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President Joe Biden Arrives In Israel On First Middle East Visit; Twitter Sues Elon Musk To Force Him To Complete Acquisition; Men Indicted For Trying To Sell Stolen Lyrics From "Hotel California." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 13, 2022 - 05:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden arrives in Israel just about three hours from now. It's his first visit to the Middle East since taking office. We expect to hear from the president soon after he lands in Tel Aviv.

Elliot Gotkine is in Jerusalem live for us this morning.

So Israel is, of course, President Biden's first stop here. The White House, ahead of that, also touting more funding for Palestinians.

What is the goal, ultimately, of this trip? There is so much on his agenda, including, of course, his trip to Saudi Arabia next. So what's the overall goal?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Erica, I suppose there are three main things that they're going to be discussing and they hope to make certain advances in all of them.

So, first of all, is Iran. This will be something they'll be discussing at great length. There is still some distance between the Israeli position, which is the U.S. shouldn't rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, and also the U.S.'s. And, of course, we have a pledge from President Biden on the campaign trail that he would rejoin it.

So there's still some distance between them there but it's more much, let's say, diplomatic and -- diplomatic way of dealing with things compared to when there was Prime Minister Netanyahu who you'll recall went to Congress, effectively over the head of then-President Barack Obama, to try to persuade the Americans not to sign up to the Iran nuclear deal. So that's one issue.

The other is, of course, Saudi Arabia. Israel is not going to be normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia anytime soon but we expect some baby steps to come out of this trip. For example, Israeli planes being allowed to fly over Saudi airspace, and Muslims flying from Israel will be able to go directly to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage.

On top of that, you mentioned -- we've been talking about the missile defense systems here in Israel. President Biden, as well, is going to get a demonstration for the Iron Dome, and he'll get a demonstration for the new Iron Beam laser missile defense system -- the idea being it will protect not just Israel from threats such as Iran and its proxies, but also protect its regional allies as well.

And then finally, the Palestinians. President Biden will, of course, be going to see Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Again, don't expect any resuscitation of the (INAUDIBLE) peace process. The Biden administration is not going to grab that nettle (PH), but perhaps we expect more announcements in trying to improve the lot of the Palestinians -- more support for the Palestinians economically from the Biden administration.

And we've already seen the impact of this trip with some confidence measures -- building measures announced last night from Israel. New permits for buildings houses, for example, and more work permits for Palestinians as well -- Erica.

HILL: Elliott Gotkine, appreciate it. Thank you.

Also with us, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, now a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council. Good to have you with us this morning.

I know you've said in looking at this, one of the overarching themes here to this trip is regional integration. What do you think that will ultimately look like?

DAN SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: President Biden has an opportunity to advance a process that's already underway. Countries that for decades refused to recognize Israel are now viewing Israel as a partner. That was represented to the Abraham Accords -- the normalization agreements between the UAE, and Bahrain, and Israel. Other agreements between Morocco, and Sudan, and Israel.

Now a forum called the Negev forum that brings together those countries -- Israel, the United States, Egypt, soon Jordan, and hopefully the Palestinians as well -- not just to cooperate on security as was briefly mentioned, which is made more possible also by the fact that Israel now takes part in CENTCOM, the U.S. military command that takes responsibility for the Middle East. But also to seize opportunities on things like energy -- clean energy, water, agriculture, health -- common concerns in healthcare.

There's an opportunity to build a coalition of U.S.-alliant countries that are tending to their own needs -- security and non-security needs -- with the U.S. as a strong supporting partner, but not always having to be in the lead. Not always have to be the tip of the spear.

That's a huge opportunity for the United States to stabilize its relationships, stabilize the region, and find an environment that makes it possible for a sustainable U.S. presence in the region for a long time.

HILL: There is some important symbolism, too, that we're going to see, right? The president traveling directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia. Elliott was just touching on the potential for direct flights. Just walk us through for people who are not familiar why that's such a big deal.

SHAPIRO: Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries in the Arab world. Of course, the site of the holiest sites in Islam. Not just the Arab world, really -- the Muslim world. And for decades, Saudi Arabia took the traditional Arab rejectionist position against any recognition of Israel -- against doing any business of any kind with Israel. That's clearly changing.

The Saudi leadership, especially the younger Saudi leadership views Israel no longer as an enemy but even as a partner, and perhaps even an opportunity for security cooperation, for technology cooperation.

And so, this will be symbolized not with full normalization on this trip but first, by President Biden's own direct flight from Tel Aviv to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. And then this possibility that Israeli planes -- civilian aircraft -- will be able to overfly Saudi Arabia on their way to the Far East. And that some Israeli citizens -- Muslim Israeli citizens will be able to fly directly to Saudi Arabia for their own religious pilgrimages.

That's the beginning or at least a significant set of steps along the way toward full normalization, and it clearly indicates the trajectory that the Saudi leadership is on.

HILL: Yes, an important step there.

The president taking time to meet with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That really stood out to me. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

What do you expect to come of that?

