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Melania Trump Undergoes Kidney Surgery; White House Under Fire for Mocking McCain's Brain Cancer; Harry Reid Has Cancer Surgery. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

DAN SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: And then Hamas, a terrorist organization, continues to control Gaza. So, this is a very difficult situation. I wouldn't expect negotiations to achieve, even with the most well-equipped administration.

Obviously, these disturbances in Gaza are extremely upsetting to watch. I do think it's fair to put the lion's share of the blame on Hamas. It's a terrorist organization that has tried to use rockets to attack Israel, and Israel has countered that with missile defense.

It has tried to use tunnels to attack Israel. And Israel has countered that with tunnel detection technology. What it has left to use is its own people. Now, what's happening at the border is a combination of violent events by terrorists and other civilians mixed in with that crowd.

It's a very complicated situation. And as the American military has learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's very, very difficult to fight a terrorist organization that embeds itself in a civilian population.

Having said that, under no circumstances should we be indifferent or callous about civilian loss of life, especially when we're talking about children. And even if Hamas bares the lion's share of the blame, there should be investigations.

I'm sure the Israeli military will do that, as our military does. And every effort should be taken by democratic nations like the United States, like the Israel in such situations to try to minimize the loss of civilian life, because the terrorist organization won't try to. The terrorist organization seeks it for propaganda value.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Ambassador Shapiro, we do appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

It's the top of the hour. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin. And you're watching CNN.

Moments ago, the White House acknowledged that one of its aides made a heartless joke about Senator John McCain, who is battling brain cancer. But it would not comment about the public apology that was promised to McCain's daughter, according to a source. White House aide Kelly Sadler was responding to McCain's opposition to the president's CIA nominee. She dismissed when she said about the senator -- quote -- "He's dying anyway."

When it happened last week, the White House officially would not confirm if it had happened. Today, that was not the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I understand the focus on this issue, but it's going to be dealt with and has been dealt with internally.

QUESTION: How?

QUESTION: How?

SHAH: I was told -- hang on.

I was Kelly Sadler called the McCain family late last week and did apologize. And beyond that, I don't have further comment.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Excuse me, but she -- she -- Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly. And that has not yet happened. Why has that not yet happened?

SHAH: I won't on the call. I was told she made it prior to the story being published and she apologized for the comment. She apologized directly to the family.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Can you explain how it's being addressed internally?

SHAH: Obviously, if I explain all that, then it won't remain internal.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Is she still employed here at the White House?

SHAH: She is still an employee here at the White House. She came to work today.

QUESTION: Why hasn't she publicly apologized, as she told Meghan McCain that she would?

SHAH: She has addressed it with the family directly, and I don't have anything further to add.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Joining me now, CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House. So, what are you understanding here, that this is where the White House is going to leave it? She still obviously, Kelly Sadler, has a job with the White House. And even she personally promised she would apologize, it appears that that is definitely not a demand of the White House. Or perhaps they're not wanting her to, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And once again, Brianna, the White House is keeping the focus on the fact that this leaked out of a meeting here at the White House and the fact that this comment was made at a White House meeting overall.

Raj Shah there trying to explain this, saying that the situation has been dealt with internally, but failing to say how they dealt with this internally, of course, him reiterating just there that Kelly Sadler does still work at this White House, but also saying that it was trying to make the argument that it could -- creates a very difficult work environment when staffers in those meetings go and tell reporters what was said during those meetings.

He says that it's difficult to convey thoughts privately during meetings like that, to know that it's only going to be leaked out later on, which, of course, Brianna, raises the question here the White House is focusing on the wrong thing.

Of course, the question is the fact that this staffer felt comfortable enough in this White House to make a comment like that during a meeting with at least two dozen other staffers, which Raj Shah was in that meeting.

And so that raises the question here. Why is the White House more focused on the fact that it's leaked out of the meeting than the fact that a staffer made this comment after all?

Once again, Brianna, they're not apologizing for what she said, not issuing any kind of public acknowledgement of this remark, beyond saying that it's been dealt with internally. And this is just showing how once again this White House is letting a controversy that could have ended just days ago by just apologizing and acknowledging this.

Instead, they're letting it drag out yet another day here.

KEILAR: Kaitlan, I want to press pause on this, and bring in Dana Bash.

Some breaking news that you have about the former Senate majority leader.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

Harry Reid, his office just released a statement revealing that he has undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer. And he's now undergoing treatment.

[15:05:01]

He has -- he retired, of course, a few years ago. He has been living in his home state of Nevada. But this surgery took place not too far from here in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Cancer Center.

