Return to Transcripts main page


Israel Is Banning The Entry Of Two American Lawmakers This Weekend; News Conference About The Nearly Eight-Hour Standoff In Philadelphia Where Six Police Officers Were Shot; American Farmers Sounding Off And Complaining About The Heavy Toll The Trade War Is Having On Their Livelihood. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2019 - 14:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. Here are the breaking developments on actually two big stories this afternoon. First of all, any moment now, a news conference will begin about the nearly eight-hour standoff in Philadelphia where six police officers were shot, and as we wait for that to begin, let me get to the other headline today, what critics are calling a diplomatic disaster.

Israel is banning the entry of two American lawmakers from visiting this weekend. And the news of this broke mere minutes after President Trump sent a tweet trying to shame Israel saying that it would quote, "Show great weakness" if it did not keep out the Congresswoman Rashida Tlabi of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no mention of the message in explaining the rejection saying that quote unquote, "The sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it."

Congresswoman Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman to serve in Congress has relatives in the West Bank. She and Congresswoman Omar are the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress. And they are advocates of a movement known as BDS which stands for Boycott Divest Sanction, which calls for those actions against Israel because of its policies toward Palestinians.

So let's go straight to Jerusalem to CNN's Oren Liebermann who is live. Oren, we know that Congresswoman Omar just responded, just sent out a statement. What is she saying?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision and in part, I'll read you a part of her statement. She says, "It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu under pressure from President Trump would deny entry to Representatives of the U.S. government. Trump's Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing this time against to duly elected Members of Congress."

"The irony of the only democracy in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to the democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation."

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar getting at why this is such an unprecedented move here for a number of reasons. First, President Donald Trump's tweets saying Israel would show great weakness if they allowed these two Congresswoman in, what appeared to be a blatant and direct attempt to tell Israel how to conduct its own foreign policy. Trump telling a close ally, what it should do and what decisions it should make.

And then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basically following through on that a short time after that tweet, announcing that it was official, the two would be banned from entering the country.

Here is part of Netanyahu's explanation for his decision. "Only a few days ago, we received their visit plan and from it, it's clear they are planning a journey with the sole target of strengthening the boycott movement and getting legitimacy of Israel. For example, they've defined the destination of their visit as 'Palestine' and not 'Israel.' And unlike all the Democrat and Republican congressmen who have visited until today, they avoided asking any meeting with any Israeli official, whether in the government or in the opposition."

According to organizers we spoke with, the two congresswomen were scheduled to meet with peace activists, civil society groups and human rights organizations. A Democratic Congressional aide familiar with the trip said that at least Congresswoman Omar had intended to meet members of Israel's Congress. She is of course a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House. That of course will not happen now that this trip has been called off or rather banned by the Israeli government.

And now it is Netanyahu who has backed that decision and backed up Trump and has received support from Trump for banning them entry to Israel and the Palestinian territories -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Oren, thank you very much. We want to continue this. Just in to us, a Member of Congress tells CNN that House Democratic leaders knew that Israel was going to deny entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar, so in the past 24 hours, they've been pushing back against Israel.

CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Aaron David Miller helped shape us policy in the Mideast while serving six Secretaries of State in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

So Aaron, first is your reaction on the Trump side of it, right? So, you have a U.S. President telling a foreign country, a good friend of the United States to ban sitting members of Congress from entering.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, add this to the other -- to a very long list of unprecedented actions, unprecedented imperil that I would argue having worked and voted for both Republicans and Democrats, Brooke, inappropriate actions by the President of the United States.

I mean, we've been receded in Israeli politics before, under both Republican direct and Democratic administrations. I can personally attest to that. But the intervention on the part of this administration has been so preternaturally willful and consistent not just to favor and try to reelect the current Prime Minister of Israel.

But in this case, to actually allow his personal sensibilities and agenda and vendettas to influence the decisions of sitting democratically-elected Israeli Prime Minister is really quite remarkable.

[14:05:09] MILLER: And it strains the basis of the bipartisanship that is absolutely necessary for healthy and resilient U.S.-Israeli relationship. The other point is Netanyahu. Frankly, I don't think Trump was doing him any favors.

Most Israeli Prime Ministers pride themselves, they acquiesce, they try to placate the United States, but there's a healthy defiance, and there's a sense of real independence of Israeli Prime Ministers. I can cite chapter and verse say no to U.S. Presidents.

The fact that Trump tweets and then the decision is made by Netanyahu makes him look derivative, literally as if he were an instrument or tool of the administration. And that's not good for Benjamin Netanyahu who has right-wing leanings and consent is not withstanding,

BALDWIN: Well, you mentioned a second ago, you know Trump's leaning into the election in Israel. You know, just if you would remind people how Netanyahu embraced Trump, right, prior to that election and just remind people the relationship between these two men?

