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41 Killed in Clashes as U.S. Opens Embassy in Jerusalem; WSJ: Cohen Tried and Failed to Get Uber to Buy Access to Trump; Source: WH Aide Promised McCain's Daughter a Public Apology. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 10:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. Pacific. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

We begin with our breaking news this hour, an explosion of deadly violence at the Israel, Gaza border as the U.S. formally moves the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. You see Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu who's speaking there live on one side of your screen. And the violence that has taken 41 lives in nearby Gaza on the other side, quite a juxtaposition.

This is what is taking place right now. You see the violence that has broken out there, right on the border. Palestinians and their allies consider the U.S. embassy move an outrage. Legitimizing what they consider Israeli occupation for his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today called this an amazing and emotional day.

Let's go to our Elise Labott. She is inside of the U.S. embassy. Also Jeff Zeleny is at the White House and our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour is with us as well. Ian Lee joins us from Gaza.

And Ian, let me just go to you first. The updated number we're getting is hundreds wounded 41 dead in Gaza. Is that correct?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that makes the deadliest day since these past seven weeks of protests leading up to today. This is also the deadliest day since the 2014 war here in Gaza. And we have seen why. All up and down this border we have seen clashes between protesters and the Israeli army. At times the protesters pushing very close to that border fence. They tell us that they want to go across. Return to lands that they say they lost in the 1948 war.

Israel for its part says that is a red line. They're using tear gas to try to keep people away and if that doesn't work they're using live rounds and that's why we're seeing such a high death toll. This is the largest number of people that we have seen at these protests.

And I'm just at one camp. Camps like this are up and down this Gaza/Israel border. And you can tell where they are, because there are huge columns of thick black smoke that we have seen where they light tires on fire to obscure the site of Israeli snipers. And at times we have seen actual drones flying over the camps and dropping tear gas down and then people in the camps shooting up, trying to knock those drones out of the sky. But one thing we also saw today is two air strikes in the northern part of the Gaza strip. The Israeli military saying that they're going after terror activity but that just shows you, with the large numbers we have seen, and the tensions, it is just a recipe for this very deadly day.

HARLOW: Ian Lee joining us on the Israel Israel/Gaza border. Thank you very much.

Let's go to Elise Labott. She's inside of the U.S. consulate complex. It is serving as the temporary home for the relocated U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Elise, what was your take away thus far what we heard from Jared Kushner just now.

ELISE LABOTT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, Jared Kushner not only is the president's son-in-law and someone who is traveling throughout the region, trying to formulate a peace plan that will eventually they'll lay out in the coming weeks. But it is really hampered by this decision by the president, the president is saying that this will advance peace, what the U.S. officials are saying is that this will strengthen Israel's confidence to make those decisions. They're going to leverage the give that they gave to Israel in terms of the embassy to then get some, you know, goodies for the Palestinians in a deal. But that's going to be incredibly hurtful to the Palestinians and incredibly difficult, Poppy, and I think what you're hearing today is a real solidification of the U.S./Israel bond.

Prime Minister Netanyahu just said there is no better friend to the U.S., to Israel than the United States. And when he says that, he means President Trump. Because he did not think that President Obama was a friend of Israel, not only because of the Jerusalem issue, there is support for the Palestinians, but also for the Iran deal. President Trump pulled out of the Iran deal last week, citing Prime Minister Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu has had a very good week. And that is in large part because of the actions of President Trump, Poppy.

HARLOW: Elise Labott, you cannot overstate how close these two leaders are. Thank you very much for reporting for us just inside of the ceremony.

We just heard from President Trump. He prerecorded a message that was played at the embassy opening just moments ago. And he said this opening was a long time coming, this move to Jerusalem. Jeff Zeleny joins us at the White House. You know, this does, though, Jeff, isolate America in terms of where it stands on this decision with its allies. You just heard -


HARLOW: -- spokesperson for Prime Minister May of the UK saying we disagree with this.

