Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Trump To Palestinians: Come To The Table Or No U.S. Aid; Trump "Looking Forward" To Mueller Team; Judiciary Panel Won't Talk To Kushner; Haley: Abbas Lacks "Courage And Will To Seek Real Peace"; President On Testifying In Russia Probe: "Yes, Absolutely" Interview; Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 25, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. We have breaking news from President Trump's first meeting with leaders in Davos, Switzerland. The president saying that American money to the Palestinian people will stop flowing if Palestinian peace negotiators don't in the president's words, respect the process.
He's talking about efforts to restart Middle East peace talks which were impacted last year when the president formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. President Trump is making that ultimatum to the Palestinians, a short time ago here in Switzerland. This was during a face-to-face meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands.
That money is on the table, that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace. And they're going to have to want to make peace too or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is in Davos right now. So, Jeff, the president outright telling the Palestinians there that the money is on the table. What else did he say? What is the reception of this?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, certainly throwing down the gauntlet there here in Davos, Switzerland, at the meeting that President Trump had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was the first such meeting that they have had since the president made the announcement last year with his intention to move the embassy and he said he does intend to move at least a small portion and open a small portion of the embassy to Jerusalem sometime in 2019.
Now, of course, this is extraordinarily controversial. It sparked outrage at the time, as will this essentially a threat to take away the aid money. The reality here is that the Middle East peace process is stalled.
It has essentially stalled because of the actions of the White House, the actions of this administration, that many in the region believe are leaning more in favor of the Israelis here. So certainly, this meeting this morning did not do anything to ease the worries of Palestinians.
It is very much an open question here if this peace process will go forward at all. Certainly, with that threat of removing aid from the table will be controversial. Congress in some respects also control some of that aid money here. So, we'll see how actually -- how meaningful of a threat that actually is -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And the president met as well with the British Prime Minister Theresa May. There has been some tension there to say the least, but he said some interesting things about the relationship -- Jeff.
ZELENY: He did indeed. That was the first meeting that the president had this morning after arriving here in Davos. He, you know, sat side by side with the British prime minister and he certainly tried to clear the air, if you will, we know there is bad blood between the two leaders.
The president, of course, was supposed to have a state visit sometime this winter to London. That simply didn't happen, but this is what President Trump said trying to clarify and explain this special relationship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: The prime minister, myself, have had a really great relationship, though some people don't necessarily believe that, but I can tell you, I have tremendous respect for the prime minister, the job she's doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, certainly, you know, friendly words there, but it just still underscores the fact that there are tensions that do exist between some of America's oldest allies here. But certainly, the president being here at Davos is showing that he is engaging with the world, of course, and tomorrow morning, Friday morning, will be giving a big speech here about his America first agenda. I'm told putting on more of a salesman's hat, getting more investment coming into the United States -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Jeff Zeleny for us from Davos, thank you, sir. Before taking off for Switzerland, the president surprised reporters in the White House when he said not only would he absolutely testify under oath with the special counsel in the Russia investigation, but that he's, quote, "looking forward to it."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would do it under oath, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Well, the president's people, his legal team, did a little cleanup after that comment saying that the president was speaking off the cuff, and that he's ready to talk to the Mueller investigators, but he will be guided by his personal counsel.
CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz with me now on this. The president says, yes, absolutely, Shimon, his lawyers they might tap the brakes a bit there.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. That's sort of the message that, you know, we keep getting from different people, certainly from the president and some of his attorneys.
[11:05:07] And then in private conversations that our reporters had with people close to the president. You know, we really don't know ultimately what the president is going to do. Now, naturally his attorneys want to show that he's being cooperative, that he's willing to do it.
But that is a key distinction, a key phrase here, you know, it will be up to the lawyers. He's going to take the advice of his attorneys because keep in mind whether this happens under oath or not, talking to FBI agents, being interviewed by them and answering their questions, you have to be truthful because if not, you could be charged with a crime of -- for basically lying.
So, that is definitely a concern. The other concern here, Brianna, this is important, the president's lawyers really want to limit the scope of the interview, where Mueller goes in terms of the interview. They want really Mueller to focus on two things. That's the Michael Flynn situation and obviously the firing of the FBI, the former FBI Director James Comey.
KEILAR: And we have heard over and over from White House officials they say, look, we're being transparent. We are cooperating with the Mueller investigation. You have some information about the kind of documents that have been handed over, people have been interviewed and really just what that level of cooperation is. Tell us. PROKUPECZ: Yes. So, this morning, the Trump lawyers gave us a list of the documents and number of witnesses that have been interviewed, voluntarily, they say, by special counsel and they are calling this an unprecedented cooperation.
We're talking about 20,000 pages of documents from the White House that were given to the special counsel, like you said, White House staff being interviewed. They say 20 people from the White House staff have been interviewed by Mueller.
