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Pompeo Meets with Saudis, Who Deny Killing Journalist; Gloating Over Lawsuit Being Dropped, Trump Calls Stormy Daniels 'Horseface'. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 16, 2018 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Smiles and denials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi rulers flash smiles during meetings on the disappearance of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. President Trump says the Saudi crown prince denies any knowledge of Khashoggi's fate.

Dismembered. After an overnight search of the consulate by Turkish investigators, a Turkish official says Khashoggi's body was dismembered after he was killed. As others provide CNN with passport scans of alleged members of a Saudi hit team.

Facing off. President Trump celebrates a judge's dismissal of a defamation suit by Stormy Daniels by saying he'll go after the adult film star, calling her -- and I'm quoting the president now -- "horseface." Daniels and her lawyer are hitting back.

And history of insults. This isn't the first time President Trump has crudely lashed out at women by attacking their appearance. How does he keep getting away with it?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: There are fresh indications U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A Turkish official now says the body was cut into pieces, and others give CNN passport scans of alleged Saudi hit men.

President Trump says the Saudi crown prince has totally denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's face -- fate, I should say, adding it would be bad if Saudi rulers knew otherwise.

Meantime, the president is publicly gloating over a judge's dismissal of a lawsuit by Stormy Daniels, suggesting he'll go after the film star, calling her -- and I'm quoting him now -- "horseface."

I'll speak with the attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, and Congressman Jim Himes of the House Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin with our breaking news. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.

Jim, what is the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Trump administration is scrambling to figure out how to contain the fallout of the apparent killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had what a spokesperson called a direct and candid conversation with the Saudis earlier today about Khashoggi. President Trump says the Saudi crown prince has, quote, "totally denied" any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, as he injected -- and we saw this earlier today -- some bright, shiny objects into the news cycle that may be aimed at distracting the public from what's going on down in Turkey, but that can be summed up in one word. And that is "horseface."


ACOSTA (voice-over): Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to be all smiles as he met with Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Just as grim details were surfacing in the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who Turkish officials say was dismembered by his killers.

President Trump tweeted that he discussed the investigation with both men by phone, saying the crown prince "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish consulate. Answers will be forthcoming shortly."

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. No. 1, what happened but whether or not they knew about it. If they knew about it, that would be bad.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the president appeared to be distancing himself from the Saudis, tweeting, "For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia. Any suggestion that I have is just more fake news."

But that's not true. Just ask President Trump, who bragged about his business dealings with the Saudis during the campaign.

TRUMP: They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.

ACOSTA: The president's latest comments on the Khashoggi case sound as though he's prepared to accept the denials from the Saudi government, that its operatives murdered the journalist.

TRUMP: It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?

ACOSTA: But fellow Republicans aren't buying it. Senator Lindsey Graham warned the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS, is dangerous.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This guy has got to go. 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.

ACOSTA: CNN has learned advisers have warned the president his handling of the Khashoggi case could have global implications, sending a message that the U.S. is no longer a champion for human rights.

But the president has cozied up to autocrats around the world from Russia to the Philippines, where that country's leader mocked reporters as spies.

The president appeared to attempt to change the news cycle by attacking porn star, Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Mr. Trump. In a tweet aimed at Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, the president said, "Federal judge throws out Stormy Daniels' lawsuit versus Trump. Now I can go after horseface and her third-rate lawyer in the great state of Texas. Knows nothing about me. A total con."

[17:05:14] She responded, "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present your president. In addition to his shortcomings, he has demonstrated his incompetence, hatred of women and lack of self-control. Game on, Tiny."

TRUMP: You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her -- wherever.

ACOSTA: For the president, it's the latest attack on a prominent women's appearance, resurrecting memories of his insults aimed at the wife of Senator Ted Cruz; businesswoman Carly Fiorina; and even the women who have accused him of sexual assault.

TRUMP: She would not be my first choice. That I can tell you. Man. You don't know. That would not be my first choice.