MILLER: Well, it's fascinating because I don't think the President has taken a personal interest in any other foreign policy issue, as he has taken in Israel. The first President to visit Israel this early in his term. First President -- sitting President to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

First president to declare Jerusalem the Capital State of Israel. Open an embassy there. Declare Golan Heights sovereign territory, and the first President to wage a campaign of political and economic pressure against Palestinians.

So a combination I think of domestic politics, as well as Trump's own persona. And I'll be clear that his own vanity creates a real incentive for him to bond in a way that is virtually unprecedented and I think unhelpful, with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Netanyahu knowing that Donald Trump is probably more popular in Israel than he is right now sees some political advantage to responding.

There may not be any, given the uncertainties of what's coming in the new elections on September 17th.

BALDWIN: What do you think this could do to U.S.-Israel relations overall? You know, in terms of what kind of precedent could this set and what does this say about democracy? Right? It is like an autocrat deciding his critics can't enter his country.

MILLER: Yes, I mean, look, my own view, and I've had differences with Mr. Netanyahu for a very long time on many, many different issues. But look, the State of Israel is big enough, bold enough, brave enough, and better than this in the sense that it can accommodate criticism.

I mean, there are many Israelis I know who sound more hostile towards Israel and Palestinians. And the debate in Israel is a vibrant one, internal critics, and when you have Donald Trump, whether it's a year and a half more or four years, with respect to the timeline of Israeli history, basically is a speed bump.

Congress is an enduring reality, and any Israeli Prime Minister should respect certain red lines, and be quite respectful. As far as what it will change, I think that paradoxically, the squad as they are called, may well have contracted the space for legitimate criticism in Israel by conflating certain tropes and inappropriate some would say anti- Semitic language in one of their cases, with legitimate criticism of Israel.

When I see large numbers of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, having a truly honest and fair debate about Israeli policies, U.S. relations with Israel, then I'll believe that something has changed in Washington, but I'm not persuaded that these three are capable of making that change.

I just think it's unfortunate, frankly, that they were denied entry because what's in the end going to happen, had this trip occurred, it would have come and gone. Now, you basically have created --

BALDWIN: It's become a huge thing.

MILLER: It is just going to continue to keep going.

BALDWIN: Huge, huge, huge. Aaron David Miller, thank you so much.

MILLER: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Your expertise is invaluable all the years, all the work you've done. Just ahead, the 2020 race is narrowing. Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper just announced he is ending his campaign, but he is hinting at another way to challenge President Trump.

But first let's go to Philadelphia to be updated on that eight-hour standoff with police.

JIM KENNEY (D), MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: ... and Police Commissioner Richard Ross and the brave officers of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Their careful and professional response which spanned seven hours ensured the safety of their fellow officers and the residents of North Philadelphia. In the face of what could have been a horrific tragedy, the peaceful resolution of the incident marks one of the finest moments in the history of the Philadelphia Police Department, and again, I am very proud of each and every officer involved.

And again, I'm very proud of each and every officer involved and proud of all our officers, and our force. [14:10:17] KENNEY: The fact that our officers found themselves under

such an attack, while trying to carry out a basic function that their job is reprehensible.

Seeing an entire neighborhood put in harm's way was nothing short of devastating. We can and must do more to protect our officers and all of our citizens.

Of course, this incident is a reminder -- a harsh reminder -- of the devastating reality Americans face every day. Whether it's the mass shootings like we saw last week in El Paso and Dayton, guns have flooded American cities, leading to senseless and preventable violence.

In fact, these dozens of officers who were responding to the North Philadelphia incident last night, others in South Philadelphia were responding to another shooting, a young man shot in the head and later pronounced dead.

That incident didn't draw national attention. It happens daily in this city and many others across the nation. But a life was lost last night to gun violence. Here in Philadelphia, and like so many other shootings, it goes unnoticed, it comes every day.

As I said last night, our officers need help. They need help keeping these weapons out of the hands of the bad guys. No one should have access to the kind of weaponry and firepower that we saw in North Philadelphia yesterday.

Several weeks ago, I attended a meeting of faith-based leaders in Philadelphia, who are concerned about gun violence. Like the police, they're also in the front lines of this crisis. They're working every day to bring hope and faith to their communities. And they look to us here in government for answers.

I sat during that meeting and heard their pleas for help and saw the despair in their eyes. Ministers, pastors, rabbi, imams -- they came looking to us for help. I told them simply, "We are trying."

In January, we launched a series of anti-violence initiatives that we believe can make a difference and is making a difference. But I also told these men and women of faith the simple truth, we here in city government can only do so much.

