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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Hurricane Michael Death Toll Now at 17, Expected to Rise; Search and Rescue Missions Underway; 1.1 Million Without Power; Turkish Media: Missing Wash Post Contributor May Have Recorded His Own Death on His Apple Watch; First Lady Melania Trump Asked About Marriage with Trump, Whether She Loves Him, "Yes, We Are Fine". Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 12, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:04] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And that's it. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, the death toll from Hurricane Michael keeps rising. It now stands at 17. Many still unaccounted for.
And new details tonight about the missing "Washington Post" contributor, did he use his Apple Watch to record his own death?
And President Trump's ties to Saudi Arabia running deep. How he's been doing big business with the kingdom for decades. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news, the death toll from Hurricane Michael rising. Now, at least 17 people across 4 states and officials expect that number to go up still. You are looking at the devastated remains of Mexico Beach, Florida, the town that took Michael's first and most damaging blow.
Late today, 16 people across Mexico Beach were rescued. One survivor was literally pulled out alive from underneath the rubble. One of the biggest unknowns, though, how many people are still missing tonight?
Local, state, and federal officials not offering an estimate but acknowledge not everyone is accounted for. Today, some residents risking their own safety once again by trying to head back home to Mexico Beach.
Before the storm, this was a little sleepy beach town. That on the left, Mexico Beach before the storm. Homes, businesses, dozens of boat slips. On the right, just after the storm, they're all gone. And look at this. On the left, the curved building is Panama City's Bay City Medical Center where some 1,500 people were sheltered from the storm. After the storm, extensive damage.
National Guard and Coast Guard search and rescue teams are now fully deployed, combing the widespread wreckage. A Coast Guard helicopter crew found this survivor in Panama City. Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT tonight in the town. Officials are calling
it ground zero, Mexico Beach, and Miguel it is very clear why they are calling it that when you look anywhere, everywhere that you've been. What did you find today?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely unbelievable to see the extent of the damage here. The search is on for survivors and possibly the dead because this is what you're looking at. Those stairs used to lead up to a house. This was once beach front property. It is now completely wiped away. The ability of searchers and rescuers right now all depends on dogs and the absolute grit of these individuals getting out there and searching.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): An entire town almost gone. Those who rode it out --
(On camera) You were up to your neck in water?
BOB PUGH, SURVIVED HURRICANE MICHAEL: Yeah, with a 96-year-old lady next door, and my mother. And two dogs.
MARQUEZ: And you made it?
PUGH: We're here, baby.
MARQUEZ: Would you do it again?
MARQUEZ (voice-over): They barely survived. Search and rescue now searching for survivors and possibly the dead. Emergency officials expect the death toll to climb.
MARK BOWEN, BAY COUNTY, FLORIDA EMS (via telephone): And I do expect that we're going to find that kind of bad news and, you know, there's a process that we go through for that, and then we, you know, our priority, obviously, is the living, and we're looking for people that are trapped.
MARQUEZ: Several people we spoke to say they haven't yet heard from neighbors and friends who rode it out.
(On camera) What's happened to Mexico Beach?
JACK PELHAM, SURVIVED HURRICANE MICHAEL: It's a disaster. It's -- I was really shocked to see what it looked like.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): This CNN exclusive video of the moment the hurricane hit shows winds as high as 155 miles an hour, shredding this once tranquil beach town. Then, an enormous storm surge, a dozen or more feet of water bulldozed large sections of Mexico Beach from the coast to the interior. 30 miles out from Mexico Beach, some roads no longer exist, entirely covered by downed trees for miles.
BUTCH ALLEY, SURVIVED HURRICANE MICHAEL: Brandy, it's dad.
MARQUEZ: With power out, those who survived have no way to tell the world they're still here. When they do, the news, about as bad as it gets.
ALLEY: Do not come down here. Do not. You can't get in. It's -- everything's -- it's devastated. We had a hole in our house but that's all that's wrong with it. Grandmother's house is completely gone. It looks like a bomb landed.
MARQUEZ: The devastation here, jaw dropping, the main drag, highway 98, collapsed in many places, water eroding the sand beneath. Entire homes, their living rooms still intact, slammed into condos across the street. And the most popular bar here, Toucans, reduced to a pile of rubble.
