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Fiery Protests Ahead Of Trump's Jerusalem Decision; Palestinians Declare Three Days Of Rage Over Trump Move; Trump To Recognize Jerusalem As Israel's Capital. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired December 6, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Southern California are intensifying this morning. A new fire hitting the heart of Los Angeles, right near the Getty Center. That's in Brentwood, forcing the closure of part of the very busy 405 Freeway.
Firefighters breaking for what will likely be another harrowing day. Let's go straight to our Stephanie Elam, she joins us in Ventura County, California.
There was some talk this morning, Stephanie, that the winds might not be as bad. They would get some relief. It doesn't look like that this morning.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's calmer right now, Poppy, where I am standing, but I am in Ventura. Ventura County. Where you're looking at, and those images you're seeing, (INAUDIBLE), that connects people who live in the San Fernando Valley down into -- maybe going into Beverly Hills, maybe some people going into Santa Monica. They can get out the 405 on the western side there.
It is a huge route that connects much of L.A. here. So it is a huge deal. Also what is happening there are homes are being threatened there on the hillside. From what I understand it's burning on the eastern side of the 405 while the Getty is on the western side. But the problem is, when the winds pick up later today as they are expected to do again as they have been doing, is that you will see that these embers can get caught up in those winds and fly, and they will catch on to something else and can burn that down.
And that's exactly what we've been seeing over southern California. With these multiple fires that we have been seeing, burning. The fire where I'm standing, the Thomas Fire here, 50,000 acres have been burned and it is still burning out of control, and those embers catching in the wind, doing things like this.
Take a look behind me. This house completely devastated, destroyed, burning down. Where you can see the house behind it is completely fine. The house to the right also burning down and the house next to it standing there completely fine as well.
This is the concern. And the winds picked up for a little bit and they died back down, but they're going to pick back up again today. Red flag warnings are in effect and this is the concern. And this is what is taxing firefighters throughout the region right now. And this new fire just springing up after 5:00 a.m. local time here,
that's the concern of how quickly it changes. The wind, not so much playing a part, but still the brush here are so dry after months without a good soaking rain, after the warm summer, because of that it is very easy for these fires to pick up and spread so quickly -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Stephanie Elam there in Ventura, California. We are watching Los Angeles there, right there by the 405 in the Getty Center. We'll keep on this.
Stephanie, thank you very, very much.
Also this morning in politics, we are minutes away from Donald Trump Jr.'s arrival on Capitol Hill for a long awaited appearance before the House Intelligence Committee. It is a closed-door hearing, but the president's eldest son will be under oath and an array of the Trump team contacts with Russia will be questions that are on the table. Chief among them that Trump Tower meeting that took place before the election, which Trump Jr. said initially was about adoption, but later revealed he was lured to have that meeting on the promise of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Let's go straight to Manu Raju. He joins us on the Hill.
Look, they've been asking for this for a long time. It is clear they have unanswered questions from the last time we saw him up there, but still behind doors. What are your sources telling you about what they will press the president's son on?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that June 2016 meeting has been investigated by this committee for months. Several of those participants who were at that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting have in fact been interviewed by the same committee. Now the questions that the investigators are going to try to get answered is whether or not Donald Trump Jr.'s account of that meeting is actually consistent with what they have heard from other witnesses behind closed doors.
This wouldn't be the first time that Donald Trump Jr. has in fact been interviewed by lawmakers of any of the three committees that are investigating Russian meddling. He did meet with Senate Judiciary Committee staff members back in September. Now at that staff meeting, we are told by sources briefed on that meeting, that he did not recall some of the key details, including the White House's response to the initial revelations in the "New York Times" earlier this year about the June 26th meeting.
So expect him to get pushed about the White House's response and whether or not he told his father about the meeting, about the Trump Tower meeting, and of any communications that may have occurred to respond to the reports about the meeting as well.
Now of course we've also learned since then about correspondence that Donald Trump Jr. had with WikiLeaks, and that's going to be a big focus of discussion for this committee today. Now Donald Trump Jr. of course, Poppy, has denied any wrongdoing, said he has not colluded with the Russians at all, but the lawmakers here are going to try to figure out exactly what happened in that meetings, whether it lines up with the other witnesses.
We've also learned another witness, who's at that meeting will be interviewed by this committee next week. That's Rob Goldstone, the British publicist.
