Return to Transcripts main page


Palestinian Pres. Abbas Warns Trump Against Embassy Move; U.S. Allies Warn Against Jerusalem Announcement; Trump Has Lunch With Senate GOP As Shutdown Looms; Can Bakery Refuse To Sell A Cake For A Same-Sex Wedding?. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:06] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome back. President Trump is giving a heads up today to the leader of the Palestinian authority that he intends to move the U.S. embassy rather in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now this despite calls from several American allies to halt those plans.

A spokesman for the President Mahmoud Abbas said he warned President Trump to the dangers afoot of steps like that. And the Palestinian leaders are adamant that such a move would be a violation of international law. A source tell CNN the White House is expected to announce plans tomorrow to recognize Jerusalem as a capital of Israel. For President Trump, it's a campaign promise he hopes to show that he is keeping.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people Jerusalem.


BASH: And that was candidate Trump. It's worth pointing out that this promise has been fulfilled by no U.S. presidents even though many of them have made that very same promise.

CNN's Ian Lee is watching the story from Jerusalem. He joins me live. Ian what are they saying over there?

IAN JAMES, LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT JERUSALEM: Well, the people are bracing for this announcement. Now, we need to note that the President hasn't said it yet. But people here are acting like he is or he is about to because we do have the Palestinians saying that they're going to continue to work with regional leaders to help put the pressure on President Trump.

We're also hearing from the Jordanians who said that President Trump also had a conversation with King Abdullah. And in that conversation, King Abdullah warned of the dangers of any decision without a comprehensive peace deal. He went on to say that -- he stressed that the adoption of this decision will have serious ramifications and implications on the security and stability in the Middle East. And this is something though that we've heard not just from the Jordanians, but also from the Saudis, from the Egyptians, other leaders in the region who are really worried of what this could mean for stability and security if the United States make this move. And it's just not leaders in this region.

We also know that French President Emmanuel Macron has reached out to the President to warn him about making such a unilateral move. But we need to note that the Israeli officials, they have advocated for this for a long time with the defense minister and the mayor of Jerusalem have welcomed a potential decision, Dana?

BASH: Ian Lee, thank you so much for that report.

Back around the table, Olivier, I know you've done some extensive reporting on this. What is your sense? Not to put you on the spot, but to put you on the spot.


BASH: Is it, I intent to move it or it's going to move on this day and the ground is going to be broken on this date and here are my plans?

KNOX: So there are two separate issues. They are very closely related but they are separate. One is, this is on the table now because there's a U.S. law from the Clinton era that mandates the move from the Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless the President waves it. And they wave it in six months of increments. That's why this is on the table now. The deadline technically was yesterday.

The second issue was the more interesting right now is the one where he is -- looks like he is actually is shifting American policy which is formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That's a notable shift. But all these talk about how he is telling these leaders that he intends to move the embassy. That's Shiva's (ph) law. Unless we get a date certain, nothing has changed there.

The recognition is significant. And there's something to watch here. Will he or any senior officials talk about what this means for the future of the capital or the future and still very hypothetical power (ph) in any of state. Because the main fight here is Israel has always claimed Jerusalem as its capital but the Palestinians have claimed East Jerusalem as the capital of their, again, hypothetical future state.

That's really the thing to watch here. Is he actually going to announce a groundbreaking or is he going to kick the can down the road? Is he going to say I'm commissioning a study that determine where and when we could ground break? Those are two very different issues.

I will note that our reporting in Yahoo with my colleague Hunter Walker's honor the fact that the White House notified some allied evangelical leaders before they notified some seniors and foreign officials which is telling you something about the grounds for this decision.

BASH: But what you said is really important and that is that this has been the law of the land since the Clinton administration which it speaks to the fact that this has been a bipartisan promise to the point where it's even become law but never kept.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. So that is again -- even thought the President and the White House may call it a new announcement of his intentions, again he is following the law. The question is time frame. And we don't have a sense that we're doing conflicting things. Obviously, the world is reacting. Many of our allies are reacting quite negatively to this.

So that is the question still facing this President as it was a year ago, what is the time frame for doing this. I traveled with him earlier this year to the region there. He was expected to possibly say it then he didn't.