[19:05:14] MARQUEZ: Now, as that search continues for the living and possibly the dead, there's also a clean-up that's just begun, some heavy machinery has finally gotten into town, they are starting to clear out debris on 98 so that searchers and rescuers can get in and out and that the clean-up and the rebuilding, because everybody wants to rebuild here, the rebuilding of this town can finally begin, but it is going to be a long, long time before Mexico Beach is back to where it was, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Or anything even like it. Thanks, Miguel, I appreciate it. Our Erika Hill is also in Mexico Beach. She is joining me now. Erica, you just spoke to several people, including the mayor, about this latest death. What have you been able to find out?
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, Kate, that's right. And in terms of that death, he did confirm for us that one elderly man was found deceased here. He said he could not confirm whether that man's name was on the initial list of people that they had who they knew were staying behind. So, as Miguel pointed out, that's one of the things that local officials are still trying to determine, who ended up staying, who was initially on that list who said they would and can they match up all the names? They're still trying to account for them.
People making their way back in because as Miguel pointed out, some of those roads have been cleared. And what they are finding in many cases, they told me, is even worse than what they imagined.
EDGAR LAFOUNTAIN, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF MEXICO BEACH: From what I've seen in pictures where bombs are dropped, that's kind of looking like what it looks like here. And -- but we're going to -- with God's help, we're going to rebuild and gain our strength again. It's just going to set us back a little bit. But we're pretty resilient people, I think, in Mexico Beach.
MAYOR AL CATHEY, MEXICO BEACH, FLORIDA: There's 75% of our city's not here. There's not one local business here that's operational. Not one. And we're mom and pop. This isn't, you know, Hampton Inn and Pizza Hut and Walmart.
HILL: I asked the mayor too, he told me that he was told today it could be two months before power is back. There's no water. There's no sewer. So I said what about people who want to stay? Whose homes may be habitable? He said, that is what we're debating right now. How do you tell someone who's OK with these crude conditions in his words, who has a home that they can't live in. How do you tell them they have to go to a motel? That's one of the things they're trying to figure out.
One other woman I met, Kate, he has a summer home here. She and her husband have been coming here, married 43 years, they dated here, they fished on this gulf, their kids, their grandkids have come down. Their house is gone. They were hoping to find a table that her husband had made. They didn't find the table, but they were overjoyed that they found a bench that he made for that ding table. She said her grandkids are going to be so happy. She found some of her son's fishing rods. She said we drove to the edge of the world and it looks like Mexico Beach fell off but we will build back just like we did, Kate, after opal.
BOLDUAN: So resilient but two months before power is back, unbelievable. Erica, thank you so much.
Now let me show you another view, what's left of a Campground in Mexico Beach. Just another view of how much this town is in ruins. This is what it looked like before Hurricane Michael. What home also looked like for my next guest, Tangie Horton. But it isn't just where she lived that was ravaged by the hurricane, also this, this is the El Governor Motel, the Beachside Motel where Tandy worked and this is what is left of the motel. The roof walls, even rooms themselves, torn apart. Tangie is with me right now.
Thank you so much for being here, Tangie. It has been two days since this hurricane hit. It was also the same day of your 32nd wedding anniversary. Have you been able to make sense yet -- sense of it yet, of what's happened?
TANGIE HORTON, MEXICO BEACH RESIDENT: No, ma'am. It's just -- it's devastating. Everything's gone. We got married, renewed our vows on that beach two years ago, our 30th anniversary. And that part's gone. You know, our friends and family was out there. Our RV park family, you know, we loved the whole place. But there's nothing left.
BOLDUAN: It is -- there's -- it's just -- I'm so sorry. It is so hard to even see it behind you, to wrap our minds around it, watching it from anywhere else than where -- then being on the ground in Mexico Beach. I mean, this is where you've lived. This is -- it's not only where you lived, but it's also where you worked that has been torn apart.
[19:10:06] When you're standing there today, what's tomorrow like? I mean, what are you thinking right now, Tangie, of where you go from here? HORTON: Well, we have -- my husband works for a waste management, and
they have really come together and, you know, they're the ones that offered us to put our camper in shelter in Callaway and we thought it was going to be safe there. And we got inside the big building there with the roll-up doors and, you know, just very sturdy building with our camper inside it, and you know, it was lifting off the ground. And you just never think of something -- some winds that strong coming through and, you know, we saw stuff because we took shelter inside waste management's building because we didn't feel safe in the camper.
