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CNN NEWSROOM

Freed American Pastor Detained in Turkey Meets with Trump; Turkey's Audio Evidence of Murder Was from Khashoggi's Apple Watch; Trump Vows "Punishment" If Saudis Murdered Journalist; Closer Look at Devastation of Hurricane Michael; NYT: Kushner Paid No Taxes for Years Despite Making Millions; Women Voters Could Saw Midterms. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired October 13, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope I do as well on "60 Minutes" tomorrow night.

(LAUGHTER)

I doubt I will. But that's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President -- (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: What do you think about that?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we need to continue to evaluate the facts and we will make that decision. I spoke with Secretary Mnuchin about it last week. We will be talking about it through the rest of the week.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President -- (INAUDIBLE) -- what is the future for U.S. sanctions in Turkey?

TRUMP: Well, we were very tough on Turkey. And we will take a look. There was absolutely no deal made. Frankly, the only deal, if you can call it a deal, is a psychological one. We feel much different about Turkey today than we did yesterday. And I think we have a chance of really becoming much closer to Turkey. Maybe even having a very, very good relationship. We know the people. And as the pastor said, these are incredible people. The people of Turkey are incredible people. And I think we have a chance now to really have a great relationship with Turkey. I hope that happens. OK? Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Richard, do you have anything to say? I would like maybe you and Tom, you worked so hard. Richard Burr?

SEN. RICHARD BURR, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We welcome the pastor back to North Carolina. He has been missed. But his work in Turkey, like everywhere else in the world, to spread the word of Jesus Christ, is absolutely crucial, and it is a foundational thing about this country, the United States, and I think that is why we love it so much. Welcome home.

ANDREW BRUNSON, PASTOR THAT WAS HELD PRISONER IN TURKEY: Carolina Blue.

BURR: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: That's right.

Tom?

SEN. THOM TILLIS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, Pastor Brunson, you mentioned the state team, I just want to echo that the folks on the ground in Turkey, the two times that I was there, were amazing to work with. And they deserve a lot of credit. You know how many times they have met with you, in the prison, and how much time they have spent with Norine and we are very proud of them. They have done an extraordinary job. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He doesn't speak good English anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

He forgot English. You spent a lot of time over there. Fantastic.

Patrick?

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: What a special guy. What a special man of Christ. When he comes to the Oval Office, and instead of saying thank you, just for your prayers, he says let me pray for you, Mr. President. What a special statement. And what a special statement about what you have done personally. As a delegation in North Carolina, we have worked on this release for a very long time. But things changed when this administration came in. And the direct involvement of the secretary of state, and the direct involvement of you, Mr. President, and the vice president, has made all of the difference. We are so grateful to see the happy family all back together once again.

TRUMP: Thank you, Patrick. That's very nice.

Mark?

REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Pastor, welcome home. But I think the other thing is, you had dozens and dozens of advocates. You had one champion in the president of the United States. But he was the answer to millions of prayers that went up on your behalf, and on behalf of your family. So thank you for keeping the faith. Thank you for the entire team. And praise God for a wonderful celebration today.

And thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you, Mark, very much. Appreciate it.

James, please. NORINE BRUNSON, WIFE OF PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON: Just also, thanks so

much to Szarje (ph). There was a transition time, but both of them were just so wonderful, and we just want to acknowledge them publicly.

TRUMP: Before James goes, and you know how James has fought for you, I would like you maybe to say something on behalf of your husband, the bravery that he showed, because you know --

NORINE BRUNSON: I know.

TRUMP: -- you know exactly what was going on. You saw it better than everybody.

NORINE BRUNSON: It was hard for him. And really the Lord pulled him through, yes. I think it was a great testimony in Turkey. We would like people to know who we really are there, that we really are there to bless the country. That's our desire.

TRUMP: Thank you for your bravery and everything else.

How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED DAUGHTER OF PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON: I just want to say thank you for all of your involvement. I don't think that we would be sitting here right now. I don't think that I would be seeing my parents right now if it were not for your involvement and your strong stance. So thank you.

TRUMP: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

NORINE BRUNSON: She was the face of the family.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: She was.

