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Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli Capital; California on Fire; Democrats Call on Al Franken to Resign. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired December 6, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is just one corner of Los Angeles that is on fire. There are other counties, other parts of this -- that's a water drop hoping to put out this flare-up.
Just one corner, just one snapshot what we are seeing across Southern California -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Kyung, thank you so much for that incredible report.
I want to bring back Felicia Waldman, who is evacuated from her home in North Bel Air not far from that.
And, Felicia, could you see that report? Could you see the photos, the pictures that we were getting in?
FELICIA WALDMAN, EVACUEE: Yes. Yes. Yes, it's crazy.
KEILAR: Even just in that time, we were seeing them make progress. I know you can't fully exhale yet, but as you see them working there not far from your house, what do you think?
WALDMAN: Well, it's a scary thing leaving your home and not knowing if you're going back.
And just that my whole body was numb this morning thinking about, could I have taken something else? But actually my first thought was that I have an elderly neighbor next door. So as I was leaving, I told one of the guards if -- we were just told to evacuate. If this is a very serious evacuation and the flames start coming, please go and check on her.
But, you know, I can only watch the news now. And it's just -- it's just very scary, the thought of going home to no home.
KEILAR: Very scary, humbling, as you had said.
WALDMAN: It's very humbling.
KEILAR: Sorry. Go on.
WALDMAN: No, it just makes you think that you really need to be prepared.
And we have moved here from the East Coast, and people tell you to be prepared. But in the past eight years, we really haven't listened. And I'm definitely going home today to go through all the things that I did throw in my car and maybe pare them down and have an actual emergency bag for an earthquake or for a fire, because we definitely were not prepared today, and it was very scary.
KEILAR: It's so important. And thank you so much for saying that, Felicia.
And, look, you have what's important, your kids and your husband.
WALDMAN: That's right. Nothing else matters.
KEILAR: And your dog, who is a part of the family. And we appreciate you being on to talk about it. Thank you.
WALDMAN: Nothing else matters except the five of us, for sure.
KEILAR: That is so right.
Felicia Waldman, thank you so much.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: And we are at the top of the hour. I'm Brianna Keilar.
And we have a lot of breaking news this hour
We are starting with Al Franken under fire. At least 24 Democratic senators are now calling on him to resign amid amount sexual harassment allegations. And we are now hearing that Senator Franken is going to make an announcement tomorrow.
This call coming after one day Congressman John Conyers retired after facing harassment allegations, though he insisted that wasn't why he resigned. Many were skeptical of that assertion.
And joining me now to talk more about all of this is Dana Bash, chief correspondent. We also have Lauren Fox, CNN congressional reporter, and Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst.
OK, Dana, we have seen mounting allegations when it comes to Senator Franken. Almost all of the female senators came out and said -- Democrat senators said, you need to go, also Republican Susan Collins. It's hard to see how he survives this.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost impossible to see how he survives this.
And that was the point. That clearly was the point of the way that these senators did what they did today, one after another after another. I mean, it was an actual drumbeat. And you could sort of see and feel
the walls closing in on Al Franken.
We have not heard from -- never mind Al Franken, but we haven't heard from the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, which is interesting, surprising, frankly.
KEILAR: Why? Why haven't we, do you think?
WALDMAN: My sense is that I can't imagine he was unaware of this strategy that was going on inside his caucus to get Al Franken out, and that he likely was going to let the rank and file do it.
Having said that, leadership is leadership. And it means that you are in a tough position, but sometimes that is what it means to be a leader. And we saw that Nancy Pelosi, after sort of striking the wrong tone at the beginning with John Conyers, got it right as the leader in the House.
So we will see what happens. And it might not even be that necessary at the end of the day.
KEILAR: Lauren, why is this happening today?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, I think that when we were talking to women up on Capitol Hill, there's been discussions for a while about how to respond to Senator Franken.