And we watched as carports flew by. We watched as, you know, people's roofs coming -- flying by, and I told my husband, I said I felt like I was in the twister movie, you know, when they was saying stuff was flying by.
The wind, you know, where we were at in Callaway on State Road 22, the wind was 140 miles per hour. I can't imagine what Mexico Beach dealt with as of wind coming out of the eye, and I just -- we don't know where we're going to go tomorrow. I know some of our RV folks are looking for us long-term campgrounds again. We would all love to back in Mexico Beach, but we don't know if they'll rebuild the RV Park or the hotel.
BOLDUAN: That's right.
HORTON: I have talked to the owner.
BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, that's what I was wondering. I mean, do you plan to -- do you hope to, to be back in Mexico Beach? I mean, just looking at it, it's hard to imagine when that's going to be possible?
HORTON: I know. I know, and that's what we're just -- we're trying to deal with now, where we'll go from right now and then until they do get something built back there and we're -- there, again, we're not sure if they're going to rebuild back or what. So, you just hope they do because I worked at the front desk of the motel and you would not believe the guests we had that has been coming there for 50 and 60 years. I mean, it's -- it was just a quaint little place, not busy. We didn't have any fast food restaurants out there. It was all locally owned restaurants. They were some of the best seafood restaurants out there. And you know, you just -- you wonder if it will ever be the same, and it won't, you know? But we hope they'll build back.
BOLDUAN: Tangie, what's the toughest thing for you when you see just the wasteland that is now what was your home and a beautiful beach town, or it the uncertainty of what's going to come next?
HORTON: Just knowing that my friends that I worked with, my coworkers, you know, most of them live there. And if they didn't live on the beach or right across 98, they lived inland, and their houses are all gone. They have nothing out there.
My family is coming from Alabama this weekend. They're going to try to get in with a U-Haul Truck that my family and I will have just have got together and got supplies for everybody, clothes, donations, diapers, you know, toothpaste, toothbrushes, you know, stuff that people don't have anymore out there. And they're bringing all that stuff and we're going to distribute it as soon as we can get to Mexico Beach and try to help some of our friends that stayed or if they left, they lost their house too.
The campground had probably 14 trailers -- campers still in it that people didn't have a way to get them out of there, and you know, they've lost everything they had because most people was like us, they sold their home to make Mexico Beach their home, and now they don't have nowhere to go, so.
BOLDUAN: So many people, so many people and the very same situation, from street, to street, to street in Mexico Beach. Tangie, I'm so sorry to be meeting you under these circumstances but thank you so much for coming on.
HORTON: I appreciate y'all, and we appreciate everything that the EMS, the county, the city, the police department, the -- I mean, everybody's just coming together. You wouldn't believe the people that's just stepped in and started cleaning up. I know waste management's high people coming today and it was like a war zone where we were at, and now it looks completely different. They've come in and cleaned up, but we appreciate all the donations and everything that's everybody's gave, and we want to get to Mexico Beach and try to distribute them as soon as we can.
[19:15:18] BOLDUAN: Well, there is hope in that that you're coming together still in the face of this real tragedy that the community is coming together. Tangie, thank you.
HORTON: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: What a wonderful woman.
OUTFRONT next, rescues are under way across the Florida Panhandle. We're going to talk to one rescuer with the Cajun Navy who's been on the ground since Hurricane Michael hit.
Plus new reports about the missing "Washington Post" contributor, did he use his Apple Watch to record what happened when he went inside a Saudi Consulate and never came out?
And Melania Trump asked point-blank about her husband's alleged infidelities, what she said coming up.
BOLDUAN: Tonight, Panama City, Florida, is just starting to come to terms with the catastrophic damage. Just look at this freight train just outside of town. Mangled metal, flipped over, it shows, again, how powerful Hurricane Michael was. OUTFRONT now is Mark McQueen, he is the manager of Panama City. Mark, thank you for coming in tonight.
[19:20:00] MARK MCQUEEN, CITY MANAGER OF PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA: Thank you, Kate. I appreciate you allowing us to share our story. BOLDUAN: Thank you. What is the latest from there tonight? Do you
have a clear assessment yet of how many homes were damaged and destroyed in the city?
MCQUEEN: Yes, Kate, I would estimate that we probably have in the vicinity of 85% to 90% of the homes and businesses in Panama City have been destroyed. It's been just total devastation.
