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Saudi Arabia Preparing To Admit Khashoggi Was Killed; Trump Mocks Warren's DNA Test, Says She Owes Country An Apology. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 15, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:11] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, Saudi Arabia changes its story. Sources saying the Saudis are now prepared to admit the Washington Post contributor was accidentally killed. Why did it take them 13 days to come up with that explanation? And will President Trump buy the story.

Plus, the leadership of the Cherokee Nation slamming Senator Elizabeth Warren tonight after Warren said she's part Native American and has the DNA test to prove it. One of those leaders is my guest.

And the race of the day, from now until the midterms we're bringing you one race to watch every single night. Let's go out front.

Good evening, I'm Jake Tapper in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, breaking news, an interrogation gone wrong? Saudi Arabia is preparing to change its story about what happened to Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. Two sources telling CNN the Saudis are getting ready to admit Khashoggi is dead, killed by mistake, they may admit. During an interrogation inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to the report which is still being prepared. The Saudis only intended to abduct Khashoggi after he arrived at the consulate in October 2nd. They did not intend to kill him, they will claim. This would be a stunning admission in the last given the Saudi Arabia has for 13 days categorically denied any involvement in the journalist's mysterious disappearance. One source telling CNN this admission will suggest the Saudi team that did this did not have clearance to do so. So is President Trump going to buy the story? He weighed in late today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody knows if it's an official report. So far it's just the rumor. The rumor of a report coming out.


TAPPER: This morning, President Trump surprised many on Capitol Hill, by seeming to take at face value the denials from the king and crown prince of Saudi Arabia that they knew anything about Khashoggi's disappearance. The president tweeting that he quote, he just spoke to the king of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge may have happens to our Saudi Arabian citizen. President Trump even possibly gave a tease of what we may end up hearing from the Saudis, the idea that whoever did this, didn't have the authorization to do so.


TRUMP: The king firmly denied any knowledge of it, he didn't really know. Maybe -- I don't want to get into his mind. But it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows, we're going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.


TAPPER: Rogue killers, it is worth noting that Trump time after time has seemed sympathetic to the denials of dictators. Take those from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Here's the president when pressed if he believed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election happened.


TRUMP: I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.


TAPPER: I don't see any reason why it would be. The White House later said the president misspoke. Mike Pompeo attested to Russia's election interference when he was CIA director just last year.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I am confident the Russians meddled in this election, as did the entire intelligence community.


TAPPER: How about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, take a listen.


TRUMP: He understands denuclearization, and he's agreed to it, you see that, he's agreed to it.


TAPPER: He's agreed to it, only there are no firm commitments from Kim to dismantle his nuclear and missile programs. It's not just about dictators. President Trump often takes the side of the accused if he already likes them. Here's the president on Rob Porter, Roy Moore and Paul Manafort. Accused respectively of spousal abuse, sexual abuse with minors and financial crimes.


TRUMP: He says he's innocent. And I think you have to remember that.

He totally denies it, he says it didn't happen. And you have to listen to him.

One of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much, he went through that trial. You know they make up stories, people make up stories.


TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny is out front at the White House for us. Now, and Jeff, The president appears to be constantly giving the Saudi's the benefit of the doubt.

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, good evening. No question. We have seen the president again and again over these last several days that has been asked about this virtually every day. Keep saying, we'll look into it, we are looking into it, we'll have a report out soon. But there's been not a sense of urgency here at the White House, from the president directly, that there has been frankly in other parts of Washington, and indeed around the world, particularly from Congressional Republicans as well, who have been far more vocal, pointing the finger at Saudi Arabia here. But the president repeatedly said he believes the flat denials.

[19:05:02] Now he was asked again in Georgia, where he was just a few hours ago about the new CNN report. He said we'll have to look into it it's just a report. But again and again the president has made certain that he believes the billions of dollars in arms sales is at least one of the things weighing on his mind very heavily. He said that is certainly very important, he said earlier this morning, this person was not an American citizen as well. But he was a resident of Virginia. The Washington Post columnist.

