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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

International Murder Mystery; Chaos in the White House; Trump Meets With Netanyahu. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 15, 2017 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: In their joint news conference, President Trump told Netanyahu that the U.S. will push for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

But unlike the previous U.S. president and the one before that, President Trump would not state clear support for a two-state solution. /

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking at two- state, and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: On the other hand, with Netanyahu standing just a few feet away, President Trump also urged Israel to pause at least for now construction of new settlements on land in the occupied West Bank.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I would like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We will work something out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What is the potential impact of all of this?

Let's bring in Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel in the Obama administration.

Ambassador Shapiro, good to see you, as always.

What did you make of President Trump's comments on the two-state, one- state, whatever the parties come up with solution?

DAN SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: I actually don't think that can represent a significant break in U.S. policy.

I think it was done as essentially a favor to Prime Minister Netanyahu to buy him a little political space. When he was leaving Israel on his way to Washington, his Cabinet, which is dominated by members more to his right wing and who are opposing the two-state solution, he was urged not to use that phrase when he got to Washington.

So, it sounds to me like the president and the prime minister's teams worked out this formula to talk about something that both parties can accept, whatever that is.

But we know the Palestinians then have a veto. The Palestinians are not going to accept a one-state solution. They are going to hold to their position for a two-state solution.

I think the first time the president's envoys, whether it's Secretary of State Tillerson or Jared Kushner, come to the region and talk to Palestinians and talk to Arab states who they do want involved in this process, they are going to hear very clearly that a two-state solution remains the only solution that can actually bring an end to this conflict.

And bring an end to the conflict is, as the president said, a U.S. interest, so I think that's where we're going to come back to.

TAPPER: What do you make of the fact that President Trump has said that he wants his son-in-law Jared Kushner to broker an Israeli- Palestinian peace deal? As you know, he, Jared Kushner, has no history in diplomacy. His family fund has given money, I believe, to some settlements in the occupied West Bank. Can he be the man for the job?

SHAPIRO: Well, I don't know Mr. Kushner, but he's obviously already been tasked with this and has spent time talking with Israeli and Arab diplomats to prepare for it.

Actually, I think those of us who have spent years or even decades working on this issue clearly have not succeeded in the goal of achieving a two-state solution. So, I'm not at all against the idea that people coming from the outside, maybe without the conventional diplomatic experience, but with smarts and creativity, may be able to also have success.

I do think one thing he will bring with him that is very important is clearly he will be able to speak credibly on behalf of the president of the United States because of their relationship. So, I think all of us should wish him luck and success and obviously do anything that would help him succeed.

TAPPER: There was a question today at the event with Netanyahu and Trump. There was a question for President Trump about the rise in anti-Semitic activities in 2016 in the United States. What did you make of his answer?

SHAPIRO: I was really troubled by it, Jake.

This is a pattern that has now repeated itself several times out of this White House. Of course, they had a Holocaust Memorial Day statement that didn't mention that Jews were the main target of the Nazis in the Holocaust. A number of other ways they have sent winks or nods or dog whistles to

very extreme elements in our society, who now have felt since the election empowered to express really outrageous anti-Semitic views. I don't say he's an anti-Semite, but I really couldn't understand how, asked a direct question, how does he feel or how does he respond to the increase in anti-Semitic incidents since his election, he didn't even use the word anti-Semitism, much less condemn it.

That was very, very troubling to me.

TAPPER: Former Ambassador Dan Shapiro joining us from Tel Aviv, thank you so much. Good luck to you, sir.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Every president has an adjustment period after taking over the White House. Is the first month of the Trump administration that much different from previous presidents? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:53]

TAPPER: We're back with more on our politics lead.

President Trump seems to thrive on chaos. He likes apparently pitting staffers against one another, having them compete. He likes nonstop flurries of action and tweets.

But is this management style allowing him to do the job at hand, or is it preventing him from doing so? Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton told a reporter this week that the Flynn fracas was just the White House -- quote -- "finding its sea legs."

CNN's Tom Foreman joins me now.

Tom, it's tough to keep track of everything that has gone on. Walk us through these first almost four weeks of the Trump presidency. It has felt like four years, quite honestly.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been a little bit more like staggering than walking. It's been quite an experience.

The White House is experiencing growing pains, for sure, truly worse than what we have seen with any other modern president. But the question is, are they in real trouble? That will depend entirely on their ability to turn what looks like chaos into coordination.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Amid the rush of his first 100 days, President Trump is talking policy.

TRUMP: My administration remains very focused on the issues that will encourage economic growth.

[16:40:02]

FOREMAN: But problems are frequently blocking out that message, creating a picture of a White House in chaos.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.

FOREMAN: It started on day one with the unproven claim of a record inauguration audience, which, when challenged, produced the wildly quotable statement,

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Our press secretary gave alternative facts to that.

FOREMAN: Then the president himself chimed in, insisting, while he won the electoral vote, he gathered fewer popular votes in the general election only because of illegal voting.

TRUMP: There are millions of votes, in my opinion.

FOREMAN: Again, no proof, and on it goes. A meeting with Mexico fell apart amid sharp words. A raid in Yemen went tragically wrong. The president insisted terrorism is running so out of control.