ACOSTA: Now as for the president's attacks on Stormy Daniels, a source close to the White House said the president simply misfired with his "horseface" tweet, saying that the president should not be, obviously, commenting on the looks of women. But added, this source did, that his advisers have all but given up on controlling what the president posts on social media.

And Wolf, that might be the most believable thing that happened today. The president went after Stormy Daniels on Twitter. What is unbelievable is that we're talking about the dismemberment of a Saudi journalist whose work appeared in "The Washington Post" and an administration that appears to be flat-footed in terms of how to respond -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Extraordinary situation. All right. Jim Acosta, thank you.

Let's dig deeper on the Saudi crisis. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us; and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell, is joining us. He's a former FBI supervisory special agent. He used to work international murder investigations with the bureau.

Josh, you're there, you're in Turkey for us. What's the latest, first of all, on the investigation?


It's just past midnight here in Istanbul. We're here in front of the Saudi consulate, the scene of the alleged crime, and the investigation here very much continues.

We are getting that new reporting you mentioned earlier, very gruesome reporting indicating that journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was dismembered -- we're hearing that from a Turkish official -- following his death. Obviously, very devastating new for the family, for his co-workers.

The investigation does continue. This is one scene. There was another facility that has now become of interest, and that is the residence of the consulate general, the person who leads the Saudi consulate.

Now, we're told that he is not -- no longer in the country. He has departed Turkey, presumably for Saudi Arabia. But it's that scene of his residence that's become interesting to investigators. Because CCTV showed on the day of the alleged crime here that vehicles traveled from this location over to his residence, approximately three to four blocks away. We just came from there. A lot of police activity.

Investigators were here going into this location, but they have not yet gained access to the consulate general's residence to go through and look for evidence of potential crime over there.

In fact, we were out there just a little while ago, and you had officials that were, you know, pulling up in vehicles, presumably trying to enter to process the scene, security on the other side, inside the Saudi scene, not letting them in. So still yet to be determined whether or not they'll get access there.

One last development, Wolf, that we are getting. That is CNN has obtained the passport photos have from seven of these alleged hit team members. You'll recall, there were 15 members who were suspected of coming here, conducting this operation before they departed the country. Seven of those individuals, CNN has a passport photo from Turkish authorities, one of which has, you know, been connected to the Saudi government. That will be a part of the long-going investigation.

Of course, what it all means, Wolf, after the evidence is collected and conclusions are made, that's yet -- a question that's yet to be determined, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by.

Jim, why has the president repeatedly now touted the Saudi royal family's denials that it planned to kill Khashoggi?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's frankly unclear. The president has clearly seen and been briefed on the same, arguably better, intelligence than lawmakers -- Republican lawmakers who have come out publicly, criticized the Saudis, spoken about this in dire terms.

You've heard Bob Corker talk about very early on how it looked very much like the Saudis were responsible. And then today you had Marco Rubio saying that any arms deal would certainly not be worth the creditability the U.S. would lose by not standing up to an alleged crime like this. And you even had Lindsey Graham, who's been very close with the president of late, saying in his own words that he would sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia if that responsibility for Saudi officials was determined.

Now, you might argue or you might surmise that the president is trying to preserve other elements of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, and it's as simple as that. But let's be frank. This fits with a pattern that the president has accepted the -- in fact, using the same language, the firm denials of Vladimir Putin regarding election interference in the U.S. He has said that he trusts Kim Jong-un, the brutal dictator of North Korea, and never called him out publicly for human rights abuses.

So -- so it's consistent with past statements from this president defending or, arguably, taking the side of authoritarian leaders accused of this kind of behavior.

[17:10:09] BLITZER: You know, Josh, let me get back to you. The Saudis say they're doing their own investigation; and President Trump tweeted earlier this afternoon that he expects answers soon. Will the Saudi investigation be seen as credible in the eyes of the international community?