Getting relief in the form of meaningful gun control legislation will save lives, the lives of residents and the lives of men and women who have sworn to protect us. Incidents like this should not keep happening, not in our city and not in our country. If we don't see change, gun violence will continue to ravage our communities and tear families apart.

So I say to our state and Federal lawmakers, step up or step aside. Help our police officers, help our clergy and help our kids. And if you choose not to help us, then get out of the way and allow cities like Philadelphia that struggle with gun violence to enact their own solutions. Before I introduce Police Commissioner Ross, I just want to --

yesterday, when the incident started, we had the opportunity to sit in the Police Detail Room and listen to the transmissions of the police back and forth to each other.

First of all, bravery is the number one emotion that I felt for them. They were brave, they were running towards heavy gunfire. Training and ability was unmatched. They were coordinated, they were talking to each other, they were directing each other. They were keeping each other safe, while being barraged with ammunition and shots from a high-powered rifle.

They stood out there and they were patient, and were there for seven hours under gunfire. And one of the things, one of the vignettes that I saw on television last night while -- after it was almost all over, where the officers removing or helping remove the children from the daycare.

To see our officers carrying little babies, holding kids' hands, and walking them to safety, showed me what those men and women are really about. They're about protecting us.

Now, we don't always do things perfectly and there's trouble and we stumble sometimes. But watching those officers carry those children and walk those children to safety gave me faith in this department and in this city and who we are as a city and the people who live here, about what we are really all about.

We have our violence problems. We have our crime problems. We have our poverty problems, but when it comes to reaching out and helping each other, we're there and that's what we need to do now.


KENNEY: So I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce the best Police Commissioner in America.


RICHARD ROSS, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, Mayor, and I appreciate all those accolades, but they are accolades that should go to the men and women of this Police Department who did an absolutely stellar job last evening in protecting that neighborhood. I can't say enough about how they conducted themselves. It truly made me proud to be on the ground with them to see how they represent this city each and every day.

[14:15:15] ROSS: And as the mayor said, we don't always get it right, nobody does. But when he described the scene like he did about the help that they gave in not only moving those young kids to safety, but assuaging the concerns of parents who were arriving at the scene, who were telling them, "Calm down, your child is okay." Words that a parent needs to hear more than anything else during a crisis like that.

And so there are many heroes from last night. Probably too many to mention by name, certainly, you know of the six officers who were struck by gunfire; many more, who did things that transcended just about anything I could ever imagine from SWAT and how meticulous they were, and just the entire operation as well as how they extracted those people from that scene.

And I've got to tell you, it was a truly harrowing experience for all of those hours, to know that you have not only two of your officers trapped upstairs from a gunman who was fired multiple rounds from an assault rifle, but you also had citizens that were up there, too. And not knowing whether or not this gunman was going to decide to go out in what some may call as a blaze of his own glory, and decide to basically charge those steps and try to take those people out upstairs.

And so for a long time last night, I know our collective hearts were on our throats, not just at that scene, but probably for many people, not knowing how that was going to end, and I have to be honest with you, in the beginning of that scene being there, I did not think it would in nearly the way it did.

I mean, there was dialogue that was being presented to us at the scene that suggested this man was not going to go back to prison, and he had made that clear, and we knew he had the weaponry. He was firing while I was at the scene, and certainly long before I got there, he continued to do so.

And so the SWAT operation, to Detective Timmy Brooks who fed me every line he wanted me to give in negotiations, to many officers who arrived on the scene, and as my officers have told me, two of the heroes that most have not thought about, believe it or not, were the two officers upstairs.

They were officers who knew they were trapped, who naturally wanted to go in immediately and get them. This is before SWAT got in. And as I understand it, these officers were astute enough and wise enough and brave enough to say, "Do not come in here. Do not come in here. If you come in here, you will be met with severe gunfire."

Now think about what it takes to do that? To know that you're trapped in the building yourself. Your natural inclination is to say, "Help. Come get me." But they did the opposite. And that speaks volumes of what we see each and every day.

So we were dealt a hand that nobody should be dealt, thankful that no one died from it. All our officers were discharged from the hospital, but dealing with a violent felon who told me himself during negotiations that he had an extensive arrest record and that he did not want to deal with prison again, and he wanted to do and get some deals which you know, obviously didn't happen.

But I just want to thank, you know, all of those officers and tell them that if you feel like you don't -- and you are not appreciated, trust me, you are. And I know, I speak for everyone up here, and probably most in the room. You know, you may not always feel like you get respect and the due that you deserve, but you -- there are many people who respect what you do, appreciate what you do, because most people couldn't do what you do.

