Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Vows "Punishment" If Saudis Murdered Journalist; Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince's Role on the World Stage; Closer Look at Devastation of Hurricane Michael; Search Teams in Florida Look for People Trapped or Killed; Mnuchin Stills Plans to Attend Saudi Summit Despite Missing Journalist; High-Profile Sponsors, Speakers Quit Major Saudi Conference over Missing Journalist; Melania Trump Blindsided by Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy; Firsthand Look at Growing Immigrant Children's Detention Center; Trump's Attorneys Prepare Written Answers for Mueller in Russia Probe. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired October 13, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:01] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back. Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

As the mystery surrounding the missing journalist deepens, President Trump is now vowing severe punishment -- I'm quoting him -- "If Saudi Arabia murdered "Washington Post" contributor, Jamal Khashoggi.

International outrage is growing as leaders are demanding answers from Saudi Arabia.

Here's what we know. At the beginning of the month, Khashoggi was in Istanbul, ready to go to the Saudi consulate to get documents allowing him to get married. On October 2nd, Khashoggi left his phone with his fiancee, went into the consulate, and never returned. That same day, Turkish authorities believe several Saudi men arrived in Istanbul just hours before Khashoggi entered the consulate and they believe they were connected to his disappearance and possible murder.

So far, there has been little reaction from the White House but now President Trump is speaking out about the journalist's possible murder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE STAHL, CORRESPONDENT, "60 MINUTES": Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist, the Saudi journalist --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. Yes.

STAHL: -- was he murdered by the Saudis and did the prince give the order to kill him?

TRUMP: Nobody knows yet but we'll probably be able to find out. It's being investigated. It's being looked at very, very strongly. We would be very upset and angry if that were the case. As of this moment, they deny it. Deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes.

STAHL: Jared, your son-in-law, got on the phone and asked the prince, did he --

(CROSSTALK)

STAHL: Did he deny it?

TRUMP: They deny it. They deny it every way you can imagine. In the not too distance future, I think we'll know an answer.

STAHL: What are your options? Let's say they did. What are your options? Would you consider imposing sanctions as a bipartisan group of Senators had proposed?

TRUMP: Well, it depends on what the sanction is. I'll give you an example. They're ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it. China wanted it. We wanted it. We got it. We got all of it. Every bit of it.

STAHL: Would you cut that off or curtail it?

TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what I don't want to do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these companies, I don't want to hurt jobs. I don't want to lose an order like that. There are other ways of --

STAHL: Punishing?

TRUMP: -- punishing, to use a word that's a pretty harsh word but it's true.

STAHL: Tell everybody what's at stake here. You know, this is --

TRUMP: Well, there's a lot at stake. There's a lot at stake. And maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There's something -- you'll be surprised to hear me say that, there's something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case. We're going to have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it. There will be severe punishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is with me now.

So what are you learning about how this is all being managed in diplomatic circles?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, obviously, the White House is walking a delicate tight rope right now in the face of this mounting evidence with what's going on with Jamal Khashoggi, also, how this affects the greater relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. And I think that's what, you know, is being discussed very quietly. There's been a lot of concern about this young prince growing for some time, whether it's the conflict in Yemen, whether a lot of civilian deaths have occurred, the U.S. very concerned about that, but has pretty much given the Saudis a pass on that. Concern about their cracking down at home on activists. So I think this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of trying to think of some kind of shift.

WHITFIELD: And then, Elise, Donald Trump Jr retweeted a tweet from a reporter from a conservative blog, which is getting a lot of attention. The writer referred to Khashoggi as a terror sympathizer. What can you tell us about this material being retweeted, A, and that, you know, that is a point of view being expressed about Khashoggi?

LABOTT: Well, I mean, you know, as we've been discussing, there are a lot of conspiracy theories going around and it's popular to blame the victim, but nothing could be further from the truth about Jamal. And for Donald Trump to be kind of perpetuating that -- we just heard what President Trump said, that, if, in fact, he was killed by the Saudis, that would be disgusting. You know, President Trump has been no fan of the press but even he said to do that to a reporter is unacceptable. So I don't understand what Donald Trump thinks he's getting -- Jr thinks he's getting by tweeting some of those. Nothing could be further from the truth, Fred. And I'm surprised he hasn't taken it down yet.

