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Report: In Meeting No Questions Were Asked to Trump About the Sadler Insult to McCain; Ivanka Mocked for All Smiles Photos During Gaza Killings. Men in Suits Sweep White House About Cell Phone Ban; Haley Puts Blame for Violence Solely on Hamas. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 15, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We will be live from Windsor, coverage begins Saturday 4 a.m. eastern. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5 p.m. eastern in the situation room. For our international viewers, "Amanpour" is next. And for our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brianna Keilar today starts right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: thank you all I am Brianna Keilar in for Brooke Baldwin. And the president is now on Capitol Hill meeting with Republican senators. This is supposed to be a lunch on policy, but the president may find some serious pushback at this table. Some GOP senators are blasting the White House for not apologizing after a remark by a lower level White House aide About Senator John McCain Who Is Battling Brain Cancer. Kelly Sadler dismissed criticism of Trump's CIA pick by McCain saying that the senator was, quote, dying anyway. But while Sadler apologized to McCain's daughter, there has not been an apology from her or from the White House. And today Senator Susan Collins a Republican said, it's long overdue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: The comment was denigrating and insensitive. John McCain is an American hero, he's a United States senator and he's a good friend of mine. The best way for this to be put to rest and it should have happened immediately would have been for the White House to issue a public apology to the entire McCain family.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump should, too, the president himself?
COLLINS: I think it would be helpful if the president made clear that those kinds of comments are not acceptable rather than criticizing the leaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And the leaker is who President Trump has targeted in a tweet saying, quote, leakers are traitors and cowards. Let's turn to Manu Raju. Tell us how this luncheon is going between the president and Republican senators?
RAJU: It's still ongoing. Started about an hour ago and actually started on a positive note. The president met with Senator McConnell and walked into the room just behind me, there was a round of applause going in and there may be some common ground on some key issues, namely about whether not to scrap that august month-long recess where the Senate was going to leave town, campaign for the elections and the mid terms. But under pressure from President Trump and some Republican senators, I'm told that Senator McConnell, the majority leader, is seriously considering scrapping some, if not all of that August recess.
But there are some concerns that members also will raise in this meeting. One is the president's tweet from over the weekend talking about saving that Chinese electronics maker ZTE. You're hearing concerns from a number of Republicans about what exactly the president means by this and they want some clarification. And it remains to be seen about whether or not anyone brings up the remark that the White House aide Kelly Sadler made about Senator McCain. Something that has gotten sharp pushback on Capitol Hill. Today a number senators, including Senator Rubio said the president and at least the White House should apologize for that remark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: I believe so. Certainly, the comments that were made and the fact they were made, and no one has denied they were made. I find them to be offensive and I think more indicative of what our politics has become so angry and bitter.
RAJU: Shouldn't the president set an example here?
RUBIO: The president will have to make a decision about how he chooses to use the platform of the presidency. I would want him to and I would want everyone in public office to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The president is actually just leaving. Let's listen in. All right, so we just saw the president come from the lunch and walk there toward the elevator bank so he's going to be departing the hill. Manu, we're waiting to see exactly how this lunch went, if he got an earful, if there's a lot of unity going into the mid terms as well.
RAJU: Yes, no question. And most likely you're probably going to hear mostly unity. This is a conference that does realize that the Senate could be at risk of flipping ahead of November. They want to be on the same page as the president. You've seen past meetings like this have been largely collegial affairs. I expect something similar today, even if they do have some serious concerns about the things that the president has been saying, things the White House has been doing, including a remark from the White House aide. We'll see what senators have to say when they leave this lunch. You see the president as he left, he didn't have much to say but senators undoubtedly will, Brianna.
KEILAR: Manu Raju, we know you're going to get those answers for us. Thank you so much. Remember the president's tweet that slammed leakers, it refers to his own staff who have been under a cell phone ban since January.
[14:05:00] And four officials described to CNN exactly how this cell phone ban is carried out. It's not based on the honor system. There are actually men in suits who are carrying large hand-held scanner- type devices, who have been seen walking through the halls of the West Wing looking for contraband phones and devices. They say they can determine what kind of device has gotten through, the kind that shouldn't be there. Joining me is Dana Bash and Brian Fung, a tech reporter for "The Washington Post." So, there was a leak to describe how the White House tries to prevent leaks. In fact, actually when this band went into place, it was very upsetting that immediately the memo he wrote about why this ban was going to be out there was out there.
DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a very tough environment by all accounts people I am talking to inside the White House, people who go to the White House on a regular basis, people who talk to staff inside the White House. It has been heightened by the fact that the boss, the president of the United States is really, really upset about leaks to point where he is tweeting, as you said, rightly, at his own staff. Having said that, in this particular case, the whole discussion about leaks is a smoke screen because the real issue is what Susan Collins told Manu Raju and what Marco Rubio said and pretty much every Republican who is encountering a reporter on Capitol Hill right now is saying. Which is enough already, it's been five, six, seven days. Apologize. And in talking about leaks, which I'm not saying it's not a problem, but in this particular case, it's trying to kind skirt around the bigger question.
