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Trump Is Patient with Saudis As Evidence Grows Against Them; Trump Denies Giving Cover to The Saudis; Trump Family Business Practices Examined and Found to Be Highly Deceptive; Michael Cohen to Campaign Against Trump. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 17, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you. I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. We start with even more details today, the leading suspect in the likely killing of a U.S.-based journalist. As the evidence mounts, so, too, does the President's resistance in believing the Saudi government had anything to do with it. Sources say Turkish investigators are honing in on a Saudi intelligence officer who allegedly led the torture and murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

That officer seen on the left side of your screen is also a Saudi diplomat who, according to a source, has close ties to Saudi's crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman shown on the right. President Trump acknowledges if audio exists, as Turkish officials claim, then the United States has asked for it. But still President Trump who makes snap judgments that often get tweeted before vetted continues to defend Saudi Arabia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saudi Arabia has been a very important ally of ours in the Middle East. We're stopping Iran. We made a big deal when we took away that ridiculous step made by the previous administration. $1.8 billion in cash, what was that all about? And they are an ally. We have other very good allies in the middle east. If you look at Saudi Arabia, they're an ally and they're a tremendous purchaser of not only military equipment but other things. When I went there, they committed to purchase $450 billion worth of things and $110 billion worth of military. Those are the biggest orders in the history of this country, probably the history of the world. I don't think there's ever been any order for $450 billion. And you remember that day in Saudi Arabia where that commitment was made. So, they're an important ally, but I want to find out what happened, where is the fault, and we will probably know that by the end of the week. But Mike Pompeo is coming back. We're going to have a long talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's bring in White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. The President is showing patience.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, also a change in tone from when it started when the President had a tone saying if it was the Saudis found to be responsible, there will be severe punishment. Now we're hearing him cite their strong denials and also say he's not giving them cover but, Brooke, he is stressing multiple times today and interactions with reporters where he is stressing what an important al lie he believes Saudi Arabia is to the United States. You saw him talking about the arms deal, talking about American deals it will create and how much money it is. That echoes Mike Pompeo, who the President sent to Riyadh and Turkey saying that, too. He said I think it's important that everyone keep in their mind this relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Now, that's raising concern for critics who say they're not focusing enough on the moral leadership here and instead focusing on the financial benefits of this U.S./Saudi relationship, talking about Iran and the Iran deal there with those sanctions going into place in November. So, we've got that focus right now. President Trump essentially says we're waiting to see what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says when he gets back to the United States. He's on his way back from Turkey right now to brief the President essentially on what he discovered in those meetings. But from the public comment we've heard, it doesn't sound like he's been convinced of any overwhelming evidence and said he hasn't listened to any audio that substantiates the claim that this reporter was murdered while in the Saudi consulate.

And there's also the question about whether Steven Mnuchin is going to travel to that investment conference in Riyadh. He's supposed to leave at the end of the week. Right now, President Trump said essentially a decision would be made by the end of the week. We're told he's still making the plans to go there and that hasn't changed as of yet. As to questions about whether or not they're behind this disappearance are still mounting and growing by the hour.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you for your reporting and your setup there. In the meantime, the president is pushing the Saudi king and crown prince's point of view as yet another example of this affinity for autocrats. Let's get some more perspective and go to Chris Cillizza. The President has a habit of backing leaders who exert absolute power.

[14:05:00] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: That's exactly right, Brooke. That's a pattern, a rule, not the exception. I want to see if we can show the various authoritarian leaders he has praised. He's saying they deny it, therefore, it must not be true. Let's start here, Turkish President Erdogan. Donald Trump has said he gets very high marks about Erdogan, Donald Trump's words. There was a scuffle outside the embassy between protesters and Turkish security forces. Erdogan was watching during that. Russia, we know Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump continues to defend Vladimir Putin. It's not just on the claims of Russian interference in the election, honestly facts based on the U.S. intelligence community, but he defends him on lots of things, he's a strong leader, his people respond to him. As I mentioned, we've got the Saudi Arabians. Kim Jong-un. Donald Trump said recently I like how when he talks, his people sit up and pay attention. There's a reason for that. Look at his human rights record. That's fear. He's an authoritarian. And we go to President Xi in China. President Trump said jokingly at a Republican fund-raiser first reported by CNN that Xi is President for life and maybe Trump would try that. He likes that he's the most -- he says he's consolidated power faster than any President in Chinese history. There's a commonality here. He likes people who are forceful, who he believes their people stand up for them. The problem is none of these people represent a democracy and Donald Trump does. I'm not sure he understands that difference, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, there's the theme there with all those guys and it's also noteworthy when you listen to whose word this President accepts versus totally dismisses.