[13:04:53] WHITFIELD: And Khashoggi had, by way of his fiancee, who wrote an op-ed, said he felt like he could probably never go home to Saudi Arabia and she didn't necessarily use the word threatened, but that he had some real concerns about his life. What can you tell us about, you know, what, if anything, he had ever expressed, since you've known him for the last 15 years or so. He was a "Washington Post" contributor. A lot of journalists in Washington have become very familiar with him. Had he ever been very vocal about or expressed, you know, his concerns or reservations or anything?

LABOTT: I mean, he wasn't very vocal in terms of saying, like, I'm scared to go home. He never said those words. But he knew, as his criticism was growing for the regime, and particularly for the crown prince, that he wasn't welcome back home. He was concerned he didn't think it would be safe for him to go home. He didn't say it lately to me but he's said it to some of his other friends.

But he was conflicted over the last few years about his criticism, because he never called for the overthrow of the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman or King Salman. He wanted to make the country better. He wanted to kind of speak to the better angels in Saudi Arabia, if you were, and say this is not how we are as a country. I think he was conflicted. But as he started writing for the "Washington Post" in September, and those columns were translated to Arabic, I think that the security threat for him really heated up and he knew he was a marked man.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elise Labott, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much.

Let's check in now with CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, who joins us from Istanbul where Khashoggi disappeared.

What are you hearing from circles there, whether it be Turkish authorities or other sources that are giving information?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure, Fred, there's been a lot of attention on the Saudi and Turkish officials who are, we understand, over this weekend, trying to hammer out an agreement about how this Turkish investigation can go forward. The very latest on that has come from the Turkish foreign minister who's in the U.K. right now, no doubt, trying to sort of bolster backing from Britain for Turkey and its position and its claims that Khashoggi was murdered here by Saudis sent specifically for that purpose.

What we've heard from the foreign minister is -- and this, you know, we have to understand this strong diplomatic language coming from, you know, a leading diplomat, a leading political figure in this country. And he's saying very unequivocally that Saudi is not cooperating in this forum to try to find a way forward. And it comes down to Turkish investigators wanting to be able to get inside the consulate for a forensic level of investigation to see if what they believe happened here and what they say they've got evidence for and what we understand they've shared that evidence with allies and intelligence partners around the world, to see if they can find the forensic facts on the ground that will back that up. Unequivocally, they will have -- be able to show the world the evidence that backs up what they say. They say also they have an audiotape. So that would be another option. But we understand that they don't want to use that at this time because they would rather solve this through more diplomatic channels, quieter channels, not blow it up completely. Nevertheless, they're putting a huge amount of pressure on Saudi Arabia right now -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Very complicated, indeed.

Nic Robertson, thank you so much, in Istanbul.

One key player in the back and forth between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Saudi Arabia's king (sic), Mohammad bin Salman.

CNN's Anderson Cooper takes a look at his role on the world stage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "A.C. 360" (voice-over): He's best known simply as MBS, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, only 33 years old and now heir to the throne in Saudi Arabia. Long considered the favorite son of the Saudi king, bin Salman was known for his ambition and for having his eye on the throne.

But his cousin was next in line. So in June of last year, his cousin was reportedly summoned to a palace and told to surrender his position as the crown prince. Late last year, MBS initiated a widespread crackdown on what he called corruption in his country, rounding up and arresting government officials, wealthy businessmen and even Saudi royals. Some were held against their will at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh while they negotiated billions in payments to the government.

When asked about it on CBS' "60 Minutes," the prince denied it was a power grab.

MOHMMAD BIN SALMAN, CROWN PRINCE OF SAUDI ARABIA (through translation): If I have the power and the king has the power to take action against influential people, then you are already fundamentally strong. These are naive accusations.

[13:09:56] COOPER: Many in Saudi Arabia have celebrated bin Salman's rise to power. To them, he's a visionary, looking to transform Saudi Arabia and improve life for his citizens. Women are now allowed to drive and attend sporting events.

SALMAN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANAUGE)

COOPER: MBS has also focused on the economy. Trying to attract new businesses in order to make Saudi Arabia less dependent on oil.

