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First Lady Melania Trump Undergoes Surgery; White House Criticizes Leak of Aide's Comments about John McCain; Protests Continue in Gaza over Movement of U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; Trump Defends Decision to Save Chinese Company; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're following a lot of news, so let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first lady Melania is recovering after a successful kidney procedure. Her office is extremely loyal and extremely tightlipped. It certainly came as a shock.

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Mrs. Trump is in our hearts. We're praying for her speedy and full recovery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you say things like that, it's what you're going to have to live with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's also a little bit of a victim here. The people who leaked what she said are clearly people who have an animus against her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect personnel changes as a result?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do, actually, yes, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One unalterable truth stands -- America stands with Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're angry about the United States moving their embassy to Jerusalem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're dealing with a humanitarian situation in Gaza which has reached crisis proportions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, May 15th, 8:00 in the east. Chris is off today. David Gregory joins me. Welcome.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Here we go again. Next hour. I'm ready to keep rolling.

CAMEROTA: Good, fantastic. There's more news for you.

The first lady is recovering at this hour after undergoing a procedure for what we're told is a benign kidney condition, but there are still many questions this morning because the White House is offered very few details about exactly what is wrong. And it's not clear why Mrs. Trump would need to remain in the hospital for the rest of the week.

GREGORY: Meanwhile as we've been reporting, the White House still digging in, refusing to apologize for an aide's morbid joke mocking Senator John McCain's health. Instead the president is going after leakers in his midst, calling them, quote, traitors and cowards. All of his as there's a big story overseas, Israel facing international criticism after nearly 60 Palestinians were killed in Gaza protests. The White House standing by Israel, blaming the terror group Hamas for the tragic violence.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's bring in our guests to discuss this. We have reporter and editor at large for CNN politics Chris Cillizza and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Great to have both of you here.


CAMEROTA: Morning. So Dana, let's start with Melania Trump. People are concerned. There haven't been a lot of answers. So what do we know about why she may have to stay in the hospital, and just what's happening?

BASH: We don't know the details, you're exactly right. And you say the White House isn't giving a lot of details. It is specifically the east wing of the White House, which is the first lady's office which is very small, which is very cocooned, and that is the case because that's how Melania Trump likes it. She is, and now we've said it over and over, over the past 12 hours, she is a very private person.

Not only that, unlike some first lady's that we have seen in recent history, Michelle Obama, even Laura Bush, who wasn't thrilled about being a political wife, she definitely embraced it earlier on, Melania Trump is doing this very reluctantly. She didn't even move down to the White House until less than a year ago from New York. So you have to remember all of that.

And one thing that I was talking to somebody who's known them for a long time last night who said all this hoopla about the fact that the president tweeted about leakers before he tweeted about his wife, I was told that part of the reason for that, perhaps, is because his wife doesn't want him to tweet about her. She has made that clear since he has started his campaign over two years ago, since he's really gone into political public life. And so we have to keep that in mind. This is a very different couple. This is a very different first lady for a number of reasons. And obviously we wish her well in her recovery.

GREGORY: But the question, Chris, is also about the health of the first couple. The president will get a certain amount of scrutiny and so will the first lady. Justifiably a private person but also with a longer hospital stay as a result of this procedure, which is going to raise questions, and routine questions about her health but also about what we're learning about.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Look, all White Houses tend to be, and politicians in general tend to be very guarded about their health. It is much more difficult, candidly, when you are the president of the United States to be so because you are the leader of the country and one of the most powerful people in the world, so you can't just say I've got it taken care of.

That said, one of the two doctors who have looked at Donald Trump since he began running for president, we now know Donald Trump dictated the state of his health to that doctor, Dr. Harold Bornstein. So this is not a new thing as it relates to this president to be -- to obfuscate as it relates to health. I don't know that that same standard holds for the first lady. I think it does -- there is an element of we should ask the questions.

[08:05:01] But historically, it is not been the same. The president of the United States undergoes a physical every year. They release the details of that physical. We saw Ronny Jackson do that, and one of the reasons that he appealed to Donald Trump to be the head of the V.A. was because he did well during that presentation. But I don't know that we hold the same standard for the first lady. I do know --

BASH: She wasn't elected.

CILLIZZA: Right. But I do know that this is a very private person who runs a very private -- and it's weird to say but for a first lady, low low profile largely office. That doesn't mean we can't ask the questions, I'm just not optimistic we'll get the answers.

