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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Source Said Intel Officer With Ties to Crown Prince Oversaw Khashoggi Mission; Trump Likens Saudi Arabia Being Blamed for Washington Post Columnist's Disappearance as Another Case of Guilty Until Proven Innocent. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired October 16, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with breaking news. A new account of the disappearance of the U.S. based Saudi journalist, one involving his killing inside the consulate in Istanbul at the hands of a team organized by a high ranking officer with close ties to the inner circle of the kingdom's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. One of our source describes what may have been an accidentally lethal injection followed by what is described as an amateur cover-up, which included, according to another source, efforts to keep the Saudi government in the dark.

Yet even as chilling and damning as that sounds, the question remains, is that just a cover story for something far worse and potentially more damaging on the world stage? Was Jamal Khashoggi murdered by a hit team and then as a Turkish official told us today, was his body cut into pieces to be disposed of in ways as yet unknown or unrevealed? There is certainly a lot to raise suspicion.

Remember, yesterday, CNN saw a cleaning crew enter the consulate before Turkish investigators went in. Remember also that Turkish investigators once they got inside said they found evidence of some kind of cleanup, including painted over surfaces and toxic materials, unquote. As you know, the Turks also say they have audio and video evidence of what went down, including Khashoggi's death.

Also today, they released passport scans of seven Saudis they suspect of being part of an alleged 15-member Saudi hit team which is reported to have included an autopsy specialist with a bone saw. Any or all of those things argue against this new botched abduction and amateur cover-up story.

Whatever the truth, though, and we don't know at this hour, President Trump appears to be ready to cut the Saudis plenty of sack, speaking with the "Associated Press" today, the president compared the situation to allegations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He said and I'm quoting, here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that.

We just went through that with justice Kavanaugh, and he was innocent all the way. He also told the "A.P." said rogue killers may have been responsible was informed by what he called his feeling when speaking with the Saudi monarch.

And here's what he told Fox Business News earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Turkey's looking at it very strongly. We're all looking at it together, but Turkey and Saudi Arabia are looking at it very strongly. And it depends whether or not the king or the crown prince knew about it, in my opinion. Number one, what happened, but whether or not they knew about it. If they knew about it, that will be bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: If they knew, he says. Now, this new account of Khashoggi's disappearance leaves open the possibility they did not. And make of that what you will.

But as you do, remember, it dovetails neatly to what the president this morning signaled was a willingness to believe. And remember just yesterday, the president said something very similar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge of what took place with regard to as he said his Saudi Arabian citizen. I have asked, and he firmly denied that.

REPORTER: Did you believe his denial?

TRUMP: Excuse me. Mike Pompeo is leaving literally within an hour or so. He's heading to Saudi Arabia. We are going to leave nothing uncovered.

With that being said, 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?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Who knows, he says. Rogue killers.

Keeping him honest, he probably does know, either through Turkish intelligence assets, through other allies or by way of our own capabilities. We the public may not know, but the commander in chief likely does at this point.

Yet, even based on our own limited knowledge, the notion of rogue killers or some accidental murder, it doesn't really add up. For starters, the two are contradictory. Rogue killers and overzealous interrogators. Now, if they were interrogators, they would be there with the kingdom's blessing on the kingdom's orders presumably as former CIA director Michael Hayden told us last night with the knowledge of crown prince MBS, as he's known. He is, after all, the de facto head of an absolute monarchy who is

known to take a direct interest in security matters. And this would have been a high profile target. Now, if on the other hand, if as the president speculates, Khashoggi was murdered by what he described as rogue killers, were they let into the consulate by rogue members of the security team? Were they given rooms to do the deed by other rogue officials?

Did rogue intelligence officers posted to the consulate look the other way while a murder was committed on the premises while a human being was screaming and perhaps being dismembered, being butchered?

[20:05:08] Did a rogue cleaning crew then come in followed by rogue painters? Were these rogue cleaning crews? This latest account we're now being given, it doesn't answer those questions, frankly, it only adds more questions.

More now on that from CNN's Clarissa Ward who helped break the development and who joins us from Ankara with the very latest.

So, what more have you learned about this operation, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the most crucial component that we're learning about is the idea of who allegedly directed it. Three sources telling us this was a former military officer, someone high up in intelligence, someone close to the inner circle of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince.

