Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Pelosi Concerned about Probe; Haley to Throw Friendship Party; Netanyahu on Trump's Decision; Farenthold Facing New Accusations; Senate Settlements Released; Putin Comments on U.S. Security Strategy. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00] ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Investigation. And to be honest, Poppy, I'm actually not sure it would be such a bad thing. I honestly can't figure out what value the House Intelligence Committee's investigation, quote/unquote, is really adding. There are definitely people on there who are concerned, like Representative Schiff, and that's commendable.

But you have this whole separate investigation, Inspector Clouseau, you know, Devin Nunes and these others doing their private thing. I think it's really confusing a lot of the issues, I think, not providing clarity for the American public, which would be the goal of it. And we do know that there's another Senate Intelligence Committee that's going more on track. So I don't know that even if they did shut that down it would necessarily be a huge loss.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I think those committees, as Manu would say, would beg to differ. But we have to leave it there.

Thank you all very much and have a good holiday.

A new CNN exclusive sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he reacts to the United Nations on President Trump's Israel move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We're now talking to several countries who are seriously considering now saying exactly the same thing as the United States, and moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:35:37] HARLOW: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is throwing a friendship party. That's actually what it's called. And if you voted against President Trump's Jerusalem decision, you are not invited. Those invites went out after the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the White House's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. You're looking at the final vote tally there. All the green, guess what that is, that is all countries, including U.S. allies, that voted against the U.S. on this one.

Our senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is with me now.

Nikki Haley warned, the president warned, they said they would take names. They threatened to pull, you know, critical funding from these states and now a friendship party. What's going on?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we weren't really expecting this. I mean we knew about the taking of names.

HARLOW: Right.

KOSINSKI: That was mentioned several times. And making a list and checking it twice even because, remember, Nikki Haley said that President Trump has asked her to report back to him the list of the countries that were not supporting the United States on this. So we didn't really know that this was going to turn into a list of people invited to a party.

So this went out to 64 nations. It's not just those who voted against the resolution, along with the United States. It's also the people who abstained. And there are more than 30 of those, including some of the U.S.' allies like Canada and Mexico. Very close allies there. Australia was another one. And it goes to those countries that didn't vote at all. So if you don't fit into that category and you voted for this resolution that condemned the U.S.' decision, which was 120 nations, those are not invited to this party. And the invite says, this is a reception to thank you for your friendship to the United States.

So the implication is pretty obvious there that, you know, your friendship is not really being considered if you voted a certain way. But those votes for the resolution included the U.S.' closest allies, like the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

HARLOW: Right.

KOSINSKI: Including a lot of countries that get plenty of funding from the United States and you think might be worried about that, like Iraq and Afghanistan. But they stuck to their guns on this one and voted for the resolution.

HARLOW: Yes.

KOSINSKI: And, you know what, a source who gave me this invitation, as much as we can joke about this -- and there were lots of jokes and sarcastic remarks about this from some of the U.S.' allies. I mean one diplomat told me that his team would be crying over this party invite that they were not included on. He was, of course, being sarcastic.

But the source who gave me this told me, think of this as just a first symbolic step in the United States taking note of who supports us and who doesn't, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, taking note, taking names, crossing names off the invite list.

KOSINSKI: Taking them down, yes.

HARLOW: Michelle Kosinski --

KOSINSKI: Crossing you off the list.

HARLOW: Thank you very much.

So our Oren Liebermann is with me now from Jerusalem.

You sat down -- a rare one-on-one interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is a CNN exclusive. And it comes at such a critical time. I mean he loves, obviously, what President Trump did here. What did he tell you?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that, of course, was the first thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did in the interview, thanked President Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving the embassy.

But he then went on to point out that Israel is in contact with other countries who are considering following suit with the exact same wording. Remember, Trump didn't make a distinction between east and west Jerusalem, as is the international consensus. So to follow through on that exact same wording, if other countries intend to do so, as Netanyahu says, that would be a big diplomatic score for Israel and for Netanyahu.

Here is part of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I think what it does is finally recognize an historical truth, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years from the time of King David. It's been the capital of the state of Israel for 70 years. And it's about time that the United States said -- and I'm glad they said it -- you know, this is the capital. We recognize it. And I think that's going to be followed by other countries. We're now talking to several countries who are seriously considering now saying exactly the same thing as the United States and moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMANN: I asked Netanyahu about the U.N. General Assembly vote, and his reaction to it, he dismissed the U.N., especially the General Assembly, as a, quote, theater of the absurd. So it seems part of this effort by him in a statement that other countries are in talks with Israel to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, is a way of downplaying the results of that General Assembly vote, especially since it was a non-binding resolution that, Poppy, when it comes down to it, doesn't change anything on the ground here.

[09:40:20] HARLOW: It doesn't, but it is symbolic. And it is importantly symbolic. But, Oren, just to be clear, he did not -- you pushed him, Netanyahu, tell me what countries those are, who else might make this move of the United States because the U.S. is the only one that is now, you know, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital and saying it will move its embassy there. Did he give you any answers on which countries he's talking about?

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely, I asked, which countries, and realizing he might not say that, I said, all right, just give me continents here. And he said he wouldn't reveal that just yet. It's still in the works. Indicating that perhaps this isn't quite as set in stone as the prime minister would like it to appear.

Are there some indications? Yes, sure. Look, there are nine countries who voted against the resolution, including Israel and the U.S., 35 who abstained and a bunch of others that were absent. You would expect it to come from that list somewhere.

HARLOW: One of those.

LIEBERMANN: But the prime minister isn't revealing what other countries or when he even expects that to happen, just sometime down the road. The process has begun here.

