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U.S. Seems to Be Trusting the Saudi's Ability to Investigate Themselves; Trump's Focus on An FBI Building Project Draws Scrutiny; Trump Challengers Hitting Key States. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 18, 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] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Secretary is pulling out of the initiative next week. And all of this in protest to the disappearance of Khashoggi. His last "Washington Post" editorial was just published today. He spoke of yearning for a free press in all the Arab world. Now critics of the President are wondering just what could be suppressed after "The Washington Post" reports the Trump administration and the Saudi royal family are searching for a mutually agreeable explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Today Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed his trip to visit the prince and his father. He said they've promised him a complete investigation of the facts, prompting an immediate pushback.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should Saudi Arabia be trusted to conduct a fair and impartial investigation when they're accused of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're all going to get to see that. All of us will get a chance to make a determination with respect to the credibility and work that went into it. Whether it's fair and transparent in the way they made a personal commitment to me and the crown prince made a personal commitment to the President when he spoke to him I believe it was the night before last.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's break all this now. Max Boot, my guest, the U.S. wants to give the Saudis more time to investigate themselves.

MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": It's going to be a long wait if they're looking for a serious investigation. Asking the Saudis to investigate Jamal Khashoggi's murder is like asking Trump Jr. to investigate the ties between the party and the Russians.

CABRERA: Do you see a scenario in which they'll come back and the Saudis will essentially pick a fall guy and the lust say, see, it was a rogue actor?

BOOT: That seems like the most likely scenario. They're going to look for somebody to take the fall. It's disturbing when "The Washington Post" is reporting the Trump administration is colluding with the Saudis instead of trying to get at the truth. CABRERA: You write Trump has given every despot on the planet a

license to kill.

BOOT: President Trump has basically signaled he doesn't care. The only thing that matters to him is dollars and cents. It's shocking he was more worked out about Canadian milk than he is about the death and dismemberment of this journalist. It gives the message to the Saudis they could do whatever they want to their own people and outside their own borders. President Trump doesn't care about the Saudis murdering somebody in their consulate in Turkey. This is a very bad day for dissidents and Democrats around the world.

CABRERA: The Saudis are accused of that murder but we don't have the conclusions yet. What would the U.S. do to make you take back those words?

BOOT: If the Saudis have proof that would exonerate they should present it but they haven't done that. We should reserve judgment until we have the evidence but the Turks seem to have the Saudis dead to rights within the consulate. We'd want to see some impartial body or the United States have access to that evidence. From what we're seeing, the Saudis look incredibly guilty.

CABRERA: Both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are doing investigations. What if they c/come back with the results of their investigations and they have two different conclusions?

BOOT: Well, I wouldn't trust either the Turks or the Saudis to come up with an impartial finding because they both have their own axes to grind. Erdogan is not an exemplar of press freedom. He has also been guilty of repression. What comes first for him is advancing his own interest. There's a lot of conspiracy theories flying around the middle east. In any case, I wouldn't trust either country to come up with an impartial finding. You'd need an international body of the kind formed to investigate the murder of Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon.

CABRERA: Pulling out of the summit, what do you think of that?

BOOT: I think it's a good move, a small move. It shows the administration does understand the serious of this. When we saw the video from Riyadh with MBS, the crown prince, laughing, that did not convey any sense --

[14:05:00] CABRERA: They say those pictures don't tell the full story, that he was actually pretty tough when he talked to them.

BOOT: That may be the case. Pictures communicate s a lot. I don't know what he said in private but certainly the message in public from Mike Pompeo and President Trump is they do not regard this as something that is of a major concern to them.

CABRERA: There has been growing pressure on Mnuchin to make the decision whether he's going to the summit. We did see Mnuchin's European counterparts from the Netherlands, the U.K. and France pull out and then the announcement from the United States. BOOT: The U.S. is not leading. We are following our business leaders

and our allies. The U.S. under President Trump is not showing any leadership on issues of human rights and standing up for the ideals on which this country was founded.

CABRERA: Max Boot, thank you very much. To the latest in the investigation. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul a couple of weeks ago Turkish media just released some new images that place a Saudi intelligence officer and former diplomat in the Turkish city around the time Khashoggi, father of four, he was there. Let's get to CNN senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt for more details.

ALEX MARQUARDT, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Turks have just released new pictures of one of the 15 men believed to be part of the hit team that flew in and allegedly detained, murdered and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi.

