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Trump: Trump Aides In Frequent Contact With Senior Russian Officials During Campaign; Trump: 'Can Live With Either' 2-State Or 1- State Solution. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired February 15, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Chinese are called Chinese because they come from China.
[12:30:00] The Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan. Well, Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea. This is our ancestral homeland. Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.
So unfortunately, the Palestinians not only denied the past, they also poisoned the present. They named public squares in honor of mass murderers who murdered Israelis and I have to say, also murdered Americans. They -- fund -- they pay monthly salaries to the families of murderers, like the family of the terrorist who killed a Taylor Force, a wonderful young American, a West Point graduate, who was stabbed to death while visiting Israel.
So this is the source of the conflict. The persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary, this persistent rejectionism, that's the reason we don't have peace. Now that has to change, I want it to change. Not only have I not abandoned these two perquisites of peace, they've become even more important because of the rising tide of fanaticism that has swept the Middle East and is also unfortunately, infected Palestinian society.
So I want this to change. I want those two perquisites of peace, substance, not labels, I want them re-instated. But if anyone believes that I, as prime minister of Israel, responsible for the security of my country, would blindly walk into a Palestinian terrorist state that seeks the destruction of my country, they're gravely mistaken.
The two perquisites of peace, recognition of the Jewish state and Israel security needs, western to Jordan, they remain pertinent. We have to look for new ways, new ideas, on how to re-instate and how to move peace forward. And I believe that the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach from involving our new found Arab partners in the pursuant of a broader peace and peace will the Palestinians.
And I greatly look forward to discussing this in detail with you Mr. President, because, I think that if we work together, we have a shot.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we have been discussing that and it is something that is very different, hasn't been discussed before. And it's actually a much bigger deal -- much more important deal in a sense. It would take in many, many countries and would cover a very large territory. So, I didn't know you were going to be mentioning that, but that's now (spa) that you did. I think it's a terrific things and I think we have some pretty good cooperation from people that in the past, would never ever have even thought about doing this. So we'll see how that works out. OK.
Katie (ph) from town hall, where is Katie (ph)? Right there. Katie (ph)?
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
You said in your earlier remarks that both sides will have to make would compromises when it comes to a peace deal. You've mentioned a (inaudible). Can you lay out a few more specific compromises that you have in mind, both for the Israeli and Palestinians?
And Mr. Prime Minister, what expectations do you have from the new administration about how to either amend the Iran nuclear agreement or how to dismantle it altogether? And how to overall work with the new administration to combat Iran's increased aggression, not only in the last couple of months, but the past couple of years as well?
TRUMP: That's actually an interesting question question.
I think that -- the Israelis are gonna have to show some flexibility, which is hard, it's hard to do. They're gonna have to show the fact that they really want to make a deal. I think our new concept that we've been discussing actually for a while is something that allows them to show more flexibility than they have in the past, because we have a lot bigger canvas to play with.
And I think they'll do that. I think they very much would like to will make a deal, or I wouldn't be happy and I wouldn't be here and I wouldn't be as optimistic as I am. I really think -- I can tell you from the standpoint of me being from the standpoint of Israel, I really believe they want to make a deal. And they'd like to see the big deal.
I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they are taught from a very young age. They're taught tremendous hate. I've seen what they're taught. And you can talk about flexibility there too, but it starts at a very young age and it starts in the schoolroom. And they have to acknowledge, as you know, they're going to have to do that.
There's no way a deal can be made if they're not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and important country. And I think they're going to be willing to do that also. But now I also believe, we're going to have -- Katie (ph) -- other players at a very high level and I think it might make it easier on both of Palestinians and Israel to get something done.
OK? Thank you. Very interesting question. Thank you. NETANYAHU: You asked about Iran. One thing is preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, something that President Trump and I, I think, are deeply committed to do. And we are obviously going to discuss that. I think beyond that, President Trump has led a very important effort in the past few weeks, just coming into the presidency. He pointed out there are violations -- Iranian violations on ballistic missile tests. By the way, these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew, "Israel must be destroyed."
The Palestinian -- rather, the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said, "Our ballistic missiles are not intended against any country." No, they write on the missiles in Hebrew, "Israel must be destroyed."
So, challenging Iran on its violations of ballistic missiles; imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, preventing them, making them pay for the terrorism that they foment throughout the Middle East and beyond, well beyond, I think that's a change that is clearly evident in -- since President Trump took office.
I welcome that. I think it's -- let me say this very openly -- I think it's long overdue. And I think that if we work together, and not just the United States and Israel, but so many others in the region who see eye to eye on the -- on the great magnitude and danger of the Iranian threat. And I think -- I think we can roll back Iran's aggression and danger.
