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Protests Rage on Israeli-Gaza Border; U.S. Opens Jerusalem Embassy; Controversial Pastors at Embassy Opening; Trump Wants to Help ZTE; Kushner Speaks in Jerusalem. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The president orders his administration to do more to save jobs at a tech company in China. Democrats say, how about workers here at home? And GOP hawks say the company at issue helps China spy and steal.

Plus, history and controversy in Jerusalem. A new embassy, the American embassy, opens with great fanfare and great tension as Palestinians call it an outrage.

And remember the secretary of everything? The embassy opening offers a rare chance to hear the presidential son-in-law, whose portfolio is thick but his accomplishments few.


IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: We welcome you officially, and for the first time, to the embassy of the United States here in Jerusalem.

JARED KUSHNER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SENIOR ADVISER: While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American embassy once in office, this president delivered. Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.


KING: And we begin there. Today in Jerusalem, an historic day of celebration for Israelis. The U.S. embassy making its official and quite controversial move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On hand to witness, a top level U.S. delegation, including, as you just saw, the president's daughter and son-in-law, plus the Treasury secretary, along with other lawmakers and prominent Jewish-Americans. President Trump making brief remarks by video, brushing aside critics who say this move causes even more damage to a peace process already in shambles.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 esh-Sharif.


KING: Speaker after speaker at the ceremony talking of peace and partnership. But not far away, the very opposite unfolding, mass protests and clashes at the border between Gaza and Israel, at least 52 Palestinians now killed. That count has been increasing throughout the day. More than 2,400 injured, that according to Palestinian Authority.

CNN's Ian Lee joins me live now from the Israeli-Gaza border.

Ian, lay out the scenes there and those numbers keep going up and up and up.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That makes this, John, the deadliest day since the 2014 war. It's calmed down a bit now, but earlier in the day, tens of thousands of people were here gathering, trying to cross over that border fence into Israel. They say they want to return to lands that were lost during the 1948 war. But Israel says that that's not going to happen, and they say they've used tear gas, and we've seen drones, actually, dropping tear gas on the crowds, but also live rounds, live ammunition to stop people from crossing over. And that's where we're getting that death toll from, John.

You know, we also heard heavy machine gunfire in the North and the South where we've heard tanks firing rounds. And then also near one of the borders we saw airstrikes today, two airstrikes, going after what the Israeli military says is a number of Hamas targets as they were conducting terrorist activity.

But this day really a lot of anger about the political process, about what's going on in Jerusalem, and it's all come down to today and tomorrow, John. We're expecting this sort of same level of protests tomorrow when you do get these tens of thousands of people, not just here, but all up and down this border, where you're going to have a recipe for further violence.


KING: Ian Lee on the Israeli-Gaza border.

Ian, appreciate the live reporting there.

With me in studio here to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast," CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Olivier Knox with Sirius XM, and Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post."

It is striking just to contrast the images you see there. Speaker after speaker, including the president, and I'll play in just a second the Israeli prime minister, saying this is history and this will help. The Israelis and the Trump administration making the case this will help. A peace process doesn't exist at the moment. It just simply doesn't

exist. And let's listen. Let's just briefly listen to the prime minister. You heard the president. Here's the prime minister. The two key players in this embassy move saying, this is good, not just for Israel but for everyone.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: A peace that is built on lies will crash on the rocks of Middle Eastern realities. You can only build peace on truth. And the truth is that Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state.

May the opening of this embassy in this city spread the truth far and wide, and may the truth advance a lasting peace between Israel and all our neighbors.


KING: The truth, is it not, that for years and years and years, the status of Jerusalem has been one of those final status issues. You're supposed to figure out everything else, land for peace, the political settlements, the security arrangements, and then deal with, yes, the Jewish holy sites, but also the Arab holy sites in Jerusalem. And that if you're the -- from the Palestinian perspective, officially moving the embassy, says you put your thumb on the scale.

[12:05:14] OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: That's right because the Palestinians have long hoped to put the capital of their still hypothetical state in Eastern Jerusalem. And that's why you're seeing a lot of anger from -- from the Palestinians. That's why you're seeing criticisms, albeit not what it used to be, from countries like Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and places like that.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And the thing I was struck by watching the president this morning, I mean, yes, he was delivering on a campaign promise, no question about it, but also making his other campaign promise of Middle East peace so much more difficult. And he said when he was speaking, he marked the date of December 6, 2017, that that is the date that he announced this. Well, that's also the day that the White House essentially stopped being in communication with the Palestinians there.

So so much left unsaid this morning fact-checking all of this. It makes it more complicated, without question. But this also is another argument for the Trump side. Everything else has not worked, so should we try it a different way? It's a pretty risky and big question mark out there.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Not only does this president like to fulfill campaign promises, he also likes to do things that his predecessors couldn't, that they said couldn't be done or they promised and then backtracked. We've seen that with North Korea and now we're seeing it with the embassy in Jerusalem. And he seems to be really reveling in that piece of it as well. ZELENY: Sure.

