his visit to the wall, and advisers to the president sort of let that go by. They wanted it to be more of a religious trip. They didn't want to use it to make a political statement.
But as you can see, just by that, it's certainly going to be a visit that's fraught. Now, after he leaves the Western Wall, he will be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They're also supposed to dine this evening with the First Lady and the prime minister's wife.
But I think what you saw sort of earlier from the president in his prepared remarks is laying the groundwork for trying to move forward with a Mideast peace deal. I imagine he's going to take sort of a similar tone tomorrow when he meets with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
CAMEROTA: And David Gregory, I mean, we just can't overstate the significance of these images that we're about to see of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Wailing Wall and the president visiting that, and all that that -- all the message and weight that that contains.
GREGORY: Politically and, more importantly, religiously.
You know, I covered President Bush, whose trip to the Holy Land was made very much, as he said at the time, as a pilgrim. And this is a pilgrimage for President Trump as well, because it is politically fraught. He's not going there with the Israeli prime minister. He's not trying to trample upon what is official U.S. policy, which is not to talk about Jerusalem being owned by Israel or part of Israel because it is in dispute.
But there is a timing and a religious issue. So the timing is that this is, in Hebrew, Yom Yerushalayim, which is the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. It's on the Hebrew calendar, and so it marks the time when Israeli forces recaptured the Western Wall, which is the westernmost wall of the Second Temple, where ancient Jews would go to offer sacrifice and to pray and where the high priests in Judaism would enter into the Holy of the Holies for official sacramental reasons. That was destroyed. The Jews were exiled into Babylon. And then ultimately the Second Temple was destroyed later by the Romans.
So the religious significance of this is that this is the heartbeat of Judaism in the world. Jews pray at the wall, but we pray toward Jerusalem. We pray about Jerusalem. In the psalms, Psalm 137 talks about Jews in exile, saying that if we should ever forget you, Jerusalem, should my right hand wither.
So it's so important religiously and it sends a very powerful message to Jews around the world, but also to evangelical Christians who are an important part of the president's base, for whom unity and reunification is important to them as well as Christians.
And of course, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have been crucified only underscores why Jerusalem is an ancient and a holy city and contested city because of those holy sites, and the president is wading into all of that to send a very powerful message.
Just the political point to go to the western wall is to suggest the importance of the Jewish character of Jerusalem, the importance of Jerusalem to Israel, that's a powerful message to the Israeli state.
BERMAN: You know, we shouldn't overlook the fact that the walk from the church of the Holy Sepulchre is ten minutes to the western wall, ten minutes, 500 meters, on top of the western wall the mosque, the third holiest site in all of Islam, the proximity of all these sites help explain why there is such a contest in that region.
Tony Blinken, as you are looking at live pictures inside the old city, as they await for the president's arrival, your final thoughts here?
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, I think the president's right to plunge into this, and it's fraught with peril. Past presidents have tried, and failed, but he's right to try and to invest the United States in this effort to bring peace.
But we shouldn't expect any quick results from this. The parties are so incredibly divided, the gulf between them is huge, on the final status issues particularly on borders, on security, on refugee, on Jerusalem.
I think what the president is trying to do is show that he understands Israel and history and to build confidence with them because at the end of the day, the Israelis have to take real risks for peace.
He has to convince them to do that and find a coherent Palestinian partner for the Israelis to deal with. None of that is going to be easy. But if you can get people talking again that's certainly better than the alternative and the president is right to put focus on that.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Panel -- yes, very quickly, David.
GREGORY: Can I raise whatever point quickly. Talk about being fraught. The president's going to the part of the western wall where only men can pray. There is another side where women are allowed to pray, and women have been challenging that within the reform movement of Judaism. They thought they had a deal for women to be able to access a critical part of the western wall. That deal has fallen part, so even that piece of it, the president is walking into going to a part of the wall, and this is controversial among Jews, that only men can go pray where the president will insert a node today.
CAMEROTA: Thank you, panel, for all of that perspective. It is very important to keep all of this in mind as we watch the unfolding events there in Israel. So we will have much more on President Trump's visit, this historic visit to Jerusalem.
He and the first lady are heading to the old city. He will visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as well as the western wall, we'll bring all of that to you live.
BERMAN: This is a chance for the president to refocus from what has been real problems here in the United States, where he cannot shake the Russia investigation, fired FBI Director James Comey expected to testify, maybe one week from now. We'll speak with former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden about the fallout, next.
BERMAN: President Trump is in Jerusalem right now heading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. You're looking at live pictures of that. We will see the president very, very shortly.
Back here in the United States, the president having a hard time escaping the cloud of the Russia investigation. Fired FBI Director James Comey is set to testify before a Senate committee. The administration is not denying that President Trump discussed firing Comey with two Russian diplomats that he was meeting with inside the White House.
Joining us now is General Michael Hayden, a CNN national security analyst, former CIA and NSA director. General, thanks so much for being with us right now.