So again and again the president has not seized on this moment that others wish he has. We will see what he says tomorrow when he's back here at the White House. But one thing also is clear, the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin is still scheduled to visit the conference next week in Saudi Arabia. Many other CEO's have pulled out. The president said late today he's still scheduled to go, he'll make a decision by Friday. Jake?

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Thank you so much. Out front now a friend of Jamal Khashoggi, and the vie president and Middle East Program Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Aaron David Miller, CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier and retired CIA chief of Russian Operations, Steve Hall.

Aaron, let me start with you. The Saudi government denied up and down that they had anything to do with Khashoggi's disappearance or possible murder. Now they are expected to say, according to two sources telling CNN that this was an interrogation went wrong, it may have carried out without clearance. Do you buy it?

AARON DAVID MILLER, FRIEND OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI: No. In fact, if you buy this was a rogue operation, I've got an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement to sell you. I mean the reality is, it's conceivable that this was a failed rendition, kidnapping that went awry. But the notion that the Saudi government, the highest levels had no foreknowledge were organized, sanctioned and orchestrated this is a fairy tale.

TAPPER: And Kim, I mean, the idea that the Saudi leader in a very vertical leadership, there aren't rogue operators in Saudi Arabia, they've been eliminated or jailed. The idea that the Saudi leader wouldn't know what 15 Saudi agents are doing in a Saudi consulate in a Muslim country, Turkey, that's pretty tough to believe.

KIM DOZIER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE DAILY BEAST: Tough to believe, but this is the face saving measure that the White House and the Saudi government are both looking for. Now, it is conceivable that they just intended to do a rendition. They've done that with other Saudi citizens. But if someone on that list of 15 intelligence and military Saudis is not punished for this, then you're going to see people in Congress, in Europe saying, the Saudi government hasn't paid and it might do this again.

TAPPER: And Steve, Turkish officials say, about that group of 15 who arrived in Istanbul from Saudi Arabia, on the day Khashoggi went missing, that that group included a forensics expert. And according to New York Times, the group brought a bone saw with them. I mean, that doesn't sound like materials for rendition.

STEVE HALL, RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIAN OPERATIONS: Yeah, I mean, Jake, this is obviously an operation carried out by the Saudi security services, and you know, you're right, if you have a bone saw, it doesn't sound like you're going to take anybody anywhere alive. That certainly the case.

But yes, Kim's got it exactly right, having been a CIA station chief myself, in places that are not particularly Jeffersonian democracies, you have to deal with those countries. It's naive to think that you can't. But you go to do it from a position of strength. You got to say there are red lines to be crossed. You're not going to killing journalists, I don't care what their citizenship is. There are certain things you will not do, and if you do them, you do it at the cost of the relationship of the most powerful country in the world, economically and militarily, and intelligence wise. And that's the united states.

TAPPER: Aaron, let me ask you, on that point. Obviously, we can't trace President Trump's rhetoric and say that's responsible, his anti- journalism rhetoric and say that that's the reason for it, but here's a clear case of a U.S. ally, however flawed that ally might be, if it is proven that they killed a journalist, even if he's a Saudi journalist, he lived in America, and he wrote for the Washington Post. If President Trump lets that go, does that give carte blanche to other crown princes out there to do whatever they want as long as they have something that President Trump wants?

MILLER: I don't think there's any doubt. I mean I worked for hours in these, voted for (INAUDIBLE) Saudi relationship for quarter century. We've enabled and placated the Saudis before, but rarely if ever have I seen an administration seem so eager to Saudi Arabia the centerpiece of its original strategy and to create a freedom of maneuvering and action, that is virtually unprecedented. There's no accountability here and while there's no direct causality (ph).

I mean this is on Saudis' chain. It's not on Trump.


MILLER: The reality is that if in fact your security partner, I won't call them an ally.

[19:10:03] If your security partner engages in behavior, you kidnap temporarily the Lebanese prime minister and you do hostage video, you undertake a boycott of Qatar which is split the GCC. You conduct a disastrous war in Yemen without an objective or without end, enable they might add, but both the Obama administration and the Trump administration --


MILLER: -- and nobody calls you on any of this? Well, then you have a degree of immunity, you feel a degree of immunity and invincibility. You have a young inexperienced impulsive reckless leader in my judgment in Mohammed Bin Salman. It is dragging down American interest and American values. I'm not calling for abrogating the relationship. It is important we got to find the way to recalibrate.

