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Trump Reiterates Saudi Denials on Missing Journalist; Trump Throws More Insults at Stormy Daniels; Texas Senate Race. Aired 3- 3:30p ET
Aired October 16, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
We have got this breaking news, gruesome new details that confirm missing U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi is no longer alive. A Turkish official tells CNN that his body was cut into pieces after his death.
This disturbing news comes after CNN news reported that the Saudis are preparing to admit that Khashoggi was killed by accident during a botched interrogation. That is what we have, according to not just one, but two sources here. And just moments ago, the president of the United States tweeted out that he just spoke with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
He spoke with MBS, who denies -- quote -- "any knowledge" of what took place at the Turkish Consulate. Trump pointed out that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was at the crown prince's side at the time of the phone call.
That tweet comes hours after Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said this:
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I have been their biggest defender on the floor the United States Senate. This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this got murdered in a consulate in Turkey. And to expect made ignore it, I feel used and abused.
I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because there's a good ally. There's a difference between a country and an individual. The MBS figure is to me toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage.
Saudi Arabia, if you're listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go now to John Defterios, CNN business emerging markets editor and anchor.
And, John, you see this tweet from Trump. He is reiterating the denials from the Saudis and seems to believe this story, this cover story, however you choose to see it. What do you make of that?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, it's extraordinary.
He wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. As Senator Graham was suggesting, this is a very young crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman on is only 33, Brooke, and has been in power now officially just over a year ago, but came in as deputy crown prince, and has taken a very heavy hand.
But this is one, with the accusations that we see coming out of Turkey and the investigations taking place at the consulate, that is a bridge too far, to be candid. I have been in the region off and on for 20 years. This is one who orchestrated the embargo against Qatar, arrested 380 of his own businessman and shook them down for $100 billion, even this summer, as you remember, had that dispute with Canada.
So this is perhaps the biggest test. And we have had administration official suggesting that to us today, the biggest test of the Trump presidency. What's the line he's going to take? Not only with King Salman and in Saudi Arabia overall, but a young leader who's been flexing his muscles and throwing this weight around and giving him the benefit of doubt?
It is surprising. I think it would be the same response here in the Middle East as well.
BALDWIN: Between what we know about what happened in Saudi connections to 9/11 and also what we know about Yemen, do you think that this is a turning point between the U.S. and the Saudis' relationship?
DEFTERIOS: Well, it's a very important security relationship here. And this is an administration that has ratcheted that up because of the very hard line taken against Iran, and even the backing of that brutal war, the proxy war against Iran in Yemen.
I think the Trump administration, with the backing of Jared Kushner, in particular, his son-in-law, have given the Saudis a green light, and particularly this crown prince. Let's not forget he kind of did a charm offensive, going to both Wall Street and Washington, and then going to the West Coast, to Silicon Valley and to Hollywood.
He has been living almost on borrowed time, because there's another side to him. I always say there's two faces to a coin. This is the other face of that coin with Mohammed bin Salman. He is a tough character, doesn't take a lot of outside information. And perhaps -- you can hear the tenor company from Congress -- this relationship may be changing and rather quickly.
BALDWIN: John Defterios, thank you very much.
Let's expand the conversation.
I have Morgan Ortagus back with us today, a former intelligence analyst for the Treasury Department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Also here, CNN business and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci.
And, Morgan, first to you.
You lived in Saudi Arabia for a year-and-a-half. And we were just talking in the commercial break. You were saying MBS, 33, he's seen as this rock star, especially among young people, young Saudis.
MORGAN ORTAGUS, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS OFFICER: He is.
BALDWIN: To hear President Trump saying again he just spoke with him, believes his denial, does it seem to you that Trump's role is emerging as the Saudi publicist in all of this?
ORTAGUS: You know, Brooke, there's so many facets, of course, in international relations when you're dealing with these two leaders, the crown prince.
This is -- first of all, this is horrific, bar none, whatever happened to him. I think, from what I'm reading of the president's tweets, my assumption is that he's trying to allow for an investigation to find out what really happened.
It's clear that the kingdom is not going to pin this on MBS. It's also clear that the Senate thinks that he does have some culpability here. So what we need I do think is some sort of investigation. I know that the journalist's family has called for it as well.