This man his name is Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb. We're told from a source that he played a pivotal role in the assassination of Khashoggi. The photos show him arriving at the Saudi consulate on the day that Khashoggi was last seen, nearby at the consul general residence and one of the city's main airports. We know he's a Saudi diplomat and intelligence officer who has been seen in the crown prince entourage on foreign trips. That's one more indication that the prince likely knew about this plan.

CABRERA: Let's bring this all together, Alex, and take us through the timeline of what we know about Khashoggi.

MARQUARDT: This happened just over two weeks ago. On Tuesday, October 2nd, two planes, private planes connected to the Saudi government landed in Istanbul with 15 men on board. Now, a couple hours later, just after 1 p.m., Jamal Khashoggi was seen for the last time heading in to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That was taken from CC TV cameras as you can tell.

That was released by the Turkish authorities now, this past Monday is when the Turks finally were allowed into the Saudi consulate. That was almost two weeks after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. The Turkish investigators were only allowed in after a cleaning crew is seen going in with mops and buckets. The Turkish President later said there were toxic materials that had been painted over by the Saudis. That same day CNN broke the story that the Saudis were preparing to release a report that admitted to the killing but that it was an interrogation that went wrong, that they didn't mean to kill him. And that came, according to the report, without clearance from the top, so from the Crown Prince MBS. As you know, it is a highly unlikely scenario in such a tightly controlled regime. That report which we reported on Monday still hasn't been released and that fuels speculation that the Saudis are still trying to work out their story.

CABRERA: Alex, thank you for wrapping it all up for us.

It is a prime piece of real estate in the D.C. was President Trump involved in halting plans for his own personal gain? We'll explain next. And the FBI now involved in the search for this 13-year-old girl missing after her parents were found dead in their home. Investigators are now focusing on a cryptic 911 call and what they heard in the back ground. We'll have a live report. Stay with us.

[14:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: New details on President Trump's role in a battle over the future home of the FBI, including a secret oval office meeting about the proposed project. The question centered on a long-debated plan to turn the FBI's crumbling headquarters over to a commercial developer who would demolish it and then build a new development is there.

[14:15:00] Trump's Washington hotel is located just a few blocks away. Let's get to political reporter Lauren Fox. You're hearing of some secret meeting in correction with this project?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: New documents show that President Trump was more instrumental than known about moving the FBI headquarters to the suburbs. The decision could have financial benefits for Trump, whose hotel is located just blocks away and wouldn't face competition from developers buying the old FBI building. The documents show staff openly discussed the President's roll between officials about the future of the FBI building. A previous inspector general's report accused murphy of not being forthcoming about that White House meeting in testimony to congress earlier this year. A staff attempted to finalize the plan to keep the FBI headquarters in D.C. and put it in writing. One GSA staffer wrote, quote, ideally, I think it would first recap the meeting with what POTUS directed everyone to do. Another said GSA was going to, quote, hold our ground on funding source. The documents obtained by house Democrats are just a preview of the kinds oversight Democrats might escalate. The White House issued a comment saying house Democrats have it wrong and that the FBI did not want to move its headquarters.

CABRERA: Lauren Fox, thanks for laying it out for us. I want to talk to Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth About Trump." You interviewed Trump many times. Before he moved into the White House, the idea of moving the FBI started years before he ran for President and according to the "New York Times" reporting, he was interested in what might happen to this FBI site again as private businessmen. Did he ever mention this propose FBI renovation project to you?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR OF "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": We didn't discuss the FBI project but we did discuss his hotel project just a few blocks away. He's extremely enthusiastic about it. He envisioned profits well into the decades to come. And I think he imagined the campaign for President would raise the visibility of his name, the value of that property and the draw for people visiting Washington, especially Republicans. But now we know as President he's of great interest to foreign leaders, to foreign regimes. There's concern about benefits going to him from foreign sources as people book rooms at the Trump hotel, and now we have this evidence that he personally directed the choices made around the FBI headquarters. I can't imagine another President who wasn't obsessed with real estate and obsessed with money making this kind of overture, making this kind of decision on a granular level about something that really should have been left to professionals.

CABRERA: We do know the President was involved in this decision based on the e-mails that came out in this Inspector General report. Again, let me read what the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said about this story. Quote, "once again house Democrats have it all wrong. The President wanted to save the government money and also the FBI leadership did not want to move its headquarters. On that first point, the President wanted to save the government money." You talk about his attention to money and finances. Does that answer make sense to you?