NORINE BRUNSON: She was, yes.

TRUMP: She's becoming very famous.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED SON OF PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON: I wanted to say thank you for everything that you have done. I know you and the vice president have worked really hard, and all of these people, and it was really hard, like my dad being gone, so thank you for bringing him back. It was definitely amazing.

TRUMP: You've got great parents. And it is terrific. It is our honor.

And, James, maybe we will close it out with you. I will just say on behalf of the vice president, we are so happy, so thrilled.

James Lankford, go ahead.

[15:04:56] SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R), OKLAHOMA: Thank you, Mr. President.

You all have both faced incredible risk, personally. Your tenacity to be able to stay there, by his side, throughout this, a great personal risk to yourself, through this process, has been awe-inspiring, for many of us, to be able to watch as well. We are incredibly grateful for you all to be able to be home. And we look forward to having a celebration day like this for other Americans from Turkey that need to come home as well. To be able to finish that out, and we look forward to getting all of those individuals revolved as well and -- resolved as well and back home. And today we are incredibly grateful after two very long years. For you to be able to be home.

And I look forward to hearing through your stories of driving through drive-throughs and getting a hamburger --

(LAUGHTER)

-- and going to hang out and going to your own church and being able to relax, and to be able to be with family. We are all looking forward to those days of you all not having to be on the front page of a paper and being back to being Americans again and being able to do this. So welcome home.

TRUMP: Thank you.

Thank you.

NORINE BRUNSON: Thank you very much.

TRUMP: Thank you.

Thank you. Fantastic. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you.

NORINE BRUNSON: A good son-in-law.

TRUMP: Good son-in-law.

(CROSSTALK)

NORINE BRUNSON: He's a good one.

TRUMP: Thank you.

NORINE BRUNSON: Thank you so much, Mr. President.

(CROSSTALK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

Let's pick up with our breaking news, this homecoming for an American pastor, after two years spent detained in Turkey. Andrew Brunson was the pastor who prayed with the president, in the Oval Office. Just hours ago, he landed on U.S. soil. He met moments ago with the president and other members of Congress. His family, all in the Oval Office.

And I want to bring you this poignant moment when the pastor prayed with the president by his side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNSON: We would like to pray for you. We pray for you often --

TRUMP: Thank you.

BRUNSON: -- as a family. My wife and I pray for you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

Well, I need it probably more than anybody in this room.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: More from that moment in just a moment.

But let's bring in CNN's Elise Labott live in Washington.

Elise, this is obviously a big diplomatic win for the president.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Very much, Ana. And to this administration's credit, President Trump, others have brought a lot of Americans home, and President Trump certainly did that victory lap, talking about them, talking about, from Egypt, from Turkey, from others. Obviously, Otto Warmbier from North Korea didn't come back alive but certainly others from North Korea. And he went on to praise Andrew Brunson. A lot of people putting pressure on this White House to get him released. And that's really, it was so unusual, Ana, that the administration would jeopardize a relationship with a key NATO ally, such as Turkey, over one America.

And I think the pressure of evangelicals had a lot to do with it. You saw a lot of evangelical leaders in the room, Senator James Lankford, an evangelical. And that prayer certainly shows how much these evangelicals are in President Trump's base.

But clearly, today, a good moment for the president. And it does, as you said, pave the way for better relationship with Turkey, a very key ally. And the relationships have definitely been strained over the detention of Andrew Brunson. The U.S. really put the squeeze on Turkey economically, diplomatically, and President Erdogan ended up caving.

CABRERA: I want to listen in to that moment, where we actually are watching on the screen right now -- can we turn up the volume, guys -- and hear him praying for the president? BRUNSON: Lord God, I ask that you pour out your Holy spirit on

President Trump, that you give him supernatural wisdom, to accomplish all the plans you have for this country, and for him. I ask that you give him wisdom, and how to lead this country into righteousness. I ask that you give him perseverance and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you protect him from slander, from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus' name, we bless you. Amen.

CABRERA: Elise, tell us more about what we know about Pastor Brunson, and why Turkey decided to release him.

