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First Lady Hospitalized after Kidney Procedure; Violent Protests Expected to Flare Up Again in Gaza; Trump: Leakers Are 'Traitors and Cowards'; Uber Making Changes after CNN Investigation. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 06:00   ET



MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first lady underwent a long-planned medical procedure. And Melania is already on the mend.

[05:59:01] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She decided to keep it private, as did other first ladies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has a benign kidney condition. She's going to be staying in the hospital for a few more days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have people in there who are not just leaking, they're whistle blowing.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: It's not so much leaking as using the media to shiv each other.

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It's going to be dealt with internally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This move represents for many Palestinians the end of their hopes for a two-state solution.

JARED KUSHNER, HUSBAND OF IVANKA TRUMP: Those provoking violence are part of the problem and not a part of the solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened has made mission impossible, mission impossible on steroids.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, May 15, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off. David Gregory joins me. Great to have you.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: We just winged in from D.C. Good to be here, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Good to have you. We have a lot of news. Let's get right to it. Here's our starting line.

First lady Melania Trump recovering in the hospital this morning after reportedly undergoing a procedure for a benign kidney condition. But there are more questions than answers. The White House offered few details about exactly what's wrong, and it's not clear why Mrs. Trump will need to remain in the hospital for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, the White House still refuses to apologize for that aide's morbid comment mocking John McCain's health. The deputy press secretary repeatedly claimed the problem was dealt with internally without further explanation.

GREGORY: Instead, President Trump is focusing on staff leakers, calling them, quote, "traitors and cowards." Kellyanne Conway, his counsel [SIC], saying those leakers are only using the media to hurt each other and claims personnel changes are on the horizon.

Overseas, meanwhile, Israel facing international criticism after nearly 60 Palestinians were killed in Gaza protests, the deaths happening the same day the U.S. opened its embassy in Jerusalem. The White House standing by its ally Israel, blaming the terror group Hamas for the tragic violence.

Let's start our coverage with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's live at the White House this morning.

Good morning, Kaitlan.


This morning, the first lady remains in the hospital, recovering from that kidney illness. Aides have been tightlipped about the details surrounding her procedure, but they insist that she is recovering without trouble at a military hospital outside of Washington.

Now, President Trump remained back at the White House while Melania underwent this procedure yesterday, but he did visit her yesterday evening.


PENCE: The first lady underwent a long-planned medical procedure, and I'm pleased to report the procedure was a success, and Melania is already on the mend.

COLLINS (voice-over): First lady Melania Trump is recovering after undergoing an embolization procedure at Walter Reed Medical Center to treat what her office describes as a benign kidney condition. The first lady's communications director offering limited details about the procedure, but noting that Mrs. Trump will likely remain at the hospital until the end of the week.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: An embolization procedure, it's not really surgery. It's basically threading this catheter near this -- near the kidney and injecting a glue-type substance to try and stop blood flow to an area of the kidney where this abnormality is.

COLLINS: It's the most serious medical procedure a first lady has undergone while in the White House in over 30 years, since Nancy Reagan had a mastectomy in October of 1987.

The procedure coming as the first lady's popularity continues to grow as she takes on a more prominent role in the White House. Mrs. Trump hosted the administration's first state dinner with the president and first lady of France last month. And last week, she joined the president in welcoming home three Americans who had been detained in North Korea after unveiling her official Be Best platform focused on helping children.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The three main pillars of Be Best will include wellbeing, social media use and opioid abuse.

COLLINS: President Trump wasn't at the hospital during his wife's procedure, but he visited with her for over an hour last night, tweeting that the procedure was a success and that Mrs. Trump is in good spirits.

But before commenting on the first lady, the president lashing out at his own staff for recent White House leaks, tweeting, "Leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are."

CONWAY: It's not so much leaking as using the media to shiv each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect personnel changes as a result?

CONWAY: I do. Actually, yes, I do.

COLLINS: The president's criticism coming as the White House continues to refuse to apologize for White House aide Kelly Sadler's crass remark about Senator John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not just apologize so America doesn't think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?