Obviously, you know, it's fascinating that the president and his staff not denying the "New York Times" report from last Friday that he called the fired FBI Director James Comey a nut job and said that the firing of Director Comey relieved pressure on the president. I guess, start with the appropriateness of discussing such things with Russian officials inside the White House.
GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: John, on so many levels that would be inappropriate. You should not talk about your own government, your over governance with a foreign official that way, and I certainly wouldn't trash talk about a former director of the FBI in the front of a foreign official like Lavrov and Kislyak.
Isn't it amazing the contrast between how carefully crafted the last two days have been in Saudi Arabia and in Jerusalem, compared to that absolutely horrific meeting last week with the Russians in the oval office on practically every level.
CAMEROTA: General, as you know, he also reportedly divulged classified, sensitive information to those Russians. What do you think about that? Where does that go?
HAYDEN: Look at the line-up. The fact of the meeting was problematic. The photographs weren't supposed to happen. He apparently divulged someone else's classified information and the trash talk about the director of the FBI. It all creates this sense of less than competent administration contrasted frankly with what happened over the past 48 hours.
Now with regard to the narrow question, the reviewing of the information to the Russians. Number one legally the president has total authority to do that. The problem you now have is it wasn't ours in the first place. We have to make nice with the foreign service or services whose information that was.
That's not a light lift, but it is a manageable lift, given that in all of our relationships, most nations get a great deal more from us than they give to us. They'll swallow hard and accept our apology.
BERMAN: Again, we're looking at live pictures from the old city of Jerusalem. We are expecting President Trump to arrive any minute.
General Hayden, we did get word that the fired FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee as soon as next week after Memorial Day. You've been a former government official testifying on Capitol Hill. I can't imagine you've been in the situation the likes the former FBI director will find himself in. How far do you think he will go in his testimony next week?
[08:25:08]HAYDEN: John, that's a great question. I think this is going to be must see TV to see what Jim feels appropriate for him to reveal in open session. Now certainly he's been badly treated by the president personally, so there may be some motivation there to let himself be a little more forthcoming than he might otherwise be.
And I have to admit out of my personal experience, I know that Jim Comey takes notes after meetings and so he's going to have a body of documents that he can fall back on should he want to reveal these kinds of things.
CAMEROTA: Is there any way that Special Counsel Robert Mueller prevents James Comey from testifying in this open session, now that Mueller has taken the helm of this, is there any reason he'd not want to have James Comey go in front of everyone and speak?
HAYDEN: Alisyn, great question. There probably are some reasons that Bob Mueller would want to limit this to not sully the actual investigation, and keep in mind, these men are very close friends. They have a personal relationship.
So I think Director Comey will be responsive to what former Director Mueller says. On the same hand, though, Director Mueller in friendship with Director Comey, might want to give him some head room to defend himself against some pretty ugly accusations that the president has made.
BERMAN: That's the real question here. How far will the former director go in defending himself? Are there any restrictions as to what he can discuss?
HAYDEN: Well, certainly in open session he has the classification problem. You probably do have and Director Comey even in these circumstances has to respect the office of the president. I think there will be some limits but at the end of this, John, we'll know more about this relationship than we did going in.
CAMEROTA: Look, we know that as you just testified that Comey is well-known for taking contemporaneous notes, an inveterate memo taker. That's his version of events, just as he remembers it or how he wanted to preserve it. So how much stock will investigators put in those notes?
HAYDEN: Well, Alisyn, to be perfectly candid as a legal matter, contemporaneous notes give you a little more throw weight than your memory and second I have to be very candid. The president's relationship with the truth has been strained at times and so I think there will be an instinct that all ties will go to the FBI director.
And before we forget, folks, this week, John Brennan is going to testify in open session in front of the Intelligence Committee, so we'll probably learn a lot more about the first thing we're looking at here, which is the Russian involvement in the American electoral process.
BERMAN: You have a he said/he said setup where FBI Director James Comey will be pressed at a minimum by the Democrats there to directly contradict things that President Trump has said. Do you think he'll jump at that chance or do you think he'll be more reserved?
HAYDEN: I think he's going there, he doesn't have to go at all. He's going there voluntarily. Clearly he has some things that he wants to say, Director Comey, I've known him personally is a very careful man and he does have respect for the office of the president, so he'll be looking for that sweet spot there, where I think can he can defend his bureau and himself against some of the charges that have been made.
CAMEROTA: General, always great to talk to you. Thanks so much for walking us through this.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: All right, so Israeli leaders are touting President Trump's historic first visit and the unbreakable bond as they call it between the two nations. So you are watching here live pictures, the president is traveling to the old city of Jerusalem.
He will visit the western wall, which is just rife with all sorts of connotations and significance, so we're watching it all for you and we'll bring it to you live. Author and former Senator George Mitchell will join us as well.