CAMPBELL: Well, Wolf, that is a key question, and it will all come down to transparency. If you think of a lot of the evidence that we have heard so far, some of the reporting, there's been signals intelligence that was allegedly provided, indicating that the Saudis had wanted to kidnap the journalist.

There was also -- we remember the reports of audio/visual recordings inside this building mind me of the actual incident. And now, as we're report these passports of at least serve of the alleged perpetrators on this hit team, again, this is all mounting evidence. The question is what will be the response from the international community?

Now I was talking to a former diplomat here who described the White House response thus far as paralyzing to the Turkish officials, because it essentially limits the costs that will be imposed.

We have President Trump, who's essentially parroting the line from the Saudi government, indicating, you know, they weren't involved, and perhaps it's rogue killers. So that's really limiting Turkey's ability to, you know, impose costs, should this actually turn into something that they can prove, you know, to the rest of the world.

One thing, essentially, Wolf, as our colleague, Jeff Zeleny, is reporting, that sources inside the White House were indicating that President Trump was actually agitated by a lot of the coverage that this story was getting. I can tell you, based on the very large presence here of international journalists from all over the world, the interest in this murder mystery is not soon to -- subside any time soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim, what action could the U.S. take against Saudi Arabia if the president were to order such action?

SCIUTTO: If the president does not act, the Senate can act. They can delay or reject arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In fact, they've already been put on hold by a Democratic senator, ranking senator on the committee. They could also punish Saudi officials under the global Magnitsky Act, originally intended for Russia. But it could impose financial curbs, travel curbs, et cetera, and the Senate can do that without the president.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto and Josh Campbell, guys, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congress, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So the president yesterday called this, potentially, rogue killers being responsible for this death. Today he's tweeting out denials from the crown prince, as well as the King of Saudi Arabia. Is he being manipulated, do you believe, by the Saudis?

HIMES: What a horrifying thought. You know, the president of the United States would be manipulated by a foreign power. Where have I heard that possibility before?

You know, what he's doing, really, though, is he is -- he's trading in rumors, which is not a helpful thing at this point in time.

Look, I complimented him a couple of days ago when he said that, if they've done this, there will be severe punishment. Maybe not quite the right phraseology, because we'll need to lead the world in responding to a brutal murder, and all sorts of violations of the values and the -- and the things that we care about.

Of course, the other thing he's doing, is he's sort of gambling with his own credibility. He did say, you know, that would be bad. He did say that there would be strong punishment if this happened. He said that. Now the question -- and the world will be watching -- is will he follow through? Because it's looking more and more like, in fact, the Saudis did this.

BLITZER: Do you believe it was an accident that he was being interrogated, Khashoggi, and that the Saudis accidentally decided to go a bit too far and actually kill him?

HIMES: I certainly don't believe that, based on what I know. And I'm not sure that I know anything that anyone else doesn't know. But, no, of course I don't.

Look, this idea that 15 individuals would fly in -- that's not an interrogation. And, you know, look, an interrogation is an interview. You know, don't often end fatally. So, no.

What is happening now, Wolf, in my opinion, is that the Saudi regime is trying to figure out how to make this as least catastrophic as it can be.

And quite frankly, it worries me, with the president trading in rumors and maybe repeating the trial balloons that the Saudis are running. It sort of feels like maybe he is trying to help the Saudis put the -- whatever fine face you can put on this.

One other thing I'd add, Wolf, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I don't know anything. I haven't been briefed. But there is no question on my mind that the president of the United States, the CIA, our intelligence community, has a very good idea of what the truth is here. And we're not talking about that much.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect they already know.

Would this have been carried out without approval from the highest levels of the Saudi government, specifically the crown prince?

HIMES: Well, it's almost inconceivable, right? I mean, you are seeing now what happens when a -- when an operation like this goes bad, right? It's not just something that makes the local news. It is something that could, you know, radically change Saudi Arabia's relationship with the rest of the world at a very sensitive time for them.

