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Limo Crash Kills 20 in New York; Kavanaugh Momentum to Rally GOP Voters for Midterms; Masked Killer in Chicago; Saudi Journalist Missing in Turkey; U.S. War In Afghanistan's 17th Year Anniversary; Tropical Storm Michael Likely to Become A Hurricane; Fight After the Fight In UFC Match. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 7, 2018 - 17:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Alex Marquardt here in Washington in this afternoon for Ana Cabrera. We begin with the deadliest transportation accident in this country in nearly a decade. Twenty lives lost in what officials are calling a horrific limousine crash.

Those officials telling us the limousine was speeding down a hill in upstate New York. It did not stop at an intersection. It then plowed into an unoccupied SUV and killed two customers who were standing outside the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe, which is a popular tourist spot in Schoharie, New York.

Witnesses described chaos, screaming, and a huge response, as you can see there, from ambulances and first responders. Now we're hearing from state and federal investigators who are on the scene. Take a listen.


CHRISTOPHER FIORE, FIRST DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: The limousine traveled across the intersection into a parking lot and struck a 2015 Toyota Highlander that was unoccupied and parked. Two pedestrians standing nearby were also struck and killed.

ROBERT SUMWATT, NTSB CHAIRMAN, Twenty fatalities is just horrific. I've been on the board for 12 years and this is one of the biggest loss of lives that we've seen in a long, long time. This is the most deadly transportation accident in this country since February of 2009.


MARQUARDT: That was a plane crash, that 2009 accident. Let's go straight to CNN's Polo Sandoval who's on the scene in Schoharie, New York. Polo, 20 dead, 18 in the limo, two outside, I can't begin to imagine what kind of scene you're seeing right there. What are you starting to hear from people who witnessed that crash?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And to add to what you just said, Alex, it certainly brings on new meaning when you stand here only a few feet away from the location where those 20 people's lives were cut short just over 24 hours ago. We have heard from witnesses, of course, describing what took place yesterday afternoon here in upstate New York.

The location that you see behind me, you can still see the scarred earth where that limousine basically passed through an intersection and then ended up in a ditch essentially where those people were killed. As we heard from witnesses in the moments following this accident, they described exactly what they saw and what they heard.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard this loud bang. I came out and I saw a lot of people up here at the Apple Barrel, out in the parking lot. Then I heard screaming. I walked up and could see this large van, very unusual looking vehicle for out here in Schoharie, in the bushes and really wrecked, hit a tree.


SANDOVAL: Two investigations happening at this hour, one from the National Transportation Safety Board. They are on the ground. They are expected to be here for at least five days, Alex. Also, the New York state police will be conducting an investigation of their own.

At this point, all they have been able to say is that the limousine that was carrying those 18 people, the 17 passengers and the driver, who all died, basically failed to stop at an intersection right in front of me. It's a "T" intersection. This limousine just kept going, through the grass behind me, and eventually in that ditch.

Of course, as you mentioned a while ago, those two pedestrians who were also killed, bringing the total to 20 people who died here. These two investigations will continue. A lot of unanswered questions still here, Alex. Was this vehicle over capacity, perhaps? Did the brakes fail? All these questions they just don't have answers to. And of course the history of this company and the driver too.

MARQUARDT: Not to mention officials not saying at a press conference a while ago where the limo was coming from or going to or who was inside. So as you mentioned, a lot of unanswered questions in what is really a heartbreaking tragedy on this Sunday. Polo Sandoval, thanks so much. We know you'll stay on the story. We'll check in with you in a little bit.

Now, a former NTSB official tells CNN that this deadly crash could shake up an entire industry. Take a listen.


PETER GOETZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: This accident is going to change the limousine industry and going to change it significantly because it is, you know, not only because of the magnitude but because it's not -- these accidents have happened in the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUARDT: I want to bring in Mary Schiavo. She used to be the inspector general for the U.S. Transportation Department. Mary, we know the limo failed to stop at this intersection. What we don't know is why. So what are the first things that the investigators are going to be looking at?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, the NTSB is on scene because these issues have come up in so many crashes.

[17:05:04] In fact, Congress back in 2015 called on the NTSB and asked the NTSB if they wouldn't go to limo crashes and emphasize limo crashes because of the things they find. Side impacts, and yet, once these vehicles are modified to become limousines, often they don't have side air bags in them.