And according to his office, they just released a statement saying that he's out of surgery, he's in good spirits and resting with his family. And, most importantly, the statement says that his doctor doctors caught the problem early during a routine screening, and that the surgeons are confident that the surgery was a success.

Pancreatic cancer, anybody who has had the very unfortunate experience of knowing anybody with pancreatic cancer, it is usually about the worst cancer you can get.

Having said that, when you -- when it is caught early, like with any cancer, it can be treatable. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had pancreatic cancer. She's still doing great. And so the fact that the surgeons and the doctors, the medical team around Harry Reid is saying, sort of similar for him, that they caught early is very good news.

KEILAR: And that's really the key.

I want to bring in our doctor Sanjay Gupta with us to talk about this.

That is -- when we have done stories on this in the past, it's staggering, because a lot of times, pancreatic cancer is caught so late that you're looking at a survival rate of 5 percent, I think it was, over five years the last time I did a story years ago on this. I mean, it's really a dim prospects a lot of times.

So what does that tell you when his doctors are saying that they're confident the prognosis is good because they caught this early through routine screening?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the more unusual scenario.

But, as you point out, it can be very favorable, if in fact before this cancer really had a chance to spread to the surrounding areas, spread to other organs, it was caught. Sometimes, people who have some sort of genetic history of this sort of cancer may be undergoing screenings, if there was some other concern or they were looking for something else, and they happened to find this pancreatic cancer.

They're able to remove it before it is spread in this way. That can be a more favorable prognosis. But the reason it is often caught so late is because there really aren't any symptoms until the cancer has started to already spread. And that's when somebody may start to have back pain or some other symptoms.

They go to their doctor. Problem is, at that point, it is already pretty far along. So he's 78 years old. It's a big operation, no matter what, even if it's caught early. I'm sure he's going to be covering for a long time.

But if they're confident -- and I know this team at Hopkins pretty well -- if they're confident they got it all out, that should portend pretty favorably for him. KEILAR: All right, Sanjay and Dana, I'm going to have you stand by.

We have much more on this breaking news, the former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, diagnosed and treated for pancreatic cancer.

His doctors are saying that his prognosis is good and that they caught this early. We will have more on this breaking news in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:11:55]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAH: Obviously, this is part of a very complex relationship between the United States and China that involves economic issues, national security issues and the like.

And it's an issue of high concern for China that's been raised with the U.S., with the U.S. government and with our administration at various levels.

So, the president has asked Secretary Ross to look into it.

QUESTION: How does President Trump statement that too many Chinese jobs are at risk square with his campaign promises that China is stealing American jobs?

SHAH: Well, why I don't think this has frankly any bearing on the president's campaign promises.

But just look at the overall economic record, right? The president has overseen an economy in which we have the lowest unemployment rate since 2000, right? It's at 3.9 percent. Over two million jobs have been created since this president took office.

And on -- with respect to trade with China, he's been tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: All right, we do have some breaking news.

I want to go ahead and bring in CNN's Kate Bennett on a separate topic.

Kate, go ahead and tell us. I know you have some breaking news. What's going on?

All right, I think we might be trying to -- do we have Kate Bennett?

Kate, can you hear me?

All right, Kate, sorry. I know that all of this is very fluid. You're here up in the bureau.

Tell us about what is going on with this breaking news about Melania Trump. KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, Brianna, Melania

Trump has had a surgical procedure today at Walter Reed Medical Center.

A statement from her office reads it was a benign kidney surgery that happened. The first lady has -- there were no complications today with the surgery. She will likely remain in the hospital for recovery for the next several days.

Again, today this is a benign kidney procedure the first lady underwent today at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

We're just receiving a statement from the first lady's office.

This the first time a first lady, a sitting first lady, has had a surgery of this size and proportion since Nancy Reagan. Rosalynn Carter also had a procedure. And Betty Ford had a mastectomy when she was in office as well.

But certainly this is news for the first lady, who has had someone of a high profile past couple of weeks, with the state dinner at the end of last month, which she planned, and had a big hand in hostessing. And even will just last week, she announced her initiatives, her formal initiatives at the Be Best speech that she gave in the Rose Garden with the president.

And on Friday, she was at a Mother's Day event for military moms and spouses with the president in the East Room of the White House. So, certainly, this is news for the first lady, for the first family. The president remained at the White House today.

The first lady is, as her office says, resting comfortably. The procedure appears to have gone. However, again, just want to repeat, the first lady did have surgery today at Walter Reed.

KEILAR: And I think -- I think you have in your inbox there, Kate, the actual statement from the first lady's office. Do you have it there, by chance?