And that's something that is important for Israel and the Arab states. But I think it's vitally important for America. These guys are developing ICBMs. They're developing -- they want to get to a nuclear arsenal, not a bomb; 100 bombs. And they want to have the ability to launch them everywhere on earth, and including -- and especially, eventually the United States.
So this is something that is important for all of us. I welcome the change. And I intend to work with President Trump very closely so that we can thwart this danger.
QUESTION: Mr. President, since your election campaign and even after your victory, we've seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic -- anti- Semitic incidents across the United States. And I wonder, what do you say to those among the Jewish community in the states and in Israel and maybe around the world who believe and feel that your administration is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones?
And Mr. Prime Minister, do you agree to what the president just said about the need for Israel to restrain or to stop settlement activity in the West Bank? And if we could follow up on my friend's question -- simple question: Do you back off from your vision to the (inaudible) conflict of two-state solution as you lay out in (inaudible) speech? Or you still support it?
Thank you. TRUMP: Well, I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had -- 316 electoral college votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there's no way to 270. And there's tremendous enthusiasm out there. I will say that we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long simmering racism and every other thing that's going on. There's a lot of bad things that have been taking place over a long period of time.
I think one of the reasons I won the election is we have a very, very divided nation, very divided. And hopefully, I'll be able to do something about that. And I, you know, it was something that was very important to me.
As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends; a daughter who happens to be here right now; a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you're going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening.
And you're going to see a lot of love. You're going to see a lot of love.
OK? Thank you.
NETANYAHU: I believe that the issue of the settlements is not the core of the conflict, nor does it really drive the conflict. I think it's an issue that has to be resolved in the context of peace negotiations. And I think we'd also -- we also are gonna speak about it, President Trump and I, so we can arrive at an understanding so we don't keep on bumping into each other all the time on this issue and we're going to discuss this.
On the question you said -- you just back with your question to the problem that I said. It's the label. What does (inaudible) by two states, OK? What does he mean? A state that doesn't recognize the Jewish state? A state that basically is open for attack again Israel? You know, what are we talking about? Are we talking about Costa Rica? Are we talking about another (ph) Iran? So obviously, it means different things.
I told you what are the conditions that I believe are necessary for an agreement. It's the recognition of the Jewish state and Israel's -- Israel's security control of the entire area. Otherwise, we're just fantasizing. Otherwise, we'll get another failed state, another terrorist Islamist dictatorship that will not work for peace, but work to destroy us, but also destroy any hope for a peaceful future for our people.
So I've been very clear about those conditions and they haven't changed. I haven't changed. If you read what I said eight years ago, it's exactly that and I repeated that again and again and again. If you want to deal with labels, deal with labels, I'll deal with substance.
And finally one -- if I can respond to something that I know from personal experience, I've known President Trump for many years, and to elude to him or to his people, his team, some of whom I've known for many years too -- can I revealed, Jared, how long we've known you? Well, he was never small, he was always big.
He was always tall. But I've known the president and I've known his family and his team for a long time. There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump. I think we should put that to rest.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Very nice. I appreciate that very much.
QUESTION: Are you gonna answer any questions about your (inaudible) contact with the Russians during the campaign?
[12:42:45] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu, wrapping up their joint news conference in the East Room at the White House. Going through a lot of issues involving the Middle East peace process, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, trying to get it started once again. Also, the president interestingly, blaming the leaks for all the troubles involving his national security advisor whom he fired earlier this week.
He basically said that the -- that Michael Flynn was fired. It was totally unfair. He is very, very good man. He didn't explain. Didn't go into details, why he actually went ahead and fired Michael Flynn. The two questions from American journalists this time from town hall media and the Christian Broadcasting Network. Two questions from Israeli journalists.
John King, if he was treated so unfairly, Michael Flynn, in this process and he's such a good man, why did the President fire him?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it would be nice, it would be nice, if the conservative outlets, the President is calling on would ask him tough questions, and they would actually -- instead of trying to curry favor with this President, they might do him a favor by letting him answer these questions because until he answers these questions, this story is not going to go away.
He just made it more complicated by saying that. Because yesterday the White House said the national security advisor was fired. And the President asked for his resignation after his -- he'd eroded trust. He had lost the trust of the vice president first and then the President. Mr. President looked into this. And then the president of the United States just told the American people and the world something quite different. An unfair media attacks on his national security advisor, led this man to unfairly be run out of the White House.
Well, who is telling the truth? Who speaks for the President? Who should we believe? The President? His press secretary? Other people around the President? Because they did different accounts.
You have a White House now that is in crisis, and calling on conservative news outlets, fine. But it doesn't answer the questions that the American people should have. Not just the news media. I will also say this. You just had the president -- and this is his right quite casually throw years of U.S. foreign policy down the drain. And I don't care if it's a one-state or two-state solution. This is up to the parties.
