Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Deadly Protests as U.S. Opens Embassy in Jerusalem; Controversial US Pastors Take Part In Embassy Opening In Jerusalem; 37 Killed In Gaza As Embassy Opens In Jerusalem; Trump Speaks By Video At Opening Of US Embassy In Jerusalem. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- morning off. We begin with breaking news.

Thirty-seven Palestinians killed today already in clashes with Israeli troops. This is ahead of the U.S. embassy opening in just a few moments officially in Jerusalem. This marks the single deadliest day in weeks of protests there.

Right now the ceremony for that embassy opening which is highly controversial is just getting underway. President Trump calling it a, quote, "great day." The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it is an amazing day and also an emotional one.

President Trump is due to address the crowd at the ceremony in a prerecorded message. You will hear it here in just moments.

Let's begin this hour, though, with our Ian Lee. He joins us from Gaza.

What can you tell us?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, we're just hearing now that that death toll is now standing at 38 people. This makes it the single deadliest day since the 2014 war here in Gaza. Just a while ago actually we saw two air strikes in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. It's been tense here along the border all day. One thing we've seen a lot of are the drones that fly over, that drop tear gas. And just a little while ago a drone looked like dropped leaflets on the crowd.

But really it's all focusing down at the border. Hundreds of meters away from me right now, that is where we're seeing this tension. The protesters have said that they're going to try to cross over into Israel and Israel says they're just not going to let that happen. They say at first they're going to warn people verbally then use nonlethal means like that tear gas I've told you about, and then use live rounds.

And that's where we get this high death toll of 38 people killed and well over 1,000 people have been injured. But this sort of day had been expected. We've seen protests over the past seven weeks. Palestinians are angry about this embassy move and we are expecting to see this kind of violence continue, Poppy, tomorrow. HARLOW: Ian, let's go straight to the ceremony, it's just getting

underway. Sorry for interrupting you. Let's listen in.

(MUSIC)

HARLOW: So the ceremony for the opening of this U.S. embassy in Jerusalem has just begun. You just heard the U.S. national anthem. As we wait to hear from President Trump who will be delivering a video message. We also see his son-in-law Jared Kushner, one of the senior advisers speaking a little later.

Let's go to our Elise Labott who joins us now.

Elise, this was a promise of the president on the campaign trail. It's a decision he formally announced at the end of last year. Now it is happening. Highly controversial.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Highly controversial, Poppy, in terms of obviously a crushing blow to the Palestinians but a jubilant day here in Jerusalem for the Israelis. We have Ambassador David Friedman taking the podium.

President Trump very popular here for this move. Signs lining the streets, "President Trump is a friend of Israel. President Trump will make Israel great again." Obviously, the Israelis have been waiting for this day for 70 years. But it's not without controversy because of this move and also because of some of the speakers here today.

You have Robert Jeffers who is giving the opening invocation, a very controversial pastor, and a big supporter of President Trump who has been wildly criticized for anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-Mormon comments that have been criticized by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, himself a Mormon, and also of Jews.

And then you have John Hagee, a pastor of the Cornerstone Church, also the founder of Christians United for Israel who's also been criticized for some comments he's made back in 2008. John McCain, presidential candidate, had to disavow his endorsement.

[09:05:09] These are very controversial speakers. A very controversial event. But that's not dampening the mood here, one of emotion and jubilation for the Israeli people. This recognition by President Trump -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And of course today, Elise, as you mentioned, 70 years, it's significant because the opening today taking place on 70th anniversary of America recognizing the state of Israel. We see the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, speaking out.

And Elise, let me just ask you this because we saw some members of Congress just stand up and applaud there a moment ago. It's significant that this really is not a bipartisan delegation. Right? These are all Republicans even notable the former ambassador to Israel under President Obama, Dan Shapiro, is not there. I say notable because he is someone who's been very supportive of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. LABOTT: Supportive of the move and also, Poppy, still lives in Israel

with his family and his children who are still going to school here. They said that they didn't invite any officials from previous administrations but it's not a bipartisan delegation even though support for Israel is a very bipartisan issue. This is an entirely Republican delegation and all in support of President Trump's move to show U.S. support for Israel. This is really, you know, obviously for the Israeli people but it's President Trump's show today.