I think Democrats are in a tough position, because they are going out and saying that Roy Moore shouldn't be a U.S. senator, but at the same time they have allegations against one of their own senators. And we should say that the allegations are very different against the two men.
But, clearly, Democrats don't want to be in the wrong position here. They don't want to be on the wrong side of history. And I talked to Senator Patty Murray earlier, a leading Democrat.
And she said, listen, it's up to lawmakers at all levels of government to make a stand on this and to lead.
And I think that that's really important.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it might be a little late for them to have the sort of ultimate moral authority that they really want.
BORGER: Because, yes, this is certainly different from Roy Moore.
But maybe -- and I don't know if anybody did this, they should have gone to Al Franken at a certain point early on, and said, you need to take one for the team here, because we have to fight Roy Moore. We are fighting Donald Trump on this issue. And we cannot look at all compromised ourselves.
And I think it's because that perhaps they like Al Franken or because he's been on the right side of women's issues. He's been a colleague of theirs who has fought for the issues that particularly these women have fought for, that they were a little bit shy about it.
But in the end, they had no choice. I mean, I would argue they should have done it a little while ago.
BASH: We were talking about this earlier, that they should have done it earlier.
And you made the point, and I think you are right -- I think that the raw politics of this here is that you fast-forward to next week, assuming that Roy Moore is elected in Alabama, he comes to Washington, you are going to see Democrats feel politically that they are back on terra firma.
KEILAR: They have gotten rid of their offender as Republicans bring their in, alleged offender.
BASH: It is going to be hard for them to be outraged about Roy Moore and more importantly, it will be easier for them to say, what are you doing, Republicans, by not fighting Roy Moore harder?
KEILAR: Senator Gillibrand has been really outspoken about this. Let's listen to some of what she has said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Enough is enough. I mean, this is a conversation we have been having for a very long time.
And it's a conversation that this country needs to have. And I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK. None of it is acceptable.
And we as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard. And we should fundamentally be valuing women. And that is where this debate has to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: She also said, Lauren, that she doesn't believe the system in Congress is equipped to deal with these allegations.
CNN, you and your colleagues have done a tremendous amount of reporting on this. It's a pretty bad system when it comes to transparency, right?
FOX: Absolutely. And I think that that's what this press conference was about. They
are trying to rework the system that women go through, or men go through when they are reporting sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. It requires that leadership isn't involved. They don't know what's going on.
Its offices are handling this sometimes on their own in the instance of Senator John Conyers. And that is pretty tough. It makes it so that if you are a young woman on Capitol Hill, how would you feel comfortable going and dealing with this?
KEILAR: And is that right, Lauren? If you are a woman or a man, but it seems to be more women, if you are complaining about sexual harassment, an unwanted advance, sexual misconduct, if you complain, under the current system, while you wait for this to play out, you go back to your office where all of this is apparently happening, and you have to stay put while you wait for the things to proceed, right?
And I have said this a number of times, but these offices are very small. They're tight quarters.
FOX: Think about that. You would have to work alongside a colleague or a boss who perhaps sexually harassed you.
BORGER: And you want to talk about a place where the power equation is remarkable, because you have the elected official who is elected by the people.
He's not put in by a board of directors or anything else, so he can't be fired like a CEO can be fired. And then you have the equation of the chief of staff and the interns and people at the lower end. There is such a difference and different levels. There's a clear hierarchy here. And you can see how that would be so intimidating for any woman, for any woman.
KEILAR: Makes it so difficult in this process.
Lauren, Dana, Gloria, thank you so much to all of you.
We have some more breaking news, a different topic, President Trump today fulfilling a campaign promise. He just signed a proclamation that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
And he also announced plans to move the U.S. embassy to the holy city current its location in Tel Aviv. Palestinians also claim Jerusalem as their capital. And this move has nations throughout the world worried that the process toward peace in the Middle East has just been derailed. The president said, though, that the move was -- quote -- "a necessary condition to achieve peace" and he didn't exclude Palestinians from their claim on the city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israel sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I want to turn now to CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski.
