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Nikki Haley Resigns As U.S. Ambassador to U.N.; Powerful Hurricane Michael Headed for Southern U.S.; Kanye West to Meet Trump at White House; Turkey Says It Will Search Saudi Consulate for Signs of Missing Journalist. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Calling it quits but why now?

The high profile U.S. ambassador to the United Nations suddenly announces her resignation, taking many at the White House by surprise.

Hello, I'm John Vause in Atlanta.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm George Howell, live in Destin, Florida, where we are awaiting Hurricane Michael. It is growing currently in the Gulf of Mexico, some 335 kilometers away from where we are now. The storm growing, could get to a category 4 storm before it reaches landfall.

Here in Destin, Florida, we're watching and waiting. People have been told to get out of this area. The storm is moving at quite a fast pace for a hurricane, again moving right now some 19 kilometers per hour.

It's described as a storm that will come in fast, will hit hard and move right out into the Atlantic. Right now some 28 million people are under form of a weather watch or warning associated with this storm. The eye of the storm tracking toward Panama City, Florida. That's where they will feel the strongest effects of the storm.

And keep in mind everything to the east of Panama City, in the dirty side of the storm, the northeastern quadrant of this hurricane sure to feel the force of this storm. It is one of four major storms to hit this part of the United States since 1950. Think back to 2005 with Hurricane Dennis. People remember what happened then. People are concerned about what is to come with this storm.

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HOWELL: And here in Destin, Florida, people have been told really to get out of the way of this storm. We see people doing just that because, again, within this area, Panama City, Apalachicola, Florida, people there will feel the brunt of this very strong storm. Right now a category 3. Has the power, the potential to get up to a category 4.

To talk more about Apalachicola, Florida, we have the mayor of that city, Van Johnson with us.

And Mr. Johnson, we understand you followed that advice, to get out of the way of an area that is going to be hit hard.

VAN JOHNSON, MAYOR, APALACHICOLA, FLORIDA: Exactly. I followed the advice that I was giving all the residents and that was to evacuate. This is storm that have a significant life-threatening impact.

And the word that we was putting out on the street is to evacuate. So I wanted to lead by example. So I'm here with my family, hoping for a safe situation.

HOWELL: Let's talk what Apalachicola has seen before, strong storms that come through here, really the last since 2005. The intensity, the possibility of damage with a storm like this.

JOHNSON: They are predicting this to be the worst storm we'll see perhaps in two decades. I remember 1985 with Kate in Atlanta. I rode that one out. And that was a category 3. And I said that wouldn't happen again.

HOWELL: Right. Some people, they may look back at storms like Florence, still a very, very strong storm. Great deal of flooding. But as it came inland, dropped down to category 1. Some people say, well, maybe I can ride this out. Maybe it will weaken.

But it's in the Gulf of Mexico. The water is warm. This storm has the potential to get up to category 4. That's 210 kilometers per hour.

JOHNSON: And I think that complacency because we've had those near misses of people not taking it serious. But I'm telling you, all the (INAUDIBLE) serious as possible. And those people that decided to stay, I wish them well. And those people that decided to leave, they did the right thing.

HOWELL: One other question to you, sir. For people who did take that advice, people like yourself who left, after a storm passes through, people wonder, well, when can I go home?

But many times it takes officials time, right, to move power lines, to clear those trees, because it's still a very dangerous situation.

How long would you say for people to wait, to hear from officials about coming home?

JOHNSON: It's probably going to be early Friday. In fact, we're going to declare a curfew soon as the storm pass, because we don't want the people that stay to start wandering into the way of the people that's actually out there, working to clear the storm of debris.

HOWELL: Van Johnson, we appreciate your time. The mayor of Apalachicola, Florida. Again, we'll keep in touch with you as that city braces for what is a very strong storm.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HOWELL: Thank you for your time today.

JOHNSON: All right.

