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Trump Assaults Science as Hurricanes and Fires Rage; Bahrain, UAE to Sign Normalization Pacts with Israel Tuesday; Kremlin Critic Shares Post- Attack Photo from Hospital. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 10:00   ET




SAM KILEY(?), CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A significant diplomatic breakthrough negotiated by the Trump administration.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight an historic signing, Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates set to get together on the

White House lawn.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think science knows, actually.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Well, science does know. The president dismisses the scientific facts of the climate crisis as wildfires burn through the

West Coast of America and another hurricane heads to the Gulf Coast.


ANDERSON (voice-over): And poison critic Alexei Navalny is awake and you may be surprised where he is planning to go next.


ANDERSON: It's 10:00 am in Washington. 5:00 pm In Israel and in Bahrain and 6:00 pm Here in the United Arab Emirates. I'm Becky Anderson. We are

connecting them all tonight.

Just two hours from now we'll watch the historic ceremony unfold on the South Lawn of the White House. Officials from Israel, Bahrain and the

United Arab Emirates will get together to do what's known as normalizing their relationship.

That's diplomatic talk but what it means is embassies, ambassadors, flights, trade deals, recognition itself, diplomacy with all the trimmings.

It's a huge change from what has officially been a state of nonrecognition.

The fact that this is all happening at the White House, not incidental, of course. The U.S.'s traditionally brokered the kinds of Middle East peace

arrangements. And it's quite the coup or at least he'd like to present it like that for the American president, Donald Trump.

Remember, there's just 49 days until the election and we are expecting a large crowd to witness the event on the South Lawn. It's unclear how the

social distancing will play out, although the White House said it's taking all necessary precautions. We are after all in a pandemic.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.

Jeremy, the last time we saw such a signing was with Bill Clinton in 1994, with Israel and Jordan.

What's expected today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the optics will be very, very similar and I think intentionally so by the White House, Becky.

You will see the president on the South Lawn of the White House. There will be a large table much as there was when President Bill Clinton gathered the

king of Jordan and the prime minister of Israel at the time on the South Lawn of the White House.

Very similar, a wood paneled table for these leaders to sit there. A couple of key differences, though. First of all, Bahrain and the UAE are not

sending their heads of state. They're sending their foreign ministers to participate in this signing, though Israeli prime minister Benjamin

Netanyahu will be at the table, alongside President Trump.

It's not clear yet exactly what documents they're going to be signing, though we expect a series of documents, peace between this normalization

agreement between Israel and Bahrain, Israel and the UAE and then perhaps a third, broader document on peace in the Middle East.

And a kind of broader construct of how these countries are going to approach those issues. But there's no doubt this president is looking for

those optics of those landmark peace agreements like one with Bill Clinton and Jordan and Israel and also like the one that Jimmy Carter brokered

between Israel and Egypt, back in 1979, I believe it was.

So there's no question they're looking for those optics but, Becky, as you know, there are key differences here. First of all being that United Arab

Emirates and Bahrain have never been in an open state of war, have never engaged in conflict with Israel directly in the same way that Egypt and

Jordan did.

But nonetheless, becoming the third and fourth Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel in that country's entire history.

ANDERSON: And you're absolutely right to point that out. I mean, you know, this is sort of loosely termed "a peace deal." This is a diplomatic deal to

all intents and purposes. Not to diminish the fact because it is important and it is important in that this deal does have bipartisan support, Jeremy,

in the United States.

DIAMOND: That's right.


DIAMOND: We are -- the White House has invited, in fact, some Democratic lawmakers and we expect some of them to attend. It's not clear who exactly.

But there's no question, this is being hailed by both parties, including the former Vice President, Joe Biden, as a positive step forward here in

terms of peace in the region.

Jared Kushner, the White House senior adviser who was largely responsible for brokering these agreements, he described them this morning as the

beginning of the end of the -- sorry, the beginning of peace in the Middle East.

Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, although, of course, we know that this agreement does not at all do anything to move forward peace

between Israel and the Palestinians, at least not in substance.

Of course there's the agreement by Israel to suspend any of its annexation plans in terms of the West Bank. But in terms of any other concrete steps,

the administration and the Arab countries participating in this deal are essentially saying, the ball is in the Palestinians' court at this time.

ANDERSON: Yes. They're getting ready for the event, the pomp and ceremony being set up as we speak.

Have a look at this view. Pew Research has released polling on how much confidence people have for different leaders regarding world affairs.

Now let's be very clear, the Trump administration -- Donald Trump himself absolutely wants to see what is going on at the White House through the

prism of a foreign policy win. We have explained it's bigger than that.

