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Clashes in Gaza; First Lady Undergoes Procedure; Uber Changing Policy; Meghan Markle's Dad Has Heart Attack. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired May 15, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Where is the commitment to get back to peace?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas, say, look, the U.S., 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.

You -- we did hear something from Jared Kushner yesterday that's getting a lot of attention. The president's adviser and son-in-law. He blamed the deadly violence on Hamas, as the White House later did, calling Hamas part of the problem, not part of the solution. But then he also used the words that peace is within reach. You're saying one party is not part of the solution but peace is within reach. It seems contradictory.

LEMMON: I think there -- he Middle East and the Israeli/Palestinian peace process has long been filled with contradictions. The question is, will there be a leader? Could there be an emergence of people who are ready to say, here are the things that are in play now and here are the possibilities. Is it possible that Iran being the focus of so many in the region can lead to new alliances, can lead to new guarantees for the Palestinians who are seeking some level of security? It doesn't look likely, but I do think that we've seen many less likely things, look at North Korea at the moment --


LEMMON: Still be -- still be possible. So I'm never one who says it's impossible. But that you do see real lives hanging in the balance in the meantime.

HARLOW: Very briefly here, how significant that Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States to Ankara in the middle of all of this?

LEMMON: Yes, it's fascinating. I mean Turkey had promised it was going to do this. And it comes amid long simmering tensions between the United States and its NATO ally Turkey about the U.S. and the U.S. forces its backing in Syria. So I think it matters, but it's not incredibly surprising.

HARLOW: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, thank you for the expertise. Appreciate it.

LEMMON: Great to join you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Ahead for us, First Lady Melania Trump is in the hospital recovering this morning. The president says she is doing well. We'll have a live update, next.


[09:35:56] HARLOW: A day after First Lady Melania Trump underwent a medical procedure for what aides are describing as a benign kidney condition, the president, this morning, says she is recovering well. He also says she will leave the hospital in two to three days.

Our White House reporter, Kate Bennett, who follows the first lady very closely, joins me now.

What are you learning and how's she doing?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think the president is probably the most news we've gotten this morning. Certainly we have not received another statement from the first lady's office or the East Wing or her communications director, so we're relying on the president's tweet to tell us that she's doing well. She could be out in two to three days.

Of course yesterday the statement about her procedure indicated she could be at Walter Reed for the duration of the week, which felt like a long time for medical experts considering the procedure that she had for this kidney -- benign kidney condition as it was explained.

You know, last night she was resting comfortably. My sources said she was -- the procedure was successful. During the president's visit to her yesterday afternoon, he spent about an hour with her at her side. He also visited with her medical team and the nurses and thanked them personally. And I think she wanted to get some rest and that's when he left.

Certainly he called her the first -- he wasn't there for the procedure in person. He was at the White House. And I believe that was her choosing. She is private. She did not want the hubbub of extra motorcade and Secret Service and the press pool. They really wanted to sort of pull this off without anyone knowing and respect that privacy. No one knew until the release went out that she was clear and out of the surgery and resting comfortably.

HARLOW: They did, and that's significant, that no one knew about this, you know, outside of the White House beforehand?

BENNETT: Yes. We heard the vice president say last night that this was a long planned procedure, that she's doing well. I think it speaks to the very different sides of the building and the White House. And we're hearing now in the headlines about all these leaks and what the White House is doing to stop them on the West Wing side. Meanwhile, the East Wing side, you know, which I cover pretty closely, is pretty tight. She's got --

HARLOW: Yes. BENNETT: The first lady has ten staffers. They're incredibly loyal. It is very difficult to pry information out of them. And yesterday was a good example of that.

HARLOW: We wish her well. Hope for a speedy recovery.

Kate Bennett, thanks for the reporting.

With me now, Dr. Mohamad Allaf, vice chair of urology at Johns Hopkins, and also CNN contributor and author of "First Woman," Kate Andersen Brower.

Nice to have you both here.

Really glad to hear that the first lady is recovering well this morning.

Doctor, what is significant about a procedure like this and how serious is it?

DR. MOHAMAD ALLAF, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Yes, embolization is a procedure, it's serious but not surgery. The -- an IV is placed in the upper leg and a catheter is threaded into the kidney and steered to the proper blood vessel to block blood supply to an abnormality in the kidney. In a woman approaching the fifth decade of life, that's going to be either a benign growth of the kidney, called an angiomyolipoma, or a vascular problem, a problem in a blood vessel. Both predispose to bleeding. And given the elective nature of this we just learned would be preventive rather than treating an acute problem.

HARLOW: Given that, is it -- I mean is this timeline for her staying in the hospital, two or three more days according to the president this morning, is that typical?

ALLAF: I would say it's somewhat atypical, but not out of the question. My -- it's hard to tell without any more details. It may be just out of an abundance of caution and privacy. But certainly, you know, staying a little longer may imply that this is a little bit more of a complex situation. The larger the growth in the kidney, the more side effects that can happen from the procedure, which would imply additional monitoring. Sometimes a second stage of the procedure is performed because the growth, for example, may have multiple blood vessels. And so they may just want to evaluate for clinical success.

