Return to Transcripts main page


High-Stakes Mystery Over Missing Journalists Unravels for The Saudis; Turkish Official Says Journalist Was Cut into Pieces and Removed from The Consulate; Trump's Offensive "Horse Face" Tweet May Be A Distraction. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 16, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[15:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. We've been with this gruesome new detail that affirm that US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi is no longer alive. A Turkish official tells CNN his body was cut into pieces after his death. The disturbing news comes after CNN first reported the Saudis are prepared to admit that Khashoggi was killed by accident during a botched interrogation. At least that is according to two sources to CNN. Now the world waits to see how the United States will respond.

A senior adviser to President Trump says how the President reacts quote, "may be the most consequential decision of his presidency." Today the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, met with Saudi's king and crown prince. It's clear back here in the U.S. that Republicans are not listening to what the President is saying on Saudi Arabia. Just a day ago Trump said that the king and the crown prince deny involvement. I want you to listen it Lindsey Graham talking about the crown prince known as MBS.


LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in a consulate in turkey. To expect me to ignore it -- there's a difference between a country and a figure. The MBS figure is toxic and can never be a world leader on the world stage. Saudi Arabia, MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.


BALDWIN: With me now, Sam Kiley in Saudi Arabia and Clarissa Ward, who broke this story in Turkey. Clarissa, we know Khashoggi was last seen 14 days before now walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. What have the investigators, the forensic team, what have they found?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what a difference a day makes, Brooke. Just 24 hours ago all the noises were positive coming from the Turkish side, the Saudis were cooperating, getting access to that consulate. Now we are starting to hear more shocking details of this truly gruesome crime, a Turkish official confirming to CNN that Jamal Khashoggi's body was carved up into little pieces. Still, though, there's a lot of questions. What precipitated that? How was he killed? Who ordered the killing? Investigators spent nine hours last night at that consulate. We heard President Erdogan talking about potentially toxic materials being found and made reference to new painting being done in the building. One can infer there was some kind of hasty cover-up job by the Saudis. There's definitely a sense that Turkish officials are getting impatient. What they want to hear is a definitive statement from Saudi Arabia about what happened, how it happened and why it was allowed to happen, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Perhaps some of those answers may come from the Saudis. We wait. Sam, the question to you is we know secretary Pompeo is in Riyadh meeting with MBS. Do you know anything about what was discussed between these two?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Only, Brooke, insofar as the readout on Pompeo's people on his meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman said he had in private been direct and candid, which is diplomatic for pretty straight talking. In terms of the official announcement coming from his meeting after 15 minutes with the king, nearly 40 minutes with MBS, there was a standard statement coming from the United States team saying they were looking for a timely and transparent resolution to the investigation on all sides.

[14:05:00] This a real problem for the United States. Not only is there a moral issue here, but in terms of real policy, Saudi Arabia is an economic ally, the world's biggest producer of oil, a client of intelligence and military hardware shared with the United States. It is a key ally in the broader fight against violent Islamic terror. And the pressures that have been coming from Washington will be heard here in Riyadh. And they are not culturally what country is going to be particularly responsive to calls that the man in charge of the country, effectively the chief executive, MBS, should go. I think that's going to be extremely difficult for them to swallow. And that may have, indeed, a delay. We're getting some signals there was going to be a statement and now there's been a delay as perhaps they're refashioning what they are going to say about this incident, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Refashioning, huh? Sam and Clarissa, thank you so much. This heartbreaking shift is coming from the family of Jamal Khashoggi for the first time. They acknowledge that the father of four is dead. As part of their statement calling for an independent investigation, they say, and I'm quoting them now, the strong moral and legal responsibility which our father instilled in us obliges us to call for the establishment of an independent and impartial international commission to inquire into the circumstances of his death. Joining me as a friend and dear colleague of Jamal, she is global opinions editor.

I cannot even begin to comprehend what you and your colleagues are going through. First, since Clarissa broke the story on our show this time yesterday, how are you holding up since the news and what's been going through your mind?

KAREN ATTIAH, "THE WASHINGTON POST'S" GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR: Obviously. it's been two weeks since he disappeared, and the details, particularly the gruesome details have been with us for a while now. It's hard. I can't pretend that it's not hard and wrenching to hear that my friend, a writer, someone who is as kind and gentle and as brave as he was could have met his end at the hands of his own country, that he really loved and trusted I think. It's been quite difficult. However, I am heartened by the attention, the support we've been getting from around the world as far as just how important it is that we continue to press for answers from the Saudis, from the Turks, from the U.S. government, how important it is for a lot of people who are frightened, who are scared to death right now that if somebody like Jamal Khashoggi -- it's equivalent to having someone as prominent as a Tom Brokaw or Barbara Walters snatched up. That's how a lot of Saudis grew up knowing Jamal. If the United States does not take a firm, firm stand and offer the severe possibility of severe consequences, it tends a chilling message that it's acceptable to kill and butcher us.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to consequences in just a second. Karen, have you spoken to his family since this most recent news broke?