KNOX: And the backdrop to all of this is really important too and we're not going to hear from any of those speakers at the embassy is Iran. The 2003 war to topple Saddam Hussain removed the largest regional roadblock to Iranian expansionism. It was followed by the Iran nuclear deal, which has put more resources in Iran's pockets. The Trump campaign -- the Trump administration and the Saudis and the Israelis basically argue, Mideast peace, great, we all want it. But we have to see the politics of the region through the prism of a more aggressive Iran.

KING: But the administration has promised, President Trump during the campaign said that will be easy. That he could do what other people couldn't do. Here we are, a year and a half into the administration, there is no official administration proposal on the table. And, to the point just made, that right now there is no dialogue with one of the -- one of the many parties you'd have to have at the table, the Palestinians.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And that is a plan that we've been told for months that would be coming and yet we have not seen anything to that point yet. I do think this is interesting. There -- from Capitol Hill, at the very least, at least this morning, there isn't that much pushback to the administration's move. I mean you did hear something come out of Chuck Schumer's mouth that you don't hear very often, which is, I applaud President Trump for this move. Now just up in New York, where he is right now, he's been urging for a peaceful protest. But this is an action that does seem to, at least the critics on Capitol Hill are mute and you're hearing a lot of support from Republicans and some Democrats as well.

KING: Right. And the American political dynamic of this is not to be left off the table. This is a major international event. But you could see right in the front row, Sheldon Adelson, a giant Republican donor, an ally of this president, was not always that way, right there as part of this event. So the domestic politics do matter a lot.

I want to stay for a minute here. This is former Senator George Mitchell, who was an envoy in previous Democratic administrations, to try to work out the differences, to try to get the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the table in a productive way. Let's be honest, they haven't had that in a very, very long time. Just being at the table, having productive conversations. George Mitchell making the case that by moving the building, moving the embassy, the president is going to deny himself the bigger spot in the history books, which would be getting a peace deal.


GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO MIDDLE EAST: In the long run, it will not advance the peace process. It will make his own policy more difficult to achieve and implement. That's the real issue.

And it greatly inflames an already very turbulent, violent region. And it increases in conjunction with the reversal of the Iran nuclear agreement. It tremendously increases the instability and the likelihood of wider war in the Middle East.


KING: Now, again, please correct me if I'm wrong, we don't have even an outline of a Trump administration Middle East peace plan, the specifics. Number two, what about Senator Mitchell's point there that what the Trump administration would push back saying that in the wake of the president pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, he wants there to be absolutely no doubt in the region that the United States stands hand in glove, as close as you can get with Israel, and this is proof of that.

ZELENY: He does. And I think that one thing -- I mean we are mid-May, so we're, what, like 16 months in or so. We heard from Jared Kushner this morning at the embassy opening really for the first time publicly in a very long time. He came in, as he said earlier, with this huge portfolio. He's had some complications. The entire administration has sort of, you know, besieged by other matters here. So, you know, if this can sort of jump-start the process, I guess that's good, but it does seem like the process is just -- you know, it's not a focus of the White House, let's just put it that way.

KING: And when you listen to Ian Lee and you hear about the -- this is complicated politics and it's not so much on the West Bank, which is where you have sort of the old Arafat wing of the Palestinian Authority. This is more in Gaza, which has always been the more troublesome part of the Palestinian territories.

But when you hear Ian Lee describe 50-plus now killed as they try to come across that border --


KING: Twenty-four hundred or so wounded, I can envision if this were happening another day, an administration, whether the Obama administration or the George W. Bush administration, or the Bill Clinton administration, urging the Israelis, yes, defend your border, but to show restraint. We have not heard any such words out of the Trump White House. Isn't that part of the message here?

[12:10:15] KNOX: It's a little bit hard to imagine National Security Adviser John Bolton putting out a statement saying that it's time for Israel to exercise restraint. They're more likely to put one out that says Israel has the right to defend its borders.

I would argue, you've got to watch the Saudis most closely here. They've come -- they've gotten closer to Israel ever since the Iran nuclear deal. They have criticized this decision, but it was nothing like -- sort of the apocalyptic denunciations that we might have expected 10, 15,20 years ago. So I would argue that you've got to watch -- watch the Saudis and watch allies like Jordan and Turkey and see what their reaction is if this continues a second day, a third day, a fourth day.

KING: Right. Even the Arabs leaders having a meeting on Wednesday, requested by the Palestinians. They issued a statement saying this is a criminal act, illegal act moving the embassy. But, again, the volume nowhere near what it used to be because President Trump is close with the Egyptian president. President Trump working closely with the Saudis. He has changed the dynamics and the Iran factor is what changes them most of all in the region.

