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NEW DAY SUNDAY

Search Crews Begin Sifting Through Debris to Find Victims; Trump: Will Call Saudi King Over "Next 24 Hours"; Source: Trump to Announce White House Counsel; Billions Wiped Off Saudi Shares; ABC/WaPo Poll: President's Approval Rating Climbs to 41 Percent; Saudi Arabia "Rejects" Threats of Sanctions, Political Pressure. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired October 14, 2018 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't stop. He doesn't listen to anyone but himself! Who does he remind me of?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to brag, bro. I don't want to brag. I have a high I.Q. and I'm a stable genius. I got a big brain! And I got the best words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god! He is a black me! Goes to Christmas black. Quick. Look at Jim Brown instead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my Lord. What have I gotten myself into? I played football with a leather helmet and my brain is still working better than his!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move on to perhaps a dangerous phase to go through the large debris piles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No running water or electricity in Panama City, folks are getting desperate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This hit to hard and so fast the different aspect of human nature is going to come out.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Instincts say that there is no question Saudi government did this.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I've never been more disturbed than ever right now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are other things we can do that are very powerful and very strong and we will do them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

Listen, it is a very tough morning for the people on the Florida panhandle that was hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, crews from across the state, like this firefighters in Miami, they're in Mexico Beach, preparing to search through the piles of debris now because the homes and buildings left partially standing have been searched and no victims found but hundreds of people are still unaccounted for.

And Martin Savidge explains how the next phase of the search will happen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have to go through the large debris piles and there are many of them throughout this devastated town. And they will carefully and methodically have to search and investigate every single one. Authorities are working off a list of about 300 names, these are names of people they know were in this community just prior to the storm coming ashore.

Now after the storm, what they are doing is trying to match up those names with the people that are still here. They actually have a map with almost 300 dots on it and they are carefully checking the list off. The problem is that in some cases, you go to a home and there's no one. In other cases, you go and there's no home there. In other cases, they have been able to cross people off a list because witnesses saw them after the storm or those people have been self- report.

However, it's still a disturbing number. It won't say how many that are unaccounted for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: And thank you to our Martin Savidge reporting there.

Now, in the next hour, Florida's Governor Rick Scott and FEMA administrator Brock Long are going to tour those communities that are most impacted by the storm.

BLACKWELL: President Trump is expected to tour the same areas. That's tomorrow.

Scott McLean is live in Panama City.

There's an urgent need for food and water where you are and also been reports of looting and there may be some connection there. Maybe not.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's hard to know exactly what the motivation is here, Victor. But I can tell you that officials had initially told people, look, be ready to fend for yourself for the first 72 hours after this storm. Well, that window has now closed and so a lot of people are now relying on the state to get food and to get water as well. There are several points now set up around town where people can go and pick those things up, thankfully.

But as you said, people have really taken advantage of this situation, despite the fact that there is a curfew from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., authorities say that looting is a problem and it's not surprising perhaps because a lot of the town looks like this. This is a strip mall. This was an office over there, then a bakery and print shop and many people's homes look like this as well, so it's easy for looters to go in and take what they like, so much so that firefighters, they are actually concerned about their own security. They have been going out on calls with police officers with them on the off chance that they do encounter looters and there is a potential for danger there.

Those firefighters, they've also been going door-to-door the last couple of days trying to establish whether people are there. They expect that they will find people who are still trapped in their homes even three days later. They also expect that there will be fatalities. One firefighter would not be surprised if double digits in this area along.

There are 240,000 people across the state of Florida without power, but for the school system, it's honestly the least of their worries because a lot of the schools, in fact, the majority of the schools in this district are badly, badly damaged. Some of them look like this. So students are not going to be getting in there any time soon.

[07:05:03] The school board is going to have to figure out how to educate those kids going forward in the schools that are still standing. They're going to make a decision on that tomorrow -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Scott McLean, thank you so much.

Now, Hurricane Michael, I don't know if you realize this, but it was still a strong category three when it hit southwest Georgia.

