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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Melania Trump Hospitalized After Kidney Procedure; Trump Slams "Leakers" as Traitors; Ignoring Crude McCain Joke; At Least 58 Killed in Gaza as U.S. Opens Embassy in Jerusalem; Interview with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), Oregon; "New York Times:" Pence Aims to Control GOP Amid White House Disarray; Top Republicans to Question Trump on ZTE, Chinese Jobs. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 14, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, First Lady Melania Trump hospitalized. What's the latest on her condition?
Plus, top Republicans say the White House needs to apologize for an aide's cruel joke about John McCain. Why is there still no apology?
And is the vice president going for a power grab?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, First Lady Melania Trump hospitalized after undergoing a kidney procedure. Her husband, the president, expected to return to the White House any moment after visiting the first lady at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Now the first lady's communications director just tweeting, "Thank you to the amazing medical staff at Walter Reed Bethesda for taking such good care of FLOTUS. And a sincere thank you to everyone who has reached out with good thoughts and prayers. She is in good spirits and doing well."
Now, we knew very little, though, about this procedure. The first lady's office releasing a very brief statement, which reads, quote, this morning, First Lady Melania Trump underwent an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition. The procedure was successful and there were no complications. Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week.
Now that briefly worded statement raising a lot more questions than it provided answers. Especially because the first lady will remain hospitalized for several more days. Her office says Trump had been experiencing an issue with her kidney. Keep in mind, the Last time we saw Melania Trump was five days ago. She and the president personally greeting the three Americans who were freed from North Korea at Andrews Air force Base. That was what, in the wee hours of the morning, at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. She honored military mothers and spouses prior to that. And a week ago, of course was her big solo spotlight day, when she unveiled her campaign about children.
Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT live at the White House to begin our coverage. And Kaitlan, the president just returned from visiting Melania at Walter Reed. He went and did so in the early evening. What are you learning about their visit and the first lady's condition?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the president was there for about an hour or so. He did travel over there by Marine One. He is now on his way back to the White House. He tweeted shortly as he was on his way over there, saying the first lady was recovering well and that she was in good spirits.
And a White House official told us that the president did phone Melania Trump before she underwent that procedure. And then he also spoke with the doctors after everything was finished. So he has been in contact with her. Of course we reported earlier, the president remained at the White House today while Melania underwent her procedure. He had several meetings, a lunch with the vice president Mike Pence watching that ceremony of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
But they are saying she's in good spirits. They are saying that she is recovering without any trouble. But they aren't giving a lot of details about what exactly this procedure was, whether or not this was something they've planned for several days, or if it was more of a last-minute type of things.
So those are likely the details that we will get over the next few days. But we do know that the president has been out there, he did visit with her for about an hour or so. And her staffer, her communications staffer Stephanie Grisham is also out there at the facility with the first lady as well. Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much.
And I want to go now straight to our Chief Medical Correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, and White House Reporter Kate Bennett who broke the story along with "Daily Beast" Editor-in-Chief, John Avlon.
You know, Sanjay, let me just start with you. We don't have a lot of information on the first lady's condition. We do know she'll be spending the rest of the week recovering at Walter Reed which it seems like a long time to spend in a hospital.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It does seem like a long time to spend in a hospital. That this type of procedure which is -- as you mentioned, Erin, an embolization procedure, it's not really surgery. It's basically threading this catheter near this -- near the kidney and injecting a glue-type substance to try and stop blood flow to an area of the kidney where this abnormality is.
But to your point, sometimes a procedure like that can even be done as an outpatient or an overnight stay. You worry about someone developing pain or having infection, and you want to make sure that the procedure did the job that it was intended to do. But it does seem like a long time. I don't know if this is, you know, because she's the first lady, just an abundance of caution or why the longer stay.
BURNETT: Yes. I mean, a lot of questions there. I mean, Sanjay, the statement that they put out was brief and obviously it lacked significant detail. Certainly not explaining, you know, this very important point about the amount of time she may be hospitalized. Why could that be?
GUPTA: You know, I don't know. You know, we've been trying to figure that out as well. You know, we've talked to folks over there. I think one of the things that we heard back was it may be shorter than this. I think they wanted to err on the side of it being a longer stay. But we just don't know.