And I think that's really the crucial point here, Anderson. The person who ordered this operation is close to the inner circle of the crown prince. Therefore, it becomes much more difficult to believe that this kind of an operation, which is bold and brazen even by Saudi Arabian standards, could be carried out without at least a sort of tacit nod of approval from the top.

Now, we're also hearing from these sources that the operation went wrong. One source saying that apparently, the operatives tried to tranquilize Mr. Khashoggi. They gave him an injection with a tranquilizer. The presumption being there was some kind of a reaction or it went wrong. Mr. Khashoggi died.

They then made the determination the best course of action was to carve his body into pieces, though we do not yet know what happened to those pieces. And we're also hearing from our sources that the leader of the operation then made the determination that the best course of action was to try to cover it up.

We heard that substantiated as well by President Erdogan himself today, saying there appeared to be areas that had been newly painted inside the Saudi consulate. You, of course, mentioned the infamous cleaners who arrived before investigators even got on the scene.

And there's just a broadening sense of skepticism about the Saudi narrative, which although is not official yet, seems to be based on the idea that this was some kind of botched operation, rogue operation. And that just doesn't dovetail with the reality of the way the Saudi power structure works. The reality is that in order to pull off an operation of this brazenness, you would ideally need to have some approval from the very top, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, the idea that some rogue killers would be able to just waltz into the Saudi consulate, you know, get a couple rooms, and torture somebody, ultimately dismembering them and then leave and then they would clean it up, others would clean it -- I mean, the whole thing -- that doesn't seem to make much sense. And even the idea of just being an interrogation, I can understand why a doctor, you know, doctors are often present during interrogations, but a surgeon, a forensic surgeon with a bone saw, that just seems like an odd detail or an odd piece of equipment to bring to something if you're not planning on sawing something or somebody up.

WARD: Indeed. And why would the operation be taking place in the first place? Why would they be interrogating and potentially trying to abduct Jamal Khashoggi from Turkey to Saudi Arabia if this wasn't something of vital national security importance? If they didn't see this or if they didn't see Khashoggi as a dissident who posed some kind of existential threat, why wouldn't they have gone to the top?

Also, another important detail coming out from Turkish authorities today, Anderson, they shared with CNN passport scans of seven of the men who were part of this operation, lo and behold, one of them has been seen on state television alongside Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Everything seems to be pointing to the idea that the men who were involved with this operation, indeed, the men who organized it or the man, I should say, who organized it, had a close relationship, were often in close proximity with the man who is the de facto leader already of this country.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, appreciate the details.

Now, to that point, more new reporting on just how closely connected the alleged killers are to MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, by extension, the level of deniability he has. It comes in the pages of "The New York Times." David Kirkpatrick is on the byline. He's also the author of "Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East".

David, what can you tell us about these four suspects and their connections to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, NEW YORK TIMES INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's really five suspects of interest here. Four of them, we have identified as security men, essentially. They travel with Crown Prince Mohammed. So basically, these are members of his security detail who Turkish officials have also said flew in to Istanbul and participated in what they say is the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

In addition, the fifth one, the now famous forensics doctor, who brought his bone saw to the events in the consulate with Mr. Khashoggi. COOPER: The notion the president put forward yesterday, this was done

by, quote, rogue killers, does that make any sense given what you're learning? If the close security personnel of the crown prince are there, and you know, the top forensic surgeon is showing up with a bone saw, flying in on a private jet, that doesn't sound like a rogue operation.

KIRKPATRICK: It becomes harder and harder to believe, because when you realize that these guys, at least one of these guys we have photographic evidence that he is with the crown prince again and again in city after city. You know, looking on like a goon, really. And so you have to picture these guys saying, hey boss, I'm going to be gone for a few days. I'm going to go to Istanbul to take care of that thing with Khashoggi.

How does he not know? It's very hard to believe, yet that's what we're told the Saudis are going to try to suggest.

COOPER: And this forensics doctor, I mean, typically, I don't think one brings a forensics doctor to an interrogation. Yes, sometimes people want to have a doctor present at an interrogation, but not one with a bone saw.

