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Melania Trump In Walter Reed for Surgery; Dozens Killed in Protests as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem; Aide's Vulgar Remark About McCain To Be Dealt with Internally; "America First" Trump Is Working to Save Jobs in China. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We have some breaking news, the first lady, we just learned moments ago, has undergone kidney surgery at Walter Reid Medical Center, just outside of Washington, D.C., according to the White House, she had a surgical procedure for a benign kidney condition. There's still a lot of information we don't know, but we're told she'll be recovering the rest of the week at Walter Reid Medical center. I want to go ahead and bring in Kate Bennett and Kaitlan Collins standing by for us. Kaitlan is at the White House. Kate Bennett covers every move of Melania Trump. I understand you have more news?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it appears that the president is on his way shortly to visit the first lady in the hospital, this is per her communications director. Clearly this has been a long and stressful day for the first family, the first lady having a surgery. I would imagine the president and Kaitlan can speak to this as well, his movements create more of a hubbub, there's a press pool that has to go with him. Knowing he first lady and covering her, knowing how private the first lady is, how few details she reveals about her private life, how few speaking engagements, knowing the way she operates and the way her staff operates, I would imagine this was a predetermined decision to have the president not go to Walter Reed and be there during the surgery today. I wouldn't read too much into the tea leaves why he wasn't there. I'm sure he will be there as soon as he can.

KEILAR: Just a few moments ago, this was actually a similar protocol with past presidents. In order to preserve privacy, and sort of not talking about this until a procedure or surgery is completed. That's how it has been done in the past as well. Kaitlan, you would not have known -- this came as a tremendous surprise to us, because we have seen Melania Trump very active recently, no hint that she was dealing with any health trials or tribulations, and then we had no idea she had gone to Walter Reed today. Especially if you're looking at how the president has been busy.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We have seen more of her in the last several weeks. It was clear the president did not go visit her today yet. When the president does go, he has to take a traveling group of reporters with limb, called the pool, to follow his movements. Even something like going to Walter Reed of course today we know the president was in the residence part of the White House watching the ceremony of the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, where he sent his daughter and Jared Kushner, the president had a teleconference video -- he was in the White House watching that as all of that went on, he had an intelligence briefing around 11:00, and lunch with Mike Pence, the president has been here at the White House all day, to the best of our knowledge, but of course as Kate said, we expect the president to go visit the first lady, according to the statement from her communications office, she's going to be spending the rest of the week there recovering. It would be unusual if we did not see the president go visit her. Where the president was not too long ago, where he was getting his physical. We expect him to go there, but he has not gone to visit the first lady yet. Of course, this breaking news coming just a few moments ago. Kate, I mean Brianna, excuse me.

KEILAR: No worries we have a lot of Kates on the show today. Sanjay Gupta, I want to bring you in to talk about this, I know when it comes to your medical perspective on this, there are unanswered questions for sure. This is a benign kidney condition. The first thing that would jump to your mind would be a kidney cist, and yet is that is generally not something that would be treated in a way that would require surgery, it might require a more minor procedure, but not a surgery that would require the week to recover from.

[15:35:00] SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and on top of that, it typically is not something that's treated by an embolization procedure. It sounds like she had an embolization procedure. Some could consider that will need surgery. It's not really an open surgery. It's using catheters that are put into the area of the blood vessels. We know it was done for a benign condition. There are certain benign tumors that may be treated this way. These are the kind of tumors you worry they could bleed, because they have a lot of blood vessels in them. One of the ways to treat them is to embolize them, to block the blood flow to that part of the kidney. Did she have surgery as was it this embolization procedure alone? She's going to be several days in the hospital, is that just because of an abundance of caution, or is there something else that went on? Finally, what was it that was -- that she had operated today. Benign condition is all we know. Typically, most people would think it was a cist. This no longer sounds like a cist because of the way it was treated and how long her recovery is going to be.

KEILAR: The first lady undergoing kidney surgery. She will be spending days at the Walter Reed Medical Center.

The deadliest day in Gaza since the 2016 war with Israel. Dozens have been killed as they protest the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. We're going to speak to an envoy about what this means for the peace process.