Rollover problems, but when they're modified, they don't have rollover protection or strengthened frames. Exits, when you put 120 inches on a vehicle but don't add exits, how do you get people out? The federal government allowed limo companies to have perimeter seats facing inwards back in 2013. What are their safeguards?

Headrests, seat belts, and there are so many things. And of course, the biggest problem of all is every state has different seat belt laws, and they're not mandatory. So no matter how many safety regulations you put in, if they're not mandatory, they're not going to help. And so that is what I think they're going to focus on here. How could these people have survived? I think they'll find there would have been a lot of ways to survive.

MARQUARDT: Well, back to this question of reform. I've been in limos a few times. I imagine you have as well. I've personally never seen any passengers actually wearing a seat belt. Most of the time you're in these limos for celebratory occasions and it's very laid back and people don't wear seat belts. In this case, we do not know.

The state police was asked specifically whether anyone was wearing seat belts. They were not able to say. But do you think that this is the kind of horrible accident that could lead to new reform whether it's on a state or federal level, first in terms of seat belts, and then of the whole industry?

SCHIAVO: Yes, absolutely. Peter was right because back in 2016, the NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a cost-benefit analysis. And it says, look, if we make all of these limos and motor carriers -- passenger carriers vehicles have seat belts, it's going to cost between $14,000 and $40,000 per vehicle to retro fit. The lives lost, they predicted, without these safety measures would be 14 to perhaps 20 a year.

Well, they've hit that number. Now they've hit 20 lives lost in a year. They value the life at $6.3 million in the NHTSA report. And so finally I think this accident has pushed them to the point where the cost-benefit analysis, which they have to do by law, will say, hey, it's time to make the changes.

MARQUARDT: Mary, we've been looking at the map, and we saw this happened at a "T" intersection. The limo failed to stop there. When you look at these few details that we have, when you look at the crash site, what stands out to you in this investigation?

SCHIAVO: Well, first of all, the vehicle is a very old vehicle and has clearly been stretched and to have 18 people in that vehicle -- I know it's hard to see in the pictures, but it's clear that in stretching a vehicle to that size, many of the things that I just mentioned are likely to be present.

Side-facing seats, lack of headrests, lack of strengthening of the vehicle, and also we don't know the driver's duty time. Remember the Morgan crash where the Wal-Mart driver hit Tracy Morgan's vehicle. That driver has been on duty I think for a day or a day and a half. And so they're also going to be looking at the driver's schedule as well.

But to blow through that intersection and not see the stop sign, obviously there was either distraction or something going on. And of course, did they have a divider between the driver's compartment and the rest of the vehicle? That might play an issue too.

MARQUARDT: We're looking at pictures of all the law enforcement, state and federal, who are on the scene, and local of course. We know the New York state police and NTSB are now working together. But in fact, they are investigating separately as well as concurrently. So what are the upsides and perhaps the downsides of these two separate investigations?

SCHIAVO: Well, of course New York State has the job and the duty to do so many things in an investigation, but it's the NTSB that can make recommendations. Again, Congress passed them in 2015 to look at limo crashes and loss of life in limo crashes. The NTSB can make recommendations. Now, they can't change the law, but they can make reports and they publish their most wanted list and they publish their recommendations for safety.

And it will be this data, I think that, can push the NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to say, yes, the cost- benefit analysis has changed, and it is worth the investment to require these changes. That's why I think it's so important that both New York and the NTSB are involved.

MARQUARDT: All right. Mary Schiavo, thanks so much for your expertise.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right. We're in the wake of now Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation battle, Republican lawmakers and the president say the Democrats are unfit to lead, comparing them to an angry mob. So did the ugly confirmation process ruin the chances of a Democratic blue wave in the midterms? We'll discuss that.

[17:10:05] Plus, a masked killer who shot dead two men in broad daylight in an otherwise peaceful suburb of Chicago. The clues and the manhunt, that's coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: Well, just hours into Brett Kavanaugh's new job, divisions are already running high as both sides fight to use this moment as a rallying cry for the November midterms. Control of Congress no doubt on the line. On CNN's "State of the Union," two senators traded barbs over Kavanaugh's final confirmation vote.


SEN SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I found dr. Ford's testimony to be heart wrenching, painful, compelling, and I believe that she believes what she testified to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you lose this seat over your vote?

COLLINS: You know, I have to do what I think is right, and over the years the people of Maine have trusted me to exercise my best judgment. That's what I did in this case.

