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CNN NEWSROOM

Critic Of Saudi Government Feared Dead After Disappearance; China former Interpol Chief held for alleged corruption. Tears Flow As Meghan McCain Returns To "The View"; Taylor Swift Endorses Dem In Tennessee Senate Race. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:32:58] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The outrage is growing after reports that a missing "Washington Post" journalist may have been kidnapped or possibly killed. Jamal Khashoggi recently published some criticism against Saudi Arabia's crowned prince. He was last seen Tuesday walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in turkey to collect papers for his wedding in a couple of days.

Khashoggi's fiancee who waited for him outside the building said he never emerged. Turkish officials now believe he may have been killed while inside. Saudi Arabia is denying any involvement. U.S. officials say they cannot confirm what happened to him, but two senior administration officials tell CNN that the U.S. is quote/unquote, quietly trying to figure out what happened to Khashoggi.

CNN Chief International correspondent Clarissa Ward is with me now from London. And Clarissa, the Turkish president, President Erdogan, he's not buying the Saudi side of things here. What are you hearing in this investigation?

CLARISA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Erdogan is saying to the Saudis, essentially, Brooke, put your money where your mouth is. If he really did leave the consulate, as you claim, provide some evidence to back that up. Show us the documentation, show us the surveillance video, the Saudis saying that they can't provide any surveillance video.

That obviously raising a lot of red flags. The Turkish state news agency, Anadolu also reporting somewhat mysteriously that Turkish police say 15 Saudi nationals on two separate planes arrive on the day of the disappearance. Among them, government employees, that they have since left the country.

Really, clearly, Turkey saying that they believe foul play is at hand. They haven't decisively come out and said, for a matter of certainty, that Khashoggi he was killed in the consulate. But, so far, the Saudis have done nothing, essentially, to refute that, beyond saying, it didn't happen, we strenuously deny this.

The real story is that he actually left the consulate. Of course, then the question becomes, Brooke, why didn't the fiancee see him as he left the consulate? [15:35:05] And all of this is happening, important for our viewers to remember, against the backdrop of a major crackdown on any form of dissent in Saudi Arabia.

One thing that really gave me chills was listening to an interview that CNN's Hala Gorani did with Khashoggi, just one year ago, where he told her that he had received a threatening phone call from someone in the royal court, saying that he must be silent and that had precipitated his decision to try to seek residency in the U.S.

BALDWIN: Right, I was talking to Jason Rezaian about this. Of course, he knows Jamal, and he was just saying he knew. And you know, Jason would know, you put yourself at risk when you're writing about a country like this, but he was a journalist, and this is what he knew he needed to do.

I want to ask you about another disappearance, the former head of Interpol Meng Hongwei disappeared two weeks ago after a flight to Beijing. Today the Chinese government ended the speculation over his whereabouts, announcing that they have detained him. So would you expect the U.S. to weigh in on that?

WARD: I would say, Brooke, at this stage, it would be very difficult for the U.S. to weigh in on this. It's clearly a very sensitive moment in the U.S./China relationship. In fact, just today, we've seen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Beijing, sitting down with his Chinese counterpart, according to pool reporters, who were there. It was quite a tense meeting, reportedly bold and aggressive language being used.

The Chinese foreign minister coming forward and saying that the U.S. should immediately stop its wrong remarks and actions. Important to keep in mind, the U.S. has essentially waged a trade war against China. There are very really disputes that the U.S. has had with China for quite some time now, about Taiwan, about the South China Sea.

So it's a very delicate moment in this relationship, and against the backdrop of this, we have to remember that the White House's (INAUDIBLE) with North Korea is absolutely contingent on the cooperation of China, with all these other things going on it difficult to know how committed the Chinese would want to be to that, but certainly it would be politically very risky for the U.S. to weigh in on this largely internal issue without knowing more about the charges behind them.

BALDWIN: With all of this swirling, you had former Secretary of State Colin Powell on CNN, speaking with Fareed Zakaria. This is someone who we haven't seen speak up in quite a while, blistering criticism of this administration. Here he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My favorite three words in our constitution is the first three words. We, the people. We the people. But recently, it's become me, the President, as opposed to, we, the people. And you see things that should not be happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Do you think, Clarissa, this is all part of Trump's America first policy?

WARD: Well, it's really difficult, Brooke, to get a gauge on what the thinking is in Trump's White House, vis-a-vis, international relations. There doesn't seem to be a larger coherent strategy. Certainly, there is nothing typical if you look at the U.S.'s previous foreign policies, previous presidents, there's nothing typical. There's nothing really to go on here as someone who's watching the world, as someone who's reading all of the analysis out there.