HARLOW: Elise Labott, standing by there for us as this gets underway.

Again you'll hear from the president just momentarily but as we wait let's go to Oren Liebermann. About half a mile from where the new embassy will be. One of the main entrances to the Old City.

And Oren, what has the reaction been there? Because we're seeing on the other side of our screen the violence that has broken out in Gaza.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's almost like we're in two different worlds. We're not all that far from Gaza. We could be -- and my colleague Ian Lee's location -- in just a couple of hours and yet here in the city of Jerusalem it is nothing but a celebration. And you saw some of that when you saw Elise Labott. I was at that location yesterday.

It's festive. The celebrations began yesterday and have continued today and yet condemnation has still poured in. And we saw that right after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. An overwhelming condemnation of that decision by the United Nations General Assembly, and that condemnation continues.

From where we expect it to, to be honest. In fact Iran said that this will not go unanswered and they will have some sort of response to the U.S. moving of the embassy to Jerusalem, the U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Turkey saying that U.S. is now part of the problem, not part of the solution in the Middle East. Jordan also saying the move of the embassy has no legal validity and that's key because that's a very close ally of the U.S. So condemnation as it has been all along continuing to this day.

Poppy, it's worth pointing out that Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have tried to build momentum off of the U.S.' move of the embassy and tried to get other countries to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel. So far only two countries have agreed to do so. Guatemala and Paraguay, those are two countries with large evangelical populations.

HARLOW: Oren, thank you very much.

Let's go to our Jeff Zeleny. He joins us now from White House.

And Jeff, we're waiting to hear from the president. Again this is going to be a prerecorded message. Do you have any sense of what he is going to say again following through on one of his major promises on the campaign trail and then in the early days of his presidency? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Poppy.

Good morning. Now that is what the president is expected to say. He is expected to, you know, hail this as a great day and the fulfillment of a campaign pledge. But at the same time it is worth pointing out that it is also going to make the second pledge much harder. He pledged to also try and restore peace in the Middle East, this without question as Elise and Oren have been saying makes it much more difficult.

But there was a time at one point where the president was actually thinking of going for this opening. It was decided against that because he has so many things going on, so many things on his plate, of course with the summit coming up in Singapore next month. But all eyes here are on the embassy opening.

Ivanka Trump is there. Jared Kushner is there and Jared Kushner is going to speak. He is going to say that it is still possible to bring peace to the Middle East. We have not seen that peace plan. The outline of that, the White House has not released that yet, and without question it does make it more difficult -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Just looking at these pictures on the screen. You've got the embassy opening there. David Friedman speaking on one side. You've got the violence in Gaza right nearby that has now claimed according to Palestinian officials 38 lives. It is striking, Jeff Zeleny. Thank you very much.

Joining me now, Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent, and Rear Admiral John Kirby, our military and diplomatic analyst.

Christiane, to you first. If we can pull back up on the screen as I speak with both of you the split screen it is striking to see the juxtaposition.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, it is an extraordinary day obviously for President Trump, for his daughter, her husband, for all the officials who are there and most particularly for the Israeli prime minister.

[09:10:08] This is a triumph for the Israeli prime minister. He's managed to draw an American administration into a declaration that breaks not only with 70 years of American policy but 70 years of international consensus. So if you wanted to see what it looks like to have an American policy going it alone in the world this is what it looks like because as Oren pointed out only two other countries have made the recognition.

We hear from reports inside Israel that at a reception, a diplomatic foreign ministry reception over the weekend to try to celebrate this moment, only about a third of those diplomats based in Israel actually attended the reception.