So, Michelle, the leader of the Palestinian Authority has condemned the president's proclamation at this point. What have we heard?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Talking about Palestine being the -- Jerusalem being the eternal capital of Palestine and the possibility of this leading to war. Here's some of what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): These procedures do also help in the extremist organizations to which -- a religious war that would harm the whole region, which is going through very critical moments, with an international crisis, and would lead us into wars that will never end, which we have warned about, and always refused and urged to fight against.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: So, we have been hearing for the past couple of days now similar warnings throughout the region, and an almost unified response of, this is a bad idea and why do this now?
Of course, Israel agrees with it. And you heard the president try to balance it out, at least as much as possible. He wanted to clearly make that declaration that the U.S. views Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but he also said that this declaration isn't going to establish any borders that will be disputed.
And the question has been, of course, what does this do now for the peace process? With all of these reactions, and very negative reactions coming from even the Saudis that have been working closely with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on this and other issues, you would think that the White House feels like this is not going to be a problem.
Why might they feel that way? It could be they see this as now enormous leverage in essentially siding with Israel on this one and pretty big issue. That gives leverage down the road or could this motivate the region now to really work on a peace deal?
Because you heard the White House say again and again that the status quo over the last several decades wasn't working. And when we heard from administration officials last night talking to reporters, they seemed to be alluding to things really happening, for their being cause for optimism, for them being happy with the progress that has been made toward peace here, that there are things happening that you don't know about, although all of our other sources say at this point there is no indication of that.
And you heard the president today say that we are actually no closer to reaching a solution than we have been over the last several decades. So what does this do? We know it fulfills the campaign promise. It allows him to give back to his base, to have this close relationship with Israel. But we are all waiting to see what this means down the road.
KEILAR: We sure are.
Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much for that report. We are going to have more on this coming up.
Plus, another breaking story that we are covering, new revelations from a whistle-blower about General Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, and what he allegedly said about -- quote -- "ripping up Russian sanctions."
Plus, we continue with an eye on Southern California. Right now, parts of the Bel Air Estates are under mandatory evacuation, homes there going up in flames. And we are going to take you there.
KEILAR: Global reaction is pouring in over the president's announcement that the U.S. is going to recognize Jerusalem as Israel capital.
And joining me now to talk more about this is Jim Cunningham. He's a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.
We just heard from Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader. And he was saying that this decision by the Trump administration are going to create wars that will never end, is how he put it.
This is, of course, a concern of so many, many nations, the pope as well, that this is just going to create a lot of conflict in the region.
What's your reaction to this decision?
JAMES CUNNINGHAM, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR ISRAEL: Well, I hope it doesn't create conflicts and I hope it lead to violence, although past history would lead one to believe that there will be some violent reaction to it. How long it will take, I don't know. But, more importantly, something like this, an important step like
this, which upends decades of policy and diplomacy, should be taken in the context of a plan and a strategy for success that leads to the kind of peace process that the president says that he wants. And there doesn't seem to be any sign that that in fact is the case.
KEILAR: Because your point is, even if you -- whether you think that this is the wrong move or you think this is the right move, when you're looking at diplomacy, you have got carrots and sticks, right, and this is something that would provide leverage with Israelis.
Is that what you are saying, that this is something that you better have a broad strategy and this should be part of it because you may need this as some sort of incentive?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, a step like this is important symbolically. It doesn't really change anything on the ground. It doesn't make Israel safer, doesn't make the United States safer, doesn't make the region more stable.
But it's a step that is an important piece of currency. And when you lay it that kind of currency on the table, you should have an important objective in mind for what it's going to buy or what you are going to get in return, rather than just doing it as a one-off, saying past policy hasn't worked, so we are going to try something new.
It's not at all clear what this something new is that this step is supposed to lead to. And I suspect there isn't anything.
