Return to Transcripts main page


Haley: U.S. "Will Remember" Being "Singled Out" For Criticism; Congress Needs To Reach A Deal By Midnight Tomorrow; Congress Scrambles To Pass Spending Bill; Pence Repeatedly Heaps Praise On Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 21, 2017 - 11:00   ET



MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: -- letter saying, you know, here's our stance, this, again, doesn't change anything, we're not prejudging the outcome of the peace negotiations, kind of let's all be friends on this, but then at the very end, came that stance that we keep hearing from the U.S. that we're watching this, we're basically making a list and checking it twice, and this isn't going to be forgotten.

She hasn't really explained what the consequences would be, but we did hear from that from President Trump yesterday in terms of money and how much aid the U.S. provides to other nations, but it could mean other things as well. Now we're seeing countries like Canada and Australia possibly abstaining here.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And that is fascinating as you say to watch to see how this all plays out before our eyes here. Michele Kosinski, thank you.

Also, with us CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst, former Pentagon and State Department spokesman, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

As we're looking at all of this play out and Michelle makes the point a lot of questions of what it will actually mean in terms of the consequences, we talk about money, but when we get down to it what could that mean.

Elise, as we're watching this, this is still likely to pass overwhelmingly and yet that news about the U.K. and Canada does sort of throw a new question in here?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it throws any questions into it. This resolution will pass resoundingly. I would say like maybe 80 percent of the members will vote in favor of it. I mean, I think a couple things that Ambassador Haley said were interesting here.

First of all, one of her key things that she came into the U.N. was this kind of disproportional focus, disproportionate focus on Israel. That is a bit true. This is a very anti-Israel organization. You have U.N. groups like the Human Rights Council that has one agenda item for every meeting just dealing with Israel. I think Ambassador Haley came in with this desire to stop the focus on Israel.

That said I think the administration has underestimated how important this issue on Jerusalem and the, you know, neutrality of the -- these final status issues until a peace deal is made.

So, when she -- she kind of reminded me of President Bush when they say you're with us or against us. I think this is an empty threat because some of these countries that are going to vote for this resolution, Egypt, obviously, Israel gets a lot of U.S. aid, but Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, these are some of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid and the U.S. doesn't do them a favor.

They give these countries billions of dollars in U.S. aid because it is in the U.S. national interest. President Bush the other day in his national security strategy and in his speech, said that every country is sovereign and free to, you know, protect their people in the way that they see fit.

So, the U.S., as a sovereign nation, yes, is free to move its embassy to Jerusalem, free to recognize Jerusalem if it wants to, but the rest of the international community is also sovereign and free to reject or to criticize that as they see fit.

It kind of reminds me a little bit of how, you know, President Bush doesn't like when people criticize him. The U.S., if they're comfortable with the decision that they made, they're just going to have to be comfortable with the criticism that comes.

HILL: To Elise's point about the comments that President Trump did make earlier in terms of national security, as we look at this, if the United States has underestimated the reaction here in some ways, Admiral, is the president then overplaying his hand?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, yes. It's not really clear what hand he thinks he's playing here. I do agree that this is going to be a rebuke, a stunning rebuke, to the administration.

Look, they knew that this was going to be a controversial decision when they made it, to declare Jerusalem the capital and they want to have it both ways. You saw when Michelle talked about the letter, it's a classic example of they're trying to have the cake and eat it too.

They want to be able to say they're strong and supporting the American people and Jerusalem and declaring what nobody has had the courage to declare before, but in the same breath this doesn't change anything, we're not talking about final status.

The thing is, the status of Jerusalem, the final status, was always intended to be the final outcome result of the negotiations. So, that's why every nation, not just the United States, but every other nation has been careful not to declare Jerusalem as the capital so that you don't prejudice the outcome of those negotiations.

They went ahead and did that. Whether they like to say it or not they have prejudiced this. I do think yet he has overplayed his hands and -- but I also don't think and I agree with Elise on this, I don't think the threat will result in much because she's right, the aid and assistance we provide, whether defense military sales or foreign aid and assistance through USAID, all that is to our own benefit.

[11:05:05] And if we pull back that funding guess what, countries like China and Russia are going to step in the void and that's the last thing that we need.

HILL: One of the things that was interesting, Elise, tell me if I'm overthinking this as I read it, in the resolution here it does not mention the United States by name, saying only demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding Jerusalem and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions. All state, am I overthinking it that the United States is not singled out in any way?

