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Pressure on Saudi Arabia After Khashoggi's Disappearance; Saudi Arabia Vows to Retaliate Against Possible Sanctions; Trump's Business Ties to Saudi Arabia Under Scrutiny. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 15, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Denials and threats: Saudi Arabia says it is not responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and is promising to retaliate over any action that will hurt its economy.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus U.S. president Donald Trump says the Russian president is probably involved with poisoning and assassinations but he points out that at least it is not happening in the U.S.

ALLEN (voice-over): Also this hour, an unimaginable recovery effort needed after Hurricane Michael leaves entire towns devastated in Florida.

VANIER (voice-over): Thank you for joining us, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta.

ALLEN (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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ALLEN: Our top story: the Saudi king spoke with Turkey's president Sunday. Both sides reportedly agreeing to form a working group to investigate the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

VANIER: His disappearance has drawn international condemnation as well as the threat of sanctions. Riyadh responded with its own threat. Nic Robertson has the details of this deepening diplomatic crisis.

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NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Amid escalating diplomatic tension, Saudi officials shuttle between the consul general's house and the nearby consulate, where Turkey says "The Washington Post" journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was killed. President Trump weighing his options.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case. So we're going to have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.

ROBERTSON: Turkish officials buoyed by Trump's bullishness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saudi Arabia must cooperate for allowing to access to our key prosecutors office and experts to enter the Saudi consulate.

ROBERTSON: Where did he disappear?

After two weeks, the most basic question still remains unanswered.

How did Jamal Khashoggi disappear?

His fiancee was waiting outside the consulate. She saw him go in but she didn't see him leave. Until now, Saudi Arabia denies access to Turkish investigators, rejects allegations of murder and in a new statement, threatens retaliation for any move against its interest.

The kingdom affirms that if any action is taken, it will respond with greater action. It also appeared to be an apparent put down of President Trump.

A few hours after their first statement, Riyadh rolling back their rhetoric, to help clarify recently issued Saudi statement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends its appreciation to all, including the U.S. administration, for refraining from jumping to conclusions on the ongoing investigation.

Khashoggi's disappearance is exposing possible rifts in Riyadh. It is putting the whole region at a potentially dangerous inflection point with more revelations expected. His fiance, in a "New York Times" op- ed, describes his last hours implicate Saudi malfeasance. He was cheerful when we were going to the Saudi consulate. He had no foreboding of what was to come.

Because, she says, he'd been given an appointment, implying he was unwittingly walking into a trap. A pro government Turkish newspaper claims Khashoggi's Apple Watch recorded his own death but it doesn't pass the sniff test. Even so, a CNN source says some of Turkey's Western allies have been briefed on recordings from the consulate.

Germany, France, the U.K., the U.N. and the E.U. putting pressure on Saudi, calling for a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened and expect the Saudi government to provide a complete and detailed response.

But pressure is also mounting on Turkey, too, to back up its claims that Khashoggi was murdered soon after going in the consulate here and show whatever evidence it has -- Nic Robertson, Istanbul, Turkey.

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ALLEN: Our other reporter on this story, among the many, is Jomana Karadsheh. She's outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, joins us now with more on what Turkey has to say about the developments.

We know, join me now, the Saudi king had spoken with President Erdogan but has there been any movement in Turkey's request for accountability and cooperation from Saudi Arabia?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have not heard any response from Turkey to that -- this strongly worded statement we've heard coming out of Saudi Arabia. Those were mostly directed at the --

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KARADSHEH: -- United States.

What Turkey has been saying so far despite hearing about this call yesterday, an announcement that came from Riyadh and from Ankara about the phone call between King Salman and President Erdogan and this talk of the joint working group that they have been talking about for some time now to investigate this disappearance.

When it comes to the actual criminal investigation that Turkey launched more than a week ago, keeping in mind that all we know publicly, all that the Turkish government has said on the record, has been that Jamal Khashoggi walked into the consulate and did not leave.

And the fact that they are looking into group of 15 Saudis, including officials who arrived in the country that day, who were inside the consult during Khashoggi's visit and who left later on in the day, they said they're looking at this group as persons of interest.