CILLIZZA: There's a huge deniable double standard. There just is. I've gone through a lot of these. Brett Kavanaugh, right? This is someone who says in this interview yesterday Brett Kavanaugh was proven innocent. You can debate what you think about Brett Kavanaugh but him being on the supreme court is not proven innocent of the allegations by Christine Blasey Ford. It means the senate decided he was good enough to be in the senate and they thought that didn't matter as much. Climate change skeptics. One of the most amazing parts of this AP interview with Donald Trump, he mentioned that his uncle was an MIT professor. He said he never talked to him about climate change about that you Donald Trump has an affinity for science and he know there is are arguments on both sides. The reality is there isn't really. Scientists agree about climate change. Let go to the people he doubts.

I mentioned Christine Blasey Ford, saying it's a hoax, a Democratic hoax. She denied Democrats pushed her into it. Climate change scientists. The U.S. intelligence. Let's not forget, Brooke, the unanimous decision finding by the U.S. intelligence community was that Russia sought to interfere in our election in 2016 to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton and yet here we are. Port Rico's hurricane study. It showed the number of deaths vastly larger than previously reported because that went against Donald Trump saying there were a small number of death, he doubts it. And even when Donald Trump was a private citizen, he believes people he likes and who support his agenda. This is political and nonpolitical. He does not believe and chooses not to believe denials of people who are not for him, not on his side, not like him. It's a giant -- there's a huge physical -- fissure here. And it's all based on whether you say nice things about him or you don't.

BALDWIN: What is the message that this sends them to the rest of the world, A, and B, we were just talking recently about the lowest of low numbers, just the global perception of the United States and of this President?

[14:10:00] CILLIZZA: The other thing to think about is what do all these people have in common in the accepts or denials? All praise Donald Trump. Donald Trump is smart, he's strong, he's somebody who knows what he's doing. Brett Kavanaugh in his supreme court nomination speech, odd that that even happened, said it was the greatest honor of my life that Donald Trump bestowed this on me. These are all people who say nice things about him. Strong, he's somebody who knows what he's doing. Brett Kavanaugh in his supreme court nomination speech, odd that that even happened, said it was the greatest honor of my life that Donald Trump bestowed this on me. These are all people who say nice things about him. He's very simple in that way. You say nice things about him, he says nice things about you. Don't overthink it.

BALDWIN: Coming up, and the in-depth report taking a deep dive into more than a dozen global deals involving the Trump family business. What it reveals about tactics, alleged patterns of deception, and how the Trump still profited even when projects failed.

Also, he has already flipped on his former boss. And now former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is planning to go after the President politically. What CNN is learning about his plan to hit the campaign trail with Democrats. And I had nearly 5 months after Roseanne Barr's departure, we finally know how the network wrote her off in the new spinoff show. Roseann is calling it quote, unnecessarily grim and morbid. We will talk to a former writer of the show straight ahead. You are watching CNN and I am Brooke Baldwin.

[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We've got to talk about this eye-opening new report about the Trump family business and a pattern of corrupt businesses. Their eight- month investigation uncovered a pattern of deceptive sales number. And after months of hyping their close involvement, the Trump family would deny responsibility and just up and walk away. I have Andrea Bernstein with me, the senior editor of "Politics and Policy" and one of the many people involved in this mega investigation. It's huge, all of what you guys dug up. Give me some specific examples of how the Trump family was deceptive.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR OF "POLITICS AND POLICY": So, in the story we took a deep dive in the Trump Panama. It's not a Marriott. When they were starting this deal, they left potential buyers with the impression, for example, that they had an ownership stake, which they did not. We have an interview on our Trump Inc. Podcast with Ivanka Trump in which she says it's 90 percent sold. It wasn't. It was making a 500 percent premium. It wasn't.

BALDWIN: So, she was lying.

BERNSTEIN: Ivanka was not telling the truth to people who might be buying in. What this pattern tells you is that early on in the deals when they need buyers and they need investors, they talk about how great it's doing, how wonderful it's doing, how bought in they are. But when the deals fail as they did -- panama went bankrupt, almost half of the people in the units had to walk away from their deals because they couldn't make money from them, and the Trumps still made a lot of money. But what we saw is that this kept happening. It happened in something similar or a variation happened in Baja, Mexico, something happened in the Republic of Georgia where we keep seeing --

BALDWIN: Where was the scrutiny? Where were the checks and balances to realize that they were being it seems duplicitous?

