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U.S. to Open Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem; Protests Erupt in Palestine over Opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem; White House Refuses To Apologize For Aide's Offensive Joke About McCain; Source: White House Aide Promised McCain's Daughter A Public Apology; Deadly Protests Ahead Of U.S. Opening Embassy In Jerusalem. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But despite all that it is a very tense situation here on the border. There are thousands of people have been coming in and out throughout the day.

Right now we are about hundreds of meters away from that border fence. That is the red line for the Israelis. They say they don't want anyone to get near it or get over it. And they say that they will use different means to stop them, some nonlethal means like tear gas. We have seen drones dropping tear gas on these crowds today. But also they say that they will use live rounds if needed to stop people from breaching that fence. They say that is their worst case scenario, having hundreds of people trying to get across and infiltrate that fence.

The other thing we have been watching too are these kites they have been using. They light the tails on fire and then they let them go. They fly across the border. And we have seen a number of fires on the Israeli side. And so you are just getting this mixture of all of this today which is leading to that very high death toll.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Ian Lee with the latest for us there. Ian, thank you. That bloodshed of course along the Israeli-Gaza border unfolding as the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is about to open. CNN's Elise Labott is at the embassy right now with more. Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, the mood here is jubilant. This is a day that Israelis have been waiting to celebrate. Their closest ally, the U.S., recognizing their capital, Jerusalem, they feel that is their rightful capital, with the opening of their embassy. As the celebrations are going on behind me the ceremony about to start, in just over an hour the IDF is very concerned about these protesters. They are calling them rioters, talking about Molotov cocktails and explosive devices, the IDF saying that it just thwarted a terrorist attack, an explosive device on the border with Gaza.

That said, people are not letting it dampen the mood here. We are expected to hear from President Trump in a taped address, also hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu who is calling this a very emotional day. He will also call on other countries to follow suit, follow President Trump's lead and move their capital here to Jerusalem, move their embassies here. We will also hear from Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who is about to unveil his own peace plan. So even as Israelis are celebrating today, obviously this is a crushing blow to Palestinians, and they are making their frustrations felt around the Palestinian territories today. Erica?

HILL: Elise, thank you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and president and founder of the Eurasia group Ian Bremmer, author of "The Us Versus Them, The Failure of Globalism." Unfortunately, great day for your book and the discussion. This is not new in terms of authority for U.S. administration. Republican and Democrat presidents have waived on this. They said, yes, we have the power to move the embassy. We are not going to, not because they don't recognize Jerusalem as the putative capital of Israel, but because of political implications to the peace process and wanting the two sides to work it out before the U.S. would make a dispositive move. The calculus has changed. What is the plus/minus?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: The plus/minus, that the Israelis are our friends and we don't care about Palestinians. You just saw, you don't get much more us versus them than that. We're jubilant about opening the Jerusalem embassy, and so are the Israelis. And 25 Palestinians are dead, throwing themselves against the wall in Gaza, and those numbers are going to go up.

President Trump said it very well -- walls work. And nowhere do walls work better in the world than separating the Palestinians from the Israelis. And as long as you're not Palestinian, what is the problem? And if we don't care about the Palestinians, this is a great day. We're jubilant. That is what we are hearing.

And the problem is that if you are Palestinian you feel like you have been lied to for decades by the Americans trying to be an honest broker for the two-state solution, by the Europeans saying you have to put sanctions and boycotts on and make it different for them, by the United Nations saying that you really care, but your own Palestinian Authority that has never gotten it done for you. And so as a consequence, what is left for you? For 25 of them, nothing at all.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, the dark irony of understatement undergirding what Ian said, that contrast between what Elise Labott is describing as the jubilation inside the room and the bloodshed on the Gaza border is striking. And you can't simply say it is working. This isn't working if people are being massacred and there is an aura of indifference among part of the international community.

What I think the real cost is while Trump crosses another item off his campaign promise to do list, and previous presidents in campaign have said they would do this and didn't, this really makes it infinitely more difficult for the United States to be the honest broker.

[08:05:02] Abbas has lost credibility with his people, given anti- Semitic speeches recently that are utterly repugnant. But this is not a precursor to peace. Jared Kushner may say he has got a peace plan ready to unveil, but you can't kill a peach plan that is already dead, and this is a very compromised environment, and the Trump administration is not going to have moral authority to bridge the divide in the two-state solution.