TAPPER: So Steve Hall, what should the U.S. do? What can President Trump do obviously as Aaron says, you don't get rid of an important relationship that actually helps bring stability to the middle east, theoretically. But what do you do to say, cut it out. You can't do this, you can't get away with this, I mean, do we stop supporting their war in Yemen, which is horrific on any number of levels?

HALL: I think recalibration is the right word here, and the first step in recalibration is analyzing, OK, what exactly are the Saudis doing for us, and how important is it and are there not other ways we can do it with a country that perhaps doesn't do these types of things.

But assuming that we reach the point where we say, OK, we do need the Saudis for whatever it is to be decided we need them for. And I can tell you that the counter terrorism part of it is perhaps not as robust as many might believe. But assuming that you do say yes, it's worth, you still have to figure out a way to send a strong message. It is best done across a couple of different channels, I would argue. You use the diplomacy angle, you use an intelligence angle, that's a quitter (ph) one but I think you also have to do something public.

You know, the conference is coming up and having Mnuchin not go. It might be a good step ideally and the best of all possible worlds (ph). If you have a really good relationship with your western allies, you're going to do it in concert with them because, of course, when we speak as western liberal democracies against an autocracy like Saudi Arabia, it has a stronger impact. But you can't do nothing. You have to do something. TAPPER: And Kim, President Trump says he would not cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but there would be a severe punishment if the Saudis were to be have proven to blame for Khashoggi's death. How do you think President Trump needs to respond?

DOZIER: What I would like to see is President Trump making some strong statements, humiliating the Saudis a little bit, and showing them that there is a prestige price to pay for doing something like this. But this White House is too invested in Riyadh on a number of different fronts, whether it's the ISIS fight to Yemen to countering Iran. He's not going to do that. Trump is going to accept whatever Riyadh gives him to make this go away.

TAPPER: Indeed, he's had harsher words for Elizabeth Warren today than he has had for the Saudis. Aaron David Miller and Kim Dozier and Steve Hall, thank you one and all.

Out front next, President Trump raising new questions about the future of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, is Mattis headed out the door?

Plus, President Trump and the Cherokee Nation are both responding to the results from Senator Elizabeth Warren's DNA test?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The facts suggest that you absolutely have a Native American ancestry in your pedigree.


TAPPER: Plus, breaking news, a federal judge dismissing Stormy Daniels lawsuit against President Trump. We'll have the details of that, stay with us.


[19:17:13] TAPPER: New tonight, major backlash against Senator Elizabeth Warren who earlier today rolled out a slickly produced campaign ad revealing the results of a DNA test which indicates she does have some Native American ancestry.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You know, the President likes to call my mom a liar. What do the facts say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The facts suggest that you absolutely have Native American ancestry in your pedigree.


TAPPER: Tonight, President Trump saying not surprisingly that he's not impressed with the results which reportedly put Warren somewhere between 1/64 and 1/1,024 Native American. And the President says he has no plans to donate the $1 million, he said he would give to her favorite charity if she had a DNA test that proved she was an Indian. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you owe her an apology? What about the money that --

TRUMP: No, I don't. Absolutely. Do I owe her? She owes the country an apology.

What's her percentage? One one-thousandth?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the money that you told her you would donate?

TRUMP: You mean if she gets the nomination, in a debate, where I was going to have her tested? I'll only do it if I can test her personally. OK? That will not be something I enjoy doing either.


TAPPER: Perhaps more importantly, the Cherokee Nation seems to be upset about Warren's claims as well. "Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation even vaguely is inappropriate and wrong." They wrote in a statement, "Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage".

Out front now, CNN Political Commentator Joan Walsh, she's National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation and CNN Political Commentator and also Scott Jennings, former Adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. Joan, let me start with you, the Boston Globe looked into this, DNA test results reported somewhere between 1/64th and 1,1024 Native American. This would make her somewhere between 0.09 percent and 3 percent Native American. Do you think this is going to put this issue to bed?