KEILAR: We're back with our breaking news, the historic opening of a new U.S. embassy and America's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is a move contested by Palestinians and many in the Arab world. Thousands of protesters rally at the Gaza border. At least 55 people have been killed. This scene you are seeing play out miles away from where the president's daughter and son in law stood for the official opening. A video message from the president playing at that ceremony.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Yet for many years, we failed to acknowledge the obvious, the plain reality that Israel's capital is Jerusalem.


KEILAR: The opening of this embassy giving us a rare look at how presidential advisor Jared Kushner operates on the world stage.


JARED KUSHNER, SON-LAW OF THE PRESIDENT: We believe it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give, so all people can live in peace. Safe from danger. And able to pursue their dreams. J


KEILAR: Joining me now, George Mitchell. He served as U.S. special envoy to the Middle East from 2009 to 2011. When you watch this today, and you're watching Jared Kushner as the messenger, did you -- what did you think about his message? Did you think he was the appropriate bearer of the message today?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST: Well, short clip you just played of his message was the right one that -- the only way forward for both societies is a peaceful resolution, that provides security for the people of Israel. And a state for the Palestinians. That's been American policy for a long time. Articulated clearly in Jerusalem itself by former President George W. Bush when he was there. I don't know what the rest of his remarks were, I only heard the short clip you played. I hope that on a day of such different recollections in the two societies, that there is a recognition by all concerned including the United States that the only answer is a two- state solution in which the people can live side by side in peace.

KEILAR: The former ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro was on the show a short time ago, he said, that actually this was the right move, but he thought it should have been part of a bigger, more comprehensive approach to peace in the Middle East.

[15:45:00] But ultimately, he said the administration has been saddled with leaders on both sides who can't broker the peace. What do you think about that assessment?

MITCHELL: Well, I know Dan very well and have great respect for him. He served in the administration at the same time I did. My view is that there's no doubt Jerusalem has been, is and will be the capitol of Israel. Even the Arabs recognize that clearly. The only question is whether East Jerusalem will be the capital of an independent sovereign, nonmilitarized Palestinian state. I think the president's decision to reverse decades of American policy and predetermine the issue in a legal sense and predetermine the issue in a legal sense doesn't help the prospects of getting the parties together for a negotiated settlement that will produce a two-state solution. In a sense, it is an obstacle in the way of President Trump's own stated policy, of coming up with a plan that will bring the parties together in an agreement for a two-state solution. And my hope is that.

I'll say one other thing, Dan Shapiro has made the point and many others have made, that there will be a capitol of Israel in Jerusalem, and there should be a capital of a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem. Unfortunately, when the president announced this he said it takes Jerusalem off the table. I think most people understand that to mean the issue has been resolved. That can't be the case. There can't possibly be a peace between Israelis and Palestinians if Israel has Jerusalem as its capital. And that takes the issue off the table, there has to be recognition of a Palestinian state and a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.

KEILAR: George Mitchell, we appreciate your time today, sir.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

KEILAR: Moments ago, the White House acknowledged one of its aides made a heartless joke about Senator McCain, but it will not comment about the public apology that was promised to McCain's daughter. Kelly Sadler was dismissing the president's opposition to the CIA pick. He's dying anyway. When it happened last week, the White House would not confirm that it had happened. That changed today, the White House said it would not release any further details.

Joining me now CNN political commentators Tara Setmayer and Mary Katharine Hamm with us. You saw the briefing, and Raj Shah over and over again said this is an internal matter. He basically said anyone should be able to talk at a meeting at work and that should not be public. Challenged by a reporter, where would it be appropriate for this to be discussed? What did you think, Tara, about just over and over he said, we are dealing with this internally?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Total cop out. And this story has gone on for days now, because of the mismanagement of it by the White House. The comment was disgusting, Kelly Sadler allegedly apologized directly to Meghan McCain. The White House should have come out if they haven't fired her. Which is what I thought should have been done. Since they didn't seem to think that was a necessary move. At least a public condemnation of it and showing respect to john McCain and his family that's the least they could have done. We already know the reason why they are so receipt sent to issue a public apology is because it would be a rebuke of the president himself who has made terrible, terribly disparaging comments about john McCain over the years, continues to do so and has never apologized for it.

That's the bottom line.

KEILAR: It's a very good point. How do you say, Mary Katharine, that -- in any -- so in any other administration, we should be clear, likely this person would be gone?


KEILAR: But in this administration, how could you say, well, we got rid of that person, and yet the president disparaged this guy's service record without an apology and it's fine for him to do.

