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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Florida Devastated by Hurricane Michael; Discussion of Kanye Visit to White House; Jamal Khashoggi Case Examined; Eric Holder Comments Debated. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 11, 2018 - 21:00   ET

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: A lot of stories that raise concern and a lot still yet to be told. Anderson, thank you for the coverage.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

The storm is gone, and nothing is left in some parts of the panhandle. Some cities, towns, total ruin after the hurricane for the history books, blasted ashore there. How do survivors piece their lives back together? Should they do it in the same place?

We're going to talk to a survivor in just a moment. She lost her home, the school she worked in. But her biggest concerns are for her students. She's not losing home, and she'll tell you why.

The White House walking a tightrope as the world demands answers on the disappearance of a Saudi journalist. There's growing suspicion that the Saudi royal court ordered a hit on a "Washington Post" contributor. Did U.S. intelligence know about the plot? Did they have a duty to inform? Did they do so? We have new information about the interceptions that are raising more questions tonight.

And if you missed the traveshamockery in the Oval Office today, we have it covered. But you're not going to hear what you've been hearing other places. Kanye and Donald put on their show today. But what it really means and what was neglected, and the timing of this all demand attention.

So, what do you say? Let's get after it.

(MUSIC)

CUOMO: All right. Tonight, the panhandle down in Florida feeling the pain after one of the most powerful storms to hit the Continental United States. It just obliterated entire towns. You can't see enough of the pictures because it's so comprehensive, it's so complete in communities, literally, everything is gone. The rebuilding has to be almost completely total.

I often ask myself when I'm on the ground with people in these situations, do you want to be the houses that are still standing or do you want to be the ones that are completely gone? On the up side, you can get your personal effects back if the home is okay and everything is not washed out. But then, how long do you have to live with no one around you in this moonscape of destruction? At least six people lost their lives, including a child. But listen,

those numbers are early, there's so many areas that have yet to be searched. Those operations are underway. Officials are urging people to stay off the roads, the roads that are passable. Crews are working clear -- working to clear fallen trees, debris. You have emergency workers scrambling, 24/7 to try and get it done here.

But the job is huge. Over a million people don't have power, not just people, households, multiple people in households, right, six different states. Hospitals had a hard time staying open, many had to shut down. They had to move patients because of heavy damage from the storm.

Now what? Take a look at this video. The school decimated in that same area. A teacher from the school joins us now.

J. Dia Green is her name. J. Dia Green Jones. I want to get all three names. I don't want anybody upset. We got enough for that already.

Thank you for joining us. Thank God that you're okay.

J. DIA GREEN JONES, TEACHER: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: All right, now, your loved ones, the people you care about, those who live around you. Is everybody okay?

JONES: Everybody is okay.

CUOMO: Thank God for that, because you can replace everything else, but it will take time and difficulty.

JONES: Yes.

CUOMO: Your house, there's nothing left? Tell us.

JONES: Just basically everything -- all of my diplomas, pictures, family pictures, furniture, it's just -- it's gone. My roof was blown off during the storm. I live in a second floor apartment, and it has vaulted ceilings, and I guess the wind caught the ceilings.

A couple of people have told me that a tornado did go through the neighborhood. I have not confirmed that. But something major happens.

CUOMO: Ms. Jones, insurance?

JONES: I do have renter's insurance. I'm not sure about the scale of the policy, but I'll be checking into that in the days to come.

CUOMO: Now, you're going to have to find a place to live, you're going to have to find a place to work. The school uninhabitable, right? You can't have people living in there. Obviously, it's just a school, they don't have to live there but you got to work there.

This is the gym. People have been showing this video again and again. But that's the least of the concerns, about where the kids are going to play basketball. Can the kids go back to the main school?

JONES: I'm not sure about that just yet. I went into town briefly today to go and find my parents home, my home and some close extended family. The streets are so blocked and it's like, you have to navigate so much, I was not able to get to the school today, but I'm going to try to go tomorrow.

CUOMO: Have you heard any announcements from those in charge of the school about what they're thinking at this point or not yet?

JONES: I've been in constant contact with my principal, we're just really worried about our students, our staff members and their families.

CUOMO: Now, you told the producer something that is really a little shocking, that some of your students are survivors of another storm, and they came here to start over again?

JONES: Yes.