We do have a lot of things coming down the pike, as you have mentioned. We do have the Iranian sanctions, which come aboard in just three weeks. We have areas of cooperation as it relates to counterterrorism with Saudi, the oil markets. You could go on and on.
So the question here is, when we have allies that violate human rights, and they do so egregiously, how do we respond to that, right, because we see this happening around the world, from China, from North Korea, from Iran. We have seen this happen. We see almost 100 politicians die in Mexico leading up to those elections.
So this does go on. The question is, how do we respond when our allies do it?
BALDWIN: But if you believe the Saudis' story that Khashoggi is dead, died through a botched interrogation, why don't they give the body back?
ORTAGUS: I think that there are so many questions to be answered here. And I think when you look specifically at what Senator Graham was
talking about this morning as it relates to sanctions, we're not talking about, of course, full sanctions, like, what will be imposed -- reimposed on Iran in a few weeks.
You're talking about potentially global Magnitsky sanctions and holding someone accountable. Whatever the -- whatever MBS is saying to Secretary Pompeo and to the president right now is important. But it's going to be even more important for the Congress to be convinced of this, because right now what we're seeing from a bipartisan group of senators -- I think you could have 80 votes for sanctions, targeted sanctions and for holding someone responsible in Saudi.
BALDWIN: John had mentioned, Cristina, to you, the role of the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, right, and his relationship with the crown prince.
Can you tell me more about that?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jared Kushner has been the key figure bringing this alliance together between the United States and the House of Saud.
And we have seen this over the last really two years, really, in public view. Jared Kushner welcomed the prince here, did sort of a rock stars style-like tour with him in Washington. It's no secret that the crown prince and the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund has large investments in technology companies here in the U.S.
And I think some critics will take this moment to say this is an example of an inexperienced person in government so closely aligning themselves with someone who, yes, perhaps is popular in his home country, but there's a flip side to that.
And John alluded to that with the different sides of a coin. When you get so close to someone, then you're unfortunately associated with them when something this horrific happens.
BALDWIN: You mentioned finances and investments. And I just wanted to ask you about what we heard from the president earlier today, right.
So, the president tweeted this morning that he has no financial ties to the Saudis, no financial ties.
But let's remind everyone of this. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: How can this president be trusted on this?
ALESCI: Yes, I think you're right.
I think Americans now have to wonder not just whether or not his previous business ties, Trump's previous business ties factor into an any geopolitical policy decisions, but his future ties, right, because after the presidency, there's life. There's life for Jared Kushner, there's life for President Trump.
And the Saudis are spending more and more. Unless the government -- unless the U.S. government take some action to limit the Saudi ability to profit from American companies, it's business as usual. And that's consistently what I heard all day on the phone with sources today is, like, yes, these big companies are pulling out, but they're not giving back Saudi money and they are open to future investment going forward.
BALDWIN: On your point about what actions could be taken, right, I read this quote from this senior adviser to the president today, saying, Trump's impending decision how to handle this whole crisis -- quote -- "may be the most consequential decision of his presidency."
You know Pompeo is on the ground meeting with these Saudi officials. What should they do?
ORTAGUS: Well, you know what I thought about this morning is, remember after 9/11 -- well, to go back, we have had a 70-year relationship with Saudi Arabia.
If you look after 911, that was probably the low point in our relationship. As we all know, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.
So, when I was back in government, we were working with them on a counterterrorism perspective. We were working to rebuild a very tattered relationship where trust is gone.
I think that this is another low point. I liken this to being -- I mean, 9/11 was the worst thing possible. And it took years to rebuild the trust and the relationship to stop terrorism.
And I think that the Saudis need to realize that we are at another post-9/11 moment in the relationship, that this is gravely serious. And so this is when you take all sides coming together. And, honestly, there's a lot of options.
The president could go to the extreme in stopping the sales, but the president doesn't even have to do that, to stop the sales. This still has to be approved by the Congress. And there is -- it's hardly a given that that's going to happen.