BLACKWELL: Look at this. The damage there now is widespread from the farming communities, it's catastrophic. It will take a long time to recover there. In all, the storm did an estimated $1 billion in damage to crops.

PAUL: Cotton crops are a total loss. Pecan Groves suffered $625 million loss. Vegetable crops are also a total loss and poultry farmers lost 2 million chickens in the storm.

On the phone with us, State Representative Gerald Greene.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us. I know you've been to the Georgia farming communities. Help us understand what they are seeing and how these people are there right now.

STATE REP. GERALD GREENE (R), GEORGIA (via telephone): Well, good morning.

The day right after the storm as the sun came up, we realized that our agricultural area was in deep trouble. The cotton had been so beautiful and ready to pick this coming week. It has been decimated. The cotton is on the ground, the bowls. It's just white underneath that. That is a total loss.

The pecan, they will try to salvage what they can but the trees are gone. Forty percent to 50 percent of our orchards have been destroyed. With the poultry industry, I had white oak pastures, I went there and they lost most of their flocks out there which is organic chickens that they have raised on the farms there on the ground. They just blew away.

So, we are facing one of the most awful situations and I expect it to go over $1 billion.

BLACKWELL: How long will it take to recover here? Because these crops you say the pecans are on the ground but the trees are gone. It takes quite a long time to get a tree to mature to the point where you can get a crop of pecans from it. How long do you think it will take for Georgia agriculture to come back?

GREENE: This is going to be a long road forward. This is not our first rodeo with bad storms. One county was hit with two tornadoes last year. And that became -- we thought, oh, my. We are not going to be able to sustain ourselves and move forward.

Well, here is another hit on us because those two tornadoes tore up those areas, not only there, but through my whole district. So we have not even recovered from the tornadoes yet. And here, we are facing this catastrophe. It's going to be a long road for us.

PAUL: I cannot imagine the wait for these people who are dealing with this. Real quickly, what federal aid do you expect?

GREENE: Well, one thing about the response, it's coming in. We are finally -- the National Guard has come in, our FEMA folks. They are on the ground.

Right now, we are worried about two things -- we want to get meals and water to individuals and electricity. And they are working feverishly to do that. We have groups from all over neighboring states that have come to our rescue and we are deeply indebted to all of them. Our people were standing on the road cheering Alabama power when they came through and also to Dawson. They were absolutely delighted to see them.

And we are beginning to see a little bit of electricity restored. They are working day and night, but the devastation is unreal.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

GREENE: We still need hot meals, we still need --

PAUL: These people need the same thing we are seeing along the Gulf Coast as well.

Representative Gerald Greene, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: I was in a couple of weeks ago there in Randolph County. A lot of good people rely on that agriculture. Not just the direct farmers but the indirect industries as well.

[07:10:01] So, hopefully they get the help they need.

This morning, President Trump is back in Washington and he plans to call the Saudi king he says very soon over the missing "The Washington Post" journalist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I didn't want to call until we had enough information. Now I want to call. So probably over the next 24 hours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Jamal Khashoggi disappeared more than a week ago and was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. This is an image of him, the last we have seen of him since that time. Turkey says he was killed there and Saudi Arabia denies the charges.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood is live at the White House this morning.

What else are we hearing from the president?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, the president is not saying he believes that Saudi were involved in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi but he is continuing to defend a proposed arm sales to Saudi Arabia worth billions of dollars. He's now saying that he says he plans to punish Saudi Arabia severely if it turns out that its leaders were, in fact, behind what is suspected to be the murder of Khashoggi but he is not specifying what those punishments would like. He told reporters in the Oval Office yesterday he has, quote, a big list of possible consequences to impose against Saudi Arabia should he need to.

And he said that the U.S. has been in constant contact with Turkish official as this investigation unfolds and the U.S. is involved in the investigation. But this mounting pressure from a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the president is seemingly keeping his options open but scrapping the arms deal. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I actually think we would be punishing ourselves if we do that. There are other things we can do that a very powerful and very strong and we will do that. Now, as of this moment, nobody knows what happened. We are looking into it very seriously.