[19:05:00] The other thing that we don't know and that was really important to me is, this is described as a benign kidney condition. Benign obviously is good. We don't want it to be anything other than benign. But what exactly is it that was treated here?
Some of the benign things that happen to a kidney are things like sifts. But those are not treated using embolization. So what was it? Was it some sort of mass? Was it something else?
You know, this statement in part gives us some information, but there's a lot it doesn't give as well.
BURNETT: And Kate, you've been working, reporting this all day. I mean, the president visiting Melania early this evening. It seems though she went through the actual procedure, whatever it was without him. What are you learning, Kate?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Erin, I think it's not unusual that the president wasn't there. Most of these issues involving first ladies are private. You know, the president is an elected official for all intents and purposes, the first lady isn't. So she has -- is very private already and then sort of taking liberties with that in a way.
But certainly the president was not there, I believe that, you know, he comes with extra baggage, he comes with a motorcade, he comes with a press pool that has to travel with him in places. This is a first lady who, as I've covered her, has been intensely guarded, intensely private. I would imagine that him not being there had to do with being at her request, as such.
He did call her right before the procedure. He did call her doctors right after. I've learned that he just spent about an hour there with her, meeting with her physician, sitting with his wife and being with her presence there. Certainly, I would imagine she wanted to get some rest this evening and he is now back at the White House.
You know, again, I don't think it's unusual that this first lady has opted to do this quietly. And we heard about it after the procedure was finished.
BURNETT: Right, which makes sense.
John, though, when you look at it, you know, and I understand the point about motorcade and being there, right.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
BURNETT: But, the statement came out at 3:12 in the afternoon, right? That's when we found out that this had happened. Speaker Ryan came out with a tweet, 4:51. The president came out with a tweet at 5:09.
So, it was two hours after the news broke, right? He was on Twitter today. The Israeli embassy, leaks at the White House, were all on the table. But he was very quiet about this.
AVLON: Yes. I mean, I would say that's probably not a best practice. When your spouse has some kind of medical procedure possibly involving surgery, but it was a big day at the White House with the Jerusalem embassy. Presumably, you know, we found out from Kate that, you know, he had called and had been speaking to her doctors and obviously went to the hospital then.
I'm not sure that -- you know, other presidents, other spouses would have kept that degree of distance, but they have their own rhythms. And I think the main thing is of course that we all wish her well.
AVLON: And this is why some things transcend politics, particularly people's health.
BURNETT: Right. Well, that's true.
Now Sanjay, I got to ask you though, because, you know, when we look at the fact that -- you know, the statement was very brief and did not give a lot of detail. The procedure itself came out of the blue. There was no warning. Now, of course, as Kate points out, you know, she's very private. But it does raise some questions about transparency when it comes to the president himself.
Because, Sanjay, here is what we have heard about his health from his doctors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. HAROLD BORNSTEIN, FORMER PERSONAL PHYSICIAN FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: His health is excellent, particularly his mental health. He thinks he's the best, which works out just fine.
DR. RONNY JACKSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: His overall health is excellent. I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old. I don't know. I mean, he has incredibly good genes, he has incredibly good genes just the way God made him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sanjay, do you have any confidence that we really know much about the president's health, which of course is a matter of public concern?
GUPTA: Now -- well, it's a fair question. I will tell you this. I think there are sins where there is inaccuracies and there are sins of omission, right? I think when you look at the statement, for example, from the first lady's office -- you know, I'm not saying there's anything inaccurate there, but there's more that we would like to have known about what has happened here.
I think when it comes to the president's health, for example, that press briefing you just showed, I was there, I was sort of astonished that there was so much that was given about the president's health, but when I asked about these very important tests of his heart, that wasn't even told to us. It wasn't in the official record. There were sins of omission when it came to the president's heart.
2So, that's the bigger concern. Not that I think what we're reading necessarily is inaccurate, but we're not hearing the whole story.
BURNETT: Right. And that is part of the pattern.
AVLON: That --and that's a problem for the president. He has set a terrible standard for transparency about his health. In fact, it's the opposite as we found out, you know, he dictated the campaign document by Dr. Bornstein saying he's the healthiest, you know, president --
BURNETT: Astonishingly excellent I believe is not the word.