HILL: And to your point this crosses one thing off of the campaign promise list. This does not in any way advance another campaign promise, which was that there would be the ultimate peace deal here. And of course this coupled with pulling out of the Iran deal just makes it infinitely more complicated.

BREMMER: Ludicrous to think that Jared Kushner was going to bring peace between Israel and Palestine. The campaign promise was to leave the Iran deal. He's done that as well. The Israelis are happy and the pro-Israel lobby in the United States is very happy. The evangelicals are very happy and they are there in force. And that certainly is Trump's base. I don't think there are any Palestinians in Trump base.

So as a consequence when you say this isn't a win, it's not sustainable, even the Israeli left today doesn't talk much about a two-state solution because the Palestinians aren't really a threat to them. We have been dealing with this kind of violence, it's been not as bad, for decades now, right. And so you just get inured to it. Suddenly it doesn't matter as much.

CUOMO: It is also a straight alliance play. The strongest ally in the region is Israel. This is something that matters to them. They are of increasing importance on the intel work right now and what's developing in the dynamic with Iran, what is provoking it and what isn't. That's a longer discussion. But for the United States to shore up that relationship, do something that Israel has asked for, why isn't that seen as at least a qualified positive?

BREMMER: I think it is seen as a positive, but for me it is much more about the domestic politics and the campaign promise. It's not as if Trump really cares about how allies feel about the United States around the world. He is more than willing to slap down the most important allies the United States has in terms of Europe on the Paris peace deal, on the Iranian deal, on everything. The French, the Germans coming here saying you're going to listen to us, and he's saying talk to the hand, right. So it's not as if Israel and Saudi Arabia are more important to the U.S. than the Europeans or the Canadians and the Mexicans, but domestically this issue plays for Trump and it's clearly a win. Netanyahu was not happy with the United States with Obama, but the U.S.-Israel relationship under Obama was also very strong under Bush and under Trump.

AVLON: But not according to Netanyahu. That's actually one of the real concerns. The Obama administration did an enormous amount in terms of financial aid to Israel. But the increasing grift of policies of Likud to associate with the Republican Party undercuts the fact that the tradition of the relationship between the United States and Israel has been bipartisan. That has been undercut the more Netanyahu campaigns and effectively goes to Congress and effectively endorses Mitt Romney during the 2012 election. This descends from there. I think the other thing is that Trump by following through on the

Jerusalem move, there was an expectation that the Arab world and leaders in the region would really denounce it and rally behind the Palestinians. There have been basically crickets. The Arab world has been not been rallying around the Palestinian cause and so the Palestinians feel increasingly alone and isolated, and presumably that brings a degree of anger and fear and potentially terrorist activity that we haven't seen -- at a level we haven't seen.

CUOMO: But intuitively their problem should be with their Arab allies, not with the United States. The United States is doing something that really it promised to do for generations of leadership here. What made it an exigency now is open to dispute, obviously. But the United States isn't telling Iran to be quiet about this. It's giving them every reason to open their mouths as wide as they can.

BREMMER: You've got to give Trump credit. The Saudis, for example, came out publicly and said, look, after the Jerusalem, said, hey, the Palestinians are going to have to just accept a deal. I think if it wasn't for Trump, under another president, the Saudis wouldn't have said that. But Trump went to Saudi Arabia first, then he went to Israel. That was his first trip. And they are saying yes, OK, I'll support you, because, again, the Palestinians aren't a priority for any of the countries in the region right now that are with the United States. Not the Jordanians, not the Egyptians. The Saudis and Emiratis are much closer to Israel than before. This just is so far from a top priority for anyone there except the Palestinians. So as a consequence we have got 25 dead, and in two days we are not talking about it.

HILL: So if it is not such a priority, right, for the rest of the world, then as we look at this, is this ultimately going to be a win for President Trump, meaning that he is starting to move that conversation in a different direction with this move, it's helping to push it?

AVLON: It's very difficult I think to stomach talk of a win in the breaking news of 25 --

HILL: No, I don't mean it in that context.

AVLON: But look, he has been trying to play an offensive game as he does, rearranging the Middle East chessboard and having the Saudis and the Israelis all in agreement at least on one thing, which is containing and counteracting Iran. That's the larger game.

[08:10:08] And he has been effective I think at reshuffling some alliances with tough talk and following through on this, because the Saudis didn't squawk about the Jerusalem move, far from it.