SALMAN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

COOPER: In March, he held a highly publicized so-called listening tour in the U.S. where he met with President Trump and also business leaders like Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Apple's Tim Cook.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: As crown prince, he lives the good life. While on vacation in the south of France recently, the "New Yorker" reports he bought a yacht from a Russian vodka tycoon for $550 million. Along with that, a chateau outside Paris. And last year, he's said to have paid $450 million for a Leonardo da Vinci portrait of Jesus Christ.

BIN SALMAN: As far as my private expenses, I'm a rich person, I'm not a poor person. I'm not Gandhi or Mandela.

COOPER: While he does appear at times to be power hungry, initiating Saudi Arabia's involvement in the war in Yemen and a standoff with Qatar, he's become an ally to the Trump administration, at one point serving as a go between for Jared Kushner in the Middle East.

TRUMP: Crown Prince, thank you very much. Thank you for being here.

SALMAN: Thank you, Mr. President.

COOPER: An ally it seems, but questions still remain about how much Mohammad bin Salman can be trusted.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: After two years in detention in Turkey, Pastor Andrew Brunson is back on U.S. soil. A picture right there. Brunson touched down a short time ago at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. He is set to meet with President Trump in the Oval Office soon. Brunson was sentenced to three years in prison after being charged with trying to overthrow the Turkish government and having links to terrorist organizations, something he denied. A court in Turkey chose to release him early. Stay with CNN for coverage of that meeting at the White House.

Still ahead, a closer look at the theory of Hurricane Michael that reduced homes to piles of rubble, mangled structures, and splintered houses. We're living coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:16:42] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A look at live pictures there, drone imagery of the destruction in Mexico Beach. You can see the flattened structures up against a couple of structures that almost look untouched. The head of FEMA is expected to tour hurricane damage in this hard-hit Florida panhandle soon and provide an update on rescue and recovery updates.

This, as we get a look at Hurricane Michael just as it was making landfall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, dramatic video, showing the force of Hurricane Michael as it slammed into Mexico Beach, Florida, and the power of the 155-mile-per-hour winds. The death toll is 17 across four states. Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses in seven states are still without power. In parts of the Florida panhandle, it might be months before power is back on.

For the latest now, let's go to CNN's Martin Savidge in Mexico Beach, Florida.

What are you seeing there?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fredricka. It's Saturday, of course, so this is the first real nonwork day where residents can begin to return. That's one of the things you're starting to see. The problem is the city, the town, is not ready for them. It is still in a state of devastation. I think if you look at more of these drone images, the devastation is almost beyond comprehension. I've covered many, many natural disasters. The only thing I can equate what you're seeing here to on such a scale is something along the lines of a tsunami. It is just stunning. And almost after a while mind-numbing to try to comprehend.

There are, you can probably see in the images coming from the drone search-and-recovery teams working this particular area right now. This is at least the third day that they have been doing this. This is the secondary sweep sort of thing. Yesterday, the first victim was recovered in Mexico Beach. That was a male. He was found several hundred yards away from his home. So that, too, is the testament as to the power of this particular storm.

And so even though they are searching buildings, more than likely they fear that if there are other victims, they're going to be found in the debris field, and that debris field is massive. It's also very difficult and dangerous for these crews to work.

Good news, and actually huge news, cell phone service just returned a matter of minutes ago. And it's not just a minor convenience. For law enforcement, they've had a real hard time trying to communicate with one another. Yes, they've got radios but, beyond that, trying to communicate outside of this town has been almost impossible. They'd been cut off. For many residents that were left behind, their loved ones didn't know if they survived yet. All of that shifts as a result of the cell phone service that literally just came up.

The other hard job is going to be for people who return. Even though many people are dying to come back to see what's left, the mayor and all city officials are just saying the infrastructure's gone and the streets are too heavily clogged. It I too dangerous. There's nothing to support anyone who comes here. Now is not that time. Give it three, four days. But just don't return now. They're actually pleading and begging for residents to stay away.

And the last thing I'll point out is they say recovery, at least the city services, a year to 18 months away.

[13:20:23] WHITFIELD: Oh, my.

SAVIDGE: And that's just to get the city online -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Amazing hardship.

All right, Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

Meantime, all the while, rescue teams in this hard-hit Florida panhandle, they are scouring what's left of structures. They're looking for people who may potentially be trapped or killed by the hurricane. Search dogs are being used to look for victims. Hundreds of people are missing or unaccounted for.