[17:15:08] SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D) HAWAII: She said that she thinks that -- she said that Dr. Ford thinks that she was assaulted, which is even more insulting than saying that she gave a very credible account. I certainly believe Dr. Ford. A senator said making these confirmation decisions are the people who are elected by their voters. And so as voters, they have a role to play.


MARQUARDT: Well, for his part, President Trump is taking a victory lap back to Washington after arguably one of the best weeks of his presidencies. So for more on that, let's bring in CNN White House reporter Sara Westwood. She is on the north lawn of the White House. Sara, we know that the president went golfing today. How are the White House and Republicans for that matter celebrating and capitalizing on this momentum after what is really a huge victory for them?

SARA WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Alex, President Trump has spent the past couple of days basking in the success of Senate Republican efforts to put now Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. And at his rally in Kansas last night, Trump dedicated most of it, not just touting the confirmation of Kavanaugh, but also to promoting some other big wins that we've seen from the White House just in the past week.

That's including the negotiation of new trade terms with Canada and Mexico. That's including the release of the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years. And what we're seeing is Trump and his allies forming what could become a central theme of their midterm messaging. And that's using Kavanaugh's bitter confirmation battle as a warning to Republican voters about the kind of things they might see if Democrats retake Congress to paint congressional Democrats as extremists and partisan obstructionists.

And now that's all part of Republican efforts to motivate GOP voters that might otherwise be complacent in November. Because remember that Democrats have for months enjoyed an advantage in polls showing voter enthusiasm. That's a big reason why a lot of experts have been predicting this blue wave coming in November.

Trump and his allies, they clearly think that the Kavanaugh situation helps their side. However, we should note that some Democrats also think the Kavanaugh situation is more helpful to them given the level of activism and the intensity of opposition that we've seen to Kavanaugh over the past several weeks.

Now, Trump is going to have several chances to try to keep the excitement level of his base up this week because there are some Republican strategists who have expressed concerns that perhaps this energy could dissipate in the weeks before voters head to the polls.

On Monday, Trump will have an official event in orlando before heading to campaign rallies across the country in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, finishing with a rally in Kentucky on Saturday. So we are very likely to hear more of Trump's victory lap and more of his midterm messaging to voters as this week unfolds, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes, the president trying to make sure that conservative momentum remains in the next four and a half weeks before the midterms. Sara Westwood at the White House, thank you very much.

Now, the margin to confirm Kavanaugh was razor thin, historically so, just 50-48. But no matter how small, this is still a major victory for President Trump. In less than two years, he has appointed two Supreme Court justices, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh t likely shifting the court to the right for decades to come.

For more on that, let's bring in Michael D'Antonio who is a Trump biographer and joins us now. You can read his book, "This Truth About Trump." Michael, thanks for joining us today. You say this isn't just a win for Trump. You wrote that it's a win for Trumpism. Explain that.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Donald Trump is not a typical president, as everyone knows. He came into office as a disrupter, as a person who was essentially going to break everything in Washington, and he's done that. And one of the things that he broke is the normal agreeableness, the process that people use to go through these nominations, to confirm a nominee.

And in the case of Brett Kavanaugh, we saw for the first time really a nominee for the Supreme Court sort of break down in front of a committee and start spewing these paranoid ideas about there being this gang of people out to get him, that liberals were out to get him. So, really, the president represents, I think, politics by personality and his personality has infected all of Washington.

MARQUARDT: And beyond, as we've seen, particularly last week when the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford at one of his rallies in Mississippi. He was asked, in fact, about that moment yesterday on Air Force One so let's listen to that quickly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the Mississippi speech that you gave made a difference?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that the Mississippi speech had a great impact, yes. I think it was a very important thing. Hey, look, "The Washington Post" said it on their front page. I can't believe they said it, but they said it.


[17:20:05] MARQUARDT: So Michael, do you think that that mocking of Ford at that rally might have in fact helped Kavanaugh perhaps in reminding senators who were on the fence before this vote how that base feels?

D'ANTONIO: Well, I think that might have been an element of it. I really think the president is looking after himself. So, he is thinking not only of 2018 and the election result come November and whether he keeps the senate or not, but he is also looking forward to 2020. There's this constant process of manipulating his base, getting people fired up, really sort of playing to this crowd of folks who sometimes follow him from rally to rally.