Turkey is looking into it at a very high level, at the highest level and so is Saudi Arabia. I mean, they are going to get back and they have been getting back and I know mike has been dealing with them. John has been dealing with them. But in terms of the order of $110 billion, think of that, $110 billion, all they're going to do it is give it to other countries and I think that would be very foolish for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WESTWOOD: Now, with a little more than three weeks left before the midterms, the president is maintaining a packed political schedule. He held a campaign rally in Kentucky last night.

But heading into this week, the president is likely to face calls to lay out what the administration knows about the disappearance of Khashoggi and what the president plans to do about it because, so far, Trump has focused only on what he has no plans to do -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood, we'll ill continue to watch it. Thank you so much.

PAUL: Current White House counsel Don McGahn is on his way possibly in a matter of weeks. And there is word now that the president has finally found McGahn's replacement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07PAUL: Sixteen minutes past the hour.

And CNN has learned President Trump is close to announcing his replacement for outgoing White House counsel Don McGahn.

Sources tells CNN that the president is expected to name veteran Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone. Cipollone previously advised the president and his legal team on the special counsel probe.

Errol Louis, CNN political commentator, and back with us, Shan Wu, CNN legal analyst.

Gentlemen, thank you both so much for being with us.

Shan, I understand that you believe messaging skills from Cipollone are a value to the president. How so?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think so. I think this president and his administration value messaging skills and Cipollone has had some experience in that area and particularly with defamation issues. And when he worked for Attorney General Barr, one of the portfolio areas he had was communications in special projects. And I think that type of ability is going to be very appealing to President Trump and probably also very appealing to Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani who have emerged as, in part, last man standing but also very much the orchestrators and strategists behind the special counsel defense at this point.

So, I think the fact that they also have worked with him have been advised by him and they like him a lot, I think that is a very important part of how he is going to play a good role on the team in their view.

PAUL: Yes, good point.

Now here is the thing, Errol. If Democrats take midterms, what might that mean for Cipollone, for the president, for the Mueller probe? ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What it certainly means is

that there is going to be an entirely new look and in some ways a fresh look and in some ways a fresh look what is going on in the White House by the Democrats if they should control the gavel and have the ability to issues subpoenas and demand documents, and really do what the Republican-led House never really did, which was to kind of look at what is going on and so ask for the documents that would be logical to piece together what, if anything, went on during the campaign in 2016 regarding Russia.

So, we're going to have a demand for documents that is going to be like a blizzard and you can anticipate that the White House counsel's office, which is severely understaffed by the way. Normally at 50, they have about 25 lawyers there now. They are going to have to really, really come up with a lot of either come up with a documents or come up with reasons not to provide the documents, which is an equally difficult task.

So, it's going to be a blizzard of paper work to sending on that office and think that is a big part of what the new White House counsel has to deal with.

PAUL: Errol, you bought up something I want to ask Shan about next. The fact you got half of the attorneys in the president's legal team that you normally would have and with what could be coming with this influx, how confident are you that the team can handle that?

WU: Not at all confident. I completely agree with Errol, particularly, if there is a change in the majority at the elections, they are going to face enormous onslaught.

[07:20:04] That is not an enviable position to be in for the new White House counsel and they really do need to staff up. I mean, the questions or the reasons behind this attrition, there is different theories, but there really going to be under an onslaught and there's probably going to be a good season for white collar lawyers in D.C. as well.

PAUL: We know that the president is working on written answers to questions from the Mueller probe, from his team. And I'm wondering, Errol, is there a time line for the president to submit these or the president's team to submit these answers?

LOUIS: Completely unclear at this point. All of the information we get about this, keep in mind, is coming from one side and that is from the White House. The Mueller team has been circumspect and tight as a drum when it comes to leaking out.

So, we don't know what they are looking for and when they plan to ask for it, when they need to get it. The more interesting game that goes along with this, Christi, whether or not the questions are going to be directed toward the substance of possible Russian collusion or the obstruction after the fact and that will tell the whole story.