Remember, they're trying to take their oil company public. They're trying to say that "We're a different, more liberal regime than we have been in the past." So the stakes are as high as they can be.

So the idea that in an absolute monarchy, a bunch of people would think of this on their own or that some mid-level officer would decide this is incredible.

[17:15:02] BLITZER: Is it time for the U.S. to reconsider its entire relationship with Saudi Arabia?

HIMES: Well, to my way of thinking, it's been time well before this brutal murder to do so. My colleague, Chris Murphy, Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, has been banging the drum about how brutal the Saudis have been in Yemen, using our weaponry, using our intelligence, using our assistance. You know, we seem to forget that there was one country that dominated the number of people who attacked us on 9/11, the Saudis.

So I've been a little bit of a Saudi skeptic for a long time. This just shows what they are capable of. And let's be straight here. The proof is not there yet, but it's looking more and more like it turns out they are capable of a truly, truly horrific crime.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, switching gears for a moment, what's your reaction to the president of the United States on Twitter today calling Stormy Daniels "horseface"?

HIMES: You know, the horrifying thing is that we're almost used to this. And I don't even think about it anymore as a member of Congress. I think about it as a father.

And there's a lot of fathers and mothers out there. And, you know, their children for 240 years have looked at the Oval Office and the president of the United States as a role model. How do I now tell my children that, "No, even though the president of the United States calls a woman a 'horseface' or a dog, as he called Omarosa after he fired her" -- as a parent, I don't know how you go and explain that to kids.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe. Even though, you know, it has happened often, it's hard to believe that, as president of the United States, it still happens.

HIMES: That's right.

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

HIMES: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, President Trump celebrates a legal victory over Stormy Daniels, calling her "horseface." And Daniels and her lawyer are responding with their own tough language. I'll speak with the attorney, Michael Avenatti. There you see him. He's standing by live. We'll discuss when we come back.


[17:21:13] BLITZER: President Trump is crowing over a judge's dismissal of a defamation lawsuit by Stormy Daniels. On Twitter, the president suggests he'll take legal action against the adult film star, calling her, quote, "horseface," and calling her lawyer "third- rate." They're both punching back hard.

Joining us now, Michael Avenatti. He's the attorney for Stormy Daniels.

Michael, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: All right. So you hit back very quickly against the president today, calling him -- and I'm quoting you now -- "a disgusting misogynist and an embarrassment to the United States."

Is this just about helping your client, or is this beginning to get personal for you? AVENATTI: Well, Wolf, I think it's been personal for a while, for

both my client and myself.

But more importantly, Wolf, I mean, this is a disgrace. Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Never in my lifetime did I think that I would witness behavior like this from the president of the United States.

I'm a father to two daughters, and I know many of your viewers are also fathers and mothers. How do you tell your kids to look up to the president of the United States when he behaves in this manner? It's an absolute joke, and it's a disgrace. And it's about time that we stop shaking our head and we stop -- or start punching back. I mean, this guy can no longer be permitted to get away with this.

BLITZER: What does Stormy Daniels tell you after she saw the president's tweet?

AVENATTI: She was incredulous. She couldn't believe it. She thought that his account had been hacked or that it was some joke, as I did initially when I saw it.

I mean, for the president of the United States to engage in this behavior, it's an absolute disgrace. The rest of the world looks at us; they laugh at us. And many of us within the United States are disgusted. I don't care what your politics are. This has no place. It's a complete disrespect to the office of the presidency.

BLITZER: So you frequently tweet out partisan attacks on the president. And as you know, Donald Trump, he says when he's attacked, he's going to attack harder. He's going to counter attack. Is that what you see, what's going on here?

AVENATTI: No, Wolf. I don't. I think that we're giving him exactly what he gives. And I think that's exactly what you have to do. That's how you treat bullies.