KEILAR: Why is this such -- just to sort of lay the groundwork on this, why is this such a big deal? The U.S. Embassy is in Tel Aviv, and yet Jerusalem is the capital.
Why is this such a big step to take that embassy and move it to Jerusalem?
CUNNINGHAM: Because, up until now, the United States, along with the entire international community, all the embassies to Israel are in Tel Aviv.
And up to now, we have taken the position that the final status of Jerusalem, including its status as the capital of Israel, have to be left to the outcome of negotiation, which will settle a whole range of issues that are built around this very sensitive point, the status of Israel.
And that has been our practice constantly for decades by a whole series of presidents. So, beginning to whittle away at that, even though the president tried to have it both ways by saying we are recognizing that Jerusalem is the capital, but we are not prejudging final status issues, trying to have -- trying to split that difference is creating a lot of confusion, a lot of negative reaction, not just in the region and in the Islamic world, but with our partners. KEILAR: Does this decision by the Trump administration to do this now
and not part of -- at least it doesn't appear to be part of a larger strategy -- foreclose options when it comes to brokering Mideast peace?
CUNNINGHAM: I don't think it foreclose options as such, but it's going to be make it more difficult for this administration to play the kind of brokering and facilitating role that the United States has traditionally played and tried to play.
KEILAR: Do you take that as a sign then that, at least pragmatically, the administration may have given up on the larger task?
CUNNINGHAM: I hope they haven't given up, although there's not much prospect now for moving forward on negotiations as such.
But there is a much bigger strategic aim here that is also undermined by this decision, which is, we and the Israelis and our international partners and our Arab partners should be trying to develop a strategy to build and solidify stability in the Middle East, in the entire region.
That requires American leadership. It requires American constancy and clarity of purpose. And doing things like this calls that constancy and clarity of purpose into question.
KEILAR: CNN has just learned that Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson had asked the president for a week's lead time so that they would have that buffer to beef up security at U.S. missions.
What is the concern, and not just in Israel, but certainly in the region of the Middle East? What are the realistic concerns when it comes to security for Americans, for American diplomats all around the region, when an announcement like this comes?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, there is, when there is a sudden shift like this, or a sudden development -- and we have seen it before in the Middle East -- I saw it in spades when I was ambassador to Afghanistan -- emotions can get heated very quickly.
People get into the streets, they start yelling, and violence can be the result. I hope that's not going to happen in this case. But the possibility that it will happen has to be taken into account.
KEILAR: You really worry it will.
All right, Jim Cunningham, thank you so much. We really, really appreciate your insight on this. Thank you.
CUNNINGHAM: Thank you for having me.
KEILAR: And straight ahead, we have some new details from the president's eldest son, Donald Jr., meeting today with the House Intelligence Committee, getting interviewed there about his contacts with Russians during the campaign. And also new revelations from a whistle-blower about General Michael
Flynn, the former national security adviser of President Trump, what he allegedly said about -- quote -- "ripping up Russian sanctions."
KEILAR: We have breaking news.
We are getting our first details from today's closed-door meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and House investigators, and specifically what he had to say about that now infamous meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 that included a number of people, but also a Russian lawyer.
CNN's Manu Raju has the breaking details for us from Capitol Hill.
What do we know about what Donald Trump Jr. has told investigators there, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are now told by multiple sources familiar with his testimony that occurred today that what Donald Trump Jr. said was in regards to how he responded to these initial reports that came out this summer about that Trump Tower meeting.
He said that he did not communicate directly with his father about the response to those reports.
Now, you will recall, Brianna, that the White House, Donald Trump Jr. put out several almost conflicting statements about this meeting that happened in June of 2016, in which he was promised -- and we now know he was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign from the Russians.
But what Donald Trump Jr. told House investigators today was that he did not talk to his father about the response to those initial reports.
Instead, he communicated with Hope Hicks, who is now the White House communications director, and Hope Hicks had communicated with Donald Trump Jr.'s father.