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Top Republicans To Question Trump On ZTE, Chinese Jobs; New Clashes In Gaza One Day After Deadly Protests; White House Struggles to Stop Leaks, Enforce Cell Phone Ban; Trump to Meet with Republicans on Capitol Hill. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CAMEROTA: So wonder, oh my gosh. He really --

GREGORY: Speaks to the character and the bravery of people in the DMV, the District Maryland of Virginia.


GREGORY: That's how we do it down there.

CAMEROTA: I feel like this is a self-serving --


GREGORY: No, no. People are great where I live.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for being here.

GREGORY: Yes. Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Any time.

GREGORY: See you soon. I'll be back on Thursday, but now here, I'm just staying out a little bit.


GREGORY: OK. Time for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the morning off.

Tension in Gaza this morning. One day after 60 Palestinians are killed as the U.S. embassy opens in Jerusalem and this morning world leaders are condemning Israel for their use of lethal force against those protesters.

The U.N. Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting in just one hour. We will have the very latest on that for you.

Meantime, here at home, White House turmoil and turnover. White House counsel Kellyanne Conway says she expects that the leaks will lead to personnel changes, ie, firing in the White House, in the West Wing, as the president takes to Twitter and calls the leakers traitors.

And also new reporting this morning from our Kaitlan Collins that the White House is struggling to enforce that personal cell phone ban even conducting sweeps to try to clear out those devices.

And just ahead, a meeting between the president and Senate Republicans could prove tense on two fronts. Let's begin there.

Kaitlan Collins joins us at the White House.

So what's your new reporting on what they're trying to do to stop the leaks?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, leaks are a very sensitive subject in this White House right now with the president tweeting just yesterday that the leaks are a massive over exaggeration put out by the fake news to make the administration look as bad as possible, he said. With that being said, of course, that the people who are leaking are traitors and cowards and we will find out who they are.

But, Poppy, our new reporting shows that finding out who the leakers are is not that easy for this White House and despite going to great lengths to do so they've actually struggled to tamp down any leaks in the 16 months that they've been in office.

One of those tactics was a personal cell phone ban instituted by the Chief of Staff John Kelly back in January. Now when John Kelly outlined this policy in a memo to staffers, he said it wasn't to prevent them from being able to talk to reporters but for a national security reason but many people who work inside this White House saw it as a way to get them to stop being able to talk to reporters throughout the day.

Now the way that they carry this ban out was they had these lockers in the entry ways into the West Wing where staffers store their phones throughout the day. You can often find several staffers huddled around these lockers checking their phones throughout the day and staffers -- sources inside the White House tell me that these lockers are constantly buzzing and chirping because peoples' phones are going off.

Now for people who forget to put their phones in the locker or simply ignore the ban, there are sweeps carried out in the West Wing to check if there are any unauthorized devices that aren't government issued anywhere in the West Wing. That includes these several men dressed in suits going throughout the West Wing having these handheld devices roughly the size of iPads that can pick up if a non-authorized phone is in the West Wing.

They're very accurate I'm told by people inside the West Wing and can even tell if it's an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy. Just to show you what great lengths they are going through to find out if there are these unauthorized devices here in the West Wing.

Now in this memo that John Kelly sent his staffers, he said that no one would be -- people could be prohibited from coming into the West Wing if they did have these unauthorized devices, but sources inside the White House said they did not believe anyone would be fired as a result of that. Of course, we did have Kellyanne Conway last night saying that she believed there would be personnel changes in light of the recent leaks here in the White House, Poppy.

But the bottom line is, staffers inside the White House talked to reporters, the president himself talks to reporters and that's how reporters can find out what's going on in the White House to tell the American people.

HARLOW: Kaitlan Collins at the White House with all that reporting. Thank you.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. Suzanne Malveaux is there.

Look, the president is going to have this lunch meeting with some leading Republicans and some leading Republicans are pretty confused and upset, upset about the McCain comments out of the White House and confused about why the president is trying to help prop up this Chinese tech company ZTE. What should we expect?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, it's really quite frustrating for a lot of members of Congress here. This is day six that this story exists now whether or not the White House is going to publicly apologize, we'll see something publicly from Kelly Sadler.

A lot of people privately are saying that this is the last thing that they want to talk about but also they've been talking about this publicly. We saw from the leadership, Senate leader Lindsey Graham speaking about it, as well as Senators Cornyn and John Thune. They've all been saying look, that the White House either Sadler herself or the administration needs to publicly apologize for this really awful joke of dying, Senator John McCain, that that is just distracting them from what really they need to focus on at this point.