Joining me from Panama City is CNN's Scott McLean.

Scott, is there still optimism of these search teams, that they might find people trapped?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sadly, they do believe that there are still people trapped. In fact, Fredricka, the fire department, I just spoke to them not long ago, they say they've got more than 200 calls since this hurricane first hit of people who couldn't find their loved one, asking for them to go and do welfare checks. The problem is, given everything that's going on, given the sheer scale of the devastation, it is not possible for them to do that.

What they have been doing over the last two days is trying to cut through the streets, trying to clear through the debris, so that they and other vehicles could get through. As they're doing that, they've been going door to door, knocking. Obviously, if they hear someone, they will help get that person out. But if they don't, they simply move on. So the fear is, A, they didn't get to every single house and so there may still be people trapped.

Communications is a real problem here. There's no power. Cell phone signal is spotty on some networks for sure. And then the other fear obviously is that the death toll will rise.

There are people in their homes who have passed away in this storm. Because we know there were a lot of people who stayed here in Panama City.

The battalion chief, we just spoke to him, he said he thinks that the death toll in this area alone could be in the double digits. And so they won't know obviously for sure until they're able to get all those areas and check on people and figure out who may or may not be missing.

But one other thing, quickly, Fredricka, that's food and water. That is going to be a big thing. They have been told -- people have been told, look, for the first 72 hours after this, you are on your own. That 72-hour window, it is closing. Now it is up to the county, the city to provide distribution of food and water to people. That is going to be the next big challenge -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Quite a huge undertaking.

Scott McLean, thank you so much for that.

Next, after the mysterious disappearance of a journalist at a Saudi consulate, why is U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin still planning to attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:27:36] WHITFIELD: Welcome back, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says he's still planning to attend a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia later on this month, at least for now. Several high-profile sponsors and speakers are pulling out, including Uber, CNN, the "New York Times" and "Bloomberg." They say they want answers over the disappearance of "Washington Post" contributor, Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, 11 days ago, and hasn't been seen since. President Trump is vowing severe punishment if Saudi Arabia murdered Khashoggi.

All of this as Saudi leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, consolidates his power at home and grows his relationship with the Trump administration. Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Saudi leader.

I want to bring in CNN's John Defterios.

John, good to see you.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR & ANCHOR: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: How meaningful might it be for these boycotts to take place?

DEFTERIOS: There's an actual real test coming up, Fredricka, in 10- days-time, at this big investment summit. A test with the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman because he's out to overhaul Saudi Arabia. He's one of the number-one exporters of crude and wants to modernize and diversify by boosting investments and jobs, even for women. But the shadow cast over the kingdom by the investigation into the well- known Saudi commentator may derail his master plan.

Let's take a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Mohammad bin Salman emerged as a young and ambitious reformer who promised the world. Under the brand of Saudi Vision 2030, he aimed to rebuild the status of the kingdom by harnessing the support of those in his generation, Saudi youth.

His plan was bold, cutting what he called an addiction to oil, reducing the role of conservative Islam by opening up entertainment and tourism, and by developing the world's largest state investment fund to become a major player on Wall Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is why many of the Western powers sort of embraced him or thought, you know, he's the answer to this because he does really want to take country, you know, Saudi Arabia from A to B and he wants to do it at break-neck speed.

DEFTERIOS: To catapult his ambitions, he formed a tight bond with the Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

TRUMP: The relationship is probably the strongest it's ever been. We understand each other.

DEFTERIOS: It resulted in the president's first overseas trip to Riyadh, producing $110 billion of U.S. military contracts.

[13:30:05]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're tying together two very important and influential people. And that's absolutely key.

DEFTERIOS: The relationship emboldened the crown prince. He flexed his muscle in the Middle East --

(GUNFIRE)

DEFTERIOS: -- leading a nasty ongoing war in Yemen, putting an economic embargo on neighboring Qatar, and promising the U.S. to pull out of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've gone directly to the top and they feel that's where the green light is coming from. We can be as adventurous as we like and we're not going to pay for it.

DEFTERIOS (on camera): Back at home, an alarming show of force in what Western business leaders suggest was a key turning point. After hosting a large international investment conference, he used the same venue, the Ritz-Carlton, to arrest more than 300 Saudi businessmen and seize assets of $100 billion.