LABOTT: No, of course, the United States is singled out in this way because it's the one country that's recognizing Jerusalem as the capital and is planning to move their embassy there.

I think you've seen the Czech Republic and some other countries may follow, recognize Israel as the capital -- Jerusalem as the capital and not going to move their embassy and you might see a couple countries siding with the U.S. and Israel today.

But this is a criticism of the U.S. decision and again if the U.S. is comfortable with the decision then they need to be comfortable with the fallout and the criticism. They can't have their cake and eat it too.

But in terms of what this means and President Trump saying, we'll remember this, you know, there's a specter of threat about U.N. funding, you know, the U.S. gives a lot of money to the U.N. So, it doesn't have to go to a lot of these conflicts around the world.

You know, even Nikki Haley, I've traveled to Africa with her recently, where she said that U.S funds to the U.N., President Trump has said, this is pennies on the dollar. Yes, they would like the United Nations to be more efficient.

Nikki Haley has worked in that realm to kind of work on the budget with the U.N. secretary general whose reform is also a key part of his tenure. But the U.S. if they pull out of the United Nations as John said, the Chinas and Russias and now Turkeys and Irans and Qatars of the world will seek to fill that vacuum.

And the United States doesn't want that. I don't think any responsible president, including President Trump would pull out of the United Nations because of this decision. Otherwise, it's going to find itself alone with Israel in a corner and that's no place that it wants to be. That doesn't help the U.S. protect Israel in any way either. HILL: Elise and Admiral Kirby --

KIRBY: Go ahead.

HILL: I was going to say we have to leave it there. We're out of time, but if you can make quick, it's all yours.

KIRBY: I just want to make two points. One, the position about Jerusalem is something these countries have been long -- they long held for like 50 some odd years. If they vote in favor of this, it's not because they're necessarily voting against Trump. They're voting with their own national population and values and interests.

Number two, we have to keep the big picture in mind that nothing -- this decision and this resolution does nothing to advance the peace process. Everything that Trump's done so far has only set it back years, if maybe forever, getting to a two-state solution.

HILL: This time we will leave it there. Appreciate both of you joining us with your insight. Thanks again.

As we continue to follow who is happening at the U.N., we do also want to get you up to speed on our other breaking news, that pressing issue right now for Congress, the prospect of a government shutdown. It is close. It is real.

The House and the Senate have until midnight tomorrow to reach a deal that would keep the federal government funded beyond that. President Trump is applying some pressure here, tweeting a short time ago, "House Democrats want a shutdown for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed tax cuts. House Republicans don't let this happen. Pass the CR today," meaning the continuing resolution, "and keep our government open."

So, just how close are Republicans to reaching a deal? CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins me now from Capitol Hill with the details. Are they close at all?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, there's certainly a lot of last-minute snags here. The phase that we're in right now is this is happening in real-time. Right now, the Rules Committee in the House is meeting. Essentially, they are trying to cobble together a deal and a proposal that they can get 218 votes in the House to pass this through potentially as early as today and send it over to the Senate.

Now the mood among Republican aides up here on Capitol Hill is that yes, this is moving in the right direction but they're not there yet. There is a whole plethora of issues still outstanding, many members making very specific demands over the children's health insurance extension, FISA program extension, how much money is included for defense spending, disaster aid, of course, a particular top concern for those delegations from Florida and Texas.

So, what the deal is, what exactly will be included still not clear at this hour, what they're working for and working to. We will see the House Republican and the Senate Republican leadership at a ceremony this hour celebrating tax reform.

That important this week because that's their big victory. Aides will tell you they don't want anything to stomp on that victory, to take away from that victory, so the appetite here very low to head towards a shutdown at midnight of Friday night.

That said, they are still getting the deal together and getting a deal most importantly that can pass in the House to send it over to the Senate -- Erica.

HILL: Sunlen Serfaty, thank you.

[11:10:11] We'll have much more on that shutdown showdown just ahead. Right now, the deputy director of the FBI getting grilled by lawmakers behind closed doors amid allegations that the department is biased against the president. New reaction from Capitol Hill. Stay with us.


HILL: The breaking news, Congress facing a deadline to make a deal and pass a spending bill to keep the government open. Midnight Friday is when the government runs out of money. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moments ago on the Senate floor saying he is ready to vote on a bill as soon as one originates in the House.