KIRKPATRICK: Yes. Yes, you might think, well, you would bring along a doctor in case the person you're questioning needs medical care. But this doctor's specialty is people who are already dead and in fact, their dismemberment.

So, it is strange. As you say, he's a high-ranking figure in the Saudi medical establishment. He may have been the foremost forensic specialist in all of Saudi Arabia. So, not just any old person in the security services could recruit him for a mission like this.

COOPER: Can you just explain what exactly the connections are between these suspects and the crown prince? You said that several of them you have identified as close -- like a close protection security detail that travels with the crown prince?

KIRKPATRICK: Yes, that's right. And we have done that in different ways.

The most interesting one is Mr. Mutreb, who we have found in photographs with the crown prince. You know, he's getting off planes with him in Paris and Madrid. And he's in Houston and Boston and at the United Nations when the crown prince is also there. Interestingly enough, a few years ago, he was listed as a diplomat at the Saudi embassy in London, probably providing cover for an intelligence operative of some kind.

Others, we have corroborated in other ways. One through an individual human source, a professional in France who knew him as a member of the security detail. Another one from news reports in Saudi Arabia that described his promotion in the royal guard. And a third through a combination of things, including a kind of a database of phone numbers and phone identifications in Saudi Arabia.

COOPER: It's fascinating. David Kirkpatrick, I appreciate it. Thank you, David.

KIRKPATRICK: Thanks a lot.

COOPER: Well, now, how all this new reporting and all these new developments are being received at the White House, CNN's Jim Acosta is there for us tonight.

So, Jim, the president tweeting and talking about Jamal Khashoggi a lot today. What's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. Perhaps the most profound thing that happened today in terms of how the White House was responding to all of this is when the president spoke with the "A.P." earlier this afternoon. And the president was asked about what he thinks in terms of how the Saudis have handled all this, and the president is essentially leaping to the defense of the Saudi kingdom, saying here we go again.

In his words to the "Associated Press", with you're guilty until proven innocence. The president went on to say, Anderson, during that interview with the "A.P." that he sees the Saudis as sort of the same way he sees his Supreme Court nominee, now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh who faced allegations of sexual assault. The president essentially saying that the Saudis can relate to Brett Kavanaugh, however you're supposed to make sense of that, I suppose that's up to the viewer, but that's how the president made the comparison.

He also said he spoke with the Saudis earlier today. The Saudi crown prince, and tweeted that the Saudis are totally denying all this. Once again accepting their denials.

COOPER: The president spoke to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia today. Do we know much more about that conversation? Because also, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Riyadh today, and then was heading to Ankara tomorrow.

[20:15:02] ACOSTA: That's right. The president tweeted he spoke with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while he was with the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, there in Riyadh. And that essentially what Mohammed bin Salman reiterated to Mike Pompeo, he reiterated to the president. The president says Mohammed bin Salman told him that he had no knowledge of these events that took place at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Anderson, what's more is we should point out, Mike Pompeo told reporters, according to a read-out of the secretary of state's comments, I think this is interesting. He said during each of today's meetings with Saudi leadership strongly denied knowledge of what took place in their consulate. And, Anderson, the secretary of state said my assessment from these meetings is that there is a serious commitment to determine all of the facts and insure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia's senior leaders.

It is rather breathtaking that the secretary of state would make that kind of comment, Anderson, given the fact the Saudis have been lying about all of this for the past week and a half to two weeks. Keep in mind, they were putting out statements as we talked about, denying any responsibility whatsoever, having any knowledge or any ties to what happened whatsoever. That is starting to fall apart as a story for the Saudi government.

And the secretary of state when he was down there appeared to be taking their word for it. It is starting to sound like no matter what the Saudi government says, this White House, this administration is sort of taking their word for it. Anderson, we should point out, we don't go back to the comparison of Brett Kavanaugh.

That's not where a lot of Republicans are on Capitol Hill. Lindsey graham, who was onboard with the president on Brett Kavanaugh, is not when it comes to the Saudi government. He wants to see the Saudis give more answers than what they're giving right now, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, appreciate it, from the White House.

ACOSTA: You bet.

COOPER: Again, our breaking news raises the question of whether this new account of Khashoggi's disappearance is a true one or a cover story. And the president's handling of this is, of course, a subject unto itself.