The United States came up with the two-state solution because it knows the parties are in intractable positions. It knows the parties were unlikely to negotiate peace. And it was part of the United States effort to push them. Yes, you negotiate the details. But we want to give you a broad framework.
[12:45:05] It is remarkable that even before the first official meeting with the Israeli prime minister, the president of the United States just ripped up the Bush administration, the Obama administration, U.S. policy and said I don't care. You guys figure this out.
BLITZER: He said whatever the Palestinians and Israelis want. You want a one-state, that's fine. You want two-states, that's fine. Jim, Sciutto, you wanted to make a quick point.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, this week Russia is the story. His national security advisor forced to resign, pushed out because of communications with Russia about sanctions. Last night and today, you have our reporting, "New York Times" as well, on tremendous evidence of contacts at the highest level, constant contact between his campaign and the Russians in the midst of an unprecedented attack on the U.S. electoral process.
First of all, he's not asked about that. That's an issue with who he asked and the folks who ask their questions and why they did. His only answer to it which he gave an answer to another question, one he said, he focused on the leaks. He actually didn't challenge the merits of these contacts. He just said its leaks they're illegal, blah, blah, blah, a point he has made before. And then he said something that he repeated on Twitter this morning that it's all about people trying to cover up for the terrible loss of the Clintons based on what, I don't know. I mean who is trying to cover up for the terrible loss?
And his national security advisor just got drummed out of the White House because of contacts intercepted by U.S. intelligence. That's just -- it's the reddest of red herrings --
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLTICAL DIRECTOR: And there's the cover up for that.
BLITZER: I want to quickly go to Jim Acosta. He's in the East Room. And Jim, we've got you who shouted out a question to the president at the very end which he ignored?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Guilty as charged. That was me. I tried to ask that question there as President Trump was leaving the room. It got quiet for a few moments. And when those moments come, you take full advantage. I tried to ask the president about his associates' contacts with the Russians during the campaign. He seemed to pause for a moment as if perhaps he wanted to answer the question. But then he turned to Prime Minister Netanyahu and left the East Room.
Just to pick up on what you were saying a few moments ago, yes, what President Trump said during this news conference about Michael Flynn being treated unfairly by the "fake news media," that is not consistent with what his own officials said yesterday in the White House, the White House briefing room. White house Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, that the National Security advisor, who is now gone, misled the vice president of the United States about his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador. And so that is not something that Michael Flynn was treated unfairly about. He did this and he had to pay the price.
Now, the President is obviously very upset about leaks coming from the intelligence community or the law enforcement community to the news media, but these are questions that are being asked, and they're being answered by officials in this government. That is something that has gone on long before Donald Trump occupied the Oval Office.
I think one of the thing we want to comment on very quickly, Wolf, just because you mentioned this a few moments ago. Yes, the two questions that were asked or called upon from the President in this news conference went to a Christian Broadcasting Network which is obviously owned by Pat Robertson, the televangelist down in Virginia. It's a very conservative broadcasting network, and town hall.com, which is a very conservative news Web site.
And so in the last three news conferences, Wolf, all of the questions to the American news media have been handled by conservative press. And I think, Wolf, there's no other way to describe it. But the fix is in. This White House, this president, does not want to answer questions, critical questions, about his associates, his aides' contacts with the Russians during the course of that campaign just as his National Security advisor is being run out of this White House on a rail.
And so I think that this only, you know, they may think that this is being cute or they think this is strategic in terms of trying to shield the president from questions. But those questions can only be shielded for so long, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. An important point. And David Chalian, just to summarize what the President said about Michael Flynn, the man he fired as his national security advisor just three weeks into his administration. Flynn was treated very unfairly by the fake news media. This is sad. Treated so badly. Sensitive papers were leaked. This is a criminal act. It's all part of a Democratic cover-up. Very, very unfair. These were all illegally leaked.
He says all that, but then he doesn't say what we heard from Sean Spicer, the press secretary, yesterday that the president lost confidence, lost trust in his national security advisor because he misled them on his conversations with the Russian ambassador of the United States on sanctions.
CHALIAN: He also called him a wonderful man. Now, I don't know. But if I had a spokesman, I don't. But if I had one, and I sent them out to the briefing room and said that there was an eroding and evolving trust factor over several weeks due to several circumstances. I don't think I would go out and then be like he's a wonderful man. I'd ask for his resignation. I got it. It makes no sense.
