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Saudi Arabia Pressured Due to Khashoggi's Disappearance; Trump Don't Trust Some Cabinet Members. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired October 15, 2018 - 03:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Rising diplomatic tensions. Saudi Arabia wants to deal with international backlash over the disappearance of this man, journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and across the world. I'm Becky Anderson live from the center of that mystery for you in Istanbul in Turkey.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: And I'm Rosemary Church here at CNN center where we are also following a defiant President Trump who says both Russia and China have been involved in election meddling. That and more, coming up.

You're watching CNN Newsroom.

ANDERSON: There is no let up in the international pressure on Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist.

Saudi Arabia's king spoke with Turkey's president by phone Sunday about Jamal Khashoggi. The two reportedly agreed to create a working group to investigate the case.

Now, Khashoggi has been missing for nearly two weeks. He hasn't been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd. Turkish authorities say Khashoggi was murdered inside the building, a charge the Saudis have vehemently denied.

Senior officials say the U.S. expect to get more information from Turkey this week, and President Donald Trump has threatened severe punishment if it turns out the Saudis were involved in Khashoggi's disappearance and, indeed, responsible for his death.

Well, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh outside Istanbul consulate here in Istanbul. Sam Kiley is in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Let's start with you, Sam. Breaking overnight what seems to be two very divergent narratives from where you are in the kingdom. Can you explain?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky. If we go back to the statement that came from Donald Trump when he said that there could be harsh punishment towards Saudi Arabia if there was foul play with regard to Mr. Khashoggi, the Saudis hit back very rapidly with a very unequivocal statement put out through the Saudi national news agency. This was what the first part of this narrative said. The statement

said, "The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions using political pressures, or repeating false accusations that will not undermine the kingdom and its staunch positions, and Arab Islamic and international status. The outcome of these weak endeavors like their predecessors is demise."

Very unequivocal statements coming out of unnamed officials here in Riyadh.

Now, that was fairly swiftly followed with an op-ed by the general manager of El Arabia, the Saudi-owned news web site here, that took the whole idea further, Becky. Talked about the dangers that Saudi Arabia could drive the price of oil up to $200 a barrel.

That this would be a self -- piece of self-harm against the United States economy. Saudi Arabia might even give some kind of military base to the Russians in its territory, a very, almost extreme position. But, again, published in a Saudi news web site, Saudi-owned news web site.

Then Washington woke up, and the Saudi embassy there immediately swung almost 180 degrees with a series of tweets, but the tone of which I can read you is very fascinating how this whole thing swung away.

It said in a tweet out of its official embassy Twitter account, "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."

And that, of course, is into the investigation into the disappearance of the Washington Post columnist, Becky. A completely massive swing, and reminding the reader, if you like, that although the United States has made these threats, the United States has also not reached a conclusion because the United States hasn't, like so many others, seen any hard physical evidence one way or the other, Becky.

And then at the end of the day, there was a statement put out, the joint statement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in which the Saudi King Salman thanked the -- his brotherly president, Mr. Erdogan in Turkey for agreeing to establish a joint working committee, and insisting that nothing could a fray the brotherly relationship between the two nations. I think possibly a sign there that King Salman trying to get a grip on the situation. Becky?

[03:05:04] ANDERSON: I'll discuss that with a guest I've got here with me in a moment. I wonder why, you think, when we consider what is going on with the narrative from Saudi Arabia, why everyone isn't on the same page. Is it clear?

KILEY: It is clear in a sense that the reason for that, I think, Becky, is that it is all very, very murky. People not just in Saudi Arabia, but we've seen a similar kind of vacillation in the United States there. Nobody has seen the evidence that has been leaked into the Turkish media, suggesting that Mr. Khashoggi was disappeared or murdered allegedly by the Saudis.

Somebody somewhere, perhaps in a very small cell, does know the answer. But I've been talking to very senior officials and I think they're quite genuine in saying, nobody quite knows how to react because they don't quite know what they're reacting to.

There are questions that are asked of Saudis of their own government as to why, for example, there is no CCTV footage from inside the consulate when everybody knows that such an environment would have that. On the same token, they cast great suspicion on anything coming from Turkey, which is, let's face it, hardly a champion of the rights of journalists. It's one of the world leaders of locking up journalists.

