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Backlash in Mideast over Trump's Jerusalem Announcement; White House Daily Briefing. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 7, 2017 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:32:26] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Angry backlash throughout much of the Mideast with President Trump's dramatic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. This is the scene in the West Bank. Crowds of protesters, rock throwing, huge clouds of smoke earlier in the day. The Palestinian group Hamas calling for an uprising. And the leaders of Islamic Jihad of Palestine saying they are ready for a new arms struggle. The Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, slamming President Trump, saying it puts Christian and Muslim holy places and especially the mosque in Jerusalem in danger. The State Department in Washington updating the worldwide caution and the areas are of particular importance given the unrest in the region.
Let's go to our correspondent, Ian Lee, joining us from Ramallah, where the protests have turned violent early in the day. And also joining us are CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired rear admiral, John Kirby, who served as the State Department spokesman and the Pentagon press secretary as well.
Ian, first to you. Palestinian leaders, some of them, have called for days of rage. Tell the viewers what has been going on during the course of today. It's about 8:30 p.m. your time.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, about eight hours ago, we had protesters gather in the square behind me in Ramallah. They came out and protested and then they started going in that direction towards an Israeli check point. That's where we went. That's where we saw the fiercest clashes today. Thousands of people there, Wolf, Palestinians squaring off with the Israeli military. Palestinians throwing rocks and they had sling shots and lighting tires on fire. The Israeli military, the soldiers responding with tear gas and rubber bullets. That pitched battle went on for hours and hours. The ebb and flow as the protesters kept moving forward and the Israelis would unleash a cloud of tear gas pushing everyone back. We saw ambulance after ambulance taking people who were injured. And we saw injuries of people who had been shot with rubber bullets and arms, and people hit in the head, a lot of blood. This is really that anger and frustration that Arab leaders were warning about, a lot of world leaders were warning about that could happen when President Trump made that announcement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
When you talk to protesters, they said they are angry at Trump and angry at Israel, but they are frustrated with their own leaders because they don't feel there is any path forward. That's what we are seeing, Wolf. We are seeing the street speak the loudest.
[13:35:13] BLITZER: Stand by.
I want to bring in John Kirby into this as well.
John, as you know, some White House officials are already acknowledging they expected at least on a temporary basis this kind of set back to the peace process. Where does the administration go from here?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It will set back any effective peace process for many months, if can ever be repaired. It may not be repairable. I think they realized it wasn't going far so the president made a calculation to fulfill the campaign promise. He set back the hopes of getting the process on track. He also put another nail in the coffin of U.S. credibility overseas. No matter what path is forward, no matter what chance they have going forward, the United States is not going to be seen as a credible reliable arbiter of this process going forward. And that's going to change.
BLITZER: Ian, a lot of people are worried and a lot of other folks, tomorrow, Friday, being a holy day for Muslims, and there is a lot of anticipation and more violence. What are you hearing and what do you anticipate?
LEE: You know, you bring up a good point. Today is Thursday. This is not a day you typically have protests and violence in the area. From time to time, we have protests, but not at this scale. It was large-scale protests. You're right, Friday is a day in the Arab world where people go out and protest, air their grievances after midday Friday prayer. We are expecting more of what we saw today. This was not just here in Ramallah, but there were protests in Bethlehem. Tomorrow, we are expecting large protests in Ramallah, in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, all over the West Bank, as people really go out and air their grievances and frustrations. We know the U.S. embassy warned people to stay away from large gatherings. Their diplomats have to stay out of the West Bank and the Old City. A lot of really tense situation as we move forward. But we are in unchartered waters and no one knows how it's going to go, how it will end, and what's going to happen.
BLITZER: Be careful over there, Ian Lee, in Ramallah for us on the West Bank.
John Kirby is here in Washington with me.
We'll stay on top of this story.
There is other news we are following, including the dramatic statement from Senator Al Franken. Taking some parting shots at both President Trump and Roy Moore during his resignation speech.
You are looking at live pictures from the White House briefing room. We expect the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, to come in momentarily to start answering reporters' questions. Plus, take two. Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi
issuing a threat to the president ahead of their meeting this afternoon at the White House. We have new information. And we will update you when we come back.