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: I don't know that will put the issue to bed, Jake. But, you know, I find that Republicans are moving the goal post here. First, she had no ancestry. President said that multiple times. Now she doesn't have enough ancestry.

And I'm certainly not going to get into an argument with the head of the Cherokee Nation. The one thing I'll point out though is that she says in the video, that she's not claiming tribal membership, tribal citizenship, only tribes can do that. This is about authenticating her story. Which in a way her brothers do more than the DNA test, right? Because the brothers, two of whom are Republicans sit there and share her outrage that their family story of their dad not being able to marry their mom because she was part Indian, that that was passed down to them. That that was not a lie that something they took seriously, they valued, they lived with. So, that's what's powerful to me about that ad.

[19:20:08] TAPPER: So Scott, obviously Native Americans many of them not happy about her claim. Also I've heard a lot of Native American says they're not happy about how the President attacks her. Take a listen.


TRUMP: They've gone so far left, that they consider Pocahontas to be a rational person. It's crazy. Elizabeth Warren. I hope she runs.

Pocahontas, Pocahontas. I've got more Indian blood in me than Pocahontas, and I have none.

I call her Pocahontas, and that's an insult to Pocahontas.


TAPPER: Is he going to keep up with that, you think?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRES. G.W. BUSH: I have no doubt that he will. I mean, when the President says he has more Native American blood, he might be right. According to scientists in the New York Times, the average White European American has twice as much Native American blood as Senator Warren claims in her DNA test.

Look, the pitching staff for the Atlanta Braves has more of a claim to be Native Americans than Elizabeth Warren.

WALSH: I wouldn't go there.

JENNINGS: And she --

WALSH: I really wouldn't go there.

JENNINGS: Well, are you going to dial down on this?

WALSH: The Braves? Well, no. I'm just not going to bring up --


JENNINGS: The reality is she brought this on herself by filling out these forms over the years claiming to be something she is not. She is so desperate to be part of the failed identity politics that ruined the Democratic Party.

WALSH: That is so ridiculous.


WALSH: She filled it out in a self-identifying faculty guide, she never used it, you see -- I mean, the real story, the Boston Globe did over a month ago, she made all of her personnel files available. And the personnel files showed that she never once used her -- any kind of native ancestry to get a job, she never once filled out an application.

JENNINGS: Why write it down. Why put a recipe in the Cherokee cookbook. The Cherokee Nation is rightfully upset. The President said --

WALSH: They don't like the Atlanta Braves either.

JENNINGS: She owes the Cherokee tribe an apology for what she has done. This is ridiculous. And, look, this is where the Democratic Party is, they've got a plagiarizer a socialist, Spartacus, creepy porn lawyer and now Bizarro Pocahontas running for president. There's no way you need these people.


WALSH: You've got a serial sexual assaulter who is president. We'll see who's going to compete with Trump.

TAPPER: So let me ask you a question because President Trump in July said he would give a million dollars to charity if she took a test. Let's just play that sound.


TRUMP: Let's say I'm debating Pocahontas, right? I promise you I'll do this, I will take -- you know those kits they sell on television for $2. And we will say, I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian, you know.


TAPPER: So Senator Warren earlier today suggested the charity that she would like that million dollars to go to. Do you --

WALSH: Yes. It's a national indigenous women's center. So she picked a charity that would benefit native women. And of course the President is now lying, and frankly, again, you know, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a man who boasted on tape about grabbing women by the, you know what, is saying he's going to give her this DNA test personally. But it's so disgusting. It's such a violation of her bodily autonomy. It was a horrible thing to say with his wife standing there, but nothing surprising any more.

TAPPER: Do you think that he should pay the money, the million dollars? No, you don't?

JENNINGS: No, no, no. Because she was not telling the truth, this whole thing was created by Warren bringing this on herself. All of this scorn she's getting from the President, from the Cherokee Nation --

WALSH: You get to decide if she believes her mother or not, Scott Jennings? You get to decide that? You get to say what her ancestry is, and how she should feel about it. How she should feel about this story?