HOWELL: We're watching and waiting as this storm moves in. Its the proverbial calm before the storm. But out there you know what's coming. You do feel the wind gusts from time pick up. Nothing so strong that we're feeling right now. But, again, this is nothing compared to what is coming here in the next several hours.

Let's talk about that now with Ben McMillan. Ben is a field correspondent with WeatherNation joining us now live via Skype. And Ben, tell us about your expectations. Again, we're talking about east of Panama City. That part of Florida that is certainly going to feel the impact of this storm.

As you're tracking it, what are you looking for?

BEN MCMILLAN, WEATHERNATION: Yes, good evening, guys. We are in Panama City Beach, Florida, which could be ground zero for this major hurricane and points to the east like Mexico Beach could facing a significant storm surge.

Those are the kinds of threats we're watching very closely, along with those winds, well over 100-110 kilometers. It's going to be very strong as it goes through the area here. We're going to be watching all the threats, flying debris, flash flooding and storm surge are all going to be a concern.

HOWELL: WeatherNation, taking your perspective on this storm, it's described as historic. Given the intensity, the strength that's about to be felt here on the Gulf Coast.

MCMILLAN: Well, Governor Rick Scott saying they haven't seen a storm of this magnitude in decades saying we can save your house but we can't save your life, saying this storm could be potentially deadly.

So extremely strong wording from government officials here and they deployed resources accordingly. The governor activating over 2,500 National Guard troops. State police also on standby with hundreds of them. They are ready to respond for whatever this crisis may bring into the region.

HOWELL: And you know one more touch of perspective here. You know, talk about the Panhandle of Florida, Tallahassee here in the Panhandle, down to Tampa, Florida.

This is a part of this state that really has been able to dodge a lot of these bigger storms. If you look back at the last several decades, there have been big storms --

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HOWELL: -- but there has been a bit of luck. It seems like this particular storm is tracking right in.

MCMILLAN: Yes. As your meteorologist mentioned earlier, only category 3 or higher storms have hit this area of the country since 1950. That's a long time to not see this type of weather. Many folks here have never seen it in their lifetime.

And there is not a lot of height rise or elevation as you go up from the Gulf of Mexico into some of these areas. That's why that devastating storm surge might be such a concern.

HOWELL: Ben McMillan with WeatherNation, we appreciate your time. Again, we're expecting the storm to really come inland, to make landfall. And people will feel the sheer strength of it sometime around midday tomorrow, mid afternoon tomorrow.

What we're seeing right now, again, I told you, you feel wind gusts. Again, nothing so strong. But you do get a sense that something is lurking there in the dark, moving this direction.

And certainly, in the next several hours, we will see some rainfall. The winds to pick up. You'll probably see me get into rain gear very quickly as this storm pushes in, John. But we're here in the state of Florida and we'll bring you the latest on this very important, very significant storm that's affecting millions of people in the United States.

VAUSE: There is that steady drumbeat as the conditions slowly get worse and worse and then, before you know it, you're in the thick of it. George, a lot to hear from you in the coming hours. Thank you.

In the meantime, though, for almost two years, Nikki Haley has been a high flyer within the Trump administration, winning praise for her role as ambassador to the U.N., surviving public disagreements with the president, the likes of which could have sunk the careers of others in his cabinet, which is why so many were taken by surprise on Tuesday, when Haley announced her resignation.

The president, though, was effusive, saying Haley has done a fantastic job and would always be welcomed back to his administration whenever she wanted. Both Haley and Trump insisted this moment was long expected. Still, there are questions about the timing. The lead candidate to replace Haley is Goldman Sachs executive Dina Powell, who served for a short time as deputy national security adviser.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Dina is certainly a person I would consider and she is under consideration. We have actually many names. And you know, Nikki has been great. Nikki is going to be working along with us and helping us with the choice plus he's going to help us with 2020. And Nikki is a great friend of mine. We've become real friends over the last year. She's done a fantastic job and so she'll be involved.

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VAUSE: Joining me now David Rohde, a CNN global affairs analyst and executive editor of "The New Yorker" website.