But have a look at this. Donald Trump more in the red than Putin or Xi Jinping.

Jeremy, how do Trump's achievements play not only to his base but on the world stage, do you think?

DIAMOND: I don't know the extent to which this actually helps the president improve his standing on the world stage. I mean, perhaps,

certainly in Israel, this will continue to boost his very high approval ratings there. Perhaps in some of these Gulf countries as well.

But I think that that poll probably reflects something else about the president, which is, frankly, his unpredictable nature on the world stage

and, of course, his long and incontrovertible track record of false statements and dishonesty, frankly, as it relates to the statements he made

in public.

This poll seems to relate to this issue of public trust in these world leaders. And it is very difficult, of course, to have that trust in

somebody when you know that they lie on a pretty frequent basis, as this president, of course, we know so frequently does.

ANDERSON: Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. Thank you, sir. We'll speak to you as the next couple of hours move on and the signing ceremony

less than two hours now.

Encouraged but not mandatory. That's the White House mask policy for today's event. The U.S. government says it is taking all necessary

precautions to keep the coronavirus in check there.

Israeli officials worry a gathering with only a smattering of masked attendees will send absolutely the wrong message back home. The country

currently preparing to go under its second coronavirus lockdown after a spike in cases.

Oren Liebermann has been covering this historic story, even on the first direct commercial flight from Israel to the UAE with Jared Kushner, just

over two weeks ago. Oren joining us now from Jerusalem.

And the optics on this are important for Netanyahu.

He has got to get them right, hasn't he?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He does. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making a big deal out of this and it certainly is an historic

day and for the normalization of the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain.

But it doesn't change what's happening here domestically. The coronavirus numbers are out of control, nearly 5,000 cases yesterday. That's a new

record. Wide scale protests against Netanyahu and the economy is at 20 percent unemployment and there are serious problems here as that general

lockdown attests to, which is just a few days away right after Netanyahu returns from Washington.

So the optics here will certainly distract from that. And again, it is a major accomplishment for Netanyahu. But it seems, at this point, especially

with the mask controversy over the ceremony at the White House, this will be him battling the domestic headlines versus him celebrating the foreign

policy headlines in Washington -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Oren, Bahrain, the first -- let's call it domino to fall after the announcement that the UAE was going to normalize relations with Israel,

Donald Trump spoke on "Fox & Friends" this morning in a lead-up to this ceremony at midday in Washington. Have a listen to some of what he said.


TRUMP: Everyone said that this couldn't happen and we made a deal with the UAE led by a man, Mohammed, who is a great leader, a great warrior.


TRUMP: And we made a deal with the UAE and then Bahrain came in. And we have many others going to be coming in over a short period of time.


ANDERSON: So who are we expecting to follow suit and how soon?

LIEBERMANN: The most likely candidate, it appears at this point, would be Oman. They put out a statement that was very positive about the Israeli-

Bahrain agreement and it seems to suggest they might be next.

Let's not forget Oman hosted Benjamin Netanyahu last year.

Are there other candidates?

Of course. Morocco might be on the list, although that's more difficult to see, because they have had strained relations with Israel and Netanyahu in

the past. But they're looking for something from the White House, recognition of their occupation, their sovereignty in Western Sahara.

So there's a carrot the White House can dangle there.

Who else is on the list?

Sudan, they're looking for something from the White House as well, to be removed from the state sponsor of terror list.

And the big prize, a monumental shift in the region, would be Saudi Arabia. That seems unlikely at this point, although I think you can look at the

region and say, it's moving in that direction.

Oman would be the likeliest next candidate. Who knows if that's weeks away, days or months away at this point. Sooner than years, I would imagine.

ANDERSON: Donald Trump also spoke about the controversial sale of the F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. This is something that the UAE has said that they

hope will be facilitated by the U.S. now that this normalization of relations with Israel is coming about. Have a listen.


TRUMP: Well, they're very wealthy countries for the most part, some extraordinarily, like the UAE and they'd like to buy some fighter jets. And

I personally would have no problem with it.


ANDERSON: Just that, that's a big deal, of course because of the three letters, QME. Help us understand.

LIEBERMANN: So the U.S. by law is required to maintain Israel's QME, its qualitative military edge. Israel is supposed to have the military hardware

and the ability to defend itself and act for its own defense.

And the U.S.' obligation is to make sure that Israel retains an edge over other states in the region. If the UAE gets the F-35, the latest fighter

jet in the American inventory, then does Israel lose its QME?

If two nations here have the same military hardware, the same advanced military hardware, does it degrade in any way's Israel's qualitative

military edge?