AVLON: -- yes, healthiest of all times. So that sets a bad precedent. That so I think the first ladies' health have traditionally been handled in a more low-key way. It's not unusual to have a procedure done and then do it publicly. And even going back wearing a presidential history nerd hat, you know, Grover Cleveland, the president had a surgical procedure on a cancerous tumor on his jaw that was done in secret offshore during his second term, so.
BURNETT: You know -- and Kate, you know, obviously the fact that this didn't leak is pretty remarkable. Because everything leaks from this White House, it seems. You know, what enabled them to pull that off?
[19:10:02] BENNETT: I think it speaks to what were just saying. The East Wing that Melania Trump operate completely different from the West Wing and the president. She has a very small, very loyal team of about 10 staff members. That's it, as opposed to the West Wing.
I think these decisions were made very privately with her staff. It is remarkable that the first lady of the United States had a full medical procedure at Walter Reed that no one knew about until she was out of surgery. I think that very much speaks to the differences between this first lady and this president when it comes to how they handle details, how they handle their personal lives, what kind of attention they like on themselves.
I would imagine the president likes plenty of attention. The first lady is quite the opposite. So looking at this as an example of how the two parts of the building are very, very different. I think is really a compelling away to look at this marriage and to look at this administration and this first couple.
BURNETT: Very interesting point. All right, thank you all so very much.
And next, the White House passing on another chance to apologize for that cruel John McCain joke. Even top Republicans tonight are speaking out and saying it's time to just say sorry.
Plus, on a deadly day of violence, Jared Kushner speaks out, praising Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. This is what was happening nearby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO TRUMP: Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And she was Lois Lane to Christopher Reeve's Superman. We'll look back at the life of actress Margot Kidder.
[19:15:10] BURNETT: New tonight, the White House refusing to apologize for an aide's joke about John McCain dying. Here's the White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah taking reporter questions today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not just apologize so America doesn't think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside of this White House?
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I understand the focus on this issue, but it's going to be dealt with and has been dealt with internally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly, and that hasn't happened. Why is that not happened?
I wasn't on the call. I was told she made it prior to the story being published.
SHAH: Well, I wasn't on the call. I was told that she made it prior to the story being published.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why hasn't she publicly apologized as she told Meghan McCain that she would? SHAH: She has addressed it with the family directly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: According to Shah, the issue you heard is being dealt with internally and with the family. Why not apologize, though? The number two Senate Republican, John Cornyn said today, quote, I think an apology is appropriate.
And the number three Republican Senator, John Thune said, "Obviously what was said was wrong is inappropriate. It would have been a lot easier if they had just nipped it right away and she came out with an apology." Soon, adding later that it would, quote, have been nice if Trump himself had apologized for the remark. Noting, "I'm guessing he's probably beyond that at this point."
Well, on that, Thune has a point, because if owning what your staff says, and being responsible for it, admitting when you're wrong is what's required from a leader, in this case, it sure does not seem like we are going to get it. Because Trump's example is usually don't apologize, unless you have to, which in his case of course is, pretty much never.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lawyers for the opponents said if you would simply apologize for some of your rhetoric during the campaign, the whole case would go away. And I was wondering if you're willing --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it would, number one. And there's no reason to apologize. There's nothing to apologize for.
When was the last time you actually apologized for something?
TRUMP: Oh, wow. I do believe in apologizing if you're wrong. But if you're not wrong, I don't believe in apologizing.
I hold my line and people wanted me to apologize and we can't do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. OUTFRONT tonight, Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for the Nation, and Jason Miller, former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign.
Jason, everybody knows what was said here was wrong, OK, cruel, whatever word you'd like to use. Why can't they just come out and say sorry?
JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, Erin, I agree with you on that point, that I think this could have been handled a lot better. And last Thursday, Kelly Sadler simply should have come forward and apologized. I think the White House could have announced that this was then being dealt with by H.R. or dealt with internally. I think this probably then goes away. And I think this probably
isn't -- wasn't even something that would have been discussed going into the weekend. And certainly not something that's discussed now.
I do not think this is something that the president needs to go and apologize for. It's not something that he said. And I certainly don't think that it's really an issue that really should be continuing for three or four days later.
But going back to the initial point, yes -- I mean, it's an account that should have been --
BURNETT: That's why I brought up -- you have the number two and number three Senate Republicans who are asking for the apology.