[15:10:02] LABOTT: Well, I mean Andrew Brunson was a pastor. He was in Turkey, doing work on behalf of his mission. And he had contacts that made the Turkish government think that he was connected to Fethullah Gulen, the cleric that was believed to be responsible for that failed coup attempt a few years ago. And this is -- he was caught up in this round-up of thousands, tens of thousands of Turkish citizens, ex-pats and others, who were believed to have connections to the Fethullah Gulen movement. The United States and Pastor Brunson's mission continued to maintain that he had no connection whatsoever, and that what was going through the courts was a bit of a sham. And the president, you know, the Obama administration obviously followed the case very closely, but you have a lot of dozens of American, unjustly detained, around the world. And this one was special to this administration. I think Vice President Pence, this very religious vice president, very close ties to evangelicals, instrumental here, and really did put pressure on President Trump to go forward on this policy.

Why did President Erdogan cave? For a couple of reasons. First of all, economic. The president doubled tariffs on aluminum and steel on Turkey. That was really going to put the Turkish economy in further trouble. It is already very fragile. And then there were concerns about further penalties on a very important Turkish bank. And the relationship obviously politically very strained. And I think President Erdogan was trying to weigh the economic benefit versus standing off on this one pastor. There are still dozens, if not hundreds of people unjustly detained because of this Fethullah Gulen movement. So it is one pastor for the benefit that you just heard President Trump speaking about.

CABRERA: You just pointed out a very important thing, which is he is not alone, but he is the one who got to come home.

The president making it very clear there was no deal that was made in order to secure his release. But he also hinted in a tweet that this could be very good for Turkey as well.

The timing also interesting, Elise, given everything that is happening regarding Saudi Arabia, and what happened in the consulate in Turkey, and this missing journalist, who worked for the "Washington Post." Do you think the president would rather be talking about this homecoming than Saudi Arabia right now? LABOTT: Well, I think when you have the president in front of a

camera, anything goes, Ana. I would have thought maybe this would have been a small photo op to welcome Pastor Brunson home. That prayer was obviously a very emotional moment. This president, not a religious man. But you know, this religious man calling on the Lord to protect the president, fill him with wisdom, and supernatural wisdom, you know, obviously President Trump kind of liked that, those kinds of flowery praise. I think that when you have a camera and you ask him questions, he is going to, you know, say what is on his mind, and certainly that is Saudi Arabia right now. And the president and his administration walking a very tight rope on what to do about Saudi Arabia. On one hand, he is talking about he doesn't want to give up this arms deal with Saudi Arabia. He is talking about $100 billion, $110 billion. If you look at CNN.com, we have broken it down. It may not be that much. But it certainly is very important. But you can see the president, and he was reaching out to Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, John Bolton, national security adviser. There's mounting evidence of Saudi involvement in the case. President Trump pretty much said that he thinks Jamal Khashoggi is deceased, was killed, possibly by the Saudis. And so, you know, some of the things that the U.S. was standing firm on, such as this Saudi conference, this important financial conference later this month, Steve Mnuchin, the U.S. said that they would still be going. Now Secretary Pompeo a little iffy on that. So we will watch that.

CABRERA: And we will talk a little bit more on the situation of Saudi Arabia and the missing journalist in just a moment.

These are more live pictures as you see Pastor Brunson leaving the White House alongside the president and his wife, Norine. These were moments ago. Apologies for the shaky camera, as it happens during these breaking news moments. But again, you see he is now back home.

We heard from his family, and those remarks inside the Oval Office, too, expressing their gratitude to this president, to this administration, for helping to make this moment happen.

As we continue to look at these live pictures, and this photo-op moment for the family and the president, I want to bring in -- well, let's listen in for just a second.

[15:15:21] TRUMP: He has made a great journey. Incredible journey, actually. We will talk about it a little bit in a few minutes.

Are you all set? Everything good? Thank you. We will see you in the Oval Office. Thank you.

CABRERA: So that was just moments ago. Apparently, that was before their Oval Office meeting. We're just getting some of this video brought in to CNN right now.

Our White House reporter, Sarah Westwood, was inside the Oval Office during that news conference with the pastor and the president and joins us now.