D'ANTONIO: Well, I think if the President were interested in the federal budget, he wouldn't have had a tax cut that's blowing up the deficit and now having some in congress threaten Medicare and social security. The idea that this is a President who is worried about spending money is laughable. And we would be asked by Sarah Sanders, I think, to imagine that for once in his life this man who is obsessed with money and considers it the scorecard that matters the most would drop his interest in this case.

[14:20:00] He's got power. He wants to exercise it, and he's going to do it in his favor and he's done it in favor of his friends in the 100th of 1 percent through the tax cut and he's doing this for himself and his heirs with protecting his hotel.

CABRERA: I do want to make note that according to the Inspector General, they concluded that constructing a new FBI building in downtown D.C. would actually be more costly than relocating the bureau. Michael, thanks for chiming in and giving us your insight into Trump's mind from the many days you spent with him and reporting on his own family. Thank you very much.

This just in, one of the Republican lawmakers in the House says President Trump should not get blamed if the party loses big in the midterms. Hear why. Plus take a look at this, some Democratic stars fanned out in key states. Is this a preview of 2020? Hear what everybody from Michael Bloomberg to Joe Biden said about the President next. We're on the road.

[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Midterm elections are now just 19 days away, but we're getting our first look at who may challenge President Trump into 2020. The biggest Democratic hopefuls are already stumping in crucial primary states in coming days as they ponder a 2020 run. Senator Gillibrand is in New Hampshire, Joe Biden is in Delaware. Christina is in South Carolina, by the way. Let me start in South Carolina where several of the party's biggest names will be today and this weekend, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He's been outspoken against President Trump lately. What's he saying today?

CHRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was here to talk about leadership and entrepreneurship from the students, but he also talked about trade and Bloomberg slammed the administration's trade policies, calling them nonsensical and disastrous for America. He took a very sharp swipe at NAFTA. Bloomberg is going on this cross-country tour, state to state. I was with him last weekend in New Hampshire ostensibly to show support for issues he passionate about like gun safety, education, climate change. All of this activity and the fact that he's put $80 million of his own money toward flipping the house during the midterms is stoking speculation that he will make a run in 20. As far as I know in my reporting, I've been told that decision has not been made yet but certainly these kind of stops and this kind of activity will not stop the questions from coming to his camp.

CABRERA: He's staying busy and making headlines. Thank you, Christina Alesci, we appreciate it. And it's fair to ask are they really just testing the waters for a 20 run? Joining us now to talk more about this, David Chalian. He is the director of CNN politics. He's coming to us from Texas. We're going to talk more about why you're there specifically but first, what do you make of all these Democrats making moves right now in is this earlier than usual to test the waters for a Presidential run?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: We have seen in previous cycles candidates considering running get out on the stump and help their party in the prem midterm cycle. You're going to have 20 to 24 Democrats seriously this getting into this battle for the Democratic Presidential nomination. It's going to be a pretty much wide- open race in many respects. So much of the energy inside the party right now is focused on taking down Donald Trump. A lot of Democrats want to seize on that energy and show themselves as the dragon slayer, the one who can do it. The or father factor important to consider is this is likely to be a pretty good Democratic year. The opposition party usually does pretty well. We've seen the enthusiasm on the Democratic side, in special elections and their fund-raising and in poll numbers where the generic congressional ballot is heading into the midterms.

[14:30:00] The candidates for President want to get out there and say if you're Cory Booker or Kamala Harris say, hey, remember I came out for you so come on board. This is laying the groundwork and get out there and do these favors for people so can you call on those favors down the road.

CABRERA: You referenced numbers showing momentum for Democrats. It shows Dems outraising Republicans and you have President Trump's numbers higher than in recent months. What do you make of that, David?

CHALIAN: Clearly the President is coming off of a bit of a victory swing here in the last couple weeks, getting that confirmation on to the Supreme Court for Brett Kavanaugh, his second appointment on the Supreme Court, fulfilling that promise to move the court in a more reliably conservative direction, the NAFTA with Mexico. And the jobs numbers are as great as they've been in my lifetime in many respects in terms of the jobless. Off of that what you see is you see Republicans who may have drifted away from him at times or independents who lean Republican, they're coming back home, they're getting more enthused. It's election time.