GREGORY: I also note that Chris sounded a little bit judgmental when the president was dictating his own health status.

CILLIZZA: It seems a little odd that you could declare yourself the healthiest person ever to hold the office. I don't know. I don't want to take sides.

BASH: When I talked to your doctor the other day, he told me you gave him every line that he was giving me.


CILLIZZA: The tallest president.

CAMEROTA: You rival him.

OK, let's talk about what the president is, seems quite consternated about, and that is leaks from the White House. In fact in a tweet, Dana, called the leakers traitors and cowards. We will find out who they are, exclamation point. What are your thoughts on why there are so many leaks from this White House?

BASH: My thoughts are that the notion of going after leakers right now is a smokescreen, frankly. And yes, they're upset about it, and when I say they, it's from the president on down. And I did reporting yesterday and there is a lot of consternation inside the White House, even more than usual, more drama and back fighting and so forth in and around this leak.

Having said that, this is not about the leak. You had Matt Schlapp on yesterday. I have known him for a long time and I really like him, but this person who said this, Kelly Sadler is not a victim. That's not what this is about. So the idea that the White House is trying to make this about leaking is trying to take away from what is underlying here, which is this episode -- and the reason I think that this has gotten so much play is because this is exhibit a, b, c, d, and e of how different this president is in terms of the way he approaches leadership and the way he approaches country versus John McCain, who time and time again, as I watched him over the many years covering him, particularly in his 2008 presidential campaign, got himself in a lot of trouble with his base for doing what he thought was right and apologizing for people that he didn't even need to apologize for, for saying things about Barack Obama, for example.

And so to me that is the big story here, and that's why this has taken hold because it's a reminder of how Donald Trump is and how he sets the standard in his White House in terms of behavior versus somebody like John McCain and other Republicans. We're just talking about Republicans here.

GREGORY: But it is interesting you talk about other Republicans. Mitch McConnell very passively aggressively tweeted out how he went to visit his friend John McCain and appreciated his sacrifice and his honor, and yet he won't come out and verbally chastise the White House. Chris, the right thing to do is so obvious here in any White House. You can just say that whatever differences we've had with John McCain this is clearly over the line and inappropriate. Really sorry that it got leaked. That was inappropriate too.

But the nature of the leaking here, there's all kinds of leaks, there's all kind of reasons why White House's leak. But Kellyanne Conway said it best is you have people schiving each other. People who are fighting with each other by leaking which is something the president will do as well because he'll put information out when he's unhappy. It's how the whole place operates, which is even more open than other White Houses have been.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I think it is not too much to say this is the leakiest White House in modern history. I always say modern history because Zachary Tayler may have had a leaky White House, but there's no question that in the modern era this is the leakiest.

And I think the reason for that is what we know about Donald Trump, we know that aides would go on television to make points rather than make them to him in a private meeting because they believed the television route was more effective to get him to listen. The reason these fights play out in public, the reason you have so much jockeying with leaking is because this is a president who is consumed with the media narrative of his presidency. He watches more television than any past president we have had. He is someone who that's how -- that is the story of this administration in Donald Trump's eyes is told via cable television. And I think that's why you see so much leaking because it's competing forces for his attention and the direction of the White House.

[08:10:11] GREGORY: What Cillizza doesn't know is Zachary Taylor was caught repeatedly watching reruns of "Dallas" in the West Wing, over and over again.

CILLIZZA: He loved "Knots Landing."

CAMEROTA: It's good to have you here.


CAMEROTA: Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

GREGORY: Now we turn to the deadly story overseas. Hamas is now warning Israel that retaliation is eminent. This is from Hamas, the terror group that said this entire March was really about driving Israel out of its country and returning Palestinians to all of Palestine. Following Monday's bloodshed near Gaza's border fence, dozens of the nearly 60 protesters killed will likely be laid to rest today. CNN's Ian Lee is live on the ground for us in Gaza. He's monitoring what's happening there live. Ian?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: David, right now we have been watching this camp. This one of many camps up and down the borders. We're not seeing the large numbers that, frankly, we were expecting to the. There was a call for people to come out again today, but 100 maybe at most are out here. But they've been heading down towards that fence. You can problem see a bit behind me. There's some black smoke that's rising.

