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New Day

Israeli Prime Minister to Speak to Congress; Interview with Congressman Steve Cohen; Negotiations Continue over U.S.-Iran Nuclear Deal; Interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Aired March 03, 2015 - 08:00   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's made other plans, Alisyn. He won't be watching that speech. And you know the president is all but acknowledging that there has been damage done to this U.S.- Israeli relationship, but he said that the damage will not be lasting.

The White House is now bracing for the impact of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress later this morning. One major concern, as you mention, is that the prime minister will divulge sensitive details from current U.S. talks with Iran over its nuclear program. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest warned yesterday that would be a betrayal of U.S. trust. Netanyahu insists those talks will pave the way for Iran to have a nuclear weapon soon. But in an interview with Reuters the president said Netanyahu has been wrong before and he's off the mark this time. And the president maintains he does not take this rift with Netanyahu personally. Here's what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it's permanently destructive. I think that it is a distraction from what should be our focus. And our focus should be, how do we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon? I think that in the meantime negotiators are going full speed ahead. Ultimately what's been remarkable is the international unity we've been able to maintain in saying to Iran you have to show the world that you are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.


ACOSTA: Now the president went on to say there is less than a 50 percent chance that these nuclear talks will actually produce an agreement. He wants to delay Iran's capability to quickly produce a nuclear bomb for 10 years.

As for Netanyahu's host, House Speaker John Boehner, he said the demand for tickets to this morning's speech is like nothing they've ever seen before. As you know, dozens of Democrats will be skipping the speech. Vice President Joe Biden will not be there. Orin Hatch, the Utah Republican senator, will be there in Biden's place.

And get this. The White House announced in just the last few minutes, Chris, that the president has other plans during Netanyahu's speech. He's going to be sitting down for a video conference with other European leaders about the situation in Ukraine. So he is going to be busy when Netanyahu is speaking to Congress in just a few hours from now, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It will be interesting if those other leaders seem to not be paying attention on that video conference because they're watching Netanyahu's speech.

ACOSTA: I'm not sure about that, but we'll see.

CUOMO: We'll see how it plays out, Jim. Thank you very much.

So this idea of sensitive information, what does that mean? What will the Israeli prime minister reveal? And what's the strategy behind that? CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has that part of the story for us from Washington. Heady questions, Elise. Do we have any answers?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, prime minister's aides are telling us that information that has never been revealed will be put out in this speech by the prime minister. He's trying to paint the administration as rushing into a bad deal with Congress without briefing them.

And the Israelis say between talking to the U.S., other parties at the negotiations, their own intelligence, they know exactly what's in this deal, enough to conclude it's a bad one.

What the prime minister hopes is that he will scare Congress enough to stop this deal from going through. I'm told he's going to raise the warning that these deal, between the type of centrifuges and the amount and some of the research and development aspects that Iran might be able to continue under this deal could cut that breakout time that the president is talking about till somewhere in the realm of six months or even less.

But now that the president and National Security Adviser Susan Rice have laid out the broad strokes of the deal to preempt him in a way, the prime minister is really raising expectations. I'm not sure there's a bombshell he has up his sleeve. U.S. officials I've spoken to don't think. But in a sense he doesn't really know if he needs that because the reports this morning that Iran is rejecting what the president said about what Jim was talking about, that the deal would freeze the nuclear program for 10 years, they're calling it unacceptable. So the prime minister's goals to torpedo these negotiations going on in the final days leading up to that deadline all of the drama might play into his hands, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That drama will be fascinating to see three hours from now, Elise. Thanks so much for that.

Nearly 50 Democrats plan to boycott Mr. Netanyahu's speech, including Congressman Steve King. He is a Democrat from Tennessee and he joins us now. Good morning, Congressman.

REP. STEVE COHEN, (D) TENNESSEE: Steve Cohen, not Steve King. Please.

CAMEROTA: You're right. I knew that. You look nothing like Steve king.

COHEN: Nor do I think like him.

CAMEROTA: That's exactly right. Congressman Cohen, I apologize for that. Tell us why you're boycotting the speech.

COHEN: Well, I think it's using the Congressional podium and the Congress hall as political theater. I think there's politics between the speaker and Republican Congress and the AIPAC people that are here that will pack the galleries. And there's politics with the prime minister and his election, both of which are foremost.