Everything else that we have heard since then is coming through leaks, coming from anonymous sources. So nothing really from the Turkish government when it comes to where their investigation stands other than saying that the Saudis have not been cooperating. They say -- you heard in Nic's piece there, it is essential for the investigators, for their prosecutors (ph) to get into this building, into the consulate, something that has not happened so far despite last week, that announcement coming from the foreign ministry, that they were given permission by the Saudis to do so.

And that has not happened yet and it is an important part of this whole investigation. And definitely we're looking at pressure mounting on Turkey to show more evidence at this point.

ALLEN: All right, Jomana, we'll wait and see if there will be cooperation between Turkey and its allies, including the United States and the investigation. Jomana Karadsheh for us, thank you.

For more, here's Cyril.

VANIER: Yes, let's get a reaction in the U.S., one Republican senator says it is going to be a very strong response from the U.S. Congress if Jamal Khashoggi is found to have been killed.

ALLEN: Senator Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke earlier with CNN's Jake Tapper.

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SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: We have already asked for a Magnitsky investigation, which means individuals responsible for that decision would be sanctioned.

Beyond that, there are other options that we can take. As I said, that's something that needs to be thought through carefully, because it -- but it needs to be strong, it needs to be reciprocal and meaning it needs to actually live up to the level of the outrage then and the criminality, if, in fact, this is proven to be true.

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 over their future behavior. You know, they -- they will need our spare parts. They will 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 in a response, because, no matter what -- how important they might be to our Iranian strategy, our ability to be a voice for human rights and to go after regimes like Assad, like Putin, like what China does, like what Maduro does in Venezuela, all of that is undermined and compromised if we are not willing to confront something as atrocious as what allegedly happened here.

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ALLEN: The list of business leaders pulling out of that Saudi investment conference continues to grow.

VANIER: JPMorgan Chase just announced that its CEO, Jamie Dimon, won't go. Ford says its executive chairman is no longer attending, either, even though they say it's due to a scheduling conflict.

This matters because the conference, which bills itself as a Davos in the desert, has been a key part of Saudi Arabia's rebranding.

ALLEN: And U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans to attend the event but that may change later in the week.

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LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: It is actually a conference about terrorist financing and how to stop it. So it is a very important subject. Regarding Steven Mnuchin, I spoke to him last evening. At the moment he is intending to go because of the importance of the issue of ending terrorist financing.

But again, along with the president and the general investigation, Mr. Mnuchin will make up his mind as the week progresses.

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VANIER: CNN is one of several media outlets who have pulled sponsorship from this conference, along with CNBC -- you see them here, the "Financial Times" and Bloomberg as well. ALLEN: Khashoggi's disappearance is sending Saudi Arabia's stock market into a tailspin.

VANIER: Riyadh's main index lost 3.5 percent on Sunday. It had been down as much as 7 percent overall. The Saudi market has fallen about 9 percent since the disappearance on October 2nd.

Joining us is CNN U.S. security analyst Samantha Vinograd.

Samantha we heard from the Saudis today and their message is clear. If somebody tries to punish them economically, they will fight back.

How much should the U.S. fear that?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that the U.S. government -- and I've been in these situations before when allies and enemies have threatened us with repercussions -- we definitely should take it seriously.

But it is --

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VINOGRAD: -- interesting to note that President Trump in other circumstances, when he's been threatened by other countries, he's actually upped his game. You think about the tariffs and the trade wars, he has escalated the war of words and has not been afraid of potential retaliatory action in terms of what he decides to do in response to some kind of aggression.

I think the Saudis are definitely serious, particularly if they feel like they are being criticized and they're being penalized without clear evidence that they were behind the interrogation and potential assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.

VANIER: I'll add one thing to what you are saying, it is true President Trump has definitely never been afraid to escalate a fight. But it's when he thought there was something worth fighting for. And here we're talking about human rights, which is just not something this president prioritizes. In fact, he famously started his presidency by touring Saudi Arabia and said I won't lecture you about human rights.

VINOGRAD: And did on North Korea. He went to see Kim Jong-un and, from what we know, we didn't extensively get into North Korea's gross human rights violations. And he hasn't raised it since he had the Singapore summit and said he's in love with Kim Jong-un.

So human rights has not been a priority for the president nor is press freedoms. As we know, he has consistently attacked members of the U.S. media that don't cover him they way that he would like. I think here the stakes are a little bit different. He had said publicly that there will be severe punishment if he finds out who is responsible for this.