JENNINGS: So you can just make up a tribal heritage and claim you are something you are not? One 1/1,000? Is that what she's going to run on? I was 1/1,000.

(CROSSTALK) JENNINGS: It's crazy and it's going to sound crazy to anybody who is absorbed by the self-identity politics. This is --

WALSH: It's not about identity politics. She said she actually -- she started using this identity when her aunts were dying, when her mother was dying, when the women in her family who were connected to this lineage were leaving, when they were talking about the past, and that she actually put it in this booklet, so that she could be a mentor to other students. She never use it and --

TAPPER: That's all the time we have, thank you so much. Joan Walsh and Scott Jennings, appreciate it.

Out front next, the Cherokee Nation slamming Senator Elizabeth Warren's DNA test. I'll ask the tribe Secretary of State why he is calling it, quote, useless.

Plus, breaking news, a judge just tossing out Stormy Daniels lawsuit against President Trump. We'll have the details. Plus, Michael Avenatti's response. Stay with us.


[19:28:28] TAPPER: Let's go back to our top story tonight. CNN has learned that Saudi Arabia is preparing a report that will acknowledge Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in an interrogation by the Saudis. An interrogation gone wrong just despite the fact that the Saudis have claimed since he disappeared 13 days ago that they had nothing to do with his disappearance.

CNN's Clarissa Ward broke the story of this pending report. She's out front from Turkey. And Clarissa thanks for joining us. You say this version of the report could still change?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. I mean, one of our sources was saying that it is possible that Saudi Arabia may continue to shape or finesse or even possibly change the narrative that they're going to put out there, but we know that they have been working on this internal investigation. And we're hearing from two sources that they intend to concede publicly essentially what you have just said, that Jamal Khashoggi was killed while in custody, during an interrogation gone wrong.

It was supposed to be an attempt to abduct him from Turkey, presumably to take him to Saudi Arabia, but we don't know that for sure. And things went desperately wrong. We're hearing a little bit more about how exactly they went wrong. It appears that some operatives were not behaving as they should have been. That they were not behaving with transparency and clearance.

We're also hearing from these two sources that it is understood that they will be held responsible for their actions. What we don't know still are some of the most important questions, such as who ordered this operation, who knew about this. If people in the top corners of power within the kingdom did know about it, why is it --



[19:30:02] What we don't know still are some of the most important questions, such as who ordered this operation, who knew about this, if people in the top corners of power within the kingdom did know about it, why is it that they did not come out earlier and say they knew exactly where Jamal Khashoggi was.

Still a lot for the Saudis to explain, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Clarissa Ward in Turkey, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT now, Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana, he sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

So, what's your reaction to this news that the Saudis may admit that they killed Khashoggi, but they may say it was an accident during an interrogation, and they might even try to distance themselves from the team that did it?

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, this whole situation is absolutely outrageous. The American people, of course, will not stand by idly as people are murdering journalists, albeit Saudi Arabia has been a security partner of ours in the past. And my expectation is they will be in some form in the future.

But this pattern of reckless behavior is consistent with what we've seen from the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ever since he assumed his current position. Whether it's this particular situation as we continue to gather facts as the Trump administration is appropriately doing, by dispatching our secretary of state, or it's the civil war in Yemen, where the Saudis have involved themselves and they're involved in gross violations of human rights.

We have to get to the bottom of this, and we as American legislators and more broadly the federal government I think need to leave all things on the table. As we consider an appropriate response.

TAPPER: So, Senator, after President Trump said this morning that it could have been, quote, rogue killers, your Democratic colleague Senator Murphy of Connecticut, tweeted, quote, been hearing the ridiculous rogue killers theory was where the Saudis would go with this, absolutely extraordinary they were able to enlist the president of the United States as their PR agent to float it, unquote.

What's your response?

YOUNG: Yes, my response is, the Saudis' explanation of what's happened here has indeed evolved, to put it charitably. Just what they've done with respect to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, which is just south of them in Yemen, where you have roughly 8 million men, women and children who are on the verge of starvation. So, the sorts of things I think we need to consider as a response for starters -- and I don't believe any treasury secretary or officials should be headed to an investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week.