BOLDUAN: 85% to 90% destroyed? That is -- and this is a city we're talking of 37,000 people, right?
MCQUEEN: That's correct. Absolutely. And what you see behind me is indicative of what you see about most of the community of Panama City.
BOLDUAN: I mean, what portion of this city are you thinking can sleep safely -- safely sleep in their homes tonight?
MCQUEEN: Well, you know, the citizens of Panama City are pretty resilient and they're hunkered down. We've got a wonderful community. We've got neighbors helping neighbors, which is really essential at this point in time. You've got to think of the fact that we've been roughly 48, 50 hours past the impact of the storm, and we have got an amazing outpouring of support from the federal state, and adjacent communities that are coming in and pouring in with support to help this community.
BOLDUAN: Yes. How many people do you think are missing? How many people evacuated, you know, like what's your -- is there a guess or an estimate at this point?
MCQUEEN: Yeah, so, we don't have any totals of casualties, but what is amazing to me, we do have search and rescue capability that's going around, door to door, checking to make sure. But you know, as my law enforcement officers are scouring the area and meeting with and providing aid to the community, we're not getting any reports of any deceased individuals, so, you know, it's by the grace of God that we have not heard of any mass casualty event.
BOLDUAN: That and please let that be how this continues for days to come. And let that be a lesson that people got out and heeded the warning and evacuated when they were asked to. One of the big problems now for everyone has been communication, since the storm. Cell phones, you know, cell phone towers have been completely taken out. Why is it so tough, do you think, to get that back up for folks? It seems to be the number one thing that folks really want to get back up?
MCQUEEN: Yes, Kate, it's been a significant challenge when you talk about the cell towers, you talk about the fiber optic capability, all of that has been just ripped to shreds, so it's pretty understandable why there's no communication, in fact, degraded communication to basically walkie-talkies and a couple of cell phones.
What I have seen is an amazing response by the communication industry to start getting in here and building -- rebuilding with temporary towers. We have had an -- AT&T has brought in telephones, cell phones that are operational, Verizon is putting up temporary towers everywhere, which is going to be essential for us to coordinate and synchronize the response efforts that are taking place.
And again, we've had convoys of trucks, of materials, of equipment, of law enforcement, first responders, all pouring in. We've had great NGOs and PBOs that have been coming in, nongovernmental organizations, and private organizations that are helping, such as Samaritans Purse, Red Cross, the -- today, we finally start, seeing the food kitchens from our great friends from the Salvation Army. So, it's been an incredible response, and despite the communications, we're getting after it and getting this -- getting our people taken care of.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And it's going to -- it's a long road ahead, but everyone is there to help. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mark.
MCQUEEN: Yes. No, thank you, Kate. I appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Thank you.
MCQUEEN: Now, the race against the clock. As rescuers desperately try to save people in the gulf from unlivable conditions left in the wake of the storm, here's a Cajun Navy volunteer. Here's Cajun Navy volunteer Jason Gunderson, he's seen there helping an 85-year-old woman, Ana Lamberg (ph) from her Panama City home on Thursday. She was stuck in her residence and as you can see, especially with how everything went in Panama City, she needed help getting evacuated.
Jason Gunderson is joining me right now on the phone. He's the operation lead for the United Cajun Navy in assisting with these rescue efforts. Jason, can you hear me? Jason, can you hear me? It's Kate. We might have him now. Jason, can you hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we lost, Jason.
[19:25:02] BOLDUAN: All right. We'll try to get reconnected with Jason. Again, as I was just talking about with the city manager, communication is so tough out of there. One of the many problems they are up against right now.
OUTFRONT for us coming up, a new report says the missing "Washington Post" contributor may have used his Apple Watch to record his own death. His long-time friend is my guest.
And President Trump's long, lucrative relationship with Saudi Arabia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BOLDUAN: Breaking news, according to a Turkish newspaper, missing "Washington Post" Columnist Jamal Khashoggi may have recorded his own death on his Apple Watch. Turkey's pro-government newspaper is reporting tonight that the Turkish government obtained the audio recording of Khashoggi's alleged murder inside the Saudi Consulate from files transmitted from his watch.