Also, they mentioned that close to 28 people associated with the Trump campaign have been interviewed by Mueller. This is all in an effort to show their transparency and one other thing here that was quite stunning, they say 1.4 million pages of documents from the Trump campaign have been handed to the special counsel.
KEILAR: Well, 1.4 million pages of documents you said, right?
PROKUPECZ: That's correct.
KEILAR: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.
Breaking news, CNN has just learned that the public could soon learn more about exactly what went on during that infamous Trump Tower meeting where Donald Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton by Russians, by their associates. CNN's Manu Raju has details on this. What have you learned, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Surprise announcement this morning from the Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley saying he's prepared to release the transcripts of the participants who the committee interviewed, those participants who were in that Trump Tower meeting from June 2016.
And as you'll recall, one of the people that the committee had interviewed is Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son who met with the committee staff last September. This comes after the Democrats on the committee were asking Grassley to provide those transcripts to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to help with his investigation.
But Grassley will take things a step further to release them publicly. This is what he said when he left the committee hearing earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feel like you're ready to release the Trump Tower interview?
SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Shouldn't be big news. We said we were ready for transparency. To answer your question, with your -- Senator Feinstein said, with that being said, it is just a case of going through the process. I think there is a couple of people still want to go through their transcript yet and I think there has to be experts go through it, that would be if there needs to be anything to be redacted, and then the next step is let the public have access to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, one other piece of news, I asked him about Jared Kushner, also at that Trump Tower meeting, the committee has wanted to interview, the committee will not interview Jared Kushner. According to Grassley, Kushner is, quote, "spooked" by the release of the separate transcript by Dianne Feinstein of that Fusion GPS, opposition research firm.
They did not like the way that that was released. As a result, Kushner has not agreed to come to the committee and Grassley says they will not interview him. So at least we won't see what Jared Kushner said, but we'll get a sense of what Donald Trump Jr. said to the committee -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.
And now we want to go straight to ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley speaking at the U.N.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: -- and when he made that decision, he went to Jerusalem and delivered a speech before the Israeli Knesset.
(NIKKI HALEY'S SPEECH)
KEILAR: All right. Some very interesting remarks there from U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott and Aaron David Miller, CNN global affairs analyst and VP and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.
So, Elise, she's responding to a speech from President Abbas where he essentially rejected and, of course, this comes on the heels of President Trump's decision about the U.S. Embassy moving it to Jerusalem.
Something that will take some time, but something that was symbolically very upsetting to the Palestinians. This was a speech that Abbas gave where he denies a Jewish connection to Israel where he rejected U.S.-led peace talks. What did you make of what she said moments ago?
ELISE LABOTT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, Brianna, look, there is no, you know, doubt that the U.S. is very disappointed in the leader, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his leadership and his inability to talk to the U.S. Vice President Pence in the region.
Just this week, the Palestinian leader refused to deal with him on the heels of that announcement on Jerusalem. But at the same time, you have to take Ambassador Haley's comments in the context of what happened not only with President Trump's decision. But this week also, just today, President Trump sitting with Benjamin Netanyahu talking about that special relationship and essentially writing off the Palestinians if they don't come to the table.
You have Vice President Pence in Israel this week, really solidifying that there is no daylight between the U.S. and Israel and my good friend, Aaron, just wrote a very poignant piece this week about the fact that the U.S. is now unambiguously taking a side in the Middle East peace process and that's on the side of Israel.
There has been a lot of disaffection with Mahmoud Abbas, not just from the U.S., but from Arab allies, particularly in the Gulf, that are trying to, you know, not get close to Israel, but cooperate more on security. Those relationships are developing.
And everybody is pretty frustrated with Mahmoud Abbas' ability to get with the program, as you say. They know Abbas is weakened. They know that this is, you know, a time to strike and I think people are looking for Mahmoud Abbas to resign and want to find Palestinian leadership that will, you know, be more acquiesce a little bit more to what the U.S. wants.
KEILAR: Aaron, let's listen to what President Trump said about the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: The hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem. We took Jerusalem off the table. So, we don't have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don't have to talk about it anymore. You earn one point and we'll give up points later on in the negotiation if it ever takes place, I don't know if it ever will take place, but they have to respect the process also.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And I should also say, Aaron, we also just got a very defiant response from Abbas' office where he says that if Jerusalem is off the table, then America is off the table as well. It seems like obviously things were not going well between the U.S. and the Palestinians, but we see them careening downward as we speak, just at this moment.
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Absolutely. I can't remember in 25 years of being around these Arab-Israeli negotiations two things that are more stunning, one -- number one, I think at no point in the U.S./Israeli relationship has Washington, this administration, aligned it so purposefully and willfully with the interests of the government of Israel.