This is not the U.N. consensus. It's not the EU consensus. It's not the Russian consensus. This is a very, very big break with the international consensus around Israel. And what is the consensus? The consensus basically revolves around the most contentious part of the entire Middle East and that is Jerusalem.

And for many, many years not only have international and U.N. resolutions placed it as partly occupied territory but the United States has always said, though all the peace agreement, that this is a subject that has to be resolved by the two parties.

HARLOW: Right.

AMANPOUR: At the end of a process. And this is not what is happening right now. So what it does is, as Jeff pointed out, Jeff Zeleny, really puts a spanner in the works to any hope that the United States could present a peace plan. Of course we don't know what the peace plan is but it looks like it's going to be very heavily weighted towards Prime Minister Netanyahu. Not just Israel but the Netanyahu right-wing view of the peace process. And it's very unlikely that it's going to be pushed forward at all.

HARLOW: So, Admiral Kirby, to Christiane's point, I mean, the critics of this say look, this takes the United States out of the equation as any neutral party in any negotiations. Of course Jared Kushner is there at the embassy opening. He's been tasked by his father in law, the president, to help craft a peace deal, the ultimate deal as the president calls it in the Middle East.

You have head of -- the secretary-general of the PLO Saeb Erekat saying that this opening is not just symbolic, it shows what he calls the determination of the Trump administration to destroy the two-state solution. But the Trump administration says no. It takes Jerusalem off the table and it makes the peace process or getting to a two-state solution more plausible.

How do you see it?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I disagree. I don't think it makes it more plausible. I think it completely undermines what their stated goal is, which is a two-state solution. They have now heavily put their thumb on the scale in favor of Israel.

Look at the president's tweet this morning. "A great day for Israel." You know what, I agree with him. It is. But it's a terrible day for the Middle East peace process or what's left of it or even getting there to the end. So I think they have completely undermined any effort to effectively act as a mediator between the two sides or as any credible arbiter of the interest of both sides. And I think this sets it back extremely far.

HARLOW: Christiane --

AMANPOUR: Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes, Christiane. Before we get to break. Yes.

AMANPOUR: Sorry. Yes. I just wanted to say, you know, it's not only taking the United States out in terms of a mediator between two sides because as you know the Palestinians have broken contact with the United States since the announcement was made. And it's all very well saying yes, we still believe in a two-state solution but when you create facts on the ground that go contrary to that, it's really difficult to see how that can happen.

But I would just say, it is important to look at history. If you walk back to 2006, recent history, the then Republican administration of George W. Bush decided that it would be a good idea to have elections in the Palestinian territories. The Israeli government at the time said please don't do it. The Palestinian authority at the time said please don't do it. Why? Because we know Hamas will win. And that's what happened.

Hamas won. And this was on, you know, America's head essentially. They pushed the two sides into an ill-advised election at that time. And so now you have all this political breakdown that the Israelis are able to say we have no interlocutors. Look at Hamas in Gaza. Well, who brought -- who facilitated that?

Then the other main issue is if not with Abu Mazen, ie, Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, then who will you have a diplomatic agreement and negotiation with? He is the only member. He and his group are the only members of the Palestinians who believe in a diplomatic settlement. Hamas doesn't. So this is going to be very, very tough going forward.

HARLOW: Christiane, Admiral Kirby, thank you both. Stay with us. We have a lot more ahead as we wait again to hear from the president at this embassy opening. He will deliver this video message in just moments, delivering on one of his signature campaign promises. You'll see that live right here.

Also new twist in trade battle with China. The president vows to help save Chinese jobs, a surprise from the America first president.

[09:15:00]

And lava and gas shooting into the air in Hawaii. Officials warning of a possible explosive eruption. We are there, as well. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right. Again, a live look at the ceremony for the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. We are expecting to hear a recorded message from President Trump in just a few moments. As soon as that begins, we'll bring it to you live.