But he has taken or he thinks he's taken one policy response off the table, which is limiting arms sales to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The inconvenient truth for President Trump is he doesn't get to decide that. By law, the Arms Export Control Act here in the United States, Congress can block arms sales.

So whether or not President Trump wants to stop billions of dollars in arms sales that he said he has agreed to with Saudi Arabia, that may not be up to him. Congress may choose to block him unilaterally.

VANIER: So that is interesting and there are several different aspects to that. He says, look, there will be severe punishment if it turns out that Saudi Arabia ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. However, I do not want to hurt the U.S. economy in the process. That is his argument. He says there are other ways to hurt them.

So if you are the U.S. president and you do want to inflict some damage or send a strong message to Saudi but without canceling his arms deal, what do you do?

VINOGRAD: Well, there's something like expelling diplomats and do I think that that has a gross impact on countries around the world?

Not really. That said, when several countries, close to 20, I believe, expelled the Russian diplomats after the chemical weapons poisoning in the U.K., that was not an insignificant move.

Do I think it really hurt Russia's security or Russia's policymaking?

No, but it was a multilateral gesture. So the president could do that. He could seize some of the Saudi consulate property or embassy property here in the United States. And he could also start to implement other kinds of sanction against Saudi Arabia and maybe ones that are not as severe as what are called the global Magnitsky sanctions, which Congress can pass him.

Those sanctions freeze any property that a listed individual has in the United States and seriously restricts their ability, takes away their visa ability to come to the U.S. Saudis come to the U.S. quite frequently. They travel to Europe quite a bit.

And so that's something that could really have a strong impact. But it's short of the president canceling arms sales.

VANIER: I want to get back to the Saudi veiled threat of economic retaliation.

How bad could it get?

Because they are clearly signaling that what their main weapon is, the price of oil. They increase it, it hurts growing economies worldwide.

How bad could that get theoretically?

VINOGRAD: Oh, I think that this is huge. Aside from the fact that Saudi Arabia owns U.S. Treasuries, over $100 billion worth of them, Saudi Arabia is deeply invested across U.S. industries and in U.S. companies. Saudi Arabia made a deal with the president to engage OPEC to increase output in response to the fact that Iranian oil is coming offline.

So almost instantaneously, very quickly, Saudi Arabia could say you know what, the market is oversupplied. We're going to take that $1.5 million barrels per day or so offline. And if the price of oil goes up, that really doesn't trouble us. It means more revenue for us. But Donald Trump, we know that that is going to bother you, especially ahead of midterms.

That's a huge risk. The risk for the Saudis, of course, is the fact that companies may choose to divest from Saudi Arabia. They may cancel projects that were planned there. And remember, the crown prince has his Vision 2030 plan that he is engaging into and what he calls Saudis' addiction to oil.

So if companies pull out and there is not that economic diversification in Saudi, that would in turn hurt the kingdom.

VANIER: Samantha Vinograd, CNN U.S. security analyst, thank you.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

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ALLEN (voice-over): Next here, an interview with --

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ALLEN (voice-over): the president, Donald Trump, on the defensive about his relationship with the Russian president. Hear what he had to say about Vladimir Putin -- just ahead.

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ALLEN: Welcome back.

U.S. president Donald Trump says Russian president Vladimir Putin is probably involved in assassinations and poisoning but he seemed to downplay those crimes.

VANIER: Mr. Trump discussed his relationship with the Russian leader in an interview with the CBS show "60 Minutes."

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LESLEY STAHL, CBS CORRESPONDENT: Do you agree that Vladimir Putin is involved in assassinations, in poisonings --

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TRUMP: Probably he is, yes, probably. I mean -- I don't-- (CROSSTALK)

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.

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STAHL: Do you believe, do you believe that the Russians interfered in the 2016 campaign -- election?

TRUMP: Well, they meddled, but I think China meddled, too.

STAHL: Why do you say China meddled, too?

TRUMP: And you want to know something?

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STAHL: Why don't you just say the Russians meddled?

TRUMP: Because I think China meddled also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Let's talk about the president's comments --

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ALLEN: -- with CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, also a retired CIA chief of Russia operations.