ATTIAH: I've been in touch with the fiance fiancee, and all she said was, Karen, pray for me, I'm in a bad way, feeling bad. The family, they are holding up as best they can. You know, I met them and took their statement that you just read and they're looking for, you know, a credible and strong independent international inquiry. They're looking for the ability for their family to be together and to be reunited safely without any sort of intimidation or duress. So, I think they are -- they are heart broken but they understood that their father -- they told me that their father loved his job, loved what he did, despite the threats and the pressure on them. So, they're --

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: No, I'm -- if the Saudis -- if you go with what the Saudis are saying, you go with their cover story, the fact remains that they still abducted and tortured a journalist.

ATTIAH: Yes, that remains. For all the rumors and murky details, that fact remains that Jamal Khashoggi is gone. And the fact remains for all the talk of an important ally in Saudi Arabia, it means that we had a country that lied to our faces for two weeks. So as far as being a dependable and trustworthy ally under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, that should shake everyone at the very least.

BALDWIN: Have you thought if the Saudis were brazen and capable enough to do what you were describing to Jamal, does it make you wonder what they might have done to others in the past?

ATTIAH: I don't have to wonder. Jamal wrote about what they have done and are doing to women who dare to be active in the campaign to drive, the 29-year-old women's driving activist who was just snatched and disappeared. She spent her 29th birthday somewhere in jail. The economist and social media figure who was arrested and detained last year and who has been held, no one has heard from him. There are hundreds if not possibly thousands of Saudis who have disappeared or been detained. Jamal is the highest profile of them all, but he was writing to draw attention to them. It's surreal to me that I'm here speaking to you trying to draw attention to him. This is happening against a backdrop of people who are being disappeared for even minor criticisms. Again, this calls into question what sort of ally is Saudi Arabia that would continue to grind its own people into the dust? I don't understand.

BALDWIN: You know, listening to Republicans, specifically, Lindsey Graham, he was the most forceful I heard this morning. He was the one who said MBS needs to go. When you think back into the history of 9/11, what happened in Yemen, we've seen U.S. eyes turn the other way many, many times before. Karen, do you think that this is a turning point in the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia?

ATTIAH: I feel that it is. I feel that this is a monumental inflexion point. I think, you know, with the war in Yemen, thousands of people starving in Yemen due to the Saudis' cold war there, which Jamal wrote about, I think it's that for the political reasons but then also we know there's a big investment conference coming up next week, the future investment initiative being held in Riyadh. Steven Mnuchin is supposed to go. If the Saudis are going to come clean that they murdered and butchered a "Washington Post" columnist, to have government officials go there and grip and grin with the same regime that would do this to one of our colleagues here can't stand. We have to take a stand. I would call on him to not go, government officials, U.S. business officials to not go to this conference in solidarity with what is right, just basically what is right.

BALDWIN: Before the news broke this time yesterday, the president said he had spoken with King Salman, then you saw the President to go on to float the theory about rogue killers. When you first saw the President say that, Karen, what were you thinking?

[14:15:00] ATTIAH: You know, it's unfortunate that he might be helping to run their PR campaign and clean-up campaign for them. You I mean, again. It's completely possible that the king had no idea and that -- there was a lot written that he wasn't listening to advice or if he was, he wasn't listening to the wrong advice. It just unfortunate. The point remains, increasingly likely but almost definitively, my colleague, my friend, was killed in a horrific manner inside the Saudi consulate. That point remains and I think the U.S. under Trump, we need to hold them accountable to the full extent that we can.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about accountability. You mentioned consequences earlier. Trump's impending decision on how to handle this situation with Saudi Arabia may be, quote, the most consequence decision of his presidency. We know that secretary Pompeo is on the ground in Riyadh having conversations. What are you demanding this President do? Last question.

ATTIAH: Right. First of all, we are absolutely demanding credible investigations, at the international level absolutely. You know, personally we're demanding for them to not only come clean but also, I would hope in the best of situations that they'd take this opportunity and probably do what Jamal would do and ask about the others that have been detained unjustly. But it's to say that relationships are not static. They can and must change according to what we know and who our allies show themselves to be. I think if we want to maintain any sort of credibility around the world, any at all, baseline, this cannot be allowed. We cannot turn our backs on this. It's just -- it sends a message to other brutal regimes that they can snatch away critics in other countries and get away with it. It sends messages to journalists and people around the world looking to us as a country that has stood to values and freedom and democracy, who are looking for any sort of hope because they can't turn to their government. The whole world is watching us, as it should be, and I hope we don't fail this test.

BALDWIN: Karen Attiah, thank you.

ATTIAH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here, with no public events on his schedule today, what we are learning about how President Trump spent his morning at the White House, watching cable news, growing frustrated over the coverage of this missing journalist and calling a woman, quote, "horse face" on Twitter. Is it surprising? Nope? Acceptable? We'll have more on that next.

And the 2020 presidential contest is almost 2 years away, why President Trump's fund-raising efforts for his own reelection is off to a stunning and unprecedented head start.