Secondarily, to the extent we're able to discover exactly who is responsible for this, we should apply sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act to those individuals. We in the Senate have already initiated the initial requirements in order to make that a possibility.

We should also think about removing all weapons sales to the government of Saudi Arabia, at least placing a pause on that. Now, generally, I'm in favor of weapons sales to security partners, but when our basic values, our fundamental values are being violated, we should suspend those.

The last things I want to throw out there in my limited time is indicate that I, working with Senator Shaheen, have empowered this administration to prevent further carnage in Yemen, which frankly is where their worst humanitarian violations have been occurring. We could withdraw United States support, that is the military, the weaponry we've been providing them, where they have been targeting, men, women and children with our targeted munitions, or the refueling assistance that we give to the administration.

There will be yet another milestone coming up in a couple weeks, where the Department of State owes us an explanation where they have certified good behavior as it were on the part of the Saudis, as they carry out their war in Yemen, and this is something we could envelope into the broader human rights problems, we see coming from the Saudi leadership.

TAPPER: Senator, before you go, I want to ask you. President Trump was asked in his "60 Minutes" interview about Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Let me play one exchange for you.


LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES", CBS NEWS: 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?


STAHL: What's not true?

TRUMP: 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, I that I can tell you.


TAPPER: The president also claimed that General Mattis was, quote, sort of a Democrat and talked about how he might leave the administration.

Do you think it would be a problem for the U.S. or for the Trump administration if Mattis goes?

YOUNG: No one's indispensable in the administration.

[19:35:01] I, of course, think General Mattis has served our nation honorably, in uniform, now as our secretary of defense. I think he's done an exceptional job.

I think that the president has been smart to value his counsel over recent months, and really ever since he's come into office. But, of course, the secretary of defense does serve at the pleasure of the president.

TAPPER: Senator Todd Young, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.

YOUNG: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, President Trump scoring a legal victory tonight. Why a judge just tossed Stormy Daniels lawsuit against the president.

Plus, the Cherokee Nation responds to Senator Elizabeth Warren's DNA test. I'll speak with the tribe's secretary of state about his message to Senator Warren and his message to President Trump.


TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you. A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels defamation lawsuit against President Trump. As you might recall, Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, claimed Trump defamed her when he called her allegations that she was threatened to stay quiet about their alleged affair a, quote, total con job.

Athena Jones joins us now.

Athena, what exactly does this ruling mean?


Well, this is certainly a victory for President Trump. That's what his lawyers are calling this.

Judge James Otero, the federal judge in California, ruling in his favor, saying that he was exercising his free speech, he was exercising his First Amendment rights, and that his tweet about -- the skeptical tweet about that story that Stormy Daniels told about being threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot, that that was an opinion that is protected and not actionable.

[19:40:13] Here is more on what Judge Otero said. He said -- wrote, he wrote: The court agrees with Mr. Trump's argument because the tweet in question constitutes rhetorical hyperbole, normally associated with politics and public discourse in the U.S. The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.

So, there you go. Judge Otero agreeing with the president's arguments -- lawyers' arguments that he was simply exercising his free speech when he made that tweet.

And we're already hearing, of course, from President Trump's legal team, Charles Harder sending a statement saying that no amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or by her lawyer can truthfully characterize this as anything but a total victory for President Trump -- Jake.

TAPPER: OK. What are we hearing from Stormy Daniels and her attorney, Michael Avenatti? Are they going to accept this? Or are they going to appeal?

JONES: Well, you may not be surprised to hear they are not going to accept this, and that they are going to appeal. Michael Avenatti sent out a tweet, calling this a limited ruling, stressing that these other actions that Stormy Daniels has going against President Trump are not affected, and that they plan to appeal, and sure enough, just a few minutes ago, we saw their notice of appeal. They've already filed it with that court out in California. So, this is not over -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Athena Jones, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

OUTFRONT next, secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation is my guest. Why he's calling for Senator Warren's DNA test -- why he's calling it inappropriate and wrong.

Plus, the race of the day. We're going to bring you the closest races to watch between now and election day. The midterm is only 22 days away. Tonight, we're looking at the Senate race in Arizona.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ever since Donald Trump got elected, everything that he represents, I can't -- it literally makes me sick.