[09:05:09] We heard from Senator John Kennedy in his colorful way saying, sometimes, you know, there's a reason for everything and sometimes that reason is that you're just stupid and so that is one thing that's going to come up here in this closed meeting.

The other thing, of course, is that giant Chinese telecommunications corporation and the break that the president says he's going to give ZTE. They want to know more about that. Cornyn also saying that this is a company that is guilty of cyber theft and espionage, that they are not on the same page with the president.

The president for his part, he's very frustrated about the slow pace of judicial nominees getting through. He wants to see that pushed forward in a faster pace and also is going to be pushing for more funding for his border wall -- Poppy.

HARLOW: There's a lot there. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much.

With me now to break it all down, our political analyst Alex Burns and our contributor Brianna Golodryga.

Thank you both.

So, Alex, let me start with you because your colleague, Maggie Haberman, from the "New York Times," with an important byline this morning on Pence. We'll get to that in a moment. But she tweets this, "Sometimes the person yelling the most about leaks is doing the leaking." It's not hard to figure out who she's talking about. Good point?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm not going to decode that specific tweet but, you know, the issue of dealing with the Trump team in the White House but then going back to the campaign and frankly before he was a political candidate is that if he's trying to root out the people who are talking furtherly to the press, he's going to need to get rid of most of the people around him.

That this is a team -- this isn't a sort of situation where there's one mole in the West Wing or a couple of people who are stepping out of line. I think it is cultural and the culture in many ways comes from the top that people who work for Trump look out for themselves and they push their agenda in the media. And in some ways, yes, the president makes a lot of noise in a sort of outraged way but he also kind of rewards people for making their case through the press. He takes his cues from television.

HARLOW: And watches it and consumes it that way. And it's an effective way to communicate with him, we've heard from a number of folks close to the president.

Bianna, to you, this is, as Suzanne said, day six of the controversy over White House aide Kelly Sadler's disgusting remarks about John McCain dying. The White House could have dealt with this differently. They chose to not apologize publicly. They chose to try to flip this, make it a story about leaks. '

How would you assess the White House's job thus far on getting ahead, getting a hold of a story that has been crippling even among leading Republicans in Congress?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Look, another self-inflicted wound. We've been here before. I mean, this didn't even come from the mouth of the president. Right? You would think the cleanup would be swift and it would have been a one-day story, come out and say she was joking.


GOLODRYGA: She apologized. We don't condone this type of language even if it was a joke and it won't happen again, and that's that. But we've seen this time and time before. We've seen this with Rob Porter, we've seen this in a number of instances where the administration starting one would assume from the president because he chose to finally address this issue not on the comments that she made but on the leaking now that they want to focus on.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

GOLODRYGA: They dig in their heels.

HARLOW: But can he do that, Alex, at lunch today? If he has senators, you know, Cornyn and Thune pressing him on ZTE and other senators pressing him on, you know, the McCain, why this was allowed to happen, comments like this, in the White House? Can he really just say, no, no, nothing there, nothing there, this is just a problem of leakers?

BURNS: He certainly can say that and then it's up to Republican senators to press him on it. But he has -- the president has moved on from many of these controversies simply by refusing to address it. Right? Denying that it happened in some cases or saying basically this is not important.

HARLOW: But McCain has -- if you agree with his politics, there's a special place in the hearts of so many Americans and so many of his fellow Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, isn't this different?

BURNS: There's no question that it's different. What I wonder and we'll see in a couple of hours is, you know, who is the member of the Republican conference in the Senate who is going to take it to the president to his face. Because we've not seen anybody basically --

HARLOW: Yes. No. That's fair.

BURNS: -- do that at this point.

GOLODRYGA: And look, to be crude, I think maybe you'll hear from the president if you start to see his base turning on this. Right now you don't seem to see that impacting him at all. You don't seem to see his base reacting.


GOLODRYGA: And this is a president that seems to be more focused on his base than expanding to other voters.

HARLOW: Alex, quickly on your reporting in the "New York Times" today that Trump aides are worried because the Vice President Mike Pence appears to be staging a power grab for the Republican Party? There were so many sort of striking examples and stories throughout of how that is happening.

What kind of tension? How much tension is this actually causing in the West Wing?

BURNS: Well, look, what we see right now is that amid all the chaos on the Trump side of the West Wing, the vice president and some of his senior staffers have annexed just a huge amount of influence when it comes to the levers of power in the Republican Party, fundraising, candidate endorsements, how the party deploys its resources.

HARLOW: Yes. BURNS: And its strategy in the midterms and this is alarming to folks

on the Trump side of the West Wing. Both because they think the president sort of deserves his own power base and they think that everybody beneath the president ought to stay within that power base.

