Return to Transcripts main page


Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting on Gaza Protests; CNN: WH Struggles to Stem Leaks, Enforce Cellphone Ban; First Lady Hospitalized after Kidney Procedure; U.S. Calls Out Iran's "Destabilization" at U.N. Meeting on Gaza Violence. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- 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 Hamas.

IAN LEE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And today we're seeing these numbers continue to grow here at this camp, not quite, Poppy, the numbers we saw yesterday, but still a large number of people. Let me just show you what we have been watching over the past few hours. Down there, you can probably see that thick, black smoke. That is from the burning tires. It is used to obscure the site of Israeli snipers. You also probably see the flashing lights of ambulances. That's because every once in a while we'll hear a crack down there from a gun being fired and the ambulances scramble to get the person and ferry them to hospital.

But we have also been watching tear gas. The Israelis have been firing a lot of tear gas into that crowd. We have seen drones dropping tear gas as well into the people scrambling and that really just kind of sums up how volatile this border has been over the past 48 hours. And you can see why there have been at least 60 people killed along this border, including nine children, one of them, a 14-year-old boy, who had just finished up his school exams and was coming out here for the day.

But the Israelis have been blaming Hamas for this violence. They say they're responsible for these people, but when you talk to the people out here, they say they're out here to vent their frustration. They're frustrated about the current situation in Gaza, which has been under a blockade for the past 10 years, imposed by Israel and Egypt. Also mad about that U.S. embassy move, something that Hamas said is the blood that we saw yesterday is on the hands of the Americans, although the Americans have also blamed Hamas. But the one thing we're watching, Poppy, is Hamas, they said that there is some retaliation imminent. We don't know what that is or when that will occur. But that's something we're going to keep a close eye on.

HARLOW: Ian Lee, thank you for the reporting, please you and your team stay safe there on the border with Israel and Gaza.

Let's go to the other side of the border, our Oren Liebermann joins us now. Look, you heard Ian saying Hamas is vowing retaliation imminently. What are you hearing from the Israelis?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing that's worth noting is the Israeli military spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus says from Israel's investigation of those 60 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli fire in Gaza yesterday. And that number rising with people succumbing to their wounds today as well, they say 28 of those people were either members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad and they say they expect that number to rise throughout the day as their investigations continue. Asked how they would know that kind of information, they say it is Israeli intelligence and they look at which Hamas members attend the funerals of the deceased.

And yet today is a fundamentally different day than yesterday, from what we're seeing on the border here. Yesterday Israel says there were 40,000 protesters in a number of different locations, the number today that number is a fraction of what it was, and frankly the Israeli military is trying to figure out why. Why is the number, the level of violence, the volatility, so much lower today than it is yesterday. That's one of the key questions here. Is it because they're simply waiting for 60 funerals to end and then we'll see this start or has Hamas decided that's it for now, Hamas certainly in terms of what we're seeing has won the day in terms of the condemnation that is pouring in against Israel.

You pointed out a U.N. Security Council meeting that has just begun. Meanwhile, the British staunch allies of Israel have said they would support an independent transparent outside investigation into Israel's use of live fire, Israel says that use of live fire is a last resort, that first they'll try to use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and only then turn will they try to use or will they turn to live bullets. And yet we're seeing condemnation pour in, Palestinian leaders have called this, quote, "a horrific massacre." Poppy?

HARLOW: Also the French President Emmanuel Macron condemning Israel's use of lethal force here, doctors without borders calling it unacceptable and inhumane. Oren Liebermann, thank you for the reporting.

Let's get some analysis here, Kimberly Dozier, our CNN global affairs analyst is with us. I just laid out what some world leaders are saying, but you got the White House very clear in its messaging here, we are about to hear from Nikki Haley at the U.N. as well. The White House here, the spokesman, Rod Shaw, saying Hamas should bear responsibility for the entire situation right now. This, of course, was happening prior to the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem yesterday. But it was exacerbated that the clashes rose to the most deadly in four years yesterday, in tandem with that embassy move.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And yet the move to Jerusalem of the U.S. embassy did give Hamas a pretext that was a match to paper for these protests. The test of these will be to see do they go on beyond today?

[10:05:01] Do they carry over to the West Bank? I look back at other Palestinian protests back in 2000, the first intifada were uprising, sorry, back in 1987, the second one in 2000. Those became Palestinian wide phenomenon that was also followed throughout the Arab world. If those in the West Bank decide that they are resigned to their fate, that things can't be changed, then this becomes just unique to Gaza, and just a flashpoint that Israel can basically drive on from.