BERNSTEIN: One of the reasons we did this investigation is because last year we did a story where we looked at how Don Jr. And Ivanka were almost indicted for a similar series of misrepresentations. You can't say something specific that can influence a financial decision if it's material. This isn't saying the Trump Soho building is the greatest in the world. This is saying something specific about its value. In that case there were felony fraud charges that were considered. But there was a lot of legal advocacy on behalf of the Trump organization and there was a visit to the Manhattan DA by a campaign donor. After all of that, the case was dropped. So, the Trumps have had a very aggressive legal strategy to keep regulators away, to keep people from looking away. In this specific panama deal, everything got rolled up into the whole global financial crisis so there wasn't so much scrutiny on this specific deal. But when we talked to people, they said if this keeps happening over and over again, in Mexico, in Soho, in Panama, what it suggests is it's a business model. It's not a fluke. This is how they did it, they got people to buy in by making very specific misrepresentations --

BALDWIN: But where were the sales even coming from?

[14:20:00] BERNSTEIN: This is an interesting question. In Panama we don't know. There were a lot of shell companies. There were specific incentives in panama for buyers to get in on the deal early. The brokers would get a 90 percent commission early on after the deal is signed -- which is unusual. Brokers get most of their compensation at the end. People were encouraged to come into the deal who maybe never intended to close the deal. And some of the people involved in Trump panama have been associated with money launderers. There were reports about some drug trafficking people associated with that deal. So, it is under-scrutinized but --

BALDWIN: Well, until you guys came along.

BERNSTEIN: The Trumps, they make their money and when the deal fails, they walk away and say we were just the licensers. The tax issues that are not prosecutable today because of statute of limitations. I'll be curious to see what comes from WNYC and ProPublica. And we have a podcast.

BALDWIN: Thank you for coming on. Coming up, he was long called Donald Trump's fixer. Now Michael Cohen said he's ready to fight his former boss and is set to bring his growing animosity to the midterms.

And an officer confronting two young black boys waving a be gun and the officer didn't know that. It was quite a lesson. The officer said he was in dad mode. We'll talk about that coming up.

[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The President's former fixer, Michael Cohen, once the ultimate Trump loyalist, now wants to campaign against Trump and the entire Republican party. A source telling CNN that he is prepared to stump for Democratic candidates and call out anything he considers to be lies from President Trump. All of this coming from the same guy who once famously said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. The President saying that Cohen was lying when he said that Trump directed him to break the law. With me now, MJ Lee, CNN's national reporter who broke the story. So, he had been a Democrat before, right, but the fact is he's now essentially wanting to go to battle with his former boss and this entire party and have it happen 20 days before the midterms.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a remarkable 180 for Michael Cohen. We're learning that he's willing to campaign for a Democrat going into the midterms, three weeks away, or heading into the 20 Presidential election. He's willing to take on the President and call him out on whatever he believes are lies told by the President. The back story here is that last week, according to his lawyer Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen changed his party registration, back from Republican to Democrats. As you know, for many years he actually was a Democrat. It was only after the 2016 election when he was asked to be involved in the RNC that he changed his registration to Republican. The fact that he is willing to publicly take on the President in this way and wants to be involved like this is kind of remarkable for somebody who, as you said, said that he wanted to take a bullet for the President to protect him.

BALDWIN: It's a change in the last couple of months, watching this arc in Michael Cohen. What's the DNC saying or is there any Democratic candidate saying, Michael Cohen, jump on my team?

LEE: We did ask the Democratic national committee for comment. They did not comment. I noted that the midterms is three weeks away. There's a timing issue here. The biggest factor is that he is waiting for sentencing. That is not going to happen until December.

BALDWIN: And he can only move to certain states in the meantime.

LEE: He's limited to where he can even travel so the idea that he's a free man who can do whatever he wants, at this point in time, that's not the case.

BALDWIN: And just the big picture, the last couple of months, the legal issues he's been facing and where this thing stands now.

LEE: Yes. What is interesting is that even though he did not get a cooperation deal, for all intent and purposes he is wanting to cooperate and it seems like he is doing so. I think it's worth ticking off all the different kinds of investigators he's been talking to since he pled guilty include Robert Mueller's office, the New York state Attorney General office, the New York State Tax Office, that's is something that Trump should be concerned about because of the big story in the "New York Times" that pointed to a lot of sort of questionable at best practices that the Trump organization has been involved in. If anyone should have information about anything that Trump might have done in his past that is questionable or wrong, that would be Michael Cohen. At this point in time he's making it clear that he wants to cooperate and that he wants to help.

BALDWIN: Great. MJ, thanks for your reporting. Good to see you. Next President Trump says blaming the Saudis is another example of proven guilty before innocent. When it comes to who he listens to and who he dismisses, is this a question of morals?