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Biden Urges Against Impeachment; Trump Administration Providing Cover For Saudi Arabia?; Lawsuit Against Trump Argued in Court. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 18, 2018 - 15:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: His last "Washington Post" editorial was just published today. And 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 -- quote -- "The Trump administration and the Saudi royal family are searching for a mutually agreeable explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, one that would avoid implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."

Now, today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed his recent trip to visit the prince and his father with Trump.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that, so that we too have a complete understanding of the facts surrounding that, at which point we can make decisions about how or if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi.

I think it's important for us all to remember too we have a long -- since 1932, a long strategic relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They continue to be important an counterterrorism partner. They have custody of the two holy sites. They're an important strategic alliance of the United States.

And we need to be mindful of that as well.


CABRERA: News coming in involving the final holdout in the Saudi conference.

Let's go to CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Brian, what can you tell us?


FOX Business Network was the one media partner that was holding off on making a decision about whether to participate in this conference, this so-called Davos in the Desert. More than a week ago, "The New York Times" "The F.T.," others have pulled out.

CNN had been a media partner. CNN pulled out a while ago. FOX was the only holdout. And there was some skepticism, some curiosity about why FOX was not withdrawing. Well, now just in the past few minutes, Ana, FOX Business has confirmed they too are withdrawing from the conference.

So add yet another logo to that graphic, yet another company deciding to break off ties, at least for now, with Saudi Arabia. Now, I think FOX Business journalists might still want to interview the crown prince. Certainly, a lot of journalists would be interested in getting answers from the Saudi government about this, but, for now, FOX, FOX Business Network saying it too is going to go ahead and withdraw from the conference.

CABRERA: All right, Brian Stelter, thank you.

Joining us now is the U.N. global affairs analyst Aaron David Mueller, who's also vice president and distinguished scholar at the Wilson International Center.

And, Aaron, I want to get your take on Mnuchin and now FOX pulling out of the so-called Davos in the Desert. This, you could say, is the first time the U.S. administration is punishing the Saudis. What's your reaction?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, they may be hedging their bets, Ana.

I mean, I don't know what U.S. intel is telling the administration, but clearly the circumstantial evidence that not only did the Saudis willfully in a premeditated way murder Jamal Khashoggi, but in MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabia the notion that this operation would have been carried out, so risky, so politically explosive, and fraught with implications, without, not just the foreknowledge, but the validation of the crown prince strains credulity to the breaking point.

So the administration is confronted, I think, with -- well, Secretary Mnuchin not going was a step in the right direction, because to have gone would have green-lighted, validated and essentially acquiesced to the Saudi narrative.

And this administration, I think, understands that the least they could do right now, 18 days into this crisis, is to suspend or withdraw Mnuchin's participation.

CABRERA: Pompeo's announcement -- I quote -- "We ought to give them a few more days."

Is there precedent for how the U.S. has handled this investigation, to really stand back and let the Saudis investigate themselves, rather than calling for an independent probe? MILLER: Well, the global Magnitsky Act, which is not triggered by Congress, basically gives the administration 120 days to launch its own investigation in order to make a determination whether or not, in this case, the Saudis were responsible for murdering, torturing, violating Jamal Khashoggi's human rights.

So the administration will be faced with three possibilities. The Saudis will come out, whether it's three days or two weeks from now, with a report that I suspect most normal human beings will judge to be not credible.

How can you launch an investigation, an honest one, when in fact you are suspected of committing -- committing the murder? The administration will have three choices. They could accept the results. They could reject them and launch their own independent investigation, and/or begin to impose consequences.

And, remember, Jamal's murder is not the first, but it's at the end of a long series of reckless and destructive moves by the crown prince, the boycott against Qatar, which has split the Gulf Cooperation Council, disastrous war in Yemen, temporary detention of the Lebanese prime minister, complete with his own hostage video, and a lot of repression at home, Ana.


And we -- we, even though we do have an important relationship with the Saudis, are either by acquiescence, silence or support aligning ourselves with a regime that is pursuing policies that undermine our own values and interests.

So I'm not calling for abandoning the relationship, but we really need to serious think about -- seriously think about recalibrating it.