And so, I thank them for all that they've done. I know you'll have questions later. But there's others that have to speak. You have a general idea of the circumstances. We can update you in questions a little later. But right now just want to introduce the Governor for his comments.


GOV. TOM WOLF (D-PA): Thank you. Thank you, Commissioner. I just -- a few things. First of all, Senator Casey and I -- Senator Casey will speak next, visited District 39 and the police officers this morning and told them what the Mayor and the Commissioner have already said that they deserve our greatest respect, and thanks for what they did.

They walked toward the line of fire, not away from it and they did a phenomenal job in protecting the folks in Philadelphia. And it was miraculous that in the end, only six people were injured and all of them are out of the hospital from gunfire.

[14:20:10] WOLF: So it was an amazing thing, and I think we all owe a lot to the police force. I also --

BALDWIN: All right, so we wanted to just update you -- you heard from the Mayor, you heard from the Police Commissioner there in Philadelphia and now that the Governor of Pennsylvania. I mean, it is truly extraordinary and the fact that it ended peacefully that this seven to eight-hour standoff that had just everyone in knots yesterday in Philadelphia, James Gagliano is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, forgive me and CNN law enforcement analyst.

But I mean, James, to hear them say they didn't actually think it would end peacefully in a way in which the whole thing came to a conclusion. Can you even believe that?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, and Brooke, let's just give this some context and some color. In the last 18 days -- last 18 days, we've had three mass shootings, with subjects armed with rifles that police interdicted or arrested. We've had nine police officers in the City of New York take their own lives by suicide, and last night, an unbelievable saga unfold in front of our eyes, an eight--hour police standoff.

And I always argue when people say, "Well, it's just a routine warrant service," that there are no such things as routine warrant service. This was an incident where they went to arrest somebody on drug charges, and the individual decided he was going to shoot it out.

The fact that six police officers were wounded, nobody killed and no civilians were injured in this, it's just a remarkable amount of police work. My hat is off to the Philadelphia Police Department. They did an outstanding job -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: James Gagliano. Thank you, and again, just reiterating the Mayor's point, you know, wanting meaningful gun control legislation. We're talking to a city Councilwoman next hour and she feels the same way so we'll stay on that.

Also, the fears of recession grow. CNN talks to the people hardest hit by the trade war -- American farmers who say that the President's tweets don't pay their bills.

And new revelations about Jeffrey Epstein's cause of death inside that Manhattan jail cell. Reports of multiple broken bones in his neck. How medical experts are interpreting the autopsy report. Stay here. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:27:10] BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Wall Street whiplash jolting the stock market today amid rising economic concerns, stocks rebounding slightly after Wednesday's treacherous 800-point slide and recession warning alert.

Plus, China today hitting back hard in Trump's trade war vowing to retaliate against the U.S. despite Trump's tariff delay. Amid all of this, American farmers, they're sounding off they're complaining about the heavy toll this trade war is having on their livelihood.

The President addressing their concerns tweeting out, "Our great farmers know how important it is to win on trade. They will be the big winners."

So let me bring in Vanessa Yurkevich, she is in Minnesota. She has been talking to a number of our great farmers, and Vanessa, I know they're struggling. Some of them are really struggling. What are they saying to you?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. They are hurting both physically, emotionally and financially. We are here today on Gary Wordishes (ph) farm and he tells me that this issue -- the trade issue -- he initially wanted the President to tackle this. But now he is feeling like these tariffs are just the wrong way to go about it.

He is also warning that the President could lose some of the support from his base here in Minnesota if this trade war continues on. We also spoke to a farmer, Cindy, who says that this trade war could change the face of American farming forever.


CINDY VADERPOL, MINNESOTA FARMER: It's very scary. I mean, we -- I sometimes stay up at night, worrying about what the future does hold. You know what -- what do you tell your children that want to farm? Do you tell them, go find something else to do?

One of our sons already has. He's already -- sorry -- he always had a passion to farm, and because you don't know what the future is going to bring, you almost want to encourage them to go do something else.


YURKEVICH: You hear that emotion from Cindy and you hear that fear in her voice about the future. This is something we've heard from many farmers here in this area who are struggling, and Brooke, as far as in their minds. This market with China is gone. They don't really see it coming back. And that puts them in a really vulnerable state.

In the last couple of years, farm bankruptcies across the United States have been on the rise. And people here in Minnesota and all around the country, these farmers are going to be having to make some really serious decisions about their future -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I'm so glad you're there and talking to them. Vanessa, thank you so much, in Minnesota. We bring in financial expert Alexis Glick, a former Wall Street executive and I know your heart just goes out to, you know, farmers and what they're going through and how -- you know, just to think of having to do something else when you don't want to have to pivot and do that. I want to come back to them in just a second.