BENNETT: I do. Sure.

KEILAR: OK.

Can you go -- just go ahead and read that for us.

[15:15:00]

BENNETT: OK.

"This morning, first lady Melania Trump underwent an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition. The procedure was successful and there were no complications. Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week. The first lady looks forward to a full recovery so she can continue her work on behalf of children everywhere." So, that is the full statement from her office, from the press office of the first lady. Again, this is just breaking today. This is something that happened this morning when she went in. Again, it seems that the surgery went well.

And it was a kidney surgery for a condition that is considered to be benign. And she is resting comfortably.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: OK, let's -- I'm going to have you stand by for just a second, Kate, while you talk to your sources. This comes as a surprise to us

I'm going to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

This - OK, so, this statement that Kate Bennett just read for us, Sanjay, an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition, what does that tell you?

GUPTA: Well, typically, when you think about an embolization procedure, it's to try and stop blood flow to a certain part of the body, a certain part of an organ.

In this case, it sounds like the kidney. Sometimes, if you're worried about something bleeding -- typically, it's done for cancer, although it's very clear in the statement that this was a benign condition. That's how they have framed it, so it doesn't sound like it's a type of cancer.

Sometimes, things like fibroids or cysts or something like that can be something treated as well. Now, an embolization procedure typically is done less invasively. It doesn't involve an incision necessary on or around the kidney.

So, it's a little bit unclear exactly what she had done. If you think about a benign kidney procedure, typically, if she's late 40s, 48 years old, I think, 47, doesn't have a history of anything like this, you typically think about kidney cysts, a cyst that could develop on the kidney and start to actually interfere with how the kidney functions.

And that could require surgery, not very often, not very common at all for that to be done. But if it does get to a certain size or causing certain problems, that could be what the operation is necessary for as well.

So, probably need a few more details.

KEILAR: Yes.

GUPTA: We also heard that she's going to be in the hospital for a few days now. So, they're expecting a recovery period that's not insignificant.

This obviously is not an outpatient procedure. That also gives you some idea of how significant this procedure likely was, more significant, as opposed to something that is just very simple, where someone goes home the same day.

KEILAR: So, explain that again.

The embolization, you're saying that is actually that you want to stop blood flow to an area for a reason?

GUPTA: Yes, right.

Typically, if you're worried about a particular area of the body or a particular part of an organ having some bleeding or you want to stop blood flow to that area, you can essentially embolize the blood vessels that go to that. You can try and block the blood vessels that go to that area using some kind of glue or something like that, because you just don't want that area to bleed.

Or you're worried about it bleeding in the future. So, typically, you think about this, for example, with uterine fibroids. That's a more common sort of thing. If there was something of concern that they saw on the first lady's scans, something that they thought we don't think this is cancer, but we worry that it could bleed or cause some problems later on down the road, you could do an embolization procedure.

Maybe they did this embolization procedure and something else. I'm just reading the same statement that you are here. It just says she underwent an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition.

That's all we know right now.

KEILAR: so, if you -- you said you really would need more information to know what's going on. So what would the questions be that you would need answered, aside from was there something else done in addition to this embolization procedure?

GUPTA: Yes, I think -- I think the big question is, what specifically was being embolized?

We know that it was something to do with the kidney. Was it a mass, a growth on the kidney? Was it something that was more like a fibroid? Again, when I hear benign kidney condition, most of the time, you're thinking a cyst. And a cyst is basically a fluid-filled structure that can sometimes develop on top of the kidney or even within the kidney.

It's not something that typically gets embolized. So, was there a cyst and something else associated with that cyst?

KEILAR: Yes.

GUPTA: What is it, I guess, is the question that I would want to get answered.

KEILAR: Yes, basically. GUPTA: What exactly was embolized and what was the thinking behind it?

KEILAR: Because the thing to you that makes you wonder, Sanjay, as -- and you tell me if I don't have this right, but from what you said is, when you're talking about recovering for the rest of the week in the hospital, that is a prolonged recovery period for something that you would think of, for instance, being usually a benign kidney cyst.

[15:20:10]

GUPTA: That's right.

Again, most kidney cysts are -- don't even require surgery. The vast majority of them do not require surgery.

KEILAR: Yes.

GUPTA: So, if it was a big enough cyst or a cyst that was somehow causing some sort of problem, like blocking the normal functioning of the kidney, you may understand how that would need surgery.

But, typically, that's a -- that's a laparoscopic-type operation. It's done fairly quickly. And while somebody may be in the hospital overnight -- sometimes, they can even go the same day -- but if they're in the hospital overnight, we're not talking about several days in the hospital, which is what we're hearing here.