[13:40:34] BLITZER: Let's go to the White House right now. Sarah Sanders beginning her press briefing.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- across our nation as we remember the date that will live in infamy, when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. As the president said in a stirring video release earlier today, we remember the lives that were lost, the families torn from loved ones, and the heroes who rose to America's defense. The president will meet with members who served at Pearl Harbor later today as you all know.
Also, as you are aware, the president will meet later this afternoon with congressional leaders from both parties to discuss the need to fund the government, particularly our military and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The president and the Republicans in the House and Senate are eager to pass a bill fully funding the federal government and the military. With the threats we are facing, our national security should not be held hostage for irresponsible demands. And we certainly hope that won't happen.
Now, with Christmas season in full swing, I want to shine a spotlight on generosity and love that shows what the Christmas spirit and the American spirit. Today, I would like to start with a story of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in West Virginia. It starts over 100 years ago when a young girl tragically died around the Christmas season and her family donated money to the church in her honor and asked that the money be used for children at Christmas. What they may not have realized at the time was that this act of kindness in the midst of incredible heartache would bless countless children for the next century. To this day, St. Matthews continues helping children and families during the Christmas season. They usually do it anonymously, but word of their generosity spread through social media this year. At the local Walmart, numerous families will come to pay the bill for Christmas toys they put on layaway and be told that there's no need because it's already been paid in full. There will be so many acts of generosity and kindness that go unnoticed this Christmas season, and that's OK. St. Matthew's Church was not looking for credit and neither are so many others, but these stories are important because they remind us what the season is all about. That's the greatest gift of all, that a savior was born. Hopefully, we can all focus and take time out of our busy schedules to enjoy the Christmas season or however you may celebrate.
And with that, I will take your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Sarah. I want to ask you about the possible government shut down and the optimism that the president might have that he can avert a shut down and ask you about the California fires and the latest that the White House has on that. HUCKABEE SANDERS: Sure. In terms of the government shut down, we
expect a clean C.R. to pass with Democrat support. We hope that will happen. Funding the government, particularly our military and Veterans Affairs are always important, but particularly now with so many threats that we face globally. This is a certain priority for the administration and we hope that is something that will be discuss and agreed to later today.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And the fires?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Was there a specific question?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the White House in coordination with the folks out in California in battling that wildfire. Is there more money to be made available especially for the areas near Los Angeles which are under siege?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Absolutely. The administration is staying in regular contact with both FEMA and folks at the White House are speaking to state and local authorities and making sure that we are ready and able to help when needed and when requested by the authorities. Jennifer?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why John Bolton was here at the White House here today and also on taxes, we are confused on why the White House would support a 22 percent corporate tax rate. You had them saying it would be OK and wouldn't undermine the economy and a few hours later they said something about it needs to be 20.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Our focus is on getting the lowest corporate rate possible, 15 is better than 20, 20 is better than 22 and 22 is better than what we have. We will continue to push, but we are not going to negotiate that from the podium and we are committed to getting the lowest corporate rate we can. We have a friend of the president and somebody who he wanted to visit with. Nothing more than that. Nothing more than a check in and a friendly visit.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, Donald Trump Jr refused to talk about his conversations with the president citing attorney-client privilege. Would the president release him from any such privilege or allow him to speak to the committee?