HAMM: Yes, there's not exactly a message from the top, that this is not going to be acceptable behavior. The thing that strikes me about this, so many things that don't have to be hard are hard for this White House.

[15:50:00] It's not hard to separate disagreements on policy with John McCain which I admit I have had many from wishing them well in his battle with cancer. It's not hard to do. It's not hard if you don't do that to just say, I was in a bad place, this does not reflect on who I am as a person. I wish to publicly apologize. Which is what you should wish to do if you are found in that situation.

KEILAR: No, but she did wish to do that.

HAMM: I actually would not be surprised. They have this bunker mentality, they shut down, they do not want to admit wrong, and play it out over and over again for many days, at a time where they have had a promise kept by Trump in Jerusalem, that has pageantry and all this stuff people they could be talking about.

KEILAR: I want to ask you guys now about ZTE which a lot of people would say what is that? They make among other things cell phones and modems and they're a Chinese company and they actually -- what is amazing -- and this is what came up in the briefing over and over, as Trump has taken on China when it comes to what the White House said are unfair trade practices, intellectual property violations, also P.S., this is a company that took some of the products that were made with the U.S. parts and, they sold them to Iran and North Korea.

Not OK, right. So, they get dinged for a long period of time. They're a huge company in China. But then it turns out the president is directing the commerce secretary to try to find a way around this. It seems as a bit of a favor to Xi Jinping the Chinese leader. Why is this an issue? In the early part of May, the DOD actually said on U.S. military bases we are not selling the products. It's a national security issue. They said it may pose an unacceptable risk to the department's personnel and mission. Mary Katharine, what do you make of this, as they said over and over, this is the part of the complex relationship with China.

HAMM: It is part of the complex relationship with China, then perhaps it should not be broadcast in the tweet. But that is not how we do things here. I'm concerned about. A, any security issues with a Chinese telecom company. Two, it is off brand for the president to talk about Chinese jobs versus American jobs. A weird messaging thing.


HAMM: I'm not confident that he's gone through all of the thought on the security issues here. But then the other part which is often we've seen policy declared via tweet that doesn't end up being the policy because the folks put it into place go hold on a second on that.

KEILAR: Real quick thought.

SETMAYER: When I was a staffer in Congress, the congressman I worked for was very involved in these kinds of issues and with China and technology and stealing the property and national security issues and cybersecurity and ZTE is one of the kind of companies we have to be very careful with. This is going on for many years. Back in 2012 when I worked in Congress, there were letters sent expressing concerns about ZTE and it is a national security issue and it is off brand and how does this make those in the heartland voting for Trump thinking they would get jobs back that were lost to China and he's tweeting about saving jobs in China. That is so inappropriate. What is he doing getting involved in a tweet influencing the commerce secretary on something like this. It is inappropriate, and it is -- him cozying up to Xi Jinping is not the way to cut a deal. It is not a real estate deal.

KEILAR: Tara and M.K., thank you. Appreciate it. And moments ago, the White House defended the choice to have two controversial pastors speak at the embassy opening today.


PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, FOUNDER, CHRISTIANS UNITED FOR ISRAEL: Let every Islamic terrorist hear this message. Israel lives. Let it be heard in the halls of the United Nations, Israel lives. Let it echo down the marble halls in the presidential palace in Iran, Israel lives.

PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, DALLAS: We thank you every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history, but more importantly stands on the right side of you, oh god, when it comes to Israel.


KEILAR: That last pastor, Robert Jeffress has drawn the most criticism. Senate candidate Mitt Romney calling him a religious bigot. I want to bring in Mark Lamont Hill CNN political commentator for us. These pastors are controversial, and part of the reason Jeffress got a rebuke from Romney was that he has called Mormonism a cult. He is also said Mormonism, Islam, Judaism lead people away from god and to hell. So, this choice is something that stood out.