I'm not saying that the speaker and the prime minister don't care about Israel as well. I care about Israel very much, and so does the president, and we've got two different ways to get to the same end, which is stopping Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

I think it would have been better if the prime minister would have talked to the State Department and talked on the inside and tried to improve the agreement rather than come to Congress and be part of a spectacle and try to kill it. They're going to try to introduce a new maneuver whereby the House and the Senate have to approve the agreement. That's never been done before and they're trying to change the rules.

I just think this is a replay of something we've seen in the past. Prime Minister Netanyahu used a speech in 2011 to promote his election in 2013. We can't use any speeches in the committee or in halls of Congress in any political campaign, and that same ethos should go towards the prime minister. He definitely is using this politically.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, are you concerned that Prime Minister Netanyahu will divulge some sort of sensitive information during his speech today?

COHEN: Well, I don't think Netanyahu would say anything to make his point. He's here on a mission. He's a mission both of representing his company and getting re-elected, and I will not be surprised at anything he says. I think it's going to be a grand success. Unfortunately, I think the gallery will be packed with AIPAC people who will stand and cheer and members of the Republican caucus, 55 Democrats I think won't be there. There will be a goodly number of Democrats there as well, 125 or so or more. There will be applauses. It will be like a rally. He'll get his point home to Israel. He'll get his point home in America.

The rift between the Democratic caucus and Israel does not really exist, which Speaker Boehner wanted to create. We still support Israel, but I think the cohesion between Boehner and the Republicans and AIPAC has grown and it will be reaped to the benefits of the Republicans, and that's what Speaker Boehner wanted.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, let me play for you what Prime Minister Netanyahu says is his reasoning behind speaking out to Congress today.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And As prime minister of Israel, I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there's still time to avert them.


CAMEROTA: He says the timing is important. He must speak up today because he's still -- there's still time to send this cautionary warning.

COHEN: Well, you know, I know he says that. I believe I have a moral obligation not to be there to be sure what I think is bad conduct. And I know he has this opinion. Charlton Heston could probably make the speech in the same way.

CAMEROTA: To you this is political theater. This is not a bona fide warning that he's sending to the world?

COHEN: He may hit that concern. Iran is a bad player. They have threatened Israel's annihilation. I am concerned about that. But I think that the negotiations, if they're successful, the agreement can do more to preserve Israel's life than the failure of the negotiations. If the failure of the negotiations take place the only thing he has to offer is either more sanctions or war. I don't think more sanctions will work. Sanctions have helped. Certainly it got Iran to the table. But I believe more sanctions without any more observation of their nuclear facilities will allow them to then ramp up and make them ramp up and get a nuclear weapon, and then who knows what will happen. And Netanyahu has not been the best at negotiating and trying to calm situations. He never does. He's big at the 212 degree level. He moves everything to the boiling point, whether it's settlements in the West Bank or any other situation. And I think we need calmer minds at this point.

CAMEROTA: Quickly, congressman, what do you think this will do to U.S.-Israel relations? Will this have a lasting impact?

COHEN: The relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has not been good. It's worse. It's going to continue. It will deteriorate as long as he's prime minister. But the relationship of most people in the Congress will not change at all and I think the relationship between the United States and Israel will remain strong regardless who's the prime minister and regardless who is the president.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Steve Cohen, we appreciate being on "new day."

COHEN: Give Chris Cuomo my best. His father would be proud of him.

CAMEROTA: Will do. Thanks so much for that, congressman.

COHEN: You're welcome. CAMEROTA: CNN will have special live coverage of the prime minister's

speech anchored by Wolf Blitzer beginning at 10:00 a.m. eastern. Stick around for that. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: So as Israel's prime minister prepares to make the case against a nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Switzerland for a new round of negotiations. CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is live from Switzerland. Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, good morning. There is a seriousness to move forward, that's what the Iranian foreign minister told us this morning, and you see that in the meetings, really marathon round of meetings between the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry. They've been marching back and forth here along the lakefront from one hotel to another. They'll meet with each other for about an hour, then confer with staff and start again. They started late last night and will continue into tomorrow.

