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Controversial Pastors To Take Part In U.S. Embassy Opening In Jerusalem; Palestinian Officials Say At Least 25 Dead In Gaza Fence Protests; WAPO: Trump And Allies Going On Attack As Mueller Probe Enters Year Two; New Volcano Fissure Prompts More Evacuations. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You wind up picking two people who have said things that are really offensive to other Christians and non-Christians and yet, they get picked to be the face of America's holy men at this Jerusalem embassy.

Why pick people who are controversial this way, Matt?


CUOMO: You know, it seems to send a message about what's OK that, once again, should be at odds with what the administration wants to project.

SCHLAPP: Look, you and I are Catholic and I have great disagreements with what some of these gentlemen and other evangelical leaders have said about my faith. This idea that we have theological differences has been going on for 2,000 years.

But we also have a kinship and we have a kinship on the idea that the capital city, Jerusalem, should house our embassy. And I'm happy that they're there. I think people of all faiths who agree that Jerusalem is a special city -- it's really the city that's the most special to all -- to so many of our faiths -- that they're going to be there.

And I think it's a mistake to say that somehow, Donald Trump has brought up these differences. These differences have been going on since Jesus walked the earth.

CUOMO: No, what I'm saying is is he trying to project a message of solidarity. Trying to get the people, especially in that region, to look past the distinctions.

Just play one little piece of what this guy, Jeffress, is known for saying.


ROBERT JEFFRESS, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, DALLAS, TEXAS: It is an evil religion, it is an oppressive religion. It is a violent religion that has incited the attacks around the world and the attacks against our country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That's him talking about Islam. That's the guy that you put out there to try and like, you know, keep some semblance of equanimity?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I support moving the embassy to Jerusalem. I support the president. I'm glad the president did it.

But it -- yes, I mean, to have this spoiling to some degree -- not mostly -- this day which is the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence. I think a wonderful day for Jews, but for the world really. And for the Western world after what happened in World War II and the Holocaust, an amazing moment of redemption.

It's unfortunate that they couldn't pick religious leaders -- if they wanted to have religious say a few words -- who were figures of unity, not figures of division.

CUOMO: And again, look, it's their choice, Matt. You know, he's in control. It's his administration. But what you say and what you do shapes perceptions about are you -- how you are and what you're about.

SCHLAPP: It does. But, Chris, in order -- if you say that this pastor is not a responsible pick to say the prayer, what you're really saying is to thousands and thousands and millions of American evangelicals that have the same position -- theological positions as he does, which they have a First Amendment right to have -- that somehow they're not allowed to sit at the table as America makes these decisions. And I think, in and of itself, is a very tough -- and I think it's something you should examine.

Yes, he has made some statements that I said that I would definitely not agree with -- I might even be offended with -- but evangelical pastors, Baptists, Protestants, they play a big and vigorous role in this country and I'm glad they do --

CUOMO: Absolutely.

SCHLAPP: -- and I want more of them.

CUOMO: Well, you want to keep the right standard.

KRISTOL: There are plenty of evangelicals --

CUOMO: Right.

KRISTOL: -- who haven't said what he said.

CUOMO: That's right. We'll end it on this.

There's an objective and subjective component to this.

Objectively, do you have the right to say it under United States law? A hundred percent.

Subjectively, is it the right thing? Is it the right thing to say in this moment that subjective and the administration's going to make its own call on the rest of it? We'll judge it.

Matt Schlapp, always good to see you, brother. Bill Kristol, thank you for making us better.

KRISTOL: Thanks.

CUOMO: Appreciate it -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: One year in, where does the special counsel's investigation stand? What we know and the biggest question that still needs to be answered. That's next.


[07:37:23] HILL: We're continuing to follow breaking news.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health says at least 18 people now are dead as large-scale protests break out on the Gaza border. This, of course, amid the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.

CNN's Ian Lee is live there in Gaza following these breaking details.

