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Alabama Senate race; White House on Jerusalem as Israel's capital; Supreme Court to hear same-sex wedding cake case. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired December 3, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:25] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All Right. Hello again. And welcome this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We continue this hour with the remarkable announcement from the ranking Democrat leading the Senate's Russia probe. Dianne Feinstein says today that the Senate Judiciary Committee is building an obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The President is undergoing scrutiny for a possible obstruction of justice after he sent out a tweet offering a new reason behind why he fired his former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
The President tweeting this yesterday. I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice President and the FBI.
Well today the White House is playing damage control down-playing that tweet saying it was written by an attorney for the President.
So let's begin with the news that a Senate investigation is developing a case on obstruction of justice against the President of the United States.
CNN's crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is with me now.
So Shimon, you know, what else did Feinstein say about this case being built?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Right. And for her it was a point to make that one of the things she said also was that it's been just difficult to get at the truth in this investigation. She and members of her committee, the Senate judiciary committee, have been asking for documents from Donald Trump Jr., from Jared Kushner all these ongoing. And I think her point in all this today was also to say that it appears at least on the special counsel side, Bob Mueller's team that they are building out perhaps a case for some kind of obstruction. We now have two people who have admitted to lying to investigators. And she revealed that she, too, is now looking at perhaps, some form of an obstruction.
Now here is the sound with her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: I think what we are beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice. I see it in the hyper phonetic attitude of the White House. The comments every day, the continual tweets, and I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of director Comey and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: And for the senator, she is a Democrat, it would be probably a little difficult to go ahead and proceed with that. She would need the help of the chairman of this committee who is Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican. And there is no indication that is happening right now. So I guess we should all stay tuned. But the Senate Judiciary Committee is still continuing their investigation certainly into other patterns here and other facts of the Russia investigation.
All right, Shimon Prokupecz. Thank you so much for that.
All right. Let's turn to the White House now which is in damage control. The White House now saying the tweet was written by the President's personal lawyer John Dowd.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.
So Jeremy, you know, reportedly Trump's tweet went out while he was in the motorcade in between events in New York. What is the White House saying about who crafted it, who may have sent it? What's going on?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, there is no indication as of now that John Dowd was with the President when that tweet went out. But John Dowd, the president's personal attorney who does not work at the White House, he claimed to CNN this morning that he was the one who actually crafted that tweet. And I asked him some follow- up questions via email this morning, some of which he refused to answer. But he did say that he believes it was Dan Escavino (ph), the President's social media director who actually physically posted the tweet even though he crafted it.
He refused to answer questions about the President's own role in this tweet. The President, of course, very personally involved generally when it comes to any messages posted on his own twitter account. So this is leading to a lot of questions, of course, about what the President knew and when about Michael Flynn and his interview with the FBI. The tweet, of course, suggesting that the President knew that Michael
Flynn had lied to the FBI. The crime for which Flynn pled guilty to on Friday before he fired him. But John Dowd, the President's attorney is now saying that neither the President nor anybody else at the White House really knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI back earlier this year.
WHITFIELD: OK. And then, Jeremy, today the President tweeting again kind of like offering clarity. I mean, he said I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn, almost like a punctuation of or correction of what he was - the people are inferring from the potential sequence of events?
[16:05:14] DIAMOND: Right. Well, this is why people are raising questions of obstruction of justice is because the former FBI director James Comey claimed the President had asked him to actually drop that investigation into Michael Flynn. Now that is a claim that the President back then refuted. And he is once again as these questions are being asked again particularly in light of the tweet drafted by his own attorney apparently, that's why he is now once again bringing this up and pushing back on those claims.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much in front of the White House. Appreciate it.
So the President's tweet regardless of who authored it does set off more questions about the timeline of various explanations of firings of both Michael Flynn and former FBI director James Comey.
Here is what we know. After the resignation of the former national security advisor Michael Flynn February 13th, the President said it was because Flynn lied to the vice President Pence.