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, "THE NATION": Right.
BURNETT: I mean, just to make the point, Jason, right? It's not the media asking for it. It's not Democrats. You got top Republicans today.
MILLER: Well, a lot of these folks are getting back into town and so they're just being asked the question now. But, again, like I said, this is something that shouldn't have gone past last Thursday. I mean, it would been real easy to deal with. Again, it was an unfortunate comment, it shouldn't have been made. Deal with it with an apology.
The White House can deal with it, whether it's H.R., any administrative matter they can --
MILLER: -- whatever their internal protocols are. But this is not something I think that warrants going three or four days down the road.
BURNETT: And yet --
MILLER: I do think the president is absolutely spot on though when he put the tweet out a little while ago saying that this was literally a traitorous type action to go and leak something like this. That's really problematic.
BURNETT: But first, Joan, isn't it true if the with want -- you know, Jason said this could have gone away with an apology. Yes, it should have -- it could have, and it should have but nobody at the White House had her do it.
BURNETT: That's the truth. Nobody asked her to do it. She wouldn't have defied her boss on telling her to do that.
WALSH: One -- a reason that this is still a story is, we learned that Kelly Sadler apologized to Meghan McCain. That Meghan McCain asked that she do it publicly. Kelly Sadler said she would, she did not. That's one reason.
BURNETT: That's right.
WALSH: The other thing we learned over the weekend, Erin, is that Mercedes Schlapp, the acting communications head, let it be known that she stands with Kelly Sadler. And then people are finally doing what Jason is doing and acting as though the person who leaked this is the real problem, rather than the person who said it.
And I just want to say one thing about the president and leaks. First of all, that tweet was incoherent. It said this was all fake news, but then it didn't happen, but then there are leakers and there are traitors.
The president then is the number one traitor. Because, Jason, you know he actually goes out to the press and he trashes his staff.
[19:20:02] He did it during the campaign. He trashes his cabinet. Sometimes off the record, sometimes publicly.
So this president -- this all comes from the top. He hates John McCain. He'll never apologize, and he loves to leak and trash his own people on his own time. So he's got no credibility to attack anyone else in this situation.
MILLER: Well, Joan, hold on a minute. A couple things can be true here at the same time. I very clearly said that these comments were inappropriate and shouldn't have been made. I said an apology should have been made days ago and we shouldn't have gotten to this point.
At the same time, I think the fact that these comments were leaked out of the White House, and then the fact that they had a meeting about this and that then leaked out, I think, is very problematic for this White House. I think it probably discourages --
WALSH: I think (INAUDIBLE) traitorous.
MILLER: I think -- oh, I absolutely thinks it's traitorous because not --
WALSH: It's traitorous to repeat something about John McCain dying. We're not talking national security.
MILLER: It is absolutely traitorous for someone to go and leak it out --
MILLER: -- because not only does it pull the president into this, it pulls the entire White House into this mess, when what we should be talking out today, we should be talking the embassy moving to Jerusalem. We should be talking about the fact that this morning Gallup put out the single highest set of poll numbers this president has had in his entire presidency.
WALSH: We should be talking about the 52 Palestinians who died -- MILLER: So clearly what the rest of the country is seeing is
completely different than this topic. So, two things can be true at the same time, and I've been very clear where I think on it.
BURNETT: Yes. So let me read the tweet here that the president came out. This was his tweet. "The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the fake news media in order to make us look as bad as possible." Again, I'll editorialized here by saying, nobody has disputed -- anybody has disputed what was said. So, it's not an exaggeration and it's not fake news.
However, with that being said, he continues, "Leakers are traitors and cowards and we will find out who they are."
Jason, Kellyanne Conway just did an interview a moment ago and was asked about whether she and the president talked about staff changes today, about these leaks. And she said -- she was asked, do you think there will be staff changes? She said, I do, actually, yes, I do.
Do you think someone's going to be fired over this? And I guess my question, Jason, then are we really going to say the person who leaked that it's going to be fired and not the person who joked about John McCain dying?
MILLER: Well, again, I think there are two separate things. I do think that there's probably disciplinary measure that goes along with making a comment like with what Kelly Sadler said. I'll leave that to the H.R. and the administration folks so I'm not going to get in and to try play their role.