You know, these wishy-washy approaches of the past that some Democrats have used, that has gotten the party nowhere. It's gotten the country nowhere. There's only one way to deal with a bully, and that is when they punch it, you hit them back twice as hard. And that's exactly what my client and I are going to continue to do if he continues to attempt to engage in personal attacks and the like. So he better pack a lunch.

BLITZER: So when he attacks you and your client, you're going to attack him even harder. But how does that help your client?

AVENATTI: Well, because I think it helps the client by advancing our cause relating to the facts and, hopefully, dissuading him from engaging in this type of behavior.

We're not going to engage in conduct like Marco Rubio and others back in 2016 that were afraid to go after this guy; and then on the single instances when they did, they immediately apologized and engaged in hand-wringing. I mean, that gets you absolutely nowhere. There's only one way to deal with somebody like this. And that is to

go right at them.

BLITZER: You and your client surrendered a significant setback in court yesterday. Why are you now still so optimistic that you'll win on appeal?

AVENATTI: Well, we think the district court judge got it wrong on the defamation claim, Wolf.

But also, let me say this. The defamation case was a secondary case to the main case, which is the case over the nondisclosure agreement. I don't think Donald Trump is smart enough to understand that. I actually think that he believes that he won the NDA case, which is laughable.

[17:25:06] I mean, this is what happens when you elect a moron to the president -- presidency of the United States, somebody that doesn't even understand basic law. It's clear from Donald Trump's tweet that he believes that he actually prevailed in the NDA case, which has never been stronger at this point.

BLITZER: What do you say to your critics -- and there are plenty of them out there -- who say you only care about grabbing publicity right now so you yourself can run for president in 2020?

AVENATTI: No, I don't believe in that at all. I believe they're absolutely wrong, Wolf.

You know what I believe in? I believe in the rule of law. I believe in facts and evidence. I believe in the truth. And I believe calling this president out for his B.S. every step of the way. That's what I believe in.

BLITZER: And just finally, you are running, is that right?

AVENATTI: No. I have not announced whether I'm running. I haven't made a decision. What I will say is, I'm traveling around the country. I'm very encouraged by people and their reaction to me. And a lot of people are encouraging me to run, because they think that we need a fighter. We need somebody to call this president out on his conduct. And we've got to get back to making this nation what it once was.

BLITZER: Michael Avenatti, thanks so much for joining us.

AVENATTI: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We'll have much more on all of the breaking news right after this.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We just heard from Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, reacting to President Trump's Twitter attack on them earlier in the day. [17:31:14] Let's discuss with our analysts. Toobin, what did you


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he call -- Mike -- the president calls Stormy Daniels "horseface." Michael Avenatti calls the president a moron on television. When you and I disagree, I give you a noogie. I mean, that's just sort of how things work in the United States now. It's just embarrassing. The whole thing is ridiculous.

Michael Avenatti lost the case yesterday, that part of the case, there is no question. This is a total victory for the president. But there's more of the lawsuit to come about the nondisclosure agreement. But just the coarsening of the discourse is discouraging. Avenatti didn't start it, but he's certainly a big part it.

BLITZER: Yes. But it's amazing that the president of the United States calls this woman, even though she's been extremely critical of him, lawsuits and all that, "horseface."

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's astonishing, although maybe it shouldn't be surprising. We've heard this kind of language before.

But I do think it's important to keep in mind that the ethical obligation of an attorney is to represent the interests of their clients. It's really difficult to understand how Mr. Avenatti's tweets and statements and media appearances like the one we just saw actually further the interest of his clients. And just because we've seen the president of the United States sort of ignore any sense of professionalism or ethics, doesn't mean that we should tolerate it sort of generally.

BLITZER: You know, it's not the first time the president has gone after a woman who's been critical of him based on her appearance. Let's put these pictures up on the screen. As you can see right now, let's put them up on the screen.