If it's leaning in the direction of obstruction, which is sort of a live, active kind of legal danger for this president, I think it's going to take a long time to get answers to those questions because it's not in his interest to answer quickly.

PAUL: Well, the other question is regardless of what the questions are, depending on the answers that the president gives, Shan, what does that tell you about whether this is a situation that would prompt then a follow-up conversation that would have to be had?

WU: I think there is that theoretical responsibility but, Errol is saying, they're going to slow roll the responses if there is legal questions. And his legal -- Trump's legal team has been working on this strategy a while, I mean, really since John Dowd proposed the legal questions that possibly linked them out.

With the legal questions, the president has the advantage that really it can be carefully vetted and scripted for him. So they will be very careful in what they actually say and they will try and say as little as possible. Of course, it can be a springboard for further questioning but I think this is a very slow laborious process.

And if this is true that Mueller is willing to give written questions I think it reflects his aversion to wanting to force a subpoena and force a Supreme Court or constitutional fight.

PAUL: Shan Wu and Errol Louis, so grateful to have you both with us today. Thank you, gentlemen.

LOUIS: Thank you.

PAUL: Senators Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders, along with Democratic candidate for Governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams, all on "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER." That's only here on CNN this morning at 9:00 a.m. at noon Eastern.

BLACKWELL: The Saudi stock market is reacting now over allegations the Saudi saying they did not have a role in the disappearance of a "Washington Post" journalist. We'll talk about that next.

PAUL: Also ahead, "Saturday Night Live" was making fun of rapper Kanye West Oval Office visit with the president this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Saudi Arabia is facing a severe backlash after these accusations of having some involvement in the disappearance of "The Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

We are getting in a new statement from the Saudi government and I'm going to read it to you. This is what they say: The kingdom affirms total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it whether by imposing economic sanctions using political pressure or repeating false accusations.

PAUL: We know the Saudi stock market is down. Several countries and companies say they are although longer planning to attend the investment conference in Riyadh later this month.

CNN's John Defterios joining us live now from Abu Dhabi. John, what do you make first of all, of course, about the markets but this latest statement from Saudi Arabia.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, that means that Riyadh is holding a very tough line, Christi and Victor, and this is the most alarming element and this is what is driving the stock market lower, by the way. This is not about growth in Saudi Arabia with oil above $80 a barrel the International Monetary Fund revised the growth for 2019 we grow 3 percent, not phenomenal but clearly solid, not where investors would be running out of a stock market.

I always say that stock market are a lead indicator or gauge of the future six to nine months down the road. I think a question mark about the leadership style, ate least of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is only 33 and his father the King Salman in his 80s, because he needs some changes in leadership. That's a question being asked.

We saw a sharp fall of 7 percent at the open in Saudi Arabia in terms of the stock market. It's a loss now better than 4 percent. Very importantly since the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, we have seen a correction of 10 percent.

This is also important to note that Saudi Arabia is working to open up its economy and its stock market to international investors and it got cleared by the MSCI emerging markets index in June.

[07:30:02] This was a great achievement by Saudi Arabia and a sign of the reforms. And that just months later, we have this political shock and maybe a backtracking for Saudi Arabia in terms of investment. I would suggest that investors get very concerned, both of you, when you see a hard line coming from Riyadh on denial but holding a very tough line in terms of collaboration with Turkey.

We know that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are at odds with Qatar and Iran. It's not helping the situation, but see this playing out in the stock market, which is the most dangerous side when it comes to finance and investors having confidence in the stock market going forward.

PAUL: All right. John Defterios, appreciate you being here. Thank you.

DEFTERIOS: Thanks.

PAUL: And listen, still to come, an explosion at an air base in Belgium leaves two workers with injuries and two fighter jets you see there are scorched by flames. We'll tell you what happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:35:15] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows that President Trump's approval rating is going up. The survey show that he's standing now at 41 percent. That's up five points from the record low of 36 points in August. It's the second highest approval rating since coming into the White House for this president. Here to discuss, Rochelle Ritchie, former press secretary for House

Democrats, and Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and former communications director for Ted Cruz.