So, yes, he may have helped Kavanaugh by reminding senators of the energy in his base, but I think he's primarily trying to help himself. You know, this is a new territory for everyone to try and think about how do we deal with a personality that infects everybody with narcissism, who really projects on to us all this anger and rage.

And now you have this spectacle of Lindsey Graham in the senate who was once a sober voice of reason, you know, side by side with John McCain, trying to speak truth to the power that is Trump. Now he's his enabler and sycophant. And we see in Washington even with Susan Collins' vote and abandonment of certain independence and principle that just wouldn't have been imaginable in a day before Trump.

MARQUARDT: Michael, when you crisscross this country and speak with Trump voters, particularly in the wake of controversial things that he said or tweeted and you asked them, why do you continue to support the president, very often what they'll do is point to the fact that he will put the kind of people that they want on the Supreme Court.

And the president has, in fact, acknowledged that the court was a big reason that voters turned out for him in 2016. Just a couple weeks ago, he wrote, quote, "The Supreme Court is one of the main reasons I got elected. I hope Republican voters and others are watching and studying the Democrats' playbook."

So, if we look at the number of judges that Trump has actually put on the bench, I mean, he's put two on the Supreme Court but more than 70 on federal benches. So, this is a clear recognition by the president that this is one of the easiest ways to fire up his base, is it not?

D'ANTONIO: It is a very easy way, and he's on track, I think, to appoint hundreds of federal judges, especially if he gets two terms in office. So his impact on the judiciary is going to be profound and long lasting. What I think is also important to note is that this is an agenda that Mike Pence pushed very hard. And so when Donald Trump selected him as the vice presidential running

mate, he was also signaling especially to the religious right that we're going to go after reproductive rights, we're going to go after marriage equality, we're going to try and roll these things back, and it that's the Pence agenda as well.

So the president knows what he's doing. He knows the political math that he's engaged in. The question is whether it works for the whole country. And you know, the thing that I think distresses many people who saw this Kavanaugh spectacle play out is that it's only, you know, the worst of Trumpism amplified.

And the question every week as we start the week is, what's the new low thing that we're going to experience? What person will the president mock? What institution is he going to try and degrade? And in Kavanaugh, we have a person going to the court now who is forever stained by this process, and I don't think it's good for the Supreme Court or the American public.

MARQUARDT: Michael, before we let you go, I want to get your take on this question of momentum that we were just talking to Sara Westwood about. With four and a half weeks before the midterms, do you think that this really has amped up the energy on the Republican side? Do you think it's going to put a dent or even just completely neutralize the blue wave that we've been talking about for several months now?

D'ANTONIO: Well, anyone who was around two years ago knows not to predict what's going to happen in an election because we saw the polls then, and it appeared that Hillary Clinton was going to win. And even though she won most of the votes, she didn't win the White House. So, saying what's going to happen even four and a half weeks from now is pretty impossible.

I would point out that there's actually quite a bit of time between now and the day people vote. Four and a half weeks in an American election is an eternity. So, we can see the enthusiasm on the Republican side wane now that they've gotten what they've wanted and have their man in.

[17:25:04] But there could be another development. There could be something with North Korea. There could be something that the president does on health care that is unexpected and fires up his base again so I would say, you know, hold on to your hats. We don't know what's going to come.

MARQUARDT: Well, here in Washington, there's certainly a spring in the step of Republican leaders that we haven't seen in a long time. So we will wait and see whether they can maintain that for the next month or so. Michael D'Antonio, thanks very much.

D'ANTONIO: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right, well, the hunt for a killer. Police say this masked shooter carried out two brazen murders, one in broad daylight. And now a Chicago neighborhood is shaken and on edge. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom." [17:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: Chicago police say they have 40 detectives as well as federal agents looking for the killer they believe randomly murdered two men. The victims were gunned down within 36 hours of one another, one of them in broad daylight. You can see right there, that normally quiet neighborhood, a neighborhood that we now know is on edge. CNN's Scott Mclean has more.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With quiet tree-lined streets, a direct link to downtown, and sweeping views of Lake Michigan, Chicago's Rogers Park is a safe, desirable neighborhood by almost every measure. But lately people here have been on high alert after two separate murders in a span of just 36 hours. The victims seemingly chosen at random. The first happened in broad daylight. Neighbors heard the shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't believe it was happening.

MCLEAN: 73-year-old Douglas Watts was out walking his dog when a masked man in a dark track suit shot him in the head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy was such a nice guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's just a sweet old man. He could barely walk. I mean, what kind of enemies could he have?