CABRERA: We will see what happens when this investigation is complete.

Thank you for laying out the options that this administration may have.

Now, in a statement just given to CNN, the family of Jamal Khashoggi says they consider him to be a missing person until they have legal or official proof to believe otherwise.

Here's what Vice President Pence had to say about this case moments ago.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I can assure you that we're going to follow the facts.

And the secretary of state received a commitment for a thorough and complete investigation by the Saudi government. It will be completed in just a matter of a few days. When we have that information -- and we won't solely rely on that information -- we will collect all the evidence -- and then the president will have a decision to make what the proper course of action is for us going forward.

But the world deserves answers. If what has been alleged occurred, if an innocent person lost their life at the hands of violence, that's to be condemned. If a journalist in particular lost their life at the hands of violence, that's an affront to a free and independent press around the world. And there will be consequences.


CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp, host of CNN's "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," and Van Jones, host of CNN's "THE VAN JONES SHOW."

Good to see you guys all in one place.


CABRERA: OK, let's get back to serious business, because the story obviously has taken a few twists and turns.

I mean, giving the Saudis time to investigate, Van, are they essentially -- is the administration giving them more time to form a cover story?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that's everybody's fear. I mean, that's what it is.

And it's really not about their investigation. We have the best intelligence in the world. We should be talking about our own timeline for our own investigation.

I couldn't help but be struck, though, by the difference in tone from Vice President Pence vs. President Trump. Listen, at least Pence said the right things. He says we're going to follow the fact. He's not saying, hey, look, I believe these people.

He also says that there will be consequences, especially if there's a journalist. So you have Vice President Pence sounding more like a traditional American leader who wants to get the bottom of things and have some consequences and cares about the First Amendment and journalists vs. what you heard from Trump.

So I'm not giving praise to anybody in that -- in the White House until we do something, but at least it sounds a little bit better, and a big contrast.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, let's be clear, this was not just a Saudi attack on a man, Jamal Khashoggi.

This was an attack on an idea. That idea is freedom. That idea is democracy. That idea is the freedom of the press. As far as I'm concerned, Jamal Khashoggi is the Twin Towers. He is the Pentagon. He is "Charlie Hebdo."

He is an idea as much as a man. That doesn't mean we go to war with Saudi Arabia. We can talk about the best response. And there should be a range of them to consider, but that President Trump does not feel that in his bones, that he does not get that intrinsically, something I think Mike Pence does, is alarming.

And it is the consequence for electing a president who has been openly, outwardly hostile to Democratic institutions, like a free press, for example.

CABRERA: I just can't get over the fact that they're being patient with them investigating themselves.

V. JONES: Yes.

CUPP: That's where I think we have to have some confidence in Congress. I know I have talked to a lot of Republicans even who are insisting they will turn the screws on an investigation. They want to get answers.

So whether President Trump is reluctant or not, let's hope that Congress, our friends on the left and the right, come together to make sure we get the answers we want.

V. JONES: Yes, because right now even the cover-up is ludicrous.

If I accidentally kill somebody, I call an ambulance. I don't call somebody to cut them up and...

CUPP: And stuff them in boxes.

V. JONES: And stuff them in boxes.

So even the cover story that they have come up with is incriminating as anything else you would come up with. So the idea that these people need another couple days to come up with a second draft on that, I say, no thank you. We need to get to the bottom of this ourselves.

CABRERA: Let's listen to evangelical leader Pat Robertson.

V. JONES: Oh, let's not.



PAT ROBERTSON, HOST, "THE 700 CLUB": I just don't think -- you have got $100 billion worth of arms sales, which is -- you know, that's one of those things.

But more than that, we have got to have some Arab allies. We have had so many people killed. We had CIA people killed in Lebanon. People have been taken hostage over the years. I know it's bad. But, I mean, we have had all kinds of stuff. But you don't blow up an international alliance over one portion. I mean, I'm sorry.


CABRERA: Your reaction, S.E.? I think what it sounded to me he was saying is money is more important than one man's life.

CUPP: Oh, he's not hiding it.