[12:35:02] ZELENY: So the timeframe is still the question and he's getting an earful from a lot of people. But the Vice President is traveling there in a couple weeks time, also very interesting.

BASH: And I'm sure people realize this that it's worth underscoring that the reason why we're talking about this, the reason that this is even a thing is because Jerusalem is a city that is it refute (ph) as you mentioned in terms of the sort of core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

On that note, Aaron David Miller who was a negotiator for Democrats, for Republicans talked about the notion of doing this in the absence of a broader strategy. Here is what he said. He said, "The problem is we just don't know what the administration's peace process strategy is. And in the absence of a coherent one, the Jerusalem gambit appears to be a one-off, a combination of Trump's frustration over having to use the waiver again," that you were talking about, Olivier. "Not yet fulfilling his campaign commitment to open an embassy in Jerusalem, and his willful desire to go where none of his predecessors have gone before him".

I think that last part is probably the most dead-on.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes, I think that's true. Look, we don't often know what the strategy is. But I think this case much like North Korea, not that there is a risk involved but there is an argument to be made that what we've been doing for 40 years has not born a lot of fruit and that he's doing something differently.

And he made up lost and log diplomatic double speak when we talk about the -- this issue. But, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. And so, I think the words do matter. And there are real logistical and security concerns and peace process concerns (INAUDIBLE) also a final status issue. But the question is morally, is it right -- and we make these calculations to be held hostage to those concerns when at least recognizing in words what this is. ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: And even if so much of this on the part of the Trump administration is just a bluster or posturing. It still throws a wrench into the idea that candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential race was so invested in fanning. And of course he was, that he was the ultimate dealmaker and he was going to be able -- that he and his son-in-law, Jared, would going to be able to bring peace to the Middle East in a way no other administration or president was going to be able to do before.

If he still has any inkling of wanting to care about that, which I'm not sure the President of the United States has based on anybody I talked to in the White House or the administration, it's a little bit of a weird thing to just throw out there in the international setting (ph).

BASH: That's why we'll see what exactly --


BASH: Real quick, Olivier.

KNOX: Well, this is a test of how whether or not the Trump administration is correct that the realities in the lease (ph) policy now are -- that it's Saudi versus Iran and that the Saudis will table whatever complaints they have. They're going to complain in public but whatever private complaints they have on the recognition issue in favor of working closer with the Trumps against Iran.

BASH: That's a really good point. The question is, what about the other countries who are not Saudi or Iran.

KNOW: Turkey, much Turkey.

BASH: Exactly. Up next, showdown shut down 2017 edition. Our elected leaders play what's become an annual game with Syria's consequences. That, ahead.


[12:42:28] BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. President Trump is at the White House right now meeting with the group of senate Republicans. The press pool was brought in. We are going to get tape of some remarks that the President made in just a few moments.

And while we wait, let's bring it around the table. And you'll see that the President is sitting next to Jeff Flake, the man who on his -- in his speech announcing that he is not seeking reelection, knocked the President upside down any way that he could figure out how to do it rhetorically.

ZELENY: And said he'll be giving more speeches from the Senate floor about this. Look, this is not the first time we've seen the White House do this sitting arrangements like that in events like this.

BASH: OK. Let's go to President Trump right now.


TRUMP: We had some very late nights getting the tax-cut bill to conference. And last night was very smooth, and I think we're going to make it so that it comes out very beautiful. I call it the mixer. It's a conference where everyone gets together and they pick all the good things and get rid of the things they don't like.

But it's a fantastic bill for the middle class. It's a fantastic bill for jobs and for companies wanting to bring back massive amounts of money into our country. It's really -- I view it more than anything else, it's a tremendous bill for jobs and for the middle class.

And I think people see that, and they're seeing it more and more. And the more they learn about it, the more popular it becomes. And I think the end result will be even better. We had a choice -- we could have gone directly for a vote, and we decided that let's put it into the conference and let's come out with something where everything is perfecto. And that's what we're going to do.