RAJU: Who set up the meeting, part of this investigation now here going forward -- Poppy.
HARLOW: All right. Manu, let us know if you can get any questions in to Don Jr. as he arrives on the Hill. We know you will certainly try. Thank you so much.
[09:05:03] Also this morning, new revelations as to what the Vice President Mike Pence knew about Michael Flynn's lies to the FBI and when he knew it.
Our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us now from the White House.
Look, I mean, this has been painted by the administration for a long time as Pence in the dark, but this is not only the vice president, this is the guy who was running the transition team. What more are we learning?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. You're right. If you piece together a timeline of all the things that happened, about a year or so ago, at the end of the December of 2016, it really paints more of a picture of how the vice president could have remained in the dark for so long.
Now new questions are being asked about if he will be brought into testify at some point with the special counsel here. Now the -- a Republican who's close to the vice president told us that they are preparing for that possibility. They don't believe it's imminent but they are preparing for that possibility.
But the question here is, the phone calls that really started on December 29th, when the Obama administration announced those sanctions. We know now from those court filings last week that Mike Flynn had several phone calls with Mar-a-Lago, the top officials there in the -- who were surrounding the president at the end of the year, and the question is, how the vice president might have escaped knowledge of any of this now that we know the president learned of this last January.
So again, when you piece together the timeline of how this all happened, how could the vice president have remained in the dark? It's possible, we talked to seven of his officials who worked for him at the time, some of them who still work for him, who insist he did not know, who insist he was lied to again by Mike Flynn. The question of course, Poppy, is why? And that is one of those
questions that the special counsel's office might have for the vice president as this continues.
HARLOW: And that would legally protect him, right? If he really truly knew none of this but concerning politically for him in his position.
HARLOW: A guy running the transition as vice president doesn't know this key stuff and a bunch of other members around him do, according to some of these court documents, that's an issue.
Let me ask you about this, too, Jeff. Attorney -- the attorney for Rick Gates.
HARLOW: Who was one of the deputies working with the Trump transition team has come out and said -- and he's one who's been indicted with Paul Manafort, said look, there may be more of these superseding indictments, superseding charges coming against him in the Mueller Russia investigation. What can you tell us?
ZELENY: Poppy, that was a very interesting piece of information we learned yesterday. Rick Gates, one of his lawyers, in a Manhattan courtroom said that he was advised there could be a superseding charge. That means an additional charge in addition to what has already been charged against him here.
We don't know any more than that. His attorney says he does not know any more than that here. But it definitely is a good reminder here that this is not finished at all, the Mueller investigation is continuing. So these charges, just because they were leveled, you know, several weeks or so ago are not exclusive, there could be more coming. So certainly Rick Gates' lawyer is preparing for that possibility, whatever those charges may be -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you so much for that reporting.
So Steve Bannon went to Alabama last night. Why? To stump for Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in the special election, but he ended up picking fights with a laundry list of Republicans. It seems no one is safe from his attacks, not Mitch McConnell, not Jeff Flake, not Mitt Romney, all Republicans, like Bannon.
Kaitlan Collins in Mobile, Alabama, for us this morning.
And look, this is a man still very close to the president, though not in the White House, his former chief strategist. He laid into these sort of establishment Republican figures. Romney, he went after his faith and his kids.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. He went on -- he certainly went in very hard to Mitt Romney during that speech last night. Though Steve Bannon came down to Alabama to rally support for his candidate in this race, Roy Moore, he spent more time bashing Mitt Romney than he did his actual opponent, the Democrat Doug Jones here.
Now that doesn't come as much of a surprise because Romney has not only called for Roy Moore to step aside in this race but he recently said that if he was elected as a senator that it would be not only a stain on the GOP, but the nation, and that that seat was not worth losing honor or integrity.
Now Steve Bannon clearly did not take very kindly to that criticism from Mitt Romney and he repeated a criticism that he's leveled against Romney before which is that he hid behind his religion to avoid serving in the military, Steve Bannon says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You avoided service, brother. You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. You had five sons, not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinky finger than your entire family has in his whole DNA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now it's worth noting here, Poppy, that Steve Bannon did work to get Donald Trump elected who also has never served in the military and received five draft deferments including one for bone spurs, and none of his children have served in the military either.