February 14th, the next day Trump meets with the FBI director Comey and then tells him quoting now "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go," meaning Flynn's meeting with the Russian ambassador Kislyak.
May 9th, Trump fires director Comey which brings us to yesterday now when Trump sent out this tweet claiming that he fired Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. This a day after Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his meeting with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Now originally, Trump never said that he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI. Now bringing more questions.
So again, if Trump knew then that Flynn lied to the FBI, why wasn't he let go sooner? And why would Trump have asked the FBI director to let Flynn go? And why was Comey fired? Was it to get rid of the Russia probe?
Let's talk more about all of these developments surrounding the President and all of these questions. With me now is Congressman David Cicilline who is a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island and a member of the House foreign affairs and judiciary committee. Good to see you congressman.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: So let me begin, you know, by getting your reaction to this news that the Senate Judiciary Committee is building an obstruction of justice case against the President. You heard that from Feinstein earlier today.
CICILLINE: Look. I think these are very, very serious developments. We now have the national security adviser to the President of the United States who admits that he lied repeatedly to the FBI. You have to wonder again why were these contacts such a secret. This is the ninth individual who was either a part of the administration or a part of the campaign who has either lied about or forgotten to reveal Russian -- contacts with the Russians. This is investigation is now moved into the President's inner circle into the White House.
So this is very, very serious. This is an individual who is now agreed to share everything he knows with the special counsel. The tweet yesterday raises more questions because now the President has said he knew about -- that Mr. Flynn lied both to the vice President and had lied to the FBI and after that apparently told the special -- the FBI director, look -- I'm sorry. The FBI director that he should sort of leave Mr. Flynn alone and couldn't he see his way to dropping the investigation.
These raise very serious questions of obstruction of justice. If the President is attempting in any way to interfere with this investigation, that's obstruction of justice or to impede it in any way. And it is pretty clear that is what the tweet said. Now they are trying to suggest it was done by an attorney for the President which is unusual. The President takes a lot of pride being hands on in doing his own tweets.
So I think there's a lot more questions being asked. But this is a very, very serious development. The plea, the admission of guilt by Mr. Flynn. But you know, this is a President who has been attempting to diminish the importance of this investigation from the beginning. Let's not forget why a special counsel was appointed. Because the President fired the FBI director in part because of this Russian thing and then yucked it up with the Russians and the oval office after it.
And so this is very serious. The President should understand that this is an investigation that must proceed. We should make sure Mr. Mueller has the resources he needs to do this. And it should not be interfered with by the administration or the President in any way. We need to protect it from that. And let Mr. Mueller and his team follow the facts wherever they lead.
WHITFIELD: So it sounds like you have made up your mind mostly about some credence into building this case of the obstruction of justice largely because of the indictments, the guilty pleas. But this latest tweet is just sort of icing on the cake but it's not the item that makes you feel even more curious about a potential case of obstruction of justice? [16:10:06] CICILLINE: Well, I wouldn't say curious. It makes me
gravely concerned. Interference by this President in an ongoing investigation of this importance is very, very significant. And you know, it's important to do it, you know, to view them in the context. This is in the context of the conclusion of our intelligence agencies that Russians interfere with our Presidential election with the expressed purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting the Democratic nominee from the very top of the Russian organization, Vladimir Putin, and a whole series of individual who have had contacts with the Russians during this Trump campaign, an effort by the President to interfere potentially with the ongoing investigation in an ongoing effort to diminish the investigation to really continue to say there's nothing here, it's fake news. We now have two guilty pleas. Two other indictments of individuals either associated with the campaign or the administration. This is very serious business. And we ought to all be working together in a bipartisan way to get to the bottom of it. This is about protecting our democracy.
WHITFIELD: Do you feel fairly convinced that Flynn's plea deal will merit more information that could lead to more indictments or more information high up in the food chain in the White House?
CICILLINE: I don't think there is any question that if you read the plea agreement that Mr. Flynn in exchange for entering a guilty plea to a single count of information has agreed to cooperate fully this special counsel. His is obligated to do that if he doesn't share everything he knows and he doesn't cooperate fully. Then what he has bargained for would be compromised. He would no longer be entitled to the terms of that agreement. So he has the incentive in the world to tell the special counsel everything he knows and to cooperate truthfully and fully.