MCLEAN: Surveillance footage caught the suspect taking off down a nearby alley, but the video reveals almost nothing identifiable except, police say, for a distinctive walk. His feet point noticeably outward. Ladi Ogunnubi said he saw the suspect moments before the shooting.

LADI OGUNNUBI, WITNESS: As I was stepping out my complex, he started to like walk further away from me. But I forgot something in the house on my way to church. And so I went -- I ran back in to go get that. And when I had to come back out, like within a minute or two, I started to see cops and a bit of chaos. It could have been me.

MCLEAN: Just a day later, 24-year-old Eliyahu Moscowitz was killed along a lake front path just a few blocks away, also shot in the head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just made me really sad.

MCLEAN: Did it make you think twice to jog down here today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it definitely makes me think twice. If you guys saw me out here running, I'm trying to get it in like in and out, as fast as I can.

MCLEAN: This week, police held a packed community meeting to calm fears and also advise caution. Some people wondered if these were hate crimes. The first victim was gay, the second, an orthodox Jew. Others think that white people were the target. Police aren't talking about potential motives, but they are stepping up patrols. They think the suspect is a local.

ANTHONY TICCO, CHICAGO POLICE: He's not a ghost. He shops in stores around there. He walks the neighborhood around there.

MCLEAN: Police have dozens of leads but still no suspects. Little comfort for a neighborhood praying he's caught before he kills again. Scott McLean, CNN, Chicago.


MARQUARDT: All right. Thanks to Scott McLean. Joining me now to dig deeper is CNN law enforcement analyst James Galiano. He is also a retired FBI supervisory special agent -- sorry there James. So, this is what we know, 40 detectives in Chicago working on this, FBI agents, ATF agents. All they have to really go on is that piece of surveillance video. What do you see in this video? Where do they start looking for this guy?

JAMES GALIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYTST: Well, from the video, Alex, I mean, clearly it looks like a man with a slight build. I think the detectives have determined that he is probably an African- American. He's got an interesting gait, if you will, and his feet point outward. And that's kind of what they're going on right now.

So they're trying to get that video out there. So if anybody has seen something they could possibly call in on, that would help. Look, from a homicide perspective, you're normally looking at four motives. You're looking at what we call the four L's, love, lust, looper, which is money, or loathing.

And that's the thing that makes it so difficult if you do have a serial killer on your hands because serial killers kind of have an abnormal way of looking at things. Sometimes there's no link analysis to be made between the potential victims. Obviously the people weren't robbed that were killed. Doesn't seem any rhyme or reason here. It's going to be a difficult task and an uphill battle I think to the Chicago PD.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Scott noted in his piece that one of the victims was Jewish. Another one was gay, which of course raises the possibility of a hate crime. That's just speculation. The police have not talked about a motive, but it does look like at this point the victims were selected at random. But when you look at the profiles of these victims, does it seem random to you?

GALIANO: Well, first of all, we've got such a small sample size. So, you know, unfortunately, two people are dead. There's only two of them, which makes it a lot more difficult to kind of establish kind of link analysis here. Look, for a serial killer, you're generally talking about somebody that kills three or more people over a month- long period.

And I hate to say this, I'm old enough, I grew up in Atlanta during the height of the Atlanta Children Murders back in '79 to '81 and I remember for that two-year period how it literally crippled the area. I mean, kids couldn't play outside. There was no trick-or-treating at Halloween.

[17:35:05] It really puts a neighborhood in the area on edge. And this part of Chicago, it's a typically -- not crime free, but it's not a place where you expect homicides to happen. So that's what makes this such an unusual, I guess, selection of murders.

MARQUARDT: Yes. This is a neighborhood that we are hearing is quiet and relatively crime free. Certainly not used to these kinds of horrific murders. The police have said that they believe that this suspect is local, someone who would be familiar with the roads and streets in that community. Why do you think they would have drawn that conclusion?

GALIANO: Because in the vast majority of violent crime that occurs in this country, Alex, it's generally speaking people close by. People always take the path of least resistance. They're like water. So, obviously doing something closer to home is easier, depending upon what of course their motives are.

Bu also, there's a better familiarity with the terrain and the people that live there. Their comings and goings and things like that. Bad guys want patterns. They want simplicity. They want, like I said, the path of least resistance. It doesn't surprise me that the police are kind of focusing on somebody that's familiar with the area.