David, thank you for taking the time. You know, despite what the president has been saying, we know who does not want the job and that would be White House adviser and Trump favorite for pretty much everything, Ivanka.

The first daughter tweeted out a fairly emphatic statement saying that she's just is not interested in being Haley's replacement.

And so with that in mind a few hours ago it came an opinion piece put out by the editorial board of "The New York Times," it was full of praise for Nikki Haley and they write it one day she may eventually find herself having to defend facilitating some of President Trump's worst policies and instincts but she will also be able to point to a more constructive role she played.

Indeed, a replacement in her mold may be the best to hope for from Mr. Trump.

So is there another Nikki Haley out there and is this role within an administration really that important?

So it only goes to the early comers or those who are on their way out, the elder statesman if you like.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think the role can be important and I think Nikki Haley showed that she disagrees with the president on a variety of fronts. She actually, you know, opposed Trump when he was running for president.

Is there another figure who will speak that openly?

It's -- you know, it's not clear. Dina Powell, who works in the National Security Council, her name has come up. I don't know if she has the sort of political sway with the Republican Party that Nikki Haley had.

And the reality is you know, this President totally dominates this Republican Party. His sort of favorite now in terms of foreign policy is secretary of state Mike Pompeo so the short answer is I don't think there is another person who can sort of question Trump and challenge him the way Nikki Haley did.

VAUSE: Yes. There are also a lot of questions out there about the timing of this announcement.

Why now?

Notably Haley, you know, floated the old cliche need to spend more time with family excuses. This what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: There's no personal reasons. I think that it's just very important for government officials to understand when it's time to step aside. And I have given everything I've got these last eight years and I do think that sometimes it's good to rotate in other people who can put that same energy and power into it.

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VAUSE: You know, that need to take a break, this sort of crop rotation system for senior government officials, it's often what a president will say when he's firing someone is it?

ROHDE: Yes, I don't -- I don't think she's forced out but I think there's something happening here. Officials in the White House were --

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ROHDE: -- surprised by this announcement. They didn't expect it would come. It distracted from the president you know, swearing in Brett Kavanaugh as the new Supreme Court justice last night and so that I think there's a lot of speculation about why she's done this.

You know, Nikki Haley has spoken out about women who are saying they're victims of sexual assault being listened to. She has disagree with the president so I think there's more to this and that will come out in the days ahead. I don't think you know, this is a sudden announcement that surprised people across the White House, that's no accident. There's something more to this story.

VAUSE: I'm just wondering.

Could it simply be that she's now planning on cashing in on her government experience?

She wants this high paying job in the private sector because the home state newspaper "The Post and Courier" has reported this. The federal ethics reports show Haley a debt from $525,000 to about $1.1 million in 2017. The last year available for this numbers, $25,000 to $65,000 on two credit cards, listed a mortgage on the line of credit for 250,000 to 500,000.

This report goes on to detail finds with troubles for her parents. They sold a strip mall to Haley's husband for $5.00. It's valued at around $1 million. The parent's home is actually going through foreclosure as well.

Could she be heading for the exit essentially before she becomes damaged goods by associating with Trump administration for too long?

You know -- and the first thing comes to mind with all this is Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary.

ROHDE: I think that you know, she could have headed for the exits after the midterm elections. You know, even if the Democrats there well in the election said that won't be a surprise. So I don't -- and you know, there are these financial difficulties you mentioned, again, I would have expected her to get through November.

We're weeks away from this vote. There will be a lot of turnover I think in the administration after the midterms no matter what.

So again, there's some other reason she's leaving. It's not clear yet but I think it will emerge. And one thing just you know, it's a -- it's a symbol. She's one of the few female members of the cabinet that really is a sort of powerful figure and so her departure you know, it creates even more of a cabinet of older white men.

And you know, you talked about a replacement, you know, that'll be a big question will he try to find another woman and he does lack women in his cabinet.

VAUSE: Yes, there's not a lot diversity within the administration right now. And we saw sure should not that Haley's resignation was not the only surprising statement that she made, on Tuesday there was also this.