In the meantime, though, joining me now is Francis Rooney, Republican congressman of Florida, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It's nice to have you here, congressman, on a day that I know you've been very supportive, this move to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something Congress passed as law back in 1995, but every president subsequently has not made the move. The president did decide to do it.

[09:20:00] The critics argue, look, by the United States - and the president tweeting this morning this is a great day for Israel in moving the embassy to Jerusalem. It takes the US off the table as an honest broker, as a neutral broker in the peace process trying to get to a peace resolution, trying to get to a two state solution. Do they have a point?

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY, VICE CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, I'd like to make three quick points about this, if I might. And thank you for having me back on, Poppy.

First of all, it's nice to see someone do what they said they'd do. In my line of work, not very many people seem to do that.

Second, I don't believe in cowering to terrorists. And I lived through the violence that ensued after the first "Charlie Hebdo" cartoon in 2005 when the European press and the European governments cowered to the Islamic extremists and look what we got, a lot more "Charlie Hebdo" violence.

So, the third thing I would say is we have to wait until Palestine is really ready for peace. Remember, Ehud Barak offered Arafat everything he asked for back in the mid-90s and Arafat walked out of the room.

HARLOW: Are you saying that Palestinians that oppose this move are all terrorists? It sounds like you're grouping them all into one with that answer.

ROONEY: I'm not saying they're all terrorists, but there sure was a lot of smoke on your screen here just a few minutes ago. Those guys are.

HARLOW: We've been showing the violence in Gaza. We can pull that back up. Thirty-eight people killed thus far.

Some of the people that have spoken at this and given the prayers and the benediction this morning at the ceremony, two controversial pastors - two controversial American pastors, Pastor Robert Jeffress and Pastor John Hagee.

As you know, Pastor Jeffress - there you have him - he just wrapped up moments ago. He's called Mormonism a cult. He's called Islam and Mormonism heresies from the pit of hell. He's denounced Islam calling it an evil religion that promotes pedophilia. He's suggested the catholic church was led astray by Satan.

Do you think it is beneficial to America to have this pastor speaking on the world stage today ahead of the president? Is this a voice that you would invite?

ROONEY: I would have preferred to have more ecumenism in who gets to speak at this very important event and show the world that what we really are in America, the First Amendment, ecumenistic, pluralistic society.

And I don't like the fact that these guys are anti-Catholic. HARLOW: What do you think it says that these are the two pastors that have been chosen by President Trump? The other pastor is Pastor John Hagee who we just saw a moment ago who gave a sermon in the 1990s that seemed to suggest that Adolf Hitler had been fulfilling God's will by returning Jews to Israel. Highly controversial and denounced as well.

What does it say that they have been selected by this administration to be on the world stage on a day like today?

ROONEY: I would say, to use a financial investment metaphor, we are overweight with evangelicals.

HARLOW: Any other thoughts?

ROONEY: Well, like I said, I would have rather had a balanced score card. I would have sued me to have as broad an ecumenical list of speakers and participants as they could get.

HARLOW: But is what these two pastors have said, should that be disqualifying to them being on this stage ahead of the president today?

ROONEY: Well, I don't like what they have said at all.

HARLOW: Should it be disqualifying?

ROONEY: Well, it's not my call. It's the president's call and the ambassador's call. But if it were me, it would be a radically different panel of speakers.

HARLOW: All right. As we wait for the president, let me get you on a few other topics.

On Iran, after the US has stopped waving the sanctions, essentially pulling the US out of the Iran deal, National Security Adviser John Bolton, you know he was on the Sunday shows yesterday morning.

When he was speaking with Jake Tapper, he left the door open to the United States possibly sanctioning our European allies if they continue to do business with Iran because France, the UK, Germany are staying in the Iran deal.

Would that be beneficial to the United States if indeed the US were to impose secondary sanctions on, say, British companies, German companies, French companies that continue to do business in Iran?