[13:45:07] HUCKABEE SANDERS: That's a question you would have to ask his attorneys. His lawyers had a legitimate reason for not answering the questions, but I would direct you to his attorneys.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But can you attorney how it can be attorney- client privilege when neither Donald Trump Jr or President Trump are attorneys?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: That's something you would have to talk with don Jr's attorneys with. I can't comment from here.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator Franken announcing his resignation said he is aware that there is irony in the fact that I'm leaving while a man who bragged on tape with his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who preys on young girl campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president addressed the comments back during the campaign. We feel strongly that the people of this country also addressed that when they elected Donald Trump to be president and I addressed it several times from here and don't have anything new to add.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The differences in the way the two parties are handling the accusations of sexual misconduct.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Some of that would be left to the party leadership. I'm not sure if there is a question in there on the differences.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have any of the counterparts from around the world contacted the president and the White House to indicate they too will follow the president's lead in moving their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm not aware of any country's commitment to follow.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you expect that to happen that others will follow the president's lead?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm not aware of any countries that wean 'tis pate that happening. I'm not saying they aren't, but I'm not air wear.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Last week the president said the U.S. Would impose sanctions on North Korea. Do you have an update on where that stands?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: We expect the Department of pressure tow put out more details by the end of the week and we will keep you posted on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What is the president's reaction to U.S. allies in Europe notably the United Kingdom to express opposition to his action and recognizing Jerusalem and does the fact that he kept his promise give him more credibility when negotiating in the Mideast?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Certainly. I think one of the abilities to follow- through on something you committed to as the president has done and let's not forget this was something that Congress voted on starting back in 1995 and his reaffirmed 10 separate times over the last 20 years. This was something that the president took action on and very courageous and bold action and something that the members of the United States Congress voted on many times before.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yesterday, you put out a statement under the president's name saying he was directing other fiduciary officials to reach out to Saudi Arabia and urged them to immediately allow the flow of humanitarian supplies to Yemen. Why isn't the president himself working the phones and are there consequences for Saudi Arabia if they don't immediately allow this flow of goods?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: My understanding is the president did bring these up on previous conversations and that I believe there are actions that are taking place for a port to open and we will keep you posted as the details welcome available.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any consequence fist they don don't do this?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: As I said, we have reason to believe they're moving in that direction. We will keep you posted.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When the president became aware that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, you referred her to John Dowd and John Dowd is not engaging. That's not a legal matter for the attorney to say. Can you tell us when the payment became aware of that?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The attorneys feel differently and feel it should be answered by them and I will encourage them to respond to you. I will refer you back to John Dowd.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's not about something of what the president knew and when he knew it.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I will listen to the attorneys and John Dowd will hopefully follow-up with you.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm going to keep bouncing because I'm tight on time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's simple. They said it's an open question whether the United States will participate in the Winter Olympics. Is that now in doubt?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: That was not exactly what the ambassador said. No official decision has been made and we will keep you posted as the decisions are made. Look, I know that the goal is to do so, but that will be a decision made closer to time.
I think that's an inner agency process and ultimately the president would weigh in. But again, that's something he would take into account with a number of the stakeholders being involved.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Absolutely. If we felt there was an issue, that would come up.
[13:50:17] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: For the government funding questions, does he want S-CHIP authorized?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I haven't had that conversation with him,
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. Bipartisan leadership is coming up much different atmosphere than last meeting where he tweeted he didn't think the deal was possible because Democrats are so bad on illegal immigrants. I'm wondering has the president changed his mind about that? And also, specifically, what was he referring to since the government shut down and ICE and the Border Control are affected?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president is still very much committed to a strong border and border wall and I imagine that's discussed sometime today.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A deal reached?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: We hope a deal can be reached. And hope they can put differences a side and focus on fully funding the government.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On the Hill today, Christopher Wray praised the FBI, said it was the finest force in the world. The president said it's in tatters and worst place in history. Can you explain the discrepancy?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: We don't believe there is a discrepancy. We agree with them that they are respected. The president is under the political leaders in the FBI, the former Director Comey, particularly those who play politics with the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe, and we don't see a discrepancy beyond that.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm going to hop around.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Undermine the FBI and says it's in tatters. Do you feel that could create ramifications that people won't trust law enforcement, that people will say why should we interact with FBI when it's in tatters?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: No, and the president is referring to political leaders particularly those involved in the Hillary Clinton probe.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Two quick ones about government shut down. Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor of the president party controls the House, Senate, hand speaks of Republicans and shut down would fall on his shoulders. How is that not ha accurate reflection of the political realities that Republicans control Washington at this point?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, they may control Washington, but this still takes some Democrats to be engaged in the process. And we hope frankly that Democrats will play by the Schumer rule and not hold this hostage and come to the table and help fund our Defense Department and military and Veterans Affairs.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you say though DACA will have to potentially brought up. Is White House DACA fix with government spending? And if so when that would that be the case?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president said with DACA he wants to make sure we have reform, including a border wall and other things that we laid out in the priorities and that would be something have to be part of that discussion.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Sarah. From that podium, Secretary Mnuchin and Gary Cohn both assured us that when a final tax reform bill is passed, the alternate minimum tax would disappear immediately. Now of course, recent statements by the president as the conference about to begin indicating it might not completely disappear. And not immediately, certainly. Is the administration still committed to ending the AMT right away?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, I don't think our position has changed on that front at all. But at the same time, look, they were just named. We want to let it run through the process. We are committed to those and making sure the bill and final peels of legislation delivers on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A lot of attention on sexual misconduct and harassment by members of Congress. Is the president confident that Congress and its leaders can police and investigate themselves on this issue?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think that we have no reason at this point to see otherwise. And hopefully, that process will move forward.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I want one question to verify something you said from the podium on taxes. You said I think to matt on tuesday as long as taxes under audit he won't release them. 2016 taxes to our knowledge are not under audit. Can you answer that?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: My understanding, and I'll double-check, but the president's taxes no matter who the president is immediately go under audit after being filed. So that's actually accurate. But I'll double-check to be sure.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: National reckoning when it comes to sexual harassment. So in a broad 30,000-foot way, does the president believe that he has a credible role in leading this conversation? And can you speak to the specific steps this White House is taking to make sure the women who work here feel they are in a comfortable environment to talk about these things?