Steve, thanks so much. You just saw some highlights there from that "60 Minutes" interview. Overall, President Trump, of course, has avoided criticism of Mr. Putin.

Were his comments on "60 Minutes," that Putin has likely, probably, the president said, been involved in assassinations and poisonings, was that revealing on the part of Mr. Trump?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it was revealing, if for no other reason that the doubt that he still seems to have, "probably, maybe, you know, they tell me."

The British government, the U.K. has said, the prime minister has said that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they have the facts, they have the intelligence, they have the information that the Russians attempted to poison, attempted to assassinate the Skripals.

The fact that the president continues to equivocate on this, you have to ask, again, why is he doing this? He has no problems being speaking very strongly, calling the European

Union, for example, some of the people that are trying to take the most advantage of us. So he has no difficulty in calling people out. Yet he refuses to do so or is very reticent to do so with Vladimir Putin. You have to ask yourself, why is that exactly?

ALLEN: Yes, why wouldn't the president of the United States referred to the poisonings in the U.K., our closest ally?

And when he talked about Mr. Putin "probably" being involved in it, he seemed to shrug, like indicating, what it's to me, what's it to the United States?

Does that make any sense of a president?

HALL: I think it is really a sad moment. I mean, even if you just take it back to your own personal experience, what do you tell your kids when something terrible happens to them at school or something?

You don't say, well, it did not happen in our house so tough luck. No, what you say is you say that's a really terrible thing. I'm going to make sure it does not happen again. Let's help get to the bottom of this. You want to teach these lessons.

The United States and democracies worldwide have the moral obligation to be the moral leadership and to say that, well, you know, it is not such a big deal. I didn't know. It did not happen in our country so it is therefore not important, is, quite frankly, a failure in leadership on the part of the American president.

ALLEN: Kind of a dodge as when talking about Russian election meddling, he immediately points to China was probably doing it, too. He often invokes China; he turns it away from Russia. It seems to be an ongoing tactic there.

HALL: Yes, this is not too complicated. It doesn't matter whether this is the president of the United States or your teenager coming home, having broken curfew. Oh, it wasn't my fault. You know, Jack's curfew is later than mine is.

It's pure dissemblance. It's pure -- moving the conversation in a different direction. Again, you just got to ask yourself, why is that?

What is it that the president does not -- what is it inside of him that makes him not want to speak out publicly against Vladimir Putin?

And perhaps also now, as in another developing story, perhaps also the Saudis.

Are there business ties there? Are there things that the president does not want the public to know?

I do not know what it is but his behavior simply does not make any sense for a person who is the president of United States in today's world. ALLEN: Yes, we're talking about the disappearance of the journalist Khashoggi and, yes, when other countries are saying there must be justice, we must get to the bottom of it. We even had Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator, a staunch ally with Mr. Trump, say if Saudi Arabia was part of it, there will be hell to pay.

But no such language coming from President Trump. Someone questioned him about business dealings between the Trump businesses and the Kushner businesses with Saudi Arabia. So again, this is another area where there seems to be a complication. We just do not know what that might be.

HALL: The other thing I think we need to remember is this is precisely the transactional type of activity that Vladimir Putin and probably the Saudis and other countries, which are autocracies, which are not democracies, would like us to pursue. They would like us to say, look, this really is not necessarily any of our business. This is not something that is going on in the United States. I believe that when you have the president, who is reticent to call out Vladimir Putin or if the situation with the death of the Saudi journalist working for "The Washington Post," by the way, turns out to be true, you have got despots who begin to feel like, well, if the president of the United States, the richest, largest democracy in the world, isn't going to call us out on this then perhaps we have a little bit more room to take to take advantage of that.

And that is really concerning on our world stage, I think.

ALLEN: Right. Many times the interviews on these issues, there are still more questions than answers, are not there, overall. Steve Hall, we appreciate you helping us analyze it. We'll see again, thanks for your analysis.

HALL: My pleasure.

VANIER: Long before the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, Donald Trump had already developed close ties to Saudi Arabia. We will be looking at those ties and what they --

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VANIER: -- could mean for his next move. Stay with us.

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ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER (voice-over): I'm Cyril Vanier. Let's look at your headlines.