[19:45:58] TAPPER: Tonight, the leaders of the Cherokee Nation are speaking out against Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign video, touting her Native American ancestry courtesy of a newly revealed DNA test. The tribe saying, in part, quote, a DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship.

OUTFRONT now, the secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation, Chuck Hoskin Jr.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Why do you find this offensive?


The problem with the DNA test is that it proves nothing of relevance to whether a person is a citizen of an Indian nation, a member of an Indian nation. DNA at best can give you some indicators of some markers that indicate that you're related to somebody who lived long ago that may have lived in North or South America, maybe native peoples of those continents.

It's irrelevant what it means to be a Native American in this country. That's based on a legal definition. Certainly, every tribe has that in common, that we have some legal basis for our citizenship that we determine, consistent with federal treaties.

It's just wholly unhelpful for any national leader to cling to DNA to determine -- or to establish that they're Native American in this country.

TAPPER: OK. So, just to play devil's advocate, she said in her statement that she's not claiming that she belongs to any nation, any tribal association, that this was just about the fact that she had been told as a child that she had Native American heritage, that she had a distant relative and she wanted to see if there was any truth to that. But, still, even that you object to?

HOSKIN: Well, because it real when I doesn't drill down to an issue of whether a person has Cherokee ancestry for example, or ancestry of any particular tribe. It's useful to connect yourself with some lineage, it's useful to determine paternity, it doesn't narrow down the scope of who your ancestors were to any identifiable tribe.

And unfortunately, we are at some times a marginalized people, people who are not understood by mainstream society. We have trouble sometimes in the courts. We have trouble sometimes in the Congress. We need to be clear about what it means to be a Native American and Indian in this country. And it comes down to a legal status that we frankly have fought long and hard for and are we're very proud of.

Look, what she's doing I think is a response to what the president of the United States has said, and in Indian country we're looking at Washington, D.C., and what we want is help, and we want leadership. It's not helpful to Indian country for this kind of debate to go back and forth, we have a lot of issues, we would rather the president of the United States and Senator Warren focus in on things that affect us, housing, and health care, clean water, clean air.

There's a lot of issues that we could use their leadership on. And we don't think it's useful to have them in a back and forth about DNA test, and name calling and that sort of thing.

TAPPER: I totally hear you on that. The Native American community has a lot of issues that deserve attention from leaders than whether one senator has that kind of blood, or has any heritage -- rather has any blood from any specific group.

Let me ask you a question, you brought up President Trump. I know you're offended by what Senator Warren did, and her past claims to heritage. How do you feel about President Trump calling her Pocahontas?

HOSKIN: Oh, she doesn't deserve it. And I think it's a term that he means in a derisive way. And it's not helpful to the national debate. I mean, Indian country needs leaders in Washington who understand our issues, not who get in a back and forth of name calling.

So, I don't think the president's particularly helpful in taking those shots at Elizabeth Warren. I don't think she's particularly helpful for going back and saying, look, I've got my DNA results, see what they show.

I think what they need to do is bare down and focus on those issues I touched on that affect Indian country. I mean, Indian country deserves leaders of the United States who will be champion of our issues, not fight back and forth and call each other names.

[19:50:03] So, I don't think the president was particularly helpful in that regard.

TAPPER: And before you go. This has been a very educating experience for a lot of us who don't know anything about this debate. Maybe Senator Warren is among them.

But let me say, I had no idea that Native Americans got so offended whether it's calling through test, DNA test, or even just family lure about having Native American history in their family. Why is that offensive? Explain to our viewers if you would -- if you would.

HOSKIN: Well, I certainly don't begrudge any American for having stories that they share, but when it comes down to claiming that you're a Native American, let's keep in mind the history of Native Americans in the history, a long and difficult history, at times some very dark chapters, many treaties that were broken.

But those treaties and those laws that remain in our own tribal statutes say what it means to be a Native American. We are sovereign nations. We ought to be taken serious in that regard. We ought to be respected in terms of what it means, for example, to be a Cherokee.