ROONEY: It might be. What I hope is that the Europeans are going to go to the Iranians now and say, look, you know the president means business. He has said he's fine to have a treaty if we reform it, so we can get in there and see what's going on with military bases and talked about ballistic missile testing. So, why don't they make a couple of amendments to that thing and put it back in place?

Otherwise, like Lenin said, the capitalists will sell us the rope we will use to hang them with.

HARLOW: Why would it be beneficial to America, for secondary sanction to be imposed on these European allies?

ROONEY: Because the purpose of sanctions is economic strangulation, just like it seems to have worked pretty well with North Korea.

HARLOW: The president over the weekend sent a tweet that has a lot of people scratching their head and it has to do with the Chinese company called ZTE.

This is a huge telecommunications and cell phone maker out of China. Employs some 75,000 people. Well, the Commerce Department banned it from doing business with American companies last month because it violated an agreement having to do with doing business with Iran and North Korea. That resulted in the company practically shutting down, losing tens of thousands of jobs.

[09:25:07] So, the president over the weekend said that he is working with President Xi of China to try to keep it in business. And he's said, why, because too many American jobs have been - too many Chinese jobs, I should note, have been lost.

That was surprising to many from the America First president. Why do you think President Trump is trying to save Chinese jobs and help prop up this company?

ROONEY: Well, I've got to say, it was surprising to me too at first blush. And I've been thinking about it. And I can think of, and I hope, is that there are some deals back here in the background to have China work again further for North Korea because you need China -

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States under President Harry Truman became the first nation to recognize the state of Israel. Today, we officially open the United States embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations! It's been a long time coming!

Almost immediately after declaring statehood in 1948, Israel designated the City of Jerusalem as its capital. The capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. So important!

Today, Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's government. It is the home of the Israeli legislature and the Israeli Supreme Court and Israel's prime minister and president. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital.

Yet for many years, we failed to acknowledge the obvious - the plain reality that Israel's capital is Jerusalem.

On December 6, 2017, at my direction, the United States finally and officially recognized Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel.

Today, we follow through on this recognition and open our embassy in the historic and sacred land of Jerusalem. And we're opening it many, many years ahead of schedule. As I said in December, our greatest hope is for peace. The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement, and we continue to support the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites, including at the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al- Sharif.

This city and its entire nation is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people. The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace.

We wish Ambassador Friedman good luck as he takes up his office in this beautiful Jerusalem embassy, and we extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors.

May there be peace! May God bless this embassy! May God bless all who serve there! And may God bless the United States of America! Thank you!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: A prerecorded message there from President Trump that was just aired, as you see, on the screen there. It's the US embassy opening in Jerusalem.

Jeff Zeleny, Elise Labott, Christiane Amanpour back with me.

Christiane, to you first, the words from the president, freedom and peace, may there be peace. He says this as we see the live pictures we can pull up as well of the violence that has erupted in Gaza very close by. What do you make of the message from the president?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You need two to tango. You need two to make peace. Peace is not going to be a unilateral declaration because there are all sorts of other fall-on and knock-on effects if it becomes a one-state solution.

People need to think very, very carefully about that. And, I guess, what the president has done is the political equivalent of ripping up or pulling out the Iran deal, basically pulling out of the Middle East peace process as a broker between two sides and throwing the United States' weight behind one side.

Well, that's all well and good. It will go down very well with Israelis, American Jews, a lot of them, and maybe a couple of countries around the world.

But the fact of the matter is it, right now, basically, says, well, this is it. There's no room for negotiation because how does one come back to the table if you disempower the only Palestinian leader who believes in a diplomatic settlement.

HARLOW: Christiane, we're looking at the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, also an advisor to the president, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just unveiling the seal here on the embassy. Let's listen.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER AND ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: - the capital of Israel. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. The president's daughter, also Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin officially unveiling the seal on the new US embassy in Jerusalem. We'll be right back with more of this breaking news. Stay with us.