KEILAR: And it's not like these issues actually stop the leaks. People can leak without an unauthorized cell phone. But let's just talk about the intrigue about what our Kaitlan Collins has been reporting. Because it is pretty fascinating, Brian. She describes a scene of you go into the White House, there are lockers if you do have a personal cell phone, you put them in there and theses lockers are chirping and buzzing from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. which is sort of funny. You can kind of imagine this but it's not an honor system. You have men in suits going around. This is where you come in, Brian. What are they using to detect these devices? They are like a big handheld devices. What is this?
BRAIN FUNG, TECH REPORTER FOR "THE WASHINGTON POST": I've spoken to a number of experts on this and there are a number of different types of devices that they could be using to try and detect what types of cell phones might be in use, on an unauthorized basis. One technology that is commonly used in these sorts of scenarios are called stingrays, which is a particular brand of cell site simulator. So basically, pretends to be a real cell site and then connects to all the phones that are in a particular area. And lots of different police and law enforcement agencies around the country use this and they're very secretive about how they're used and when they're used but we do know that they are being used.
And what stingrays do generally is depending on the type or level of sophistication of this technology of the device being used, they can either pick up the identifying serial numbers of the phones, they could pick up cell phone call meta data, so tracking who is being called and for how long. In some cases, they may even be able to pick up which web sites a particular phone is going to.
KEILAR: It's fascinating.
FUNG: There are other devices, too. There are devices that law enforcement can use that would essentially just pick up R.F. signals from the phones. I have spoken to experts who say that's another type of technology that could be employed here, although it would be much harder to tell which --
BASH: When you're talking about law enforcement, which generally is the police going after potential criminals or suspects or witnesses. We're talking about the White House. We're talking about staffers in the White House that the level of distrust is that high --
KEILAR: Paranoia, would you say?
BASH: Paranoia, back biting is that high, that kind of technology has the potential to be needed and used? It's unbelievable.
FUNG: The irony here is that in some cases, this technology is actually deployed at prisons to detect unauthorized cell phones at prisons.
KEILAR: Some people feel that way about their workplace, not just the White House. We'll make that joke. Thank you so much, really appreciate it, Dana and Brian, for your great expertise. Very helpful.
[14:10:00] We have breaking news. There's no sign of peace or calm in Gaza in which proving to be the deadliest confrontation in years between Israelis and Palestinians. A day after Ivanka Trump helped celebrate the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The White House is putting the blame fully on Hamas for the deaths of more than 60 people. And will have a live report.
And just days after President Trump said he's working to save jobs in China, questions are emerging about a $500 million loan involving the Chinese government and the Trump linked project in Indonesia. Why ethics officials are sounding the alarm.
And the latest in a bizarre string of aviation incidents, a cockpit window shattered in midflight sucking the copilot halfway out of the aircraft. Will talk to an expert about how this happened. And let's actually go to the hill, Mitch McConnell speaking live.
MITCH MCCONNELL, (R), MAJORITY LEADER: New developments abroad, not only the decision on Iran but also highlighted the meeting on June 12th in Singapore. We were all in a celebratory mood as a result of having approved the 21st circuit judge just a few moments ago. That means that 1/8, 1/8 of the circuit judges in America have been appointed by Donald Trump and confirmed by this Republican Senate. So, we think we're making dramatic progress on that front as well. And of course, everyone's excited about the condition of the economy and the way the country seems to be in an upbeat mood heading into the fall election.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R), ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER: Tomorrow the senate intelligence committee will vote Gina Haspel, she is quite likely the most accomplished person ever to be nominated as CIA director. She reiterated this morning in a letter to Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member on the intelligence committee, that she did not believe that the CIA should ever restart any of the interrogation program for which she is falsely accused of participating in. Actually, she learned about the program in some detail a year after members of Congress like Nancy Pelosi and others were briefed in detail on it after 9/11. I would just say that John Brennan, who is the number four at the CIA, who was confirmed with a vote of 64 bipartisan votes in the senate, he was number four at the CIA, whereas when she was there at this particular time, she was the equivalent of GS15 roughly a major or lieutenant colonel. Obviously, not a management person when it comes to running the CIA. I think the Democrats are running out of excuses to block this highly qualified nominee and I hope more --
KEILAR: Senator John Cornyn there backing up the president's CIA pick. We have reporting what did not happen in that lunch, which is particularly intriguing. That is that the McCain, the lack of apology to his family for what this low-level aide said about him, did not come up at the luncheon, according to three senators.
BASH: That's right. They are still coming out. So, we are obviously gathering reporting on exactly what was said. But you're right. They said that the McCain issue did not come up, only a couple of questions were asked at all and the issue about the McCain apology was not one of them, despite the fact that we've had Republican after Republican come to the cameras, talk to Manu, talk to others and talk to us about the fact that they thought an apology was necessary. Clearly listening to Mitch McConnell, what they're trying to do is get on offense, get in campaign mode.