And Heidi Heitkamp already in a tough election is now issuing an apology for a, quote, huge mistake, in one of her campaign ads. We have details on what went wrong. You are watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Today as the President faces what one adviser calls the most consequential decision of his presidency, during his hours and hours and hours of executive time, the President of the United States decided to refer to a woman as a 'horse face." And while that gets all the attention and rightfully so, he also essentially threatened her and declared he'd be going after her. Again, as the President of the United States. CNN reports one White House official isn't sure if he's trying to distract from the Saudi Arabia coverage, but the official says, hey, it's something he's good at doing. Translation, why yes, this appears to be a calculated move to get us talking about something else.

But the truth is, the pressure is mounting, a journalist is feared murdered and this President still face as decision on how to respond as questions grow over his own ties to the Saudis. That is the reality. Now the misogyny. This comes at a time when he defends mocking a woman who spoke her truth, told her story of surviving sexual assault, chalking it up to mocking her doesn't matter, I won, I got Justice Kavanaugh and now publicly criticizing a woman's looks. No matter how often this happens, it should never be normal. This President has called women fat, pigs, dogs, slops, disgusting, ugly, dumb, dumbest, dumb as a rock, unhinged, low life, Pocahontas. And now Trump calls Stormy Daniels a horse face on Twitter. And in true kindergarten fashion, Daniel's responds commenting on the size of his -- hmmm. Which means with voices so powerful they could not be acting any smaller. [14:25:00] Joining me is Tara Setmayer, she is a board director for Stand Up Republic. And also, with me CNN legal analyst Areva Martin. Tara, to you first, what do you think about this?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: How many times have we had this conversation?

BALDWIN: Too many.

SETMAYER: Right. This is who Donald Trump is. I don't expect Donald Trump not to be a terrible person anymore. Clearly the presidency did not elevate him. This was one of the many reasons why I was so against him during the campaign. What I tried to warn people about, character matters. When you demonstrate you have a character deficit, you don't all of a sudden become a virtuous person. This is what Donald Trump does. I blame the enablers. I blame the people who make excuses for this and cheer him on, the people who are clapping like seals behind him at these rallies where he does these kinds of things. Those people are more responsible. He should be held accountable for this. That's fine if he's doing things you like and we have some great economic news and people are back to work. That's wonderful. Except the President of the United States is using the oval office and office of the presidency as a literal bully pulpit to behave like a child without consequence. That's where the outrage should be, the people who continue to cheer him on and not hold him accountable of this.

BALDWIN: Areva, how do you see it?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You forgot the low IQ, which is the phrase he used in describing Congresswoman Maxine Water. The list is so long, we often forget. I think we have to look at the history here. I agree with Tara. The outrage should be coming from the congress, the senators, the people applauding him and talking about how great a President he is. This conduct on the part of Donald Trump goes back to the early 1990s. This continued up until the time of the election and now it's continuing in the White House. I guess for me what's so shocking is we just saw Melania Trump do her first big interview and be in Africa, talking about her be best program, and she continues to try to put forth this narrative that she is really trying to address cyber bullying. She says that in one breath and then in the next breath the President continues these attacks on women.

BALDWIN: Memo not received by her husband.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: And, Tara, back over to you. Again, going by this White House official, Trump may be trying to change the subject but it won't work. We may talk about this now but we are going to be covering the Saudi relationship with the United States for a long time.

SETMAYER: Yes, as we should. That's what Donald Trump does. It wasn't only this. He was throwing out things about the justice department again and going back to the dossier and dredging up old things, rallying his base. It's a bait and switch. Deflect, deflect, deflect. Don't pay attention to what's going on over here, which is pretty significant. Donald Trump's ties to the Saudis are indisputable. He bragged about how they spend tens and millions on apartments and Jared Kushner trying to get money from his failing properties from the Qataris. There's so many links there. Because Donald Trump says don't believe what you hear and see, only listen to me, doesn't change the facts on the ground. But something more consequential is what's going on in the midterms. They may look good in the Senate, but for suburban women in swing districts, this is awful. This reminds suburban women, who used to be college educated suburban women used to be solid Republicans. Now you look at the "Washington post" poll that just came out last week that showed in the 69 swing districts up for grabs that Democrats are beating Republicans by 30 points with college educated women. That is potentially disastrous in those swing districts and could potentially be what brings the house back over to Democrats. Is this a long-term effect for Republicans? I'm not sure but it certainly will be under the Trump administration because women are sick and tired of Donald Trump being the misogynist in chief.

BALDWIN: Sick and tired of being sick and tired. 21 days to go until the midterms. Areva, to you. This stormy defamation suit just got tossed out by this judge but there are others involving Stormy Daniels and the President is tweeting about it.

[14:30:00] MARTIN: We've never seen a sitting President insert himself in active litigation, including criminal prosecutions the way this President has done. It's an excellent point to make that although he did win, and the he did win, the judge threw it out. There's still this pending agreement with Stormy Daniels. The lawsuit forced Donald Trump to admit he did pay Stormy Daniels $130,000, that he did enter into this nondisclosure agreement and began the unraveling of the entire Michael Cohen fiasco that led to his prosecution. So, this civil lawsuit has had an incredible impact on his presidency. It's an incredible thing that has happened. The lawsuit's over but look what came out of that lawsuit.