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Trump & Kanye West Meet at White House in Surreal Scene Amid Hurricane Devastation; Pressure Builds on Trump to Confront Saudis on Missing Journalist; Mexico Beach Residents Get First Look after the Storm. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 11, 2018 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Kanye said it himself when he said, "Trump is on his hero's journey right now. He might not have thought he'd have a crazy mother-blanker like me."

By the way, that was something that he said in the Oval Office, sitting at the president's desk.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED": Yes, what a time to be alive. May we live in interesting times.

All jokes aside, I thought that was really sad. I think you had there a man who's clearly not OK and a president who's willing to exploit that. And worse, to exploit that under the auspicious of race relations and black communities, joblessness, mental health, all the things that ended up in this bucket of issues that were sort of addressed in this free for all. I don't know that any of them were very well served by this circus. And in many ways they are -- they are the same person, right? They are both very ego driven and desperate for attention. So they give it to one another. They are using each other for that end goal. I don't have a problem with Kanye West being a fan of the president. I don't have a problem with the president using celebrities to expose important issues, but the problem is I don't think any of that happened today because today was bonkers. It was crazy. It was off the rails. How could anything be accomplished in that kind of environment with that little seriousness paid to those very important issues.

BASH: OK, there's that point.

And it's also the fact, Nia, that this is juxtaposed with what Brooke and

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: and Erica are reporting from Florida with Marco Rubio which is talking about entire pocket of Florida gone --

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: Gone.

BASH: -- an entire area of Florida gone and real, real devastation. The president himself was talking about the fact that he got heat for going to a political rally last night. This was, today, supposed to be, as you said, as least in the auspices of having a conversation about race.

HENDERSON: We don't know what's going to happen in this lunch they'll have. Ivanka Trump was there. Jared Kushner was there. You mentioned it was something like this, right, with Kanye West rambling from one talking to another, talking about a plane, about Adidas, about Kanye West Ideation Centers in Chicago. It was a hot mess from beginning to end. And it took up the president's time. If you think about what's most valuable to the president, it's his time. You have 10 minutes of air and then this meeting that was supposed to be about really serious issues. But I think again it shows the president's thirst for attention and adulation, particularly from famous people, and the lack of seriousness of African-American people. If this were an issue important to his base, I don't think he would have chosen two famous white people to talk about any number of issues, and that's essentially what he did here.

BASH: Right.

Having said that, and you eluded to this, S.E., when you bring a celebrity or when you are a celebrity, you know that the cameras go on you and you have a white-hot spotlight on you. Kim Kardashian used that for good and helped get somebody out of prison who was unjustly in prison for way too long, for decades. The question is, that's the spectacle we saw in the Oval Office. Could he be talking about Colin Kaepernick privately with the president, trying to change his view on things like that? I'm just trying to give the devil's advocate point of view here, if there's one.

CUPP: The devil's advocate view is that addressing things like prison reform, those are important stories. The idea or at least the premise of the idea was an OK one. But if we have not learned from history, both recent and past, why you don't put a camera on Kanye West in real time -- you know, we just had one a couple of weekends ago on SNL. We saw why Kanye is a bit risky. Back after Katrina, we all learned that Kanye will Kanye. He will take the microphone and say things like, President Bush doesn't care about black people in the middle of live telethon. I don't think it makes, as he has said, a great use for the president's time, nor the media's, frankly, because it feels like we have a responsibility to shed light on those issues. I wish that had been an opportunity to do that instead of Kanye's bizarre and, frankly, very troubling ramblings.

[14:35:03] BASH: As you were talking about that, I was also thinking back to him taking the stage when Taylor Swift got that award, taking it away from her. Taylor Swift also in the news for being in politics. We'll talk about that another time.

Really interesting conversation. Thanks to both of you.

Much more on CNN's special coverage on what you're seeing in Florida, what is being called ground zero of Hurricane Michael. CNN's Brooke Baldwin is on the ground talking to residents getting a view and a reality that really no one else has.

Plus, pressure is building on the president to confront the Saudi government on a missing journalist who walked into a Saudi consulate and never came out. The new intelligence suggesting Jamal Khashoggi was being targeted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:39:55] BASH: New developments in the mysterious disappearance of a "Washington Post" columnist. An official tells CNN that the U.S. now has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, back to his home country and detain him. Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul nine days ago to retrieve marriage papers while his fiancee waited outside but has not been seen since. Turkish officials believe he was killed while inside.

Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, read the intel report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER, (R), TENNESSEE: I think they did it. And unfortunately, I think that he is deceased. But they certainly could produce him and change the narrative there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: In his columns, Khashoggi has been a vocal critic of the crowned prince, Mohammad bin Salman. Amid international calls to the U.S. to step in, CNN is learning that the crowned prince reached out to the White House earlier this week, specifically to speak with President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to deny the accusations.