But we are following those funerals of the 60 people that were killed yesterday, marking it the deadliest day since the 2014 war which included an eight-month-old baby who died from tear gas from affixation. We're hearing from the family that they're at one of these camps that was situated further from the border than the people behind me. They said one of those drones flew over and that's when you get these tear gas into these camps and that's when it happened.

But this is just one of many stories, and many people in Gaza who know someone who had lost their life yesterday. But there is frustration here, David. We hear frustration about the current situation politically. They say they're frustrated about the blockade that's been imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt. They're also frustrated with the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem. And even if it is quieter today, expect that to fester for the coming weeks, coming months.

CAMEROTA: Ian, it's great to have you on the ground there for us with all of the developments. We'll check back with you. Thank you.

So President Trump is trying to save this Chinese tech firm ZTE, but why is he focused on Chinese jobs? Congressman Adam Schiff weighs in live next.


[08:16:57] GREGORY: It's time for CNNMoney now.

President Trump is defending his decision to save a struggling Chinese company just as the next round of high stakes trade talks begin.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is in our money center with more.

Good morning, Christine.


Well, first, President Trump said he wanted to save Chinese jobs. Now, the president says he doesn't want to hurt U.S. suppliers to the smartphone makers ZTE. It's remarkable reversal.

Now, just last month, Trump's Commerce Department crippled ZTE by banning it from buying U.S. parts, punishment for violating U.S. sanctions then lying about disappointing the employees involved at the time.

The Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called it egregious behavior. But yesterday, he said the U.S. is reconsidering its response.


WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: The question is, are there alternative remedies to the one that we had originally put forward and that's the area we will be exploring very, very promptly.


ROMANS: In return, sources say the U.S. wants concessions from China like removing tariffs on ag products linking ZTE's fate now to broader trade talks not just that one enforcement action. A Chinese delegation heads to Washington today and then there are the national security concerns.

Just two weeks ago, the Pentagon banned ZTE phones from being sold on military bases. U.S. intelligence agencies warned ZTE tech could be used for espionage.

This morning, Senator Marco Rubio slamming any deal that happens here, tweeting that we're lifting sanctions so ZTE could resume spying and stealing our intellectual property -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Christine, it's certainly eyebrow raising.

The president's reversal on ZTE may be connected to that Trump branded hotel and golf course project in Indonesia, a $500 million loan from the Chinese government was reportedly approved just before the president publicly shifted his position. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Can you tell or, you know, explain the administration's perspective on, A, how this wouldn't violent the Emoluments Clause, and, b, how it wouldn't violate the president's own promise that his private organization will not be getting involved in new foreign details while he was president?

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I have to refer you to Trump Organization. You're asking about a private organizations dealings that may have to do with a foreign government. It's not something I can speak to.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now to talk about this and more is Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat from California, and a ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So, this is reporting that comes this morning from "The Huffington Post". As you heard Christine say, CNN is attempting to go look into it as well. But according to "The Huffington Post", it's just a very simple connection.

I mean, let me just read their headline. This is their lead paragraph, a mere 72 hours after the Chinese government agreed to put a half billion dollars into that Indonesian project that will personally enriched Donald Trump, the president, Donald Trump, ordered a bailout for a Chinese government owned cell phone maker. It can't possibly be this naked of a quid pro quo, can it?

SCHIFF: Well, it can be, the problem is we really don't know.

[08:20:03] And this is the issue when the president won't divest his business holdings, when the family still attempts to leverage the presidency to gain business and one thing that you could definitely say about China given the strong state intervention of that economy is nothing happens by accident.

Now, early on, the president considered doing away with One China policy, something very important to China. Now he later abandoned that and when he abandoned that, magically, mysteriously, China gave the Ivanka brand trademarks that it had long sought. I can guarantee you, China would not have given those brands if Donald Trump had fall through on his campaign commitment to not recognize one China.

Similarly here, I can't imagine China going forward with this transaction helping a Trump branded property in Indonesia to the tune of half a billion if the president continued the sanctions on ZTE. It's hard to imagine.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and just to be clear, ZTE, this Chinese company was sanctioned and violated the sanctions of doing business with Iran and North Korea, even the president's fierce supporters yesterday seemed confused about why he would say he wants to save Chinese jobs? What else could this be?