Let's get straight to Nic Robertson, who's OUTFRONT in Istanbul this evening. Nic, what more is the Turkish paper reporting about this audio file?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure, Kate, this paper, the Sabah has had a steady drip, drip feed of information appearing to come from the government. They say it's trusted sources but this week, they have been the ones that have had a drip of information, one day drip another day, about the details of this investigation. For example, they had the report a few days ago that it was 15 Saudis and they named them, who had come in from Saudi Arabia especially for this operation against Jamal Khashoggi.
What they are saying now is that Jamal Khashoggi was wearing an Apple Watch that he synced it with his phone and left the phone outside the consulate with his fiancee.
[19:30:06] Before he went in, he set his watch to record audio and it would have been therefore linking the data back to his phone and this has recorded his beating, his interrogation and his killing.
Now, Turkish investigators are saying that -- his assailants, the Saudis, realized after some time that his watch was recording the audio, that they tried to get into his watch. They say, and this is a bit unclear to us why they would say this in this article, that they used his fingerprint to get into the watch because we're not aware of how you access the data on a watch by using the fingerprint.
That said, they tried to erase some of the data. But the data was already on the phone when the fiancee who had the phone alerted Turkish authorities that Khashoggi was missing, they were able to retrieve that data from his phone.
And that's why they were so quickly able to realize what had happened to him because remember, a few hours later that evening, they actually searched one of the Saudi flights leaving later that night before it went back to Saudi Arabia. They searched the passengers, x-rayed their bags and searched the plane as well -- Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: This isn't all what evidence Turkey is claiming that they have. What else do they say they have?
ROBERTSON: Sure. We know from our sources that they've shared intelligence with their intelligence allies around the world, Britain, France, Germany, the United States. We understand that material to be of audio-visual. Now, it makes sense that this data coming off the Apple Watch would be audio, so what about the visual?
One of the things that we know is really difficult here for the Turkish authorities, if they've got this visual material, how did they get it?
ROBERTSON: It would imply that they had bugs inside the consulate. That's breaking all the sort of diplomatic conventions that every country goes by. You don't bug other countries inside their consulate.
So, you know, the narrative about the watch, if you will, kind of gives another way for the Turkish investigators to say how they got this audio evidence of Khashoggi's death, but the implication, from what we've heard that they've shared with other intelligence agencies, perhaps means that they had some visual recording devices somehow inside the consulate. That, of course, as I say, would be a very sensitive and potentially very negative for the Turkish government.
BOLDUAN: Yes. Still, so much to figure out, what's real and what they have at this moment tonight.
Thanks, Nic. I appreciate it.
OUTFRONT with me now is former FBI senior intelligence adviser Phil Mudd. He also worked for the Saudi interior ministry after he left the U.S. government.
Phil, if this was recorded on his Apple Watch, how clear of a version of events do you think they've gotten here?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Well, there's a couple of answers to that. First, that's what people say. In this situation, you're dealing with potentially everything from a dead human being to tens of billions of dollars of defense contracts.
I don't care what people say. I want the data. I want it from the girlfriend. I want it from the Turks or I want it from Apple. I don't want a transcript. I don't want the Turkish translation.
I want to know exactly what happened on the ground and I want the original information. I'm going to match that up with what I know, for example, what I know from U.S. intelligence information, other information. I want the tail numbers from the planes that flew in with those Saudis and I want to know if those planes flew on other missions elsewhere around the country.
So I think there's a lot of questions here that we haven't answered. I think about 95 percent of it is done. I suspect he was murdered in that consulate, but boy, as an intelligence officer, there is a huge gap between what I think and what I know.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And, Phil, what about that point that Nic was just making about the fact that the reporting is that there's also visual confirmation of this, which would take this kind of -- which would add a whole new level to this story.
MUDD: I'm a little skeptical about that. Look, the Apple Watch story makes a lot of sense. Again, I'd like to see the data but it makes a lot of sense.
If you've got visual information, I got a couple questions. Did you have it in every room at the Saudi installation? When did you put it in there? How did you download it? Do you really mean that during the construction process or after the construction process of the facility, you put a camera in every room and the Saudis never figured out that you had visual devices in those rooms?
Audio makes sense. I'd like to see some confirmation on the video part.
BOLDUAN: Yes. Another layer to this and still more questions, as you said, tonight.
Thanks, Phil. I appreciate it.