And President Trump has made the same kind of statements, grotesquely calculating the cost of a human life. In this case, it's $110 billion. That's that's not what we have gotten, of course. That's the stated package.

That is a grotesque calculation to make. I will point out this administration is not the first to make it. It's the first really to make it openly and honestly and as sort of nakedly as Trump has.

Other administrations, Democrat and Republican, have had to calculate the cost of messing with the Saudis for all kinds of reasons. We can reevaluate that relationship. But it is a cost that is considerable.

CABRERA: But just going back to what we heard from Pat Robertson, Van, are you surprised to hear a person of faith take this stand?

V. JONES: Yes, that's, that's the thing that I am taken aback by, as a person of faith myself. And we share a faith. That's not how a minister should be talking about this. That's literally the reverse of the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

To put literally material considerations over the dignity of the human soul is against Christianity. Let's just say that. It's against Christianity. So something is happening where our institutions are being perverted and corrupted in ways that I think are shocking to behold in a very, very fast clip.

Evangelical Christians in particular, whatever disagreements I might have with them with policy, on principle, I used to be able to line up with them, on principle, personal morality matters. These things matter. We all fall short, but at least at the level of principle we could agree.

Now they're saying, eh, you know what, if we get a good Supreme Court, some tax cuts and a deal with the Saudis, screw all that stuff. Kill people. We don't care about porn stars. Porn stars don't matter.


V. JONES: Adultery doesn't matter. Porn stars don't matter. Killing people doesn't matter. Hey, we got a business to run here.

That's not a person of faith. That is something -- and maybe it's justifiable -- but he's speaking as a preacher, not as a president. And that's disturbing.

CUPP: And we should also just point out this is not new Pat Robertson. This is like same Pat Robertson. This is the guy who has said earthquakes are because God's mad at gay people.

This has long been his shtick. So...


CABRERA: ... in context.


CABRERA: Guys, stay with me, though. I want to talk to you.


CABRERA: We have got a quick break. Get a quick break in here.

And we want to talk about former president -- Vice President, I should say, Joe Biden among a number of possible 2020 contenders who may want to be president making very public appearances over the next few days. Why Biden says, don't impeach Trump, despite the battle cry from some in his own party.

Also, developments in the Russia investigation. It turns out former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and special counsel Robert Mueller have been spending a lot of time together lately. What we're learning -- coming up.



CABRERA: As former Vice President Joe Biden ponders a 2020 presidential run, he is pushing back now against a common battle cry we have heard from more progressive Democrats: Don't impeach President Trump, at least not yet.


QUESTION: And if Democrats win the House, do you believe that they may move forward with articles of impeachment?

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope they don't. I don't think there's a basis for doing that right now.

I think we should wait until the report comes out.


CABRERA: Biden is just one of several Democrats, by the way, canvassing the country over the next few days. You see everybody out there across the U.S. on the map.

S.E. and Van are back with me now.

So, Van, what we heard there from Biden is different than what we have been hearing from some of the more progressive people who are running to be in Congress, like the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes. What happens if you have all this wave of fresh Democratic blood coming into Congress? How are the two going to align?

V. JONES: Look, have you seen a car crash? I mean, that could be what you get.

I think, first of all, it's amazing that it's news for a former vice president to say don't impeach the president yet, until you get a report. And that's considered conservative. That's considered moderate. It's like, OK, we might have a problem in this party.

I think that people are electing Democrats, and one way is to send a message to Donald Trump, but also because a lot of stuff isn't working right in America still. Like, you still have health care costs going up. We got a bunch of problems I think people want to get solved.

And I think if the Democrats want to present themselves as a party that should have the presidency, they might want to actually focus on everyday issues.

I think there's a section of people in our party that are spun up about Trump, rightfully so, understandably so, and feel like impeachment is some badge, some proof that you're really mad about what's going on in the country.

I think that people are going to do better -- people who say, I'm mad about what's going on the country, so I want to help you, not spend all my time trying to figure out a way to hurt the president.

CABRERA: Not just going against. It's about what you're for.