ZELENY: It does indeed, Poppy. And the president was watching and is watching all of this from the residence of the White House, I'm told, this morning, watching his prerecorded message and certainly his son- in-law speaking. And this does make good on a promise that he made when he was running for president, but it makes the second promise much more difficult to achieve peace in the Middle East. But this is what the president said just a few moments ago in that recorded message.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace. And we extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians, and to all of their neighbors. May there be peace. May God bless this embassy.


ZELENY: But no question it makes it more difficult for that to happen. What the president and his son-in-law did not say is that since December 6th of 2017, the Palestinians have cut off contact and communication with the White House. So, of course, it makes the peace process so much more difficult there. But the president is watching this. We'll see if the White House unveils its peace plan at some point. But again, it makes it so much more of a challenge, Poppy.

HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Thank you.

Christiane Amanpour is back with me, our chief international correspondent. Also joining us is Samantha Vinograd. She is a national security analyst and she worked on national security issues under the Obama administration.

Christiane, to you, Jared Kushner calls this a new day for Israel. It is indeed. It is also a day that Palestinians see as unjust, this move. And he struck me when he said the journey to peace started with the strong America, continuing the administration's line that this move of the embassy makes a peace deal more possible. How do you see it?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Poppy, I've been covering the Middle East peace process since 1991 when then Republican President George H.W. Bush convened all the leaders at what was then called the Madrid Peace process, the conference in Madrid. And that led inalterably through the Oslo peace process under President Clinton, and then continuing to a set of parameters. The set of parameters has been established since about that time, which calls for a very clear two-state solution. Even President Trump says he still supports a two-state solution.

The central aspect of that is that Jerusalem, which is the most contentious as we have all been discussing, should be decided by both parties. And what happened today appears to remove Jerusalem in the words of the administration from the table, and put Jerusalem squarely in the side of one group.

Now, of course, it is the capital of Israel. But, of course, the Palestinians claim a little bit as their capital as well. -

HARLOW: Right -

AMANPOUR: So we -- Jerusalem to be shared. So, we do not know what is going to happen and what kind of peace process is going to -- or peace plan is going to be unveiled by Jared Kushner and the administration in the coming days. Some British reports say that, you know, they'll offer this run downtown outside of Jerusalem, called Abu Dis, to the Palestinians as their capital, it is unlikely that they'll accept that.

But I think what today is about, rather than looking to the past, is about the, again, very clear demonstration of a President Trump foreign policy, which is basically a go it alone unilateral foreign policy with a very few select allies on different points. The majority of his allies don't agree with what happened today, and that is basically summed up in the fact that almost none of them went to the diplomatic unveiling or to the reception that was given for it and they're complaining about it in public as well.

So, this goes against the U.N., goes against the resolutions, it goes against the international consensus, and it goes against U.S. policy for the past 70 years. And finally, to say, that these three leaders could make a deal, President Trump who wants the deal of the century, Bibi Netanyahu who has the power and the calm now in Israel to create a deal, and Abu Mazen, the leader of the Palestinians -

HARLOW: Right.

AMANPOUR: -- who is the only Palestinian leader who believes in a diplomatic negotiated settlement. But if you disempower Abu Mazen, it's going to be very difficult to see how this can actually happen. And I think that's what we're all going to be watching and waiting for coming going forward.

HARLOW: Samantha, adding on to what Christiane just laid out, you worked in the Obama administration, you worked with Daniel Shapiro, who is the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration, who has a new op-ed on today arguing in favor of this move, a move that the president chose not to do, President Obama. He says this could help facilitate the peace process. How do you see it?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I have deep respect for Ambassador Shapiro. We worked closely together. But I disagree with him at least in the short-term. I think that it is very hard to see a short-term path to peace when we have completely put the ball in Israel's court at this point.