MUDD: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT with me now is long-time friend of Jamal Khashoggi, Lawrence Wright. He's also a staff writer at the "New Yorker" and the author of "Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11."
Lawrence, thanks for coming in.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT, FRIEND OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI: Thank you for having me.
BOLDUAN: What do you think of this coming out late tonight about Jamal's Apple Watch recording what happened inside of the consulate?
WRIGHT: Well, Jamal was a good reporter, and I guess that was the last story he covered.
BOLDUAN: Do you think -- does this sound like your friend to set up a system to record and transmit a file to an iCloud, to his phone, which he left with his fiancee? Does that sound like something Jamal would do?
WRIGHT: I know that he was very anxious about dealing with the Saudi authorities. And he was, you know, told that his girlfriend couldn't come in. He left his -- both of his phones with her and so there must have been a reason for that.
And you know, as I said, he's a trained reporter. If you had that Apple Watch, if he had the capability of recording what was happening to him, then I think it's entirely plausible.
BOLDUAN: This is -- as Nic well points out, this is all being reported by Turkey's pro-government newspaper, as are most if not all of the grim details that have been coming out.
BOLDUAN: Do you have reason to doubt them? Do you think that he could still be alive?
WRIGHT: No. I fear that he's not alive. And there's no evidence that he is alive. The Saudis say he walked away, but they haven't produced any evidence.
So, you know, I know that if you're choosing between whether you believe the Saudis or the Turks, one side is producing evidence and the other side is producing denials. And until that equation changes, I'm willing to go with the persons that are producing the evidence.
BOLDUAN: Wanting to keep him quiet is, I guess, one thing. Signing off on killing him, though, I mean, if this does reach back to the crown prince, why would he want Jamal dead?
WRIGHT: Well, you know, Jamal was essentially a democrat. I mean, he was -- he lived within the Saudi system, so when we talk about democracy and Saudi Arabia, it means a little something different than it does in our context. But he talked about choosing our leader.
That, to him, was real freedom, and of course that is a revolutionary statement in Saudi Arabia. And this is a man who knows everything about the state. He's worked inside the Saudi system. He's been friends with the highest leaders in the royal family.
He has a lot of information. And so, he is, in some ways, a kind of volatile element to have out there. So there is a sense of danger.
There's another thing that happened when I talked to him last spring. He was talking about the Diaspora of the Arab spring leaders and many of them living in the West, feeling very demoralized by the failure of that movement, and he was talking about getting together with them and organizing. So, I think that could have been another reason, if it were really true that he intended to organize an opposition to the tyrannies of the Middle East, then they might see that he was posing a greater threat.
BOLDUAN: You did a joint interview with Jamal back in March. I want to play something that he said about the crown prince and his own decision to leave Saudi Arabia. For our viewers, listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JAMAL KHASHOGGI, JOURNALIST: He wants to push forward with his reform without any discussions about political freedom, about democracy, about sharing power. So in June, last year, I decided to leave my country to be safe.
A few weeks later, many of my friends were arrested, so I wrote an op- ed in the "Washington Post" which kind of broke, divorced me from the government. Divorced me from -- even though I think it was a very objective, mild op-ed, but the reaction from my government, they treated me as if I shot the king and then ran away.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Did -- you smile. Why do you smile when you hear that?
WRIGHT: I just -- well, he was a -- he was an amusing friend, you know, and he had a way of turning phrases and also, you know, he's dealing with the kind of -- the irrationality of that kind of response.
I think that when people are puzzling out why this happened to Jamal, put it in the context that last year at about this time, you know, hundreds of people were rounded up in Saudi Arabia, not all of them princes and billionaires, many intellectuals that were friends of Jamal's, reports of them being tortured, of at least one person, a general, being killed. And there's no outcry in the West at all about that behavior, and then, you know, recently, with Canada, where a single tweet about human rights causes this abrupt break in diplomatic relations.
These are irrational, hot-headed actions, and if you look at that in that context, then the murder of Jamal is just another in this sequence of unthinkable hot-headed actions.
[19:40:07] BOLDUAN: Yes. Maybe hold out a glimmer of hope yet this evening and everyone ask for the evidence one way or the other.
Lawrence, thank you for coming in. I appreciate it.
WRIGHT: Thank you for having me.
BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.
OUTFRONT for us next, Saudi Arabia has helped make one man very rich. His name is Donald Trump. Our reporting coming up.