HARLOW: What about Hamas, as our Ian Lee just reported, saying retaliation is imminent? What do you expect that would look like from what history have shown us?

DOZIER: Well, they have had history of building crude rockets that have managed to hit Israel's territory. A lot of those have been taken out by iron dome, but that still can become a harassing fire. I think you also have to look at the larger picture of what this could do across the Arab world, though. It -- there is a new generation that wasn't really paying attention to the status of Jerusalem. They were paying attention to things like Syria. That was the generation that fueled the Arab spring protests. Now, this could become a new cause celeb that not this week, not this month, but in the long-term helps fill the ranks of extremists and also helps weaken U.S. allies who are sticking their neck out to people like King Abdullah in Jordan to work with the United States.

HARLOW: There is that striking picture this week of King Abdullah standing next to Bibi Netanyahu amid all of this. Senior adviser to the president, his son-in-law Jared Kushner who spoke at the embassy opening yesterday in Jerusalem pointed his finger at Hamas and said they're, quote, "part of the problem, not part of the solution." But in -- essentially the same breath, same remarks, he said that peace is within reach, while saying that it's sort of half of the side of the table here is not part of the solution. So then what?

DOZIER: Well, you see that what they're trying to do is divide and conquer, separate Hamas that rules Gaza from the Palestinian authority in the West Bank. And trying to offer a path to Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Palestinian authority, to come back to peace talks, but he said you have to have East Jerusalem on the table. Now, senior administration official I spoke to said the status of East Jerusalem still could be part of future talks but President Donald Trump hasn't articulated that.

HARLOW: Right.

DOZIER: So, from Abbas' point of view, he's got to hear some outreach to him, some sort of concession and I don't see the Israeli prime minister or the American president offering the kind of concession that would enable him to go back to his people and say, I'm not selling you out, I'm fighting for your cause.

HARLOW: All that has been said by this administration is Jerusalem is the capital, you know. America recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There has been no talk about what would happen to East Jerusalem. Kimberly Dozier, bottom line on this, negotiations, talks? Any chance they restart at least in the coming months?

DOZIER: It is going to be tough. I think throughout this year what you see is frustrated statements from the Palestinians and not much room to maneuver.

HARLOW: And lives hang in the balance as was just reported, nine children killed yesterday. A 14-year-old boy, 8-month-old little child as well, that's the human toll. Kimberly Dozier, thank you for the analysis and expertise.

All right, we're just moments away from President Trump making a trip to Capitol Hill. He's set to meet with GOP lawmakers and answer some pretty tough questions. They're confused by a number of things going on in the West Wing right now. Not an entirely friendly crowd. This is members of the president's own party. Now, openly criticizing comments made by the president's staffer about Senator John McCain's battle with cancer, the White House trying to make this a leak story, vowing to find and fire any leakers, spilling staff secrets. The president is outraged over the leaks coming as we learn the White House now, well the cell phone ban doesn't seem to be working. That is new reporting from our Kaitlan Collins who joins me outside the White House. What are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Poppy, that's right. The White House is turning this remark that a staffer made into a leaking issue saying they should be able to have these internal conversations without it being revealed to reporters. But, of course, over the past year, the White House has tried multiple times with multiple different tactics to tamp down on these leaks to reporters about what is actually going on behind closed doors in the West Wing to no avail. One of those tactics was implemented by the Chief of Staff John Kelly back in January, which was a personal cell phone ban.

Now, John Kelly maintained to the people who work in this White House that this is for national security reasons. They couldn't have their personal cell phones here in the White House, but most staffers inside this White House told me they saw this as a way to prevent officials from being able to talk to employees throughout the day.

[10:10:01] So, to give you an example of how they are enforcing this ban, they have these lockers at the entrances into the West Wing. Staffers put their phone in locker, lock it and then leave it there throughout the day. But you can often go buy the lockers, they're buzzing, they're chirping constantly from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. And there are often several officials huddled around looking at their phones, checking their phones.

But this isn't based on the honor system, Poppy. They actually carry out these sweeps where two men will go through the West Wing, going from room to room, with these handheld devices, roughly the size of iPads, looking for unauthorized phones that aren't government issued and if they find one, then they make the staffer either go put it in the locker or remove it from the room, just to give you a sense of just how they are carrying these out in a very serious manner.