There you go. Senator Elizabeth Warren, he calls her "Pocahontas." Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC, "bleeding badly from a face-lift." Hillary Clinton, "doesn't have the look." Stormy Daniels, "horseface." Omarosa, "dog." Megyn Kelly, "bimbo." Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, "would do anything for campaign donations." Carly Fiorina, "Look at that face, would anyone vote for that?"

You know, so there is a history here of the president going after a woman critic based on her appearance.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, certainly specifically based on her appearance. And I think that to the point of it shouldn't be a surprise here, this is so on brand for President Trump. And, you know, therein is really where the problem lies with our culture, this political moment: the fact that you have these very -- very rude remarks coming from the president, somewhat of a typical Tuesday here in Washington. I think everyone acknowledges that this is a moment in our culture that is a problem. But we have certainly seen this tactic from the president before, this

sort of playbook, where he feels like his back is against the wall on a certain issue -- in this point, the situation with the Saudis -- and feels like he has to lash out at that low-hanging fruit. And this is something that he certainly wants to engage on.

HENNESSEY: I do think it's worth noting that this isn't only something that Trump does whenever he's being insulting. He reduces women to their looks, even whenever he's praising people. Whenever U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced her departure last week, he said that she brought an element of glamour to the role.

And so I think it's more than just him hitting back. It actually does say something about the way he views women, even women who have obtained high-ranking office.

BLITZER: But he won in this particular case. You know, his -- the lawsuit was dismissed. That was great news for him?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, certainly it is a victory for the president, as Jeffrey pointed out, there is more to come, specifically with respect to whether or not Stormy Daniels can be freed from the nondisclosure agreement that she had entered based on her alleged affair with the president.

But the more important piece of this is, of course, this record that the president has of using derogatory language to describe women. And you pointed to so many of the examples on the screen.

He also has gone after the women who have accused him of sexual assault. He's attacked their physical appearance, essentially saying "Who would harass her?" He's called them liars. He went after Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

He went after Heidi Cruz, the wife of Senator Ted Cruz, during the Republican primary, tweeting a comparison photo of Heidi and one of Melania Trump.

So this is really who he is. It's informative of the way that he views women. And, of course, it sets a tone from the highest office in the land.

[17:35:04] BLITZER: He threatens them in his tweet today. Part two of the tweet, he says, "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," the nondisclosure agreement. "She knows nothing about me, a total con."

TOOBIN: Well, and in his defense, he got attorneys' fees in that defamation case, I mean, which is very unusual in federal court, that a judge thinks a claim is so weak that he gives one side attorneys' fees. Now, that doesn't guarantee he's going to win in the nondisclosure part of the case. But, you know, the fact that he has the opportunity to go after him.

And remember, there is an arbitration clause in the nondisclosure agreement, which a lot of federal judges say, "I want to get this case out of my courtroom and into arbitration." Michael Avenatti has a response to that. Maybe the judge will buy it.

But the president is in a good legal position as regards Stormy Daniels right now.

HENNESSEY: That's what I think it's worth noting that actually, the most legal significance of this exchange is not in this case at all. It is in the separate statement that Michael Cohen made in the Southern District of New York in which he discussed whether or not the president of the United States might have directed him to make payments, potentially in violation of campaign finance law.

So I do think that, in terms of the sort of broader context of Trump's potential legal troubles, this is a little bit of a distraction. And we haven't -- we still haven't seen if he's going --

SIDDIQUI: And it's part -- it's part of why it's so striking that when he did score a rare legal victory, he still couldn't help himself but end -- but engage with Stormy Daniels. And now we're talking about him insulting her, rather than the victory that he had in court.

You could imagine we're three weeks out from the midterms. There are a lot of women, particularly women in the suburbs, who are watching the way the president talks about them, and they don't like what they see.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's more we need to discuss. We're following more on the breaking news. President Trump relaying the Saudi Arabian crown prince's latest denials of any involvement in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He's also denying he has any financial interests in Saudi Arabia.


[18:41:36] BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts.

And Sunlen, let's talk about the apparent murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. There's been a lot of angry rhetoric coming from members of Congress, especially Republicans. But is anything really going to come of it?