Here to talk about all of it is Mike Doran, senior director of the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, former CIA officer Bob Baer, and "Washington Post" columnist Max Boot, recent author of the new book, "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

Max, it seems like there's two separate issues here. There's what the U.S. should do about this, which maybe we'll get to a little bit in a moment, but just in terms of what actually occurred and trying to ascertain what actually occurred, the Saudis, their initial story clearly was not true. I mean, they were saying this man left the consulate and they had no knowledge of what happened to him after that. It seems like that has changed.

Do you buy this notion, if their story is going to be this was an interrogation that just went bad, that a guy died while being interrogated, does that make much sense to you given what we know thus far about who some of these people involved were?

MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, I mean, this cover-up doesn't make any sense, Anderson. It's clear that the Saudis have been lying like crazy. And they're trying to figure out how to get out of it, and they're floating these lame cover stories claiming it was an interrogation that got out of control, as if it's okay to kidnap and torture a journalist and that somehow makes it just fine or claiming it was rogue killers when we know that the people who were involved as was just being reported are actually very close to the crown prince, MBS.

The only thing that's more incredible than the Saudi cover stories is the fact that Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo are pretending to believe what the Saudis are saying. I mean, this is the most embarrassing appeasement of a dictator since the Helsinki summit in July.

COOPER: Mike, in your opinion, is it possible that the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is the power, who had detained people in the Ritz-Carlton, you know, Saudi officials, even some members of the royal family, for some time, would not have had knowledge if in fact some people involved in his close protection detail, one of the top forensic surgeons in the country, who is affiliated with the government, was involved in this?

MICHAEL DORAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: I would find it unlikely.

But I would also like to introduce a note of skepticism about everything that we have heard, because most of our information about what happened there is coming from the Turkish security services. And Turkey has very bad relations with Saudi Arabia, and is clearly using this to gain some advantage over them.

I think the Saudis probably played into their hands in this regard. But I don't think we know exactly what happened inside the consulate.

COOPER: I think that's absolutely true. And you know, some of the stuff is published in a pro-Turkish government newspaper, reporting about the, you know, the Apple Watch.

Bob, you discounted that early on as being probably some sort of cover story for perhaps Turkish intelligence bugging the consulate.

Bob, the reporting from "The New York Times" that at least several of the suspects were part of the crown prince's entourage, is there any scenario in your opinion under when the crown prince wouldn't know what happened?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Anderson, no. He runs the country, he runs the police, the ministry of interior, the security services. Anybody who is not loyal to him has been removed. There are no separate power centers, including in the national guard.

He clearly, I mean, it's almost certain that he ordered this, whether it went wrong or not, we still don't know. I agree with Mike, but what we do know is the evidence so far that they have produced, the pictures of the planes arriving, the painting of the consulate, the 15 that come in, the Saudis have provided no exculpatory evidence to suggest these people were tourists, as they're claiming. That's just silly.

I mean, seriously, Anderson, you don't get better evidence than this, and for the president to say it's a rogue operation, frankly, he's covering up a murder and so is Pompeo. And we should worry about that because if this goes without any, you know, punishment of Saudi Arabia, we're going to see other dictators doing the same thing, whether it's Russia or any other country.

COOPER: Mike, do you think this is covering up a murder?

DORAN: I think that other countries are doing things like this. We know what the Russians did in Britain.

And the most important thing for us is to think about what our strategic interests are and where we want this thing to come out in the end. And I would hate if we rushed in a fit of righteousness and took action against Saudi Arabia that endangered our larger strategic interests in the region. And the number one interest is, in my view, containing Iran.

We've got the sanctions on Iran coming due on November 4th. We need the Saudis to help us substitute their oil for Iranian oil around the globe. There are massive interests involved here, and to rush on the basis of this horrible event, and I don't mean to suggest it isn't horrible, and destabilize Saudi Arabia or imperil our relations with them, I think would be a mistake.

COOPER: Max, what about that? Devil's bargains are made all the time in the world of real politics around the world. Is this a case where the larger interests of our country and Saudi Arabia mandate turning a blind eye to this?

BOOT: No, we should not sacrifice Jamal Khashoggi on the altar of U.S./Saudi relations. The Trump administration has already made a grave error by giving MBS, a young man with very little knowledge and very little judgment in how he conducts affairs, basically a blank check to do whatever he wants, including kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon, including bombing Yemen, including blockading Qatar.