(voice-over): Some say the suspected the killing of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi will only make matters worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be less and less trust in the prospect of Saudi Arabia moving ahead.

DEFTERIOS: The numbers support that view. Foreign investment hit a 14-year low last year and an estimated $80 billion of money fled the country with another $65 billion expected this year.

MBS appeared as an agent of change, but is now being viewed as too impulsive for his own good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This image of a reformer, young vibrant prince has been somehow eroded.

DEFTERIOS: In a region that, as a result of his actions, is riskier than ever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: So, John, that's a fascinating look.

So could Prince Salman's opponents kind of use this against him? Do they see him as vulnerable now in any way?

DEFTERIOS: Well, I tell you, he's a favorite son of the king and he's the youngest one, Fredricka, so it's an excellent question you're asking here. But he marched onto the scene two and a half years ago. In fact, did a palace coup at midnight to take out his cousin to become the crown prince. And then took out the head of the National Guard, arrested him and put him into the Ritz-Carlton. So he's taken down some very big fish.

But it does raise the question, if it's that damaging going forward with Saudi Arabia reaching into Turkey to take out a citizen of theirs, it could raise questions within the palace, put pressure on King Salman, and suggesting is this the right way forward. I think it's too early to discuss that.

He has two sides to him, Fredricka, which I think is very interesting. Part reformer, yes. Reforming the ability for women to drive and work in society. Taking on the religious police, for example. And at the same time, arresting 800 businessmen. With a real iron fist. It's hard to understand the complexities of this society. He wanted to open up, but clearly on his terms, and this is the problem we see today.

WHITFIELD: So what about other, you know, neighboring countries, and are they willing to sanction, are they looking at this, you know, with some skepticism? Are they worried at all about this leadership, especially with this, you know, the cloud of the investigation over a missing journalist in Turkey?

DEFTERIOS: Well, two points I would make here. I think it's going to make the region which I'm working and sitting right here in the heart of the gulf even more divisive. You have on one side Saudi Arabia, UAE where I'm sitting, and then partners like Egypt and Bahrain on one side. Then you have Turkey, on the other side of this investigation, Iran and Qatar on the other. I think this is going to intensify. It also creates a vacuum, depending on the U.S. response to this, for Russia and China to come in and go after some of the military orders as well. I don't think anybody's going to put sanctions on Saudi Arabia from this region because it's so explosive. But that confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, expect it to ratchet up a few notches as a result of these tensions and difficulties for the kingdom right now.

WHITFIELD: John Defterios, thank you so much for all that. Appreciate it.

DEFTERIOS: Good to see you.

[13:35:01] WHITFIELD: All right, coming up next, the first lady speaking her mind, saying she was blindsided by the Trump administration's controversial immigration policy.

This, as a CNN correspondent gets access to a U.S. detention center that is still housing more than 1,500 immigrant children.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: First lady Melania Trump says she was blindsided about her husband's zero-tolerance stance on immigration that led to family separations at the border. She called it heartbreaking during an interview with ABC News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It was unacceptable for me to see children and parents separated. It was heartbreaking. And I reacted with my own voice. I didn't know that that policy would come out. I was blindsided by it. I told him at home, I said to him that I feel that's unacceptable and he felt the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Months after that zero-tolerance went into effect, the Trump administration says it's seeing a rise in the number of families crossing the border and it's running out of places to house them. Right now, there are at least 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant children being held at a temporary center in Texas. And a backlog of fingerprint processing could keep some of them there much longer.

Here's CNN's Leyla Santiago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[13:40:00] LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Arriving at a migrant shelter, a bus filled with Central American families released from ICE custody. A bus showing shadows of children whose little hands we would eventually see gripping their parents. We agreed not to show their faces as they explained why they came to

the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SANTIAGO; This 27-year-old mother tells us gangs forced her to leave Honduras, a country plagued with violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SANTIAGO (on camera): So she says the gangs wanted to recruit her son, and when she said no, they told her she had 15 days to leave the country or they would kill her boy.

RUBEN GARCIA, MIGRANT SHELTER DIRECTOR: We would see them and say don't get used to this treatment.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Ruben Garcia runs a migrant shelter about half an hour from Tornillo, an area where the Department of Health and Human Services houses about 1,500 teens who crossed the border without a parent. The facility has had to extend its deadline for closing and has had to expand.

KRISTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're out of space, unfortunately, given all of the increase in numbers.

SANTIAGO (on camera): So the immigrant advocates we're talking about are telling us we're seeing more children, more families coming in, crossing the border, and the facilities aren't able to handle them. They don't have enough beds or places to care for them.

So we're in Tornillo at this sort of temporary tent shelter. We're going to go in and ask more questions, find out how many children are in custody and how is the administration now handling this.

(voice-over): Our cameras were not allowed inside. The government provided this video.

(on camera): So we spent two hours behind the gates into what is really like an entire city back there. They have their own firefighters. They have a place to worship. They have a place to eat. We actually even went into one of the tents where they live. I could see Bibles placed on their beds, teddy bears. There's every indication these are children living here.

And when I went to the barber shop, I met a young man from El Salvador. He says he's been here a month and 11 days. When I asked him why he is here, why he crossed that border alone, he says he's looking for a better life.

(voice-over): Another young man said he wanted to get to Houston. Another to Colorado. All eager to be reunited with family.

MARK WEBER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT: I would say, you know, there are multiple factors in terms of why we have so many kids at this point in time. And, yes, we have added additional protections to ensure the homes these children are going to safely. And that is adding time.

SANTIAGO: The average time for a child to stay in HHS custody, 59 days. The reason, they say, more Central American children are crossing the border. A 30 percent increase in just the last two months.

The Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, it separated about 2,600 kids from their parents, though most have been reunited.

(CRYING)

SANTIAGO: And a new requirement to fingerprint sponsors agreeing to care for the children waiting for a day in court.

The commander says sponsors for more than half of the children here have had fingerprints taken, but it's taken too long to get any sort of report from the FBI. For now, he says the facility is expected to keep taking care of these teens through December 31st.

GARCIA: They're risking their life. And so you have to ask yourself, what would it take for you to risk your life and that of one of your children or several of your -- what would it take. I think that's what gets lost in this discussion.

SANTIAGO: In the meantime, children continue to wait to one day be released, to one day be reunited with family and try to find a better life.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Tornillo, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[13:43:54] WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, the latest on the Russia investigation. Sources tell CNN President Trump's attorneys are preparing written answers to questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But is this a sign that the investigation is coming to a close?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. A major development in the Russia investigation. Sources tell CNN that after months of negotiations, President Trump's lawyers are preparing written answers to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's questions. But could this compromise mark the beginning of the end of the 17-month investigation?

Avery Friedmann, a civil rights attorney and law professor, is joining us from Cleveland.

Good to see you.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: And criminal defense attorney, Richard Herman, joins us from Las Vegas.

Good to see you as well.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Hello.

Avery, you first.

How would this work? Questions are delivered in some way to the White House and then the attorneys for the president or the White House counsel then answers them? Explain. How does it go?

FRIEDMAN: Well, something like that. Originally, the idea was to have the president report to Camp David to do an in-person interview by the Mueller investigators. And recall that, in January, 10 months ago, the idea was, it was almost going to happen but it never did. And we now are in October and they're talking about questions. But at the end of the day, this delay has meant that, since January, we've had 100 criminal counts, we've had 100, almost 100 defendants and companies involved, and eight of the president's men convicted. So these delays are not helping the president. The questions that you will hear about and that will be responded to will ultimately be legal suicide if the president honestly answers them. And so what you are going to see is evasive answers and this will continue, after 17 months, Frederica, to be strung out.

[13:50:18] WHITFIELD: Richard, there has been a real evolution here, in the questions and what answers would come. The president has said I would be glad to be interviewed. And then, of course, his attorneys have publicly said no way. So now you've got the written form. But is there a view that these are ever going to be the words of the president? Or will they simply be the responses coming from the attorneys. And could the president still potentially be subpoenaed or will whatever the answers are suffice?

HERMAN: That is a great question, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. Yes.