I also think that there is a very severe punishment that should go along with leaking something from the White House. So I think again their punishment is probably thus warranted on both. But again, I'm glad to hear Kellyanne make that comment because it is about time that they track down and find out who some of these leakers are. They're not serving the president well, they're not serving the country well. And if they find out who did this, I hope they throw him out quick.
WALSH: But this is the leakiest White House in our adult memory. Kelly -- I'm sure Kellyanne occasionally is one of them, Jason, I mean -- and there's a reason and it starts at the top, starts with the president's disrespect for his staff, for the truth. It then trickles down to a dysfunctional White House where everybody is at each other's throats and happy to leak, and happy to backbite and backstab.
So, this is more than just some errant staffer who spoke out of turn about a joke or whatever you want to call it in a staff meeting. This is systemic.
MILLER: Well -- and, you know -- and that's why I think they should have said something about it last Thursday. Because I don't think the rest of the folks in the White House would have made a comment like that. And I think that's why it would have been better if they took quick action on Thursday. And again, you know, Joan, we're going to agree to disagree on our opinions on the president. But I notice you're not pushing back on all the accomplishments and the things that we should be talking about, the great things that president Trump is doing because --
BURNETT: Well, we didn't get to those.
BURNETT: We should be talking about the 50 Palestinians who died, who were shot --
MILLER: They you know what, then tell Hamas and tell Iran --
BURNETT: Thank you both. Because next, we have breaking news on those numbers. We know that at least 58 people dead in Gaza protests as the U.S. opens its new embassy in Jerusalem. And we're going to go live on the ground there to this day of violence that we saw.
Plus, the vice president on settling Trump loyalists according to a new report in the New York Times. What's going on with Pence?
[19:28:12] BURNETT: Breaking news, at least 58 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza as the U.S. officially opens its embassy in Jerusalem. This is according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. It's the deadliest day there since the 2014 summer war.
Palestinian officials also claiming more than 2,700 people have been injured. Israel says its actions were necessary to protect its borders, and a government spokesperson is just saying at this moment, all terror activity will be met with a harsh response. So threatening to respond -- to continue to respond. President Trump's son-in-law and see senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke at the embassy opening today, assuming to see a totally different perspective on what unfolding outside saying, today was actually the beginning of a journey of peace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KUSHNER: When there is peace in this region, we will look back upon this day and remember that the journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Ian lee is OUTFRONT. He is in Gaza tonight. And Ian, obviously the Israeli defense has just come out and said the will respond in kind to what they call acts of terror. What is the situation like there now?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this was the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war. And we heard also the White House blaming Hamas for the violence. Well, Hamas is blaming the White House for the violence because of this embassy move. And there's a lot of people here who are angry.
We were out there on the front. There are tens of thousands of people all up and down that border with Gaza and Israel. And what they were trying to do is trying to get across that border. And Israel said that they're just not going to allow that to happen.
They've used tear gas when they were moving close. When they got closer to that border fence, that's when they started opening fire. And it was easy to see how that death toll could rise so quickly, because at times we heard automatic gunfire. We heard tanks firing, which the Israeli Army said were at Hamas positions.
Also, there were a couple of air strikes in the northern part of Gaza.
The U.N. has come out and urged restraint from the Israeli side. But when you talk to these people, you get a real sense that this is a grassroots movement, that people say they want to go across, they want to return to lands they say that were lost to Israel during the 1948 war. But here's the thing, Erin, these protests, big, violent today. We're expecting the same thing tomorrow.
BURNETT: Ian, thank you very much. And as Ian points out, when it's grassroots, it's much more difficult to control.
OUTFRONT now, the Democratic Senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And, Senator, I appreciate your time.
Look, there's been a lot of bloodshed. You heard our Ian Lee who is in Gaza today, say that this is expected to continue tomorrow. Israeli defense forces tonight saying they're going to respond in kind to terror. So, the rhetoric is upping even itself it's still dark. People died today.
Many were injured.
Does President Trump bear some of the blame or not?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, the situation is certainly horrific. And I think that symbolically this move represents for many Palestinians the end of their hopes for a two-state solution, that they will have someday a land of their own, that essentially, it's been held for a long time, that the movement of the embassy would be part of a coordinated effort with a plan for each population to have their own country. And the Palestinians now see that as -- without America as a fair broker between them, see it as a diminishing or disappearing objective.
