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Israel Upset over U.N. Vote; Trump Says He'll Dissolve Charitable Foundation; Obama: I Could Have Won Again on Hope & Change. Aired. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 26, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I guess it's safe to say that President Obama's Hanukkah gift got lost in the mail.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Seething, the prime minister of Israel slamming President Obama after the U.S. looked the other way on a critical U.N. resolution. We will ask Israel's ambassador to the U.S. how damaged this special relationship is right now.

After months of questions into how it raised money and where the money went, president-elect Trump says he's dissolving his charitable foundation, but can he?

Plus, flight risks. The first female pilot in the modern Afghan air force says she's now too afraid to go home. Her first TV interview since seeking asylum in the U.S.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with some breaking news in the world lead.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now taking some serious action against nations who voted against Israel at the United Nations Security Council.

And with the clock ticking toward 2007 and ticking down on the Obama administration, there are some major cracks in one of the strongest bonds two nations have ever had, Netanyahu calling it a shameful ambush, saying friends don't take friends to the Security Council, after the U.S. abstained on a resolution condemning the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, instead of using its veto power, as the Obama administration has done every other time with U.N. Security Council measures critical of Israel.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joins me now.

Elise, reaction from the Israelis has been fierce.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Very strong, Jake. Tonight, Israel is curbing ties with countries who voted for the U.N.

measure, suspending business with their embassies, and refusing to meet with their ambassadors and foreign ministers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saved his strongest fury for the U.S., who he said led a shameful ambush against its closest ally.


LABOTT (voice-over): Still fuming over Friday's U.N. vote declaring Israeli settlements illegal, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu escalated his attacks against the Obama administration.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Friends don't take friends to the U.N. Security Council.

LABOTT: Summoning the U.S. ambassador and accusing President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry of orchestrating what he called a shameful ambush at the U.N., telling his Cabinet he has ironclad proof.

NETANYAHU (through translator): From the information we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording, and demanded that it be passed.

LABOTT: The White House denies that, calling the claim absurd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not draft it. We did not put it forward.

LABOTT: The Obama administration maintains the U.N. vote was a last resort, after struggling for the past eight years to convince Israel to halt settlement construction on occupied lands the Palestinians claim for their state.

BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: For years, we have seen an acceleration in the growth of these settlements. And, frankly, if these current trends continue, the two-state solution is going to be impossible.

LABOTT: An adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed.

HUSAM ZOMLOT, SENIOR ADVISER TO MAHMOUD ABBAS: This is not a resolution against Israel. This is a resolution against Israel's expansion. The move was just to really save us and Israel and borrow time and craft our way towards the future.

LABOTT: But, for Israel, that future is uncertain. Officials now worry that with U.N. backing, Palestinians will push for sanctions, boycotts and take Israeli soldiers to the International Criminal Court.

RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: What this resolution just did is it gave the Palestinians ammunition in their diplomatic and legal war against Israel. And the United States not only didn't stop it. They were behind it.

LABOTT: Netanyahu now putting his hopes in president-elect Donald Trump, who condemned the U.N. vote this weekend on Twitter, saying it "will make it much harder to negotiate peace."

NETANYAHU: I look working with those friends and with the new administration when it takes office next month.


LABOTT: It's not just the president-elect who opposes this vote, but members of Congress from both parties who had urged the Obama administration not to go through with it, and now leading Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham say they will move to defund the U.N. unless the Security Council overturns this vote -- Jake.

TAPPER: Elise Labott, thank you so much.

Joining me now is the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer.

Thanks so much for being here, Mr. Ambassador.

DERMER: Good to be with you. Happy Hanukkah.

TAPPER: Happy Hanukkah to you as well.

So, the prime minister is limiting working ties, is that a correct way to phrase it, limiting working ties with the 12 U.N. Security Council members who voted in favor of the resolution with whom Israel has diplomatic relations.

DERMER: Right.

TAPPER: Those are the U.K., France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will not meet with their foreign ministers. Their ambassadors will not be received at Israel's Foreign Ministry.

This sounds very much like Israel isolating itself from important countries with whom Israel has important relations.


DERMER: Well, what it says, Jake, is that Israel is not going to be kicked in the teeth and just not respond to this.

The toughest response was actually to New Zealand and Senegal, because they initiated this at the Security Council. And we have recalled our ambassadors for consultations from those countries.

But another response is we can't just meet with visiting dignitaries as if nothing has happened. This is a serious effort against Israel. It's an anti-Israel resolution. I saw the Palestinian leader who just spoke there. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are terror organizations and they are celebrating this resolution.

So, that's a pro-Israel resolution? That's a balanced resolution? Israel's enemies are celebrating this resolution. That tells you all you need to know.

TAPPER: Well, the resolution is against the territories, against the settlements being built in the territories, right?