SHAH: Well, I understand the focus on this issue, but it's going to be dealt with and has been dealt with internally.


COLLINS: Now, David and Alisyn, the White House has threatened to go after leakers before. But it's actually quite difficult for them to do, because so many people in this White House do speak to reporters, including at times President Trump himself.

The president will be on Capitol Hill today for a lunch with Senate Republicans. Senator John McCain will not be at that lunch, but several of his allies on Capitol Hill who think the White House mishandled the situation over that remark about Senator McCain will be there.

CAMEROTA: All right, Kaitlan. Thank you very much for all those points.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett, who covers the first lady.

So Kate, let me just start with you. You have so many great sources. Do you know how the first lady is doing this morning? And do you have any sense of why she needs to stay in the hospital for what we've been told is a, you know, somewhat benign -- well, totally benign and somewhat routine procedure?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No new details out of her office. She was resting comfortably last -- last I heard from sources last night at the hospital. Things were going well after the president left. She was a bit fatigued, as one can imagine, after a day of medical procedure. She's doing well.

[06:05:04] As to how long she's staying, her office said that it could be the duration of the week. I think that's just out of an abundance of caution, perhaps. Certainly -- and Sanjay can address this -- things could go wrong. There's infection. There's all sorts of things.

The first lady, as I know her and have been covering her, is very by the book, by the rule. She's very detailed. She's also very private. I would imagine we won't hear that much more about this procedure. I imagine we won't hear any more information about her -- her health until she's released from the hospital. I don't think that's -- that's not very out of the ordinary for her. I don't think we should read into it too much.

I do think she probably followed her physician's advice. She's pretty, you know, used to adhering to the rules. She's very different in a way from her husband in that sense. She's not loosey-goosy on facts and details. And she's a very different kind of person, very calculated.

So I imagine that this issue -- and it was interesting. The vice president said in that clip that this was a long-planned procedure. That was certainly news to us. The news that she was going in was a surprise. So she may have been experiencing some pain. She may have been sort of fighting through some stuff as we saw her publicly last week. We just don't know the severity of what she was feeling and therefore, what her recovery process might be like.

But again, it's very, very classic, very typical of her small and loyal team. Speaking of leaks just there that Kaitlan was speaking about, the West Wing, the East Wing is completely different operation. She has ten people on her staff. I know because it makes it a little more challenging sometimes to cover her. This is a very tightknit, close-lipped group.

Think about it. The first lady had a full procedure in the hospital yesterday. No one knew about it until after it was over.

GREGORY: So Sanjay, can you walk us through the medical piece of this, which is what do we know about it? What might the circumstances tell us about what it is and what the prognosis is?

GUPTA: Well, what we know is just a short statement, basically, saying that the first lady underwent a embolization procedure for a benign kidney condition.

And what an embolization procedure is, is basically, it's a procedure even more than an operation. You're putting, basically, a large IV in a blood vessel that's just about top of the leg. You're threading a catheter up there, as you can see, into the area where this abnormality is.

And then you're injecting the substance that is almost a glue-like substance to try and block off those arteries. You're trying to basically cut off the blood flow to that abnormality, hoping that that abnormality then, because it lost its blood flow, can no longer grow and eventually withers away. If that abnormality was at risk of bleeding, you can greatly decrease the risk, as well.

So that's -- and it was done for a benign condition. Typically, when you hear something like that, you hear it's done for a cancer, a type of cancerous tumor. But they're very clear in the statement, a benign kidney condition. What they don't tell us, though, is what it is. Is this -- is this a benign sort of mass? Is it something else? Is it an abnormality in the blood vessels around the kidney? We just don't know yet.

And we don't -- also don't know whether maybe she's having more procedures. No one has said that. But being in the hospital for several days still, it's curious. It's certainly a lot longer than you expect.

GREGORY: These kind of conditions, a benign condition, does it say anything about future kidney function?

GUPTA: Well, something like this, if you have a procedure like the embolization, you can -- still sounds like she has a functioning kidney. And she obviously has another kidney as well. So kidney function really shouldn't be a problem for her.