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HALEY: Jared is such a heavy genius that no one understands. I mean to redo the NAFTA deal the way he did, what I've done working with him on the Middle East peace plan, it is so unbelievably well done.

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VAUSE: She went on to say how Jared Kushner has been hiding this genius that he has. But you know, to be fair, there's also gushing praise for so many others within Donald Trump's administration.

Is it that kind of a glimpse of how you know, Nikki Haley has handled Donald Trump?

ROHDE: I think so but look, I want to be respectful to Donald Trump. Again, these statements and her sort of, you know, praise for Donald Trump and his son-in-law, you know, show the total power of Donald Trump over this Republican Party.

She is a politician, Nikki Haley. She will be running for office in the future. Donald Trump can turn on any candidate in any race in this country, in a Republican candidate and back their opponent and that Republican politicians career is over.

So I think she was exaggerating about Kushner. She was praising the president. That is a way to handle Donald Trump. But the point here is you know Nikki Haley is savvy and this is absolutely 100 percent Donald Trump's Republican Party. He controls it and Nikki Haley showed that today.

VAUSE: Yes. Absolutely. He owns them 100 percent.

David, thank you so much. Good to see you.

ROHDE: Thank you.

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VAUSE: After the break, significant new details about the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist. We have the communications reportedly intercepted by U.S. intelligence agents about Saudi plans for Jamal Khashoggi.

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VAUSE: Well, significant new details have emerged in the past few hours about the disappearance of high profile journalist Jamal Khashoggi missing for more than a week after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"The Washington Post" reports a squad of 15 men from Saudi Arabia were lying in wait as he entered the building. A source also tells "The Post" before he disappeared, U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Khashoggi.

As new details come to light, his colleagues at "The Post" are growing increasingly concerned.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who are familiar with like the regime, they say, you know, you can't put it past them to have done this. At the same time, obviously this calls into question just what type of U.S. ally would possibly do such a thing.

You know, if the reports are true, to send a hit squad to kill someone who's trying to get married.

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VAUSE: Jomana Karadsheh, live outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

So Jomana, CNN is yet to confirm the reporting from "The Post" but, if it is true, it would seem to almost all but confirm what Turkish officials have been saying for days, that Khashoggi was killed or at least abducted while inside the consulate.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, John, there are multiple theories about what may have happened behind closed doors inside that consulate. What we do know is Turkish authorities, investigators have been focusing on this group of 15 to see if there is any involvement in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. We've heard this from President Erdogan and from other authorities

here, that they're looking closely at their movements, what they were doing here.

CNN has confirmed that two executive jets belonging to a company that provides contracting and also corporate work to the Saudi government may have likely been the jets that were involved in the movement of these 15 between Riyadh and Istanbul.

So you know, we still haven't heard from Saudi authorities about the group of 15, what they were doing here. But we know that Turkish authorities, John, are looking very, very closely at those 15.

We also have heard reporting from "The Guardian" newspaper, for example, saying that the Turkish staff of the consulate were given the day off and that the security camera footage from the consulate that day may have been removed by this group of 15 and taken out of the country.

We know they were here for 24 hours, that they were in the country, they were in the consulate when Khashoggi there and that they left the country that same day. So, so many questions that the Saudis need to be answering right now. And so far, all we're hearing from them is denials, no evidence to back up their claims that he left the consulate.

VAUSE: Apart from the reporting we have from "The Post" and apart from the Turkish authorities looking at the 15 Saudis who arrived on the same day that Khashoggi went missing, there is also the surveillance video, which has been made public in the last 24 hours.

It shows Khashoggi walking into --

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VAUSE: -- the consulate at 1:14 pm on Tuesday last week. That's the same day he disappeared. And so far the Saudis have been unable to produce any evidence that he left alive.

If you look at the growing body of evidence, not just the specifics but everything if you piece it together that he was told to go to the consulate at a specific time by the Saudis there, we have these men, these 15 men arriving, we now have the video photograph of him going into the building, all that reporting from "The Post."