CUOMO: Tell us about that.

JONES: We have several families who came from the storm in Puerto Rico, and it was really traumatic for them, because not only did they lose everything, but they came here to Florida to Panama City, and things were totally different as far as school goes, family structure. Some are here with extended family members. And so, they've had some pretty traumatic experiences prior to this storm.

CUOMO: And now they're living through it again.

JONES: Yes. And one of the housing neighborhoods where a lot of them live, I saw videos on Facebook, where the buildings were just ripped apart.

CUOMO: So, what do you tell yourself in a situation like this. How are you helping motivate your spirit in the aftermath?

JONES: Things can be replaced, lives can't. But this is -- when there's a separation factor for educators, you do what you do because you love kids, you love helping them. So, as long as you remember why you started teaching, you'll go right back to where you left off, you'll do everything you can to help your families, your students, your community.

And you will just make this a lesson. We won't worry about Florida standards assessment this year. We'll learn about being resilient and coming back from the ruins.

CUOMO: You know what? That's going to go a lot further in life than a state assessment, that's for sure. That's a lesson that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Where are you staying in the interim, do you have a place?

JONES: Yes, I am staying in my grandmother's home -- CUOMO: OK.

JONES: -- in a small place called Red Head, Florida. It's right outside of Ebro. It's about 50 miles inland. And we just learned that we received power back in that community. After that, it's my plans to live with my parents until I can just find out where I'm going to go next.

CUOMO: Well, thank God you have family. J. Dia, as we move forward, as we learned in Wilmington and we see all the time in these situations, you're going to get back to teaching, the kids are going to need everything. So many people around you are going to need everything.

I'm going to make sure the producer has your information and you have theirs so you can get to me. And you let me know, and one of the things we have to do is stay connected is remember that need as we go forward. And you'll come to us, you'll tell us what kids need in the school, what you need, and we'll find ways to get the people who want to help a way to help.

So, God bless. Good luck in the interim.

JONES: Thank you.

CUOMO: Enjoy your family.

JONES: Yes. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Can you imagine? Everything's gone. Your home is gone, the place you work gone, the people you care about, the kids, you don't know how to track them. It's amazing the stories of resilience as you heard J. Dia say they're going to come out of this.

Other matters tonight, it's hard to out-Trump Trump and steal the spotlight away from him in the Oval Office, to be sure. But it happened today, when a man named Ye showed up.

I can't imagine that the president was happy with that reality show. I'm kidding. I know it's Ye and I know that he was really happy with what happened today, the president was. He got I believe exactly what he wanted.

But you know what? It is certainly the premise for a great debate. The Kanye West-wing train wreck, next. Who won? Who lost?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: You knew it was going to be bizarre. Kanye West going to the Oval Office to meet the president. I didn't think it would get this kind of attention. You can easily make the argument that we shouldn't be focusing on something like this, especially now.

But it happened. And you have to ask, why did the president take this time and create this kind of skeptical -- spectacle. I'm skeptical, this was a spectacle. What is the net positive and negative to come out of this?

It is certainly the premise of a good debate. So, what do you say? I can't believe this is what we're going to be debating, but you know what? It needs to be. We got Nina Turner and Niger Innis.

I was very surprised this happened and was handled this way, including by the media, and I'll deal with that later on. That's not on your plate.

But, Ms. Turner, the idea that Kanye represents the black community and came there to speak truth to power and Trump was meeting with a black leader to deal with black issues and this shows his connection to the community, do you accept any of that?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it certainly was not on display. Listen, Kanye West has a right to his opinion. He has a right to support whoever he wants to support.

But, Chris, this is really a lack of judgment, empathy, leadership, on President Donald Trump in the wake of what has happened with Hurricane Michael, with hundreds and thousands of people suffering across many states, Georgia, the Carolinas, and then also, we're still dealing with the devastation that happened in Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands that barely gets an honorable mention.

So, while Kanye West does not represent all of the African-American community, certainly, we are not a monolith, although we're treated like that by many politicians, this was really a very sad day for this country, because this president needs his ego stroked every single day, and instead of him taking the time to visit these places to talk to the same people that you're talking to tonight, and having empathy for our sisters and brothers in need, he is there having a lovefest with Kanye West.

You know, there's a right time and a place for everything. And that certainly -- what happened today certainly was not the right time, and that was not the right place.