CAMEROTA: Kate, do you have any reporting on why the president wasn't with her for the procedure?

BENNETT: I would imagine and from what my sources have told me, this was probably a decision that was made by the first lady not to have him there. As I said, she is very private, below the radar. The president were to be there, he would have to bring more security, a large motorcade and the press pool. And that could have alerted or tipped people off in a different way to expose what was happening yesterday at Walter Reed before she was -- felt comfortable announcing it when she was out of the procedure.

He did call her right beforehand to check in before she went in for the procedure. She spoke -- he spoke with her physician, her main doctor, right after on the telephone to make sure everything went OK, which it sounds, according to the statement, as though it was a successful procedure. And then later he did go visit her. She spent about an hour with her in the hospital. He met again with

her medical team, with the nurses there, thanked them in person and stayed with the first lady, from my understanding, until she probably wanted to get some rest, and he headed back to the White House.

So he's definitely been engaged. I think, again, this is a decision that was not necessarily the president's decision. And you know, and this was a request that was likely made by the first lady: "You stay there. I'm going to do this. Let's, you know, keep it under the radar. Don't tweet about it. And we'll get through it."

[06:10:00] CAMEROTA: Yes. Sanjay, just -- can you just explain why you think -- do you think it's, as Kate said, it's an abundance of caution why she would be staying there many extra days?

GUPTA: This is the biggest open question mark, I think, Alisyn. I don't know. You know, this type of procedure, just an embolization type procedure, I mean, patients can go home the same day. They can do this as an outpatient. Come in the morning, leave the same day. Sometimes out of caution, because there's a concern, look, is someone going to develop pain. When you start to block up those blood vessels, sometimes they can cause pain.

There's a concern about infection, as Kate mentioned. There's a concern about bleeding itself just from the procedure. But even with those things, staying overnight is more typical. To say that you're going to stay until the end of the week, if that's the case. If in fact she is staying until the end of the week, I just wonder. This seems to be a little bit of an open question mark. Is there something more to come still? Is there something that we still don't know exactly about what happened here?

CAMEROTA: Yes. OK. Sanjay Gupta, Kate Bennett, thank you very much. Keep us on speed dial, should there be any developments. Thank you both very much.

Now to this news, violence protests expected to flare up again in the Palestinian territories, following the deadliest day in Gaza in four years. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas now calling for three days of mourning as Israel and the White House blame Hamas for Monday's bloodshed.

CNN's Ian Lee is live in Gaza for us. What is the situation at this hour, Ian?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we're monitoring this camp right here. This is one of many along the Gaza border. You can see behind me, they're already starting to burn tires.

We're not seeing the numbers that we saw yesterday, but we're not expecting the people really to come out until after the funerals that take place today. So in about an hour, two hours' time.

But people are starting to come in. Dozens of people here now, not the thousands, the tens of thousands we saw. But Israel has already responded with a bit of tear gas to disperse everyone. We've also seen some tank movements along the border. There's been -- yesterday we heard tanks firing into Gaza. The army saying they were targeting Hamas positions. Also, air strikes yesterday.

And it was easy to see why yesterday was the deadliest day since that 2014 war, with 60 people killed, including 8 children. A lot of those people who were killed, though, were going right towards that border fence behind me. For its part, Israel says that is their red line. They're not going to let anyone cross it, and they'll disperse people first with tear gas and then live ammunition if they get closer.

The international community, though, has come out and condemned Israel for what they say is excessive force. This is the U.N. This is Doctors Without Borders. But for its part, Israel says that it is Hamas that is sending people over there close to that border and putting their lives at danger.

But today, we will be monitoring this spot and spots all along this border to see if we get a repeat of that violence -- David.

GREGORY: Ian Lee, thank you so much. He's monitoring that story in Israel.

Meantime, back at the White House, it's clear that no one there is going to apologize. Still deflecting questions on those offensive comments a staffer made about Senator John McCain. So the questions are still coming. The controversy is still here. So what's next? We're going to discuss that coming up.