Remember that we are not that far from election day and the theme that you heard from Mitch McConnell, the summit coming up in North Korea, the idea of the economy doing extraordinarily well, they're trying to promote peace and prosperity as something that is a good thing and a reason why Republicans should be re-elected and maintain control. The question of course is whether that is going to fly or whether that is going to be drowned out by the resistance, the anti-Trump, anti- Republican forces that have shown to be pretty powerful in some of the pre-election, special elections that we have seen.
KEILAR: Yes, it's a big question, Danna Bash, thank you so much. We will have more on what happened inside of this meeting next. We're back in a moment.
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KEILAR: Tensions remain high on the Israeli/Gaza border after the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capitol. This is the deadliest fighting that we have seen in this area in years. At least 60 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip has vowed retaliation for the deaths. Israel is facing international condemnation for its use of force against the protesters, but the Trump administration has a strong statement of support.
[14:20:00] The White House is saying Hamas is squarely responsible for the deaths and that Israel has a right to defend itself. U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley distancing the decision to move the embassy from the deadly violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Those who suggest that the Gaza violence has anything to do with the location of the American Embassy are sorely mistaken. Rather the violence comes from those who reject the existence of the state of Israel in any location. Such a motivation, the destruction of a United Nations member state, is so illegitimate as to not be worth our time in the security council other than the time it takes to denounce it. Yesterday's opening of our embassy in Jerusalem is a cause for celebration for the American people. Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is covering this from Jerusalem. Elise, asked whether Israel should show more restraint the White House press secretary Raj Shah responded Hamas should bear responsibility for the entire situation. There's a perception that this is the U.S. picking a side.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN global affairs correspondent: Well, yes, of course they picked a side, Brianna. Usually in previous years, you would caveat that Israel has a right to defend itself, but we urge restraint on both sides. You're not even hearing that caveat use restraint. You're hearing from this international condemnation that is coming in your hearing it from the other side. it from the other sides. Those countries are saying yes, Hamas is responsible, they are instigating it, but Israel needs to calibrate their response. They need to show restraint. In questioning why they are using live fire to go after these people. So, I think it is kind of a little bit lopsided in terms of how the U.S. is viewing it.
I think you're going to see, Brianna, this administration though pay some more attention to Gaza as Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt seek to rollout their peace plan. There is a recognition I think that unless you deal with the Gaza problem, you're not going to be able to get a peace deal. And that's why one of the reasons that kind of seems so off, you would think the administration would start to show a little bit more understanding for what's going on there. I think that if President Trump can talk to Kim Jong un, I think there are going to be a lot of people wondering why he can't talk to Hamas?
KEILAR: All right, Elise Labott in Jerusalem, thank you so much for that report.
As blood spilled just miles away, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were all smiles. It was highlighted on the cover of "The New York Daily News" with the head line "Daddy's Little Ghoul." A CNN op-ed summing up like this: "Ivanka's smile was undoubtedly offered to distract from the mayhem and death that any thoughtful person could have anticipated as the embassy opened and Trump abandoned America's claim to honest broker status in the Middle East."
In joining me now is the man who wrote that op-ed, CNN contributor and Donald Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio. Michael, this is your op- ed, "What Ivanka's Smile Can't Hide." You clearly think she was a poor messenger on behalf of the United States in this case. Why?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND DONALD TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: Well, I think if this had been a policy well thought out and seriously considered, they would have sent someone with serious diplomatic experience. Maybe Nikki Haley should have gone to represent the United States but instead we get the president's daughter, who was appointed after a lifetime of working for her father in the real estate business and two pastors, whose record is filled with condemnations of the Jewish people.
These are pastors who say that only evangelical Christians of their sort of favored by god and everyone else is damned for eternity. So, for this and many other reasons, this spectacle yesterday was incredibly painful for much of the world. And all of it was done with no reciprocal exchange on behalf of the Palestinians or the peace process. President Trump just bargained away the status of Jerusalem and got nothing in return.
KEILAR: I have to ask you, Michael, when I look at your op-ed and specifically when I look at the "New York Daily News" cover where there's this specific focus on Ivanka, yes, she was there and she had this moment where she is doing the unveiling, it does feel like the ribbon cutting of maybe a Trump property or something sort of like that, the ribbon cutting of a new building but Jared Kushner was there giving the substantive speech with a lot of controversial material in it. Steven Mnuchin was there representing the administration. Why the focus on Ivanka when there's clearly the role of these other prominent members of the administration?
[14:25:00] D'ANTONIO: Well, I think it's important to focus on her because her presence was really intended as a smoke screen, as it often is. She is the softer side of the Trump family, she's supposed to lend a gentle air to whatever policy is being implemented but it's really hard to accept this image making when 55 people are being killed nearby, including many children. This is a first daughter who has advocated for children and families. It's not the first time she's presented herself as the softer side of the president and it rarely works and seems intensely hypocritical.
KEILAR: Michael D'Antonio, thank you so much.
And ethics officials raise the red flag on a $500 million loan, part of which is Trump branded golf course, Trump branded hotels. Is this a problem? We're going to discuss that next.