CUOMO: Now, Niger, you and I go way back, you know what it's like to be raised by a legitimate leader of the black community, your father. That's not what Kanye West is, and nobody should pretend otherwise. But why was this good for African-Americans or for Trump today?

NIGER INNIS, CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: I'm going to answer that, but first, Chris, let me applaud you for what you did in the last segment, and even off air, which is extending your hand to help the hurricane victims. That was really decent and that was quite classy on your part. I don't too often to say that about you, but you hit it out of the park there.

CUOMO: Niger, if I told you once, I told you 100 times. Never break the facade of me being emotionally insensitive and callous and calculating. Continue.

INNIS: To Kanye, I think it was an outstanding moment. Look, Nina would be right if I had not heard from Governor Scott, from Senator Marco Rubio. She mentioned the Virgin Islands. I got roots, my father is from St. Croix, and the governor and all those politicians have said that the federal government is fully cooperative, and is giving a great deal of help to help these areas and these territories recover.

CUOMO: OK.

INNIS: But the Kanye West situation is critically important, because there's a rising demographic -- we hear in November 2018 and 2020, how critical the white suburban female vote is. What is often not discussed is the growing and increased popularity among black men for President Donald Trump and his America first economic policies. That's what Kanye's meeting represents.

CUOMO: Basis? Niger, basis for that? The black male swing vote, basis?

INNIS: Well, the basis is, if the Democrat monopoly, getting 92 to 95 during the Obama years, maybe as high as 97 percent of the black vote, is broken and there are polls that suggest that the black approval rating for President Trump is anywhere between 20 to as high 36 percent, then what you're talking about --

CUOMO: Who says that?

INNIS: -- not just an elect --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Is that in your house, Niger?

INNIS: No, it's more like 75 percent in my house.

But, seriously, Chris, there are polls that reflect even --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Garbage polls.

INNIS: He came up with a poll denouncing Trump saying that black women only support him, given an approval rating of 15 percent which is --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: I'm sorry, nothing Kanye West did today was about the black community. But more importantly, nothing that President Trump did today was about the black community. It was about him and his fragile ego, period.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Let's talk about the over incarceration of African-American men. The whole --

INNIS: And Kanye addressed that, Nina. TURNER: Let's talk about the quality of jobs in this --

(CROSSTALK)

INNIS: Nina, Kanye --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: So, if the president -- no, it was a distraction.

CUOMO: Hold on, one point at a time.

TURNER: It was a distraction, Niger, and you know it. It was a total distraction to elevate this president and to distract from the fact that he's not dealing with what happened in Florida, what's happening in Georgia, what happened in Puerto Rico, what happened in the Virgin Islands that disproportionately hurt poor black and brown folks who don't have --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: -- that's what he should have been dealing with, and our poor white sisters and brothers who are struggling in those states hit by Hurricane Michael. We got a hurricane Trump in this country, knocking folks out everywhere he goes.

You want to talk about Kanye West's presence in the White House today helped black people? That's a damn lie, just flat out. And it's wrong.

INNIS: First of all, Kanye addressed the prison crisis. He did it a couple ways. He talked about ending -- he asked the president to end stop and frisk in Chicago, to do something about the horrific genocide that has been taking place among black men and brown men in Chicago during the last decade, before President Trump even came into office.

He's talked about doing something like that, and he also talked about the fact that factory jobs, manufacturing jobs, jobs where you don't need five PhDs, where you can work with your hands and get a good pay and a good salary, and how that is going to affect black men.

He also talked about fatherhood.

TURNER: Niger --

INNIS: And that is an issue that is critical. And, Nina, I think you and I don't agree on a lot. But we would agree that there's a crisis of fatherlessness in the black community and all those things were addressed.

You may not like the vehicle, but the issues are very real and very serious.

CUOMO: The timing, Niger. To do it today -- it's one thing that he was at a rally last night during the storm, even though we know what he said about President Obama campaigning after Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, whatever you want to call it, happened. He was talking about Obama even though it was days after the storm, saying it was wrong, he was there during the storm, and then the day after it, he meets with this cartoonish situation with Kanye West?

Yes, he was bringing up some issues, but he was rambling a lot in between. And certainly, there wasn't the cogency there that you would expect to be handled with these kinds of issues. And that's an insult to Kanye. It's just a reflection of the setup that it was, and the day after the storm, Niger.