[06:17:24] GREGORY: So it's an old story now. The White House still not apologizing for those morbid comments made by aide Kelly Sadler. Instead, the president is targeting those leaking information from the West Wing, tweeting this: "The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over-exaggeration." He goes on to say, "Leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are."

Let's discuss with CNN political analysts John Avlon and Alex Burns. First of all, there's a lot of leakers including the president.


GREGORY: So it's an interesting reaction. Did we have any insight into why he's going after them over this?

AVLON: Well, I think the president's natural instinct is to divide everything into "us against them," including his own administration, including leaking, which is something he does a lot of.

Look, the federal government is a leaky leviathan. Rarely have we had a president do so much leaking and that create acetone coming from the top situation. So if he calls them traitors and cowards, you know --

It's also Kellyanne Conway who talks about pernicious the leaking is. This is how she described it.


CONWAY: Some leaks exist to hurt colleagues. Some leaks exist because they disagree with the policies that are being put forth. But none of them are helpful.

And I will tell you something else that's gone on in this White House but not as badly as it was at the beginning, where it's not so much leaking as using the media to shiv each other. And that was going on quite a bit at the beginning of this administration and it's less so now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect personnel changes as a result?

CONWAY: I do actually, yes, I do.


GREGORY: What I love is the countenance, the smile and the sense that "We all hate each other." Right?

AVLON: She's smiling with her eyes. That's a sincere smile.

CAMEROTA: I'm confused by that explanation. Because what does that tell you about the way the White House is run, that they're all shivving each other? I mean, that --

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the kind of thing that you usually hear from folks on the Hill or folks --

CAMEROTA: On the outside.

BURNS: On the coalition on the outside, saying what is wrong with these people. They're constantly shivving each other, right? So to see a White House aide not saying on background, you know, "We have this problem that people are constantly shivving each other" but saying on television, attaching her name and voice to it, that's really unusual and gigantic admission of a problem that is framed as a moral stance, right?

This is what the president and his senior aides often do. When they are sort of cornered on something that they don't want to apologize for, don't want to admit any wrong doing, they problematize something else. Let's not talk about the problem but the leaking of the problem.

Can we extrapolate there are two camps inside the White House, one of which the leakers think that there are things that they're not comfortable with happening, and they're trying to make those public.

[06:20:04] AVLON: Right. Right. I do think it's fair to say a lot of the leaking from this White House is whistleblowing, particularly from the administration writ large. People being really concerned about departures from norms. And that's different than simply sniping and gossip.

I will say that, you know, the shiv being primarily know as a prison weapon seems sort of poetic upon itself.

BURNS: I'm not sure there are two camps of people who leak and people who don't. Right? That this is an administration that leaks every which way. Right? And sometimes the people who are most theatrically condemning leaks are people who are themselves under suspicion for leaking. There's a reason why they're out there saying --

CAMEROTA: Interesting.

GREGORY: Let's look at some of the past leaks that they've had to deal with that have been problematic.

Aides warning the president against congratulating Vladimir Putin when he was, quote unquote, "re-elected." And telephone calls, transcripts with world leaders have gotten leaked. This Rob Porter situation, the abuse allegations when Kelly was aware of them.

Rex Tillerson not speaking well of the president. Jared Kushner losing his top-secret clearance, and they go on and on. The president referring to countries in a pejorative fashion.

But I do think what -- first of all, to be serious about this, as -- as a reporter you cover any White House, and the White House is a large operation with a big P.R. spin operation. And you're trying to get underneath that and trying to find out what's really going on.

In this case, if you have people who are at cross purposes who disagree with each other, it's amplified or magnified by the fact that you really do have a president who is off on his own. And you have this -- this scaffolding of staff and advisers who are trying to pursue certain policies, and they use leaking to try to force a different result.

AVLON: Yes. I think that's exactly right. There's an aspect of leaking which is always pursuing an agenda, but it's usually not in the absence of a president who has a firm grasp on his agenda. And the fact that there's a bit of a vacuum from a policy standpoint, from an ideological standpoint, at the top, I think compounds all of that.