It's very difficult to know where exactly President Trump is going with all of this, with these various policies that he has set in motion. But certainly, to many across the globe, there has been a clear signal from the U.S. that the U.S. is concentrating on America first, that they are not as concentrated on what the outside world has done, is doing.

And that, of course, opens a lot of doors for people to do whatever they want, essentially, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Clarissa Ward, good to see you. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, Taylor Swift wades into politics for the first time ever. Who she says she's voting for and can her influence actually make a difference?

But before we go to break, we want to take a moment to honor this week's CNN hero. For the past 37 years, Betty Chinn has been helping the homeless on California's north coast, after being tortured as a child and coming to the U.S. nearly penniless, she's giving back to the country that embraced her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETTY CHINN, CNN HERO: In China, my family is a target for the government. I separate from my family and I live on the street by myself.

This all happened very young age. I had nothing to eat. Inside my heart, I don't want anybody to suffer what I suffered.

I don't sleep a lot. I get up at 2:07. Not 2:08, not 2:06. I tell myself, time to go, somebody need your help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: To see Betty in action, go to cnnheros.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A lot of tears on "The View" today. Meghan McCain made her emotional return to the daytime show. It was her first day back, following the death of her father, former Senator John McCain, less than two months ago. And she began by thanking her co-hosts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:45:02] MEGHA MCCAIN, CO-HOST "THE VIEW": I just want to start with you, Whoopi, my father loved you. He loved you. He really loved you. I'm sorry.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, AMERICAN ACTRESS: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK, baby. Take your time. Take your time.

MCCAIN: And I love you. This woman has let me cry in her dressing room all year last year. I would go in before the show and she would let me cry on her shoulder. She wears white blouses all the time, I have ruined it with mascara more times than I can say.

Your daughter, Alex, and her friends, they are my sisters. You are my family. He loved you. And he wanted me to come back here, which is why I'm here. Abby, my dad was first diagnosed, I got wasted with you.

And I drink so much. She was heavily pregnant and she watched me down Jack Daniels after Jack Daniels after Jack Daniels and I threw up and her sister held my hair back.

My father's final farewell address, he said, we're Americans and we can never surrender. That's how I feel. We can never surrender to what is happening in the country right now. I understand how divided and how scared a lot of people are and it looks like the fabric of democracy is fraying. We do not surrender. I'm not surrendering. You don't do it either. So you have to join me in not surrendering. OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: McCain also said her father would have loved the tributes paid to him, both in Arizona and in Washington.

Meantime, Taylor Swift is in the news, stepping out of her comfort zone, weighing in on politics. The pop star has always been quiet about her beliefs in the past, but that changed last night in an Instagram post where she endorsed Democrat Phil Bredesen in the Tennessee Senate race and Democrat Jim Cooper for House of Representatives.

She wrote this, in part. "I believe in the fight for LBGTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is wrong. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening, and prevalent. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn, her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me".

With that, Swift now joins the likes of Kanye West in having bad blood with fans over their political stances.

Let's go to Joel Ebert, a political reporter for the Tennessean and David Litt, former speechwriter for President Obama.

And guys, Joel, I want to go to you in Tennessee. How is this playing -- and again keeping in mind, this is a place where the President recently campaigned and essentially said, a vote for Marcia is a vote for me. Can Taylor Swift compete with that?

JOEL ELBERT, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE TENNESSEAN: Well, the President is extremely popular here. The polling suggests that he still remains very popular in Tennessee. At the same time, Marsha Blackburn's demographic is probably not going to be Taylor Swift's audience.

So I think what Taylor Swift is trying to do is get young voters to get really energized and for two candidates that are, you know, one is over 60, the other over 70, meaning Bredesen, this is really her effort to really get young voters out there, to see Bredesen for her support for him.

BALDWIN: Bredesen. David, and I loved your note to my producer, so I'm just going to read it out loud. Full transparency, there was a time when you were at the White house that you actually, it's my understanding, had to drive four staffers to a Taylor Swift concert very quickly. So we understand where your bias is, so we're all clear. But I think about 2016 and all the star power behind Hillary Clinton. Where did that get her?

DAVID LITT, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Brooke, first of all, I do need to give a shoutout to the other three former Obama staffers.

BALDWIN: Shoutout them out.

LITT: We were on Air Force One, trying to get back, had to jump in the car, make it to the stadium for the huge concert. So I feel like this is coming full circle. But I think the important thing right now, when you think about the midterm elections, versus a presidential election, in a presidential election, young voters turn out at lower rates than older voters, but not appallingly lower.

In midterm elections, young voters tend to basically not turn out at all. So if you can get young voters who already show up in presidential years in 2016 to decide, oh, yes, actually, I'm also going to show up in 2018 in approximate a midterm year that's a game changer.