[10:10:04] And I think we have to keep in mind that Abu Mazen has domestic political considerations that are going to come into effect when he has to think about whether or not to re-enter negotiations with the state of Israel. At least in the short-term, the issue that is perhaps most important to his base, not Donald Trump's base, his base, the status of Jerusalem has been taken away from him. So, you have to just think about logically speaking how he could go back, domestically, speak to his people and say, OK, now I'm going to go and negotiate. And this is a historic day for the state of Israel, it's a historic day for the Jewish people, but I do think it reflects a prioritization national security wise for this White House that the Middle East peace process was not the number one issue on the agenda, again, at least in the short-term.

HARLOW: Elise Labott joining us in this conversation as well, since you were there, and you've been covering this in depth as well. Look, Jared Kushner did not talk about a short-term solution here. He talked about the road being long, and not an easy road at least ahead. Christiane laid out some of the reporting that has been out there about what may be on the table for a potential Middle East peace deal in terms of the territory that would be granted as the Palestinian capital, if you will. What was your take away in how Jared Kushner laid it out?

LABOTT: Well, I think what was more interesting was what President Trump tried to do. And I mean, I think it is a little bit difficult when you see this kind of love fest between the U.S. and Israel, between President Trump, Jared Kushner and Prime Minister Netanyahu. But what President Trump said is the U.S. still believes in the status quo of the holy site. So that's the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif and the old city.

I mean, it sounds like something small, but I think it is significant because even when he acknowledged that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, he also said that the U.S. did not prejudice the final status of the complete municipality. So, yes, there are some reports that the U.S. is going to offer this town Abu Dis outside of Jerusalem as the capital. We really don't know right now.

U.S. officials have said after President Trump made this decision, look, this is the first step, obviously. It is not what the Palestinians want. But you don't know what the Palestinians are going to be offered in this deal that we're going to make Israel make painful compromises. Jarred Kushner is about to unveil this plan in the coming weeks and I think we just have to see what he offers, until then we'll know how this is going to shake out. And I just spoke to the Palestinian representative, Husam Zomlot, yesterday and I said, you know, how can we -- how can the U.S. go forward now? He said, we'll take a look at the peace plan and then we'll decide.

HARLOW: Elise, thank you. Stay with us. So people know who we're listening to right now. This is Pastor Hagee who's delivering a closing blessing.

And Christiane, to you, the president, President Trump chose two pastors to speak, one at the beginning, Pastor Jeffress and Pastor Hagee, incredibly controversial for things that they have said. This pastor -- now you have David Freeman back up there. But this pastor has said incredibly controversial things in the '90s about Hitler and the remarks that he has made about Jews returning to Israel as a result. What do you make of the choice of the pastors that the president made?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, he's very controversial, but he's also very evangelical. If there is one very, very strong American base for all of this, it is the Evangelical Christians. And of course, Vice President Mike Pence is one of them. And I have interviewed Pastor Hagee. He's amazing how I get around. I interviewed him in about 2007. And he informed me at that time that the Book of Genesis was where God showed up first as having a view on Israel's foreign policy. God's foreign policy was about Israel.

And so this is where we start. You know, it is all part of the millennium sort of beliefs and what happens, end of worlds and all the rest of it. But, again, I think that it is really important to know whether this imposition of now United States mandate on the area precludes two-state solution and ends up being a one-state solution and that has no good consequences for Israel because it is either one state, under Palestinian demographic dominance or it is a one state under Israeli dominance of the Palestinians, second class citizens. So, it is a very difficult to know where this lane is going to lead now.

HARLOW: Christiane Amanpour, thank you. Samantha Vinograd, Elise Labott, appreciate it all. Thank you very, very much.

We have a lot ahead this hour. New reporting that President Trump's personal attorney tried and tried and tried but failed to try to consult for Uber and used his relationship with the president to woo the company.

[10:15:02] Plus, after sanctions issued by the Trump administration hurt a big Chinese tech company, the president now swooping in to try to save that company and Chinese jobs. Why?

And more on that volcano in Hawaii, another eruption could be imminent. We'll take you there live.


HARLOW: New reporting this morning. President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen was turned down by Uber and Ford motor company after he pitched himself again and again as a way to get to the president. According to "Wall Street Journal," Cohen boasted to both companies that he was the president's lawyer, who had the, quote, "best relationship with him on the outside."