So, again, I would say that this is where you need to have a whole-of- government approach, because this isn't -- you know, the president has a lot of tough decisions to make here, but the Congress gets to weigh in equally on many of the things here that's going to determine the fate of the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
BALDWIN: Mr. President and members of Congress, the world is watching.
Ladies, thank you both so much for weighing in on that.
I want to just go a little deeper into the investigative angle now.
With me, forensics specialist Karen Smith. She is back with us, retired sheriff's detective from Jacksonville, Florida. She's handled 500 death investigations in her career.
So, Karen, nice to see you again.
KAREN SMITH, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Nice to see you too. Thanks for having me.
BALDWIN: OK, on the forensic piece of all of us, we know that the Turkish investigators who went into that Saudi Consulate searched it for nine hours.
They say that they are looking into toxic and painted-over material. When you hear those terms, what is your first thought?
SMITH: As a forensic specialist, the first thing that comes to mind is toxic is a very ambiguous term. It's kind of a big cloud over what is this. To me, it means biological evidence, blood evidence. Now, that is speculative on my part.
However, you're dealing with a potential crime scene here. I really don't know what else it might be. So that's what they're going in and looking for, these forensic investigators.
BALDWIN: But when you hear painting over, Karen, painted over, is it possible for if -- if it were a crime scene, for it to be cleaned up and no trace left?
SMITH: Anything's possible, Brooke.
But here's the deal. There have been scientific studies with painted surfaces where blood has been removed. Seven layers, seven layers of paint, and they have still detected it with a chemical called luminol.
That is a chemiluminescent re-agent that's used to look at cleaned-up crime scenes that can detect minute traces of blood. And, believe me, if what they're saying has come to fruition here, that is an atrocious, horrendous crime scene. There's going to be traces left that are going to be detected with luminol.
Apparently, that's according to reports what they were going to use. Even if they painted the surfaces, even if they used bleach, there's still going to be something left.
BALDWIN: If you're using luminol, can you tell how someone was killed? And what kind of detail can you get?
SMITH: Well, luminol has some drawbacks. It's mixed in water, and that dilutes what you're spraying it on.
Even if it's painted over, sometimes it'll run. It'll dilute some of the minor stains that you're looking for on an impact spatter or something involving a carotid artery being breached.
Those are going to be wiped away with -- if it's a cleaned-up crime scene. So those minute details may not be readily available. However, shoe prints might still be there, if we can detect minor details of that. So what we're looking for here is basically just evidence that a violent crime occurred, see if they can extract some DNA and then do comparisons in the lab later.
BALDWIN: We wait for the conclusions from these forensic teams, these Turks who went into the Saudi Consulate, again, after this cleanup prior to, the challenges there.
Karen Smith, thank you so much for your expertise again today. I appreciate that.
SMITH: You're welcome.
BALDWIN: Coming up next: President Trump goes after Stormy Daniels on Twitter today, calling her horseface, the latest in a long list of insults he has hurled at women. Why this is neither surprising nor acceptable.
Also, how President Trump has already amassed more than $100 million for his reelection campaign, an unprecedented head-start for any sitting president. Details on where those donations are coming from.
And nearly a week after Hurricane Michael ripped through the Florida Panhandle, I will reconnect with one woman from Mexico Beach who evacuated not knowing if her home was still be standing. What she found when she returned -- coming up.
BALDWIN: Just hours after Senator Elizabeth Warren showcased her DNA test results to disprove the president's claims that she lied about her Native American heritage, her strategy is backfiring among a member of indigenous communities.
Here is the secretary of state of the Cherokee Nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HOSKIN JR., CHEROKEE NATION SECRETARY OF STATE: It's irrelevant to 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. Just wholly unhelpful for any national leader to claim to DNA to
determine or to establish that they're Native American in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: While Senator Warren revealed the test results in part to show that she was ready to stand up to President Trump while she ponders a 2020 run, the president is instead having a field day again, calling her Pocahontas, a fraud and a phony.
And just in case the Pocahontas nickname wasn't offensive enough, the president introducing a new personal insult today, calling Stormy Daniels a horseface.
Yes, he did, after a judge threw out Daniels' defamation lawsuit against the president.
In response, Trump tweeted in part: "Great. 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."