Let's get back to some of the domestic politics. Two pastors speaking at this remarkable ceremony at the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem who have controversial paths, controversial statements, not only in Israel, but back here in the United States. Let's have a listen.


PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, FOUNDER, CHRISTIANS UNITED FOR ISRAEL: Let every Islamic terrorists hear this message, Israel lives. Let it be heard in the halls of the United Nations, Israel lives. Let it echo down the marble halls of the presidential palace in Iran, Israel lives.

PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER: We thank you every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history, but, more importantly, stands on the right side of you, oh God, when it comes to Israel.


KING: There are some past statements by the first pastor, Pastor Hagee, that many take as saying Hitler had a point, or Hitler had a message. To Pastor Jeffress' point, he is someone who have been controversial in the United States for a long time. Very harsh statements about Mormons. Very harsh statements about gay Americans. Mitt Romney, running for Senate in Utah, tweeting out this, Robert Jeffress says you can't be saved by being a Jew and Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell. He said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

KUCINICH: We wrote about, there is a strain of evangelicalism that was very prevalent during Mitt Romney's race for president and his first race for president who said they wouldn't vote for Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith. That is what -- and so one of the reasons you see Mitt Romney react as strongly as he has is because that is how he sees Jeffress.

And it is curious. I would be -- I think one of the questions that should be asked today is, who invites these people?

KING: Right. Well, the White House controls the program. We don't know specifically who. But the White House controls the program. It cannot be lost on them if they have the Internet, they can do a little search. This was -- this was done with full knowledge that this would cause a dust-up.

ZELENY: I think they were completely aware of their histories. You know, it was done as a sign, you know, for evangelicals, I believe. But I was surprised, actually, with this. Sheldon Adelson in the room. Jared Kushner in the room. It was unusual to say the very, very least. But the president was watching all of this from the residence of the White House this morning. Perhaps he'll weigh in later. We'll see.

KING: All right. This story's -- the ceremony's over, this story is not. We'll continue to track it.

Up next, the American first president says he has a plan to save some jobs in China.


[12:17:44] KING: Sharp, bipartisan criticism of the president today because of a weekend tweet promising help to a major Chinese tech company. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer mockingly asked if the president is looking to make China great again. Republican Senator Marco Rubio says it's crazy to help ZTE because of China's history of cyber theft and espionage. So why would the America first president tweet support for helping a Chinese tech giant, a company already facing U.S. sanctions?

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans breaks it down.


President Trump vowing to save jobs. Chinese jobs. Trump is working to get Chinese smartphone maker ZTE, quote, back into business, tweeting this, too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done.

Well, just last month, Trump's Commerce Department crippled ZTE. It barred U.S. companies from selling it vital parts. That was punishment for ZTE violating U.S. sanctions by selling to Iran and then lying about disciplining the employees involved.

The commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, called ZTE's behavior egregious, and now Trump expects Ross to resolve the trade action.

This drew sharp criticism from Democratic lawmaker Adam Schiff, who calls ZTE's tech a major cyber security threat. And the FBI director told the Senate in February, there's a risk in telling companies like ZTE access U.S. telecom networks.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information and it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.


ROMANS: Trump's policy reversal comes as the U.S. and China gear up for round two of trade talks. A Chinese delegation heads to Washington this week. ZTE could be used as leverage during negotiations. Trump said China and the U.S. are now working well together after past trade talks were one-sided, adding, be cool, it will all work out.


KING: We're all being cool, Christine, I promise, we're all being cool.

This is one of the interesting examples where the staff has to clean up after the president surprises them with a tweet. Lindsay Waters (ph) at the White House putting out a statement saying, President Trump expects Secretary Ross to exercise his independent judgment consistent with applicable laws and regulations to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts. In other words, pay no attention to the president of the United States.

[12:20:05] Why is the president of the United States tweeting support for a company that, as Christine just noted, violated the sanctions against Iran and every member of the president's intelligence team says a dangerous player. The more of those phones and technology in the U.S. market, the more China steals and China gets involved in cyber mischief.

KNOX: Can we back up just one step and look at the facts about ZTE, because this is actually kind of amazing? They were doing business with the five countries under the heavier sanctions in the international system, including Iran and North Korea. Their internal documents describe how they would try to get around U.S. sanctions. And then when they were -- when they were caught, they said they would punish the top executives responsible. Instead, those executives got bonuses.

So just -- I refreshed my memory this morning and all that was pretty amazing.

You have to take some of this at face value, which is that the president wants a deal with China on trade, he wants China in the fold on North Korea and he's very transactional, right, so he sees it --

KING: And nothing else matters? Criminal behavior? Nefarious behavior?

KNOX: And the problem here was --

KING: Intellectual property theft? It doesn't matter.