This group of wonderful Republican senators is here to discuss the tax bill, very important. And we're also going to be talking about trade and NAFTA, what's going on with the NAFTA negotiations. We have tremendous losses with Mexico and losses with Canada, and covered by NAFTA. We -- last year, we lost approximately $71 billion with in trade deficit. We have a trade deficit with Mexico of $71 billion. With Canada, it was about $17 billion.

We have trade deficits with everybody. Virtually, every country in the world we have trade deficits with. And that's going to be changing -- it's already changing -- but it's going to be changing fast. We went to China. We brought back over $300 billion worth of contracts from Asia. It was a very successful trip.

But now we're going to look at NAFTA very seriously. We have Bob Lighthizer here, we have Gary Cohn, and we're already starting the negotiation. Not easy to have an election coming up, so we'll see how that plays. But it's going to be very successful.

[12:45:11] So we're going to be talking about trade. We'll be taking about health care. We'll be taking about other subjects. The taxes, we're so thrilled about and so popular. And I think something is going to be coming out of conference pretty quickly, as opposed to long term. I think it's going to go pretty quickly.

We're all on the same page. There's a great spirit in the Republican Party like I've never seen before, like a lot of people have said they've never seen before. They've never seen anything like this, the unity.

So I think a lot of very good things are going to happen. It's going to happen very fast. I want to thank you all for being here. And let's have a great lunch, and let's talk about trade. And let's make great trade deals instead of the horrible trade deals that we all got stuck with.

Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --

TRUMP: Thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, why did you decide to formally endorse Roy Moore?

TRUMP: Thank you. I think he's going to do very well. We don't have a Liberal Democrat in Alabama, believe me. We want strong borders. We want stopping crime. We want to have the things that we represent, and we certainly don't want to have a Liberal Democrat that's controlled by Nancy Pelosi and controlled by Chuck Schumer. We don't want to have that for Alabama.

Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.


BASH: And you are watching President Trump just moments ago give some remarks as he is meeting with a group of Senate Republicans.

First of all, just to bring it back around the table, I love that he called the Senate and House conference a mixer which certainly is better than a conference report, but I missed mixer in Schoolhouse Rock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and that's more fun.

BASH: That's way more fun.

KNOX: It's not like the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans like are across each other like a seventh grade.

ZELENY: You said that last week in three so we're going mix some of the House bill and with the Senate bill.

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: And mix it so it actually, you know, it's a decent brand.

BASH: It is a lot more user-friendly than the way that people from here like to talk. More importantly, the gist of the President remarks noteworthy about NAFTA. He's talking about trade with the group of Republicans in there. Never mind Jeff Flake who's living and you could almost see there was like force spell between the two of them. But on the other side, Joni Ernst, the Senator from Iowa where they care a lot about trade, not just importing but maybe importantly exporting the grade and so forth that they have in Iowa. Back to basics for President Trump, we had this issue. Trade is the one. One of the many that helped him lure some of the traditional Democrats to vote for him.

KNOX: I think that's absolutely the case. That's an element of this meeting. There's another one which is the ongoing renegotiating of NAFTA. It's not going particularly well in that meeting as well.

The U.S. Trade Representative, Mr. Lighthizer, it was notable that the states that they pick -- I only glance quickly but it looks like all states that really care about NAFTA because they had their export or import parts, for example. So it does look like a back to basics, but there's a big economic policy component to this too.

BASH: Which is?

KNOX: Which is the success or failure of these renegotiations.

SUEBSAENG: And with every passing day, it feels -- even in Trumps tenor and the tone of his voice that he feels less and less enthusiastic about waging a major trade war that -- specially during the campaign, he at least sounded because, of course, he did, he was a candidate all in on. So I think the more President Trump is around his own administration, the more he realizes that launching potentially colossal trade war is a lot harder and requires a deeper attention span than maybe he's prepared for at the moment.

ZELENY: And you mentioned the Joni Ernst thing, I think that is very important. And a lot of red state Republicans who'd come from the farming states have deep concerns in their voters and constituents too as well. It has, you know, massive economic impacts.

The soy beans just harvested this year, the corn, the beef, the cattle. So I think this, you know, it's one of the reasons the chamber is then opposed to this. So that is something to not overlook at all.