And, second, I do not remember a period, and we brought a lot of pressure during the first Bush administration, on the Palestinian delegation, to get them to Madrid and I cannot remember a time when so public a demonstration orchestration of -- Elise is right this is not single down, double down, this is essentially triple down. What the administration hopes to achieve by this, it seems to me, is unclear, particularly weeks, perhaps months before the president's ultimate deal proposal is put on the table.
[11:20:11] But Nikki Haley is right about one thing. That is the reason we don't have two states, between Israelis and Palestinians, has a lot to do with the absence of leadership. You have two leaders, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, who are not masters of their political constituencies.
They are prisoners of their own ideologies. They are both fundamentally constrained both on what they can do on process and substance, and frankly without those -- those kinds of leaders, plural, you know.
If Nikki Haley asks where is the Palestinian King Hussein, and where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat, well, I guess having been around the negotiations, I would ask where is Israeli Mnache Bagen. Where is the Israeli Shimon Perez? Where is the Israeli (inaudible)?
This not one hand clapping. And finally, I find it extraordinary again that Nikki Haley is delivering a speech that would normally be the purview of the secretary of state. And it gets to point that Elise has made over the last several weeks in the wake of her interview with Secretary of State Tillerson.
It says to me, again, that a lot of this has to do with Nikki Haley's politics, and it also demonstrates, I think, that secretary of state is simply not involved, even though he is in the meeting, was in the meeting with President Trump, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the secretary of state is playing an unusually marginalized role.
KEILAR: Elise, that is very interesting point.
LABOTT: It is a very interesting point. And, listen, this, you know, President Trump was clear from the very beginning, even on the campaign, he was going to designate this to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And you also have Jason Greenblatt, who has taken an increasingly larger role in working with Israelis and Palestinians.
And in the very beginning, I think both Kushner and Greenblatt gained a lot of kudos in the region for not just speaking with the Israelis, but going out to the Palestinians. They, you know, Greenblatt went to a refugee camp, met with Palestinian refugees, has been around the region, trying to, you know, learn more about the issues.
But I think as, you know, Kushner and Greenblatt both have very close ties to Israel and now you see these Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, you know, they're softening their positions on Israel too and the cooperation that they have on security, on other matters isn't very overt.
But it is very important, and I think that, you know, the Palestinians are kind of the cog in the wheel of what the U.S. and Israel see as this new paradigm in the region where Israel and the Gulf states are, you know, Egypt, Jordan, are cooperating on security matters, on tourism, on trade.
And there is this, you know, future Middle East that is going, you know, that they can see if only it wasn't for that Palestinian leader that isn't getting in line. And so, I think, you know, today the U.S. unambiguously sided with the Israelis, it will be interesting to see how the Gulf states react, I know that Jordan's King Abdullah will be very upset, but it is going to have an interesting dynamic going forward for sure.
KEILAR: Elise and David, thank you so much, to both of you. Appreciate it.
Coming up, the Department of Justice slamming Republican lawmakers for threatening to release a memo alleging corruption at the FBI. The DOJ saying that the release would be, quote, "extraordinarily reckless." We'll have details ahead.
Plus, the president's new comments on finding a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers striking a nerve with his base. Breitbart now calling the president's amnesty don. Stay with us.
KEILAR: President Trump with that surprise announcement at the White House Wednesday that not only is he willing to testify under oath in the special counsel's Russia investigation, but he's looking forward to it.
I want to bring in our panel to talk about this, Steve Hall used to run all things Russia at the CIA. We also have Alexis Simon Dinger with us, national political correspondent for "The Hill," and Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst and important to note a former aide to Robert Mueller at the Justice Department.
OK, so, Michael, the president, when he's asked about talking to Bob Mueller, this is going to be in the next two or three weeks, the discussion of it being under oath, he seems thrilled to do it. He wants to do it but his lawyer, his legal team must not be as thrilled about his enthusiasm.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's right. As we understand the timeline, Ty Cobb and his team is beginning the negotiation with Mueller and his team to set the parameters of this thing, will he testify under oath, oral, written, when, where. The president just sort of photo bombed, if you will, those negotiations by saying, I'm here, I'm ready to do it, have at me except if my lawyers tell me otherwise.
KEILAR: Does it really -- what he's saying, though, does this really have a negative effect on the bargaining position of Ty Cobb and the other lawyers or not really? Just an annoyance?
ZELDIN: It is more probably annoyance than not. But it creates a problem, which is the president said no collusion, no obstruction, I'm ready to testify. So, how does his lawyers walk back from that, if you will, to the American public and to Mueller to say no way is this guy going under oath, giving oral testimony, because we feel self- incrimination or some other criminal activity will be revealed. You just can't walk back from that. You have to remain silent in the face of those negotiations so that you can set the terms as best you're able to.
KEILAR: I wonder, Alexis, I mean, if anyone can walk back from it couldn't it be President Trump. At least politically his messaging, what we've heard from the White House, I want to be transparent --