Nobody is saying that the federal government hasn't put resources in place. But command climate is a term I was taught today by a veteran. What is Trump saying by spending his time doing this while people like J. Dia, the teacher we just had on, are trying to figure out where they're going to be tomorrow. Is this the pressing need of the time?

TURNER: And while you're offering help, Chris, the president of the United States should be doing the same thing. And what does it mean -- you know -- and I'm just not -- in talking about black men like that, to talk about -- there are black men out there who are there in the fight, taking care of their families. So, we're not about to sit up here and stereotype all black men of America.

But just putting on a "Make America Great" hat on your head, and talking about how it makes you feel like a superhero, meanwhile, back at the ranch, people are suffering in this and the president had the cache as the most powerful man in the free world to do something about that, and he got to sit there and get his ego stroked. There's something wrong with that.

And let's talk about the Central Park Five, since you want to talk about how much this president is doing for black men and brown men in the country. When he sat up there and convicted in the newspaper those teenaged boys that had to go to prison for something they did not do.

So, Niger, no, we're over this foolishness with this president. This is not about Kanye. I agree with Van Jones. If he has issues, we got to deal with that.

He does have free speech and I'm not saying he has issues because he supports President Trump. But let's be real about how he could really use his cache to help people, him and this president.

CUOMO: Niger, quick button.

INNIS: Well, you're not saying it, Nina. Yes, you're not saying it, Nina, but a lot of folks are saying it, because they are terrified about breaking that black monopoly that exists within the Democratic Party, because they know that if anywhere close to 20 percent, 15 percent of the black vote comes out in support of this president, then 2018 and 2020 will be red waves.

TURNER: Supporting him for what? I mean, I'm terrified of people --

(CROSSTALK) INNIS: Jobs, economy, entrepreneurship, manufacturing jobs, an America first economic policy that puts America first.

TURNER: We have a president that --

(CROSSTALK)

INNIS: Kanye said, I'm sick of factory jobs going to China. I want them to come to America and to our ghettos.

TURNER: We will meet again on this, Niger.

CUOMO: A hundred percent.

INNIS: I'm looking forward to it, Nina. Let's do it again.

CUOMO: I'll tell you this, you make good points, but every time the context of a point you want to make is Kanye said, dot, dot, dot, automatically you're losing some points about the context of the conviction that you're bringing.

But seriously, Niger, I appreciate you here every time.

Ms. Turner, always a pleasure. Thank you for being here.

INNIS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. The Trump administration has a growing diplomatic crisis on its hands. The world closely watching how the president is responding or not responding to the disappearance of a Saudi journalist that is feared murdered by the hand of the Saudi royal kingdom.

The question is, did a prince, embraced by the president and his son in law, order a hit? This is complex. I'm going to lay it out to you in terms of the plus/minus of going after Saudi Arabia for this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Jamaal Khashoggi, you're probably familiar with the name by now. He's the man who vanished just over a week ago after he walked through the doors of a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. Why should it matter?

Well, at the most basic level, this is about human rights. I mean, it's a no-brainer, that the leader of the free world, the president of the United States should condemn this. But instead, here's what we got.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not our country, it's in Turkey, and it's not a citizen, as I understand it. But a thing like that shouldn't happen. It is a reporter with "The Washington Post", and it's something like that should not be allowed to happen. Something like that should not happen. And we intend to get to the bottom of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right. He's saying the right things, but the energy there, the tone, it's a little circumspect. Curious.

So, let's look at the plus/minus of dealing hard with Saudi Arabia, which would put a bunch of senators from both parties are asking for, while Trump who as we all know usually goes further, faster than anyone, in terms of tough talk, is now saying, go slow.

So, on the plus side, we have proof of the problem, what? "The Washington Post" tonight reporting the Turkish government has told the U.S. it has audio and video recordings proving that Khashoggi wasn't just messed with in the building. He was murdered there.

There's said to be gruesome. With one source telling "The Post", you can hear the alleged interrogation, torture and murder. Do we know? No, they're going to have to show it.

But on the minus side, if the U.S. intelligence have the communiques that they say they had, which was setting out a plot afoot. Not this kind of murder that we're hearing about now from the Turks, the United States also had a duty to warn, there could be push back. Hey, if you knew, how come you didn't you tell him. There's a duty to warn under your intelligence directives.