[13:55:09] HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think the president tweets certainly as a woman myself I've never felt anything but treated with the highest level of respect and been in power to do my job. And I think that's what I've seen the president do day in and day out since we've been here and during the campaign. So I think that's a pretty good start and pretty good example on that front.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A lot of places are having seminars. Are you doing that here? Are you talking about in recent days what people in this work environment can do?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: There is certainly White House policies that we are reminded of. And I think all of us expect each person to live up and to meet those policies and to not cross a line that is not only not legal, but not appropriate or not ethical.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Follow up. We have seen Democrats forcibly call for Al Franken resignation which happened today. Do Republicans and does this president risk losing their moral authority on this issue, which is a huge issue right now, by endorsing a candidate like Roy Moore which has now been backed by the RNC as well?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: We've addressed this in-depth. I think the allegations are troubling and this is something the people of Alabama should decide.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Drop out of the race?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, is the president failing to lead?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Hey, Kristen, I'm going to move around.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just a quick follow up.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was the proclamation on Jerusalem delayed because of concerns expressed by the secretary of defense and state about security that they wanted to get adequate security in place for U.S. embassies around the world?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: We wanted to make sure we had a thoughtful process and the decision, and the components of that decision went through the full interagency process. Once that was completed the president moved forward and took action.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Palestinians are under the understanding that the president pulled out based on Jerusalem decision. How do you correct that? Or did he do that?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: No. In fact, in the president's remarks he said that we are as committed to the peace process as ever. And we want to continue to push forward in those conversations and those discussions. And hopefully the ultimate goal, I think of all those parties is to reach a peace deal and that's something that the United States is very much committed to.
We'll take one more.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, thank you. Given the recent revelations that at least one prosecutor on Robert Mueller's team was sending anti-texts to the DOJ lawyer and another one congratulating sally yates to uphold the president's travel ban, chairman at the hearing this morning said even the in appearance of in propriety would devastate the FBI. So does the White House believe that the Mueller probe was bias from the beginning?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, we are fully cooperating through this process. We will continue to do so. As I said a few moments ago, we certainly felt like some of the political leadership at the FBI was problematic. We are glad that director ray is there. We feel he's going to clean up some of the messes left behind by his predecessor. And we look forward to this concluding soon and saying what we've said all along nothing to see and certainly no collusion.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president has an event in a couple minutes. Just a couple of last minute notes. The president has an event here with members of the Pearl Harbor survivors and also have a spray at the top of the congressional meeting this afternoon at 3:00. So we'll see you guys shortly.
BLITZER: All right. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, wrapping up a nearly 20 minutes briefing.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'll break the rules and I'll come back.
BLITZER: Let's see what else she says.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: There were a lot of questions on that. Frankly, pretty ridiculous questions. The president's throat was dry, nothing more than that. He does have a physical scheduled for the first part of next year, the full physical that presidents will go through. That will take place at Walter Reed and those records released by the doctor following that taking place.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Thanks so much, guys.
BLITZER: That final question on, Gloria Borger, stumbling on some words at the end of his 11-minute speech on Jerusalem yesterday.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he seemed to be slurring his words and all kind of conjecture, was it dentures, what was it, but she said it was because he needed water and he didn't have any.
BLITZER: We're not sure he has dentures.
BORGER: We have no idea. We have absolutely no idea.
BLITZER: It did cause some interest.
Anything jump out at you, A.B. --
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Yes. Republicans in congress has to worry whether or not there is a plan in the White House to eventually try to overthrow Robert Mueller as special counsel. You have to listen to the comments she made today about the political leadership of the FBI. That includes, obviously, Bob Mueller.