So there is a sense of genuine unease. And I think that there is possibly a tension between the king and his son here, Becky.

ANDERSON: Sam is in Riyadh. Jomana outside the consulate just about 20 minutes or so from here. Lest we forget that the mystery at the center of all of this, the disappearance, Jomana, of the Washington Post columnist, the Turkish authorities threw leaks to the media say they have evidence about what happened to him in that consulate behind you. But that evidence hasn't been released, that Sam rightly pointed out. Why?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question, Becky. And I think pressure is mounting on Turkey right now, especially after you saw all these strong-worded statements from Saudi Arabia yesterday. Not necessarily directed at Turkey, but perhaps more the United States and the international community.

But Saudi Arabia really standing its ground with their narrative, saying that these are all baseless allegations. And then you had what seemed to be this coordinated move, all these statements coming from different countries in the region, other countries that have a good relationship with Turkey also, taking Saudi's side saying that this is a campaign against Saudi Arabia, calling this lies and rumors and saying that there needs to be evidence.

So I think we're seeing a lot of pressure now on the Turkish government to really say what they have. They have this criminal investigation going on for 10 days. And as you mention, most of what we know is all these leaks that are coming out, unnamed officials really speaking to the various media organizations.

So, at the same time, you know, you had this stand from the Turkish government, not really coming out publicly, not blaming Saudi Arabia, perhaps an indication that they want to try and resolve this diplomatically somehow, and this is why people say we are hearing all this talk.

Yesterday also mentioned again in the call between King Salman and President Erdogan talking about this working group, perhaps to find a way to resolve this situation. So we'll have to wait and see because a lot of people are concerned. Some human rights activists we've spoken to in the region concerned that this could really undermine any sort of credible investigation into what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.

Of course, the Turkish government, the foreign minister over the weekend, saying that this working group will not impact in any way their criminal investigation, Becky.

ANDERSON: Jomana Karadsheh outside the consulate and Sam of course in Riyadh. I'm joined now by Ambassador Matthew Bryza who is the former senior U.S. official covering Turkey.

And given your experience with the Turkey and your deep understanding of the wider regional order or disorder, as the case may be, how do you explain, or at least assess the developments over the past 24 hours?

MATTHEW BRYZA, FORMER SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL COVERING TURKEY: Well, the main development I think is the phone call between King Salman and President Erdogan here. If you note, President Erdogan has pretty much stayed out of the news on this one, and he is known for his, shall we say vociferous statements from time to time.

[03:09:52] So, he's back in. The Turkish government, in fact, announced the phone call. It shows they wanted to show something is happening. So what could be happening? Well, number one, the fact that it was King Salman who got involved rather than Bin Salman, his son, maybe shows that the king isn't so happy with the mess that his son has gotten Saudi Arabia into.

In Washington, we see U.S. senators now turning up the heat. Senator Marco Rubio, in fact, said if the investigation shows that, in fact, Saudi Arabia was responsible, then there will be some form of sanctions.

The White House is saying similar things, trying to figure out whether or not Treasury Secretary Mnuchin will go to this big Davos in the desert.

So I think what Turkey has done is positioned itself in a dangerous, but a potentially advantageous position. It can go public with more details if it looks like that's going to win more support from Washington. Or if need be, it can help quiet things down if Washington doesn't respond in Turkey relations the way Ankara would like.

ANDERSON: So as you rightly pointed out, and President Erdogan isn't one to stay quiet on things on a regular basis. How will this administration deal with the next stage of all of this?

BRYZA: Yes. Well, first of all, they are being really careful, right? Because I mean, even though Turkey/Saudi relationship is tense, Saudi Arabia is a giant player on the world stage, not just because of its oil production, but also because, yes, it is -- it is the holder to the keys -- holder of the keys to the holiest sites in Islam. It is a Sunni majority country, as is Turkey.

So I think President Erdogan and Turkey are going to try to play carefully, avoid an outright confrontation if possible. And ultimately I think they'll follow the lead of the United States, even if President Trump is reluctant in terms of showing such leadership.

ANDERSON: Washington has bought itself a bit of time, hasn't it? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said, look, we are going to look at developments through the week that effectively gives him a whole working week. And because -- this has been a huge story with significant developments over the weekend. But it's only in a few hours from now that Washington will wake up and start thinking about how they're going to deal with this.