SERFATY: I think to be determined. Congress is out until after the midterm elections. But this particular moment, potentially any action would likely have to wait for at least a few weeks. And that's important here, as this rhetoric certainly is increased.

There were certainly very significant words coming from Senator Lindsey Graham today. He said that the U.S. should sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia. Senator Marco Rubio, a key voice, too, says that essentially the U.S. would risk their credibility on human rights if they have a weak response here. So that's really important, saying we need more than just a slap on the wrist here. We have to send a very strong message.

And not only a strong message, but back that up with some real action. Whether that forces the White House hand here, still too early to tell.

TOOBIN: All true. Not a word from the House Republican leadership. Nothing will happen without them. Nothing will happen, in my view. They are a rubber stamp for Donald Trump. The House Republicans will never criticize him on a foreign policy matter. I mean, do you think?

SERFATY: I think -- I mean, past is precedent certainly here, and I think that that's a very strong argument. It seems that this has particularly hit a chord, and I think the emotions are certainly strong in this moment. Whether that lasts in the next couple of weeks, and certainly pending the results of the investigation, if it sorts out to be credible.

BLITZER: Clearly, Susan, the president wants to take the Saudi denials at face value, whether from the King or the crown prince.

HENNESSEY: Right. So he is sort of doing the Saudi P.R. work for them, saying maybe it was this rogue element, you know, that he totally denied it, as that's something that we should be accepting as face value. Nobody believes that. Donald Trump doesn't believe these denials.

What he does is he needs a talking point to sort of get through to his next -- to his next point and avoid holding the people accountable who he doesn't want to hold accountable.

This is the same strategy that he's adopted on the Russia investigation, you know, saying that he believed Putin's denials over the assessments of the U.S. intelligence community and his own administration. Maybe it was this 400-pound hacker on the bed.

Now, the congressional Republicans went along with it that time. Didn't hold him accountable, didn't sort of stand up for the basic and obvious truth that all of us understood.

The question is whether or not they're going to do the same thing now. You know, one thing I think is potentially relevant here is Turkish officials who appear to be leaking that there might be very, very hard evidence in the nature of audio or visual truth that actually might box in either the administration itself or, certainly, congressional Republicans that are worried about being embarrassed over the long term.

BLITZER: Sabrina, the president once again tweeted today, "All fake news," that he has any financial interest in Saudi Arabia. But listen to what he said in the past.


DONALD TRUMP (R), 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.

I like the Saudis. They're nice. I make a lot of money with them. They buy all sorts of stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.


BLITZER: "Hundreds of millions." That sounds like real money.

SIDDIQUI: Well, the Trump Organization does not own any buildings in Saudi Arabia, but the president has profited through deals with the Saudis that date back decades. In the early 1990s, the then-crown prince had purchased a yacht worth $20 million from Trump and also is part of a group that purchased a stake in the Plaza Hotel, which at the time was owned by Trump and going through a period of financial hardship.

Trump also sold an entire floor of his eponymous Trump Tower to the Saudis in 2001. He continues to earn millions in associated fees.

And then, of course, since he became president, there was a lot of scrutiny over the fact that Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Last year, there was also a benefit to the Trump Hotel in New York through a visit by Saudi officials. So he does have business interests there.

We also know his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has forged a very close relationship with the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. But this is not just a test for the Trump administration. This is a test for U.S. diplomacy and the whole world is watching.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And by the way, these Saudi expenditures in Trump's hotels are the reason why we have an emoluments clause in the constitution. Why? Presidents are not supposed to have financial benefits from allies or adversaries of the United States.

Now, whether these lawsuits based on the emoluments clause will succeed, I don't know. But this is exactly what the emoluments clause was designed to stop. You know, presidents making money from people who -- foreigners who have interest in the United States.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good point. All right, everybody stick around. There is more news we're following, a closer look at President Trump's long list of insults aimed at women.

