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Rep. Tlaib Says She Will Not Visit West Bank after Israel Grants Permission with Political Restrictions; Rep. Brad Schneider (D- IL) Discusses Spat Between Tlaib, Omar & Israel, Trump's Involvement, the BDS Movement; NYPD Video of Suspect Who Left Suspicious Rice Cookers; Trump Floats Idea of Buying Greenland; New Poll: Warren Surges, 4 Democrats Now Top Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you all for being with me today. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim will be in the chair Monday. I'm taking a little vacation.

Next, Kate Bolduan, "AT THIS HOUR," ahead.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

A partial reversal from Israel and now a rejection. Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is now saying that she will not visit the West Bank under the conditions set by Israel. The Israeli government had reversed themselves just this morning to say that they would agree to let the Michigan Democrat visit her grandmother in the West Bank.

Tlaib now says that she is not going anywhere. Putting on a statement on Twitter saying this: "I've decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stand against everything I believe in, fighting against racism, oppression and injustice."

All of this comes one day after Israel banned both Congresswoman Tlaib and her colleague, Ilhan Omar, from entering the country at all.

They're the first and only Muslim women in Congress and they are vocal critics of Israel and have supported the boycott movement against Israel, known as BDS.

Don't forget, this isn't just a spat between members of Congress and a U.S. ally. This also comes after President Trump got involved publicly and privately, we're told, pushing the Israeli government not to let them in.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us from Jerusalem. He's been following all the twists and turns, a lot happening this morning.

Oren, what are you hearing there now?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as of right now, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who has granted access for a humanitarian visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories to see her family, including her 90-year-old grandmother, she said it might be the last time she's able to see her, she has rejected the visit.

The day started with Israel denying access from yesterday to these two Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, as you point out, two of the most vocal critics of Israel in Congress. Israel denying them access because they are supporters of a boycott against Israel.

And second, because President Donald Trump essentially forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hand, in a tweet, saying Israel would show great weakness if they let them in. And that's what Netanyahu followed through on, denying them access.

But Israel left a window open there, saying, if they want to come on a humanitarian visit, that is, if Tlaib wants to come, she would be allowed to do so. That permission was granted this morning or early into the afternoon.

And it looked like she would accept, that she would have made a visit over the weekend and early next week. Until a few hours ago. She said she would not come under the restrictions set by the Israelis, under a solely humanitarian visit where she had promised not to take any actions that would be seen or as a boycott against Israel.

And that, by the way, is an action supported by her family here. We spoke to them a short time ago and her uncle says she didn't accept these conditions either for her visit.


GHASSIN TLAIB (ph), UNCLE OF REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (through translation): We are against the conditional of the visit of Rashida to Palestine. Rashida has a right to visit Palestine was a Palestinian regardless of being a congresswoman, as any citizen with a U.S. passport has a right to come to visit their family without any conditions or pressure.


LIEBERMANN: We already knew that there was domestic politics involved here. Congresswoman Tlaib and Omar are two of the favorite targets of President Donald Trump. But now there's Israeli politics involved as well.

After Tlaib said she would not come under the conditions set by the Israelis, the Israeli interior minister who has the final say here, took a swipe at her and said it seems that her hatred of Israel overcomes her love of her grandmother -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: This is getting nasty. I guess than shouldn't surprise anybody.

Oren, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

I wonder where this goes from here. Let's find out. Joining me right now Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider, of Illinois. He helped lead the recent move in the House of Representatives to condemn the BDS movement that Tlaib and Omar support that is wrapped up in all of this. Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. BRAD SCHNEIDER (D-IL): Kate, thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: You called the prime minister's decision or the government's decision to block both of these members of Congress short-sighted and wrong. That was like a hot second ago and now we have these twists and turns. Now you're looking at something of a reversal but with restrictions on Tlaib and she's now refusing to go under those circumstances as Oren laid out. What is your reaction this morning?

SCHNEIDER: I think that the decision that Congresswoman Tlaib is making is a personal decision. So that'll be left to her and her family.

I did say yesterday that the decision, the prime minister's decision to deny entry to both Congresswoman Tlaib and Omar was wrong and shortsighted because they're missing the broader point. As members of Congress, when we have the opportunity to go to Israel or any country, is an opportunity to see and learn.

I've been to Israel more times than I can count. I've never returned from any of those trips without having more questions coming home than I started with going there.