[09:10:08] But this morning on CNN we saw counselor Kellyanne Conway seek to put some distance between Steve Bannon's comments and the White House saying that the president and Mitt Romney spoke last night and that they have a great relationship, but she would not say if the president would support Mitt Romney if he ran for the Senate seat in Utah -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Well, it's pretty clear the president wants Orrin Hatch to run again in Utah and to not give up that seat giving Romney a shot at it.
Kaitlan Collins, thank you for the reporting.
Joining me now, CNN contributor and political reporter for the "Washington Examiner," Salena Zito, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House reporter Michael Shear.
Thank you both for being here.
Michael, let me ask you about some comments from Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that he just made about Steve Bannon following Bannon ripping into the Republican establishment last night in Alabama. He said -- he was on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, he said, quote, "We're not going to lose any nominations to the kind of candidates that guy you are talking about endorsed." He's talking about Bannon. "What he is a specialist in is nominating people who lose."
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, this has been a longtime frustration for Mitch McConnell who is sort of the epitome of the Washington establishment. And if you go back several election cycles, there's an element to the Republican Party that Steve Bannon is right now kind of at the tip of the spear on that likes to nominate and embrace candidates that are on the extreme sides of the Republican Party.
And the problem for Mitch McConnell is that when those folks get nominated in the Republican primaries, oftentimes they'll go into the general election and then they lose. There were many of those candidates over the last cycles that have done that and that doesn't help Mitch McConnell's efforts in the Senate to keep a majority and to advance an agenda, and these two men, Mitch McConnell and Steve Bannon are sort of the arch types in both sides of the Republican Party and it's a civil war that has been going on for a long time and it is when you hear the kind of rhetoric that Steve Bannon offers as a rally like the one last night, that's what is driving that wedge even deeper.
HARLOW: Yes. You've got to think it resonates, though, with some when you look at the latest Quinnipiac poll numbers. They show 12 percent approval rating for Congress right now. That means, you know, an 80 percent disapproval rating for Congress. That's much worse than how the president is polling right now.
Salena, what about Mike Pence? Jeff Zeleny is reporting that Mike Pence, his team maintaining he was in the dark on all of these Flynn stuff even though these court documents show that multiple people on the transition team that Pence was running, you know, had more knowledge about Flynn allegedly.
So, I mean, is this good for Pence, protectively, legally? Is this bad because the guy running the transition, the vice president, seems to have been completely in the dark?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one of the things that has been sort of the hallmark of that transition team, it was sort of chaos and unprofessionalism. And so that's probably the lesser of the two things that Pence could say, OK, I was kind of bad at being the transition guy. I really didn't have a -- you know, I didn't have a firm hold on everything that was going on. But that's much better than saying I knew what was going on and I knew that there was a problem.
ZITO: One of the things that stick out to me with Pence and Flynn, and I can't remember the setting. I mean, it was a big setting. I think it was when Gorsuch was announced and this was before Flynn was fired, where Flynn comes past -- and this is on national cameras and I don't know if anyone paid attention to this. But Flynn goes in to shake hands with Pence and he walks, and he gives him the cold stare and walked just totally ignores the handshake.
So I think he knew -- I mean, there was definitely animosity and tension between the two of those men. So, you know -- you know, I think Pence is better off saying, at the end of the day, hey, look, I wasn't the best transition guy. I was thrown into this. We didn't expect to win as opposed to saying I knew what was going on.
ZITO: And, you know, that's a big problem for him if that's the case.
HARLOW: Michael, let me ask you about the Alabama Senate race. It is now in less than a week. Here's what you've got right now. Here's the state of play. You've got the president, Steve Bannon, the RNC circling the wagon for Moore. I mean, they are all on board here for Roy Moore. You've got Republican opposition namely from senators like Jeff Flake, who's on his way out from, you know, Mitt Romney who doesn't have a position but is a -- you know, clearly big named Republican. From Mitch McConnell, they're in the middle of all of this. Who wins?
SHEAR: Well, look, I think it depends on whether you're looking in the short term or the long term. It looks like in the short term that Roy Moore seems to be ahead in the polls, at least slightly, and that for Donald Trump, you know, if he gets Roy Moore into that seat and Roy Moore becomes a vote for Donald Trump, you know, if he gets Roy Moore into that seat and Roy Moore becomes a vote for Donald Trump's agenda, that's not 100 percent certain, but if he does, in the short term that could be good for Donald Trump.