TRUMP: It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported.

FOREMAN: When that claim was disputed, he issued a list of under- reported incidents, which took heat, too. The president fired the acting attorney general for not enforcing his travel ban.

SPICER: She was rightfully removed.

FOREMAN: Only to have the courts halt the ban anyway. Even as he has struggled to get his promised repeal of Obamacare rolling in earnest, the president has attacked Democrats for trying to slow down approval of his Cabinet members.

TRUMP: They could move faster on the other side. I will say that.

FOREMAN: Only to see his choice for labor secretary withdraw his nomination two days after the ouster of his national security adviser amid concerns about ties to Russia.

And for all that, he found time to fire a Twitter rocket at Nordstrom's for pulling his daughter's merchandise, which a top aide urged people to buy anyway, which another aide suggested was not the right move.

SPICER: Kellyanne has been counseled.

FOREMAN: Certainly, all new presidents face challenges, but, in the first 100 days, Bill Clinton passed a federal budget and signed the Family Leave Act. George W. Bush ushered in No Child Left Behind and started work on big tax cuts. And Barack Obama launched the economic stimulus and laid the groundwork for Obamacare.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: President Trump could still see substantial successes like that. It is, after all, quite early in his term. A lot of experience hands in this town are convinced the first thing the White House must do is stop the unforced errors which are taking them way off their game -- Jake.

TAPPER: All that just happened in 3.5 weeks?

FOREMAN: It's astonishing. That's like a year's worth of news, and it's -- we're not through a month yet.

TAPPER: He said it was going to be interesting.

Tom Foreman, thank you.

Two mysterious women are accused of poisoning the North Korean leader's brother in an airport.

We will have all the latest on that investigation coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD". Lots to dissect and discuss with my panel. Thanks one and all for being here. Mollie, let me start with you. I know we're not at the 100-day mark yet. We're not even at the 50-day mark yet. But how do you think it's going?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST SENIOR EDITOR: Well, it's kind of a mixed bag. He's been doing a lot with executive actions and he's had a lot of success with that. Whether or not you agree with the different policies, obviously, you don't want to lose your national security chief in such short order or in the manner that it happened. So, you know, the roll out of the executive order was clumsy, it was, you know, somewhat arbitrary and capricious, but he's done -- also done a lot. You know, the White House ethics reform, our getting out of trans-pacific partnership, the border wall, getting that started, enforcement of immigration rules. You know, there are a lot of things that have been happening. It just seems like now we might move from the executive order stage of things -- oh, and not to mention, the Gorsuch nomination which was huge, but maybe move now into legislative action.

TAPPER: But he does seem to get in his own way because there are days when there would be policies we'd be covering, and then he, you know, sends off a tweet about a sitcom star or something and everything just changes.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Mitch McConnell, who is every conceivable way, different than this president, temperamentally at least, had a line the use with Fred Barnes, I think it was, that if a president have more focus, his numbers would be 10 points higher, because a lot of the policies are pretty popular actually, certainly with his base, but he tends to sort of step on his own message. I think it's going to be fascinating now, he is done with the orders. Does he have the patience to wait for this process to work its will? You know, this president is not used to the house ways and the meetings committee having a mark-up. This is going to be a challenge for him waiting months and months here for legislation that he wants to get done and get done fast.

KAREN TUMULTY, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'm really struck for better or worse, and most days it seems to have been worse, by the degree to which he is exactly the same person he was when he was running for president.

MARTIN: Right.

TUMULTY: I mean, the fact that at The Washington Post, you know, we have an all-news alert coming out from the editors at 6:00 a.m. saying, "He's up and he's tweeting." And I think that on the one hand that's very reassuring to the people who were his most die-hard supporters, but I think that when you see a situation like now with this drip, drip, drip of revelations regarding Russia, there does seem to be coming to a point where he has to switch out of campaign mode and get into presidential mode and get ahead of this.

HEMINGWAY: It does seem that there was something different about the way he handled this Flynn thing. Now -- and I think we've heard a lot of criticism from the left about Flynn, but I also think there might be some concern on the right. I mean, one of the things that people love about Donald Trump is that when the media or other people that he perceives as opposed to him tell him that he can't do something, he does it or vice versa. And here he kind of served up this head on a platter, and then his comments today in the press conference were further confusing. He says that he loves Mike Flynn. Well, I mean, did he do something that was worth firing? If so, do it in dramatic fashion. If he didn't, why did he let him go? So, there is a bit of confusion that I think doesn't play so well with Trump supporters.

MARTIN: And it's a paradox of Donald Trump which is he supposedly hates the media collectively, but in truth as his people will tell you inside the White House, he cares deeply about the coverage. And furthermore, he's responsive to the coverage, and I think his base may not like to hear what my paper says or the networks, The Washington Post say, but when he sees that drip, drip every day about Flynn, that's what gets to him and that's what prompts action.

[16:50:01] TAPPER: Well, then, it's so odd because Sean Spicer had made this out to be, I think something that everybody understood, which was he didn't trust Mike Flynn any more. Mike Flynn had misrepresented that phone call to the vice president, to others in the White House, who then went out and said things that weren't true. He lost confidence in him, therefore, he was fired, case close.