They really have their nose to the grindstone here trying to work out an agreement even with all the political acrimony back in D.C. Now, that acrimony is seeping into this conversation because Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed this publicly, concerned about what Prime Minister Netanyahu will reveal in that speech. And I think the fact is they won't know for sure until he speaks what detail he's going to reveal. The position from this end is that whatever details he does have to be taken with the whole agreement. If they're released piecemeal, they are by definition not indicative of the wider agreement.

Now, there are more hiccups here, obstacles for certain, one of those very serious. That's that the IAEA saying just yesterday saying that Iran has not fulfilled its obligation to reveal past efforts at nuclear weaponization. That's a big deal. Spoke with State Department officials here. They say that will have to be part of any final agreement. And it's clear that it's not just the politics back in Washington that stand in the way of an agreement here. There are real obstacles, still real gaps to be narrowed in these talks. Chris?

CUOMO: A beautiful setting for such high stakes talks. Jim, we'll check back in with you.

So former secretary of state Hillary Clinton maybe, maybe she broke federal recordkeeping rules. Why? She used her personal e-mail account for government business her entire tenure. What was going on with that? Let's bring in senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, joins us live from D.C. I never knew anything about this, and now it's all we're hearing about. What's the take?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a very big deal. And you said she may have broken laws or rules here, Chris. Well, a lot of experts say that she did by using only a personal account while she was secretary of state. This is a huge development, especially as Hillary Clinton is just perhaps weeks from declaring her candidacy for president. So her spokesperson says that she while using this personal account

was adhering to the spirit and the letter of the law. But consider this, President Obama, for instance, he has a government e-mail account. This is for a couple of reasons. Because it's secure and also for the preservation of historic records. She used only her personal account, and that means that she and her aides have tremendous discretion when it comes to the preservation or handing over of documents for certain things, say Benghazi or other issues where documents may be needed.

How is this playing I think is a big question. I spoke to one Congressional Democrat who said to me, typical Clinton. And that means that this is playing into this preexisting narrative of the Clintons being perhaps sneaky, perhaps thinking that they don't really, I guess, have to play by the rules that other people play by.

So it is certainly a big development. You may have some Democrats who because she's so much the frontrunner in the polls have kind of stood back waiting to see what will happen. Maybe this gives them pause. Maybe they think, you know what, maybe she's not infallible and I can throw my hat into the ring. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: All right, Brianna, thanks so much for that. We'll talk more about that in the program.

Also, the terror group Boko Haram posting graphic video online showing the apparent beheadings of two men that the group claimed were spies. The six-minute video shows a knife wielding man with two bound captives. The video then cuts to a shot of the captives' bodies. Experts and social media users noting ISIS parallels in this video even though this is not the first time Boko Haram has issued a beheading video.

PEREIRA: News breaking overnight. For a second time a Georgia woman's execution has been called off, this time because of a problem with the drugs. They appear to be cloudy. Kelly Gissendaner was slated to die at 7:00 p.m. last night. The 47-year-old was convicted of orchestrating her husband's death back in 1997. She was initially supposed to be executed Wednesday but that was postponed because of bad winter weather.

CUOMO: As you wrestling fans know, comedian Jon Stewart has had a running feud with pro wrestler Seth Rollins. It finally came to a head on "Monday Night Raw." After Stewart did some trash talking in a mock "Daily Show" segment inside the ring, he then escapes an epic beatdown with a signature Stewart move, the low blow to the groin, and slips through the ropes slippery like so he can go off and pillory a politician or us.

CAMEROTA: Is that move fair? Is that an authorized wrestling move?

CUOMO: That's Stewart in a moment right there. That's all you need to know about him, right to the groin.


PEREIRA: And your introduction to his use of the word "groin." Welcome to NEW DAY.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. I was curious about that.

PEREIRA: That's a Chris-ism. That's a favorite.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for that.

All right, back to one of our top stories, ISIS abducting hundreds of Christians and executing many of them. Is the terror group trying to wipe Christianity off the map? We'll speak with the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.


CUOMO: Well, you don't need me to tell you, there's some troubling questions out there. What will be the state of peace in the Middle East just a few hours from now after the Israeli prime minister reveals information about Iran to Congress? And looking at Christians, are they being targeted for genocide by ISIS? Is the Pope? Scary questions but real ones.