Buying that time -- and you've been in this business for a long time. Buying that time, buying a week, that's a long time in terms of diplomacy, correct?

BRYZA: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: We say it's a long time in politics.


ANDERSON: An awfully long time in the world of diplomacy.

BRYZA: Much can change in that week. And I think Washington is hoping there will be change, that there will be greater clarity. My guess is Washington would very much like for it to be seen that maybe the story isn't as horrible as we think. Maybe it will come out that poor Mr. Khashoggi died of a heart attack inside the consulate and people in the consulate panicked.

But a week is not unusual in my experience, having worked in the White House, having participated in some of these really high-level decisions. Because this is a huge one. To break with Saudi Arabia, which has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East for decades, that is--


ANDERSON: A huge cornerstone under this Trump administration.

BRYZA: More than ever.

ANDERSON: A significant relationship.


ANDERSON: And it's a bromance, isn't it?


ANDERSON: A bromance between a very small cohort of advisors to Donald Trump. One being his front and center, of course, his son-in- law, and the crown prince.

BRYZA: Yes, exactly. It's the first foreign trip that President Trump made. Similarly, around Muhammad bin Salman, there is a small circle. They are not the most popular group of people in Saudi Arabia, to say the least, because they are forcing such change on the system. So those two circles are very close, yes.

ANDERSON: Matthew, ambassador, Matthew Bryra, thank you very much indeed for joining us with the greatest of respect. There you go.

Rosemary, as you can see, I mean, a lot of discussion here about what we may or may not read into the developments over the last 24 hours, but certainly there is some movement, as Sam was rightly pointing out. There seems to be some disconnect between the messaging coming out of the kingdom, meantime here.

We have yet to see any further evidence or yet to see any evidence at all of just exactly what happened in that consulate. Washington buying a little bit of time at this point, expect to see more developments as we move through the waking day in the U.S.

CHURCH: Yes, we certainly need some more answers. Becky Anderson, we will return to you in just a moment. Many thanks as always.

We'll take a short break right here. But still to come, Donald Trump gets candid. What the U.S. president said about some of his staffers and cabinet members in a new interview.

Plus, struggling to survive in Florida, people who lost everything in hurricane Michael are just trying to get by until life eventually returns to normal. We'll have all of that for you in just a moment.


CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the CBS show 60 Minutes. He touched on his relationship with North Korea, Russia, and even his own West Wing staffers.




STAHL: -- Melania, she said that there are still people in the White House that she doesn't trust and that you shouldn't trust.

TRUMP: I feel the same way. I don't trust everybody in the White House. I'll be honest with you.

STAHL: You go to a meeting, do you have to wonder, is he wearing a wire--


TRUMP: I usually go -- not so much a wire. I'm usually guarded and I think I'm guarded anyway. But I'm not saying I trust everybody in the White House. I'm not a baby. It's a tough business. This is a vicious place. Washington, D.C. is a vicious, vicious place.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Mr. Trump also weighed in on the future of his defense secretary, James Mattis.

STAHL: What about General Mattis, is he going to leave?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. He hasn't told me. We have a very good relationship with him. I had lunch with him two days ago. I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is. I think he's sort of a Democrat if you want to know the truth.

[03:20:03] But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point everybody leaves. Everybody leaves. People leave. That's Washington.


CHURCH: Well, joining me now from Hong Kong is Glenn Shive, executive director of the American Hong Kong center. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, let's start with those comments from the president where he says he doesn't trust everyone in the White House. Who do you think he's referring to? And is this how previous U.S. presidents have felt about their White House advisors and staff?

SHIVE: The question was about his White House, and he took it really to talk about Washington. So he went from the inner White House issue to the outer environment in which the White House operates and say it's a vicious place.

So, he says, I'm not a baby, and really, he's conveying a sense of he's tough and he's guarded, but he doesn't trust everybody even in his own White House. He has to acknowledge that. He doesn't talk about--


CHURCH: How unusual is that, though, that a president wouldn't trust those within his own White House, people he selected to work within his inner circle?

SHIVE: Well, there's been a record high turnover of staff in the White House in the first two years. You know, as I say, he doesn't talk about them working together as a team. He talks about loyalty upward to him, and that's the key for him.