I want to bring in CNN national politics reporter, M.J. Lee, CNN political director, David Chalian, and CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg. Good to have all of you here.

[11:15:11] So, McConnell says they're ready to vote. They need something to vote on. We're hearing from a lot of folks they're going to get there, but David, exactly how they plan to get there, that is not clear.

Obviously, both can't be true. So, do we even know, David, at this point what the sticking points are?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, we certainly know some of the sticking points. Certainly, the extension of the children's health insurance program is expected to be included for a short-term extension through March. That has been a sticking point around this.

It seems that they're getting ready to deal with the hurricane relief aid separately, so that was part of the conversation initially. And then, of course, the real sticking point here is the whip count.

It's trying to figure out how many votes of Democrats they might need, if they are going to bleed some Republican votes. This is why I think you haven't seen an actual schedule for a vote to occur yet because they don't have those votes lined up -- Erica.

HILL: And of course, a lot of that figuring out which votes they need to determine where they really need to do the work in terms of putting this together, a number of promises were made to get tax reform done, as we know. Hours after that vote we know Susan Collins was promised Obamacare subsidies, but Rebecca, today we are hearing that's not going to happen. Did Senator Collins get played here?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, looks like no, Erica, and that is, at least, what she is saying and telling all of us. She put out a statement yesterday, Senator Lamar Alexander, who is the chairman of the committee that has been addressing and working on this issue for her, and they say this is going happen now probably closer to Valentine's Day.

They were hoping they could get it done as part of this funding measure that the House and Senate are looking to pass shortly, but unfortunately, because it's now going to be a short-term funding measure, they say they want to wait until they're looking at a long- term funding measure.

So, she says that she's received assurances from Paul Ryan, from Mitch McConnell, that this is going to get done eventually. It's not a great situation if you're Susan Collins, but she is saying that this is going to happen eventually, and she has leadership assurances as well.

HILL: David, just very quickly, does that hurt her?

CHALIAN: Well, if she doesn't get this done, it could potentially damage her reputation as sort of delivering on the things that she has said are her priorities. But if, indeed, as Rebecca is indicating what we're hearing from her office and Senator Alexander's office and from the leadership that this is going to get done, she'll be able to tout it. So, we'll have to see what the outcome here's before we can assess whether or not it actually hurts Susan Collins.

HILL: As David mentioned it looks like now a CHIP extension could be a part of this resolution, but at the same time, M.J., as we're looking at this, there's been strong support on both sides to deal with CHIP to get this funded.

It doesn't look good and plenty of people have stood up and said, hey, let's do something about it. Why are we at this point to try to do something about it? Is it simply that everything else was a higher priority?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: I think that's part of it. I mean, obviously, you look at what the Republican Party's legislative priorities have been so far this year. First, they tried to do health care. That didn't go very well and then they tackled the big issue of tax reform and that was a huge victory.

I think a part of and a big part of what is motivating Republicans right now is simply the fact that there is a looming deadline and also that they want to drag out and prolong sort of this mood of celebration from yesterday for as long as possible.

The worst-case scenario purely in terms of optics for the Republicans is that they have the celebration yesterday and that becomes short lived because now there is this sense that Republicans are bickering over how to fund the government and policy issues.

And if there is a government shutdown, I think Republicans are very, very aware of how badly that looks for them at a moment when they really, really want to, you know, really broadcast to the American people and voters we were actually able to get something done for once.

HILL: They want to continue to ride that wave. We can't ignore the effusive praise we saw yesterday after this was passed, celebrating tax reform. Just take a listen.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: Something this big, something this generational, something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership, Mr. President, thank you for getting us over the finish line.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: It's been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Look at the things he's been able to get done, by sheer will in many ways.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here. Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of leadership in the Congress of the United States, you're delivering on that middle-class miracle.


HILL: There is no denying this is a big win for the president, for Republicans. David, that is a level, though, of praise that we have not seen with past leaders?

CHALIAN: Yes. It's as if everybody has read the playbook on how to appeal to Donald Trump, at least his fellow Republicans.

[11:20:02] They clearly are putting these superlative words together about his leadership in a way to curry favor with him and make him feel even better about this victory.

We know from the past Donald Trump certainly likes to be praised and has demanded loyalty, we have heard, as well, but this is -- I mean, the rhetoric just doesn't match the reality.