I don't think the special counsel would engage in that kind of agreement unless he had some confidence that Mr. Flynn had a story to tell. So I think we have to wait. It's not wise to speculate on it.
But I think there's no question, this was someone very close to the President. Someone who lied to the FBI during the course of this investigation who now has an obligation to tell the truth. And I have full confidence Mr. Mueller and his team will make good use of that and get to the bottom of this.
WHITFIELD: All right. Congressman David Cicilline, thanks so much.
CICILLINE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, is the President putting himself in jeopardy with these constant tweets about the Russia investigation? Our legal panel weighs in next.
[16:16:54] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We learned today that the President's lawyer John Dowd said that he was the one who crafted Trump's tweet yesterday about Michael Flynn's firing. That was the President's tweet that has sparked a lot of criticism and questions over obstruction of justice.
Joining me right now to discuss CNN legal analyst Paul Callan and CNN political analyst Michael Shear.
Good to see you both. So Paul, you know, Dowd, the personal attorney, John Dowd, of Trump, confirmed that he wrote the tweet about the reasoning behind Flynn's firing because in the President's tweet yesterday. He said that he was fired because he lied to the vice President and he lied to the FBI.
So why would a lawyer do that, meaning why would the lawyer send this tweet on behalf of the President and then it would lead to questions about the whole sequence of events in terms of what the President knew?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's really a bizarre story, Fred, because if an attorney was going to get involved in sending out a tweet, he would be hyper sensitive to the fact that an inaccuracy about what went on with the President and Comey and Flynn and what the President knew about Flynn lying is the subject of ongoing congressional and of course the Mueller investigation. So the lawyer would be super careful about it.
And here you have a tweet that arguably incriminates the President by saying that he was aware that Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time that he, the President, decided to fire Comey and that's really a central point was that obstruction of justice.
So I don't know whether Dowd is covering for the President because the President actually sent the tweet out and is just looking for cover, or if the lawyer genuinely made a mistake. I mean one of the statements he made was he was just summarizing other information already out there which is unusual for a guy of Dowd's reputation to do. But that's sort of the atmosphere that hangs over this.
WHITFIELD: So Michael, the last thing anybody want is their own attorney to incriminate them. So do you buy that theory?
MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I don't know. I mean, I obviously -- I don't have any independent evidence to say which --whether somehow Mr. Dowd is not telling the truth. What I do know is that that tweet and the rest of the tweets that came last night and this morning suggest a President who is very much concerned about undermining the creditability of the investigators investigating him. Essentially that's what he did over the last 12 to 24 hours is in ways big and small attempt to undermine the creditability of the FBI, of James Comey, his first FBI director, of Bob Mueller, of the investigators on Mueller's team. And it does raise the question of if the President is so intent on trying to kind of attack and undermine the creditability of those investigators what does he know in terms of how much legal jeopardy he's in given the Flynn plea bargain and everything we have seen over the last few weeks.
[16:20:04] WHITFIELD: So potentially, you know, Paul, there is a couple of things, OK. Possibly it undermines the creditability of the investigators. But these tweets also seem to potentially undermine the creditability of his own attorney because, you know, yesterday you had a few different explanations, one explanation coming from the White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, who then said that -- or apparently was involved in this whole explanation of whether the message was being paraphrased by the lawyer.
WHITFIELD: And then now John Dowd is saying, no, it was me who actually crafted it. And then it's still confusing as to who sent it. Was it the President while he was in the motorcade in New York or did somebody else send it in some other method? This is really messy, Paul.
CALLAN: Well, it's very messy. And you know, it's a nightmare for these lawyers because I can assure you that none of these lawyers want the President sending out twitter messages about an ongoing criminal investigation which is being conducted by Mueller.
WHITFIELD: I'm sure they told him that.
CALLAN: They have told him that but he doesn't listen to anybody on this.