[12:50:05] It's -- it actually -- here's what it makes sense. It gives us the real insight into how Donald Trump thought about this entire scenario. He didn't think what Michael Flynn did was so bad because what he really believes is that it got out in public, in the newspapers and it was exposed that he was lying to Vice President Pence. And because of the exposure of that fact, he had to go. That is what Donald Trump showed us today was he's real thinking which is not the thinking that his spokesperson put forward yesterday in the briefing.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Can I just say this is the third press conference. We've talked about how he's calling on conservative media. This is the third press conference with a world leader that this situation with Russia is dominating the news. It's distracting from his other foreign policy agenda. This is a very important meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, a good story for Donald Trump to talk about, rekindling this relationship with Israel after eight years of acrimony. This could be a good press story for him. But yet this story continues to dog him. And it continues to distract his entire administration.
BLITZER: I want to get some analysis from our CNN Global Affairs Analyst to distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center Aaron David Miller who served now for multiple U.S. secretaries of state, was intimately involved in the peace process.
You heard what both of these leaders said, the President of the United States making new policy, the two-state solution, fine, if that's what they want. One-state solution, fine, if that's what they want. But the bigger issue the President and the Prime Minster said, Israel now has an emerging relationship with a whole host of other Arab countries, presumably referring to Jordan or Egypt or Saudi Arabia or United Emirates, Bahrain, other countries. And Israel-Palestinian deal with the President now suggesting could be part of a regional peace agreement. What do you make of that?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, as a "Star Trek" fan, Wolf, I haven't seen -- this is nothing short of a Vulcan mind meld on so many issues. Clearly, each leader was determined to improve fundamentally and drastically improve the personal relationship and they allotted one another. Particularly the Prime Minister's comments about laying to rest any sense that the President or anyone in his immediate circle was anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.
Second, on the Iran issue, they both hate the agreement. They didn't talk about details. But it's clear they're going to be operating in a much closer way in that. And finally, on the issue of Israeli- Palestinian peace, if they didn't completely close the door to the notion of a serious two-state solution, which at the moment is going to be almost impossible to implement, they almost completely buried it.
Both of them talked clearly and the President was surprised that the Prime Minister raised the issue of broadening the circle and involving co-Arab states. But the Prime Minister talked about new avenues. And the all three things, I think you're going to see at least for now a profound improvement in both the personal and the substantive relationship between these two.
One additional point, it is striking that the President of the United States said how important the pursuit of peace is to him. And the signaling out of Jared Kushner by the Prime Minister -- excuse -- yes, by the Prime Minister, also suggests that for the first time that I know, in my long experience, the con for this, the control for this is repositive not just in the White House, but in the hands of a man who is not only a family member of the President, but deemed to be one of the his closest personal advisers. That's good news if you found a serious approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. It may not be such good news if you wonder off the highway and approaches that don't have a stand a chance of working.
BLITZER: Oren Liebermann is in our Jerusalem Bureau. He's our Correspondent over there. Oren, now we also did hear the President say something that the prime minister presumably was not that excited about when he said to the prime minister, as far as Israeli settlements on the west bank are concerned, hold back. I'd like to see Israel hold back. He then went on to say, well, I think we're going to make a deal. But he was pretty precise in telling the prime minister, he's not very enthusiastic about Israel's going ahead and building more settlements.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Especially after we saw the few announcements right after the election of Donald Trump, more than 6,500 new settlement homes approved by Netanyahu in the first days of the Trump administration. That prompted President Trump when interviewed when Israel Hayom, one of the local daily's to say settlement expansion is unhelpful to peace.
So making it clear here, hold off on this a little bit. You're absolutely right. That's not what Netanyahu wanted to hear. When he was asked about that in a follow-up question, he said we'll come to some agreement. It will be interesting to see if they do come to some agreement, perhaps one of the options floated by the defense minister here and the transportation minister is expansion and settlement growth within the settlement blocks and freezing them outside of the settlement blocks.
[12:54:57] Although, thousands of settlement homes is a large number, it's the largest settlement approval we've seen from Israel in years. It's not enough for Israel's right wing government and many in that government who want to see not only thousands of settlement homes, they want to say annexation of all or parts of the west banks.
In fact, one of the most outspoken right wing politicians in the government Naftali Bennett, the education minister tweeted right after the end of this conference and here's what he said. "A new era. After 24 years, the Palestinian flag has been taken down and exchanged with an Israeli flag. I commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for showing leadership and looking for Israeli's security."
He clearly heard what Netanyahu said, which was dodging the question of a two-state solution. Netanyahu refused to commit to it dodging that question. He looked that as Netanyahu backing away from that commitment a few years ago to a two-state solution. So, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. There weren't many details here. But Netanyahu looking for some sort of wriggle room perhaps Trump as well as his administration figures out the Middle East policy.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stand by. There's much more of our special coverage coming up. More on President Trump's meeting with the Israeli prime minister, this amid new questions about the Trump camp's ties to Russia.
We'll take a quick break. More on the BREAKING NEWS right after this.