That death count, of course, has gone up by two more since we last spoke just about 20 minutes ago.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica, and we've seen it climb steadily throughout the day. This is on track to be the deadliest day since these protests began seven weeks ago. And we're still seeing people near the border fence and that is where a lot of that is taking place -- a lot of that violence.

But they're burning these tires to obscure the site of the Israeli snipers and then they're pushing closer.

You know, the other thing we've been hearing as well, Erica, is tank -- what sounds like tank fire just further down the border here. And then also, to my right, we heard earlier today also heavy automatic fire, just to give you a sense of what is taking place here along the border.

Israel says that they are prepared but their main concern is a mass breach of the border where you get protesters pushing in. They say that they have levels to warn these protesters, first verbally warning them, then with non-lethal means. Then if they get close or try to breach, that's when they say they are going to open fire.

But when we're talking to these protesters they say that's not going to stop them. They're going to continue to try to cross over.

And we've seen the largest numbers so far during this seven weeks of protests and it's all led up to today and tomorrow. We're expecting tomorrow to see just the same number of people out here. And, of course, when you get this amount of people on the border in this volatile area that is the recipe for a deadly day, Chris.

CUOMO: And you're going to get another big provocative act today when the embassy opens up in Jerusalem for the United States, so you'll be keeping your eye on the situation.

And again, I'm going to say it every time I see you because it helps to be reminded when you're in the field, safety first, brother. Take care of you and the team.

President Trump and his allies have been dealing with the special counsel investigation for a year. That anniversary is marked this week. What is their next move? That's our next move.


[07:43:24] CUOMO: An interesting marking of time this week. The investigation of Russia interference in the 2016 election hits the one-year mark this week.

"The Washington Post" is reporting the president and his allies are now going on the attack, a signature Trump move to any kind of criticism or opposition.

Will that work here? The analysis could take different directions. Let's take them all right now.

CNN legal analyst Laura Coates and Michael Zeldin.

All right, let's start with the obvious. Both of you guys have experience on the investigative side here.

My assertion is you people take forever -- you take forever. You never end your probes and you won't tell us when you do end them.

Laura Coates, the idea of this marking one year and that being long enough, how does that comport with your sense of investigations and timing?


The idea that one year would be far too long or be a lengthy investigation in a -- in an investigation of this magnitude when you're already got, what, 19 different indictments, you've got companies who were indicted, you've got Russian trolls, you have foreign nationals, you've got American citizens all part of it, you actually have had some progress.

It would be very different if after a year you had seen absolutely nothing -- no progress, no motions, no indictments, no proof of actual evidence of any sort of crime. Well, that'd be very different.

Here you've got more than that and only a year in. Really, it's not -- it's not even a year. It will be Thursday on a year.

CUOMO: That's right, it will be a year then.

So, what's the main pushback? The main pushback from people who were supportive of the president is yes, you've seen a lot. That's right -- Laura Coates is right.

[07:45:00] But not as it focuses directly onto the Trump team and/or Trump himself. And that by now we would have known, and if we don't know it means it's not there. Hashtag witch hunt.

COATES: Well, you know --

CUOMO: Not you, Laura.

COATES: Sorry.

CUOMO: Let him get in here. Don't be quiet, Zeldin, thinking I'll somehow forget about you.

COATES: I know.

CUOMO: What's your take on that?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO ROBERT MUELLER AT DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, what is misleading in that analysis is because there's no talk it means there's no evidence. That's just a false assumption.

The fact that we don't know what Mueller is doing is not an indication that he's not finding anything that's reflective of criminal or other wrongdoing. He may not be, but it's just as obvious to me that what we can only say is we don't know and we have to wait. And the way these prosecutions work is they take time.

I held the same job that Mueller did. Ours was an investigation of smaller importance involving Herbert Walker Bush's administration. It took us two and half years, essentially, to finish our investigation and then another half-year almost to write our final report.

These things take time and that's what you want them to do. You want them to take time so that they're carefully investigated and well- documented so that at the end, the people can have confidence that what you did was substantial and correct and could be relied upon.

CUOMO: Confidence, key word there.