[09:40:09] Clearly they said it was technically successful. So they blocked the blood vessels that they wanted. But the question is, did they achieve the desired result --

HARLOW: Right.

ALLAF: In terms of shrinking whatever abnormality it is.

HARLOW: Let's certainly hope so.

Kate, to you. It's been a while since a sitting first lady had a medical procedure in the hospital. You have Nancy Reagan, a mastectomy in '87, Roselynn Carter with a breast lump in '77, Betty Ford had a mastectomy. But you note something rally interesting and powerful, that sometimes when first ladies choose to speak about this publicly, it can have a huge impact, such as Betty Ford.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, when Betty Ford had her mastectomy in 1974, it was a big deal because at the time people didn't talk about breast cancer publicly.


BROWER: And she was one of the first people, along with Shirley Temple Black, to talk about it. And she insisted.

I interviewed Ron Nesson (ph), who was Ford's press secretary, and she insisted on the press release saying exactly what the procedure was and not just a woman's health issue, which was common at the time to say. So that was a big, ground breaking moment.

There's some wonderful letters between Betty Ford and women who were going through similar treatment where she said, you know, have the procedure and move on with your life. So it was very powerful at the time.

And also to the point of president's coming for the procedure, even when Betty Ford had her mastectomy, President Ford came after the procedure, just like Donald Trump did, because it was not -- you know, you didn't want to cause this big hubbub with a president -- every time the president moves, as you know --


BROWER: It causes a traffic and publicity.

HARLOW: Completely understandable.

Melania Trump is a very private person. You just heard our Kate Bennett outline the difference between the West Wing and the East Wing when it comes to leaks, et cetera. Do you expect that someone who covers first lady's so closely, Kate, that she will speak about this in the aftermath, that she will talk about preventive procedures like this?

BROWER: Well, it's interesting that it was preventive since they have a 12-year-old son. And so you could certainly understand why she'd want to do something like this.

You know, I was surprised that they were being so forth coming yesterday with this announcement. You know, when Nancy Reagan had her mastectomy, there was no briefing, no prognosis given of how she was doing afterwards. It's really private. And she is such a private person. I would be surprised if she came out and did something really public about this.


Kate Andersen Brower, thank you.

Dr. Mohamad Allaf, thank you for the expertise.

All right, back to our breaking news.

Take a look at these live pictures out of Gaza. Clashes continuing there between Israeli defense forces and Palestinians for the second day in a row after the controversial U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and the deadliest day in Gaza yesterday in four years.

Much more of that ahead.


[09:47:15] HARLOW: New this morning, a drastic change by rideshare company Uber. This is about how it plans to deal with passengers who say that they have been the victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment by drivers. The company announced it will no longer force those visits to quietly accept arbitration as part of their terms of service. This is a step taken by Uber in the wake of a CNN investigation which found more than 100 drivers accused of sexual assault and abuse by passengers just in the last four years.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, broke this story. He joins me now.

This is the significant change.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a big change. And the biggest change is Uber is no longer going to try to hide this problem.


GRIFFIN: And it will allow victims to speak as a warning to others.

Uber's calling this turning the lights on, Poppy, pledging transparency, integrity and accountability. One of the problems we exposed for many victims of sexual assault, when you download and use Uber's app, in the fine print you're agreeing to arbitration for any legal claims against the company, forfeiting your right to sue. That is about to change. It was an issue for one woman we told you about who took Uber after a night out thinking it was a safe ride home. Instead, she says, her Uber driver raped her.


GRIFFIN: You're in the backseat.


GRIFFIN: You were, I assume, passed out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He had woke me up. He had to. He was already penetrating me and then I remember him performing oral sex. And then after that I don't really remember. GRIFFIN: Were you able to fight back, tell him no?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was too inebriated.

GRIFFIN (VOICE OVER): Her driver --


GRIFFIN: Like many of these cases, Poppy, in which the victim is intoxicated, the criminal charges against the Uber driver were dropped. She is suing Uber and Uber trying to keep her out of the courts, out of the public for trying to force arbitration and a nondisclosure agreement.

Well, Uber is announcing its abandoning that strategy. Uber's chief legal officer, Tony West, just announce this blog post that the company is overhauling the way they handle these cases, no longer requiring riders to arbitrate claims of sexual harassment or assault. Uber will no longer force victims of sexual harassment or assault to sign these nondisclosure forms. Uber says it will not silence victims. They can speak out.

Finally, Uber says it's going to commit to publishing a safety transparency report that's going to include data on sexual assaults and other incidents. That's one thing we sought from Uber in our reporting and were refused. Now the company says it's going to release that data on reported sexual assaults. All of the changes coming after our reporting, and I'd like to point out, after months of asking Uber about this and exposing the vulnerability of women riding alone in the backseat of a stranger's car.