I think the problem for the Republican Party, Donald Trump but also the establishment part of the Republican Party in the long run is that you have a party embracing a guy who at the very minimum has incredibly disturbing allegations against him.
And if those allegations are true and are -- there will be investigations, ethics committee looking into it, and if those allegations become more provably true, that they've embraced a guy that did some of these really awful things and how does that -- how does that go forward in the 2018 mid-term elections and beyond? That's a problem for the Republican Party.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right. An interesting question posed in the "New York Times" this morning, certainly, what does this mean to the big picture going forward. We will ask a Republican representative about that a little later. Thank you both, Michael and Salena. Nice to have you.
We have a lot ahead. Bracing for backlash, in hours, President Trump is set to announce that he is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, this as Palestinians call for, quote, "Three days of rage."
Also, we continue to follow those fast-moving wildfires across Southern California. We'll take you there live as this develops. And Congress races to deliver on the president's promise of tax cuts for Christmas. What do voters who supported the president in a big way think about it? I spoke to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So you are OK with tax cuts for the richest?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am for them, because usually when they get tax cuts they will take that money that they are saving, and they will invest it into something, and everything trickles down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: This morning, fiery protests already erupting across the Middle East, hours before President Trump is set to make a highly controversial announcement. Take a look at some of the video we have in.
You are looking at demonstrators burning an American flag in Gaza City. In a speech today, the president is set to break decades of American policy and officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott is in Washington now. Benjamin Netanyahu is applauding this. All of the other Middle East leaders that the president with on the phone yesterday are condemning it saying it will lead to violence, et cetera. Tell me how this benefits the United States and the American people?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: OK. Well, looking at those pictures, Poppy, it's hard to see that people burning an American flag benefits the United States. I think it benefits President Trump, because U.S. officials pretty clear in talking to reporters yesterday that President Trump made this decision, made this promise to his supporters and this shows that he's making good on those pledges.
Now, you know, I think it's important to look at what this announcement is going to be and what it is not going to be. He is going to recognize the capital of Jerusalem in Israel, which is basically already stated in U.S. law, but it doesn't move the embassy. He's going to sign that waiver again.
Also in the announcement, I understand that it's going to say sovereignty doesn't change. The borders are open for final status negotiations. So, really what he is saying is part of Jerusalem will Israel's capital.
It's not the undivided part. So, after kind of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblat, those advisers trying to make a Mid-East peace deal, traveling through the region, and gaining the trust of the parties. I don't necessarily see right now how this benefits the U.S., especially now you heard members of the Palestinian -- the PLO saying that this disqualifies the U.S. now as an honest broker.
So, I think you will see more of these protests. The U.S. is bracing for violent protests in embassies the region. I think we are in for a pretty couple of rough days -- Poppy.
HARLOW: All right. Elise Labott, appreciate the reporting. I know you will continue to be on this for us.
Let's talk about what this all means in the big picture. David Rohde is here, CNN global affairs analyst, online news director of the "New Yorker," and Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt under President Bush. It's nice to have you both here.
Ambassador, let me begin with you. What does this do? You have Palestinian groups saying that they will be having three days of rage. We have seen the burning of the American flag. No American president has done this before.
This is before a likely move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem where there are no countries embassies right now. What does this do to the president and Jared Kushner's ability to strike what they have called the ultimate deal, Mideast peace.
DANIEL KURTZER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL AND EGYPT: Well, Poppy, Elise Labott is right. There is no upside diplomatically to this move. The president is going to satisfy some of his domestic supporters and satisfy Prime Minister Netanyahu, but will essentially isolate the United States diplomatically, and will enrage Arabs, Muslims, and a lot of our allies.
And undercut substantially what his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblat have been trying to do. The upside here is missing. That's what makes this such a confounding decision on the part of the president.
HARLOW: But David, I would say, look, the White House position on this is we are still supportive of a two-state solution, and they know that more than two decades now having the embassy in Tel Aviv, for example, has done nothing to further the peace process. Fair point?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No, because this is an unnecessary move that will not further the peace process. It will alienate the Palestinians. What it tells is that it makes moderate Palestinian leaders look like they are kowtowing to Israel and the United States.