The crown prince has made a lot of mistakes. We need to hold him accountable because it's pretty clear he was responsible for this operation. It doesn't mean we're going to break with Saudi Arabia, but remember, MBS has only been crown prince since last year. There are a lot of princes who could take his place who are not implicated in this murder.

And if Donald Trump does not insist there's some accountability for this murder of an American resident, an American journalist, that will send a very grave message to the world. It sends, A, a message that the United States is abdicating its moral authority, and B, it actually sends a message of weakness on the part of Donald Trump because he is re-enforcing the message that he bullies the weak, people like Stormy Daniels or Christine Blasey Ford, but at the same time, he simpers and cowers before the strong, whether it's Kim Jong- un or Vladimir Putin or MBS.

That is not a message the president of the United States should be sending, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to pick up this conversation. We have to take a quick break. We'll also get reaction to the breaking news from Khashoggi's editor, what colleagues at "The Washington Post" make of the latest reporting, and the worse, some pretty ugly words between President Trump and Stormy Daniels. What each is now calling the other, ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:28:19] COOPER: Our breaking news, the new account of Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and presumed killing. Three sources familiar with the case say that it was intended to be a Saudi mission to interrogate him and possibly abduct him. That something went wrong, he died, and it was poorly covered up.

Now, earlier today, CBS News' Errol Barnett found himself on a flight with Jared Kushner, who reportedly has a close relationship with the Saudi crown prince, tried to ask him about the Saudi royal family's denial of the involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, and that didn't go well.

(BEGIN VDEO CLIP)

ERROL BARNETT, CBS NEWS: Errol Barnett with CBS. Any comment on --

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Those were Secret Service agents blocking Barnett's phone. People at "The Washington Post" want answers as well, where Jamal Khashoggi worked.

Joining us for reaction to the breaking news is his editor at "The Post", global opinions editor, Karen Attiah.

Karen, does it make any sense to you given all this new information, why the United States isn't taking any real action on this yet or why the administration seems to be at least publicly buying Saudi Arabia's version of events here?

KAREN ATTIAH, WASHINGTON POST GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR: You know, all we can at least hope for and push for here at "The Post" is that the administration take this seriously and that the administration push their Saudi counterparts, adviser their Saudi counterparts to give us the truth and give us the truth as quickly as possible.

COOPER: In terms of the reporting that the Saudis suspected Khashoggi as having ties to Qatar, and that may have been why they wanted to interrogate him or at least in part, to your knowledge, did he have any ties with Qatar?

ATTIAH: I mean, to my knowledge, I don't know about that. I think that ultimately still this is a case of a journalist who all he wanted to do is to write the truth as he saw it, who was -- who went into a Saudi consulate and never came back.

Regardless of views, regardless of ties, anything that he wrote, at least with me at "The Washington Post," was patriotic to Saudi Arabia. Was -- evoked a sense of wanting Saudi Arabia to be better. Was a man who wanted to advise the young Saudi crown prince. He loved his country.

So, you know, reports of smearing him as some sort of traitor I think that is grossly unfair and distracts from the question of what happened to him and what we're demanding from the Saudis as far as answers and truth.

COOPER: And certainly just in terms of, you know, what the Saudis have said and may say, I mean, you know, we have this reporting from several sources that they may say that this was an interrogation gone bad.

I mean, even if this -- if that becomes a story that they were trying to interrogate him and bring him back to Saudi Arabia, that in itself is just -- I mean, even if it's true, it's just startling that they would be grabbing somebody who enters their consulate, interrogating that person with this plan, and then trying to bring them back to Saudi Arabia.

ATTIAH: Right. I find this notion that that is somehow more acceptable. I find it ridiculous and still frankly a bit disgusting. It's still kidnapping. And if we say interrogation, if the interrogation was so violent that it causes death, I mean, that sounds like torture and that's still a flagrant violation of international law.

And you know, for an interrogation to have a team, to have a bone saw present during an interrogation or to find a team with an autopsy forensics expert, you know, to me, doesn't sound like a team that expected to bring back somebody alive.