The second thing that I think is interesting and really hasn't come up too much today is after the election there was a lot written about how does the President prepare his tweets and one account was that he dictates them usually. He doesn't type them in himself. Who was the person who he's dictating the tweets to?
So I think going down the road in this investigation, you are going to see somebody being questioned from the White House who may or may not be in the room when the President comes up with whatever message he decides to convey by twitter because I don't think he is typing these things up himself, whether it's a lawyer or a secretary or an assistant, there's another person involved in this process.
WHITFIELD: I can't help but think of the contest a moment, though, you know, but. You know a sleep well, you know, crafting that. I guess, we still don't really now hos that concluded.
But then, Michael, you know, to the very serious matters of all of this language, these tweets, the conflict of timelines, what the President knew when he knew it, et cetera, how does this play into the hands of or further complicate the Michael Flynn investigation versus the Capitol Hill investigations?
SHEAR: Well, look, I think in part what you saw Dianne Feinstein struggling with this morning was the idea of the tweets reflect a kind of urgency on the part of the White House that suggests that both the recipients -- the targets of the investigation which are the associates in and around Donald Trump feel more worried about where this investigation is going and a sense that the investigators, Bob Mueller and his team are really pushing much, much deeper into the inner circle around the President. We started this investigation with a fair number of characters that had maybe incidental or smaller roles to play in both the campaign and then ultimately the White House, the transition in the White House. Now we are getting deeper into the President's inner circle. And I think what Dianne Feinstein was suggesting was that an obstruction of justice case is at least clearer or at least you can see the words much more clearly and part is the tweets that give a sense of the anxiety on the part of the people inside the White House.
WHITFIELD: Michael Shear, Paul Callan, good to see you both. Thank you so much.
CALLAN: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says he will let the voters decide whether Roy Moore should be Alabama's next senator. But (INAUDIBLE) said if Moore makes it to the hill the ethics committee is prepared to step in.
[16:28:21] WHITFIELD: All right. Alabama voters will choose a new senator in less than two weeks. And today Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is walking back his criticism of the controversial Republican candidate Roy Moore when allegations of sexual assault first surfaced against Moore. McConnell was among those calling for Moore to withdraw but now he is softening that stance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I think we are going to let the people of Alabama decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate and it will address the matter appropriately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that judge Moore should be in the Senate?
MCCONNELL: I'm going to let the people of Alabama make the call. This election has been going on a long time and been a lot of discussion about it. They are going to make a decision a week from Tuesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you are prepared to take action if he is elected?
MCCONNELL: The ethics committee will have to consider the matters that have been litigated in the campaign should that particular candidate win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The latest "Washington Post" school poll has Moore's democratic rival Doug Jones leading Moore by three percentage points. Well, to win Jones is going to have to pick up a good bit of Republican support and that's no small challenge in a state as conservative as Alabama.
Kaley Hartung has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Uproar that which is evil and cling to that which is good.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's Roy Moore appealing to his constituents but not all are convinced.
BILL BRUBAKER, ALABAMA RESIDENT: I'm going to sit this one out.