KNOX: It was -- it was going to be a -- well, no, I think he believes -- intellectual property theft is actually central to the whole trade argument.


KNOX: But I would say that what was interesting, and the reason that Lindsay had to put out that statement is he was basically saying this is no longer a law enforcement matter. This is no longer us, you know, applying the rules. This is us doing something transactional. And that's why she had to come out.

KUCINICH: And on the same day that Bolton came out -- I can't remember what show he was on, but he said that Europe -- that companies and European allies who deal -- who violate the sanctions could end up in trouble as well. So it does -- it also sends a really mixed message to the world as to who is actually going to have these sanctions enforced and who can wiggle out of them. KING: It raises the question, does the president have an understanding

of how serious the crimes are, number one, how serious the offenses are. Does he have the understanding of that? Number two, this is t- ball in domestic politics and -- and the Democrats who have been put on their heels by this president on trade issues and on jobs issues with blue collar workers. (INAUDIBLE) Chuck Schumer saying, one of the few areas where the president and I agreed, and I was vocally supportive, was his approach toward China. But even here he is backing off. And his policy is now designed to achieve one goal, make China great again.

A little mocking there. But, again, it's rare that the president, especially on this jobs -- the blue collar jobs issue, America first issue, this president has knocked the Democrats on their you know whats. This time he put the ball on the tee.

ZELENY: He has. I think one thing is -- has changed in the equation and that is that summit in Singapore in June. He wants China's help with that. He wants to be on friendly footing with the president, Xi Jinping. And his top economic adviser is in Washington this week, as Christine Romans was reporting. So I think that it has everything to do with that. The timing is, you know, related.

But so many people were confused by this. And the White House -- I can't remember a time when they put out a statement interpreting or trying to clarify a tweet. They always say they speak for themselves. So I think that that will be a subject line in the briefing today because it is certainly interesting.

And Secretary Ross will have to try and, you know, thread the needle as well.

KING: And Republicans often try to be careful when the president tweets.

ZELENY: Right.

KING: But this Rubio tweet is amazing. It's not Johnson (ph) trade. It's national security and espionage. We're crazy to allow them to operate in the United States without tighter restrictions.

Not exactly like, you know, Mr. President, be a little more careful here.

KIM: And it's so interesting, too, when we talk about the trade issue, I was talking with more than one Republican senator last week asking them, what are your voters telling you about how concerned they are about the president's policies on trade? And some interesting feedback. They're saying, even if they don't agree necessarily with the policy, they trust the president to know that he's going to do the right thing at the end of the day. This is all negotiation tactics and strategy. They have that faith in the president. So when actions like this happen yesterday, it just creates much more confusion as to exactly what that policy is.

KING: And to that point, a big week ahead. China's top economic official coming to the United States for several days in talks with the Trump administration. Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Ross, good luck.

Up next for us here, a rare look at presidential adviser and son-in- law Jared Kushner. As we noted at the top of the show, he's on the world stage today. We'll take a look at his portfolio and his progress, maybe.


[12:28:14] KING: Welcome back.

Today, a rarely heard voice from inside the Trump White House taking center stage at a rare occasion.


JARED KUSHNER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SENIOR ADVISER: I am so proud to be here today in Jerusalem, the eternal heart of the Jewish people.


KING: That, of course, Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser and presidential son-in-law, who often operates in the shadows in the West Wing. While Kushner is rarely seen and even more rarely heard, he, at least initially, had a big league (ph) role in this administration. The president, remember, made him the secretary of everything, you might say. His vast portfolio, he was in charge of the initiative task with solving the opioid crisis, reforming the criminal justice system, brokering peace between Israeli and the Palestinians, among other things. You see the list goes on and on there.

More than a year into the administration though, Kushner's many duties have shrunk amid scrutiny from the special counsel, among other things. So what does he do when give a microphone and a world stage? He thanks the boss.


JARED KUSHNER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SENIOR ADVISER: And I am especially honored to be here today as a representative of the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

When President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.

Last week, President Trump acknowledged another truth and kept another promise. He announced his intention to exit the dangerous, flawed and one-sided Iran deal.


KING: Am I right in that we have not publicly heard from Jared Kushner since that day in the White House driveway after he went up to Capitol Hill to give testimony in the Russia meddling investigation?

ZELENY: I believe that is right. I was just watching this speech as it was happening this morning, as was the president, who was watching it from the residence of the White House, which is probably why there were so many shout outs to him. I do believe it's the first time we've heard from him since last summer.

[12:29:54] Now, you know, he is at the White House every day. He's present, you know, in the front row at events, but he rarely speaks. But it just -- his portfolio, as we were talking earlier, has just shrunken so much since the beginning. He used to hold briefings with reports. He used to be very visible. He just simply isn't any more and largely because of the Russia investigation and other things.