MARQUARDT: All right. A real murder mystery in Chicago. James Galiano, thanks very much.

GALIANO: Thanks for having me.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, a "Washington Post" contributor from Saudi Arabia disappears after visiting his home country's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The Turkish authorities said that Saudi authorities had him killed for speaking out. That story, next.


MARQUARDT: Now we turn to an international mystery that has officials from one country accusing another of murder. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he is personally chasing the investigation into the disappearance of a prominent Saudi Arabian journalist.

The Reuters news agency says a political adviser to President Erdogan says he believes that Jamal Khashoggi was killed after he went inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia for its part strongly denies any knowledge of his appearance. Khashoggi was a "Washington Post" writer and an outspoken critic of the Saudi leadership. He's lived in the U.S. for the past year, presumably to avoid possible arrest for his criticism in his writing.

KAREN ATTIAH, GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: Whoever may have wanted to do this recognized that he's an important voice not only for Saudi Arabia but for the region and for the entire world. And so if anything, all they've done is just upped his profile. To whoever has information, Saudis, Turks, the entire world is watching. MARQUARDT: CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is

joining us with more. Nic, Khashoggi had once been an adviser to the royal family. Then he turned into a critic but still lived in Saudi Arabia as he wrote about them and then he became so fearful that as we just mentioned, he moved here to the U.S., to Virginia, in fact.

So, what did he say? What did he write about that could have so angered the Saudis that they would have gone to this great length to have him killed?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there was a sense it had begun criticizing what the regime was doing, that he'd been supportive of the reforms of the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, the de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, that had supported him on one hand but was critical of his methods, those methods being in control. He's always locking up critics of the regime.

So, he would have been fully aware, and I spoke to a source today familiar who knew Khashoggi. He said Khashoggi would have been fully aware going into that consulate what trouble may have lain in wait for him.

The fact that he went there on Friday and was told to come back on Tuesday when most Saudis can do most of their official business online would have been a warning for Khashoggi that there could be trouble ahead. So he was very well aware that he was crossing red lines with the leadership in Saudi Arabia.

MARQUARDT: Yes, and when he went down to the consulate, he was going there, in fact, to get a piece of paper, showing that he had gotten a divorce from his Saudi wife in order to marry his Turkish fiance. His fiance was with him at the consulate and waited outside. And Khashoggi had said something to her along the lines of I want you to know if I don't come back out, something may have happened to me.

But Nic, this is just an extraordinary story. We hear about assassinations on foreign soil a lot, oftentimes it has to do with the Russians. The fact the Saudis may have gone into a diplomatic space, which is technically their territory, and carried out a killing is just extraordinary, is it not?

ROBERTSON: It is. They're pushing back for that reason, very strongly. The Turkish officials who are speaking publicly about this are hinting that they may be able to bring forward some evidence that would substantiate their claims. But at the moment, the burden does seem to be on the Turkish authorities' side to prove that this nefarious activity they're talking about happened.

But it's still a mystery. And the Saudis, from their point of view, many in Saudi Arabia feel that this is a political play by President Erdogan in Turkey and therefore the burden of proof, you know, lies with Turkey here. But of course, there are many people looking at this and saying, well, Mohammed bin Salman may have stepped over a line here.

That even his own diplomats weren't expecting him to do because the Turkish authorities are already investigating 15 Saudis who arrived in Turkey the morning that Khashoggi disappeared. And then they left again later in the day.

[17:45:06] So we heard Erdogan earlier today saying they're looking at video footage from outside the consulate and at the airport. And we've heard the police are investigating those movements of those 15 Saudis. So, you know, it does seem that the Turkish feel they may have some evidence to bring forward. That could be a game changer. That would be very difficult for the Saudis to explain away at that stage, if it happened.

MARQUARDT: And the Saudis, we know, let journalists into the consulate and gave them a tour and let them look around, as if to say, look, we have absolutely nothing to hide. But of course, there are ways if so determined to have carried this out. As Khashoggi's former editor noted, the world is watching. So Nic Robertson in London, we know you'll stay on this. Thank you very much.

And one more international news item to get to. It's a grim anniversary. As of today, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is starting its 18th year. It was October 7th, 2001, when then-President George W. Bush directed it American and coalition troops to Afghanistan, a country that was harboring the planners of 9/11.