All right. Now, that obligation aside, what does it lead us to in terms of, what's the good side?

All right. Well, one of the good sides is this. The Saudis need our defense systems, all right? The materiel and technology that we provide, a unique fashion. So, that's something that you can leverage.

But that's not how Trump sees it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States, because you know what they're going to do? They're going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or some place else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right. So, is that what's on his mind? Money here.

Another one, we do use Saudi Arabia to counter Iranian influence. They fight extremism. They maintain stability in the Middle East.

Now, I know critics will say Saudi Arabia, they're the head of the snake when it comes to terrorism. Politics can be complicated when it comes to fighting terror in that part of the world. And the U.S. does have a long policy of somewhat looking the other way when it comes to a lot that goes on in the Saudi kingdom. That may seem more true than ever with this administration. Why?

Well, the plus: the man in command, they call him MBS, Mohammed bin Salman.

He is on uniquely good terms with the Trump administration, specifically, Jared Kushner, the president's son in law, who has visited MBS several times in Riyadh, including an unannounced trip last October. Just this past March, Kushner played a major role in hosting the crown prince in Washington.

Well, what's the minus? Well, MBS has done bad things to opponents, including family. And if he's willing to capture, kill, and cut up one of his own, you may not be looking he just fold because he's friends with you. And maybe he and Jared Kushner are too close. Maybe MBS sees the leverage in his favor.

I don't know what the relationship is about. I don't know why they're so quiet -- so close. Is any of it financial? Does MBS know something about business ties that he may feel motivated by and have leverage?

Why would I speculate that way? Because Trump has done plenty of business with the Saudis, and in fact, he's called that business a factor for his forgiveness and like of them. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So, whether for good or bad reason, what if Trump does decide to do nothing and he laid some groundwork for doing nothing today by pointing that Khashoggi is not a U.S. citizen. We know he said.

Trump supporters like to compare him, some of them, like he's Teddy Roosevelt. Well, maybe he should hear Teddy Roosevelt's words. In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

It applies here, because doing nothing could send a signal, one that Trump is once again playing nice with a potential bad guy, that message could be received by a strong man like MBS as acquiescence, weakness, and that is all but an invitation to do more.

So what consequences should be in play, if this was murder by the kingdom? How should the White House respond? We have a two people with a ton of experience in the region sharing their insights next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Man, I wish I had some good news for you. But the more we learn about this Khashoggi situation, the worse it gets. "The Washington Post" is reporting the Turks informed U.S. officials they have definite proof Khashoggi was murdered inside Turkey Saudi consulate.

The U.S. State Department could only say that it has no information about where he is. Here's a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We are all concerned about his whereabouts. We don't have any information on his whereabouts right now. Or what happened to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Why not, when you're so tight with the Saudis and the ruling families and MBS himself?

So, as the U.S. dives into an investigation with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, where does that leave us? What does this really about? And what happens if it all winds up being true?

We have two people who understand the politics and the potential here. We have Thad Troy. He's a former senior CIA officer who has extensive experience working in Turkey. He's with us.

Along with Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, diplomat and residents at SMU, Southern Methodist University, and author of "Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11".

Gentlemen, thank you very much. I wish it were under different circumstances.

All right. Let's start, Thad, with, do you trust Turkey's information on this?

THAD TROY, FORMER SENIOR CIA OFFICER: Well, first, Chris, thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: A pleasure.

TROY: And I want to say, I've read "The Washington Post" report and absolutely, it's very, very possible, plausible that the Turks do have video and audio on what happened in the Saudi consulate. One thing I always said, let's not underestimate the capabilities of the Turkish services. They're extremely good. They've often done it on our behalf as well, too.

And, you know, the Turks, they spy on friends, they spy on enemies. And, right now, the Saudis are very much at the bottom of that pile. So, almost surely, the Turks would attempt to collect intelligence on the Saudis, they could very well have a bug in the consulate. They could have activated a phone. I don't know what they've done. But certainly, it's extremely believable to me that the Turks do have this.

CUOMO: Quick follow. What's the chance they're setting us up to pit the U.S. against the Saudis?