[11:05:02] And so I think this was a missed opportunity, a wrong decision. And it's a challenge to the strong bipartisan support for Israel we've seen in Congress. Just last month, I led the effort, as you mentioned -- we had 398 members of Congress vote to support the U.S.-Israel relationship and commit to security and condemn the BDS movement.

BOLDUAN: You don't agree with Tlaib and Omar on the issue of Israel basically at all. But would you recommend that she go through with the visit after Israel is telling her that essentially she can't speak out while there? Would you agree to the conditions like this if circumstances were different?

SCHNEIDER: Again, I think that's a personal decision. I know, for me, personally, I would want to see my grandmother. But that's for her to make her own decision with her family, like I said.

I wish that the Israeli government --


BOLDUAN: But they're looking to end her -- a democratic government, a democratic country in the Middle East. Israel is a democracy. And they're looking to go there. And you think that -- do you think it's OK that the Israeli government put restrictions on their speech of a U.S. member of Congress?

SCHNEIDER: No, and I said this yesterday, I think that they should be allowed to enter Israel and tour Israel. Again, I just came back last week from Israel.


SCHNEIDER: We visited not just Jerusalem but we went to Ramallah. We spoke with President Abbas. We spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We also spoke with the leader of the opposition. We went to the Gaza border. We visited Lebanon borders and Syria border. We spoke with Palestinians and Israelis. We saw Israel in many of its facets. And I think it's important to go to any situation and see as much of the picture as possible.

But I also think it's important, and this is just my style, is to try to build bridges. Long before I got to Congress, the effort to try to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to work toward ultimately the possibility of a two-state solution.

The reason BDS, I believe, is anti-Semitic is because it denies the Jewish aspiration for a home of their own, but the Palestinians have their own aspiration. The path is between negotiations between the two parties. And the role the United States should be playing is to help create the forum for those parties to come together.

And the strength that Israel finds in many ways is because of the support they get, bipartisan support in the United States Congress. And this is why I'm so critical of our president, President Trump, trying to use Israel as a wedge issue, trying to break away support among Democrats. I don't think it will be successful.

BOLDUAN: But I want to ask you --

SCHNEIDER: But I think it's an unfortunate situation.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about the president's involvement here. First, I don't know another way of asking this. Who is more wrong here, Israel's position or Rashida Tlaib in now refusing to go?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I don't -- yes, I think that's the wrong frame. I think Congresswoman Tlaib's positions on Israel are wrong. I have said that. I have talked to her about it. I think she has a narrative but I don't think she's looked at the broader perspective.

Like I said, I believe the path to peace is two states for two people. I'm committed to that and work towards it. That's why the resolution last month was so important.

But I've also said that I believe the decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu not to let them in was both wrong and shortsighted. And I hope we can find a path and the Israeli government will change its position.

I think it would be good for all of my colleagues to visit Israel, to see the situation from all sides and understand why Israel is such an important ally for security as we fight Hamas and Hezbollah and allies for economics. And the more you see, the more you learn, the more you know.

BOLDUAN: That is a great point. Let me read you how the "New York Times" put it in terms of President

Trump's role here this morning: "By enlisting a foreign power to take action against two American citizens, let alone elected members of Congress, Mr. Trump crossed a line that other presidents have not, in effect, exporting his partisan battles beyond the country's borders."

What do you think the real impact of the president's role her, the president's words were, both publicly and privately?

SCHNEIDER: I think so much of what the president is doing is crossing lines and having a negative impact, especially on the global stage. I say all the time that the world is a better place and America is more secure when we lean in and lead. I think the president's view is the opposite of that, trying to pull us away.

I grew up at a time where there was a philosophy that our politics ended at the nation's shore, and when we were overseas, we spoke as one nation, one country that has an interest in the world.

The president's interests are different. I think it's unfortunate that he interjected himself into the situation with this visit into the politics in Israel. And I pray and will continue to work that this president is unable to try to create a partisan divide on support for Israel in the United States Congress.

There are not a lot of issues where we can get 398 members to speak out --

BOLDUAN: That's true.

SCHNEIDER: -- in unison in one voice.

BOLDUAN: That's very true.

Congressman Schneider, thank you for coming in.