A big question from the very beginning, did prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu essentially sign off on the sale of F-35s to the UAE?

He has stringently denied doing so and other ministers said they'd work to make sure that Congress does not allow the sale go through.

But let's be clear, if Netanyahu wanted to stop this he could go to Congress and meet with congressional leaders and say, don't approve the

sale of F-35s to the UAE.

He won't do that by all of our expectations. And there's a tacit understanding here that he acknowledges and he's sort of come to accept

that the UAE is probably going to get F-35s from the Trump administration. The fact that Trump was so sort of boastful and casual about selling F-35s

to the UAE, that's a different question.

ANDERSON: Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem, thank you, sir. A busy day for all of us.

While the official signing is happening today, the United Arab Emirates and Israel have already raced ahead with new deals from the coronavirus

technology. I spoke to one of the key UAE power brokers for this agreement. And I asked the minister of state for foreign affairs for his response to

those critics, who view this deal in what is a U.S. presidential election year, through the prism of Donald Trump and what he's flogging as a foreign

policy win. Have a listen to what he told me.


ANWAR GARGASH, UAE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I think the most important thing why this peace agreement was juxtaposed very close in this

period to the American election was really the opportunity to suspend annexation. I mean --


ANDERSON: Which has been applauded by the Democrats as much as by the Republicans.

GARGASH: Exactly.

If one is asking the question why now?

I think the key really is in the issue of annexation. I mean, everybody was appalled by the decision of the Israeli government and part of the Arab --

the electoral pledge really to annex Palestinian lands.


GARGASH: And that was, you know, sort of hanging over a two-state solution. And we could have signed this next year, we could have signed the

year after. But I think that's really the critical part if you're asking the question why now.

ANDERSON: Why is it that the Palestinians say that it seems clear to them they can no longer count on certain Arab states for support?

GARGASH: I mean, not all our sovereign decisions here have to be completely about the Palestinian issue.

We think that we can have the right balance of having a normal relation with Israel but, at the same time, being, you know, steadfast with regard

to our goal towards the two-state solution and independent Palestinian state and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

So I would say it is really about a fresh approach. Clearly, the old approach of the empty chair, the old approach of no communications, no

bridges, in our assessment, has not worked.

ANDERSON: So in reality that means what?

What can you offer to the Palestinians in support of a new dialogue or a dialogue, at least, with the Israelis and the possible retabling of the

two-state solution?

GARGASH: It's a very good question. I would say, number one, we already have a tangible outcome, which is the pledge on suspension of annexation.

Again, is this going to be in perpetuity?

I doubt it. But at least we have quite a comfortable window.

ANDERSON: You're talking about five years?

GARGASH: I don't know. I really don't know. And I think our ability to influence the Israelis will be more pronounced. I don't see it immediately

to deal with tomorrow. But as you build, I would say, a political and economic investment profile, you know, your weight become more important in

a bilateral relationship. That's the nature of things.

ANDERSON: Turkey has accused the UAE -- and I quote here -- of "betraying the Palestinian cause" for its own interests. The Turkish foreign minister

saying -- and I quote him here -- "It is a country that puts pressure on some Arab countries regarding Palestine."

Your response?

GARGASH: Well, again, Turkey's position is really not about Palestine. Turkey's position is about a polarized region, where Turkey has tried to

play an outsized role within the Arab context.

ANDERSON: You have accused them of neo-Ottoman expansionism.

GARGASH: Well, true, and I think this is also part and parcel of Turkey's image with itself.

ANDERSON: Dr. Gargash, there does remain significant bipartisan opposition to selling F-35s to the UAE due to concerns that that would degrade

Israel's technological and tactical military advantage in the region. While this deal -- the normalization deal in and of itself has bipartisan

support, that element does not, as we understand it.

GARGASH: The debate will always be there. I mean, I was reading comments, I think the day before yesterday, by a former Israeli prime minister,

arguing that these F-35s should be sold to the UAE.

And that was ridiculous in any way that the F-35s undermine Israel's security or -- but make actually an American ally perhaps more secure.

ANDERSON: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said, and I quote, "We have a 20-year plus security relationship with the UAE, we have provided them with

technical assistance and with military assistance.

"We will now continue to review that process. We are deeply committed to ensure that the UAE has" -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- "the equipment

they need to secure and defend their own people from the same threat that we face," that of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Is that what this is all about?

GARGASH: We do have our issues with Iran. And many of these issues are substantial issues. But I think we see that these issues need to be

resolved with -- through de-escalation and through diplomacy.

