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Trump on Climate Change: Some Scientists have Political Agendas; Saudi Official: Results of Internal Probe of the Murder of Khashoggi to Be Made Public Soon; Saudis to Permit Turkish Authorities to Search Consulate. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

At any minute now President Trump and the first lady are due to leave the White House for a daytrip to survey the hurricane damage in the Florida Panhandle. The president may stop to talk to reporters on his way out.

Already this morning he is making headlines on the missing and presumed dead Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Just minutes ago the president said he spoke to the king of Saudi Arabia and is, quote, "immediately sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo there," to meet with the king in person. He says the king, quote, "denies any knowledge of Khashoggi's fate."

Earlier, the president laid out in stunning clarity what could be called the Trump doctrine. In a sprawling interview on "60 Minutes" last night the president said bad actions, up to and including murder by the likes of Kim Jong-un, Saudi Arabia, Vladimir Putin essentially don't matter as long as they don't happen to Americans.

Listen to the president.


LESLEY STAHL, CBS' "60 MINUTES": Do you agree that Vladimir Putin is involved in assassinations, in poisonings?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Probably he is, yes. Yes. Probably. I mean, I don't --

STAHL: Probably?

TRUMP: Probably, but I rely on them. It's not in our country.

STAHL: OK. But why not, they shouldn't do it? This is a terrible thing?

TRUMP: Of course they shouldn't do it.


SCIUTTO: The president also said he trusts the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, a personal friendship with Kim, excuses for Russia and Saudi Arabia. Are these the outlines of a Trump doctrine?

CNN's Abby Phillip is at White House.

Abby, let's start with the president's take on the Khashoggi mystery, if you want to call it that. I mean, in this tweet the president, in effect, saying he accepts the Saudi leader's denial here, similar to how he was with Vladimir Putin and election interference.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. We've been hearing a lot from President Trump over the last few days about this. But he's been kind of all over the map in terms of how forcefully he would respond to something like this if, in fact, the Saudi Arabian crown prince was responsible for an alleged murder in the consulate in Turkey of a critic, a journalist.

And the president this morning sent out a tweet that I think is pretty instructive. First he said he spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and that he's sending his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over there to speak with the king. But he also did this. He noted that the person we're referring to is a Saudi Arabian citizenship and he reiterated the king's denial that they had anything to do with it.

Now you were just discussing his response to questions about Putin murdering his critics in Russia, and the president responded basically by saying it's not happening here. I think in this tweet he's also making it clear that this is a situation that does not involve an American citizen.

And as we wait to find out more about how the White House plans to respond to this, what we already know is that President Trump has already said that he is not eager to pull back, for example, on that arms deal, that $110 billion arms deal that Saudi Arabia has promised to make with the United States. And he's looking at other venues.

So it's going to be a real open question, whether the president is willing to be forceful on this and how much it matters to him, frankly, that Khashoggi was not a U.S. citizen.

HARLOW: A resident here, had, you know, children who went to school here, wrote for the "Washington Post," all of those things very much matter.

Before you go, Lesley Stahl really pushed the president on Kim Jong-un and, you know, the position the U.S. is in right now as it relates to North Korea and what concessions, if any, really as she pointed out, North Korea has made. What can you tell us about that?

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, the president here was pushed about his language towards North Korea. Lesley Stahl asked him about why he said he fell in love with Kim Jong-un. Why is this talk of a love affair, given Kim Jong-un's resume of essentially having slave labor, gulags, murdering people within his own country? And here's how President Trump responded to that back and forth with Lesley Stahl.


STAHL: Why do you love that guy?

TRUMP: Look, look, I like -- I get along with him, OK? And I said --

STAHL: But you said you love him.

TRUMP: OK. That's just a figure of speech.

STAHL: It's like an -- no, it's like an embrace.

TRUMP: Let it be an embrace. Let it be whatever it is.

STAHL: He's a bad guy.

TRUMP: Look, let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well. I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him.


PHILLIP: So this is all part of the same package of issues for this president, once again confronted with the question about a world leader who is widely considered to be a dictator. The president very clearly there seemed to downplay that, and he's playing up something else instead, which is his relationship with Kim Jong-un and what he's calling a great achievement, which is a reduction of threats toward the United States but not necessarily as you know any concrete movement toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula -- Poppy and Jim.

[09:05:04] HARLOW: OK. Abby Philip at the White House, thank you for the update on all of that.

Let's talk about it. Our global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier is here along with associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard, and our political analyst Ryan Lizza.

So, Ryan, to you first. Just looking at what the president wrote moments ago on Twitter.