What could the Saudis possibly put out at this point?

What could they say to refute any of this?

KARADSHEH: You know what?

It seems that everyone's focus right now is the Saudis have been saying that he was there briefly. That photo you're referring to, that still grab from the surveillance cameras, showing him walking to the consulate, that was something that was never in question. We know it was released by Turkish authorities, obtained by several news organization, including CNN.

It shows him walking into the consulate. That was never something that was being debated. Everyone agreed, including the Saudis, that he was there. The issue has been what happened afterwards.

They said, as you mentioned, that he left a short time after that. And the big question here is where is the video showing him leaving. Now Senator Bob Corker telling CNN's Manu Raju that he had a conversation yesterday with the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., and that it wasn't a great conversation -- in his words -- because he was asking him about that video.

And apparently the answer was that the consulate does not record the video. They only live stream it. And in the words of Senator Corker, saying that he's never heard of an embassy in the world that does not record its security feed.

And we've also heard from the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, writing in "The Washington Post" in an op-ed there. She is also pleading for President Trump's support here, his help to try and get answers and also asking the king of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince to help release the video showing him leave, if he did indeed leave -- John.

VAUSE: And we'll have more on that op-ed written by Khashoggi's fiancee next hour with you, Jomana. So thank you for staying with us and for the update.

In the meantime, we'll take a short break. Florida's Gulf Coast bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Michael. When we come back, we'll take a look what is to come and what has already hit the Gulf Coast there. We'll show powerful hurricanes in the past.

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VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update of the top stories this hour.

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[00:30:00] VAUSE: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, stepping down at the end of this year. Her resignation has taken some administration officials by surprise, but President Trump says Haley told him six months ago, she would leave by the end of the year.

A source tells CNN she notified the President just last week. Trump plans to name a successor in two to three weeks.

The Washington Post reporting a squad of 15 Saudi men waited for Jamal Khashoggi as he entered the consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday. This surveillance video is the last time he was seen. A source says U.S. intelligence has intercepted discussion among Saudi officials about plans to capture Khashoggi. Well, the death toll of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which hit Indonesia now stands at 2,010. Thousands remain unaccounted for. One official says there could be as many as 5,000 victims buried deep in the mud, in one hard hit city alone.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell, I live in Destin, Florida, one of several cities here, along the Florida Panhandle, the coastline of Florida, awaiting Hurricane Michael. This hurricane, presently a Category 3 storm, it's out there, it is growing, has the possibility of getting up to a Category 4 storm.

What does that mean? Well, Category 3, right now, the winds sustained right around 195 kilometers per hour. If it gets up to 210 kilometers per hour, that is the metric that puts it right squarely in Category 4 territory. What does that mean as well? Very strong storm, historic in nature, this storm is a fast mover, and when it comes in, it will pack a punch.

Right now, the eye of the storm headed toward Panama City, Florida. We are just to the west of that. And to the east of Panama City, that will be the, really, the dirty side of the storm. That's where you have more tornadic activity. That's where they will feel, really, the stronger winds associated with this very powerful hurricane.

The Florida Panhandle bracing for something, again, that is historic, keeping in mind, 2005. That's when people remember Hurricane Dennis, what happened with that storm. This part of the country really has dodged many of these major storms. Really, this hurricane, Dennis, one of four major storms to hit this part of the country since 1950.

Our Randi Kaye looks back at the history of these very strong storms and what they mean here to the South-eastern part of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out for that (INAUDIBLE) watch out, get back.

RANDI KAYE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In July 2005, Hurricane Dennis slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a dangerous Category 3 storm, with 120 miles-per-hour winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This, of course, is the most dangerous time, when the winds are this strong.

KAYE: It made landfall near Navarre Beach, causing widespread flooding throughout the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Highway 98 that goes along the coast in the Florida Panhandle. And what's going on here is that the ocean, the Gulf of Mexico is breaching the road.