BURNETT: So, you know, when Jared Kushner said, we're going to look back and see this as the beginning of peace, this is going to be the day, what's your response?
MERKLEY: Well, there's a lot of bloodshed today. I don't think it will be seen as the beginning of peace. But I do think Israeli has reached the point where it's strong in every conceivable way. It has the world's most amazing military, second to the United States. It has addressed its issues related to electricity and water.
It has just -- in every possible way, high-tech companies being sold for billions of dollars.
MERKLEY: I mean, it's an amazing place. So if this isn't a moment for a gesture towards the possibility of two-state solution, I don't know when that moment will ever be.
BURNETT: So, Jared Kushner today when he did address the ongoing violence, was very clear about who was to blame for it. Here's what he actually said in Jerusalem at the embassy in his speech, Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT TRUMP: As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem, and not part of the solution.
(END VIDOE CLIP)
BURNETT: And, of course at the White House, they were also very direct, explicitly blaming Hamas, the Palestinians, Senator. Of course to many, that's not only subjective, but it's also provocative, and that line that we just heard Jared Kushner say, was not actually in what the White House released and called a transcript of his comments today.
Is it possible that was simply an honest mistake, or did they not want him putting the blame to be in there?
MERKLEY: Well, that's hard to say. But I will say that his inability to articulate the challenge that is faced by people in Gaza is part of the problem. That is, you have a population living in a confined area. It's -- the water systems are completely shattered from the 2014 war. It's impossible to import materials to build an economy or export products.
So, there's an enormous level of desperation. And so, if we want to have any chance of advancing peace, we have to understand the enormous plight that the Palestinian people are in.
BURNETT: Senator, let me ask you directly about the embassy itself, though. You know, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of course, says it's an historic decision by President Trump, and his view of it couldn't be more different than what we're seeing outside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What a glorious day. Remember this moment!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
This is history. President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Senator, what's your bottom line? Do you support the U.S. embassy being in Jerusalem or not?
MERKLEY: I very much -- I have supported it becoming our embassy in Jerusalem, when it's part of a strategy to go forward with two people living productively, peacefully, side by side.
[19:35:00] And I think this is where it -- I mean, we're really talking about where conversations are held, but it's the symbolism of it, and the symbolism really represents to people living in the West Bank and Gaza, that there is no path for them to ever have a land of their own. They have been under occupation. It's an extraordinarily difficult life, and we have, we, the United States, have championed the vision that there would be a brighter future ahead.
And really I'm hoping the president -- our president, can return to championing that vision.
BURNETT: Senator, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.
MERKLEY: You're welcome, Erin.
BURNETT: Next, Vice President Pence raising eyebrows and perhaps ire among some Trump loyalists according to a new report. We're going to tell you what's going on.
And top Republicans want to question Trump about saving jobs at a big Chinese phone company that's susceptible to espionage right here in the United States. Is Trump making China great?
BURNETT: Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence is exercising a lot more control over the Republican Party ahead of the midterm elections. And some Trump allies, reportedly, not happy.
"The New York Times" is reporting tonight that Pence is playing a much bigger role in the GOP's future, and obviously some Trump loyalists don't like it, right?
[19:40:01] Is he trying to create his own power base? Or who knows? Chris Cillizza is writing this is a bombshell report. That means Pence for 2024, or maybe earlier.
OUTFRONT now, Alex Burns, national political correspondent with "The New York Times." He's one of the reporters breaking the story, And Marc Lotter, who is a former press secretary for Vice President Pence and member of the Trump 2020 advisory board.
So, Alex, your reporting is, Mike Pence is really getting a lot more power. What's happening?
ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Look, he's playing what is at this point in a president's term, an unprecedented role in shaping not just the sort of broad Republican message for the midterm elections, but the specific places the president engages, how he engages in those places, and he's taken control to a great degree, of many of the levers of fundraising and strategy, really across the party, even in cases where his own instincts and interest conflict somewhat with the president.
There have been a number of primaries, including governor of Florida, congressional primary in Texas, where the president's instincts have gone a different direction and the vice president has either persuaded him to go in a different direction or simply gone around him.