With me now, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
And, Gloria, we should also mention the way she responded. We won't go into detail. But she sort of took it there, kindergarten behavior all around.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, she did. Yes, she did.
BALDWIN: Yes, she did, she did, she did.
BALDWIN: But what we are hearing is Trump is trying to change the subject, right?
He wants to get people away from what's what's happening with this murdered journalist or killed journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. But we will be covering that as we are talking about this.
BORGER: Yes, I know.
We always -- and it's our fault -- we kind of rush-charge the bright, shiny object.
And Donald Trump is very good is very good at dangling it out there for you when he doesn't want you to pay attention to something else, he wants to switch the subject.
BORGER: And this just isn't going to do it, but, honestly, calling a woman a horse face is outrageous. I don't know a Democratic woman or Republican woman who would like that, particularly when his wife is on an anti-bullying campaign.
I mean, come on. Come on. Enough. Enough.
BALDWIN: Yes, yes, yes, I know. Already, a whole list of things he's called women.
BORGER: Right. Yes.
BALDWIN: I want to move off that.
We know, though, that despite all of the words and the language that he has used, he has raised more than $100 million for his reelection battle that is more than two years away. And I think what's stunning -- and I want you to fill in the blanks for us. But from what I know, no incumbent president has ever done anything like that at this point.
BORGER: Nothing, nothing close to this. And that's because normally in an off-year election, you don't want to take the money away from the candidates who are running, who need to raise their own money.
But we were just looking up some of the numbers. So if Donald Trump has raised at this point in his presidency $106 million, let's compare Barack Obama. At this point his presidency, it was $4 million.
BORGER: Wow. And George W. Bush was $3.2 million.
So when we talk of the permanent campaign, this is what we are talking about, that Donald Trump has never stopped campaigning or raising money. And from their point of view, it's very smart. It's very smart. The Democrats are going to be far behind. They have raised it in small donations here, as well as from large donors.
And so they just kind of never stopped.
BALDWIN: But it's a lot. I mean, when you really -- sort of we were geeking out on the numbers. But when you look at this $106 million and the fact that 98 percent of the $106 million comes from those small dollar contributions of $200 or less, what does that tell you?
BORGER: It tells you that Donald Trump is keeping his base together.
And so every big rally he goes to now is a mailing list and names, phone numbers. This is -- this is a pretty well-oiled operation here, and he has remained close to his base. His base continues to support him and they're donating to him.
And the question is whether that is affecting the money downstream, whether it's affecting money for governor's races or Senate races. The Democrats or outraising the Republicans, as you know. But since Donald Trump believes -- and I think he's right -- that the midterm elections are about him, he's made -- he's just decided, OK, well, we're going to start the presidential race right now.
And that's what he's been doing. And if he runs -- and I think it looks like he will -- then he will be smart because he will have a real head-start here.
BALDWIN: He will have a lot of money to go with.
Gloria Borger, thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next: The Democrat trying to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz has just raised -- speaking of money -- a record $38 million in a mere three months, but Beto O'Rourke is still trailing in the polls.
We are live in San Antonio ahead of their final debate tonight.
Stay with me. You're watching CNN.
BALDWIN: Twenty-one days until the midterm elections, and perhaps no races acting is a bigger political barometer than in Texas between Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.
A new knew CNN poll has O'Rourke trailing Cruz by seven points. But O'Rourke has raised an unprecedented amount of money. These two face off in their second and most likely last debate of the campaign tonight.
CNN's Ed Lavandera will be there. He's with me now in Texas -- in Texas -- easy for me to say.
BALDWIN: So, Ed, a number of Democrats are criticizing O'Rourke for not sharing his millions with other Senate Democrats. Can you explain that?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, they have been.
He raised in the last three months alone some $39 million. He still has nearly $30 million left in the bank to spend over these next three weeks. He has received some criticism from national Democrats.
But in speaking with campaign aides and with Beto O'Rourke here over the last few days, they feel that they have raised all of this money on their own, that much of it has come in small donations from individuals here, not only in the state of Texas, but from across the country, who have donated simply to this campaign.
And they feel that it would be wrong to then disburse that money into other campaigns, but -- so the O'Rourke campaign pushing back on all of this.