Now, staffers have long said they don't believe anyone would be fired for violating the phone ban, but several pointed out how the phone ban didn't prevent that Sadler comment about Senator McCain from being leaked. Of course, Kellyanne Conway said last night she does think there will be personnel changes over this latest leak, but a lot of people inside this White House are doubtful because dozens of senior officials, sometimes even the president himself, Poppy, talk to reporters on a daily basis.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Some leaks exist to hurt, I guess, colleagues. Some leaks because they disagree with the policies that being put forward. But none of them are helpful. It is not so much leaking is using the media to shiv each other.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST, FOX NEWS, "THE STORY WITH MARTHA MACCALLUM": Do you expect personnel changes as a result?

CONWAY: I do, actually. Yes, I do.


COLLINS: So Kellyanne there saying she expects heads could roll over this latest leak. But the bottom line is, Poppy, dozens of people speak to reporters on a daily basis. It is a way we find out what is going on inside the West Wing.

HARLOW: True story. And you bring it to us. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate the reporting this morning, thank you.

Still to come, back to the breaking news we're following those clashes that are still underway in Gaza, pretty stunning images. We're on it.

Also the first lady recuperating this morning at Walter Reed after kidney surgery. The latest on her recovery ahead.


[10:16:13] HARLOW: This morning, the president says the first lady is doing well after a medical procedure that may keep her at Walter Reed Medical Center until Friday. Here is what the president writes, "Thank you so much for the love and support." This is after the first lady underwent that procedure for a benign kidney condition.

Let's go to our White House reporter Kate Bennett who follows the first lady in the West Wing -- the East Wing, I should say, very closely. And I know you just got an update from her team. What are they saying?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I did. I just got an update from Melania Trump's communications director about how she's doing today. She said she's in good spirits. She's resting comfortably. Again, the procedure appears to have been a success. I pressed her a little bit about how long -- why the first lady is staying in the hospital so long if this procedure for a benign kidney issue was -- sounds according to our medical expert as though it was perhaps not requiring a duration of stay as long as the week, which is what the statement said yesterday.

I'm just going to read you what Stephanie Grisham just sent me. She said, I'm not going to expand beyond the statement I put out, the first lady is in good spirits and she's resting. There are HIPAA laws to consider, but she also deserves personal privacy. So, basically, as I predicted yesterday, we're likely not going to get anything beyond the statement that was released yesterday. Just a few sentences pushing anything about more description as to the procedure or the exact case that the first lady is -- was feeling medically, she was up against, et cetera. We're just not going to learn those details, which is very much along the lines of this first lady, this particular East Wing. It is not an office that is freely giving of information, especially when it comes to the first lady's personal life or her privacy, which she values quite sincerely. So it is -- I think we have to go on what was released yesterday and trust she is resting comfortably and the procedure was a success.

HARLOW: And we're glad to hear she is resting comfortably, that this was a success, and it is notable, right, that this didn't leak out, nothing -- no news of this came until after the procedure was done.

BENNETT: Yes, it is really remarkable difference between the East Wing and the West Wing. And a lot of people criticize Melania Trump when she first took office, as first lady, because she spent a lot of time building that staff. I mean, she started with very small amount of people, she still only has 10. She said it was because she wanted to make sure they were the right people. And apparently in terms of loyalty they have been. This is remarkable feat they pulled off to get her into the hospital and have a procedure and no one even knew until after she was done.

HARLOW: That's a great point. Kate Bennett thanks for the reporting and the update. Appreciate it.

Ahead for us, is the Vice President Mike Pence preparing for a presidential run in 2024? New report out this morning, the "New York Times" outlines him plotting his political future, but his reported moves behind the scenes potentially making some of the president's allies angry. That's next.


[10:23:.35] HARLOW: Welcome back. Some big new questions this morning, once again, about EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. This time it is about his around the clock security detail. A letter from the agency's inspector general says Pruitt actually requested his 24/7 protection on his first day in his job. That completely contradicts what he told lawmakers at the hearing last month when he said he got the security detail after receiving several death threats.


SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I'm going to find you and put a bullet between your eyes, don't think I'm joking, I'm planning this. -- These are threats that the IG has documented.