I mean, to talk about exquisite leadership and, you know, just extraordinary accomplishments, that has not been the story of 2017 and the Trump administration.

HILL: You mentioned not just the playbook, but there seems to be a vocabulary list in some ways as well too. M.J., the president also said repeatedly yesterday that this tax reform bill essentially repeals Obamacare. That is not true. It gets rid of the individual mandate. What does this say about Obamacare here? LEE: So, it does get rid of the individual mandate and to be fair this is a part of the health care law that has been largely unpopular and, obviously, something that Republicans hope to address when they were trying to do a bigger repealing of Obamacare bill earlier this year.

I think what it comes down to is that it allows Republicans to say yes, we had a big win on tax reform and by the way take a look at this. We were also able to address a key piece of Obamacare. I think that is a fair thing for them to be able to say.

You were talking about, though, with Susan Collins the fact that she was trying so hard to get this provision into the spending bill to fund Obamacare subsidies, that is going to be a battle that is going to continue to play out in the new year.

This is a really, really big priority for them and you saw how much House conservatives bristled at that plan and made it clear there is no way we're going to support that.

HILL: Right. Rebecca, before we let you go, what do you think? Next 36 hours, what will we see?

BERG: It's going to be dramatic. I mean, there's a possibility that we see Republicans approve a short-term spending measure that gets us to January. There I think is a pretty equal possibility that we see Republicans and Democrats, lawmakers, stuck here over Christmas trying to figure this out. So, it really could go either way for Republican leaders at this point.

HILL: Rebecca Berg, David Chalian, M.J. Lee, appreciate it. Thank you all.

Any moment now the top Republicans in the House and Senate, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, holding a big event on Capitol Hill to tout that new tax bill. Stay with us.

Plus, the United Nations General Assembly preparing to pass a resolution to condemning President Trump's policy on Jerusalem. It will come in the face of threats from the president and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, saying the U.S. will remember being singled out in this vote. The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations joins us next.



HILL: A live look for you at the United Nations. The General Assembly preparing to pass a resolution condemning President Trump's new policy on Jerusalem. It comes in the face of threats from the president and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, saying the U.S. will remember being singled out in this vote.

Joining me now is Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon. Good to have you with us, sir. AMBASSADOR DANNY DANON, MEMBER OF ISRAEL'S LIKUD PARTY: Good morning, Erica.

HILL: I know that the resolution and you know as well, is not expected to pass here, rather is in favor, but you said, I'm quoting you here, "many countries will follow us," this is exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, in recognizing Jerusalem, only the Czech Republic this far has followed the U.S. Why do you believe others will and have any given you that assurance?

DANON: Well, you know, in the U.N. we know that we have the public U.N. and the private U.N. So, publicly the majority condemn the U.S., condemn Israel, Israel bashing, we're used to it in the U.N., but quietly we speak with many countries that will follow the U.S.

I think it will not happen immediately because now we can have the vote in a few minutes, but I think those countries will follow the U.S. and eventually would move their embassies to Jerusalem.

The same happened in 1948 when President Truman was the first one to recognize Israel, people threatened him that it is a mistake, but eventually it was a strong decision, a brave decision and look what happened after 70 years, we have a strong democracy, in a hostile area.

HILL: You say eventually you believe it will happen. What do you think it is that will be the impetus?

DANON: Well, I think that we saw the Palestinians trying to take advantage of this decision to avoid renegotiations. President Trump is committed to be involved with the peace process and for the Palestinians it's a problem because they always run away from the negotiations.

I think now they will try to come and say we cannot engage because of these declaration, but we speak with some other countries in the region. We are willing to negotiate with the Palestinians.

This is the only way to move forward with peace, not coming to the U.N. and passing shameful resolutions like the one that will pass in a few minutes.

HILL: To your point about the negotiation, as you know, this is looked at in many ways as a major hurdle to the peace process and in taking a major negotiating point off the table before it even begins?

DANON: I think that is the opposite. I think it will ignite the process. Look what happened in the last 20 years. How many missions, how many came to Jerusalem and nothing happened.

I think now the Palestinians understand that the president is serious about the peace process and an issue we need to move on. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, it has been the capital of Israel since the day of King David 3,000 years ago.

So, let's negotiate that. I don't think they really want to negotiate and that's why they will focus on this issue and it's not for the first time. In the year 2000, Prime Minister Barack (ph) offered them a state, offered to compromise them in Jerusalem and they were not willing to move forward.