So -- but regardless, I think a horrific crime happened to Jamal Khashoggi. And we need answers. We're fighting like hell here for answers.

COOPER: Karen, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

ATTIAH: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to go back now to Mike Doran, Bob Baer, and Max Boot.

You know, Bob, Mike made, you know, a valid point, which is there are, you know, strategic concerns. There are national security concerns. There's a relationship -- larger relationship with Saudi Arabia. Max was saying, you know, something has to be done. Where do you stand on this? If we do essentially -- if the U.S. essentially, you know, turns aside and accepts whatever the Saudis come up with, is that acceptable?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, first of all, I agree with Mike. Saudi stability should be foremost in our national security interests. If that country went under, it would be a complete disaster for us and the world and the gulf and everybody else.

The royal family, there is no substitute. No one else can govern that country. What worries me is you have a king who is clearly incompetent. If he let his son go ahead with this, he either has Alzheimer's or he's got some sort of dementia. And a son that doesn't know what he's doing.

Arresting the Lebanese prime minister, a head of state, and holding him for two weeks and seizing his property is a flagrant violation of international law. It's Saudis. It's way out of their character. So we have two people on the throne who are very, very dangerous.

And if I were sitting in the White House, I would find a way to talk to Saudis into getting rid of them. This has happened before in the '60s when a king lost his mind. And King Faisal came in and took over and removed him. And I think, frankly, that's what needs to happen now.

COOPER: Mike, what do you think about that? Essentially separating, you know, relationship with Saudi Arabia from relationship with MBS?

MICHAEL DORAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: No, I think that history has taught us that it's dangerous for the United States to think that it can micromanage the states of the Middle East. And we start reaching in to other countries and saying who can rule and who can't rule, we're going to get a lot of consequences that we don't intend.

So I would counsel caution first. I would want to find out what exactly happened and then I would want to try to work with the MBS and the Saudi government to get a more stable policy process and to get a more reliable partner.

[20:35:00] Part of the reason that they have become somewhat erratic is that they're in a completely new environment with the rise of Iran all across the region which was, we have to be honest, facilitated by the policy of the United States.

So we have kind of created this unstable environment around them and we're not there giving them the guiding hand we have in the past. I think we have to understand the broader strategic context here.

COOPER: Max -- go ahead.

MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Go ahead, Anderson.

COOPER: No, I was just going to ask you -- I mean, just understanding the broader strategic context, as Mike was talking about. There's other concerns that if there are no ramifications for this, then it gives other autocratic rulers kind of encouragement to, you know, kidnap reporters in their consulates and torture people and the U.S. isn't going to do anything about it.

BOOT: That's exactly right, Anderson. Donald Trump has basically given every tyrant on the planet a license to kill. I mean, just on Sunday in the "60 Minutes" interview, he was asked about what Vladimir Putin does, which includes trying to kill dissidents in Great Britain and Donald Trump basically said, "Well, it's not in our country." So, you know, he doesn't care. This basically gives a license to the worst elements in the world. And I think it's contrary to American interests.

And I would cite to you the example of Ronald Reagan who did not look the other way when American allies and the Philippines or El Salvador or South Korea were committing human rights abuses. When there is a People Power Revolution against Marcos in '86, Reagan sided with the protesters. And I think that's something we need to keep in the case of Saudi Arabia.

We can keep our alliance with Saudi Arabia, but I agree with Bob. I don't think -- I don't see how MBS stays as crown prince after this erratic, reckless, and inhumane behavior.

COOPER: Max Boot, Mike Doran, Bob Baer, appreciate it. Good discussion.

President Trump did not have anything on his public schedule today, and one of the first tweets of the day was an attack against Stormy Daniels after a judge's decision yesterday to dismiss her defamation lawsuit against him. We'll tell you what the President said, what she said, and the fallout just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:29] COOPER: So, a quick viewer alert. This next segment contains some graphic language. So if you have kids in the room, you might ask them to step out for a bit. It has to do with the President and Stormy Daniels, the woman who claims she had sex with Donald Trump months after his wife, Melania Trump, had given birth to their son. The President denies having an affair.

Yesterday, a defamation lawsuit against President Trump brought by Daniels and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, was dismissed by a federal judge.