[15:55:00] MARK LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is a bizarre choice. But not a surprising choice. Donald Trump has had particular types of evangelical Christians in his ear since day one. And many of them have articulated narratives of anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic ideology and they've been anti-Mormon and Catholic and this man is both of them. To be anti-Semitic and in Jerusalem where Palestinian rights are being eroded and a moment controversial and provocative is a dangerous choice for Donald Trump and thumbs his nose at the international community. KEILAR: Pastor Hagee, the other pastor, at one point in the '90s, he

talked about Hitler being an instrument of god and yet here he is at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and when Raj Shah was asked about this in the White House press briefing, how was this choice made, how could -- what could you make of that. Or he wouldn't --

HILL: He could but he wouldn't. This is a common Trump playbook to appeal to the alt-right to extremist ideology that is anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic and cozying up to the Israeli lobby and to Zionists and it is a bizarre mixture, but it fits in Trump's playbook where he's trying to appeal to the base, which is often filled with suck folk at the same time trying to appeal to the new base around the issue of Israel. Very dangerous and it is very cynical and ultimately it is a provocative move that will only create more unrest in the region and around the world.

KEILAR: Marc Lamont Hill, thank you for your perspective on this.

I want to get back to the President Trump tweet about saving jobs but in China because this is surprising. ZTE is a Chinese company the U.S. is sanctioning for doing business with Iran and North Korea. And joining me now to talk about it is Dave Rank from the American embassy in China and resigned last year in protest over the U.S. exit from the Paris climate accord. What did you think, Dave, about this move? It is pretty stunning, especially considering DOD. -- like a week and change ago said these products won't be sold on military bases and this could pose a security threat.

DAVE RANK, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, U.S. EMBASSY TO CHINA: First thing I thought is, I'm glad I'm not there any more. It would be a -- that is a tough one to figure out. It is kind of a head scratcher. It is a very complicated issue. I heard your last guests and there is Iran and trade and there is -- but the processes -- the government has processes to work through those issues and almost all of them take more than 140 characters.

KEILAR: So, through this is something the president is doing as a favor to the Chinese leader ahead of North Korea. That is one of the questions brought up in the briefing. What do you think?

RANK: I'm comfortable that the president -- that the Chinese have been getting messages to the president, whether it is President Xi calling Trump directly or through high level contacts, I'm sure they're passing messages, this is a big company and shutting it down in the United States means pushing it out of business. And that is why it was a tough decision. Very complicated stuff. But of course, it was complicated a week ago when the last decision was made. So, it is hard to figure out -- could have seen this coming, I guess.

KEILAR: So, this was, according to the White House spokesperson today, part of a complex relationship between the U.S. and China. Which seems like a very vague way to cover for what the president is talking about. What does -- is this a harbinger of how the president is going to maybe make statements, say I'm being tough on China and putting tariffs in place or another country, and then back peddle on things with carve outs?

RANK: Well, I think that -- it is hard to predict what this president of this -- how this administration will act. I will say -- your previous guest talks about the security side and that is a concern -- national security. My concern from having spent a while in government is a regulatory issue, but we have processes and laws in place and commerce was doing -- was carrying out the laws as it saw them written. And then to have the president come in and say, wait a minute, that is not what the laws say, if you are an American company doing business with China, and you're not sure now if the laws mean what they have meant for the last 50 years.

KEILAR: Is this putting the cart before the horse? I wonder because when we heard Raj Shah at the White House he said that commerce is going to be doing something that is consistent with laws and regulations. But does it feel like there's a tweet from the president and then all of a sudden commerce is doing clean-up to make sure they can do something to comply with what the president has directed, but this isn't the normal order of something like this?

RANK: Right. Well you read the tweets that I read, and they didn't sound like this was -- commerce would carry out the laws. They sounded like this is what I want commerce to do and that is a big difference. That is the difference --

KEILAR: There is a difference between where he's -- Raj Shah was characterizing this as they're going to look into the issue versus that is not what you're reading in the tweet.

[16:00:00] RANK: I guess my understanding was, look, commerce has had this case before them for a long time. It seemed -- hadn't they already gone through the case and come -- reached a conclusion?


RANK: I feel bad for Wilbur Ross.

KEILAR: Because it is a company that shipped goods, made with U.S. parts.

RANK: That is right.

KEILAR: To Iran and North Korea. There are all kinds of different boxes to check on how they fall under sanctions for the U.S., right. And you certainly feel bad for Wilbur Ross at this point in time?

RANK: It is a tough one. Of course, Wilbur Ross will talk to the Chinese trade negotiator, the guy talking through the issues, Wilbur Ross just having been cut off at the knees over the weekend now has to go to his counterpart from China and say, well I speak for the U.S. government. That is a tough spot.

KEILAR: It is indeed. Dave Rank, thank you for your expertise. Appreciate you being with us today and "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.