BURNETT: And that gone around, of course, begs the question. The public pence for lack of a better word, Alex and Mark, you know, has been very adoring of Trump. Let's be honest.
Here's some of what Pence has said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice president to a president who literally embodies American leadership. The book is entitled "The Art of the Deal" and it's actually an American classic.
I'm deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here.
Greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice president to a president who's keeping his word to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And, of course, it's not just what he says, Alex, it's how he looks, his looks as you see. The looks have not gone unnoticed. So, looks at his boss. But Pence is a long-time political player. He's not a neophyte. He knows exactly what he's doing here, right?
BURNS: He absolutely does. And, look, the reality that Pence's own staff acknowledges in private conversations is that part of the reason why he is so adoring of the president in public and why he takes such pains not to do anything that could possibly be seen as disloyal is because there are people close to the president, on the inside of the administration and on the outside, who are watching for signs of disloyalty.
And so, if the vice president puts a false step in public, the president is sure to hear about it. And so far, he has not made a false step in public. He's simply trying to expand his influence over the party's political machinery, often in private.
BURNETT: So, in public, Marc, we see, we hear that the public Pence. But in private, you hear the reporting. Your reaction?
MARC LOTTER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I'll tell you, it doesn't really reflect what I noticed in the 10 months that I served in the administration or in the six months since when I've been a part of both the vice president and president's political operations. The president and the vice president have a unified message, a unified theme. And this is reflective of a strategy that was developed at Camp David back in January, where at the president's direction, the vice president was going to be the tip of the political sphere.
And so that's why you see him out there, you see him campaigning for Republican candidates all across the country. Raising money, and doing things --
BURNETT: Marc, what about the report of him gaining so much power and authority over the entire GOP apparatus, when you talk about fundraising and things like that, those are the levers of power.
LOTTER: The vice presidents typically, of both parties, take a leadership role in fundraising during those midterm elections because it's a lot easier to move the vice president around and the president has got a pretty busy day job. And so, in this case, this is fulfilling that mission.
And so, what I can tell you is that the vice president is firmly committed to enacting the president's agenda. You hear him talk about that publicly. I can guarantee you those are the conversations that are going on privately.
And I'll even give you the example going so far as, as you mentioned in the intro, that I'm on the president's 2020 advisory committee.
LOTTER: The president's former campaign manager is now on the vice president's political action, his leadership PAC. So, there's no daylight between the two organizations.
BURNETT: All right. Let's talk about that. Cory Lewandowski is who he's referring to today. We just found out today, the former Trump campaign manager is on the vice president's political action committee. That could be a sign on being on the same page. That could be a sign of, I want one of my guys in there to know what you're doing, because I don't trust you.
Do you know which it is?
BURNETT: Sure, look, I'll leave the Kremlinology of Corey Lewandowski's recruitment to Marc and others. But, look, Pence has been extremely sophisticated about making sure there is, again, not public daylight between him and the president. But, you know, I think Marc's point is well-taken in a number of ways, that it is normal for the vice president to play that an expansive role in advancing an administration's political agenda.
What is less common, we've not seen it in a first term presidency like this, for the vice president to be dictating is pushing back on the president's own political activity the way the vice president is.
[19:45:01] And for a vice president's office and his internal political operation to be as influential as Vice President Pence's is.
LOTTER: I think what you're seeing, the vice president obviously has much longer ties in the political apparatus, as Alex mentioned earlier. But I don't want to --
BURNETT: But he's speaking about the unprecedented nature of some of this.
LOTTER: Well, I don't want it to be confused with the fact that they are always working in concert with the president's team. I know for a fact that there were about a half a dozen senior staff members at the White House that talked to the very well-respected and admired team at "The New York Times" that reported on this story. Not all of that was included.
That was really kind of characterizing the fact that these two operations are really one operation, and they're under the president of the United States and nothing happens with the vice president, that where the president's team is not fully in coordination.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both.
And I would presume that the reporters of "The New York Times," one of them here, their jobs is to separate spin from reality. So, thank you both very much.
And next, the FBI says China's ZTE phones here in the United States are susceptible to stealing information and spying. So, why is Trump lauding the company and looking for a way to help them?