Sarah, the prayer, that one really touched me. That stood out, I think, to a lot of people who were watching. It seemed like a very impromptu moment.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. That was a pretty remarkable moment to see there in the Oval Office. Andrew Brunson asking if he could pray for the president and kneeling and laying a hand on President Trump's shoulder. It appears from where I was standing, that Andrew Brunson, the pastor, had a handwritten prayer into the Oval Office and he unfolded it and read it. And Brunson's wife, Norine, also requested that she could pray for the president. Obviously, there was a lot of gratitude from the family that the president and his administration officials helped secure his release. And President Trump definitely sees the opportunity to take a victory lap and using it as an opportunity to list some of the other Americans he helped free from detention since he took office. And throwing a little shame to the Obama administration, noting that Brunson was taken into custody during the Obama administration, that the previous administration had pried to secure his freedom and failed. But certainly, that was one of the more warm-hearted moments in the Oval Office we have seen.

CABRERA: Any word on whether there's going to be some kind of a policy shift from the U.S. regarding Turkey? We heard from Elise Labott about some of the sanctions, not the sanctions, but the tariffs applied to Turkey, that may have increased the pressure on Turkey. And the president saying there hasn't been some kind of a deal made to secure Andrew Brunson's release, in his tweets, pointing out that Turkey could have a good thing coming to it.

WESTWOOD: That's right. President Trump was adamant during that meeting that there was no deal, that he made no concessions to secure the pastor's release. But he had placed an enormous amount of economic pressure on Turkey in the weeks leading up to Brunson's release. He ratcheted up the steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey. And that, combined with sanctions, had helped to exacerbate existing economic problems in Turkey. Their currency was plummeting. They were starting to head into something of an economic crisis. And that is part of why this release is happening now. It is not clear whether any of that economic pressure will gradually be lifted off Turkey, now that Trump has achieved his goal. Trump is adamant that, again, if that happens, it won't be a concession. But there's also nothing stopping Turkey from claiming, if and when that happens, that they won a concession from Trump when those tariffs or sanctions are eventually altered.

CABRERA: Sarah Westwood, Elise Labott, thank you, ladies.

The mystery over the missing Saudi journalist deepens as the president changes course, vowing severe punishment if it turns out Saudi Arabia murdered Jamal Khashoggi. The latest on the investigation ahead.

And residents in Florida coming to grips with the devastation in their communities. We have new video showing the sheer power of this hurricane as it hit Mexico Beach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(WAVES CRASHING) (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The latest on the search and recovery is coming up.

Plus, the president ran promising he would drain the swamp. But there may be new trouble surrounding a cabinet member this time. It is his commerce secretary. Details just ahead, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:23] # A major development in the case of the missing journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul last week to get paperwork for his upcoming wedding. This weekend, sources familiar with the investigation say Turkey has audio evidence of the moment Khashoggi was brutally killed in the consulate. And according to a Turkish paper, the audio was by Khashoggi himself after he turned on the record function on his Apple watch.

CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Behind these walls topped with razor wire, the epicenter of a spiraling crisis that threatens to engulf this whole region. One that is reverberated far beyond Turkey.

(on camera): A source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN that Turkish authorities have shared some of their evidence of Jamal Khashoggi's murder inside the consulate here with their Western intelligence allies. And some of those partners have been deeply, deeply shocked with the brutality of what they learned.

(voice-over): The evidence, according to the CNN source, by a Western intelligence, includes audio/visual information inside the building, revealing an assault, a struggle, and the moment Khashoggi's life ends.

On Friday, what appears to have been a Saudi delegation, ushered quickly into the building, mission unknown. Prince al Faisal, one of the kingdom's most trusted figures, also visiting Turkey in an effort to tamp down tensions according to Reuters.

[15:25:09] But each new detail makes the task of containing those tensions and the fallout across the Middle East more difficult.

Among the many questions still unanswered, what happened to this van seen leaving the Saudi consulate soon after Turkish officials say Khashoggi was killed.

Saudi Arabia continues to deny any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance.

Its regional allies are stepping up their support. The United Arab Emirates minister for foreign affairs, tweeting, "The repercussions of political targeting of Saudi Arabia will be dire on those who inflame it."