MJ Lee joins us with more. Look, last week was all about learning about the companies that accepted Michael Cohen's bid to do their bidding to the president. But these are companies that rejected him. What do you know?

[10:20:03] MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. You know, we have been talking so much about how Michael Cohen tried to make money for himself after the election. And it turns out not all of those efforts were actually successful. According to the "Wall Street Journal," as you said, Poppy, both Uber and Ford were companies that turned town Michael Cohen's effort to try to set a business consulting deals. And the back story behind Uber and how that conversation went is actually kind of interesting. According to the "Journal," when Michael Cohen pitched himself to this company, Uber raised the question about the fact that Michael Cohen is very heavily involved in the New York taxi medallion business and this gives you a sense of how aggressive Michael Cohen was, in that he persisted and he reportedly went back to Uber and said, you know what, even though those might be conflicts of interest, you should still hire me because I am a lawyer who is very close to the president.

Now, the other side of this story, of course, is that we are seeing companies who did accept Michael Cohen's overtures, they are now showing a little bit of buyer's remorse, companies like AT&T, and the pharmaceutical company Novartis last week. Both of them put out the statements essentially apologizing to employees and to the public saying we should have vetted this person and we should have never entered into contracts with these -- with this person who is the president's personal lawyer.

Now, the problem for these companies isn't just optics or PR either. As you know, Poppy, Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating potential collusion in the 2016 election, we now know that Robert Mueller's team also interviewed companies like AT&T and Novartis, all of this as Michael Cohen himself is under criminal investigation in New York. Poppy?

HARLOW: MJ Lee, thank you for all the latest headlines, the story just keeps getting odder and odder.

Let's bring in our CNN political commentators Joe Trippi and Doug Heye. Never thought I would be sitting here talking, Doug, about the president's personal lawyer pitching himself to Uber. Nevermind the conflict of interest. Given that he owned all this New York City taxi medallions. But it's just -- it is a bad look, but, Doug, as a Republican strategist, I wonder if you think it is bad for the president other than looking pretty swampy.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Aside from the fact that it looks the swampiest of the swamp, I don't think so at all and it really reflects - I think if you go back a year, a year and a half ago, when Trump -- after Trump won, in the time when he was being inaugurated and just after that, the uncertainty around Washington over what this administration was going to do, and what it meant was higher than it has ever been. And we certainly saw whether it is Michael Cohen, certainly Corey Lewandowski has been very effective or aggressive on trying to nail down business, this is what people were doing.

But I would tell you, any lobbyist with any connection to the Trump campaign was touting those connections. They did it to their benefit in every single person is a registered lobbyist that I've spoken to has told me how great the Trump administration has been for their business. This uncertainty has created more business, higher retainers, retainers that are extended, the swamp hasn't been drained at all. It's only gotten swampier. No better example of that than the Trump hotel.

HARLOW: Important technicality, he has, you know, I think - important technicality, he - you know, Cohen not registered as a lobbyist here. So, that complicates things also. Go ahead, Joe.

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Poppy, that's what I was going to say. I mean, I agree with Doug, the swamp just got swampier and lobbyists are you know -- making a lot of hay out of the Trump administration. But most of the lobbyists register as lobbyists and don't have dinner at Mar-a-Lago with the president of the United States. When they have these contracts and have not registered as a lobbyist. So, I think there are a lot of questions here, you know. And it is clearly not draining the swamp on the behalf of this president, he's not doing that. It is getting worse.

HARLOW: Doug, to you, on the fallout over the comments that the White House aide Kelly Sadler made, incredibly insensitive to say about anyone, said just discussing a repulsive about sitting U.S. Senator who is dying of brain cancer, saying, well, he's dying anyways when they weren't going to get his vote on Gina Haspel, the CIA nominee.

Our Jake Tapper reports that in that conversation that she had apologizing to Meghan McCain, the senator's daughter. She said she would publicly apologize. The White House has not done any such thing. She has not publicly apologized, this White House has not publicly apologized. Is that acceptable?