[09:10:01] And also because there's some pretty vivid examples when it comes to important elections in states like Florida and Texas where the vice president rewarding his own allies, taking care of his own interest, and potentially heading off his own political competitors for 2024 or sooner.


GOLODRYGA: Very disciplined, too.

HARLOW: Yes. It's a fascinating read. I would suggest it. "New York Times" this morning. Thank you both very much. We appreciate it.

We do have to get to some breaking news right now.

Stunning pictures out of Gaza. Clashes happening for a second day in a row after 60 Palestinians were killed on the border here between Gaza and Israel. Take a look at these live images, I believe. Let's go to our Ian Lee, who joins us there.

What are we seeing here on day two?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. We are starting to see more and more people come here. I'll step aside so you can actually see what we've been watching today. All right. Down there you can see that thick black smoke, that is from burning tires used to obscure the site of Israeli snipers and then you can see there are possibly a couple hundred protesters down there.

They have been moving forward and back from that position towards that fence. So at times we've also seen drones coming over head dropping tear gas on the protesters, trying to disperse them, but, you know, also we're hearing automatic gunfire from these camps trying to shoot down those drones.

It is a very tense situation and it's growing even more so as more people continue to come and we were expected this. We were told that more people would come later in the day after the funerals that took place today. There you go. Here, you can see the tear gas falling down, this is from the drone and this is really what we've been watching all day, this back and forth with protesters.

We've also heard the crack of live bullets. We've seen ambulances rushing in ferrying people away. That just gives you a sense of the atmosphere. You can see why especially yesterday how there were 60 people killed in one of the deadliest days -- the deadliest day since the 2014 war and it looks like it's just picking up again today.

HARLOW: Ian Lee for us there. Again you're looking at these pictures that are just coming into us out of Gaza. Ian, stay close and stay safe. We'll get back to you with more in

just a moment. Thank you very much for that.

Also ahead for us, the first lady is still in the hospital this morning after undergoing surgery. Much more on her condition. The president says she is doing well. Sending her love and support. And the world will be watching as Meghan Markle walks down the aisle. The question this morning, will her father be the one to walk her down the aisle? More on what has happened ahead.


HARLOW: You're looking at live pictures right now. These are images out of Gaza right near the border. This comes a day after 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

World leaders from French President Emmanuel Macron to the United Nations condemning the use of lethal force by the Israeli military.

The White House justifying what has been happening in the wake of the US embassy opening there in Jerusalem, blaming Hamas solely for the violence.

Again, our reporter Ian Lee is on the ground there. We will get to him as soon as we can. We're keeping a very close eye on these pictures.

Meantime, the president's pledge to save Chinese jobs could make for a very tense lunch meeting with Republicans in the Senate. Today, he's headed to the Hill to meet with them. They've been confused to say the least about why the president is now trying to save a company that US sanctions pretty much killed.

Let's go to our Christine Romans, our chief business correspondent, with more. Look, you've got Sen. Cornyn, you've got Sen. Thune, Marco Rubio scratching their heads, saying are we getting out- negotiated, why, Mr. President, are you trying to save this big Chinese tech firm ZTE.

And the president responding with a tweet, sort of trying to do cleanup, explain it to the American people.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's remarkable. It's a reversal. And then a tweak on top of a reversal.

First, President Trump said he wanted to save Chinese jobs. Now, the president says he doesn't want to hurt US suppliers to the smartphone maker ZTE.

Just last month, Trump's Commerce Department crippled ZTE by banning it from buying US parts for seven years, punishment for violating US sanctions, then lying about disciplining the employees at the time.

The Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called it egregious behavior. Then, yesterday, he said the US is reconsidering its response.


WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: The question is are there alternative remedies to the one that we had originally put forward. And that's the area we will be exploring very, very promptly.


ROMANS: In return, sources say the US wants concessions from China, like removing tariffs on agriculture products, linking ZTE's fate to broader trade tax. So, not just that enforcement action, but now as part of the trade negotiations. A Chinese delegation heads to Washington, as you know, today.

Then there are the national security concerns, Poppy. Just two weeks ago, the Pentagon banned ZTE phones from being sold on military bases. US intelligence agencies warn ZTE technology could be used for espionage.

Sen. Marco Rubio, you talked about this, slamming any deal this morning. This is what he tweeted that "we're lifting sanctions, so ZTE can resume spying and stealing our intellectual property. In return, China removes tariffs on US farmers who did no wrong."

HARLOW: Right. It's interesting, you even see some of the most ardent supporters in the media of the president, like Laura Ingraham, scratching their head this morning, tweeting, what is this all about? Is this about a North Korea play and trying to ensure China's help on North Korea? What is it? He has a lot of questions to answer this afternoon.