Ladies, welcome to the show.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So, let me start with you, Alice, here. One finding stood out for me that I think is really important here, both sides are talking about, and it's the Kavanaugh effect. Thirty-three percent of responded to the registered voters saying the debate over Kavanaugh made them more likely to vote for Democrats, 27 percent for Republicans, and then 39 percent say it makes no difference at all.

So, the president last night was out talking about how Kavanaugh was treated. He has talked about this has really fueled Republicans. Either there was no Kavanaugh bounce or it's bounced away. It's done.

STEWART: I think what it did, it solidified votes for a lot of people because I can tell you from Republicans that I'm speaking with and campaigns what this did is it galvanized Republicans, first and foremost, because the president was able to get a second Scalia like justice on the court. So, that was wind in their sail. But what many saw as a tremendous overreach on the part of Democrats with regard to attacking Kavanaugh in what they see is a smear campaign, they say it went too far and it was the tactics that the Democrats went to were too far and it really turned off a lot of people and, in turn, galvanized Republicans.

That being said on the other side, I think Democrats are finally recognizing the significance of these justices that the president has been able to put on the Supreme Court. Which he campaigned on and many Republicans campaigned on but, if nothing else, this galvanized them to vote and make sure that they put more Republicans or Democrats in office so they can, in turn, appoint nominees to the Supreme Court that reflect their views and values.

BLACKWELL: These numbers down show that it's a significant motivator. Again, 39 percent, the largest group, a plurality here, shows it makes no difference at all.

Rochelle, for you, Democrats have said that this Kavanaugh fight has, you know, we saw the protest, has really energized people on the left, 33 percent. Does that do what you expect it will do for Democrats in November?

ROCHELLE RITCHIE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I think that people are on fire, especially women. Let's think about this. You have more women and more African-Americans running for office right now and while Kavanaugh was confirmed, more than 50 percent of the country disapproved of his confirmation and more than 58 percent of women disapproved of his confirmation.

I think what we saw from Kavanaugh is that he's going to be a partisan judge. He clearly has some political views that he was not afraid to share when he spoke at the confirmation hearing defending himself against the sexual assault allegations. And I think what people have seen and the numbers show that Democrats are on fire for this and women are as well.

BLACKWELL: Alice, let's listen to something that really didn't get a lot of attention this week because of Hurricane Michael. This is outing Arizona Senator Jeff Flake talking about his own party, the president and potential primary challenge heading into 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I do hope that somebody does run in the primary against the president. I think the Republicans need to be reminded what conservatism means and what it means to be decent and we haven't had that kind of politics lately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: What it means to be decent. The president has been raising money for his election more than a year now. Is that plausible, that there can be a serious challenge for this president from your perspective?

STEWART: Not a serious one, Victor. I'll be the first one to say I don't like the tone and tenor this president takes and the way he goes about in a lot of the derogatory comments he makes on people, but it's his policies that I supported and what he is following through on. And the Supreme Court nominee was a number one issue for me and a lot of Republicans, and as well as he is doing for taxes and jobs and the economy, and our military and deregulation.

There are going to be a lot of Republicans, while as frustrating as some of the tactics may be, at the end of the day, Republicans, we need to stay united through 2020 and really recognize the fact that our policies that we all stand for are being carried through on and promises are being made and we need to stand behind those and then look at someone else stepping up to the plate come 2024.

[07:40:07] I don't see a credible candidate being able to take him on because he is raising a lot of money and the GOP base is certainly in his camp.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this "Washington Post" poll shows for the first time he is in net positive territory on his handling of the economy, 49/46.

Rochelle, you talking about plausibility. Former New York Michael Bloomberg is in New Hampshire this weekend. We all saw the tweet he changed his registration to a Democrat. He was a Democrat until he was a Republican until he was unaffiliated. Now, he is a Democrat again.

I mean, we have seen the party move to the left over the last several years. I mean, the runner-up for the nomination last time around was actually Democratic socialist.