Today, President Trump says he is taking the investigation very seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope he's not.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: I have to find out who did it. But people saw him go out but didn't see him come out, as they understand it. We're going to take a very serious look at it. It a terrible thing.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: I'd rather not say, but the answer is yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Joining me now, CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, and CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism."

Elise, you broke the story about the intelligence. Give us some more context about what your sources are saying that U.S. intelligence officials have learned about what actually went down. ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, they

don't know what happened in Istanbul. That's key. U.S. intelligence does not have any hard evidence whether Jamal is, in fact, alive or dead. What they do have are intercepts, and we don't know the timing of them, of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Jamal back to Saudi Arabia and detain him. Was this a plot to detain him and torture him, kill him, question him? Nobody really knows. Nobody knows the timing.

We know when Jamal started criticizing the Saudi government earlier this year, Saudi officials started to contact him, to say, hey, trying to get him back into the fold, offering him jobs and opportunities. He denied all that, turned it down. Things got worse in September when he started writing in the "Washington Post," translated into Arabic. That's when it seems it seems these intercepts were from this period.

BASH: There are so many factors here to weigh, Max, including, of course, the relationship with the giant sort of diplomatic hug that this new crown prince has gotten from this White House.

I want to talk about this in a second, but another piece of Elise's reporting that really struck me -- and a reminder that this is not new for the Saudis.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right.

BASH: They are known to, assuming unfortunately that Bob Corker is right that Khashoggi is, you know, the worst has happened to him, this is the way the Saudis operate.

The fact is, Elise, you were told that maybe they misunderstood what kind of reaction there, would be globally, and especially from the administration to a reporter being taken.

BOOT: Right.

BASH: I mean, that's really striking and extremely scary. Not just that they would do it but they didn't think people would care that much.

BOOT: You can see why they would reach that conclusion. They listen to the president of the United States describing the media as the enemy of the people, and they listen to President Trump and they found the crown prince of American, Jared Kushner, basically extending friendship and a blank check to MBS, Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, backing him up in very questionable decisions, from their war in Yemen to their feud with Qatar. The U.S. didn't say anything when Saudi Arabia went into a Cold War with Canada, expelling the Canadian ambassador, pulling Saudi students out. There's been a lot of erratic behavior. MBS has done some good things, allowing women to drive and allowing some liberalization. But it's come at a very high cost. And the Trump administration has basically subordinated our policy in the gulf to MBS and now I think we're seeing the cost of that decision. BASH: Elise, for you especially, and for other reporters, this isn't

just a horrible and a very tough news story to report on, it's personal. You've known him for 15 years.

[14:45:00] LABOTT: I have. He worked as an adviser to the Crown Prince Abdullah and King Abdullah. And was kind of a person we would all go to, someone who would translate what the Saudis were thinking. He ran a TV station, was an editor. Now he's really been a sounding board for MBS. He was critical but he wasn't calling for an overthrow of the regime, he was calling for more liberalization, he was calling for the crown prince to realize the reform aspects of his agenda that he was talking about.

BOOT: He was. I'm seeing a lot of slurs online that he was an evil Muslim Brotherhood jihadist, he was trying to undermine the kingdom, and there's no validity to those criticisms.

LABOTT: He was an intellectual -- I'm going to say "is." He is an intellectual, a thoughtful man. He was beloved by a lot of people in Washington. Some people discounted what he was saying up until now.

I want to make a quick point. When you hear President Trump just recently say, well, we don't know if they did it, but if they did it, I don't think we can cancel those arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it's very important, we're talking about American jobs. I don't think it's going to fly with Congress. And I don't think it's going to fly with the American people. Yes, jobs are important but so are human rights. I do think there's a line here and I think the Americans and Congress will not let the White House cross that.

BOOT: When Trump says that, his message is I don't care. I think a lot of people in this town do care.

BASH: It's a question of doing what's right. And also, even if you take that off the table, it's basically a question of negotiation. Why would you take that off the table?

BOOT: Right. That's our leverage.

BASH: That's the leverage.

Elise, we're waiting for another State Department briefing, we hope, in the next hour. But something happened at yesterday's briefing that was noteworthy, frankly, and odd. I want to talk to you on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the name of the ambassador in Saudi Arabia right now?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT PALLADINO, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN (voice-over): I see what you're getting at. OK? We are confident in our diplomats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have an ambassador in either place, right?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, in fact, the charge in Riyadh has now been nominated to be the ambassador to Yemen. So just, is it correct that you do not have ambassadors in place in Ankara or Riyadh?

PALLADINO: But we have diplomatic staff, senior diplomatic officials --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure you do.