HARLOW: Oren Liebermann, thank you very much.

Of course, online, people can see a lot more of your interview with the prime minister. We appreciate it.

Next, another CNN exclusive report, new allegations against a Texas lawmaker, a former staffer for Representative Blake Farenthold talks to investigators as they expand their probe into his actions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:45:54] HARLOW: All right, new developments this morning in the case against Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, who's already under investigation for alleged sexual harassment.

Our MJ Lee has exclusively learned -- well, the congressman is now facing new accusations of violation. She joins me now.

This is the Ethics Committee that was already investigation him, expanding their investigation into him. Why?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: So what we're learning is that according to a source Elizabeth Peace, who was Farenthold's former communications director, spoke with the House Ethics Committee last week. The source says that Peace told the committee that Farenthold and his chief of staff regularly asked her to perform campaign-related duties, event though she was never paid by or volunteered with his congressional campaign. The source tells CNN that Peace told the Ethics Committee that she sometimes received these campaign-related requests on her official House e-mail and during work hours when she was on Capitol Hill. And she sometimes used the House computer to do campaign work. And according to the source, Peace also claimed that on at least one occasion Farenthold's chief of staff yelled at her to help with campaign efforts and that she tried to express her discomfort but she felt pressure from Farenthold's chief of staff to do what she was asked.

Now this is, obviously, potentially significant, of course, because there are strict rules prohibiting the use of congressional resources for campaign purposes. So if Peace's allegations to the Ethics Committee are found to be true, that could mean that Farenthold committed campaign finance violations.

HARLOW: That is significant. So keep us posed on that, your exclusive reporting.

Also we've learned this morning the Senate has paid out in the last 20 odd years some $600,000 in money for settlements. What -- I mean what kind of cases were they settling?

LEE: Right. So this kind of new information about harassment settlements on Capitol Hill, it is slowly starting to trickle in. Yesterday we saw new data from the Office of Compliance, the OOC, that there were 13 workplace settlements in the Senate over a span of 20 years. And, get this, the settlements cost taxpayers almost $600,000. The descriptions for the complaints included things like discrimination based on sex, age and disability, but there is no way to know whether there were any cases involving sexual harassment because the OOC has traditionally put harassment under the broader category of sex discrimination.

HARLOW: Right.

LEE: So this is certainly a little more information that we had in the past, but really still doesn't paint a clear picture of sexual harassment in the Senate.

HARLOW: Yes, it doesn't because it's grouped in with so many other things.

LEE: Right.

HARLOW: The House legislation that has been proposed to really protect victims, to do a lot more to protect victims, to help people feel confident in coming forward with these claims, that has now been punted a little bit, delayed a little bit until the new year. Why?

LEE: That's right. Well, members were originally trying to put out a new bill sometime this week before leaving town, but now they say that they have to revisit this until members come back after the winter break in January. And they announced yesterday that they essentially couldn't finalize the language before they left town. And this is not terribly surprising, you know, having seen how much members were scrambling over the last couple of days to get the essential things done, like funding the government.

HARLOW: Just to fund the government.

LEE: But, you know, Poppy, you know that this is a very hot button issue right now on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: Yes.

LEE: So expect members to try to revisit this in the new year.

HARLOW: And something that does have bipartisan support.

LEE: That's right.

HARLOW: MJ, thank you for the reporting, as always, and the exclusive. We appreciate it very much.

A quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:53:47] HARLOW: President Trump, in the past, has called Vladimir Putin a genius and Putin has called the president bright. The question this morning, though, is the relationship souring, even against -- even after mutual admiration between the two in the past week. That's because this morning Vladimir Putin is slamming America's national security strategy as aggressive. This comes after Trump called Russia a rival power earlier this week, but hesitated from going further in his public statements.

Our senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen joins us with more.

I mean the two leaders had these two phone call within the last ten days or so, mutual admiration shared, and now this. What sparked Vladimir Putin to say this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a very good question, Poppy, and certainly something that people here are asking as well. As you said, they had that mutual admiration, heaping praise on one another last week with the Russian president even thanking President Trump for the CIA helping to give Russia information to prevent a terror attack in St. Petersburg.

But really just a couple of minutes ago, in a speech in front of some of the top military brass in this country, Vladimir Putin laid it out and said he believed that the new U.S. national security strategy was aimed at Russia, was aggressive and was offensive in nature. He talked about some of the moves that he said the U.S. had been making in Europe, specifically the missile defense shield that the U.S. has been installing in places like Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The Russians saying they believe that that violates some treaties between Russia and the United States.

[09:55:16] But then the Russians are even going further. And it's not just Vladimir Putin, Poppy, there's other Russian officials who came out today and in the previous days and are saying they believe that the U.S. should get out of Syria.

Now, some of this comes after CNN reported that the U.S. is accusing Russia of unsafe maneuvers in the skies above Syria, of Russian and U.S. planes coming too close to one another, of the Russians breaching a treaty between the U.S. and Russia to prevent these things from happening, and the Russians are now saying they believe that the U.S. should get out of Syria and that any sort of humanitarian reasons the U.S. put forward are null and void. So it certainly seems as though there is some room for conflict.

There have been some moves in the past couple of days on the part of the U.S., putting additional people in Russia under sanctions under the Magnitsky Act. Maybe that's the reason. But we are certainly hearing some very, very strong rhetoric coming from Vladimir Putin and other top officials in Russia as well, Poppy.

HARLOW: Frederick Pleitgen, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.

So ahead for us, the president is headed to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas. When will he sign the tax bill? It's expected potentially in the next hour or two. Will he speak to reporters on his way out the door? We'll have it all, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)