And one leader who must consider all of this is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.

Your Eminence, thank you for being on NEW DAY.

CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: Chris, appreciate the invitation. It's good to be with you.

CUOMO: As always.

Politics aside, the instability that brings Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu here to speak about Iran and what that could mean for the implications -- what do you see as the greatest value here?

DOLAN: Well, anything that we can do to bring some stability and some sense of justice and peace to the Mideast, hallelujah. I'm not supposed to say hallelujah, it's Lent, but I just did. Because who -- there's so much suffering there, Chris, there's so much turmoil and there's so much lack of stability.

For us within the Christian family, they take it out on the Christians. The Christians are a distinct singular minority who are being systematically targeted.

CUOMO: People don't see it that way here. When you think about Christians, you think of the dominant mass. You know, 80 percent of the country.

DOLAN: Yes, we know that. There's a couple things we have to remember. Christianity is ancient in that part of the world. You think of the Coptic orthodox Egyptians. Remember the 21 of them --


DOLAN: -- beheaded about 10 days ago? They've been in Egypt since the time of Saint Mark the apostle.

You're talking about the time of Jesus Christ.

CUOMO: And I know you went with them, to give conciliation. What happened?

DOLAN: I was honored to be with them at their little church on Staten Island.

So, look, they've been there, Chris. The Christians have been there seven centuries prior to Islam. So, they're part of the culture. They speak the language of the pharaohs, all right? But yet, they're looked upon as these outsiders. So, that's point number one. They're so venerable. They've been there forever.

Secondly, they're a distinct minority. All right? And thirdly, they're -- sometimes they're caricatured and stereotyped especially by Islamic fanatics as part of Western civilization because Christianity has this reputation sometimes, it's not right, but sometimes in the Arab mind, of being part of Western culture. Christianity is universal. Christianity is all over the world. But we do know in the history of the church one of the ways it was described was through the Roman Empire.

It's often thought of as a Western Latin Roman European construct, and that's another element that adds to the sense of antipathy that the extremists have against this poor vulnerable Christian minority and throughout the Mideast.

CUOMO: Now, obviously, ISIS is going after everybody, right, who doesn't agree with them, but do you believe that this is targeted genocide, that this is holy war by these ISIS extremists on Christians?

DOLAN: I do. I think it's time to talk turkey and I think it's systematic -- well-choreographed, very well-focused attempt to eradicate the ancient Christian population in the Mideast.

Now, I'm quick to add, Chris, and I mean this -- I believe with all my heart and soul that these extremists do not represent genuine Islamic thought.

CUOMO: But you believe they are Muslims?

DOLAN: They are for sure. I would say a particularly perverted form of Islam.

CUOMO: But, you know, that's been a real problem for the White House in terms of defining who the enemy is. The president doesn't want to give credibility to them as Muslims because they're not really good Muslims. Many believe it's more confusing than clarifying.

DOLAN: They claim to be Muslims, even the majority of temperate peace-loving Muslims would say I am afraid they have a particular strand, erroneous Islam. But I do think they are. You know the parallel I've drawn, Chris. And I -- enough people have been kind enough to tell me that they

think the analogy is accurate. Remember 30, 35 years ago with the IRA in Ireland?

CUOMO: Sure.

DOLAN: The IRA claimed to be Catholic.

CUOMO: Right.

DOLAN: OK. They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity.

What they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for, and to their immense credit, the bishops of Ireland, every time the IRA blew up a car or a house or barracks in the British army, the Irish bishops say they are not Catholic.

CUOMO: You're calling for the same thing now?

DOLAN: The analogy is somewhat accurate. These are not pure, these are not real Muslims. Now what we need and what Pope Francis has led the world in saying, is we need the temperate moderate genuine forces of Islam to rise up and say this -- they do not represent us. Now, that's beginning to happen. God can bring good out of evil.

CUOMO: Right.

DOLAN: You saw a leading scholar in Egypt now.

CUOMO: Sure.

DOLAN: Has visited the Coptic pope and said we have to start working.

CUOMO: You have the Grand Muftis and other big Muslim leaders come out and say it, but it's a tremendous community, it crosses lots of different culture, and there is more of a call for one voice.