PALLADINO: -- very much -- very much in charge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: OK, never mind it seemed as though the spokesperson didn't know there had been two ambassadors confirmed for those two very important posts but also, how difficult it is, someone who understands the delicacy of diplomacy. It's one thing for Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, to run point, as you said earlier today, and it's another thing to have people on the ground entrenched.

LABOTT: True. True. My good friend, along with me, has been covering the State Department for years. We've been through many spokesmen. That's part of the job at the briefing, really, sometimes it's a little bit snarkier than others. Matt is one of the snarkier ones. But really trying to hold those State Department officials to account. It's true that the U.S. has a lot of unfilled positions at the State Department and ambassadors around the world in key posts, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. We've been talking about that well before this because there's so much going on in the region.

However, I've got to stay, on this particular instance, yes, it's important to have people on the ground nudging, but these relationships are being conducted between Washington and Riyadh. You hear President Trump, Jared Kushner, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton. The Saudi crown prince is not going to be listening to some of friend of the president or a career diplomat. Very important, but I don't think it's going to tip the scales in this case.

BASH: We have to take a quick break.

Max Boot, Elise Labott, thank you so much for your excellent reporting and insight. I appreciate it.

Coming up, after the storm, CNN is on the ground in Mexico Beach, Florida, where residents are getting a first look at the damage caused by Hurricane Michael.

[14:49:12] Plus, right now, the Dow is taking another dive after yesterday's 800-point drop. Hear what's behind the plunge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin, here in Mexico Beach, Florida, as we continue our live special coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

Let me just tell you what it took for us to get to this spot, which has been described as ground zero of this hurricane, has been extraordinary. So many of these roads are impassable. We were able to get a helicopter -- you're hearing other choppers around us, life flights, Blackhawks. We've been seeing them circling as long as we've been here. You can see this devastation through the entire town. The whole town is gone. But we were able to take a helicopter to get us down here.

We've just been talking to different people who have been coming by to see if their home is still even there.

Karen, Gabriel and Chris Hester, come on in and chat with me.

First of all, just even walking around to bring people here, did you notice all the beeping? When you walk around where the homes are, not only is it the heat and the smell but it's the beep, beep, beep of the smoke detectors, the fire alarms that are just in bits and pieces around these yards.

Do you have a home left?

[14:55:02] KAREN HESTER, MEXICO BEACH RESIDENT: Well, somewhat, yes. Somewhat of a home. It's taking considerable damage. I mean, I don't know what's going to happen right now. I really don't. I just -- some of these people here, though, their homes are flattened. I heard somebody tell me that they watched their friend in their House get carried out to the ocean, and they haven't found him since. This is just catastrophic. It's horrible. I can't -- I feel like I haven't woken up.

BALDWIN: We've been seeing a lot of people such as yourselves walking around with just sheer exhaustion on their faces. You didn't sleep through the storm. You all were here. You were pointing out you are -- this is incredible. You're on the ground floor of a condo complex that way.

Tell me about the home that flew in the air and fell in your yard.

CHRIS HESTER, MEXICO BEACH RESIDENT: It actually came up and hit the first floor. But the surge actually pushed it up there. I think we had an eight-or-nine-foot surge. Assuming the floor was 10 or 11 feet, it was a couple of feet below that. The house even hit the balcony there. As you can see over there, both houses are still sitting in the parking lot.

BALDWIN: Someone else's home because of the water and because of the storm surge brought it to your front door.

When you -- you guys just turn around with me really quickly.

Forgive us for turning our backs to the camera.

But tell me what you see.

CHRIS HESTER: This is our playground. We fish out of here a lot, and it breaks our heart.

KAREN HESTER: It's a place we love so, so much. And now we don't -- it's gone.

BALDWIN: You're tearing up, because why?

CHRIS HESTER: Well, not just for myself but for everybody else that's lost everything they've worked hard for. But I will say one thing, if anybody is wondering if we're alive, we made it. We made it, we're alive.

KAREN HESTER: Dan and Molly, my dogs.

BALDWIN: You dogs.

Last question, you said what's most difficult for you is the unknown.

KAREN HESTER: I don't know what's going to happen. It's so uncertain. Our lives right now are in limbo. But I'm grateful to be alive. I really am.

BALDWIN: Thank you guys so much.

CHRIS HESTER: We'll be all right.

KAREN HESTER: We will be. We will be.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much for taking the time. I know you have a huge few months ahead of you. Bless you. Thank you so much.

KAREN HESTER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: That is just one couple's story here in Mexico Beach, an area that is a beautiful area any other day, a special seaside town -- about a thousand to 1,500 people live here year-round in the Florida panhandle -- gone.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:11] BALDWIN: Stand by.