This is not, you know, an agreement about Iran. This is an agreement, firstly, about the UAE, about the UAE's role and position in the world. And

it's secondly about the Arab-Israeli theater.


GARGASH: And what can be done there and what messages to send. This is not about Iran.


ANDERSON: Dr. Anwar Gargash speaking to me earlier. And we will continue to monitor events at the White House ahead of what is this historic signing


Picture this: the world's most famous thorn in Vladimir Putin's side is posting again on social media after being poisoned. We are live in Berlin

for the latest on that story.

Plus --


JOE BIDEN (D-DE), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would

anyone be surprised if we have more America ablaze?

ANDERSON (voice-over): Joe Biden warning Americans what will happen if the country sees four more years of Donald Trump. How the president is once

again dismissing the science of climate change. That is coming up.





ANDERSON: Well, the world is getting a look at a new photo and it is an image that is speaking volumes.

This is the first post-attack picture from Alexei Navalny. German doctors say the Russian opposition leader was poisoned with the nerve agent,

Novichok, last month and the Russian government says it wasn't them.

And a Navalny aide says the anti-corruption campaigner plans to return home once he's recovered. Let's go to Fred Pleitgen in Berlin.

A wait and now wanting to return to Russia.

What more do we know about Alexei Navalny's condition at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Becky. I think this photo is quite remarkable. It shows Alexei Navalny on

the hospital bed at the Charite Hospital, one of the most renowned hospitals here in Germany, together with his wife and what appears to be

his two children. They're obviously wearing masks but that's certainly who appears to be in the photo.

The family obviously overjoyed to see Alexei Navalny awake once again. This comes right after the German hospital has said that his condition is

improving, that he is now able to get up at times and he's also being mobilized as well.

And one of the most important things they announced late last night is he's able to breathe on his own without any sort of help or any sort of

ventilator. That's also what this post is about as well. I want to read you what Alexei Navalny said.

This is a quote, "Hi, this is Navalny. I miss you. I can still hardly do anything but yesterday I was able to breathe on my own for the whole day.

Just myself. I did not use any outside help, not even the simplest valve in my throat. I liked it very much."

An amazing and underestimated process by a highly recommended and obviously Alexei Navalny is very happy to be able to breathe on his own again.

Obviously, that also feeds into what we're hearing from German doctors.


PLEITGEN: They say his condition is improving but they do say it will be a long road to recovery for Alexei Navalny and they're not sure whether or

not he's able to make a full recovery at all, Becky.

ANDERSON: From the Russian perspective, we have heard from the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who said today he didn't understand why Russia

has not been given the same access that the French and Swedish specialists were given to test Navalny's medical samples.

Do we have any response from Russia as to Navalny's desire to go back at this point?

PLEITGEN: Yes, it's also from Dmitry Peskov, who was on a call earlier today, where he said they also wanted access to the lab results that the

German and the Swedes have gotten and, by the way, the Germans said they're giving samples from Navalny to the OPCW, the Organization for the

Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, who were able to take samples themselves to get their own readouts on what he was poisoned with.

One of the things that Peskov said is, as is custom by the Russian government, he didn't even use Alexei Navalny's name but he did say, of

course, for any Russian citizen, is possible to return home at any point in time, before then going into a very long speech about the Russians wanting

access to some of these results, saying that that's one of the things that they demand if they're going to launch any sort of investigation.

By the way, the Germans really trying to play this careful as well. They have been saying, look, they don't see any reasons why the Russians

wouldn't open an investigation on their own.

To them, they say, there's a Russian citizen, who, in Russia, was poisoned with a chemical warfare agent and they believe the Russians could open an

investigation on their own and at the same time, Berlin continues to say they're demanding the Russians offer some sort of explanation for what

exactly did happen -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Fred.


ANDERSON: Let's get you up to speed on some of the other stories that are on the coronavirus radar. The French cities of Marseille and Bordeaux are

clamping down with stricter social distancing rules as COVID-19 infections surge.

In Bordeaux gatherings will be limited to 10 people or fewer, even outdoors.

The U.K.'s home secretary calls the testing shortage in Britain unacceptable. People are reportedly waiting weeks or traveling hundreds of

kilometers for a test. The U.K. saw an average of about 3,000 new infections per day last week compared with 2,000 the week before.

For the first time in two months, Australia's Victoria State has reported no new coronavirus deaths. Health officials say there were 42 new cases on

Monday and that means that most of Victoria can take the next step toward reopening. But the capital of Melbourne remains locked down until September


You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Still ahead:


WADE CROWFOOT, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES: If we ignore that science and put our head in the sand and think it's all about

vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together protecting Californians.