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest armed conflict in American history and has cost the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. military men and women, including first sergeant class, (inaudible) 34 years old. He was Fort Lee, New Jersey, and died on New Year's Day this year. Sergeant First Class Raymond (inaudible). He was 36. He was killed in August when a roadside bomb exploded next to him in Helmand province.

And then there's Sergeant First Class Christopher Salise (ph). He was just 32 years old on his fifth deployment to Afghanistan. He died in a fire fight in July. Seventeen years of war to the day in Afghanistan, and the Taliban still control much of the country. About 15,000 American troops are still deployed to Aghanistan as we speak today.

Now, there's a storm churning in the Caribbean. It could become a hurricane and take aim at the U.S. later this week. Details on its projected path when we come back.


MARQUARDT: Florida's governor Rick Scott says he's declaring a state of emergency as tropical storm Michael churns near the Gulf of Mexico and it's getting stronger by the hour and moving north wards. Scott tweeted that the state of emergency is for the Florida panhandle and the big bend and that he continues to monitor the storm's path and it's0 potential impact. Michael is expected to be a hurricane by the time it makes landfall on the U.S. gulf coast. That's expected in the coming days. So for more, we turn to CN meteorologist Tom Sater. He's got some more information. Your predictions on Michael, Tom, what are you seeing?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the 5:00 p.m. advisory Eastern Time is really intensifying Michael now. We thought maybe we will have a Wednesday morning landfall at a Category One. Now it looks to be a Category Two a little bit later in the day, Wednesday. And there is still a time this thing to develop even further.

It's been quite a day Hurricane hunters have been flying into peak wind gusts at about 61 miles per hour. This is the same location that we had our first named storm, Alberto (inaudible). That brought a soggy memorial day to those beach goers in the panhandle of Florida. And it looks like it wants to take the same kind of track.

We thought this will all be over with after Florence, I know we had enough suffering and they are still trying to clean up and rebuild. This may have rainfall in store for those that went to that flooding in the Carolinas. Let's hope that's not the case.

But when you look at the spaghetti plot, there's a trough out to the west, Alex, and depending on the timing as it moves eastward, will it slow down and create maybe more of a south to north movement for Michael or will it come through quickly and push the system up the coastline.

This is the way it looks right now. Let's break down the differences. The water is extremely warm so it does have the time and space to develop even further and maybe a weak Category Two. Could it be a strong Category Two? Could it continue to develop to a three? Those possibilities are there because it was nearly stationary for hours and it's only moving 3 miles per hour.

Instead of a Wednesday morning at 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. as a Category One, this is about 2:00 p.m. so maybe around 3:00 or 4:00, we're looking at a Category Two. Anywhere from around Pensacola (inaudible) beach (inaudible) over toward (inaudible). If there's a place for this to make landfall, it would be (inaudible) because we're looking at more wetlands, and so not as much development.

But it carries this through toward the Carolinas. And even as a Category One, the winds could be strong even in Atlanta moving across Augusta. But this is the last thing we want us to see five, six, seven, eight inches of rainfall making its way from Georgia and toward the Carolinas. Heaviest rain moving near Tallahassee could exceed 10 inches, Alex.

MARQUARDT: A good reminder that hurricane season is still for a couple more weeks and that area does not need anymore rain. Tom Sater, thanks very much.

All right, coming up, uncaged and unhinged, A UFC fighter goes on a rampage after beating Conor McGregor in Las Vegas. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."

[17:55:00] (COMMERCIAL: BREAK)

MARQUARDT: Right now, anyone who watched the big UFC bout in Las Vegas last night is talking not about the fight itself, but about the fight after the fight. Look at this. The winner, the Russian, Khabib Nurmagomedov, he wasn't done after beating Conor McGregor and had he had a score to settle with someone in McGregor entourage outside the cage. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now Khabib jumped the fence. He's going right at (inaudible).



MARQUARDT: And then it kept going. Watch the guy there in the red shirt. He jumps into the famous octagon and hits McGregor in the back of the head. Three people were arrested after that scrap.

All right, well, the cast of "Saturday Night Live" had some fun with Senate Republicans and with us here at CNN in their show (inaudible) open last night. It was just hours after the confirmation and swearing in of now JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH on the U.S. Supreme Court. This is how the imagined the post game interviews in the Senate locker room.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling?

[18:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel like this is a win you can be proud of?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, hell yes, Dana. Republicans read the move of the country. We can tell the people really wanted Kavanaugh. Every --