HARTUNG: Bill Brubaker is a lifelong Republican and evangelical Christian. But won't be voting in his party's candidate in Alabama's December 12th special election. No state has a higher percentage of Christians among them in Alabama according to Pew research.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KILLIAN, FORMER PRESIDENT, ALABAMA BATIST CONVENTION: And nothing for that reason Judge Moore's message has resonated because of the culture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG (VOICE-OVER): Like many, Dr. John Killian, former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention thinks this deeply Republican state is ripe and ready for the taking by the former judge but some like Brewbaker think that's an unfair assumption.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BREWBAKER, ALABAMA REPUBLICAN: Evangelicals are being painted with a very broad brush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG (VOICE-OVER): He says this goes deeper than the allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BREWBAKER: The idea that there is a candidate wrapping himself in the mantle of Christianity and he's at a political rally and he pulls out a hand gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG (VOICE-OVER): Moore has been hitting his base visiting rural conservative churches, though some of the worst of services have felt more like campaign events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY RAGLAND, PASTOR, BRYAN BAPTIST CHURCH: The only way our voice can be heard throughout this country is by us taking our liberties and voting with them. ROY MOORE (R), CANDIDATE, ALABAMA SENATE: They want to do two things,
several things. They want to hide the true issues. That's why you see the "Washington Post" bring out the Russian investigation when the people want to know about immigration, about health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG (VOICE-OVER): But Brewbaker worries about the message electing Moore would send.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BREWBAKER: I'm deeply concerned about the effect that Roy Moore's presence in the Senate would have on the reputation of evangelicals. I'm tempted to vote for Doug Jones for that reason but I can't really bring myself to pull the trigger on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG (VOICE-OVER): Democratic challenger Doug Jones' biggest hurdle with Republicans like Brewbaker, he's pro choice. An issue, the issue, that puts him at odds with conservative voters. Jones' also a man of faith attending a fish fry at a Baptist church in Montgomery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG JONES (D), CANDIDATE, ALABAMA SENATE: Folks prayer, but we got to move our feet, all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG (VOICE-OVER): Jones will need high turnout in metropolitan areas particularly the African-American population in the state to capitalize on Moore's perceived vulnerability. It's a steep mountain to climb in a state that hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in a quarter of a century.
Like many across the state of Alabama on this Sunday morning, Doug Jones and Roy Moore attended church services. As I've spoken with pastors across the state over the past couple of days, many have told me they won't address this senate race from the pulpit. But as was illustrated by the Daniel Wilson, the pastor here at First Baptist in Pleasant Grove outside of Birmingham, he does address moral and social issues from the pulpit.
This morning he reminded his congregation Jesus was an unborn child in Mary's womb and that God chose a family with a mother and father for Jesus, Fred, not an explicit endorsement by that pastor, but a reminder that for many in Alabama, it is tough to discern where religion ends and politics begin.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kaylee Hartung, thanks so much from Brimingham. And we'll be right back.
[16:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. The president is expected to make a decision this week on whether to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move would eventually lead to the U.S. embassy relocating from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Well today at the Saban Forum in Washington, which is an annual meeting between American and Israeli leaders, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said the president has yet to make up his mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: The president is going to make his decision and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't made his decision?
KUSHNER: He is still looking at a lot of different facts and that when he makes his decision, he'll be the one to want to tell you, not me. So, he'll make sure he does that at the right time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: National Security adviser H.R. McMaster echoed Kushner's comments this morning confirming Trump is undecided. The diplomatic move has been long sought by Israel. Palestinians strongly opposed to it. CNN's Ian Lee explains why.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At one level, it's a city like any other. People sell, people buy, normal life. But Jerusalem's old city is special. And this is the best vantage point. Here on the Mount of Olives, the dome of the rock in all its magnificence, a key holy site for Muslims.
Behind it, if you know where to look, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where many Christians believe Christ was crucified. And out of sight from this vantage point, the Western Wall, holy to Jews supporting the mount where the temple once stood. It's not Jerusalem's significance that's in dispute, it's its status.
After nearly 20 years divided by barbed wire, Israeli forces took control of the whole city east and west in 1967. The international community did not recognize what Israel called the unification of Jerusalem. Embassies stayed in Tel Aviv and east Jerusalem was accepted by the international community as the capital of a future Palestinian state in a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.
This area is called Abu Tor and it's a bit of a rarity in Jerusalem that's because it's a mixed neighborhood. People who live on this part of the street identify as Palestinians.
MOHAMMED MUJAHED, PALESTINIAN RESIDENT: Inside I am Palestinian and Muslim and I'm proud about that.
LEE: I don't think it's a successful step to move the embassy Khamis tells me, and it's not the right time to do it. But the Israelis and Americans have other agendas that we can't change.
A bit further down the road and let's talk to some folks here.
ADI CHOBAN, ISRAELI RESIDENT: I'm an Israeli woman. I live in Jerusalem. I love Jerusalem.