ANDERSON: Not much can shock us when it comes to the things that Donald Trump says. But his response to that statement that you have just heard

just might.





ANDERSON: Three major crises unfolding across America this hour. Historic wildfires, another hurricane and a deadly pandemic that seems like it will

never end. So let's take a deeper look at these dire situations engulfing the United States and revealing the president's strained relationship with


Donald Trump and his supporters seem to be thumbing their noses at social distancing measures as the country nears 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Take a look at this. This is a picture from Monday night's indoor roundtable in Phoenix. Mr. Trump on stage, the only one maintaining a safe

distance, while a shoulder to shoulder crowd looks on below.

The president told one reporter a couple of days ago he's not concerned about contracting the virus. But listen to the newly released recording

from his interview with veteran journalist Bob Woodward.


TRUMP: This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you're the wrong person, you don't have a chance.

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. Yes, exactly. It's a monster, this is a scourge and --

TRUMP: It is the plague.


ANDERSON: Comparing the coronavirus to the plague sounds pretty serious, right?

As it turns out, Mr. Trump fully aware of how easily this virus can spread.


TRUMP: And Bob, it's so easily transmissible, you wouldn't even believe it.

WOODWARD: I know, its --

TRUMP: I mean you can be in the room. I was in the White House a couple of days ago. A meeting of 10 people in the Oval Office and a guy sneezed

innocently, not horrible, he just had a sneeze. The entire room bailed out, including me, by the way.


ANDERSON: Well, the president there admitting to the dangers of COVID-19 yet he continues to blatantly ignore the science, it seems, in order to

hold his crowded and unmasked rallies.

All right, let's move on to the crises of the natural world, the hurricanes and wildfires. Check out this new video from inside Hurricane Sally, now

slowly making its way towards the Gulf Coast.

This storm could bring torrential rain for days on end and, with it, major flooding. At this very moment, nearly 100 wildfires are burning out of

control on America's West Coast, 36 people have died, dozens more are missing. On Monday, Trump disagreed with officials who said climate change

is behind the devastation. Have a listen.


CROWFOOT: If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's all about vegetable management, we are not going to succeed

together protecting the Californians.

TRUMP: OK. It will start getting cooler.

CROWFOOT: I wish --

TRUMP: You just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.


ANDERSON: "It will just get cooler," Mr. Trump says, dismissing the effects climate change is having on these fires, ravaging huge parts of the

country. And instead he claims, and I quote him here, "exploding trees" could be the cause. Yep, exploding trees. Have a listen.


TRUMP: With regard to the forest, when trees fall down, after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry. They become really

like a matchstick. And they get up -- you know, there's no more water pouring through. And they become very, very -- they just explode. They

could explode.


ANDERSON: California, where President Trump made those comments Monday, is the worst hit by these wildfires. Stephanie Elam is on the ground. She

joins us live from the city of Monrovia.

What is the reality on the ground where you are?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The reality is, for one thing, I have to address what you're just taking about, Becky. You're talking about the

president, who's been saying that there needs to be better forest management and that there needs to be more raking of these forests and

cleaning them out.


ELAM: One of the issues with that, for one thing, in California, is that, according to the governor, 57 percent of the forested lands in the state

are actually under federal jurisdiction. Only 3 percent are under California's jurisdiction; others belonging to private residences and such.

Which means, if that were really the case, it would be the federal government who would need to be out here, fixing that up.

Also when you have a forest like the Angeles National Forest, it's a lot of chaparral. That means a lot of short things. Our forest doesn't necessarily

mean a big pine tree or a big, normal tree that you would think of. It's a lot of shorter brush, which, again, that is a different kind of fuel


And it does burn very hot and that's what this fire is here, out here behind me. This fire that has been out here burning, it was at 6 percent

containment yesterday and now 3 percent. This is the Bobcat fire. We are in a residential area, a suburb of Los Angeles.

They are fighting to keep it from coming down into these neighborhoods where I am now. And this is what's happening throughout the state.

Resources are taxed. Firefighters are tired. There aren't enough firefighters to go around to battle all of the blazes.

And that means they're working on top of working on top of working. They're tired but they can't give up because there are so many blazes in the state

that are threatening homes and threatening key communication devices.

All of this very, very important. That's why they can't stop this battle, even though they're so tired.

ANDERSON: Stephanie Elam is on the ground for you with a reality check.


ANDERSON: The NFL said it has reckoned with the 2016 controversy around Colin Kaepernick, the first to take a knee. But some players are saying,

well, it's all just good PR. We'll talk sport, up next.