Yes, they support the President overall but this is something that divides party. It's regionally as well as political, so it's fast.

BASH: What if they spoken like a true former top Republican --

KNOX: I'm going to say --

BASH: -- at the divine register.

SUEBSAENG: And a Nebraska farm boy.

BASH: And a Nebraska farm boy. The other thing that beyond there, of course, was the President answering question clearly about Roy Moore, putting it on Doug Jones saying that Moore will do well because we don't need a Liberal Democrat in the Senate from Alabama who is not good on crime and so on and so forth. I should just mention that.

Doug Jones, we don't know a lot about him, but one thing is we do -- or we know a lot about him, but he is not talked about a lot. That he successfully prosecuted members of the KKK for the infamous Birmingham bombing in the '60s. But go ahead.

HAM: What I think that was interesting, the two things that he wanted to talk about here was trade. And then the only thing he took a question on and responded because it looks like he wasn't going to take questions with Moore. So he's crossed the Rubicon and is happy to talk about this probably because he senses a win and he is correct even if that is not morally right.

[12:50:08] The other thing I thought was interesting is on the trade issue. He said there's a great spirit in the Republican Party and more united than anyone he's ever seen. And on that issue in particular, that is not true. And that's a continuing cognitives (ph) that we have.

BASH: OK, everybody standby because up next, we're going to talk about people camping out for days at the Supreme Court for a seat at today's blockbuster case. Can a bakery refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding? That's next.


BASH: Gay marriage is back before the Supreme Court today. This time, the issue is not whether same-sex couples have the right to get marry. That's already settled.

It is whether private businesses like say a bakery have the right to refuse to make a cake to be served at the same sex wedding. The Colorado baker in this case says, it's about religious liberty. The couple whose order was refused calls it discrimination.

We're around the table. This is one of the most fascinating I think things to me that the Supreme Court will take up this session. Because the question when they made their landmark decision about same-sex marriage, immediately for a lot of conservatives who were very much opposed to this was, well, what about religious liberty. Where we're going to see the discussion about that today and eventually the decision?

HAM: Yes. I mean, there are a couple of very important First Amendment right that issue here in the argument that many make on the religious liberty side is like exactly how much of your free speech and art and religious beliefs have to be compromised for a specific ceremony that violates your beliefs, right? Not -- and there is the distinction because many of these businesses that have lost in court several times now have served gay people, but have stopped at the line of saying I'm not going to create a specific cakes for this ceremony.

And the question of the society is, are we going to allow a carved out for that kind of thing so that devout Catholics or Jews or Muslims can be involved in those kinds of businesses without being sued out of existence.

ZELENY: It is fascinating we don't know the outcome but this is one of the reasons that the biggest success or accomplishments probably of the Trump administration is on his Supreme Court thing. This is why it matters. BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: This is all the marbles. This is why some voters and even in -- who might not support a Roy Moore as their first choice. This is why they do it because of the Supreme Court. It is more important to many people than most anything else certainly a tax (ph) plan.

BASH: And there's something else I want to point out because I think this is no small thing. The unbelievable warp speed of the way that people in America view gay marriage.

1996 which was not that long ago, 27 people -- 27 percent rather, said that they supported gay marriage, 68 percent opposed. Then go forward to 2017 now, it's almost the reverse, 64 percent support gay marriage and 34 percent oppose.

[12:55:10] And this is such a big reason, I believe, that Donald Trump is President because of the warp speed shift in culture that a lot of people in this country think has gone too fast and they feel left behind and ignored.

KNOX: And remember in 2004 when George W. Bush won the election, one of the things that they were arguing is whether they used ballot measures against gay marriage. That was the power of fairly -- to bring a lot of other voters, a lot of that may not otherwise have come out.

Obviously things have changed a lot. But I think your point probably well taken that on balance. There is certain elements of social change that have unsettled large cluster of population and that helped power Trump to victory.

BASH: Five seconds.

SUEBSAENG: With that, I'll pass.

BASH: We'll tell you on tweet what he was going to say. Thank you so much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf Blitzer is up after a quick break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8 p.m. in Jerusalem, 9 p.m. in Moscow, wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

Is the President of the United States --