HERMAN: Actually, the answers will be prepared by his lawyers. He is not going to prepare any of these answers. They are going to be reviewed, over 100 times. And then perhaps the president will sign, maybe he won't, under oath. They may not even hand in these questions and answers. Only 15, Fred. And the sole area of inquiry is on collusion conspiracy with Russia. That's it. And Giuliani, who has completely lost his mind, did make one coherent statement the other day when he said that if, --he said Mueller knows the answers to every one of these questions. Don't forget, they have already debriefed Michael Flynn, Manafort, and Michael Cohen. So they know what --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And the attorneys know that. His attorneys know that. And I mean they would be so careful, would they not, about language, word choice, all of that? HERMAN: That's why the whole thing is a farce. It is a complete

farce. Mueller should just throw a subpoena on him. The president will ignore it. It will be a constitutional crisis. It will go to the Supreme Court. And Kavanaugh will get the swing vote to protect the president. That's how it is going to play out.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, no.

HERMAN: This is a farce right now, Fred. These written questions. My clients would love to respond to limited questions, limited areas, when they're being federally criminally investigated for conspiracy. It is absurd, Fred. The whole process is completely absurd.

WHITFIELD: So, Avery, could a subpoena still come, say, you know, the special counsel doesn't necessarily --

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- value the responses, the written responses, so could they say this is not enough and we are going to go ahead and subpoena the president?

FRIEDMAN: Oh, yes. Robert Mueller has the power to issue a subpoena. And where I agree is that a subpoena would generate a constitutional crisis, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Mueller understands that. The president understands that. They are trying to compromise it.

But the other part that I agree with is that Mueller, who is so careful at what he is doing, Fredricka, has the information now. He wants that information. But the idea of a subpoena, I think, will never happen, because no one is looking for the showdown. And I think there's going to be enough information from these witnesses and from documents where the president has a bit of a headache here.

WHITFIELD: So then what, Richard, is the value of these answers, if they feel like it is not going to be representative of the president? I mean this wouldn't -- I mean, the attorneys are going to be mindful of making sure he didn't perjure himself by way of the written responses.

HERMAN: Sure.

WHITFIELD: So what is the value here?

HERMAN: I think, objectively speaking, Fred, zero value. I think it shows the good faith of the Mueller team trying to work with the president. But ultimately, it is only going to be the responses prepared by the attorneys, not Trump. And although Trump boasts, oh, I would love to sit down and give them an interview, don't forget this personal counsel, John Dowd, who has been at a few rodeos --

FRIEDMAN: He quit, yes.

HERMAN: -- basically quit, because the president wanted to sit and give a live interview. He can't give a live interview. He is a serial compulsive liar. He will then commit perjury.

WHITFIELD: Did he mean it, after he became president, he would release the taxes, and that hasn't happened. So it is the issue of whether he really meant, did he really mean, you know, Avery, that he would be interviewed?

FRIEDMAN: That's the point. That's the point. Even the most hardened Trump supporter has started to learn to discern between what the president says and what he means. He has already admitted that going in person for an interview like this, Fredricka, would be a, quote, "perjury trap." You know what? The president is 100 percent right on that.

WHITFIELD: OK, so quickly, Richard --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: No, Fred, Fred, Fred --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: No? OK, you disagree? What?

HERMAN: It is not a perjury trap. It is not a perjury trap if you're telling the truth.

WHITFIELD: If you're telling the truth, there's no perjury trap.

HERMAN: That's what he said. If it is a lie, then it is a perjury trap.

WHITFIELD: OK.

So, Richard, we're at this phase of a written questions, written question, written responses, does this mean we are at the end of this investigation?

(CROSSTALK)

[13:55:07] HERMAN: I thought it would go on much longer, Fred. But I do think that Mueller is closing in now. I think he has obstruction locked up. And I think, right now, he is working on the collusion conspiracy aspect between Trump, Trump administration, Trump campaign, and Russia, and I think that is the final piece of puzzle. I think he is close to the end. and you always end with the big fish, and that's where he is going, for the president right now, Fred.

Avery, yes or no, the end is near?

FRIEDMAN: Possible. We may be close. Seventeen months in, you got to give it another three, four, five months.

WHITFIELD: OK. That's both a yes and a no. There you go.

Avery Friedman, Richard Herman --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: -- both so clever all the time. Thank you so much. Great to see you.

All right, still to come, President Trump promises severe punishment if it is proven that Saudi Arabia is responsible for the death of a "Washington Post" journalist. We're live after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)