So early this morning, the President went on the attack over Twitter, "Federal judge throws out Stormy Daniels lawsuit versus Trump. Trump is entitled to full legal fees," he wrote, citing Fox News. He went on. "Great." He continued, "Now I can go after Horseface and her third rate lawyer in the Great State of Texas. She will confirm the letter she signed. She knows nothing about me, a total con."

The President of the United States called her horseface. Now, before I tell you how Ms. Daniels responded, you should know that she recently released a book in which she details quite graphically her alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, with some very personal descriptions of him, with that out of the way, here it goes.

She responded, "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present your president. In addition to his, umm, shortcomings, he has demonstrated his incompetence, hatred of women, and lack of control on Twitter again and perhaps a penchant for bestiality. Game on, Tiny." Happy Tuesday evening.

So just tonight in that A.P. interview, the President was asked about the use of his word, horseface. He told the A.P., "You can take it any way you want."

Joining me is a former adviser to several presidents who didn't have Twitter, David Gergen, and USA Today Columnist, Kirsten Powers.

So Kirsten, when the President says you can take the horseface comment any way you want, I'm not sure what other way there is to take it other than as an insult. KIRSTEN POWER, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Right. It's obviously supposed to be an insult. And I think a lot of people would say, "Well, he insults a lot of people." He, you know, makes up names for men. You know, low energy Jeb or whatever it is. But I think the attacks on women's appearances, which he has a long history of, is different.

And it's different because men are not as affected by attacks on their appearance because men are not as valued for their appearances as women are in our society. And so it's a very -- it's a much more harmful personal attack for a woman to receive that kind of attack. And I think that he knows that. And I think that it's particularly humiliating in a way that it isn't for a man.

And so you can look at a Stormy Daniels and say, well, she doesn't have a horseface. She's actually a beautiful woman, but -- so what if she did? You know, that's the point. The point is you don't have to be a beautiful woman, but in the world that Donald Trump lives in, you actually do have to be a beautiful woman. And if you aren't a beautiful woman, then you're not valuable and you don't matter.

COOPER: David, I mean, did you ever think you'd see the President of the United States call a woman who he allegedly had an affair with horseface? I mean, it's --

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I've never recalled anybody calling anybody horseface. I think it's a sad night, an embarrassing night for the country, Anderson. First, we've got this cover-up that's emerging with regard to the Saudi situation and now this craziness, yet another insult.

I don't know what the totals are, but I think that he has now publicly insulted just about as many women as have accused him of sexual misconduct. It's a close call, which bucket has more people in it, but he continues to do this. I agree with Kirsten, absolutely, that he goes after looks more than anything else, but he also talks about people's low I.Q., and he did that against a minority woman.

You know, he talks about people bleeding and where that's coming from and, you know, sort of like, what -- sort of gasping. And, you know, you have to encourage people to leave.

I don't know there's any -- this is just what -- where we are as people. I don't know that he's ever going to change. He is what he is and it's embarrassing. But some people still like him because he's got a good economy. You know, it's a very, very odd trade-off these days.

COOPER: Yes. And I do just want to play some of the things that candidate Trump has said, particularly about women that some of them David referenced. Let's just play this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. She would not be my first choice, that I can tell you. You don't know. That would not be my first choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Also said about Carly Fiorina, "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?" Retweeted a photo comparing Heidi Cruz to Melania Trump in an unfavorable way.

[20:45:08] It's -- I mean, you know, Kirsten, people -- it's become normal that this happens and this is what the President of the United States does. And there are plenty of people, you know, at a rally who laugh and applaud and are right there with it, women included.

POWERS: Yes, yes. It's typical. It's not normal. But yes, it's become something that we have become used to hearing. And I think that the reason you see just -- it's not just men who are laughing at it, there are women that laughing at it, is because of what I was saying before.

I think that this is very engrained in our consciousness and the way we think about things, the idea that women's highest value comes from the way that they look or the idea that they're not as smart as men so they have a low I.Q. or if you're a racist person, that you believe that a black person has a lower I.Q.

He is tapping into things that people think. And unfortunately, people are going to get mad at me for saying that Trump reporter -- Trump supporters think this way. Well, all I can say is why are you laughing at this? Why are you supporting this? Because people who find it totally repugnant and recognize it for what it is don't support him and don't want to be associated with him.