So, let's just talk about...

DERMER: It's much more than that.

What this resolution actually does is, first of all, it says that all of that territory, all the territory beyond the '67 line, which one of our most famous diplomats once called Auschwitz borders, all of that territory is occupied Palestinian territory.

That means that the western wall, according to this resolution, is occupied Palestinian territory.

TAPPER: Doesn't the resolution say '67 with, of course, the idea that there will be negotiations for a peace settlement?

DERMER: It says 1967, and any change in the status has to be agreed by the Palestinians. That's different than Resolution 242, which happened in 1967.

So this actually changes the terms of reference for peace. It also means that East Jerusalem is now considered occupied Palestinian territory. It also basically encourages boycotts and sanctions against Israel, with specific wording, and it also is going to make peace much harder to achieve, because the one negotiating chip that we have at the peace table is that territory.

If the U.N. Security Council says that territory actually belongs to the Palestinians, which it does not, and which we reject, that's going to make actually achieving peace much harder.

TAPPER: But the council resolution does make a reference to a peace process in the future where these things would be negotiated.

DERMER: Yes, but you have to understand, Jake, what the Palestinians want to do, I said it earlier today, is to wage a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. They don't want to negotiate peace.

You know why? Because when you're negotiating a peace, there's give- and-take. What they want is take-and-take. And the way that you do that is try to internationalize the conflict, to put more and more pressure on Israel, to call for boycotts, sanctions, to take our soldiers to the International Criminal Court, something they're already calling for to happen, already calling a day after it.

And what they want to do is put enough pressure on Israel, turn it into a pariah state, thinking that we're just going to capitulate.

TAPPER: But Israel isn't party to the International Criminal Court.


DERMER: That's right. But you can still be subject when you travel around the world.

TAPPER: For one second, let's talk about these settlements that are the subject of this resolution. Let's forget for a second the settlements that are within the territory that probably would become part of Israel after some sort of settlement.

DERMER: But that distinction is not made.


TAPPER: I understand that. I understand that.

DERMER: Just one on settlements. I will focus only on settlements.

This resolution says that settlements are illegal. Now, a few days ago, the State Department...

TAPPER: It says they have no legal status.

DERMER: No, they say it's a flagrant violation of international law.

TAPPER: Here's my question. What is the justification for building the settlements that are deep inside the West Bank, outside the separation barrier that Israel itself has built? Why build those settlements at all? Is that at all going to help Israel achieve peace with the Palestinians?

DERMER: Look, the reason why we don't have peace with the Palestinians has nothing to do with the settlements.

We had a conflict for 50 years before 1967, when there wasn't a single one of those settlements or a single soldier in any of those territories that Israel captured after those territories were used to attack us; 50 years, there was a conflict. What was that all about? The Palestinian national movement was founded in 1964 to liberate Palestine.

What were they trying to liberate?

TAPPER: I understand that, but why build those settlements today, these ones that are far outside your separation border that are obviously in some cases built on Palestinian land?

The one in...


TAPPER: ... had forged documents.

Why allow those settlements to be built? Do you really think that's in the best interests of peace?

DERMER: I don't think it makes any difference to the peace process.

I don't think the settlements are an obstacle to the peace process. They have never been. (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: This resolution was entirely about the settlements.

DERMER: It wasn't entirely about the settlements.

I wish it were entirely about the settlements, because maybe they could have then had a balanced resolution, because we have a disagreement with the U.S. over the settlements. And it's not something new to the Obama administration. It goes way back.

What is different about this, Jake, is that they brought this disagreement between our two governments, two allies, our most important ally in the world, and they brought it to the Security Council, something that has not happened in 36 years, since the days of Jimmy Carter.

And this issue has to be resolved at the negotiating table. It's one of the final status issues of Oslo. And all of a sudden, you're going to impose terms on Israel through a Security Council resolution.

And you know who's against that? President Barack Obama. Play the tape of President Obama.


TAPPER: In 2011, of course.

DERMER: In 2011 saying these issue should not be resolved.

Why? Because a few months earlier, he had vetoed a resolution in February 2011 at the Security Council, and he should have vetoed it again.

TAPPER: The Obama administration says two things about a lot of the things that you and your government are saying.

One, it is not true at all that they had anything to do with bringing this up, whether the Egyptians brought it up or New Zealand brought it up. They were not responsible at all. And the second thing they said is that Netanyahu should have seen this coming, because for eight years President Obama has been saying stop building the settlements, they are an impediment to peace.


Well, first of all, the first thing is totally incorrect.


TAPPER: Where is the evidence for that?

DERMER: As I said earlier today, we will present that evidence to the new administration in the appropriate channels, and then they can decide whether they want to release it to the public. As for the second part about the settlements, remember, people forget

these things. The prime minister of Israel did a freeze. He did a freeze for 10 months for the settlements and Palestinians did not come to the negotiating table.