ROMANS: Is it about farmers?


ROMANS: Is it about technology? Is it about North Korea play? Is it something else?

[09:20:02] HARLOW: Yes. Christine, thank you. We appreciate it. This story will continue.

Let's go back to those live pictures out of Gaza right on the border there with Israel. These are moments ago, the clashes between Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinians.

Yesterday, 60 Palestinians died in these clashes, marking the deadliest days between the two in four years. The UN condemning the violence. The UN will hold an emergency meeting in less than an hour to address this. Again, we'll take you straight to Gaza after the break.


[09:25:13] HARLOW: All right. Again, back to our breaking news. Black smoke is rising, tear gas raining down on several hundred protesters gathered near the border between Gaza and Israel right now. The protests have resumed after funerals were held for those 60 Palestinians killed yesterday. Yesterday marking the deadliest day in Gaza in four years.

Let's go to Ian Lee. He's on the ground in Gaza. Ian, what are you seeing?

LEE: Poppy, we're seeing more people coming to this camp. We're here in the northern part of Gaza.

Let me step aside and just show you what we've been watching this past few hours. Right there, you have that thick black smoke. That's from burning tires. They're using that smoke to obscure the site of Israeli snipers.

We've also seen drones flying overhead, firing tear gas down on the crowds to disburse them. And once in a while, we'll also get the crack of live rounds. Those hitting people.

We've seen the ambulances, probably you can see them too down there with their flashing lights, they've been going out, grabbing the people who have been shot, ferrying them away to the hospital.

But you can just see right there in that scene, that is what we've been seeing all along the border yesterday and today in different places. We're at just one of multiple camps here along the Gaza border. And you can just see how this has become such a deadly situation with yesterday being the greatest death toll in a single day since the 2014 war.

It also included an 8-month-old infant child. This girl, Layla. She was killed by gas asphyxiation at one of these camps.

And the protesters, when you talk to them, they say that they're frustrated. They're frustrated with the political situation here in Gaza, which has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt for over a decade, but they're also angry about that US embassy move, about the US declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

And when we heard from Hamas yesterday, they say that the blood is on the American's hands. And they also warned of imminent action, although, Poppy, we don't know what that means. We'll have to wait and see.

HARLOW: And, of course, the White House saying the exact opposite, Ian Lee. The message from the White House is, according to Raj Shah, that Hamas should bear responsibility for the entire situation.

Meantime, lives hang in the balance, as you mentioned. An 8-month-old little girl killed in these clashes. Ian Lee, thank you very much. Stay safe to you and your entire team.

With me now is CNN national security analyst and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. Gayle, thank you for being here. It is tragic to see these deaths. Doctors Without Borders calls this unacceptable, inhumane. You have French President Emmanuel Macron calling out Israel's use of lethal force against these protesters.

We have the White House saying, look, this is Hamas, this is all on Hamas' shoulders. Where do we go from here?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, this is the thing, Poppy. It's the tale of two split screens, right, and it has been for a long time, right, where you have real desperation. Ian's talking about frustration. I mean, you have 60 percent unemployment among young people in Gaza. So, you have this huge frustration.

And on the other hot side, you really have an Israel that has never been stronger in terms of the way the world has seen it. It had the United States withdrawing from the Iran deal. The embassy is moved. And, in fact, many of the Gulf states have actually been, I think, warming to the Israeli position much more than they've ever been able to before because they have been fighting Iran.

So, that has been much more important to many of the Gulf powers than what has been happening on the streets as these lives hang in the balance.

HARLOW: Look, former legal adviser to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was just on "New Day" this morning. And when she was asked sort of where do we go from here, are negotiations even possible at this point, here's what she said.


DIANA BUTTU, FORMER LEGAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT ABBAS: I don't think that negotiations are going to resume and I actually don't think that they're going to be the answer. I was somebody who was part of those negotiations for 25 years. And over the course of 25 years, all that we saw was the number of settlements expand -


HARLOW: To be clear, she is not a supporter of a two-state solution. She said, look, I see a one-state solution. Is she right at this point, Gayle, saying I don't see a place for negotiations restart right now?

LEMMON: I don't think anybody sees a real possibility for imminent hope right now or reason to be hopeful. But that said, we have been in unexpected places before. And I think you should never give up.

The question is, who is going to lead that discussion and from what position of power. Right now, Iran has been the focus for so many of the regional powers. Where's the energy? Where's the commitment to get back to peace?

HARLOW: And the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas says, look, the US, because it moved the embassy to Jerusalem, essentially, as some analysts say, putting its thumb on the scale, takes it off the table as a neutral arbiter in any of this.