TROY: I think there's -- the Turks are very smart. Don't forget the Turks have that capability, they could be doing that. They could also be playing us in terms of the -- maybe they don't have it. And again, from what I know of the Turks, they do have this capability, I'm almost sure they probably do, they will play us against each other, there's no question.

CUOMO: All right. So, Robert, on the other side, to do this, this is a really dirty deed here. What do we know about MBS, this type of blood lust in him, and the chances that they would want someone like Khashoggi, when looking at his pieces, critical, yes, not really that different from a lot of people who write about Saudi Arabia? What's your take?

ROBERT JORDAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: I think we've got to look at the pattern that this crown prince, aged 33, has set over the last two years. This is the same crown prince that a year ago imprisoned many of his cousins, uncles and others in the Ritz- Carlton, shook them down for $100 billion in money.

This is the same crown prince who's waging what may well be an illegal war in Yemen. He's the same crown prince who imprisoned the prime minister of Lebanon briefly. And he's the same crown prince who was so anxious to have an IPO for part of Aramco that he didn't think it through enough, and that has crashed and burned.

He owns every major policy decision made in Saudi Arabia in the last two years, every one of them has turned out to be a failure. I think this person is capable of having ordered what appears to have occurred. I think it is an international scandal that requires the strongest response, not just from the U.S., but from the international community.

CUOMO: Now, we're not getting the strongest Trump. And, look, I'm all for measured approaches from a president, especially with these types of stage.

JORDAN: Right.

CUOMO: We're not used to seeing them. And it raises the question of what the relative pressure points are here. Trump having done a lot of business with the Saudis. Jared Kushner seemingly being close with the guy like MBS.

Does that work in our favor? Or does it make Trump vulnerable to this man?

JORDAN: There's nothing wrong with personal diplomacy, but personal diplomacy is not to be used when times are rosy, it's also to be used when there's a crisis, which is what this is right now.

I think the idea had been that with MBS and Kushner, they would figure out a way to ram down the Palestinians throat a peace program for the Middle East with Israelis. That has not played out quite in the same way they had envisioned. But I think this was part of their game on Trump's, one of his major

foreign policy objectives. So, that is not happening. I think probably MBS felt emboldened, both from Kushner's visit last October after which, of course, he then made this big play at the Ritz-Carlton against the plutocrats and royal family members. I think he feels emboldened right now, and probably is calculating that this administration will turn the other way.

CUOMO: Well, look, it's interesting to hear the president say, the guy's not an American. He lived here. And that was an interesting equivocation there. He's right, but --

ROBERT: He's a legal resident. He's a legal resident of the U.S.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: And he was applying for permanent residency here. He works for the Washington Post. And even if he were none of those things, if you have words with the intelligence business that someone's planning to kidnap, seriously injure or kill anybody, there's an intel directive that you're supposed to warn them.

ROBERT: Right.

CUOMO: Now, what -- how do we find out what happened here, Thad, in terms of when the U.S. intelligence learned this about Khashoggi and what if anything they did to warn him?

TROY: So, I haven't seen the intelligence to base the duty to warn on. The duty to warn is a very serious issue certainly within the intelligence community. I've been through this. It's usually debated. It's usually discussed. It really depends on what the intelligence said.

But if, in fact, there was some intelligence that did indicate that he was under threat, that he was going -- could have been harmed in one way or another, or abducted, then I think it would have been a duty to warn. Whether he was warned or not, again, that I don't know, but there absolutely is the duty to warn.

CUOMO: Right. Now, Robert, what's your best sense of why Trump's playing it this way?

JORDAN: I think, first of all, he wants to be sure that the facts are correct. We have to bear in mind as you said earlier, that Turkey and Saudi have a great deal of animosity toward each other.

CUOMO: Right.

JORDAN: Now, the Turks would love to stick it to the Saudis, and so you got to be sure that this intelligence is accurate, that it can be confirmed and I think our investigators on the ground ought to be able to do that within the next two days. So, perhaps he's trying to play it carefully on that.

Secondly, I do think there's probably something going on with the Saudis in terms of personal relationships and maybe other kinds of relationships that may temper the response, but whatever it is, it's a very subdued response at a time when he needs to be standing up, I think for decency in the international community, for holding the Saudis accountable if this hasn't indeed occurred. And hopefully over the next couple days, this will clarify.