CUOMO: But there is always going to be a cost. You don't think that you're going to move an embassy there and no one is going to die. You knew there would be a violent backlash to it. In fact, we have to see. This is very early. The ceremony hasn't even happened yet. But this is certainly at the light end of the scale of what was being projected. Again it's very early. I'm not saying that we know the full turnout of this.

But is this a dynamic that Trump is comfortable with? Not in death. That's not what I mean. But this may increase volatility. I'm getting us out of the Iran deal. Yes, I hear you big brains that this may make them more provocative, they may do more things. That's OK. It's a cost I'm OK with.

With China, I'm being nice to China now. I'm helping them with ZTE. I know what you are saying. I know we're going to be at odds with them on Korea soon enough, that they don't want a democratic state. They want a land barrier. I'm OK with that volatility. I'll take it when it comes. What's the plus/minus on that?

BREMMER: It's not about common values. It's about winners and losers. Trump sees the world in winner and losers more than any president we have experienced. And the Israelis are on our side. They are winning. The Palestinians from his perspective have chosen not to be willing to engage with the United States on our terms, on Israeli terms. They are losers. The Iranians decided that they weren't going to work more closely with the U.S. on other issues like ballistic missiles, support for terrorists and proxy wars against us and our allies. They're losers.

So Trump's willingness to divide the world into winners and losers, and if you lose you don't count. You don't matter. You're going to get hurt. We are more powerful. That's exactly what we see playing out right here.

And while the Trump administration is jubilant over setting up an embassy in Jerusalem, the Palestinians are losers and they don't count as much. We have had 11 Syrian refugees come to the United States so far this year, 11. And a lot of Americans are like, you know what, that is 11 too many. When you have a president that supports winners and losers, the Syrian refugees are losers, too.

AVLON: And the flipside to your winners and losers dichotomy is this, is that history shows us that reconciliation occurs when you get something close to a win/win. Trump believes in being tough, changing people's calculus. But ultimately that role the United States is uniquely suited to play historically in being a reconciling power, redeeming power, that is about getting to a win/win. That is utterly at odds with the win/lose view of the world

BREMMER: I completely agree.

HILL: Appreciate it, thank you both.

As we've been talking, Israelis celebrating the historic opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. That happens less than an hour from now. This of course as these protests are raging in Palestinian territories. We will take a closer look at those dueling reactions when we're joined by Israel's ambassador to the U.N. next.


[08:16:35] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Still no apology from the Trump administration about what was said in a staff meeting about John McCain. You know the joke as it is being called. You know it was ugly and you know why we haven't heard from the White House or the president.

They don't believe in apologies and easy to assume that the president of the United States was OK with this being said about John McCain. So, what does this mean about where we are with this administration and the dialogue, and what is descent?

Joining us now, former senior adviser to the George W. Bush and McCain campaigns, Mark McKinnon. Always good to see you, brother. I was pushing to have you on here because I don't believe this is about partisanship or left versus right. There has always been a line of decency.

You don't mock people when they are in the health battle of their life. You just do it and when it happens, if it happens, it's a layup for the administration. We demean this comment. We reject it. We will be better than this and you move on.

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH AND MCCAIN CAMPAIGNS: Not here. That is what is so surprising. It's pretty easy to knock it down. You just stand up, address it, lay it down. But a couple of things. One is that the comments themselves were inhumane, insensitive, indefensible obviously.

But the underlying intent of that was to say that John McCain doesn't matter. That could not be more untrue. John McCain matters as much from Arizona as he did when he was in D.C. This shuttle looms over. The whole debate last week over torture was because of one man, John McCain.

Number two, the White House's press office has been focusing on the leaks as if it is someone else's problem. They have a meeting with six people and reported out that five of the six people in the meeting leaked. And so, I presume of the six is Secretary Sanders.

CUOMO: Right.

MCKINNON: So, everybody else -- look, that's their problem not our problem.

CUOMO: Important point for you to cement for people and again, I think I was seeing this too clearly because of my own experience growing up in the game. I have never seen a team leak like this. There is something that is far more intimate than even a fraternity when it comes to these political teams.

You may hate each other, you men and women, but you never go bad on each other with anything that resembles a kill shot because of greater devotion to the principle, the president, governor, senator -- and you stomach the fact that you hate me because you know that the big guy or the big woman needs me, and we have to work together. That is not happening here. MCKINNON: It is called public service, country first, which John McCain represents so well. And finally, the point is they just managed to make a one-day story, a five-day story. We are talking about this Monday. This happened last Thursday. All you have to do is say sorry, inappropriate, won't happen again.