So, what exactly was done, why was the embolization necessary, and what is it that's -- that the doctors think should keep her in the hospital for several days, again, that's a clue that we should be looking into.

KEILAR: All right, Sanjay, stay with me, because we do have this breaking news that Melania Trump has undergone a kidney procedure at Walter Reed Medical Center, north of Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

This was a benign kidney condition, according to the White House. But there's still a lot of unanswered questions, as you just heard about Sanjay explaining some of them there.

I want to bring in Dana Bash to talk about this.

Either way, this is a big deal.

BASH: Of course.

KEILAR: To have the first lady, who's going to be recovering all week in the hospital, a lot of unanswered questions

And, typically, we don't always have -- you get a lot of health information about the president. You don't always know the -- you certainly don't always know the family history of the first lady. But this is something that -- this would be very concerning if it happened to anybody.

BASH: Absolutely.

First, let's just day clearly we wish her well...

KEILAR: Yes, of course.

BASH: ... and hope that she has an easy and speedy recovery.

What Sanjay was talking about -- and, obviously, he's the doctor here and -- but the point that he made, just as a layman, what I saw, and I'm sure you did as well, the fact that they're saying it's benign, and maybe trying to downplay it, but, at the same time, saying that she had surgery and she has to stay in the hospital for several days.

Now, she's the first lady of the United States. She's at Walter Reed in. It could just be precaution that they're keeping her there. But at the end of the day, we don't really -- we don't know when they say benign kidney condition what exactly that means.

But I agree with you. The fact that they are disclosing this, it should be something that we expect and we do expect of our leaders. It doesn't always happen in this White House. So we're glad that we saw it -- we got it officially from the White House, and not having to dig it up reporting-wise.

KEILAR: That's right.

I want to bring in Kate Andersen Brower. She actually -- she wrote the book on first ladies. It's called "First Women."

And she certainly follows Melania Trump's every move.

Kate, this is surprising to anyone who has had their eyes on Melania Trump just here in the last week. She has been very busy. She unveiled her agenda more than a year into her husband's presidency. This is a woman with a lot on her plate. And now she's dealing with a medical issue, having had kidney surgery.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, she certainly does have a lot on her plate.

And I really impressed that they came out and released this. It does remind me -- completely different circumstance, obviously -- but Betty Ford had a mastectomy when she was in the White House, and she came out and was insistent that it be described exactly as it was, not just a women's problem.

So, at the time, that was very revolutionary. I think that everyone wants to give first ladies privacy. Medical conditions are obviously very personal. But I think it's a good sign that they came out and at least explained what was happening with her. And, of course, we all wish her well.

KEILAR: And so just tell us a little bit about recently where we have seen her and what's she's been up to, to those who have not been paying attention?

ANDERSEN BROWER: Sure.

I mean, last week, she unveiled her campaign, the Be Best campaign, about -- it's stopping cyber-bullying and it was a broad campaign about children.

We really have seen her shine when she is dealing with children, interacting with them. And I think that she has begun to kind of come into the role of first lady. It's taken her a little longer than most.

But she's really become -- come into embracing it. We saw her approval ratings last week. I think they were about 57 percent in a recent CNN poll, which is higher than her husband's.

So, she's a real asset to this administration. And I think it's pretty incredible that she has been out there so much dealing with what was obviously a medical issue at the same time. And that speaks very well of her.

But she's really been a very traditional -- very traditional first lady, and I think, in many ways, that's helped keep her approval ratings -- helped her approval ratings really soar in recent weeks.

[15:25:05]

KEILAR: What about -- according to Kate's reporting, and keeping in mind obviously this is something that was done, and we didn't learn until after the fact, so we're still waiting to see exactly.

But in terms of the president's movements, it appears that he's still at the White House, right?

ANDERSEN BROWER: Yes.

I mean, I have not heard otherwise. I think that -- that would be typical. You know, I think that it would make sense for him to visit at some point tonight privately.

But, I mean, even when something like this happened to Betty Ford, it was something that was done very privately, and not announced when he visited.

KEILAR: Yes.

ANDERSEN BROWER: So, I'm not sure when -- when that's going to happen, but I would expect him to go to Walter Reed soon.

KEILAR: Yes. No, that sounds about right, Kate.

All right, Kate Andersen Brower, thank you so much.

Stay with us.

Melania Trump has undergone kidney surgery, the White House stressing that this is a benign kidney condition, but she is going to be recovering in the hospital this week. So, certainly, this is something that we're paying a lot of attention to, as she is there at Walter Reed recovering.

We're going to get a live report from the White House after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)