HARLOW: All right. Joining me now, Kirsten Soltis Anderson and Bakari Sellers. Guys, there's a lot to get to. But first, [], on this EPA controversy, this is expensive taxpayer money. This is as the -- according to the "Washington Post," three million bucks so far to pay his round the cloch security detail, questions about whether he really needed it and then now questions about whether he told the truth under oath there at the hearing. It contradicts what the IG has found. Is this Teflon Pruitt or could this be final straw?

KIRSTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER COLUMNIST: I don't know that this will be the final straw in part because we are coming upon about a year since the shooting at the congressional baseball game that showed just how much our public officials really are in the line of fire these days, that we live in a very polarized country, that if you serve in a public and prominent role, your safety is in danger. That's a terrible reality we live in.

[10:25:03] So that's why I think this particular story is unlikely to be the final straw. I do think that the tenure of Scott Pruitt with all of these embarrassing stories, it befuddles me that the White House has not tried to find someone else who can execute on the president's agenda in this space, without all of the baggage and scandal. I don't think this story is the one that will be his undoing.

HARLOW: It is a fair point. Bakari, we do have reporting from CNN teams last week that part of the reason Pruitt is still sitting in that seat with this job is because the White House knows it would be very hard to get someone to carry out their agenda if confirmed right now, given the environment.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: That's very true. Also, I do believe that there is -- the only reason Scott Pruitt is there is because as the president said and everyone around him, that he's carrying out the agenda of the White House to a tee. The problem is that he has an allergy to the truth and he also doesn't have any ethical core that dates all the way back to his time prior to being EPA administrator.

The fact is, when you look at Scott Pruitt, this is a death by a million cuts. Every single week we have a story about his lack of ethics. And this doesn't have anything to do with policy, per se, but this is about a lack of ethics. And the only reason this story has more gravity because I'm of the opinion nothing matters anymore, politically, but the only reason this story may have some gravity and may be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back is because he committed perjury. It is not a question of whether or not he lied, he did lie. And it is how the White House responds to that. It is how Republicans respond to that. Because right now you just have an unethical guy who serves in a cabinet position and everybody turns a blind eye because they say, oh, he's just unethical.

HARLOW: Perjury is quite an allegation. The IG's report says one thing Scott Pruitt, says another we will let them hash it out and we'll report as we get more on that. But turning the corner here, look, Kirsten, the president has what could be a pretty tense lunch meeting today with Republicans on the Hill. He heads to Capitol Hill. They want answers on ZTE, the Chinese tech company and why the president is all of a sudden trying to save it and save Chinese jobs. We'll get to that in a moment. But he also faces a lot of concerns --senators from across party lines, with the White House keeping an aide employed who said such a disgusting thing about Senator John McCain dying of brain cancer. Knowing this president, what does he say to angry fellow senators of McCain's today at lunch, who say look, this cannot be allowed to continue without a public White House apology.

ANDERSON: So, on the ZTE question, what's fascinating is that Donald Trump ran with perhaps -

HARLOW: Hold that though. I'm sorry. I have to get to the U.N. emergency meeting of the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR: And I will note that the double standard is all too common in this chamber and working overtime today. Last week, Iranian forces attacked small positions -- sorry, last week Iranian forces attacked Israeli positions on the Golan Heights by launching rockets from Syria. This was a reckless provocation and escalation that must be stopped. It is an example of regional violence that should occupy our attention here in the Security Council.

Also last week, Iranian proxy forces in Yemen launched missiles into Saudi Arabia. It was not the first time they have done it. This, too, is regional violence that should occupy our attention here in the Security Council. In recent days, Hamas terrorists backed by Iran have incited attacks against Israeli security forces and infrastructure. That is violence that should occupy our attention too.

The common thread in all of this is the de-stabling conduct of the Iranian regime, a regime that insists on promoting violence throughout the Middle East, while depriving its own people of basic human rights. The United States welcomes a discussion of this violence in the Middle East. We welcome discussing the ways we can cooperate with each other to put an end to this violence. There is far too little discussion in the Security Council on Iran's destabilizing presence in Syria, its promotion of violence in Yemen, its support for terrorism in Gaza, and it's dangerous and illegal weapons buildup in Lebanon.

However, in the minds of some, today's meeting was not called to discuss any of those examples of violence in the Middle East. Today's meeting was called to discuss the violence that some suggest was connected with yesterday's opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. For some people, the embassy opening is said to be a reason to engage in violence. How is that justified? As our president said when he announced the decision in December, the location of our embassy has no bearing on the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. It has no bearing on Jerusalem -