HARLOW: That he just spoke to the king of Saudi Arabia who denies that anything happened to Khashoggi at their hands. He doesn't even say his name, by the way. He says "our Saudi Arabian citizen." There's such a parallel here with, you know, saying well, Vladimir Putin denies election meddling. And now he's sending Mike Pompeo over to meet with the king of Saudi Arabia.

LIZZA: And the question is why does he just pass along the denial which, in a sense, is to stand by this, right, rather than say -- rather than express condemnation or concern or that the U.S. is going to get to the bottom of this. He just passes along the denial of someone that I'm not sure we should necessarily trust, right?

What the United States should be doing is demanding to get to the bottom of this. He's giving -- he's essentially giving cover to the Saudi king by uncritically passing this along. And it seems like he -- makes it seem like the president doesn't want to get to the bottom. He doesn't want to know that they did this because that might force him to actually do something about it.

SCIUTTO: Kim Dozier, you know the foreign policy well and deeply. Are we seeing the outlines of what you could call a Trump doctrine here, I mean, one, you know, with Saudi Arabia, arms deals over -- as more important than the alleged murder of a journalist? Extra territorially, I might add. He loves Kim Jong-un, a dictator, because of personal chemistry they have. And of course, you know, look back to that moment in Helsinki next to Vladimir Putin, and many other times, accepting Putin's word over his own intelligence community.

Are those points connected?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: President Trump has just sent a message that he doesn't care about human rights internationally, that if it's in their own country, it's up to them. I think that's got to be a chilling message to human rights activists around the world and also within his own administration.

We've always had this Trump doctrine of him doing the good cop and his administration beneath him doing some of the bad cop, sending some of the sterner messages. But when you have the man at the top saying we don't care what you do to people inside your country who are your citizens as long as you do the right thing for the United States, that's a chilling message.

SCIUTTO: And let's be frank. Regarding the Skripal poisoning, the president noted as if it was a meaningful distinction that that did not take place inside U.S. borders.

HARLOW: America.

SCIUTTO: It did take place outside of Russia, it took place on the streets of Salisbury, America's closest ally, arguably.

DOZIER: Absolutely. I can think that there are people within the State Department, within the Pentagon right now, who, for instance, U.S. troops who will not work with certain units overseas if they catch them engaging in human rights violations. He's just sent a chilling message throughout that, you know, as long as you don't do it to an American citizen it's OK.

So you think with the Khashoggi situation, what they might be saying to Saudi Arabia is, hey, arrest a few people if you can't produce him alive, just make it look good but letting him go.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: A.B., to you, I mean, this could also be another way to look at, you know, America first, right? Well, they're not our citizens. It didn't happen on our soil. And, you know, 20 plus days out from the midterms you've got a president with approval rating among Republicans, 86 percent among Republican men, 84 percent among Republican women. Is this exactly what Republican candidates need in the midterms?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: I think it's going to be very difficult for Republican candidates, especially incumbents struggling in districts where the House majority will be determined, districts that either Hillary Clinton won or President Trump won by 7 percent or 5 percent or less, and where his numbers are not good to answer the question about what our posture is with regard to this murder that the Turkish government insists occurred in the Saudi consulate.

I think that Kimberly is right. Basically what President Trump is saying today is I want to take this denial. He said it about Roy Moore. He said it about Rob Porter, he said about Putin. We've heard this many, many times. So is a 400-pound person somewhere who is really the culprit. But when he wants to take a side he says they're denying it and I have to really believe their denial.


STODDARD: And so it's not easy right now to be a Republican and answer these questions. And I think that's why Mike Pompeo has been dispatched to quiet Congress because it is a dual track government and there are people that are very concerned about this and they will continue to be. And they'll be putting pressure on Jared Kushner, the son-in-law who's talking on WhatsApp with the crown prince while the president is talking with the king and getting denials.

[09:10:06] You have bipartisan pressure from the Congress saying this is not acceptable, that the Treasury secretary cannot go to the financial summit in Riyadh and this will not stand.


STODDARD: And the way to quiet that down is to say things like there'll be some severe consequences and we're sending Mike but really the intention is to hope that this blows over.

SCIUTTO: Right. Ryan, another apparent victim of the president's "60 Minutes" interview is the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.


LIZZA: Yes. Yes.

SCIUTTO: The president mentioned that Mattis is sort of a Democrat and not clear on what basis he is saying that, although you might call that the kiss of death.

LIZZA: I was going to say, yes.

SCIUTTO: But he also this claim, I just want to play this exchange because it was truly remarkable about who knows more about NATO. Have a listen.