GERGEN: Well, it's the lack of manners. It's a basic lack of manners.

COOPER: Yes. David Gergen, Kirsten Powers, appreciate it. Thank you.

POWERS: Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Back to our breaking news of the missing "Washington Post" columnist. President Trump claims he has no financial interest in Saudia Arabia and no reason to be sympathetic to them. We'll check out that claim when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:21] COOPER: Returning to our breaking news on Jamal Khashoggi's fate in President Trump's complaint that the Saudis are being sued guilty until proven innocent. Earlier today, the President tweeted about what some have reported as a complicating factor in this whole affair, namely his multimillion dollar financial ties over the years to various Saudi citizens. But here's what the President tweeted, "For the records, I have no financial interest in Saudi Arabia or Russia for that matter. Any suggestions that I have is just more fake news of which there is plenty."

No financial interest in Saudi Arabia is the key line there. What he doesn't mention is the millions he's gotten from more than a handful of Saudis. Here's CNN Business and Political Correspondent Cristina Alesci.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend 40 million, 50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Trump's financial ties with the Saudis date back to the '90s. In 1991 when one of his casino projects was faltering under a mountain a 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.

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

ALESCI: Trump's Manhattan hotel on Central Park West saw its revenue increase during the first quarter of 2018, in part because of a visit from Saudi crown prince, Mohammed 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, "Due to our close industry relationships, we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers."

Of course, the public doesn't know the full extent of Trump's business ties to the kingdom, because he has not released his tax returns or other financial information.

NOAH BOOKBINDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: It would certainly be very easy for foreign officials or people close to them to drop a whole lot of money without us knowing about it unless or until we see the business records and conceivably tax returns as well.

ALESCI: We do know from his 2016 financial disclosure, Trump had 144 registered companies with dealings in more than two dozen countries. Eight of them were Saudi related companies. All of those companies have since been dissolved.

TRUMP: The terrible situation --

ALESCI: As the cries for the President to take action against Saudi Arabia grow louder, Americans are left to wonder what's driving Trump's decisions.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Cristina, what is the Trump organization saying about this?

ALESCI: A Trump spokesperson responded in a statement to me, Anderson, saying "Like many global real estate companies, we have explored opportunities in many markets, that said, we don't have any plans for expansion into Saudi Arabia."

But, Anderson, when I pressed further and asked about Saudi purchases of Trump condos or hotel stays, I did not get a response. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Cristina Alesci, appreciate it. Thanks. I want to check in with Chris. He is working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We got good stuff for you tonight, my friend, Anderson. Even you're going to have to smile for there it is. So we're going to be talking about what's going on with Saudi Arabia and the President's disposition toward it that it's like Kavanaugh, he's guilty until proven innocent? Why would he say that? Why would he call a woman horse face? What is going on?

And, of course, the big headline about Donald Trump, our president, saying that Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, lied. What an interesting position when he has to know, Anderson, I'm a command away from playing a tape that proves that he is lying. And we'll do that tonight.

COOPER: All right. I'll be listening, five minutes from now. Chris, thanks very much.

CUOMO: Heavy endorsement.

COOPER: Yes, I'm there. You had me. You had me at hello.

Up next, more serious stuff. The death toll from Hurricane Michael, it has risen in Florida. We want to tell you about, just ahead the very latest from a region where more than 130,000 customers are still without power right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:59:11] COOPER: Some more grim news out of Florida tonight to tell you about what authority said. The death toll there has now reached 19 as more people continued to be discovered in the wake of Hurricane Michael, discovered dead. A dozen of those alone were in Bay County which took the brunt of the storm.

Across four southern states, 29 people are now confirmed dead. Most of the residents of hard hit Mexico beach haven't yet been able to return to see what's left of their homes. That's going to change tomorrow when residents are going to be allowed back in. More than 138,000 customers are still without power in Florida.

Quick reminder, here's your chance to pick the stories that we cover. You can join us for "Full Circle," which is our interactive daily newscast airing on Facebook. You can see it week nights at 6:25 p.m. Eastern at facebook.com/andersoncooperfullcircle. If you haven't watched it yet, check it out. It's a lot of fun.

The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris who got a great show. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now. Chris?

CUOMO: Anderson, thank you very much. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time."