And Jeanne Moos remembering the actress who played Lois Lane.
[19:50:08] BURNETT: New tonight, two top Republican senators tell CNN they plan to grill President Trump about his plan to help out China's massive phone company ZTE, because the president has fired off another tweet in support of the company, a company the United States fined a billion dollars for evading U.S. sanctions.
His tweet, ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we're negotiating with China, and my personal relationship with the presidency. The company's phones are also said to be susceptible to espionage and stealing information.
Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT with more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. intelligence chiefs are unequivocal. Phones and other products made by Chinese manufacturer ZTE are open to surveillance and hacking by the Chinese government.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), NEBRASKA: Will you please raise your hand if you would use products or services from Huawei or ZTE? None of you would. Raise your hand if you recommend that private American citizen use ZTE services. None of you again are raising your hand, thank you for that.
SCIUTTO: And yet, President Trump surprised both Republicans and Democrats this weekend when he tweeted ZTE a lifeline, writing, President Xi of China and I are working together to give massive Chinese phone company ZTE a way to get back into business fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done.
FBI Director Christopher Wray appointed by President Trump explained the security risks in stark terms in Hill testimony earlier this year.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We are deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information and provides the capacity to conduct uncontested espionage.
SCIUTTO: Those concerns led to extensive bans in the U.S. of ZTE products. Just two weeks ago, the Pentagon instructed U.S. military bases to stop selling ZTE phones, noting those ZTE risks. And last month, the Commerce Department barred U.S. companies from selling hard components to ZTE, this after the company violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea, and then lied about it.
Today however, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross left the door opened to helping ZTE as directed by that Trump tweet.
WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: ZTE did do some inappropriate things and they admitted to that. The question is, are there alternative remedies to the ones originally put forward? And that's the area we will be exploring very, very promptly.
BURNETT: I mean, Jim, it's pretty incredible when you hear that and then you juxtapose it with as you said, the head of the CIA and all intelligence agencies would you trust their technology or phones, and not a single one raised their hand. They're basically saying this company is a national security risk, but the president is helping them, so that's just the way it is, really?
SCIUTTO: So, Erin, I spent most of today talking to multiple officials about this to try to figure out, and here is my understanding, no intention to lift the warning about the ZTE phones and to be clear, there are 55 million ZTE phones that have been sold here in the U.S. since 2013, not going to lift that warning, but might allow U.S. components makers to shift components to ZTE so it could I effect stay in business, keep making these phones. How do you reconcile that, helping and national security risks, we'll have to see.
BURNETT: We will have to see, but I think that's pretty incredible when you put that number on it, 55 million of them sold in the country. So, if you're not familiar with the name, you can realize how potent that power is. Thank you very much.
And next, Jeanne Moos, remembering the woman who played Lois Lane.
BURNETT: Tonight, the world says goodbye to the big screen's first Lois Lane.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Margot Kidder, aka Lois Lane, kind of girl who wonders if she should put on something warmer --
MARGOT KIDDER, ACTRESS, AS LOIS LANE: I needed a sweeter.
MOOS: -- to go flying first time with Superman.
She wasn't just a Lois Lane --
ANNOUNCER: And Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.
MOOS: She was the Lois Lane, appearing in four Superman movies. She was always breaking her fall. For instance at the Eiffel Tower. She was having a romance with a Man of Steel. Wondering about Clark Kent.
KIDDER: Who are you?
SUPERMAN: A friend.
MOOS: Which they were in real life. Kidder once told CBS, when you are strapped hanging from a ceiling for months and months, you get pretty darned close.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actress Margot Kidder talks about her battle with depression.
MOOS: She had bipolar disorder, struggled through a public meltdown and was found wondering around Los Angeles, thinking the CIA was after her.
KIDDER: I slept a couple of nights with a homeless man in his cardboard box. It's so shameful that you hide it from yourself.
MOOS: But she picked herself up and became a mental health advocate.
At the age of 69, her manager says she died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Montana. Now, she and Christopher Reeve and the World Trade Center, they flew by together are all gone and she could no longer hold on. She was there to catch her. And she delivered her catchiest line.
SUPERMAN: Easy miss, I've got you.
KIDDER: You've got me, who has got you?
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And thank you for joining us.
"ANDERSON" starts now.