SHAPIRO: They know each other well. They've worked together for decades going back to the president's days as a senator and the former prime minister's days as a diplomat in Washington. So, it's certainly a familiar meeting but it will be a short, sort of friendly check-in meeting with an opposition leader, which is the sort of standard protocol when a president visits a democratic ally, especially in the time of their elections.

The main business will be conducted with the prime minister, Yair Lapid. He's the acting prime minister. He's also standing in these elections.


And this is an opportunity simply for the president to not only do the important business that he has to do with Israel but also to reinforce the common democratic values that have always been the base for the U.S.-Israel relationship. He'll stay out of the domestic politics, which is the right way for a president to conduct himself.

HILL: There's a lot of focus, for obvious reasons, on Israel today and on the meetings and the dialogue that will happen there, but it's impossible not to look ahead to Saudi Arabia. We've been told that the president will reportedly bring up human rights with Saudi leaders.

What does that mean to you when we hear that human rights will be brought up? How deep into that do you think this discussion will go?

SHAPIRO: He must bring up human rights with Saudi Arabia. That's certainly central to his foreign policy. The deep freeze in Saudi-U.S. relations over the recent years was caused, at least in part, by human rights abuses by the Saudi leadership, by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American-based Saudi journalist.

And it's absolutely essential that the president raise those issues, press the Saudi leadership on releasing human rights activists from prison, on lifting travel bans against other human rights activists. It's important and he will raise it.

It will actually, I think, be easier to raise those issues and make progress on them in the context of a stabilized U.S.-Saudi relationship. The stabilized U.S.-Saudi relationship revolves around the core bargain where the United States will provide assurances that it will help Saudi Arabia defend itself from Iran's proxies in the region.

And the Saudis will provide assurances that they will align themselves with U.S. positions in the world when they are challenged by our global rivals, Russia and China. In the current context of the war in Ukraine, that means significant -- a significant increase in Saudi oil production to help bring down the prices and to toughen the bite of sanctions against Russia, and make more energy available to European markets.

In that context, it's actually easier to make progress on the other issues on the agenda, including human rights.

HILL: We will be watching for that, Dan Shapiro, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Good to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

HILL: Coming up here, Starbucks is closing stores but not because they're having a hard time selling coffee. Plus, the beautiful pictures that triggered an ugly cry from one NASA scientist.



HILL: New day, new drama for Elon Musk. Twitter is now suing the billionaire for breach of contract to force him to complete his purchase of the social media company. Last week, Musk sent a formal letter saying he wanted to terminate the $44 billion deal.

CNN's Clare Sebastian has been tracking all of these developments. I mean, it's the back and forth, the back and forth. So, what's likely to happen now, Clare?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, I think it's pretty likely that this will now head to court. Twitter is very clear in their lengthy court filing announcing this lawsuit that they want to hold Musk to his contractual obligations.

They're saying he signed up to this -- to this $44 billion purchase -- you have to honor it. And they're rejecting, roundly, his argument that the company did not disclose enough information related to spam bots and fake accounts, which is why Elon Musk is saying he's pulling out.

Twitter says that they think he's pulling out because the stock price has dropped so much since his bid was announced. It's now 37% off the offer price. And they say that is not part of the deal so they are willing to fight it out in court.

I think the question is -- look, if Twitter wins, they can then force Elon Musk to buy the company for that original price of around $44 billion. But do you really want an owner who doesn't really want to be there and who resents the price that they're paying and the terms of the deal?

So I think watch out for what happens in between now and a potential September court date, which is what Twitter has asked for. There may well be some negotiation along the way.

HILL: Yes. Maybe this is just a push toward that negotiation, Clare. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Starbucks, we're learning, plans to close 16 stores in locations it has now deemed to be unsafe for its employees. Those stores are in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon. All the stores will be closed by the end of July.

The company says the locations are in communities where racism, the growing mental health crisis, and rising drug use are affecting store operations and employees.

Turning now to weather -- a rough one. Hundreds of flights cancelled, tens of thousands still without power. Even a partial house collapse -- look at that -- in Maryland. This, after a series of storms brought damaging wind and hail across the northeast.

Meteorologist Gene Norman joining us now with the latest and today's outlook. Good morning.

GENE NORMAN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, Erica.

The tail end of that system is making for a noisy morning in parts of Alabama and a soggy start to the day across Georgia and South Carolina. Over 250 reports of wind damage because of those storms. They'll kind of remain stuck in the southeast -- maybe not as strong as yesterday.

The middle of the country -- well, it's a different day but the same story. Heat in Texas. Heat advisories with the heat index feeling like it's close to 112 degrees. Some specific cities for you. Shreveport feeling like 109. That's the combination of the temperature and humidity. Houston, 107.

And triple digits showing up on the map across the western part of the U.S. Billings, 101; Boise, 100. L.A. is the place to be -- 75 degrees. And knocking on 90 degrees in my hometown in the Big Apple.

Well, whatever the weather, make sure you make it a great day.