STAHL: Is it true General Mattis said to you the reason for NATO and the reason for all these alliances is to prevent World War III?

TRUMP: No, it's not true. That's not -- frankly, I like General Mattis. I think I know more about it than he does. And I know more about it from the standpoint of fairness. That I can tell you.


SCIUTTO: The president there contending, Ryan Lizza, that he knows more about the NATO alliance than a decorated former four-star military commander.

LIZZA: Yes. I don't -- I don't that's likely not the case but a couple of things here. One is Trump hates -- he hates it when staff members show him up, when he's embarrassed by his own people.

SCIUTTO: He's more than a staff member. He's the Defense secretary of the United States.

LIZZA: Good point. I shouldn't call him staff. But he hates it when the people around him, people he's hired and brought into the government, when it's leaked that there's an embarrassing conversation that exposed Trump's ignorance on a major subject, right? So his impulse of course is to -- he'd say, I know more than that person. Right? Didn't matter what the subject is. That's always what he's going to say.

And of course, Trump didn't know or does not know more about NATO than General Mattis, right? And, as you said, that -- Mattis has a big decision to make. You know, this is a military man, the commander-in- chief has clearly expressed doubts about him, didn't stick by him, suggested he didn't care whether he stayed or not, and I think Mattis is going to have a serious decision to make about whether he believes he's completely lost the confidence of the president and should stick around.

HARLOW: Right.

LIZZA: I think it's that big a deal.


HARLOW: Kimberly, before we go, I want your take on something that Senator Marco Rubio said yesterday when Jake on "STATE OF THE UNION" was asking him about, A, you know, should Mnuchin go to Riyadh he said no, but B, about the arms sales and the president's defense of this deal, listen to Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: As far as arms sales I would not have said it the way the president said it. Arms sales are important not because of the money but because it also provides leverage of their future behavior. You know, they'll need our spare parts, they'll need our training. And those are things we can use to influence their behavior. But I would not take cutting that off, off the table. Every option needs to be there and a response.


HARLOW: So it seems like him, if that is going to happen, if cutting off these arms sales or this really memorandums of intent at this point, because the sales haven't happened yet, it's going to fall on Congress and it's going to fall on sanctions and it's going to fall on Congress to -- in a bipartisan fashion -- say no, enough.

DOZIER: Congress is going to have to the bad cop here to follow that example along. They have been consistently fearful of challenging this president but this is something that is so boldfaced in terms of the disappearance of someone with U.S. ties that they're going to reign in Saudi Arabia where they can.

I think the Saudi government knows right now that they've got to do something publicly that wins back Congress as well as the president.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Kimberly Dozier, A.B. Stoddard, Ryan, stick around. Kim, thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We have a lot more coming up. The president says scientists who talk climate change to more powerful hurricanes have a, quote, in his words, "a political agenda." This, as he head down to hurricane- ravaged Florida.

Plus a forensic team going into the Saudi consulate today, a long time after the disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This as tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia appear to be rising.

HARLOW: And is this a declaration of a 2020 run? Senator Elizabeth Warren this morning with a big reveal. Her DNA test results showing she has a distant Native American ancestry. And the White House is responding. We'll get into it. Stay with us.


[09:15:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not denying climate change. But it could very well go back, you know, we're talking about over millions of years --

LESLEY STAHL, CBS: Well, that's denying it.

TRUMP: They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael.

STAHL: Who says that? They say, I mean, the people in the --

TRUMP: People say -- people say that in the --

STAHL: Yes, what about the scientists who say it's worse than ever?

TRUMP: You have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.


SCIUTTO: That was President Trump last night on climate change. Let's bring back Ryan Lizza and A.B. Stoddard. Ryan, the president said it could very well go back, talking about climate change --

LIZZA: Yes --

SCIUTTO: There is no evidence to that. There are no groups of scientists around the world backed by the UN who say that this is going to reverse. In fact, they see this trend continuing --

LIZZA: Yes --

SCIUTTO: For many decades. Who listens to the president on that point and believes it?

LIZZA: I don't know, he's actually become more of a climate science denialist as time has gone on. Even though when Lesley Stahl asked him if he still believes it's a hoax --

HARLOW: Like he said in 2012.

LIZZA: He said no. But then of course he created this conspiracy theory saying that, you know, hundreds of climate scientists around the world are somehow involved --

HARLOW: Right --

LIZZA: In a conspiracy. I mean, that's -- the facts are there's no -- there's no big climate lobby out there that is funding, you know, climate science because they want to, you know, somehow lower the temperature.