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ALLEN: The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi is straining relations between the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Let's take a closer look at the fallout. We're joined now by Ryan Ginger (ph) -- am I saying your last name right, Ryan?

RYAN GINGERAS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF SECURITY AFFAIRS: Gingeras, good enough.

ALLEN: Thank you, thank you, Associate Professor of the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. Ryan, we appreciate you joining us on this. Relations between the U.S. and Turkey have been free.

President Trump indicating they will improve now with the release of the American passer. But is it important that Turkey have a dedicated ally in this situation, an ally, such as the U.S.?

GINGERAS: Certainly. I think that Turkey sees the United States as an asset, regardless of the rhetoric that you would hear now. I think Turkish foreign policy makers see U.S. as an asset going forward. At least, so far as forwarding Turkish foreign policy interests in (INAUDIBLE) at large.

And so, I think with this case, Turkey has at least got at the very minimum response from United States. And I think that's what Ankura wanted.

ALLEN: Saudi Arabia has been evasive in its response to the journalist's disappearance. Turkey doesn't want this to escalate. Explain the conflicting dynamic, a little more, between the governments of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Will that affect their relationship, affect, getting to the truth?

GINGERAS: I think the short answer of this is, is that Turkey doesn't want this current crisis to get in the way of its relationship with Saudi Arabia, or more importantly, its wider designs in Syria and the Middle East, as a whole.

You know, that said, the two countries are rivals, and you know, most importantly, Saudi Arabia sees Turkey as a country where its political dissidents can find a home, where, you know, people who are opponents of the Saudi royal family, can have a voice, and can be active, be politically active.

And this is specifically among people who are allied with the Muslim brotherhood. And it has to be said that Erdogan himself is -- has been historically very sympathetic to the Muslim brotherhood, and rather critical of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia's policies and various elements of the Middle East.

So, I think what you -- the best way to think about it, is that Turkey sees itself as walking a tightrope, a tightrope of sorts. On the one hand, wanting to forward its own interest in the region, but not aggravate things too much with a very powerful state like Saudi Arabia.

ALLEN: Outside of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, other Arab states are indicating they will stand with Saudi Arabia. What impact could that have say, the stability in the region, as it connects to even global relations?

GINGERAS: Well, I think that, in terms of the wider Middle East, in this very specific incident, I think one has to bear in mind that no one anticipated this, and no one really wants this to become such a plus point that it leads to disability.

And I think what -- more than anything, this is not so much sympathy for Saudi Arabia as -- people don't -- the foreign policy makers throughout the region, don't want things to get more unstable, more explosive than it already is.

ALLEN: Right. And President Trump has indicated that if Saudi Arabia was involved, there would be repercussions. Saudi Arabia has now threatened to retaliate over any sanctions. What could that cause -- the U.S. of course, is dependent on Saudi Arabia for oil, since it has now turned away from Iran?

GINGERAS: I think -- well -- I think, first of all, we're a pretty good distance from there being a situation where there are sanctions posed on Saudi Arabia. I think -- but if (INAUDIBLE) is making people in Riyadh, pay attention. And if things did get really out of hand, if things really escalated, and escalated very quickly, the Saudis can point to oil prices.

Saudi Arabia has a very important role play in the Middle East, oil market, and that it supplies a lot of the (INAUDIBLE) to the oil market, as a whole.

So, if Saudi Arabia decides to stop putting oil, that would hate -- make the United States feel some pain (INAUDIBLE) countries, economies all (INAUDIBLE) feel a great deal of pain.

So, in addition to that, there's a question of Iran, and if Iran -- if Saudi Arabia becomes cornered, if this becomes much more of an unstable situation, things could have much more explosive in the Persian Gulf, and no one really wants that.

ALLEN: Ryan Gingeras, we appreciate your analysis with the Naval Postgraduate School. Thanks, Ryan.

GINGERAS: Thank you for having me.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a measured approach after Khashoggi's disappearance.

[00:35:08] ALLEN: And that has renewed questions about possible conflicts of interests, post by his long-standing business ties to Saudi Arabia. CNN's Cristina Alesci takes a closer look at that angle.

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CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Saudi Arabia has been making Donald Trump rich, for decades.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saudi Arabia and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spent $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.