TUMULTY: That sounded like the old "Apprentice" house, Donald Trump. You're fired.

TAPPER: And then this morning.

TUMULTY: The guy who fired him is telling us that he was mistreated. It's --

TAPPER: By us, by the media.

TUMULTY: Well, you know, the fact that so much -- again, going back to Russia, so much of this is being treated as though the real story here is the leaks. Yes, that is a story, but it would seem that as president, his primary concern should be getting his arms around what precisely is going on here. And, you know, you look at the fact that according to Mike Pence's own spokesman, the way he found out about the fact that he was deceived by General Flynn was reading The Washington Post --

TAPPER: Right.

TUMULTY: -- and finding out because of these leaks.

MARTIN: Good point, Karen.

TUMULTY: Thank you.

HEMINGWAY: And I do think there is a large middle ground between sort of this narrative that we're getting about this large-scale Russian conspiracy to get into the White House and saying that there are no problems. I mean, there is some media hysteria and narrative pushing that doesn't seem to be backed up by actual facts.

TUMULTY: Well, then, lets -- then, it is his job, I think, to call for the actual facts to come forward, whether it is through some kind of independent commission, whether it is encouraging people on the hill to go after it. This is what a president does.

HEMINGWAY: And he should also crack down on this fairly obvious orchestrated leak campaign. I mean, it is his executive branch that he's running and it's completely running roughshod over his agenda. He should do something about it.

TAPPER: Although, as we pointed out earlier in the show, he loved leaks in 2016. He was a big fan of the leaks in 2016.

(CROSSTALK)

HEMINGWAY: Everything's changed.

TAPPER: If anything's changed. You heard Jeff Flake earlier. He seems to be doing what you wrote about earlier this week, John, which is looking at the agenda and not the stuff he doesn't like.

MARTIN: Yes, and it's basically "Cafeteria Trumpism, right. You avert your gaze from the less palatable elements of it. You focused on what you like. You know, Gorsuch, that's a great pick for the right. The (INAUDIBLE) going to rally around him. And, you know, if you're the republicans for eight years you've been waiting to this agenda, and somebody to sign your bills, you now have that person. And by the way, they're confident he will in fact sign their bills. And do you want to imperil that by coming out hard against him and angering him, and he's very volatile, and risking him not signing your bills?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Exactly. Mollie, Karen and Jonathan, thank you so much. Great job.

We're learning more about the women whom authorities believed poisoned the half-brother of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. Now, the question is who wanted him dead?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: More on our "WORLD LEAD" now on THE LEAD: poison, suspected international killers, a passport with a fake name - it may sound like a spy novel, but this is a real-leaf international murder mystery unfolding before our eyes. South Korean intelligence confirmed the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong- un was fatally poisoned in Malaysia yesterday. Now, we've learned police there may have a break in the case. Let's bring in CNN International Correspondent Paula Hancocks who joins us from Seoul. Paula, at least one suspect has been arrested. What can you tell us?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. There is one woman in custody at this point. Malaysian police telling us that she was traveling with a Vietnamese travel document, and that she was picked up at the international airport in Kuala Lumpur, the exact same one where Kim Jong-nam was killed just two days earlier. It's not clear at this point whether or not she was traveling or whether she was trying to flee the country, but they have that one woman in custody.

Now, intelligence officials here in South Korea are saying that they do believe he was poisoned and they believe the two Asian women were involved in this killing. They're not giving us indication of what sort of evidence they have to prove that, but this happened at an international airport, there are cameras everywhere, so investigators are sifting through hours and hours of camera footage. At this point, investigators also waiting for the results of an autopsy on the body. Jake?

TAPPER: And Paula, Kim Jong-un obviously was behind the murder, death, assassination, whatever, of his uncle. What are authorities saying about the possible role Kim Jong-un may have played in his half-brother's death?

HANCOCKS: Well, it was interesting, within half an hour of this story breaking, South Korean media was - had guests on talking about why this hadn't happened sooner. There is a general assumption here in South Korea that North Korea is behind it, that Kim Jong-un is behind it. Officially, they will not confirm that, though, but we do know that this has been a technique that has been used by North Korea in the past, that there have been incidents of poison being used against defectors, people who have escaped North Korea. And certainly, this is one line of inquiry. Kim Jong-nam had spoken out against his half- brother Kim Jong-un. When he took power, he did do some interviews, he co-authored a book as well. When he said he didn't believe Kim Jong-un would succeed, he thought he would fail. He didn't think this third generation succession was a good idea. But on the other hand, he also said he had no interest in being the leader of North Korea. He was an international playboy. Some others say he actually posed no threat to Kim Jong-un. Jake?

TAPPER: Fascinating and bizarre. As always, Paula Hancocks, thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER, or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over right now to my friend Mr. Wolf Blitzer, who's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for joining us.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, "BREAKING NEWS" Russian contacts: CNN has learned that high-level advisors to Donald Trump were in constant contact with Russian officials during the presidential race, even as evidence emerged of Russian cyber meddling in the campaign.