And we're also going live to the hurricane disaster zone where authorities now report a spike in the death toll.


[17:51:09] BLITZER: When President Trump took to Twitter this morning to call Stormy Daniels's horseface, he added another item to a long list of insults aimed at women.

CNN's Brian Todd not only is keeping track but he's consulting with experts. Brian, what are you hearing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, people who have reported on Donald Trump, written books about his life, say that this is a pattern that goes way back to well before his reality show days. From women who simply criticized him to those who brought credible accusations of misconduct toward him, well, no one is spared the teenage level insult.


TODD (voice-over): By his own admission, Donald Trump doesn't pull punches.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said I can't be nice if somebody hits me. If somebody hits me, I got to hit her back or him back 10 times harder.

TODD (voice-over): But today's tweet, calling porn star Stormy Daniels horseface, appeared to be an especially low blow, directed at a woman with whom he allegedly had an affair and then paid off to stay silent. Biographers of Trump say it's part of a pattern, a holdover from his reality show days.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP": It's just a characteristic of Donald Trump that he treats people this way, particularly women.

TODD (voice-over): For years, Trump had used crude insults to gain attention, famously going after Rosie O'Donnell's weight after she first called him a snake oil salesman.

During his first presidential debate, then-Fox News anchor Meghan Kelly asked Trump about his reputation insulting women.

MEGHAN KELLY, FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account --

TRUMP: Only Rosie O'Donnell.


TODD (voice-over): Kelly's question soon led to Trump going after her.

TRUMP: You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her -- wherever.

TODD (voice-over): In June of last year, Trump fired a nasty salvo at MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski who were frequent critics of him. Quote, Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year's Eve and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. Brzezinski denied she had a face-lift.

Then there was the notorious Carly Fiorina incident during the campaign, when Trump spoke about his GOP rival to a "Rolling Stone" reporter, saying, quote, look at that face, would anyone vote for that? It led to an awkward moment at a debate.

CARLY FIORINA, FORMER CEO, HEWLETT-PACKARD: I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.


TRUMP: I think she's got a beautiful face, and I think she is a beautiful woman.

TODD (voice-over): Women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct have found themselves targeted by him in public. Trump hit back at accuser Natasha Stoynoff with a horrible insult about her looks not measuring up to his standards.

TRUMP: Take a look. You take a look, look at her, look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don't think so. I don't think so.

TODD (voice-over): Trump's biographers say no one in his past ever disciplined him for behavior like this. That in the atmosphere he grew up in, intimidation and objectification of women were simply accepted.

JOHNSTON: Donald Trump is a misogynist. And on the one hand, he's been good for the careers of a few women, but he's always been antagonistic to women. You know, he once said that he wanted to punch Rosie O'Donnell right square in the face.

And it's just part of his personality. He's a bully and he likes to, like most bullies, make people think he's tough.


TODD: So could anyone close to Donald Trump actually rein in this kind of behavior?

Those who chronicled his rise in politics and in business say that, at various times, people like Ivanka Trump and his assistants could help him avoid minor pitfalls. But they say, in the end, no one, not Melania Trump or Ivanka Trump, can stop the President from leveling these kinds of insults at women, Wolf.

BLITZER: But even at the height of his trouble over these remarks, Brian, it hasn't seemed to hurt him at the polls, right?

[17:54:57] TODD: It really hasn't, Wolf. You know, in an exit poll in 2016, seven in 10 voters said that Trump's treatment of women actually bothered them. But even within that group, 30 percent voted for Trump anyway. So his comments about women just didn't ever seem to be a deciding issue for voters, at least not in 2016.

BLITZER: We'll see if that changes. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Coming up, President Trump celebrates a ruling against Stormy Daniels by saying he'll go after the adult film star calling her, quote, horseface.

And Turkish officials now say U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside a Saudi consulate, and they provide passport scans of an alleged Saudi hit team. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)