[09:25:07] So, it undermines their ability to compromise. This is totally unnecessary, and for me, this is one of a series of decisions that are just unnecessary. They are simplistic campaign promises.
Building a wall with Mexico, pulling out of the Paris Peace Accord, and the Muslim travel ban, it doesn't actually achieve anything in terms of policy. It simply scores points politically.
HARLOW: And your point is, you know, this becoming likely a roadblock to the ultimate deal, a Middle East peace deal, which Greenblat and Kushner were working on, that would be a much bigger political win for this president, would it not?
ROHDE: Absolutely. I don't think he will lose his base over this. I don't think there's this clamoring desire from a broad array of American voters to make this move. There's no perspective coming from the president.
HARLOW: I think, Ambassador, David has a good point. When I am in the field talking to these big Trump supporters, Michigan, Kentucky, et cetera, none of them bring up -- bring this up as one of the top five issues for them, concerns from France and concerns from leadership in Britain about what this means for Middle East peace and for the region and stability. So, your assessment of what this does to the U.S. relationship with our allies? 7 KURTZER: You know, David is exactly right, it's not domestically not such a big deal but during my four years as ambassador in Israel, it almost never came up. An ambassador goes to Jerusalem to do his work and we deal with the Israeli government in Jerusalem and we have always done that.
There was never really a down side other than the fact that an ambassador had to spend an hour on the road which is not a very big deal. I think the damage to U.S. credibility and particularly to U.S. diplomacy and the peace process is going to take long time to repair.
We take our self out of the game by siding with a right-wing government in Israel on an issue that is so central and so sensitive in this peace process.
HARLOW: You were asked in your confirmation hearing to be ambassador, would you support a move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, you said yes if the president were to push it knowing full well that this was really not going to be pushed forward.
KURTZER: Sure, yes, every presidential candidate in the last 25 years has made this pledge, as soon as they become president, they understand the complexity and sensitivity and they walk away from it with no costs, and that's really what's at stake here.
HARLOW: You know, the secretary of state, David, Rex Tillerson has a different position on this, and when the State Department spokesman was asked how she and he, Tillerson, feel about this, it was anything but a ringing endorsement essentially saying it's pretty clear how we feel but the president is in charge.
ROHDE: Yes. I mean, this is the latest example of the U.S. being completely isolated on an issue. No European country, no other major country has an embassy in Israel. We are the only country in the world that's not part of the Paris Peace Accord. No expert believes we need to build a wall with Mexico. You know, this travel ban is seen as stigmatizing and alienating Muslims. So, again, the president is going his own way. This is bad policy. This is unnecessary.
HARLOW: But Netanyahu loves it and Israel is an important ally of the United States and region.
ROHDE: It's a political win, but there's more to being president than simply political wins.
HARLOW: David, appreciate it. Ambassador Kurtzer, nice to have you. Thank you both.
Ahead, what does Republican congressman and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam Kinzinger, have to say about all of this? He will join me next.
Also, we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Investors liking what they see in the GOP tax plan. Markets all week have been rallying off that, but a new Quinnipiac poll shows 29 percent of Americans approve of the Republican plan and two-thirds think it will benefit the wealthy the most.
So how do some of the biggest supporters of the president across the country in key states to his victory like Michigan and Kentucky feel about it? We went there. We asked them. Watch.
HARLOW: It is tax reform for you number one now?
SAL MOCERI, MICHIGAN TRUMP VOTER: Number one, because I love the American government, but when you have corporations, we got good jobs, good paying jobs. They take care of everything else, insurance, the baker, the candlestick maker.
RICKY QUINN, MICHIGAN TRUMP VOTER: Just cutting corporate rates from 35 to 20 will be huge for the country.
HARLOW: Will it help you?
QUINN: Well, I can't say it won't help me because there's always that possibility.
HARLOW: Do you worry your taxes right go up in a matter of years under this plan?
QUINN: I don't believe it will.
HARLOW: What should tax reform in this country look like?
MOCERI: OK. Well, really, I think everybody should pay their fair share. If the wealthy don't spend their money, put their money out there working, the poor people don't have anything to work at, you need somebody with capital to invest.
HARLOW: So, you are OK with tax cuts for the richest?
MOCERI: Yes, I am, because usually whenever they get tax cuts, they will take that money at their saving.