[11:10:05] SCHNEIDER: Thank you. It's an honor to be here.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

Turning to some breaking news this morning, a tense and unsettling situation unfolding when New York police were called to the scene after reports of suspicious devices were being left on a subway platform. Police determined that they were not dangerous, but they are investigating why two rice cookers were left on a subway platform and if they're connected to an identical item found later.

Let's go to the scene. CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval, is there in downtown Manhattan.

Polo, what are you learning there?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three rice cookers, Kate. Two of them were actually found in the subway complex that you see behind me, still roped up as the investigation is wrapping up. And another one uptown. But police were telling us that all of them were checked out and deemed to be harmless and they were empty.

So now the question becomes, who put them there and why. Investigators do have a lead. Just a short while ago, the NYPD tweeting a photograph of someone they described as a person of interest. This was surveillance video shot at the station that we're at this morning essentially showing a white male in his 20s or 30s, according to investigators that police want to speak to.

They don't know what the motive would have been, if it was simply dropped there accidently or if it was done intentionally to cause this kind of scare.

I should tell you, Kate, that this is certainly led up to some tense moments for really and a lot of headaches for many New Yorkers who were just trying to get to work this morning. This is one of the busiest subway stations in Manhattan.

So the concern is, did this person of interest potentially put these items there to cause this scare. The station had to be evacuated. We know of at least two trains that had to be evacuated as well.

So investigators want not only police to be aware of who the individual is but also the viewers as well. They're very much aware that the whole New York transit system could potentially be a target and today was a reminder.

BOLDUAN: A rice cooker is different than a pressure cooker, but the way they look is very similar to the layman, if you will. And when you think of pressure cooker, you think of the Boston Marathon bombings, and that is why folks were so quickly concerned about it. Fortunately, harmless this morning.

Polo, thank you. Really appreciate it.

Coming up. President Trump has an ambitious idea, buy Greenland, the entire island. He's not the first president to ask that, though. What Greenland has to say about it, that's ahead.

Plus, in public, President Trump is nothing but confident about the strength of the U.S. economy. Behind closed doors, we're learning he may not be so sure.

Stay with us.



[11:17:32] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look at the real estate. I'm always looking at the real estate. I don't know. I'll never get it out of my blood.


BOLDUAN: Reports are President Trump has a new piece of real estate on his mind. This time it isn't a skyscraper or golf course, but rather an entire country. Greenland.

CNN has learned from sources that President Trump has on multiple occasions floated the idea of buying the island from the Danish government. Even so far as getting the White House counsel's office to look into the possibility.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more from Greenland.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Folks in the very beautiful territory of Greenland don't seem that interested in President Trump's alleged idea to buy this place.

The official government of the semi-autonomous region said, quote, "Greenland is not for sale."

They did say that they were willing to conduct cooperation between what they call equal countries.

Now, local residents we spoke to here in this small village said the Americans tried to acquire Greenland in 1867 and in World War II and they failed. And one resident said it will not happen.

There are some reasons why America might want to have Greenland. It certainly does seem to have a lot of natural resources. And the Chinese have been trying to get in on that business. That's not something the U.S. likes seeing with China trying to get a lot of the business here.

Also, the U.S. has a big military base here in Greenland as well. So there are some good reasons why the U.S. might want Greenland.

However, if these natural resources become exploitable in Greenland, certainly, the folks we're would want full autonomy and independence rather than becoming part of the United States.

One of the things that President Trump would probably have to do if he were to acquire Greenland is finally acknowledge that climate change is real because Greenland, with its giant ice sheet, is certainly in the frontline in the battle against climate change.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Greenland.


BOLDUAN: Fred, thank you so much.

So the possibility of Trump's interest in buying Greenland was first reported by the "Wall Street Journal."

Joining me now is one of the "Wall Street Journal" reporters who broke this story, Vivian Salama.

Thank you so much for being here, Vivian.


BOLDUAN: How serious are you told that President Trump really is about this?

SALAMA: So there's always a caveat. I've been covering this administration since President Trump took office and he's the most unpredictable president that I have known in my lifetime. So it's really hard to say what he'll do.

[11:20:03] Most of the sources that we spoke to, my team and I, who worked on this story, said that there were varying degrees of seriousness when it came to it. Sometimes he was really curious about the possibilities of it, as Fred mentioned. And as we determined, he asked White House counsel to look into it. He's asked advisers numerous numerous times about it.

But sometimes he just kind of says, when we buy Greenland everything is going to be great. He'll use these sorts of passing jokey references to it.