And our Harry Enten unveils his forecast for the midterms. Will the Democrats take over the House? Harry's here to tell us.
BOLDUAN: President Trump's relationship with Saudi Arabia is under new scrutiny now after the disappearance of "The Washington Post" contributor Jamal Khashoggi. But tonight, President Trump says he still hasn't spoken with Saudi Arabia's King Salman about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have you spoken to the king of Saudi Arabia about this matter?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not. I have not called him. I'll be speaking to him, yes, pretty soon.
REPORTER: What will the conversation be like?
TRUMP: Well, I can't tell you but I will say that they are looking very hard and fast and not only us. A lot of people are looking to find out, because it is potentially a really, really terrible situation. So we'll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So what exactly is the nature of the president's relationship with Saudi Arabia? Particularly his business relationships.
Cristina Alesci is OUTFRONT.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Saudi Arabia has been making Donald Trump rich for decades.
[19:45:01] 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.
ALESCI: Trump's financial ties with the Saudis date back to the 1990s. In 1991, when one of his casino projects was faltering, under a mountain of debt, a Saudi prince purchased Trump's 281 square foot yacht for the hefty price of $20 million.
Ten years later, public records show Trump sold the 45th floor of his Trump World Tower in New York to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $4.5 million. In recent years, since Trump took office, his hotels have benefitted from Saudi business. Between October 2016 and March 2017, a Saudi lobbying firm paid Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel more than $270,000 for food and accommodations.
Trump's Manhattan hotel on Central Park West saw revenue increase during the first quarter of 2018, in part because of a visit from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to a letter obtained by "The Washington Post." In the letter, the hotel's general manager wrote that bin Salman didn't stay at the hotel himself but said, quote, due to our close industry relationships, we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers.
Overall, however, little is known about the full extent of Trump's business relationship with Saudi Arabia.
JONATHAN O'CONNELL, FINANCE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: We don't know, really, very much about his efforts to open other properties in Saudi Arabia. We don't know who his partners would have been. We don't know who would have financed them and we don't know if he could restart them again down the road.
ALESCI: According to his 2016 financial disclosure, Trump had 144 registered companies with dealings in more than two dozen countries. Eight of them were Saudi companies. All of those companies have been dissolved, but tonight, as cries for the president to take action against Saudi Arabia grow louder, Trump's business ties are coming under new scrutiny.
O'CONNELL: Now, of course, the larger political question is, are -- is this relationship, are these business deals part of the president's consideration when he makes decisions about how to go forward?
ALESCI: Now, Kate, a spokesperson from the Trump.org told me, like many global real estate companies, we have explored opportunities in many markets. That said, we don't have any plans for expansion into Saudi Arabia.
But when I asked them about the other financial ties that you heard in the piece, for example, the condo sales at Trump Tower, I did not get an answer -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Maybe tomorrow.
Thanks, Cristina. Appreciate it.
OUTFRONT next, our Harry Enten has the election forecast, who wins the House, who wins the Senate. Harry will tell us. That's next.
And Melania Trump brushing off a question about her husband's alleged affairs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I'm a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:50:59] BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT tonight, predicting the future. With 25 days to go before the midterm election, the question on everyone's mind is, which way will the House go? And what about the Senate?
Well, our Harry Enten is debuting his forecast for the midterms today, tonight, for us. So, let us begin.
Harry, let's start with the House. Democrats have 193 in Congress, Republicans have 235. Whoever it is needs 218 to keep the majority.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BOLDUAN: What's the forecast?
ENTEN: Democrats will win 229 seats which will give them the majority, 11 seats more than they need. I should point out though that there's a margin of error with this estimate. That's something I'm going to keep keening in on and said over and over again. So that the Democrats, there's the best-care scenario for the Democrats, where they win all the way up to 226.
BOLDUAN: Wow. OK.
ENTEN: That's the best-case scenario, we don't expect that. But there's also a worst-case scenario where Democrats only win 205 seats. So, this takes you --
BOLDUAN: Which is best case for Republicans.
ENTEN: Which would be the best case for Republican. This takes into account, say, we have a change in the national environment. Let's say the generic ballot is all wrong, let's say something weird happens in the final few weeks in the campaign. This type of estimate is trying to understand that things can change and more than that, we have a lot of close seats. So, if all the close seats go one way or the other, then that could, in fact, change the math.