SCHIFF: It could be a few things. It obviously could be related to China doing him this huge business favor. It also could be related to the fact that having walked out of the Iran deal, the president now needs a deal with North Korea more than Kim Jong-un. And desperate to get a deal with North Korea, he is now seeking to curry favor with China and maybe he recognizes that if he is too hard on China in trade with ZTE, then China won't help him on North Korea, and then he'll end up with two nuclear problems. But, of course all of America wind up with two nuclear problems, not one.

CAMEROTA: But do you see this as a violation of the Emoluments Clause?

SCHIFF: I certainly view this as a violation of the Emolument Clause, yes, and many others as well, both foreign in terms of, you know, the business effort to expand the Trump Organization but also domestically by -- this may not be a constitutional violation but it's certainly an ethical violation by the constant milking of the federal government when the president requires the federal government to patronize Trump related businesses.

The federal government has spent over $150,000 just the Secret Service alone, for the privilege of renting Donald Trump golf carts to protect Donald Trump on his rounds. That's obscene. And that should never be permitted. It should never be permitted that there's even a question about whether this foreign transaction is driving U.S. policy and this is exactly what the Emolument Clause is designed to prevent.

CAMEROTA: So, enter Congress. What do you do about all of this?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, on the domestic Emoluments, I have a bill that I'm going to be introducing this week that requires disclosure of any sums that the federal government is paying the business of the president. So at least the American taxpayer can find out, OK, what's the tab? What is this president charging the American people for the privilege of being our president?

But in terms of these foreign and more serious Emoluments problems, the Congress ought to be doing hearings on this. The Government Reform Committee --

CAMEROTA: And why aren't you?

SCHIFF: Well, look, Trey Gowdy when he was the chair of government reform couldn't investigate Benghazi or the Clintons enough, but now that we have a different president, he says Congress shouldn't be in the business of investigations. As long as he's chairing that committee and as long as the Republicans are in the majority, they're not going to oversight of this president. It's a sad reality.

CAMEROTA: Is that right? I mean, they're not going to do oversight of this president? Have you talked to Trey Gowdy about this? I mean, obviously, that's not how he would phrase it.

SCHIFF: Well, you know, we certainly talked about it in the Russian context where the Republicans decided, you know, we're not interested in what the Russians did anymore. We're not interested in what the Trump Organization did anymore. We're only interested in helping the president by investigating our own FBI.

So, it's quite clear that far from doing oversight, they're actually doing things to prevent meaningful oversight and meaningful investigation.

CAMEROTA: I want to move on to what's happening this week. There is an all member House briefing called by Speaker Paul Ryan about election tampering, I guess, or election security. Do you know what is -- what's -- why he's taking this measure and what do you expect to learn in that briefing?

SCHIFF: I would expect that it's the result of a lot of concern expressed by members on both sides of the aisle that we're going into the midterms really unprepared to deal with potential Russian intervention, and what many people may have forgotten about the last election is the Russians not only hacked the DNC and got involved in the presidential election but the Russians also hacked DCCC, the campaign arm of the Democratic Party in the House with the intent of basically damaging Democratic candidates for Congress.

[08:25:09] And so, there's a real concern that the Russians will again get involved in the midterms in a way to cause mischief, sow disorder or favor one party over the another.

CAMEROTA: Has the president done enough? What do you want the president to do about this?

SCHIFF: There are two things that in a normal administration, we would have seen happened by now that still need to happen. And the first is, the president needs to order a whole of government response where every agency, every department, every cabinet member presents to the president, here's our plan, here's the plan in the State Department to discourage the Russians from intervening, here's our cyber response plans at the Department of Defense. Here's our intelligence agency --


SCHIFF: -- report on what we see in terms of Russian plans and intentions. None of that is happening because for those cabinet members to be raising this with the president, he would consider a threat to his legitimacy.

So, that's the first thing that should be going on. The second thing is, there ought to be a national consensus led by the president of the United States that if a foreign party intervenes again, we will all reject it no matter which party it helps and which it hurts.

But this is a president who continues to say, it didn't happen, it's a witch hunt, it's a hoax and so, we can hardly expect that kind of leadership from the president.

CAMEROTA: All right. I will be very curious to see what Speaker Ryan tells you all in this meeting this week.

Senator Adam Schiff, thank you very much for coming in.

SCHIFF: Thank you.


GREGORY: Alisyn, thanks.

First Lady Melania Trump recovering from a kidney procedure, so what's the prognosis? We'll ask CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, coming up next.