CUOMO: I wonder if the leaks would be fewer if the president counterintuitively for him stood up and said, look, I know what I've said about John McCain but right now --

MCKINNON: Any organization especially the presidency starts with the guy at the top. He can come out very easily and started in the campaign. So that would be the quickest way to knock this down. Meghan McCain said she got the apology, but when she got the apology, she was also told it be made public. That's all they got to do, just do it next.

CUOMO: Right. But he is -- you know, I keep saying the book that needs to be written about Trump and will be someday is that he is the luckiest man in the history of the presidency because not just how he won, but that he benefits from a disconnect between what always seen as standard operating procedure in there.

[08:20:08] I can't tell you how many people how many people, very loyal, not rank and file GOPiers, not bed rock conservative people, but this base, this small but very intense group of people.

What about when Al Franken made jokes about John McCain, they were jokes by a comedian in context that McCain did not come out and say that's not funny, it shouldn't be joked about. But they always find a way to excuse what Donald Trump says and does no matter how ugly it is.

MCKINNON: Well, as a starter would like his announcement speech, remember when he came out and (inaudible) in the business for a long time saw that -- you know, normally, we prepare for months and practice into the teleprompter. He got up and just winged it, you know.

But that's exactly what his base wanted to see. They didn't want to see it scripted. They wanted to see him just talk from his heart authentically just write what's on his mind. So, a lot of what Trump does is stylistic including I'm a tough guy, I'm not going to back down.

And that's what his base likes and we have a great piece from Indiana on our show last night, we got a full hour. And we have a great scene from Indiana, Trump rally, and you really get a sense of how devoted his base is and why they like him for precisely the sort of things that we are talking about right now, he doesn't back down.

CUOMO: It is just interesting to see the turn in our political culture. I remember in '94 part of the national movement that took my pop out in '94 was the contract with America. But new terrain was short because harsh strength is not the commodity whether Reagan or Bush or Clinton or whomever you want to look at it. Sweet strength winds up being the commodity that wins but not right now.

MCKINNON: That was compassionate conservatism that (inaudible) to the Republican Party.

CUOMO: But not right now. It's interesting though where it comes to McCain and those who have covered him know how tough as nails he is. Nobody needs to defend him, but you were talking with his daughter about this situation in context. Let's play a little bit of it for the audience.


MCKINNON: The reason that we formed the torture exercise in America is because of John McCain.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: When he was speaking at town halls he says take a guy and like shoot him in the knee. Obviously, he knows I think better than anyone that ultimately people break at a certain point.

MCKINNON: Which is his point, too. You get bad information.



CUOMO: Just a little bit of insight into who John McCain is, what he's about, his positions you can argue with like any politician, his principles 100 percent. This is one of the reasons that you show the circus is catching on because there is so much insight into these things.

MCKINNON: Part of what I love about John McCain was that he was so strong but vulnerable, too. He broke. He says I broke. I told them what they wanted to hear and that's why torture doesn't work.

One of the most moving times for me is when the campaign was broke, I was doing all the jobs, we went out and when they passed him off to me gave me a little black bag. I opened it up and it was a hair brush in there. The next stop we were in a van and the crowds are on the other side.

We get out and this war hero bends over to me submissively like this and he is asking me to comb his hair because he can't raise his arms above his shoulders because they broke his arms so many times.

CUOMO: Could still throw a hell of a hook. We wish him the best. We wish the family the best and I think we all know how they are supposed to being treated right now. Mark McKinnon, thank you very much. Appreciate you being with us as always -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty five people are dead as clashes erupt at the Gaza border ahead of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. That takes place moments from now.

Joining us from that new embassy is Michael Oren, Israel's deputy minister of diplomacy and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Sir, we appreciate you taking some time for us today.

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI DEPUTY MINISTER OF DIPLOMACY: Hi, Erica. Welcome from Jerusalem. It's a great moment for us here. We have waited 70 years for this moment for America to recognize Jerusalem as our capital. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and here the embassy is moving right behind me. It's a great day for us.

HILL: And I know you've said you believe this is the right decision when it comes to the peace process. Former special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, this morning telling my colleague, Chris Cuomo, this undermines the president's own efforts for a two-state solution.

As you know, that's been echoed by U.S. allies in Europe, Middle East as well, all this playing out against the back drop of the U.S. pulling out of the Iran deal. How does this, in fact, move the peace process forward?