DOLAN: Yes, now, my Muslim friends here in New York will tell me one problem we have that you Catholics don't, we don't have one leader that speaks to us. Like you have Pope Francis. We don't have that because there are different splinters of Islamic thought, Islamic practice, but I think if something good's coming from this, Chris, is we see the voice of measured, temperate, fair, just Islam that's beginning to speak up and say these fanatics do not represent us.

CUOMO: Let's look at home quickly here.


CUOMO: When you talk about trends, you're seeing what's happening in the courts with same-sex marriage. The church's position is clear about what marriage under your rules.

The pope said something interesting, that he would evaluate or consider evaluating civil unions. This has been something that you have taken a lead on very often. Where does it stand with the church as you see the trend here under

the law?

DOLAN: Well, we're not going to give up. Obviously, we don't take our cues from what's happening politically and legally. We take our cues from divine revelation, from the Bible, and from what we believe is planted within the human heart. So, we're going to continue --

CUOMO: Even with the young Catholics saying that --

DOLAN: Nor do we take our cues from the opinion polls because we know that a good number of -- a good chunk of the United States and even a good number of our own people don't agree with us.

But we keep -- we feel we have got to be courageous in proclaiming the truth about marriage and we will do that. I'm not familiar with what the Holy Father said.

I know all of us wonder if there is a type of relationship where certain civil rights could be respected that would not rise to a redefinition of marriage. And that's, of course, what you call the civil partnerships. Thoughtful people would disagree with that.

I, though, I wonder if we as a church could ever though even give a nod to something that we feel and believe with all our heart and soul is not consonant with what God has taught us. That would be a tough thing for us as Catholics to do.

But they are two questions, two different questions, and I think thoughtful people are pondering them.

CUOMO: As you referenced the pope, you know, he has been big -- very expansive in terms about Catholicism. I know you love it that he's like let's not focus so much on what's wrong and the rules, let's focus on the love. He is coming to the United States.

DOLAN: You bet he is.

CUOMO: It's going to be tremendous. It's going to be a big responsibility for you, one that you take very joyously I assume. September he'll be here probably before he goes to Philadelphia.

DOLAN: You're right, Chris. We are told, and, again, this is broad outlines. The Holy See will announce it three months before he would come. We're told that probably he'll get here the evening of Thursday, September 24th. Please, God, he'll visit the cathedral. We know he wants to go to the United Nations.

He's told me he would love to visit with an interreligious community somewhere and he's talking about everywhere to tap into the rich diversity that we've got here in the United States religions in a uniquely exemplary way show the amity and harmony that religions should have.

So, he wants to do that. I know he wants to visit one of our inner city Catholic schools, he wants to visit one of our Catholic charity sites. Somewhere during the day, he's going to offer mass somewhere.

So, it's going to be good. Then he'll go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Family on Saturday and Sunday.

CUOMO: Word on the street is, big fan of CNN, knows that CNN during the conclave was the only media outlet to really focus on then Bergoglio as the pope. That's the word on the street. You know, he's very big into CNN. Really wants to take on issues here for the Catholic Church, would love to do it in the media setting. That's what I hear --


DOLAN: I haven't heard that. I appreciate it. Could you give me a memo on that?

CUOMO: I heard he wants it to be with a Catholic, an ethnic Catholic would be preferred.

DOLAN: Rich ethnic diversity.

CUOMO: That's it. Over six feet tall.

DOLAN: Don't we have an Irish journalist?

CUOMO: I don't know, six feet tall may be tough.


CUOMO: Cardinal Dolan, thank you so much.

DOLAN: Way to go. Always a joy to be with you.

CUOMO: A pleasure to have you here, talking about what matters.

DOLAN: Thanks for asking.

CUOMO: Alisyn, I tried.

CAMEROTA: The cardinal seems strangely skeptical of your version.


CUOMO: Longer time for me in confession this week.

CAMEROTA: I suggest that. Excellent.

Also coming up, we're going to be taking a closer look at that controversy around Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Did she violate federal law? How could this impact her plans for 2016?

PEREIRA: Also, it kind of is hard to believe it's been almost one year since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared. A search is still underway to find that aircraft. What are the chances the plane will ever be found? New details ahead.