HEYE: No, but it is also the reality of where we are. Apologizing is not in this president's DNA, which means it's not in this White House's DNA. And the problem for the White House is if they were to apologize, which I think would be the right thing to do, well, then they have to apologize for everything. And every other time we talk, Poppy, it is about some other self-created outrage du jour that comes from this administration. They would be doing nothing but apologizing. And I think it should happen time and time again.

HARLOW: Joe, let me get your take on this. The White House seems to be making this an issue about leaks, OK?

[10:25:02] Not an issue about the completely inappropriate and insensitive remark that was made by a White House staffer paid for -- salaries paid for by the U.S. taxpayers. They're making it about leaks. That Sarah Sanders is incredibly upset with her team. That there was this leak.

Here is how Axios put it, because Axios had a fascinating conversation with - about you know -- about the leaks with some leakers. And here is what one White House official said, quote, "It probably falls into a couple of categories, the first is personal vendettas, and two is to make sure there is an accurate record of what is really going on in the White House." The significance of that, that someone inside the White House said that's why there are these leaks.

TRIPPI: I think it gets more down to the factions in the White House and sort of, you know, avenging each other and going after each other. Anytime you have this kind of division and factions in any political organization, there are massive leaks. And on top of that, we have had leaked reports that the president encouraged it, encouraged one staffer to go after another or to out another. So -- or when he turns on somebody like Kelly for a while, he actually encourages hits from staff on Kelly and then he changes his mind. But a lot of this comes from the top and that's a big problem. It's not going to get solved. Sarah Sanders not going to be able to solve this in a staff meeting in which immediately afterwards factions against her are going to leak. That's how this White House works.

HARLOW: Doug, let me get your take on the president and the weekend stepping in and telling his Commerce Department Wilbur Ross to help this big Chinese tech company, ZTE, stay in business. This is after bans from the Commerce Department nearly put it out of business because it broke an agreement about doing business with Iran, with North Korea, et cetera. It does business with a lot of American companies. That's what complicates things here.

The president says he's working to try to help save the company, to come to some sort of agreement. You've got a number of members of Congress speaking out about this. Marco Rubio, a Republican, tweeting problem with ZTE isn't jobs and trade, it is national security and espionage. He went on to say, we're crazy to allow them to operate in the U.S. without tighter restrictions. There is a 2012 congressional report warning of the risks of ZTE to American national security and cybersecurity. Why do you think the president is trying to help save the company?

I don't know. There certainly seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise, which is why you're seeing HEYE: The honest answer Poppy is I don't know. They certainly seem to catch a lot of people by surprise, Republicans and Democrats, which is why you're seeing the pushback on it. I think we're going to learn a lot more about this. I think we need to learn a lot more about this. This caught a lot of people by surprise and there don't seem to be any easy or good answers here.

HARLOW: I will say, though, Joe, just to really put all the facts out there. This is a company, ZTE that does a lot of business with important American companies, like Qualcomm, like Intel, for their chips. They buy parts from smaller American companies too for their telecom equipment. So, could the argument be made, look, this is hurting American companies as well if ZTE folds.

TRIPPI: Well, it may be hurting American companies. Doug put his finger on it, sort of Senator Marco. The problem here is national security. When a company like ZTE in China can put malware into their phones, whether they're buying American parts or not, that shows up here. And it can be used to spy and to surveil not just American citizens, but within the headquarters of other American companies, steel companies, company's secrets, those kinds of things. These are the kinds of things that Donald Trump as a candidate campaigned strongly against and said he would do something. And now he's turned full circle and wants to enable it. There is definitely something wrong here.

HARLOW: Joe Trippi, Doug Heye, appreciate it. Thank you, guys, both, very much.

HEYE: Thank you. HARLOW: All right. Ahead to Hawaii, more residents there told to evacuate. This is as officials warn that what they're calling an explosive eruption could happen anytime. We're going to bring you the latest from the big island next.