What is the plausibility that this former Democrat, former Republican, former unaffiliated and now Republican and now a Democrat again because the wind is changing is going to get the nomination for your party?

RITCHIE: Well, you know what? I really can't keep up with that, Victor. I think that it is going to be a very contentious race, obviously, in 2020.

But speaking on the economy really quickly, you know, Donald Trump his approval rating did go up but that does not negate the fact his job approval number is still historically low for a president that has such a strong economy right now. And so, you have to think about this during the recession, Obama, his approval rating hovered at or above 50 percent, even though people were losing their homes and you were having 800,000 jobs lost a month.

I think it's important whatever candidate comes out against Donald Trump that they need to focus on what this president is not doing. You know, I was the press secretary for the Democratic policy and communications committee and we were tasked with addressing an economic message. An economic message is not really going to work right for the Democrats. They need to focus on what he's not doing such as increasing wages, ensuring that Americans with preexisting health conditions are able to have affordable care and also ensuring that you're not taxed more just because you are not rich. And that is something that this president has done.

But I think it's going to be an interesting race in 2020. I think we all need to gear up for it and it's not slowing down any time soon.

BLACKWELL: Just to point here, the President Obama, his approval rating spent a specific amount of time in the 40 range as well.

RITCHIE: Yes, I think 49 percent, if I'm not mistaken.

BLACKWELL: He got to the 40s for a while.

Rochelle Ritchie, Alice Stewart, thanks so much.

STEWART: Thanks, Victor.

PAUL: Well, we have some incredible images to show you here out of Belgium. The moment a fire broke out an air base there, 60 miles south of Brussels, this was during a routine maintenance check on an F-16 fighter jet. Apparently, a mechanic accidentally opened fire with a Gatling cannon from another plane, causing it to burst into flames and then a second plane was damaged in the fire as well.

Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt but two technicians did incur some hearing damage, apparently, after the incident and officials are investigating, of course.

BLACKWELL: The Saudi is offering a new rejection, breaking news coming in from Saudi Arabia. We have a reporter outside the Saudi consulate there in Istanbul with the very latest. We'll get with him in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:48] PAUL: We have this just in. Saudi Arabia promising to retaliate against any sanctions over the missing "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey has claimed Saudi Arabia was involved in his disappearance, remember.

BLACKWELL: CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live outside the consulate there in Istanbul.

This is more than just a denial and a rejection. It is now, if you hit me, I will hit you back.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Certainly that's how it's reading at the moment. We have been expecting a statement from Saudi officials. There was conjecture whether they might somehow says that Jamal Khashoggi met his end at the hands of rogue elements.

This is not that at all. It doesn't even go there and address that.

I'll read a little bit here. The kingdom also affirms, this is Saudi Arabia statement through their state press agency, SPA, and they are saying the kingdom affirms if any actions are taken against the kingdom, it will respond to greater action. This does seem to be a direct response to President Trump saying things are as bad as he thinks they are after he got to the bottom of it, then there will be strong actions.

This is the type of language we have seen from Saudi Arabia in the past when it feels it is being criticized. This is how we saw them dealing with Canada recently when Canadian officials criticized Saudi Arabia for its human rights recent track record. So, this does seem to be, rather than talking about the death of Jamal Khashoggi, this does seem to be a strong pushback from Saudi officials and this obviously would not be released if it wasn't coming with the sanction of the crown prince and the king.

What the message goes on to say, further, is in essence that Saudi Arabia is very important globally because of -- for the global economy, that they are very important on fighting counterterrorism, that they are very important as the lead Muslim nation, the home of Mecca and Medina. This is a very, very strong and should not be underestimated pushback towards President Trump and any others who might sanction Saudi Arabia right now.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll see what that conversation will be when the president responds at any time today.

[07:50:04] Nic, thanks so much.

PAUL: Well, President Trump admits that Russia and China are ahead of the U.S. when it comes to creating a space force. We'll talk about that and all the buzz about Neil Armstrong's biopic film "First Man" with an astronaut who has some thoughts on all of it.

Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: For an exotic, interesting way to stay fit, researchers from the University of Hawaii have a suggestion for you -- hula dancing. Yes.

Today's "Staying Well" looks at how hula can help your heart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHADIA, HULA INSTRUCTOR: Hula is the dance of the Hawaiian people.

[07:55:01] It's an oral history put to music that tells the story of Hawaii, of the different islands.

TISHAN BOWEN-GORDON, NURSE: While in hula class, I'm just having fun. I don't even feel like I'm working out. I just love to dance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have so many people say I didn't know I was going to sweat like this. I didn't know it was going to be so much movement.

DR. JYOTI SHARMA, CARDIOLOGIST: Low intensity hula dancing is equivalent to moderate activity and high intensity hula dancing was equivalent to vigorous activity, which would be something like playing basketball, or riding your bike at a rapid pace.

This particular study from the University of Hawaii showed that patients who participated in hula dancing had lower blood pressure readings. Also, patients were less likely to complain of body aches and pains and having an improved sense of social well-being.

SCHADIA: It is attainable. So, if you think, so if you are a little older, maybe you can't break it down in a hard core hip-hop class but hula, you can do it your whole life. So, it really is for everyone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Well, at a rally in Kentucky, President Trump touted the need for a space force, admitting that both Russia and China are way ahead of the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: At my direction, the Pentagon is now working to create the sixth branch of the American armed forces known as the space force.

(CHEERS)

Now they have to do it. I put them on the spot.

China already started. Russia already started. They've got to start but we have the greatest people in the world. We make the greatest equipment in the world. We make the greatest rockets and missiles and tanks and ships in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: OK. So, as he's talking about this, remember, Russian investigation is under way into the failed launch of a rocket that had a crew onboard going to the International Space. That resulted in an emergency landing last week.

Retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao with us.

Leroy, good to have you with us. What do you think, first of all, of that -- the space force?

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, I have to go back to the question, what scratch -- what itch are we scratching? What is the air force not doing currently and why it necessary to create a new layer bureaucracy and expense for things as, you know, as simple as stationary and uniforms, to let's create another branch to have some political fighting with?

PAUL: OK. Do you agree with the president that we have the resources?

CHIAO: Well, we have the resources but the mission is already being done by the Air Force. So, what are we bettering by creating a space force? I don't -- don't understand. I also don't agree that China and Russia are ahead of us in this kind of area.

He says that the U.S. is premiere in our missiles and weapons systems and that's true, and that's all being run, as far as I know, very well by the air force. I don't see another reason to create another branch of the armed services.

PAUL: There's not another need, OK.

I want to ask you about "First Man", of course, the biopic of Neil Armstrong, is coming out. And I know that you want to see it. You haven't seen it yet, but these are the kind of movies that get people excited about space, about travel, about NASA.

Are they accurate?

CHIAO: So movies like "First Man" I understand it is pretty accurate. You know, certainly, "Apollo 13", they took great pains to come to NASA, actually film some of the scenes on the zero G airplane to make them as real as possible.

And everything I've heard about "First Man" they tried to make it accurate. And what it focuses on, you know, rather than the technical details, is on the personal stories. And so, I believe that it's -- there was a real effort here to make it accurate.

PAUL: You know, I mentioned at the beginning of this about this Russian investigation going on right now, this NASA astronaut and Russian cosmonaut about a rocket that failed after takeoff, I understand.

Is it possible that they're going to try that again? CHIAO: Oh, absolutely. I have confidence they'll recertify the

rocket to fly again. You know, the Soyuz rockets and Soyuz spacecraft, they have been flying since the 1960s. Of course, they've been steadily upgraded with modern avionics and improvements like that.

But, you know, every time you fly, you take a risk of a mishap. Fortunately, this worked out, the crew and everyone were professionals and it worked out all right. They were able to walk away from the landing. So, very happy about that and I'm sure they'll fly again.

PAUL: Leroy, thank you so much. Always good to have you with us.

And thank you for starting your morning with us. We appreciate it. Hope you make good memories today.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.