This has not been about the settlements. What do the Palestinians want? What they want to do is to blame Israel for not negotiating, refuse to sit down and have discussions with us, and internationalize the conflict.

And for the last eight years, they have not been able to do that, because thankfully the president has stood up to those efforts in the Security Council. Now he gave the Palestinians exactly what they want. He gave them the ammunition for a political and diplomatic and legal war against Israel.

He gave them that ammunition by not vetoing the Security Council resolution.

TAPPER: All right. Ambassador Ron Dermer, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thanks for being here.

Coming up, Donald Trump says he will shut down his charity foundation to avoid any conflicts of interest, but is it that easy when it's already under investigation in the state of New York? That story is next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our politics lead now. Donald Trump becomes president in less than a month. As his team is working to try to untangle him from potential conflicts of interest, some of them at least, the president-elect just announced a plan to shutter the controversial Trump Foundation charity, which is under investigation in New York state.

[16:15:05] CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash joins me now.

And, Dana, Trump wants to close this family foundation, but apparently even this is not so simple.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Really, it doesn't seem like anything is simple, does it?


BASH: And when it comes to this, the Trump Foundation was a political problem for Donald Trump during the campaign. Questions were raised about how they got charitable donations and how that money was spent.


BASH (voice-over): The president-elect's team is frantically trying to figure out what to do about his vast business interests, even Trump-owned properties like Mar-a-Lago, where he he's staying for the holidays.

But they're off to a tough start. A Christmas Eve transition announcement about shuttering the Trump charitable foundation hit a road block. The New York attorney general who was investigating the foundation's alleged violations said through a spokeswoman, "The Trump foundation is still until investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete."

A "Washington Post" investigation found the foundation spend $258,000 to settle legal problems unrelated to the charity, and separately bought an immense portrait of Mr. Trump.

A former GOP White House ethics attorney said dissolving the foundation could take time.

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS ATTORNEY: You need to make sure it's completely independence of the for-profit enterprises. You cannot have self-dealing in foundations. And I don't know whether the rules were violated here or not.

BASH: Regardless of the investigation, ceasing operations on the Trump Foundation is hardly a heavy lift. Trump has donated since 2008, and it has no paid staff.

The real question is how Trump will separate himself from the for- profit Trump organization, a worldwide empire, including Trump Golf, International Realty, Trump Winery and Trump Hotels. The law does not require a president to divest himself from business interests, but potential conflicts abound. People could try to influence the president by staying at his hotels, for example.

And then there is the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which specifically prevents elected officials from accepting any present or money from foreign governmental leaders.

PAINTER: There are a whole lot of problems that I think President Trump could deal with by selling off is business interests, or giving it over to a trustee in a blind trust, so the trustee can figure out how to dispose of these properties and he can focus on being president.

BASH: A press conference intended to detail how Trump will sort of this out was scheduled for two weeks ago, but that was delayed under January to give them more time.


BASH: And a Trump attorney says -- tells CNN, rather, that they are reevaluating various transactions that they are involved in, and they're taking measures to comply with all conflict laws. But ethics experts say that the really only ironclad way to separate the Trump administration from Trump businesses is to put it in a blind trust. But, you know this, Jake, the president-elect is resisting that. He is leaning towards trying to turn it over to his two older sons, but we'll see if they can figure out a way to actually do that and make it work without all those potential conflicts. TAPPER: We'll see. Dana Bash, thank you so much.

The new session of Congress begins January 3rd, and members of Congress are already sending signals about how they might try to work with the incoming Trump administration.

Let's bring in Indiana Democratic Congressman Andre Carson.

Congressman, thank you so much for being here. Happy holidays.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Thank you. Thank you. You as well.

TAPPER: So, are you encouraged to see Mr. Trump, President-elect Trump taking these small steps to try to close his foundation?

CARSON: Well, certainly. I think that the job of commander in chief requires a full-time attention and he should not be distracted by trying to run an NGO or nonprofit.

TAPPER: Now, you've heard just in the last block, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, just now really going after the Obama administration hard, faulting them for abstaining during that U.N. resolution having to do with the building of settlements in East Jerusalem and West Bank. What did you make of what he had to say?

CARSON: Well, Ambassador Dermer is -- he's a friend of mine. He has Hoosier roots. He and I meet often. We talk. We have a great relationship.

I respectfully disagree. I support the Obama administration's position to allow the resolution to pass. I know that President-elect Trump, along with Prime Minister Netanyahu have been vocally against the administration, but the reality is very clear. Over 600,000 Israelis are not settled in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank, further exacerbating tensions internationally. And this is fuel to the fire for those extremist groups who have used this reality for a talking point, for further recruitment, to further expand their narrative against Jewish brothers and sisters, against the international and global community.