BALDWIN: Do you think, Joel, over to you in Tennessee. I mean, is it how difficult will it be getting young voters out, young voter during mid terms? Are they even listening?

ELBERT: I think they're certainly listening. Bredesen has really tried to tout some of the young voters. He had a concert, a fund- raiser recently with Jason Isbell, who is a renowned country artist in Nashville. Got a lot of young supporters out there for it.

So, I think what he's trying to do is educate the young voters who weren't around when he was governor, eight years ago. [15:50:02] So he needs to get them energetic. And in this razor-thin margin, this race is neck and neck. Some polling suggests Blackburn is up slightly five points or so.

It's going to take anything that could swing it in one direction or the other.

BALDWIN: Do you think, David -- I don't know how many people here care more about Taylor Swift versus the outcome of these elections. But could Taylor Swift just have blowback? You saw what happened with how many years ago with the whole Dixie chicks thing.

LITT: Well, I do fell like you had the Republican Senate campaign committee try to pull a Kanye, get her quiet as soon as possible. But I think that the important thing here to remember is 112 million -- that's how many Instagram followers Taylor Swift has.

So that ability to bypass the traditional back and forth, to not have to put out a press release and have it criticized and taken out of context, but to speak directly to 112 million fans, that's a huge difference. And we're seeing that throughout politics these days. If you can talk directly to the voters, it makes an enormous impact.

BALDWIN: And that we are talking about Taylor Swift and Kanye West in politics, that's some crazy full-circle moment, too. Joel Elbert and David Litt guys, thank you so very much on all things Tennessee.

Minutes from now, the NTSB will hold a news conference about that deadly limo crash in Upstate New York. We'll have update for you as well as we've learned that that limo as recently as a month ago failed inspection.

And a dire new warning about climate change. The U.N. saying the world is just 11 years from reaching a critical threshold that would cause devastating drought, wildfires and food shortages. So let's talk about what can be done to turn that around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:56:25] BALWIN: A sobering major report on climate change warns that we could be careening toward catastrophe. And if we as individuals and countries don't make massive changes soon, the worst of all climate fears may become reality much sooner than anyone projected.

The dire warning is coming from a United Nations panel made up of 91 scientists from 40 different countries. The bottom line is this. The world has just 11 years to get climate change under control or face devastating consequences.

CNN Investigative reporter, John Sutter, focuses on climate issues here at CNN. And so John, we've talked. You've traveled the world, tracking climate change. What are these dire consequences in a matter of years?

JOHN SUTTER, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Yes, I mean, I think it's hard to overstate how dire the consequences in report are. And each time one of these warnings comes out, when these alarm bells are sounded, I think of places I've been around the world, like the Marshall Islands, which is in the Pacific Ocean, these low-lying Island countries that really may not exist if we don't heed these warnings and change in unprecedented ways, like our energy systems and the way that our economies function, essentially.

The Marshall Islands, we're seeing pictures of it there, it just barely peeks out above sea level. And what this report is saying, essentially is that, if we don't make massive changes basically to half our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 or completely go carbon- neutral, which essentially means very little burning of fossil fuels by 2050, countries like that might not exist.

Closer to home, things like wildfires, devastating hurricanes, food shortages, migrations, they're all a host of awful things associated with climate change. We're already seeing the beginnings of this now. And this report just underscores that there are massive changes that need to happen if we're going to avoid the very worst consequences of global warming.

BALDWIN: You hit on some of those changes, but can you just be real with me? I mean, what -- of all these massive changes that would be required to course-correct this 11-year deadline, what would that entail?

SUTTER: I mean, it really entails a complete remake of our energy system. Burning fossil fuels contributes to the warming of the planet. 97 percent of scientists, climate scientists, agree on this point. It's very well-established. But basically, this report is saying that, a future in which we're safe from the worst of climate change is a future essentially without cold.

It's a future without other fossil fuels, like natural gas or with those being used in much smaller quantities. It's an increase in cleaner forms of energy, like wind and solar. And we see these things happening, actually. Like, there are trends towards these cleaner forms of energy happening around the world.

But what this report is saying is that we have to accelerate towards that much, much faster than is currently happening. That could be enormously expensive. This report points out, a chunk of global GDP.

But there are also other reports that talk about the expenses, financial and in lots of life and other things if we don't act. A lot of the world's most valuable property is right on the coast. In the U.S. and China, all over the world. Not just in places that are far away like the Marshall Islands. And so this report, again, is sounding these alarm bells and saying that something has to change.

BALDWIN: Sure. You've been fortunate to see a lot of these places that could disappear, and you realize just how valuable, how precious this planet really is.

John Sutter, thank you. If you want to read about this report, just go to cnn.com. [16:00:03] I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.