CHURCH: And what did you make of what President Trump said about Defense Secretary Mattis in that 60 Minutes interview, saying that Mattis may leave, but everyone eventually leaves? What was your reading of his choice of words? Most presidents, of course, would say, absolutely not. He's on the team.

SHIVE: Of course. Of course.

CHURCH: Do you find that strange? SHIVE: I did. I mean, it is -- he called him sort of a Democrat, but

I like him, he's a good man, we have good rapport. Rapport, of course, with him being the key issue. It didn't talk about, you know, what he believes in and where we agree and disagree and -- exactly, there wasn't a sense of we, as a team dealing with these issues. It's just a sense of do we get along? And, you know, all people leave, and so, you know, no big deal.

CHURCH: Right. And let's just listen to what President Trump said again in that 60 Minutes interview about President Putin and Russia. Let's bring that up.


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


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


STAHL: Probably?

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

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

TRUMP: Of course they shouldn't do it.


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 I think other countries--

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

TRUMP: Because I think China meddled also.


CHURCH: So, two significant statements there. We hear President Trump say Vladimir Putin was probably involved in assassinations. Let's deal with that, that part first.

SHIVE: Right, right.

CHURCH: Because that's fairly incredible, isn't it? He was really having to be pushed by Lesley Stahl to say that's not a good thing. SHIVE: I mean, the president must know, it's not a probable thing.

But he just wants to cover it for himself to say, well, we really don't know. Do you know? I mean, so he sows doubt in the questioner rather than speak clearly to the point of we know this. And we know that he does know this, so why does he say probably? That is a kind of -- always he gives himself wiggle room with regard to Putin. Why is that so?

CHURCH: I mean, that is the big question, isn't it? Because then, of course, they went on to talk about the meddling in the 2016 elections. He admitted there that Russia had meddled, but China meddled as well, he said. So, again--


SHIVE: That's right.

CHURCH: What did you read into that? Why bring China into the equation there? Again, it seems that he's not prepared to say it's just Russia alone.

SHIVE: That's right, it's change the subject. If he's awkward and uncomfortable at some point, move on to something else. And it's a moral equivalent. So, if Russia did it, well, China did it. Well, then it's not so bad that Russia did it.

And, besides, you know, we think China's worse at this. And so where do we go with that? I mean, he doesn't have evidence that he's showing about China. It's making the China relationship more difficult, but he's still in a sense protecting with this notion of moral equivalence that it's not just Russia. Everybody does it. And now everybody is doing it to everybody, and that's the new world we're in.

[03:25:05] I think that there is something -- he doesn't think in terms of moral issues. He thinks in terms of power. And he thinks in terms of American power, American economic power, and wherever there's issues like in this question of Skripal in England and the issue of Putin, I mean, he's just saying, well, that's terrible, but it didn't happen to us.

CHURCH: Right.

SHIVE: So, it's out there, it's somebody else's business. It's not America's role to deal with this directly.

CHURCH: Glenn Shive, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

SHIVE: My pleasure.

CHURCH: And President Trump and the U.S. first lady will travel to Florida on Monday. This, as clean-up operations are underway in the Florida Panhandle. But authorities say it could take months before life returns to normal after hurricane Michael ravaged the area.

The storm killed at least 18 people and wiped out entire towns along the gulf coast. Many people are living in dire conditions, having to wait in long lines for food and water. Florida Governor Rick Scott saw the devastation firsthand in Mexico Beach. The small coastal community was practically obliterated by a direct hit from the monster storm. The governor says it's time to take the most dangerous parts of the storm seriously.


RICK SCOTT, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I think a lot of people just don't realize how life-threatening storm surge is. Fourteen foot of storm surge, 10 foot, nine foot, six foot can kill you. But you can see right here, homes just picked up. If they weren't demolished like most of them here, if you're on the beach, look at -- they were demolished.

Storm surge is so dangerous for people. And I hope, you know, if anything people learn from this is that take storm surge way more seriously than people have in the past.


CHURCH: Thousands of rescue crews are in the area to help the people who lost everything.

Well the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi goes far beyond a diplomatic route. We will look at the global economic impact and how it could send world markets into a tail spin. We are back in Istanbul in just a few minutes live from there with our Becky Anderson. Do stay with us here on CNN.