[09:50:06] Poppy.

HARLOW: Again, Drew, such important reporting because it affects change like this that makes such a difference for so many of these victims. I know Uber, as you said, would not sit down with you despite these repeated requests. They canceled an interview last minute.

The question comes at the beginning of this, right, how did this even happen? Meaning, one would think there would be extensive background checks on these drivers, fingerprinting, everything possible before people are getting into these cars.

GRIFFIN: That's because Uber led people to believe this is your safe ride home.

HARLOW: Right.

GRIFFIN: Actually marketed this to millennials going out on the town, having drinks, don't get a DUI, take an Uber home. Well, it turns out, as we've been continuing and will continue to report, the background system -- the background check system that Uber set up is private. It doesn't go through a government entity. It doesn't allow for fingerprinting. And there are a lot of these drivers who slip through the cracks. Now, background checks don't solve everything, but they are a part of

what makes it safe to drive in a stranger's car, which is effectively what you're doing. Uber, according to many state regulators, not doing enough. We'll stay on it.

HARLOW: Drew, thank you for what you and your entire team did on this. It makes a difference. Appreciate the reporting.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens gets a win in court. It may not last, though. A felony invasion of privacy charge has been dropped after the defense named the prosecuting attorney as a witness. Prosecutor said they plan to refile the charge with a different attorney and move forward with the case. Of course the background here, the governor is accused of blackmailing a woman that he was having an affair with. He denies those charges.

Meantime, police rescue ten children from horrific living conditions in a California home. Investigators say the children, age four months to 11 years old, suffered a history of physical and emotional abuse inside their home. There were animal and human feces, spoiled food. Their mother has been charged with child neglect. The father faces torture and child abuse charges. He has entered a not guilty plea.

A health alert is in place in parts of Hawaii's big island because of these lava fissures that continue to spew toxic gas. The fumes can cause choking and severe conditions. The volcanic vents are active, shooting up lava and shooting up boulders 100 feet into the air. Dozens of homes evacuated. Dozens of homes and vehicles destroyed. Geologists are warning these eruptions are far from over.

And this just in to us, Meghan Markle's half-sister now says that their father, Thomas, had a heart attack because of all of the stress surrounding the royal wedding. This comes after reports that Markle's dad would not be at the ceremony after a British newspaper revealed that he had staged some photos with paparazzi of him preparing for the wedding.

Anna Stewart joins us now from Windsor.

Very sad news that apparently her father has had a heart attack. What do we know?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, about that, Poppy, we know very little at all. And, as you know, CNN's all about facts first. So until we get more reporting on that line, we're going to kind of stay away from it for now.

But what we do know is there's this report that he might not be attending the royal wedding. And this has been splashed across all the tabloids here in the U.K. And as you said, it's all about these photos that emerged from Sunday. And Samantha Markle, the half-sister, yesterday, kind of confirming that she was behind it all too.

It's deeply embarrassing from the royal family. But, you know, this is only reported so far by TMZ, who said that they had a conversation with Mr. Markle where he said he was deeply embarrassed by the photos. He thinks they were stupid. He thinks they were hammy (ph). And, you know, he regrets it and he won't be coming.

But we have not had that confirmation yet from the palace. All we've had is the palace really pleading (ph), you know, give them some respect, give some understanding and, remember, this is a deeply personal time for Meghan Markle. And I think many people are hoping that perhaps this can turn around. I mean CNN knows for sure that Meghan Markle was still keen on her father attending and walking her down the aisle, even after this story first emerged.


HARLOW: So at this point -- I mean there has been no confirmation from the royal family, right, or Meghan Markle herself, if her father is going to be attending at this point?

STEWART: Absolutely. It's really quiet on that front, which gives some people some hope that perhaps this can all blow over. Perhaps there's a way of (INAUDIBLE) this. I mean (INAUDIBLE) family drama is part of any wedding, right? It's just very important for the Markles that this is being played out across the Internet, across social media, across tabloids. So it's very hard to get away from it.

But we have had a quite quiet day since that first kind of came up from TMZ's reporting.

HARLOW: We wish the best for her. That whatever happens is what she wants on her wedding day and that her father is all right.

Anna, thank you. Appreciate the reporting.

CNN's special coverage of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle begins Saturday morning, 4:00 a.m. Eastern. Get up early. Live coverage from Windsor.

[09:55:00] Switching gears here, back to the breaking news. We will have the latest out of Gaza where those deadly clashes continue, ahead.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HARLOW: Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

[09:59:40] We begin this hour with breaking news out of Gaza. More violent protests, several hundred protesters have gathered near the border with Israel. Tear gas is raining down. And you've got rounds fired by Israeli troops for a second day on these protesters. The U.N. Security Council right now is holding an emergency meeting after 60 Palestinians were killed yesterday in these clashes, marking the deadliest day in Gaza in four years.

Let's go straight to our senior international correspondent Ian Lee, who joins us in Gaza.

Day two of these clashes. The White House is putting the blame solely on --