HILL: All right, Gene, appreciate it. Thank you.

NASA unveiling five really breathtaking new images of the universe. They were taken by the most powerful telescope ever launched into space. These stunning pictures -- take a look at that -- are from the James Webb Telescope. So they include views of the Carina Nebula, Stephan's Quintet, and the Southern Ring Nebula.


One NASA scientist says she had a really emotional reaction to these new cosmic images, which were 30 years and nearly $10 billion in the making.


DR. JANE RIGSBY, NASA OPERATIONS PROJECT SCIENTIST: Personally, I went and had an ugly cry, OK? I just -- and, yes, because it works. What the engineers have done to build this thing -- it is amazing.


HILL: Now scientists say many images are set to come from Webb over the next 20 years -- images that could fundamentally change how we understand the cosmos.

Artifacts from a classic rock masterpiece allegedly stolen. We check into Hotel California next.

And Tiger Woods not holding back. Why he's calling out his fellow golfers.




EAGLES, ROCK BAND: Singing "Hotel California."


HILL: "Hotel California," that classic rock masterpiece now at the center of an alleged conspiracy. Three men are being charged with trying to sell more than $1 million worth of stolen manuscripts handwritten by the Eagles' Don Henley. The pages included lyrics from the band's iconic songs "Hotel California", "Life in the Fast Lane", and "New Kid in Town."

Prosecutors say the three suspects tried to sell the pages between 2012 and 2017 even though they knew Henley wanted them back.

Well, LeBron James backtracking on some critical comments he made about the U.S. efforts to bring Brittney Griner home from Russia. Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. A little clean-up here?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: A little bit of a clean-up, yes. You know, LeBron and a lot of other athletes want to use their voices collectively to keep focus on the case, but we know that geopolitical tensions have made this very difficult. And so, now he is clarifying some of his comments -- his most recent remarks.

Griner is due in court tomorrow after pleading guilty to drug charges. He does face up to 10 years in prison. And the U.S. State Department has maintained that she's being wrongfully detained. That's part of a continued effort to negotiate her release.

Last week, Griner's WNBA coach said that if LeBron was being held in Russia he'd be home by now. The Olympic gold medalist has been held by Russian authorities since February.

And in a trailer released yesterday for the upcoming episode of his series, "The Shop: Uninterrupted," LeBron reacted to the government's handling of Griner's case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brittney Griner -- she is in Russia. She's been there --

LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Over 110 days. Now, how could she feel like America has her back? I would be feeling like do I even want to go back to America?


MANNO: Well, James following up on Twitter last night, saying "My comments on 'The Shop' regarding Brittney Griner wasn't knocking our beautiful country. I was simply saying how she's probably feeling emotionally, along with so many other emotions, thoughts, et cetera inside that cage she has been in for over 100 days. Long story short #BringHerHome."

Elsewhere this morning, Tiger Woods getting some practice holes in before the British Open tees off tomorrow at historic St. Andrews. The 15-time Major champ met with the media in Scotland yesterday, and while doing so offered his thoughts on the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, which has shaken up professional golf. Woods can't understand why some players would leave the PGA Tour for it.


TIGER WOODS, 15-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: I think that what they've done is they've turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position. Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play Major championships -- and that is a possibility -- and never get a chance to experience this right here, or walk out on the fairways at Augusta National. I mean, that, to me -- I just don't -- I just -- to me, I just don't understand it.


MANNO: More than 20 LIV players are in the field this week. Rory McIlroy, who has been a vocal critic of the rival circuit, was asked if he wants golf's most famous trophy to go to a player that is not on the LIV series.


RORY MCILROY, 4-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: Selfishly, for me, yes, I think it would be better for the game. But at the end of the day, everyone that's here has the same opportunity to go out there and try to win a Claret Jug regardless of what tour they play on or whatever that is.


MANNO: The 150th Open begins early tomorrow morning, around 1:30 a.m. eastern time.

And lastly for you this morning --


TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: My goal is to win one more, and Gronk's coming with me.

ROB GRONKOWSKI, 5-TIME NFL PRO BOWLER: I'm retired from retiring? Mom, where are my football pants?


MANNO: Remember Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski's hilarious Super Bowl ad last year, Erica? It was so much fun. But now, Gronk says that not even a phone call from Tom himself could change his mind on retirement this time. Listen to this.


GRONKOWSKI: I would answer, obviously. You know, I would obviously answer the greatest quarterback of all times and ask him how he's doing -- and oh, I'm doing good. But I won't go back to football -- no.


MANNO: Gronk says he's focused on business ventures with his family. And he also said that he will go back to football but just for a tailgate. He's officially done. He's done, done, done.

HILL: I mean, I'd go back to football for a tailgate. MANNO: Yes, who wouldn't? Yes.

HILL: That's the only thing I'm good for with football.

Carolyn Manno, thank you.

MANNO: Sure.

HILL: Always good to see you.

And thanks to all of you for joining us this morning. I'm Erica Hill. "NEW DAY" starts right now.