BOLDUAN: They don't generally all go one way or the other. That's why you have the margin of error anyway.
Let's move on.
ENTEN: Let's move on to the Senate. So, the Senate is a simpler ball game, right? You only have 35 seats that are up. Republicans right now have 51 seats.
BOLDUAN: Slim majority.
ENTEN: Slim majority. We think that the most likely scenarios are going to increase that majority up to 52 seats. The reason that we think that, there's a lot of red states that have Democratic incumbents in them. Think North Dakota with Heidi Heitkamp, for example, she's trailing in our estimate or she's forecast to lose.
But overall, we think it's a close battle for control, Democrats have a shot. It's within a margin of error. It's just more likely Republicans will gain a seat.
BOLDUAN: And this can change in the next 25 days. This isn't the only forecast you're putting out there.
ENTEN: Right, right. As I said, you know, it's possible that Democrats could end up with the majority. That's within the margin of error, if anything goes their way. It's also possible that Republicans could really increase their majority, if everything goes there way. But right now, the best estimate is that they end up with 52 seats in the United States Senate.
BOLDUAN: Let's see's the forecast changes, as the winds change with politics. Great to see you.
ENTEN: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Harry.
OUTFRONT for us next, Melania Trump in a rare interview, speaking out about her husband and allegations of his infidelity.
[19:56:45] BOLDUAN: Breaking her silence. First Lady Melania Trump finally addressing allegations of extramarital affairs by her husband, President Trump, insisting it has not put a strain on their marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: It's not concern and focus of mine. I'm a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do. INTERVIEWER: Do you love your husband?
MELANIA TRUMP: Yes. We are fine. Yes. It's what media speculates and it's gossip. It's not always the correct stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett is OUTFRONT with me now.
Kate, pieces of this interview are still trickling out. But I find it striking that she's addressing this. Why do you think she is?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It is interesting. This is a first lady who has been very, very quiet. For almost a year, she hasn't done an interview at all. And, of course, during that year we've seen all these salacious headlines come out. We've, you know, watched She canceled that trip to Davos, take a separate motorcade at the State of the Union. We've seen her sort of indicated there might be some rough patches.
But she can't hide from the media forever. She's very wary of the media. I thought it was also interesting in some of these clips here, that she also explained that she wields some power and influence in the president's West Wing. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: He's been in office almost two years. Has he had people that you don't trust working for him?
MELANIA TRUMP: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: Did you let him know?
MELANIA TRUMP: I let him know.
INTERVIEWER: And what did he do?
MELANIA TRUMP: With some people, they don't work there anymore.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think there's people there that he can't truth trust?
MELANIA TRUMP: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: Still working now?
MELANIA TRUMP: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: A little palace intrigue there. Certainly, she's expressing her opinions to the president.
BOLDUAN: Yes, she does seem to always have something more to say that she doesn't whenever I've seen her speak, I feel like.
You've covered her since the president took offices. Do you think this is part of a concerted effort on her part, on her team's part to somehow stake her independence more?
BENNETT: Yes. I mean, I think we're looking at a first lady who is more independent than we have seen modern first ladies be. She certainly does things at her own pace, at her own time. You watch that right off the bat when she didn't move into the White House first off. She took some time to roll out her initiative Be Best, and this is her very first solo trip abroad as first lady.
So, certainly, I think, you know, the East Wing doesn't coordinate with the West Wing. This isn't a shared messaging sort of White House. She really does do her own thing. She tweets on her own, she makes events on her own. She travels on her own.
So again, I do think that this trip, this interview, this was a chance for her to say a few things that were on her mind after really many, many months of silence and trying to sort of read the tea leaves and what's going on there in the White House and the Executive Residence and what's happening with the first lady of the United States. I think it was an important thing for her to do to finally sit down, and be asked these questions and have to answer them.
BOLDUAN: Yes, do you think that she's -- do you think she's comfortable in the position now? Because she wasn't at first.
BENNETT: I do. You know, as you said, I followed her since inauguration. I think, you know, she does really come alive around children. I think she's really finding her footing at this point in the administration.
BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, no one can deny how beautiful and adorable those pictures were when she was with the children in Africa. I know you were on that trip. That's pretty great to see that.
Thanks so much. Great to see you.
And thanks so much for joining us tonight.
"AC360" starts now.