Bahrain's foreign minister complaining, "Saudi Arabia is the target, not the search for truth."

But at the center of it all, the consulate. It was last Saturday that the consulate let in the media, sheepishly opening cupboards and doors.

But Turkish officials are still waiting for their investigators to be given access. And that is why the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is both a mystery and an international crisis.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Istanbul, Turkey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: President Trump is now promising severe punishment against Saudi Arabia, if it turns out Khashoggi was murdered in his consulate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's get straight to our teams across the Middle East. CNN's John Defterios is in Abu Dhabi and Nic Robertson is in Istanbul.

Nic, a lot of what we have learned so far has come from Turkey. Given the geopolitical factors here, Turkey has incentive to pin this on Saudi Arabia and turn the U.S. against Saudi Arabia. Is it too much that the U.S. is replying on Turkey too Much to tell us what happened?

ROBERTSON: I think certainly the diplomats that are involved with this and the intelligence agencies who long understood these kinds of tensions of Turkey's aims in the region and long have had their assessments of where President Erdogan has been going, becoming more autocratic, taking power out of the government, and moving it essentially with him into the presidency. So all of that is the backdrop to this. That is known. And I think when we heard from President Trump today, the possibility, the reality, it appears now, that Turkish officials have got some kind of audio/visual evidence, that the president does seem to be inclined to believe that Khashoggi may well be dead. This is listening to his language. This information has been shared with others. I think, when this is all, the evidence of the Turks, is weighed against the backdrop, about knowing their strategic regional interests, knowing that they want to build more U.S. support and better cooperation with the United States than they have, and knowing that Saudi Arabia is a challenge to their interest in the region as well. All of that is known. But what we heard today from the Turkish foreign minister, who is in London, no doubt, trying to bolster support, for Turkey's position right now, he used very, very strong language this evening. And this comes after a joint working group, between Saudi officials and Turkish investigators. The foreign minister has said in the strongest language we have heard so far, Saudi Arabia must, and he used that word "must," must give access to the chief prosecutor and Turkish investigative experts into the consulate, and saying right now, the Saudis aren't doing that and that they must do it. So this is becoming very, very tense right now -- Ana?

CABRERA: John, we know MBS phoned Jared Kushner at the White House, after all of this happened to try to make his case. The president's son-in-law, of course, Jared Kushner, has a very close relationship with the crown prince. They talk often privately, we're told. Is this a vulnerability or a strength in this case?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR & ANCHOR: Well, when things are going swimmingly, it is a true asset, there's no doubt about that. But we're wondering right now whether there's a clear accurate line of communication and a back channel there that is proving useful to President Trump at this juncture.

What has it led to? Who would have ever thought that Israel and Saudi Arabia would be partners when it comes to security. That has been one benefit here. But the common enemy has been Iran and the reason why President Trump has taken a much harder line against Iran and turned up that nuclear agreement.

[15:30:00]

I would add here, it puts the president though in a tough position. Because he is tacked, as Nic was suggesting here, he's tacked to the right, taking a much more challenging position here against Saudi Arabia, suggesting, if there's something wrong, if it doesn't lead into the right direction, they will come down very hard.

But during that briefing with Andrew Brunson, the pastor, he said four times he is trying to protect that $110 billion military deal. So he is trying to have it both ways. And as Nic is suggesting here, more difficult, as the evidence starts to emerge.

CABRERA: All right, Nic and John, thank you both.

Devastation in the Florida panhandle. And 17 dead now. Hundreds of thousands are still without power across several states. We will take you to the recovery efforts, live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:35:14] CABRERA: Welcome back. We are getting a stunning new look at the shear devastation caused by Hurricane Michael. This is drone video showing the destroyed Mexico Beach area of Florida. The mayor there says 75 percent of his city is gone. One resident who rode out the storm captured this dramatic footage of Michael's fury as it made landfall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (WAVES CRASHING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: On the ground, crews are still sifting through storm debris for people who were trapped, killed. The death toll right now, is at 17. That includes people across four states. And that number is still expected to rise. FEMA's chief, along with Florida's governor, will tour the affected area of the panhandle tomorrow to assess the damage.