KAYE: Three people died in the aftermath of the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very, very similar now. I was telling you. The Hurricane Opal in '95. Opal made it up to 150-mile-an-hour winds. KAYE: Hurricane Opal hit the Panhandle, 10 years, before Dennis, making landfall just east to Pensacola. The deadly storm hit land as a Category 3, with 144-mile per-hour winds. More than 100 miles of Florida's gulf coast, virtually destroyed from the winds and rain.

There were at least nine fatalities blamed on the storm. In 2004, the year before Dennis, four major storms struck the state of Florida within the span of six weeks, Hurricane Charlie, Francis, Ivan, and Jean, caused widespread death and destruction throughout the entire region, including the Panhandle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be large scale. Every shingle on the roof is going to be gone.

KAYE: Francis landed on the East Coast of the state as a Category 2, in September, and then, made a second landfall in the Panhandle, as a tropical storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winds have become significantly stronger in this particular area, right off the beach. By the way, what you see flying by me is not snow. It's foam.

KAYE: Hurricane Ivan's eye hit gulf shores Alabama, as a Cat 3, that same month, the hurricane-force winds extended into the Florida Panhandle, causing even more damage to the already battered region. If Hurricane Michael makes landfall as a Category 3 as predicted, it will be the first major storm to directly hit the Panhandle in 13 years.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Naples, Florida.

HOWELL: Randi Kaye, thank you for the reporting. And again, here we wait in Destin, Florida, here along the Florida coastline. This Category 3 storm, it is moving really at a relatively fast pace for hurricanes, moving this way, in the coming hours.

The situation here, weather conditions will deteriorate and people have been warned to evacuate. Hopefully, they have. Some people may be riding this out. But it may be one hell of a ride, John.

[00:35:12] VAUSE: Yes. There is always that window of opportunity to leave, if you don't, then you to have to hunker down and stay. Of course, as they say, there will be some who take that option. George, a lot to hear from you again, we'll catch up next hour. Thank you.

In the meantime, a short break here on CNN NEWSROOM. And the long- running feud between Taylor Swift and Kanye West gets political, and the White House is taking sides.

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VAUSE: So, guess who's having lunch with the U.S. President on Thursday?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I believe Kanye West is coming to the White House. He has been a terrific eye. You know, he loves what we're doing for African-American jobs, for so many different things, median income as you see, at an all-time high. Poverty level at the best rate, meaning, the lowest rate, so far. And Kanye is a smart guy.

VAUSE: So, what exactly has rapper, Kanye West, done, for such high praise from the leader of the free world? That's not entirely clear, but wearing a Make America Great Again hat during a pro-Trump rant, during the closing credits at Saturday Night Live, certainly didn't hurt.

KANYE WEST, RAPPER: So many times I talk to like, a white person about this and I say, how could you like Trump? He's racist. Well, if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago.

VAUSE: An unlikely topic of discussion at that White House lunch, a mutual dislike for Taylor Swift, who recently told her 100 million plus Instagram followers, she will not vote for a Republican Senate candidate from her home state because of that candidate's position on domestic violence, gay rights, and a whole lot more.

TRUMP: Let's say that I like Taylor's music about 25 percent less no, OK.

VAUSE: Swift's on again, off again feud with West, began in 2009 at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York, when Swift was accepting the award for best female video, Kanye, you may remember, jumped on stage, basically said, she didn't deserve to win.

WEST: Taylor, I'm really happy for you. I'll let you finish. But Beyonce have one of the best videos of all time.

VAUSE: Joining me now from Los Angeles for a discussion on all this, Lorraine Ali, who covers entertainment and culture for the L.A. Times, Lorraine, thank you for being with us.

LORRAINE ALI, TELEVISION CRITIC, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Thank you.

VAUSE: This is a president who, you know, has an obvious shortage of celebrity supporters, Scott Bair notwithstanding. But, you know, chache could only do so much. It does seem, though, there is a genuine admiration between these two men. They seem to have a lot in common.