Laura Coates, back to you. The idea of confidence -- I know you're both attorneys but you're savvy politically as well.

I could put up poll numbers right now that could show there's been a softening in support for Mueller. That the attacks by those who support the president of Mueller who started out as their golden boy, a life-long Republican, a war hero -- you know, a rock-ribbed conservative.

He was seen as a perfect choice. Newt Gingrich, Devin Nunes -- people of that ilk were saying this is the right choice, this guy -- he's great. Now, not so much.

How does that affect the probe if the confidence numbers in public polling goes down about Mueller, Laura?

COATES: Well, if it was only a court of public opinion that Mueller was concerned with I think he'd be concerned with the ebb and flow, and the comments of the President of the United States, and whether he has the backing of members of Congress who loved him a year ago.

But I think his focus has been primarily on remaining above the fray and remaining outside of the court of public opinion. The only time you ever heard from Mueller is through his talking indictments and through Rod Rosenstein.

And if anything is important here to think about it's that one of the reasons that this may be prolonged longer than people expected it to, particularly in the White House, is because the president has refused to voluntarily comply with an interview. He has not sat down. I'm sure he's one of the final pieces in a probe surrounding members of his own campaign.

And so, with every statement that he makes, with every comment on Twitter, with every contradiction from his legal team, he opens more and more legal exposure and opens up more and more of a probe that prolongs it almost indefinitely. When he stops talking I'm sure the indictments and the evidence will continue to speak louder.

CUOMO: The pushback on that, Michael, is you can't indict him anyway. What difference does it make if he sits down, in terms of his own exposure?

To help on other cases, maybe Trump could be helpful there and maybe not. But on him, you can't indict him anyway. Sitting down with him is just a pageant.

ZELDIN: Well, when you look at what Mueller was asked to investigate his mandate says he's to look -- continue the counterintelligence investigation started by the FBI, and that investigation includes interference in our electoral system by outside forces and any collaboration by the Trump administration -- the Trump campaign with that.

In order for him to complete that inquiry he has to speak to the President of the United States. Irrespective of whether the president was a target of the investigation for obstruction of justice or coordination or conspiracy, you need to speak to the president who was the head of the campaign to understand what happened so that Mueller can complete his primary mandate.

And so, for the president to say well, because I may not be indictable for statutory obstruction of justice means I'm not going to cooperate with an investigation whose primary objective is to figure out what happened in our election, who cooperated with it, if anybody, and how to prevent it in the future is just the wrong way of thinking about this in my estimation.

COATES: And, you know, if I could just say too --

CUOMO: Wait, well --

COATES: -- the idea at the OLC -- everyone's basing off an OLC opinion -- Opposite Legal Counsel. It talks about whether you can have a president -- a sitting president in a criminal trial, whether it would be at odds with their ability just to perform their other functions, and an indict ability factor.

I wish they would read that opinion more thoroughly. When they would do so they would realize first of all, an OLC opinion is binding until it's not. Until someone rewrites one to have a more thorough or comprehensive.

And also, that particular opinion only has like about a sentence or two of a more lengthy discussion on whether a president can sit in a criminal trial --

[07:50:01] CUOMO: Right.

COATES: -- not whether they're indictable. And so, he could very well be indicted.

The question was whether or not he actually be -- gone through a criminal trial. That's very, very different.

And, Mueller's team could expose that particular vulnerability or could ask for a rewritten opinion or a more thorough one on whether a President of the United States can be indicted. It's not really that set in stone, Chris.

CUOMO: It's funny. I'm smiling because I went down exactly that rabbit hole when I was reading the decision. I overprepare for all of these things.

And it leads to this understanding from law review articles that really what they were coming from is well, you might be able to indict him, it's just about when. And you would do the investigation now but not indict or move on a prosecution of a sitting president until after their tenure, but you could gather the evidence now and preserve it until then.

It is complicated. It's just one iron in the fire, to be sure.

Laura Coates, thanks for picking that out. And, Michael Zeldin, thank you for the analysis, as always.

COATES: Thank you.