But all we know, when I had originally gotten the tip, is we know that it comes up in conversation constantly because it's something that's always on his mind. That's how the original source told it to me, like the president just frequently references this desire of his to buy Greenland.

So no one really thinks it's eminent or going to happen but, then again, he's going to Denmark next month and he might surprise us and bring it up. So who knows?

BOLDUAN: The timing of this is also fascinating.

Look, it sounds out there, yes. You do remind people, though, in your piece that the United States has tried twice before to purchase the island. Do your sources know, was it one thing that sparked President Trump's interest here? Why does he want Greenland?

SALAMA: There are also varying stories as to where this idea came from, who planted it in his head in the first place.

One person told us that he was at a round table and someone told him that Denmark was actually having financial trouble because it provides subsidies to Greenland. Denmark is a big reason why Greenland functions, it's economy functions. Otherwise, it would be a really poor country.

Someone said, you should help them out, you should take it off their hands, and he started to ask around, can I do that.

Greenland has also come up numerous times as far as any kind of military or national security strategy in the Arctic, as far as confronting China and Russia and their ambitions in the region. And so it gets the wheels turning in his head whenever those stories come up. So obviously, it's something that has been considered.

And just as you pointed out, rightly, it has been done. And this is something that was really surprising over the course of your reporting this story.


SALAMA: When we first heard it, we were kind of laughing about it. Then the more we started to research this, we were like, hold on, maybe this isn't so off the wall.

And a big reason that the U.S. wanted to buy it in 1946 right after World War II was that they wanted to pursue this possible Arctic exploration. In exchange, there was a quid pro quo for Denmark. They were going to give Denmark a chunk of Alaska in those days. They were going to give Denmark $100 million and a chunk of Alaska to let them do some oil exploration in Alaska and the U.S., in turn, would take Greenland.

So I don't think any of that is going to happen or anything even similar to that. So we're probably a long way from any of this happening.


SALAMA: Also, there's the minor, minor point that the people in Greenland would probably have a say in the matter and --


BOLDUAN: Right, minor point that Greenland says it's not for sale also.

SALAMA: Greenland is not for sale. And I think the U.S. Congress would also have to have a say in it. And I don't think they're too keen either. So we'll wait and see.

BOLDUAN: I did read that portion of your reporting three times. Like really? Really? This has come up twice before? I was fascinated by it.

Thanks for bringing it to us, Vivian. Really appreciate it.

SALAMA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, there's a measure this morning, a new measure this morning on the state of the 2020 race showing Senator Elizabeth Warren is on the rise, making some big strides. It also shows some big red flags for President Trump. That is next.


[11:28:18] BOLDUAN: On the rise, Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, making big gains in a new FOX News national poll. While Joe Biden still remains in the lead with 31 percent of support among Democratic primary voters, but Warren is now at 20 percent support, a big improvement in three successive polls by FOX since March. Back then, she was at 4 percent.

As one goes up, another must go down, and that very clearly, when it comes to Warren, is Bernie Sanders. Sanders now at 10 percent support nationally.

So what are voters in the key early states saying about this, about Elizabeth Warren? What do they like? Why are they then still so concerned?

Joining me now, CNN political analyst and national correspondent for the "New York Times," Jonathan Martin.

It's great to see you, Jonathan.

You took a deep dive into the conversation about Elizabeth Warren, what voters like, don't like, what they're talking about in the key states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Very different places, very different Democratic voters.

What is the consensus among them of what they like about Warren, first, as we see her steady growth in the polls?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there's definitely consensus about what they like, which is she's got a plan, her catch phrase. They can't always name all the plans but they like she has plans.

And more to the point, they like the fact that she is a sharp, articulate and obviously very intelligent candidate. That's the consensus of what they like about her.

Now, there's oftentimes a concern that's articulated immediately after what they like about her.


MARTIN: And oftentimes that concern resolves around, can she win.

BOLDUAN: That's what I want to get to. Let me read that bit, because I think at least some of it from your piece, because this is quite interesting.


[11:29:50] BOLDUAN: It says -- you write, "These Democrats worry that her uncompromising liberalism would alienate moderates in battleground states who are otherwise willing to oppose the president. Many fear Ms. Warren's past claims of Native American ancestry would allow Mr. Trump to drown out her policy message with his attacks and slurs against her."