And there's also the fact that, I mean, Trump's own instincts, going back to John Barron, the days in New York real estate, when he posed as his own P.R. agent. It really does come from -- tone does come from the top. And this is something the president has said. And so folks can say, "I learned it from you, Dad."

GREGORY: But it's also -- this agenda piece. It's gossipy. Right? And the gossipy stuff really does come from the president. When you've seen, you know, personnel changes, or he's thinking about firing so and so, that is coming from him, or you know, at least indirectly.


GREGORY: Indirectly saying --

CAMEROTA: Somehow countenanced it went out. GREGORY: Right. Because he's talking about it in very open ways or having people do it.

BURNS: And even if it's not sort of an authorized leak from the president or the president himself calling up a reporter, he calls up people around town. He calls up friends in Florida. He calls up friends in New York and says. "Hey, what do you think if I fire this person?"

AVLON: Right.

BURNS: Or "Is it time that I replace, you know, General Kelly?" or something like that, right? So he is stirring this stuff up. He probably doesn't perceive that as him leaking.


BURNS: But then when he sees it in the newspaper, he may think, "Who did that to me?"

GREGORY: By the way, journalists, this is what we love. I mean, there's nothing -- I covered the Bush White House. It was very disciplined, and it was very difficult to get, you know, underneath that veil, which is frustrating as a reporter. So that's why reporters are, you know, all smiles.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about your reporting about Vice President Mike Pence and what he's up to. Is he -- is it your reporting that he is attempting to build a coalition of some sort away from the president?

BURNS: Certainly, to tend to his existing power base, using the resources of the presidency. And it's actually sort of a perfect piece to pair with the conversation we were just having, that when you have this kind of chaos in the White House, when you have this vacuum of political leadership for the Republican Party, the vice president and the vice president's staff have really filled the vacuum.

And they are using the prestige of the White House, the resources of the White House to sort of do favors for people who are Mike Pence's friends from Congress and to steer the president away from some of his own instincts about which candidates to back for speaker of the House, for governor of important states and important Senate races. We didn't see this with Joe Biden. We didn't see this with Dick Cheney.

AVLON: This is almost like the vice president functioning as a parliamentary leader. I mean, he's really sort of marshalling the troops on the congressional fields. People he has direct knowledge of. He is playing some favorites, as Alex points out. But he really is sort of doing the things that a president might typically do, but this one isn't interested in doing. Leading the party, really paying attention to the midterm elections, paying attention to primaries, and in the background on all that is, you know, is he a leader in waiting, whether it's 2024, or someplace else.

CAMEROTA: Right. And is the president happy about this or upset that Mike Pence is going rogue, if that's how to describe it? BURNS: By and large the president and the vice president have a good

personal relationship. It's more at the staff level right now, although there was this episode a couple of weeks ago where the vice president tried to bring on as an adviser to his office Republican pollster John Lerner, who had been a big "never Trump" strategist in 2016; and that -- that definitely got the president's attention. And he certainly wasn't happy about it, and he smacked that down.

GREGORY: The difference is that normally you would have in the West Wing staff of the president's staff someone who controls the political operation. And that's just not the case.

[06:25:09] BURNS: Nominally, you do have those people, right? But they are, as we mentioned at the top, constantly shivving each other.

CAMEROTA: And you've worked it full circle. Well done. Alex Burns, John Avlon, thank you very much.

Now to this. A CNN investigation prompting Uber to make some big changes designed to protect passengers. We have the latest details for you.


CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news for you. Uber announcing big changes to some of its policies in the wake of a CNN investigation that found more than 100 Uber drivers accused of sexual assault or abuse in the past four years.

CNN's Drew Griffin broke the exclusive reporting. He joins us live for the update. So Drew, tell us what you've learned.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've learned that Uber will no longer try to hide the problem and will allow victims to speak out, Alisyn, as a warning to others. Uber calls this turning the lights on, pledging to transparency, integrity and accountability.

One of the problems we exposed for many victims of sexual assault --