[16:20:06] So, I think that if we're honest about creating a two-state solution, something in which President Clinton almost secured, if we're serious about this effort, we have to really realize as the administration has said, the current administration, that these settlements are illegitimate and we have to do something about it.

TAPPER: Well, one of the points that Ambassador Dermer made was that there were ten months when Prime Minister Netanyahu froze all settlement development as a way to give the Palestinian leadership an opportunity to try to take steps towards peace, and they squandered it. It's often you said that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Should there not be pressure put on the Palestinian leadership as well? CARSON: I think that within the Palestinian leadership, there's a

great degree of conflict and people trying to decide who's going to lead the effort. I think we've seen pockets of resistance from the BDS movement, and we have seen pockets of resistance on college campuses. But internationally, I think the global community is taking a stand in a very real way and saying that enough is enough. We have to do something to at least create a Palestine that is a cohesive entity if not a state in a way that could tamper down on growing terroristic efforts.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump said that the U.S. should expand its nuclear capability. You're on the House Intelligence Committee. What did you make of that?

CARSON: Well, I think that -- you know, talking about expanding our nuclear capability is always a controversial issue, given the realities of the Cold War. However, we live in a world where human nature is very real and there's a fight for global dominance. We do not want to spark a nuclear arms race with Russia or even China, but it is true that both of those countries that I mentioned see themselves as a global super power and if they could in many ways knock off the United States, they would do so.

So, I think there are some legitimate concerns in terms of expanding our efforts to the point we're able to protect ourselves, but not doing so at the expense of world peace. But the reality is that when you're dealing with human nature, you have to be armed at all times.

TAPPER: Congressman Andre Carson, Democrat from Indiana, thank you so much. Appreciate your time, sir.

CARSON: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: He could have won a third term on his message of hope and change, if he had been eligible to run. That's what President Obama is saying about the 2016 election. We'll have more of that conversation next

And then another pop icon gone. What could have caused the death of George Michael at the relatively young age of 53?


[16:25:57] TAPPER: We're back with more on our politics lead now.

A third term -- President Obama says it would have been possible for him if only he could have run again, on his message of hope and change.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am confident in this vision, because I'm confident that if I -- if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized a majority of the people to rally behind it.


TAPPER: That was the president talking with his former senior adviser David Axelrod. David is now host of the Axe Files podcast and a CNN senior political commentator and he joins us from Chicago.

David, happy Hanukkah. Thanks for being here.


TAPPER: Is this -- is this a harsh judgment of Hillary Clinton? He would have been able to do what she could not?

AXELROD: Well, he said this in service of a larger point, which is he doesn't accept that the election was a verdict on his view of where the country should be going. He points out that she got a majority of the vote. He feels he would have won the election.

But there's no doubt there's some criticism implicit in his remarks and he went on to say perhaps the Clinton campaign took too much for granted, perhaps they played it too cautiously, and he was particularly critical of where they spend their time and where they made their case, suggesting that had they spent more times in these rural areas and small towns in states like Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, that they would have prevailed there.

TAPPER: In fact, the president repeated his suggestions that Democrats ignored those segments of the voting population, which ultimately led to Trump's win. Let's take a listen.


OBAMA: See, I think the issue was less that Democrats have somehow abandoned the white working class, I think that's nonsense. Look, the Affordable Care Act benefits a huge number of Trump voters. There are a lot of folks in places like West Virginia or Kentucky who didn't vote for Hillary, didn't vote for me, but are being helped by this. The problem is that we're not there on the ground communicating not only the dry policy aspects of this, but that we care about these communities, that we're bleeding for these communities.


TAPPER: A little bit of Monday morning quarterbacking there by the president.

AXELROD: Yes, but it is consistent with the way he ran his campaigns. You know, in 2008, and 2012, he had an economic message that was very much geared toward some of those very voters who walked away from the Democratic Party in this election. And so, he won counties like McComb County in Michigan that Hillary Clinton lost by quite a margin, Luzerne County near your hometown up by Scranton, where he -- she lost by 20 and he won by five.

And the reason he believes is that he communicated an economic message and a sense of connection to the concerns of those people that wasn't communicated there. He did take care, Jake, to say that he thought very highly of Hillary and the campaign she ran and felt she had been treated unfairly by the news media. So, he did make that point preparatory to these remarks.

TAPPER: Well, how does he explain -- I mean, there were 200 counties that voted for Obama twice in '08 and '12, and then voted for Donald Trump. Is it at all possible that President Obama also didn't spend enough time and attention talking to these white working-class voters about what his administration -- forget the 2016 election, but about what was being done for them? Is that a fair criticism?

AXELROD: Well, he would say the fact that he won reelection and won these counties -- not just after the first but after the second, and he was more embattled going into that second election that going into this election, he's quite popular right now.