[16:40:00] LEE: Palestinians say they want east Jerusalem to be part of their capital, what do you think about that?
CHOBAN: I don't like to talk about this. I think Jerusalem is Israeli or Jewish.
LEE: What are your thoughts on the United States moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
MENASHE MEZRACHI, ISRAELI RESIDENT: Great -- great. First of all, it's not going to be a Palestinian country and is always was Israel.
LEE: Some Israelis who didn't want to be on camera told us they don't support moving the embassy. Whatever President Trump announces the position of the vast majority of the international community remains clear. East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory. All settlements are illegal. Their view likely won't change quickly even if the U.S. embassy changes addresses. Ian Lee, CNN Jerusalem.
WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring in CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller. He also spent two decades working for the U.S. State Department and has been an adviser to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state. Aaron good to see you.
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good to see you Fred.
WHITFIELD: So, President Trump campaigned on this saying he would move the U.S. embassy. Why do you think the decision has not been made yet?
MILLER: You know, two of his last three predecessors also campaigned on the issue that they would move the embassy and didn't. I suspect and, you know, having provided advice to half a dozen secretaries of state, my advice on Jerusalem was always the same. Don't play around with it. It's a tinder box waiting for a match.
But I do believe that on Wednesday, the president will exercise the national security waiver that will at least delay or defer actually opening an embassy in Jerusalem but he is probably going to make a statement if the media speculation is right and some inside sources that he's going to declare Jerusalem or west Jerusalem -- tricky issue -- not sure what he's going to say as the capital Israel. I think it's ill-advised and ill-timed and I'm not sure it frankly serves any American interests that I can identify.
WHITFIELD: Well that's what I was going to say. What is the benefit for American interests to do that? MILLER: Well, the only possible benefit and the counter case is look,
the United States does not maintain an embassy in Israel's capital, self-described capital. The only country in the world in which the United States or one of the few in which the United States does not maintain its embassy in the preferred capital of the host country. So the argument in favor is it's time to correct this anomaly or this injustice. I mean, I get that. The u.s. Embassy ought to be in west Jerusalem.
The problem, Fred, is that the Israelis have essentially declared the entire city, east and west, under their sovereignty and they've declared it the eternal and undivided capital of the state of Israel. I get that too. So, if the U.S. decides to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel by implication that means that we've also extended our recognition and validation of their control and sovereignty over the entire city and there are alternative claims, Palestinians clearly and the Arab world as well for religious reasons on the Hara mesh- Sharif Temple Mount.
So, tricky issue. It's been kicked down the road and frankly, given the realities between Israelis and Palestinians right now, I would continue to kick it down the road.
WHITFIELD: So he short term versus long term consequences of such a move?
MILLER: Well, you know, the most worrisome possibility of course is violence and we've seen Jerusalem. I mentioned it was a tinder box waiting for a match. We've seen too many times, 1990, 1996, 2000, as recently as 2017 over metal detectors on the Haram esh-Sharif Temple Mount violence. No one can predict whether or not there's going to be violence but look, if you're looking for a ready-made issue to give to Hamas or the Islamic jihadist, this would clearly be it.
WHITFIELD: And you mean violence against Americans?
MILLER: Possibly, but we're talking about a conflict within a very narrow space in the city of Jerusalem and most likely since they migrate -- this migrates to the overlapping sacred space that your correspondent identified in the previous clip. Usually over this overlapping sacred space in which you have two mosques on top and below sits the remains of both the first and second Jewish temple.
So, that's a likely possibility. The other reality is you got a president who has committed himself to the ultimate deal which presumably --
WHITFIELD: He said it would be the best ever.
MILLER: Right. It will be announced
[16:45:00] early next year. Why at a time when there's zero trust between Israelis and Palestinians when the president needs to involve (INAUDIBLE) states like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt as a key part of this initiative? Why you'd want to take the most volatile, emotional and provocative issue in the entire complex of issues in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation and push it to the top of the pile?
This really is not a compelling answer. The only possibility is that somehow the president has worked out some deal in which he's trading this recognition for some sort of set of concessions from the Israeli prime minister. I doubt it.