CUOMO: Erica --

HILL: The volcano emergency is intensifying in Hawaii. The new threat forcing more people from their homes. We have a live report for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:55:07] HILL: An 18th volcano fissure opening in Hawaii as Mt. Kilauea continues to erupt. The volcanic vent spewing lava and fumes, forcing more residents from their homes. The volcano isn't showing any signs of stopping, either.

CNN's Scott McLean is live in Paauhau, Hawaii with more for us this morning. What's the latest there?


Since Kilauea starting flaring up more than a week ago, some 37 buildings and homes have been destroyed and some 2,000 people are currently evacuated, and let me show you why.

We're just going to shut off the camera light here and I'm going to step out of the way to show you this is that 18th fissure that you mentioned that is flaring up right now. And just to give you a sense, we are more than a mile away from it right now so you can see just how big it.

When you get up close -- when you get up close there's a strange sound that you heard there earlier. It almost sounds like waves crashing on the ocean. But just all of this pressure building up creates this strange thundering sound. Some of these fissures are several hundred yards long.

The good news is that while this looks dangerous, and it certainly is, there are few, if any, homes in this area that are threatened though this may cause more evacuations. People in this area are being told to be ready to leave in a moment's notice.

But there are people who have already been evacuated who are simply refusing to leave. They are taking their chances despite the images that we've seen of entire cars being swallowed whole by lava or entire homes being swallowed up.

Police say that if their escape routes -- if those main roads get blocked off -- well, there simply could be no way for first responders to rescue them if they needed it and that is the risk that they are taking.

Now, separate from this fissure is another concern and that is at the top of this volcano, and that is that crater. And the concern is that if that crater gets blocked with rocks and boulders that are falling down into it, that could create pressure down below which may ultimately end up with an explosion.

This explosion wouldn't be like the explosion that you're seeing here though, Erica. It could send boulders the size of cars flying into the air some half a mile. Smaller rocks flying even further than that.

This could come within days, it could come within weeks, or it might not come at all. And for that reason, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park -- it is closed indefinitely. And as for those 2,000 evacuees -- well, it is really anyone's guess when Kilauea will calm down enough for them to go home.

HILL: And, Scott, there's also the bigger question of air quality which I know has been a major concern for residents there. Masks were sold out.

What is the air quality at this point? How much of a legitimate concern is that?

MCLEAN: Yes, it absolutely is a concern in the vicinity. A lot of people have left their homes, especially older people who might have asthma or breathing problems. They've left their homes simply because of that reason.

They may not be that close to lava or that close to fissures and might otherwise be able to stay but they just don't want to be around it. It's irritating, especially if you have conditions that might dispose you to that.

And so, the issue with that -- with that gas, though, is that people are running out, as you said, to get gas masks. A lot of them, they're looking for those dust masks. But officials say that's simply not going to anything to protect against this gas.

The good news is that if you inhale it in small quantities it is certainly not going to cause any lasting damage.

HILL: Scott McLean with the latest for us there. Thank you.

We are following breaking news in other parts of the world this morning. We want to get you right to that.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, May 14th, 8:00 in the east.

Alisyn's off. Erica Hill joining me and there's a lot of news. Thanks for being here with me.

Let's begin with breaking news.

Deadly protests intensifying along the Gaza border. As of now, 25 people have been reported killed in these clashes by the Palestinian authorities. The violence breaking out just hours from when the U.S. Embassy is due to officially open in Jerusalem.

HILL: The Trump administration and Israel celebrating the move. The big question, though, will this add more instability to a region which, as we know, is already on edge.

We begin with CNN's Ian Lee who is live there in Gaza with more on these breaking details -- Ian.

LEE: Hi, Erica.

That death toll rose to 25 just a little while ago. This makes it the deadliest day in these past seven weeks of protests. Hundreds of people have also been injured.

And behind me, we're still hearing a lot of this confrontation. We're hearing live fire and a while ago we also heard what sounded like a tank fire although we're asking the Israeli military if they are using tanks. But despite all of that, it is a very tense situation here on the border.