COHEN: I think it does move the peace process forward. First of all, there was no peace process to move forward. There hasn't been talks with Palestinians for nine years. I was in that last round. They lasted for exactly six hours.

So, this shakes up the diplomatic situation here and informs the Palestinians unequivocally there is a price to pay for not negotiating because they won't come to the negotiating table, but also opens an opportunity for the Palestinians.

[08:25:04] President Trump has tweeted twice that he is willing to exact a price for what is going on behind me for moving the embassy if the Palestinians were to avail themselves of that opportunity.

We hope that they come back to the negotiating table. I think that the president has proven that he is a man of his word and in mediations as my friend, George Mitchell, knows, credibility is everything.

HILL: The "Jerusalem Post" reporting earlier this month that Trump administration officials had informed Israeli Defense Ministry that the U.S. plans to ask Israel to withdraw from four Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as one part, perhaps a larger peace plan. Would current Israeli leadership accept that?

COHEN: Well, I can't speculate and I'm not going to (inaudible) to leaks in the press, but what I will say is this. President Trump is a businessman. His special envoys here are business people as well.

And in business, I'm told when people sit down at the negotiating table all sides are expected to make concessions. We have to accept that in Israel. It's important. We have to keep our eye on the bigger picture, Erica, all the time.

That is with this administration which is an outstandingly friendly administration toward us. We have many core issues. We have Iran, Syria, Gaza as you also mentioned. There is delegitimization in the U.N. This administration has stood by us, four square, if they ask us to do something I strongly recommend that we treat that request with great respect.

HILL: We will be watching to see what happens with that if that request is in fact come through. In terms of who will be on hand today, the president choosing two controversial pastors, one to give benediction and the other to give prayer. Share a little about what Reverend Robert Jeffers has said. Take a listen if you would.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some tend to think of President Trump as a man you better not cross.


HILL: The wrong tape rolling there. I will say for you what he said. Jeffers saying, quote, "Islam is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell. Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell. Judaism you can't be saved by being a Jew."

This morning, he said those comments were taken out of context, but it seems pretty clear as to what he said there. Does it bother you at all that this is a man who has been chosen to give a prayer today at the opening of the embassy?

COHEN: Well, I do not know this pastor. I have never met him or heard his remarks. I wasn't involved in choosing him to giving opening benedictions. For the record, I think that Islamophobia is despicable and certainly anti-Semitism, and I have great respect for Mormonism. So, it doesn't reflect certainly my views, the views of my government and the views of my people.

HILL: Does it tarnish the events of today?

COHEN: I have not heard this man. I do not know if he is speaking in a fact, so I can't comment on something I really don't know about nor do I know the individual.

HILL: When we are looking at -- I know we are hearing from you and our folks on the ground it is being seen as a jubilant day as you point out there in Jerusalem for the Israelis and we are seeing it playing out along the border with Gaza. We are told 25 people now dead. How does that impact what is happening today?

COHEN: It's not going to impact in any way the jubilation that you see going on behind us. We've waited for this moment for many, many years. It is an historic moment for Israel and the Jewish people. As for Gaza that was taking place quite irrespective of what was going on here.

It's been going on every Friday now for a month. The protests there are designed not to bring about peace. They are expressing designed to destroy the Jewish state and break through the border, to kill Israelis. Our troops are doing what they have to do which is defending our border. And Hamas, the terrorist group that runs Gaza is sending young people up to that border. They are paying them to get shot, $500 per gunshot wound just to get the type of media attention which they are getting now unfortunately.

Israel has done more than any other country to try to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza. I personally have been involved in that. We had the only open crossing into Gaza this week.

Palestinians stirred on by Hamas, burned down their own crossing, burned their own energy lines so that they can cry humanitarian crisis to the world and have the world blame us. I hope this time it won't work. I hope someday the Palestinians in Gaza like those in the West Bank will come to the negotiating table.

HILL: Let me back up. Are you saying that what we are seeing along the border is nothing but a play for media attention and it shouldn't be covered that 25 people have died?

COHEN: No. You have to make your decision what should be covered. It is certainly a play for media attention. It is working stunningly. As we are speaking now the Syrian army is attacking the Palestinian refugee camp, killing hundreds, maybe thousands of Palestinians.

Has CNN covered it? Does anybody care when Syrians kill Palestinians? It's only when there is conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and how much knows this and (inaudible) kids up to the border to break through the border and Israeli shoulders have to defend that border, that's going to get media --