For the very latest today, let's go now to CNN's Martin Savidge in Mexico Beach, ground zero for this storm.

Martin, what are you seeing there right now?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana. You referenced that drone video and every time I see that, it is mesmerizing, it is horrifying but still stunning to see how it goes on and on and on. Here is a ground view, another example. A beautiful beachfront home right on the water and as you can see, the only thing left that you can recognize of this home is the staircase here. Beyond that, it is just simply a pile of ruins. There was some concern that there was a couple that was staying in this home. There were witnesses who said they rode out the storm here and as a result, they brought in search- and-rescue and a cadaver dog. They went through it, swept through it, and from all appearances, they did not find anything. As the teams always do, they leave this marking indicator to say that nothing was found. But this is just one small example of a massive amount of destruction in this community.

You mentioned 70 percent. Let me show you one home that is the exception to that. This home right here. Right on the water. Brand new built. And as you can see, almost completely intact. It lost a little siding. Two broken windows. That is it. Now, you could say that is the luckiest person in all of Mexico Beach. Their house survived. But the problem is, their community did not. And so what are you? You're sort of the king of nothing. You look at the complete devastation around them, and this community is not going to be what it was. And that is the biggest problem many people say is that, yes, you can rebuild, but it will never be what it was. And that is the heartbreak and the internal devastation people are trying to come to grips with, as well as the physical devastation -- Ana?

CABRERA: The amount of splintered wood and shattered glass and just concrete slabs that are now all over that area really is heartbreaking.

Martin Savidge, thanks for being there to fill us in on all of it.

A new report out today says President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, likely paid no income taxes for years, even though his personal wealth is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Details on this "New York Times" report coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:42:52] CABRERA: New this afternoon, "the New York Times" is reporting that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, paid very little or zero federal income tax for at least seven years. Kushner's real estate and investment holdings are now worth more than $700 million, as confirmed by CNN calculations this past summer. He is now a senior adviser at the White House.

Our political commentator, Catherine Rampell, is here.

And let me read with you, Catherine, a small part of today's "New York Times" article on Jared Kushner. It says, "His low tax bills are the result of a common tax minimizing maneuver that year after year generated millions of dollars of losses for Mr. Kushner, according to the documents, but the losses were only on paper. Mr. Kushner and his company did not appear to actually lose any money."

Explain how that can be.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is confusing, I know. And the thing to clarify up front, that this is legal. The scandal and the tax code is often not what is illegal, but what is legal under the tax code. So basically, there are a lot of tax breaks that are available, not only to rich people, but specifically to wealthy real estate investors. And one of these tax breaks has to do with something called depreciation. Basically, it means that the tax code assumes that you get, you have some costs, because the building you own has wear and tear over the years, and that is a cost to you, and you can use those costs to offset your actual income.

So in the case of Kushner, he is saying I own these enormous properties, but you know, maybe the value is going up maybe I could sell them for a little bit more money, but, hey, there's wear and tear on the building, therefore, IRS, that is a cost to me, I should be able to use that to offset any cash I am actually getting out of it.

CABRERA: This is how much he is offsetting. The "New York Times" offers an example from 2015. It says, "Kushner took home $1.7 million in salary and investment gains but he had $8.3 million of losses, largely because of significant depreciation on real estate," according to the documents reviewed by the "Times."

So effectively here, Catherine, you're saying those reported losses cancel out his income, he paid no income tax, as a result. But who is determining the losses?

[15:45:02] RAMPELL: Basically, he does. So there's a lot of leeway in the tax code for the person who actually owns the property, or at least their tax preparation team, to be able to say, you know what, I think that my property went down by this amount of money, or that amount of money, I mean, there's like some guidelines but they have a lot of freedom to make it up as they go. And again, all perfectly legal.