ALI: It's interesting. Yes, I mean -- I think -- you know, they do have a lot in common. They have the reality show piece, because Kanye is married to Kim Kardashian, and obviously, she is a reality show celebrity.

[00:40:07] You know, Trump, of course, with, you know, his own background as a celebrity T.V. king. And I think they also share the joy of talking very highly about themselves. And they also like a lot of controversy, and they like to have that swirling around them and get lots of attention, so they do have those things in common.

VAUSE: Absolutely. And also, you know, we should -- you know, Donald Trump, he loves a good celebrity feud, you know, he starts so many of them himself. In so many ways this one between Kanye West and Taylor Swift, it was just almost too good for him to resist not getting involved. But what does he actually get out of this, politically?

ALI: You know, I'm not sure what Trump gets out of this, politically. I mean, I think he would like -- Trump would like to think that perhaps he's, you know, pulling in black Americans with Kanye, maybe appealing to that, sort of, demographic that he has alienated, essentially, with a lot of the things he said and his policies.

But I think what's really happened here is, Kanye has, in fact, alienated many of his fans. And with each album and, practically, in the last two years, he said quite a few things that have alienated his base.

So, if Trump felt that he was getting an in, into African-Americans, into that demographic, I'm not quite sure it's going to work out that way. For Taylor Swift, on the other hand, she's never been very political. And this, you know, it's, kind of, her first time stepping out and taking a political stance.

And it seems as though maybe she has alienated some of her fan base. But it seems like she really pumped up people to actually register to vote. I mean, numbers went up on vote.org, which she had suggested her fans go do.

So, I don't know. This might work in a way where Taylor comes out on top this time, rather than, you know, Kanye, bullying her off the mic.

VAUSE: I think she seemed to come out OK last times well, I mean, if you look at all, sort of, came out in the wash. And you can't imagine a lot of these people on the Trump rally being Kanye West's fans, but, who knows.

You know, back in 2009, President Obama called Kanye West, a jackass, for interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech. And before that, after Hurricane Katrina, Kanye West accused President George W. Bush of not caring about black people. And Bush wrote after that, in his memoirs, that it was, in his words, a disgusting moment.

You know, the last two White Houses have been clearly anti-Kanye. This just seems to be another example now, you know, with the doors being opened to Kanye West, of how the norms and the traditions of Washington, are being upended by the 45th president.

ALI: That's exactly it. I think, in the strange universe, that is the Trump presidency, all of the sudden, Kanye is a welcome guest in the White House, and he is actually going to meet the President and talk to him this week about, you know, whatever it is they're going to talk about. It doesn't really matter at this point. I think it's the spectacle of it. But you're right.

VAUSE: There was so much spectacle here, when you look at, sort of, the reality T.V. show nature of all of this.

ALI: Yes. I think that's really it. It's that whole spectacle. It's the reality T.V. thing. And this is the bond these two men have, you know. And Kim Kardashian has also visited the White House. And Trump has, you know, invited her in, and it's been a big deal and a big media circus, and I think this is the same thing.

VAUSE: Just right there.

ALI: Yes?

VAUSE: Sorry, just very quickly, when Kim Kardashian was there, she talked about prison reform and a 63-year-old grandmother who, I think, was pardoned or released from prison by President Trump. Apparently, they're talking prison reform, again.

I mean, is there any indication that Kanye will get anything out of this, apart from maybe more, Make America Great Again hats?

ALI: You know, I don't know if Kanye is going with a specific. You know, Kim's request was pretty specific. Kanye, as been reported, is something much more wide ranging. It's, you know, about prison reform on a much larger scale, rather than one person.

You know, I don't know. I mean, maybe he has some aim going in. But Kanye hasn't had a lot of targeted direction lately, so I can't imagine he's got some very organized, you know, goal, when he goes in there.

VAUSE: No burning passion to discuss or burning issue to discuss, I guess, apart from making himself. All right, thank you, appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

ALI: Thank you.

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is next. You're watching CNN.

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