And so, any time somebody says, I am Cherokee and I have a family story that can prove it, I got great respect to family stories -- but look, when it comes down to are you a Cherokee citizen, that means something under the laws of this country and laws of the Cherokee nation.

TAPPER: All right. Chuck Hoskin, thank you so much. Appreciate your time tonight.

HOSKIN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: OUTFRONT next, the race of the day from now until the midterms. We're going to bring you the key races to watch tonight. We're going to take you to Arizona.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:5:48] TAPPER: There are only 22 days until the all important midterm elections and OUTFRONT is going to bring you a race to watch every single day until Election Day.

Tonight, we're going to take a look at one of the closest Senate races in the country, Arizona, where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally are facing off tonight in a key debate.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the neck in neck battle for Arizona Senate seat, voters like Denise Giannotti could hold the key to victory.


LAH (on camera): You're at a Democratic event though.


LAH: Why is that?

GIANNOTTI: Ever since Donald Trump got elected, everything that he represents, I can't -- literally physically makes me sick.

LAH (voice-over): She's now supporting Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, a congresswoman running a center left campaign, packing offices in Republican districts like the North Phoenix suburbs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to support the Democrats.

LAH: Sinema needs to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's either phone banking or canvassing.

LAH: Registered Republicans and independents outnumbered Democrats in Arizona, a state where the latest CNN poll finds a majority of voters disapprove of President Trump.

GIANNOTTI: It's so important, especially after the Kavanaugh thing that we get women in there.

LAH (on camera): Martha McSally is a woman. She's a barrier breaker. Why not go for her?

GIANNOTTI: No, no. She's a Donald Trump supporter.


LAH (voice-over): But it wasn't always that way.

TRUMP: I'll admit. I did try and (EXPLETIVE DELETED). She was married. LAH: Republican Martha McSally criticized President Trump after the

"Access Hollywood" tape, still won't say if she voted for him but now eager to share a stage with him.

(on camera): What role would you like the president to play in this last stretch?

MCSALLY: Well, he's going to come out, so we've been coordinating with the White House to come out to remind especially Republicans about what's at stake.


LAH (voice-over): National Republicans have been descending on Arizona, rallying for McSally. The goal, energize the base.

JAN BREWER (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARIZONA: We need you to deliver the vote. We've got to make sure they get to the polls and we've got to make sure they vote Republican.

LAH (on camera): Are you concerned that Republicans and independents won't be coming home to Martha?

BREWER: I think we're going to have a record, record turnout of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Victory on three.

LAH (voice-over): But McSally herself acknowledged that's a challenge.

CROWD: Victory!

MCSALLY: What's going on right now, right? If we just get Republicans to vote for Republicans, then we are going to win up and down the ticket.

LAH (on camera): You have even said we have to encourage Republicans to vote Republican. What do you mean like that?

MCSALLY: You registered Republican for a reason, right?

She's tried to pretend she's essentially right of center right now and she's not, because she's trying to win over Republicans. So, we need Republicans and right leaning independents to wake up, look at our records, look at and our past and make a good choice.

AD NARRATOR: But her radical record puts us all at risk.

LAH (voice-over): Republicans are hammering Sinema's past. She was once a green party anti-Iraq war activist, organizing 15 protests, working with one group in that in a flyer depicted a soldier as a skeleton.

But in Congress as a Democrat, she developed a moderate voting record. REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ), SENATE CANDIDATE FOR ARIZONA: You know,

Martha has chosen to run a negative campaign based on lies and distortion. That's her choice. She can do what she wants.

LAH (on camera): Republicans believe those negative ads are working because the race is tightening.

SINEMA: Well, we've continued to maintain our lead and I'm going to work every single day to earn every vote of every single Arizonan that I can.


LAH: And the two Senate candidates face off in their first and only debate in just about an hour. And this is going to be taking place before election day. And early voting here in the state of Arizona has already begun.

I want you to take a look through this glass what you're seeing here is a Maricopa County elections department. These employees, they are testing tabulators. There are more than 400 tabulators that they're going to be testing. This is going to take a week. Actual vote counting will begin in just about two weeks, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts right now.