CABRERA: All right. Catherine Rampell, thanks for putting it in perspective for us. Still maddening. The rich keep getting richer. Is the midterm hanging in the balance? One influential voting block

is fired up more than ever. We are talking about women. And they could be decisive in choosing which party comes out ahead in just 24 days. Who stands to benefit from this energy? We will discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:50:18] CABRERA: Take a look at the images from earlier today. Thousands of women rallying on the streets of Chicago vowing to show their power at the ballot box. Early voting for the midterm elections is under way there in Illinois and in other places around the country. In just 24 days, a wave of energized female voters across the nation may play a key role in deciding the balance of power in Congress. Both Republican and Democratic women showing a new sense of urgency, perhaps fueled, in part, by the "Me Too" movement.

I want to bring in Maeve Reston, a CNN national political reporter, who has been covering the women in this upcoming midterm election.

You have been talking to voters in dozens of competitive congressional districts across the country, Maeve. What common themes did you find with the women you were speaking to?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It's been so fascinating. You see all of this anger, certainly, on the Democratic side against Trump. That has been there since the beginning of last year. But over the course of the last two years, we have also seen a real hardening among particularly Independent women and some Republican women with college degrees, who really feel not just alienated by Trump, but his rhetoric, particularly on the Kavanaugh nomination. And a lot of earlier things earlier this year, whether it was parents being separated from their children at the border or feeling like we were potentially a tweet away from a war. So, we have really seen, because of President Trump, a huge drop off in female support for Republicans. And that will be key in November -- Ana?

CABRERA: In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle, here is what President Trump and his eldest son had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, JR, SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I have boys and girls, it's scary.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Who are you scared most for, your sons or daughters?

DONALD TRUMP JR: Right now, my sons.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say it's a very scary time for young men in America, when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of. This is a very, very -- this is a very, very difficult time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Maeve, you say Kavanaugh's confirmation battle has been a gal vary -- galvanizing force for Democratic, Independent and even some Republican women, and not a singular one. Explain it.

RESTON: What we mean by that is essentially that there's all of the other issues that are feeding in to this building wave among women away from Republicans. It is important to note that conservatives have been incredibly energized by Kavanaugh's nomination as well. And had what we are going to be looking for one Election Day is whether both of the sides turn out. It's always the turn out game, right? We will want to see whether the energy remains, whether the anger as President Trump and his son for comments like that, which many women that I talk to were offended by, whether that holds through November. And right now, it looks like it's building.

CABRERA: CNN's recent polling shows top Republicans, among white, female likely voters with college degrees, at 67 percent of 31 percent. What about white women without higher education degrees, or women working blue collar jobs?

RESTON: What is fascinating about the numbers, they disguise two trends that have been going on for quite some time now. That's white women moving away from Republicans and college-educated people moving away from Republicans. So, you then end up with a lot of women that group, who happen to be both of those things. But this is the drift that is really troublesome for Republicans. And right now, they don't seem to have a very clear strategy on how to fix it.

CABRERA: Maeve Reston, thank you so much for the insight. We appreciate it.

RESTON: Always.

CABRERA: Afghan and Iraqi interpreters served alongside troops in the Middle East and put themselves and their families at great risk every day. They faced danger in combat and from persecution and death threats at the hands of the Taliban and ISIS. This week's "CNN Hero" is an Army veteran whose new mission is to bring them to safety. Meet Matt Zeller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT ZELLER: Afghan and Iraq translators, they're proud patriots who signed up to defend their country and to help us with our mission. We owe these people a great debt of gratitude to feel like they have been honored for their sacrifice.

Welcome home. Welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for everything.

ZELLER: Thank you.

What we also owe them is a chance at a new and better life that we promised them in exchange for that service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:54:50] CABRERA: See how Matt is transforming the lives of these brave translators. Go to CNN heroes.com.

Hurricane Matthew devastate the Florida panhandle leaving 17 dead in its wake. Officials are worried that number could rise. More on the recovery effort ahead in a live report.

And the mystery over the missing Saudi journalist deepens as the president changes course vowing severe punishment if it turns out Saudi Arabia murdered Jamal Khashoggi. The latest turn in the investigation, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[15:59:54] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Great to have you with us.

Our breaking news, President Trump promising severe punishment if it turns out Saudi Arabia killed "Washington Post" contributor and U.S. resident, Jamal Khashoggi. But that punishment would not include, he says, canceling a multibillion arms deal currently in the works.