CUOMO: Well, Ambassador Jordan, you're not the only one saying that, a bunch of senators from both parties signed a letter saying the exact same thing. They want to invoke the Magnitsky Act. Everybody thinks it's only about the Mueller probe. That's 120-day investigation and it has a back end of harsh sanctions based on discovery. We'll have you back as we learn more.

JORDAN: That is exactly right. Thank you.

CUOMO: Ambassador, thank you.

Thaddeus Troy, appreciate the perspective.

TROY: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right. When they go low, we go high. Do you remember that catchy mantra from Michelle Obama? She says it is true as much today as ever when she was saying it back it in 2016. However, two key members of her husband's administration have been openly challenging that call for civility ahead of next month's elections. The former first lady now, also the former attorney general.

Are they going high? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. I always say, disagree with decency, right? That's what this whole show is trying to make more common. But some high profile Democrats don't seem to agree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is time for us as Democrats to be as tough as they are. To be as dedicated as they are. To be as committed as they are.

Michelle always says that, you know, when they go low, we go high. No, no. When they go low, we kick 'em.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That's why I believe if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that's when civility can start again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So, what does Michelle Obama think about all of this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you say now about your motto, do you think it still stands, when they go low, we go high?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Absolutely. Fear is not a proper motivator. Hope wins out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Earlier today, Eric Holder clarified his comments, tweeting, he only meant that Democrats need to be tough. Proud. Stand up for the values they believe in.

What does D. Lemon have to say about this?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": I say it was nice to see the former first lady, I just happen to know her from Chicago. And every time I see her, she says, are you staying out of trouble? I say, no, Mrs. Obama, I'm not.

CUOMO: Speaking of people who go low.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: So, what do you think --

LEMON: It's all true.

I think, listen, when I saw Eric Holder, I never thought he meant like physically kick someone. Come on, let's be real. All of this stuff that they're using is just for -- to capitalize on it politically. Of course, he didn't mean kick people. I mean, he's a former attorney general.

So I think, you know. Yes, you got to fight fire with fire. And I think that in this climate, especially with, if you were going to fight against -- it doesn't matter, if he's in the White House or whoever, but if you're a Democrat and you're going to go up against Trump, you have to be a fighter or he's just going to roll right over you.

CUOMO: I hear you.

LEMON: And if you look at the folks from Washington right now. They're doing whatever he wants, so you got to fight, but -- and civility, by the former secretary of state saying, civility, I don't think she means physically. I mean, I think she means in your rhetoric, and talking --

CUOMO: Yes, look, I get it, I just -- I just don't buy it. I mean, you know how I feel about this, when it comes to politics. Fight fire with fire.

Now, I think you fight fire with water, you know? That's what puts fire out. And I think that --

LEMON: Well -- CUOMO: -- when they're coming at you, it happens on my show all the

time, when somebody is coming at me hot, I see it as weakness.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: I see insults as them not having anything to offer.

And I'll tell you what, people get tired of ugly and nasty. They do. But you have to have something better. You want to fight fire with fire, that's fine, but you better have something better.

LEMON: Chris, that is so five years ago. I'm sorry. That doesn't work now.

And, yes, you can fight fire with fire. Don't you see how they do it when they have wildfires? They use fire to fight fire. I'm just saying.

That was -- that whole thing about they go low, we go high, I love the former first lady, I love all the first ladies, but I think Democrats have learned that in this last election by being nice, playing by the rules --

CUOMO: That's not why they lost.

LEMON: No, no, no, it didn't. I'm not saying that's why they lost. It didn't help them. That's it.

CUOMO: But I'm saying, that's not why they lost. Don't be what you disrespect. Don't be what you disrespect.

LEMON: I don't think anybody saying -- I don't think anybody's saying that.

CUOMO: That's what it sounds like to me.

LEMON: No, I just think if you're going to be -- look, if you're going to be fight somebody, right, don't you want to be tough if you're in a fight? Who wants to be in a fight and weak?

CUOMO: Listen, if I'm in a real fight, I destroy them. There's no fighting about it. I don't fight, I maim, I ruin. That's what I train to do.

I'm talking about politics and argument and convincing people that you're the better choice.

LEMON: That's what happened earlier when you were crying in your office when I corner you and put you in a headlock.

CUOMO: Feeling is not weakness, you understand? The only time you'd fight me is if I have candy.