WHITFIELD: Well, it sounds like you're saying you can't have both. You can't have the best Middle East peace deal in the region and also move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
MILLER: Not in advance of a negotiation and not in advance of mutually agreed outcome. And I get the Israeli concern about wanting the United States to recognize their capital. But in this particular situation, you know, keep in mind one person's ceiling is another person's floor when it comes to the Arab-Israeli issue and there are other constituencies that need to be considered.
WHITFIELD: Al right, Aaron David Miller, always a pleasure. Thanks so much.
MILLER: Thank you Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, is it a case of free speech and religious rights or discrimination? A Christian baker refuses to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The case now heading to the U.S. Supreme Court.
[16:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: On Tuesday, Supreme Court justices will hear arguments in a case involving a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple saying it violated his religious and free speech rights. Well CNN's U.S. Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue has been following this very closely. She joins me now. What's this case all about?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, arguments aren't until Tuesday but already there's a line that's been forming here since Friday with people who are trying to get in to hear this important case. It's a clash between religious liberty and LGBT rights.
It's brought by Jack Phillips, he's a Colorado cake baker. He owns Masterpiece cake shop, and he refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple to honor their wedding reception. He said he had religious objections to that.
So the couple went to court and they sued and they won. The lower court cited state anti-discrimination laws. But now he's come here, Fred, to the Supreme Court and he comes with First Amendment arguments. He said his cakes are like free -- are his artistic expression and he says that Colorado can't force him to convey a message that he doesn't believe in, that he has religious objections to.
And here's what key, he has the support of the Trump administration. On the other side is this couple. They say this isn't about free speech. It's not about cakes. They say plain and simple, this is about discrimination. And all eyes on Tuesday will be on Justice Kennedy because you remember, a couple years ago, he wrote the opinion clearing the way for same-sex marriage nationwide.
In that opinion, Jack Phillips thinks there's language with respect for religious liberty, but the other side hopes that the Supreme Court weighs in their favor, in favor of the LGBT rights. So that's what will be in front of the court on Tuesday, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. And you've got people already camped out on the pavement there behind you. It's hard to believe but a lot of sleeping bags right behind you because people are going to stay overnight into tomorrow because they want to get first dibs on being able to hear and be a part of that hearing on Tuesday. Ariane de Vogue, thank you so much.
All right, meantime, voting is now underway for the CNN Hero of the year. Here's one of this year's top 10 heroes. Meet Mona Patel
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONA PATEL, CNN HERO: We are so much more than just a body part. We can either lay down and let our circumstance overtake us or we can stand up and take charge. Age 17 I was struck by a drunk driver. I vowed that once I got back on my feet I would start a support group. Thirty to 60 amputees get together once a month and share stories of strength and resilience.
Doctors, case managers call me to provide individual support and then also we will provide prosthetic limbs to those that have no access to any other options and resources.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met Ms. Mona the day before my surgery. Ms. Mona told me what I'm going to be able to do when I'm done and like how she climbed mountains with one leg. She is like a superhero.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is walking!
PATEL: We are stronger than any circumstance we might have (ph), truly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Vote for Mona or any of your favorite top 10 heroes right now at cnnheroes.com.
[16:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right, a moment for a little levity. "Saturday Night Live" took on the president -- he may not think it's funny though -- last night in the sketch ripped from the pages of Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" and it featured two of Trump's ghosts of the past. First, Michael Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Oh, no. It approaches.
I'm too scared to look. Oh, thank god, Steve Bannon. You're here to save the day with your terrible white magic. Wait. Who are you?
KATE MCKINNON, ACTRESS: Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MCKINNON: It is I, Hillary Rodham Clinton. You Donald have given me the greatest Christmas gift of all, sexual gratification in the form of your slow demise. You have no idea how long I wanted to say this. Lock him up!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:00:01] WHITFIELD: Oh, boy. Well that was "SNL" last night. Thanks so much for being with me today, Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The next hour of the "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.