[09:20:00] There is an enormous propaganda and financial campaign on the other side made up of fossil fuel interests --

HARLOW: Right --

LIZZA: That pushes climate science denialism, and frankly, a lot of those folks are part of the Republican Party's supporters. And I think he's just clamped on to this argument that a minority of financial interest in this country are pushing what that is not represented by the consensus of the scientific community --

HARLOW: Nine --

SCIUTTO: All the broad consensus.

LIZZA: Yes, I mean, we're talking high 90s, 99 percent -- HARLOW: Ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that human

action is contributing to climate change. A.B., I did think that Marco Rubio, though, found a way to thread the needle in his answer yesterday to Jake Tapper about it, right?

He said -- he conceded yes, human activity is contributing to a warming, you know -- a warming planet, if you will. But we have to take steps to mitigate the immediate impacts of climate change. He also, though, when he was pushed for concrete policies to stop it, he said I'm not going to destroy our economy at the same time.

STODDARD: And that's really what Trump is speaking to. He originally said that this was a hoax, created by the Chinese. He is in a standoff with the Chinese. He's now not only obviously in a standoff on trade, but making it clear in his interview last night, that he believes that they're meddling in our elections more than the Russians.

And he will blame them if things go wrong in the midterm elections. He believes -- we know that the Chinese are bigger polluters than we are and he is not interested in investing in some kind of way out of mitigating damage, let alone, going to have to pay for all the flooding, insurance and everything else that these natural disasters are costing.

And he -- Rubio is basically taking the Republican line, which is, well, it might be happening but we're certainly not going to hunker down and damage -- take a hit to the economy and try to mitigate this, pay for the damage and come up with a sort of a clean energy path forward.

Even though they know very well that the Pentagon, that business are all have said for years that this is a huge threat to our national security and getting worse.

SCIUTTO: It's in the U.S. Navy's national security strategy. They have to prepare for rising seas that are going to threaten U.S. -- dozens of U.S. bases around the world. They don't deny the climate science. The president says he admires the U.S. military, they are preparing for climate science.

LIZZA: If you --

SCIUTTO: And, in fact, they also support a clean energy future. It's on the U.S. Navy's website.

LIZZA: No better example of this than Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida that I don't know if anyone saw the pictures --


LIZZA: The base was --

HARLOW: Yes --

LIZZA: Devastated, and there are serious questions about a number of $400 million F22s and whether they were damaged or destroyed. The Air Force hasn't really said, but there's a lot of -- there's some footage of one of our major Air Force Base that was wrecked by a hurricane. This is a national security issue.

HARLOW: Thank you, we'll keep following it as the president keeps denying it, thank you, A.B. and Ryan. Saudi Arabia says it will soon make public findings into its investigation into the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We're following all the breaking developments, we'll have that next.


HARLOW: All right, new this morning, Saudi Arabia says Turkey will be allowed to search the consulate where the Turks say Jamal Khashoggi was tortured and killed 13 days ago now.

SCIUTTO: The two nations agreed earlier to set up a joint working group to investigate the fate of the dissident Saudi journalist. And Cnn's Nic Robertson has more on all this from Istanbul.

What do we know about the scope of today's search? I mean, listen, it's several days later. Is there any value to this at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Jim, it's really not clear how much value there's going to be. Although, the forensic teams at the Turkish investigators have put together we are told a very competent.

So if there were traces of the murder, they say happened there. We're told to believe that they would be capable of figuring that out. However, you know, within minutes of the announcement that Turkish investigators would be allowed to go in, quite literally minutes, a cleaning crew turned up at the front door of the consulate here, buckets, mops, cleaning cloths in hand allowed into the consulate.

It's not clear, you know, why this is the first time that we've seen a cleaning crew go into the consulate here, why the timing was now. But it does seem to indicate, at the very least, before the forensic teams get into the consulate, there will be an effort of some kind of cleanup.

That's the inference that we're seeing from what we've seen here this morning. We do know, however, that the Turkish Foreign Minister over the weekend demanded as a threshold for, you know, agreement with Saudi for -- to go forward with the investigation that the chief prosecutor would be able to send in his experts, his forensic experts, would be able to get the teams in and get the access on the ground.

We've understood for a number of days now that Turkish authorities know precisely where they want to go to in that consulate building. They've been talking about or briefing about having recordings from inside the consulate.

So, it does seem they have a good idea of what they want to do when they get in. We're still waiting to see that happen. And the Saudis, a week ago said that they would cooperate and nothing has been forthcoming. Today, the air of expectancy is a little greater. Jim?

HARLOW: That is remarkable, Nic, to see those cleaning crews go in there, at the very least, an alleged crime scene, to go in there before investigators are allowed to do all of this.