I'll talk to you later, Don Lemon.

LEMON: Hey, we got a lot coming up on the show. CUOMO: I'll talk to you about it when I come back.

LEMON: We're going to talk about Kanye.

CUOMO: What do you have?

LEMON: We'll talk. Let's talk at the top of hour.

CUOMO: All right.

LEMON: All right. See you.

CUOMO: I beat him every time. Have you noticed that?

All right. So, while Hurricane Michael was crushing parts of the panhandle yesterday, we know where the president was. He chose to hold a rally to entertain his fans. All right, that's the past. But he didn't adjust. The priorities didn't change.

Let's hope he doesn't forget those in need with his attention and his focus. What did he choose today and what does it mean for us? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Closing argument. No surprise, the subject is the traveshamockery at the White House today. A reminder, that is a travesty inside of a sham inside of a mockery. No, I didn't make it up, but I love it. And that is an apt description of the Donald and Kanye show.

But my argument isn't merely mocking, all right? This is about compassion, credibility, and timing for all three major parties in this. Three? Who's the third? The media.

Take a look at the phalanx of photographers here. What is this, a summit? Are they launching an initiative for inner city education grants? No. Then why give it all this hype, why fan the flames of the foolish?

And it's not okay what happened here for two big reasons. First, how is it okay to put Kanye on display like this? He's no elected or appointed or recognized leader of any community on this planet.

Is he popular? Yes, for his music, not his politics. His personal history reads more as a rationale for keeping him from something like this, than indulging him. His wife seizes up better as an advocate, and that's all an appraisal assuming he is of sound mind and body. And that is not a given.

Now, this -- just put politics aside, all right? This comes from a place of compassion. Multiple reports, his own statements, it all makes clear that he has struggled and admitted diagnoses for personal mental health issues. And while he raised legit issues of jobs and inner city concerns, when you hear the dissociative ramblings of a man one prized for his intellect and education, there's something wrong there. And making the decision to put him in this position, that falls on

Trump because he knows or has reason to know what I just told you. But, clearly, his sensitivity is triggered by other concerns -- attention, praise, and some jaundiced notion of how to get black approval above the pathetic 10 percent that tends to track at for him.

Now, I watched this, not marveling at what came out of Kanye's mouth. I told you what I think is going on with him. And I know that people are obsessing about it and frankly I don't think it's kind or it's warranted given what I believe about him. So, there's nothing new there.

But listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: Trump is on his hero's journey right now. And he might not have expected to have a crazy mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) like Kanye West run up and support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Jim Brown giving him the side eye. I can't believe he had to sit through that.

My curiosity wasn't about what came out of Kanye's mouth. My wonder went to what is going on in Trump's head.

Let's take a look at him. Here is my educated guess, OK? Other than a warm serotonin flush of happy hormone, imaginary headlines, blacks loves Trump, he's blacker than Obama.

Then came this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEST: There was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like super man. You made a Superman. That's my favorite superhero. You made a Superman cape for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I certainly agree this is a cartoonish situation. But look at Trump here yet again. Yes, Superman, sure I am. I can do anything, I can save people.

I wonder if images of Hurricane Michael came into his head then, the people that do need saving. And here he is doing this.

He was at a rally when the storm was going on in Pennsylvania and now he's with Kanye West as people plod through the ruins of their former life. Do you remember the episode of "Superman" when he does that B.S. kiss up session with Lex Luthor instead of saving people in trouble? Me neither.

Because that's what a superhero does. They do what's right in the right moment.

Did the thought even enter his mind about how those people would feel about this use of his time?

And then the moment that probably mattered most.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEST I love this guy right here. Let me give this guy a hug right here. I love this guy right here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Click, click, click. Unqualified and untethered adulation.

Listen, I'm fine with the president getting praise when deserved. This is not that.

This is manufactured. It's media motivated. It's a traveshamockery.

And the timing along tells the story of truly messed up priorities. The president does not need fake praise when we have real problems. You have a million without power in six states. You have communities in ruin.

And Trump found a way to go lower than even his bounty bank shots that I shot in Puerto Rico. Thousands of people under his command are busting their asses to rescue and recover and feed and connect. And instead of faking praise for himself, why didn't he give those men and women and the thousands they're helping the real praise and attention they deserve? That's what a president does.

Thank you for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.