ALESCI: Trump's financial ties with the Saudis, date back to the 1990s. In 1991, when one of his casino projects was faltering under a mountain of debt, a Saudi Prince purchased Trump's 281 square foot yacht, for the hefty price of $20 million.

Ten years later, public records show Trump sold the 45th floor of his Trump World Tower in New York, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for $4.5 million. In recent years, since Trump took office, his hotels have benefited from Saudi business. Between October 2016 and March 2017, a Saudi lobbying firm paid Trump's Washington D.C. hotel, more than $270,000 for food and accommodations.

Trump's Manhattan Hotel on Central Park West, saw revenue increase during the first quarter of 2018, in part, because of a visit from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Post.

In the letter, the hotel's general manager wrote that bin Salman didn't stay at the hotel himself. But said, "do to our up close industry relationships, we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers."

Overall, however, little is known about the full extent of Trump's business relationship with Saudi Arabia.

JONATHAN O'CONNELL, FINANCE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: We don't know really very much about his efforts to open other properties in the Saudi Arabia. We don't know who his partners would've been, we don't know who would've financed them, and we don't know if he can restart them again down the road.

ALESCI: According to his 2016 financial disclosure, Trump had a 144 registered companies, with dealings in more than two dozen countries, eight of them, were Saudi companies. All of those companies have been dissolved. But tonight, as cries for the president to take action against Saudi Arabia grow louder, Trump's business ties are coming under new scrutiny.

O'CONNELL: Now, of course, the larger political question is -- are -- is his relationship with these business deals, part of the President's consideration when he makes decisions about how to go forward.

ALESCI: A spokesperson for the Trump organization told me "like many real estate companies, we have explored opportunities in many markets that said we do not have any plans for extension into Saudi Arabia." But when I asked about the other financial ties, like the ones I included in the report, the condo sales, for example, at Trump Tower, I did not get an answer.

Cristina Alesci, CNN, Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Next here, struggling to survive in Florida, people who lost everything in Hurricane Michael, are just trying to find a way to cope, to get by, until life returns to normal.

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[00:40:00] VANIER: Days after Hurricane Michael wiped out entire towns along Florida's gulf coast, rescue crews and residents are trying to clear the debris.

ALLEN: But you can see the work they have to do right there, getting back to normal life, well that could take months, perhaps, longer. President Trump and the First Lady will travel there Monday. Martin Savidge, is there for us, he describes the horrifying scenes that we'll see, first-hand.

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MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Television doesn't do it justice, and there are no words to really try to convey how much devastation there is, and how extensive it is, mile after mile after mile. And of course, you'll promise the resources for their rebuilding and recovery.

But the real focus in this community right now is trying to find those who are unaccounted for. This is a relatively small town. There are about 300 people that are known to, say, they were going to ride out the storm. And the problem in the aftermath of that storm, is trying to find them.

Most of them have been, in some way, accounted for, maybe they're self-reported or there were witnesses that saw them after the storm and said they were alive and well.

But there is a number of people who still haven't been heard from and as time goes by, and if you don't hear anything from them, there's a growing concern that they are still here somewhere, which is why the search and recovery effort has been a primary concern and continues to be, and it'll probably go on for at least a day or more.

Dave Mullins is a local resident. He rode up the storm here. The water was up to his waist, the roof was ripped off his home, he thought he was going to die, fortunately, he didn't. And the first thing he wanted to do is check on his friends and neighbors. But when he got out into the community his known for 15 years, he didn't recognize the place.

JOHN DAVID MULLINS, RESIDENT OF MEXICO BEACH: I can't even recognize where I'm at. You know, the bank is where we turn, and the bank, it doesn't even look like the bank, nothing looks like it is anymore.

So, you're, kind of, disoriented, you're lost, because you can't even navigate through your own town because you don't know what street you're at, all the signs are gone, naturally, you know, so you just try to find a landmark and turn where you need to turn. SAVIDGE: The relief effort has begun in Mexico Beach and across the Florida Panhandle. But it's going to be a long time before anyone can say that there is a full recovery here, after the worst hurricane just strike, in this area's history.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Mexico Beach, Florida.

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ALLEN: And we'll certainly report on the President's trip there, this week. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. You've got "WORLD SPORT" up next. We are back in 15 minutes with more world news. Stay with us.

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