V. JONES: Yes. Yes. That's what I think.

But, listen, if he gets beat up for saying, wait for the facts, I don't understand how you can then turn around and criticize Trump for not -- for -- it's just we need to be more consistent.


CUPP: Van's advice is good to the party, because I think people really do care more about the issues and the policies, rather than exacting revenge on Donald Trump.

However, I don't think most Democrats are going to take this advice. I think, two seconds after -- Van, you and I will be at a table somewhere on November 7, having a conversation.

I promise you Democrats will be calling for his impeachment.

CABRERA: Why do you think that?

CUPP: Because I think this pretend caution is all about midterms. And it's not real.

And I think they will succumb to sort of the baser instincts and the shiny objects, the loudest noise, and the second if they -- if they win control of the House -- and I still think that's an if -- I think they're going to go all in on impeachment, including maybe even that guy.

CABRERA: I want you guys to listen to Democratic Senate candidate Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. She has her own message to her party. Listen.


QUESTION: Are you a Democrat?


QUESTION: Proud Democrat?

SINEMA: Gosh, it's hard to say proud. I don't know that -- I'm not sure that people are even proud of parties anymore, because I feel like the parties are not doing a good job.

So I would say that I'm a proud Arizonan.



CABRERA: Van, will those comments hurt her, or is party loyalty really not what it used to be, not as important?

V. JONES: Look, I think she might get some authenticity points.

I mean, I think people are really, really frustrated with both parties. And I think she's actually -- she's probably speaking to more people with that comment than she's offending. And she didn't say, I'm ashamed to be a Democrat. She said, I don't think people are proud of the parties, plural.

If she had said, I am ashamed to be a Democrat, I think you then don't run as a Democrat. But I think -- I think there is a bipartisan disgust with both parties. I think she spoke to it well.

Now, guess what? Go on Twitter. I'm sure she's getting beat up. But, you know, there's common sense and there's a common outrage. And they're not the same thing.

CUPP: Look, yes, maybe that was a very clever nod at sort of the softening of party affiliation.

But she's also someone who has called Arizonans crazy more than once. She's called Arizona the meth lab of democracy. She's compared Arizona to Lindsay Lohan, famous in a bad way. So to say she is a proud Arizonan, not even that rings true.

I think Kyrsten Sinema's problem is that we all know what she's not for. I don't know if we know what she is for.

CABRERA: Going back to the earlier point you were making.

CUPP: Full circle here.

CABRERA: Got to got to leave it there, guys. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER) CABRERA: I like that. You guys should have your own show.

V. JONES: Hey, that's an idea.


CABRERA: Hey, they do, their own shows.

S.E. Cupp, Van Jones, thank you.

Don't miss their back-to-back shows. It's this Saturday night, "UNFILTERED WITH S.E. CUPP" at 6:00 Eastern, and then "THE VAN JONES SHOW" at 7:00. And please stick around after that for my show at 8:00.

Now, the guests, by the way, this week on Van's show are former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and veterans running for office on both sides of the aisle.

OK. Moments ago, former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos was in court fighting to move forward with a defamation lawsuit against President Trump. It comes after a similar case filed by Stormy Daniels was thrown out. Details on the chances this lawsuit will stick.

Plus, as the CDC is scrambling to figure out what is causing a polio- like illness that is leaving some children paralyzed, we're hearing now from the mother of a 3-year-old with the disease -- her advice on what to watch for.



CABRERA: President Trump may have claimed victory against Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit, but the jury is still out in a second case filed by ex-"Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos.

Zervos claims Trump defamed her after she accused him in 2016 of sexually assaulting her in 2007. Trump is trying to stop this case from going forward. And the lawyers on both sides of this were in court just left hour.

CNN national correspondent Athena Jones was there and rushed back to join us now.

Fill us in.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an interesting case.

Number one, it's different from the Stormy Daniels case, because in the filings you're reading, they -- Zervos cites like 18 examples of the president tweeting or making a comment about her, some of them explicitly naming her, or tweeting out or retweeting a picture of her. So there's that. Now, this case is being argued on appeal. So it's

essentially the same arguments made before. Trump's side says that the Constitution's Supremacy Clause means that a sitting president cannot be sued in state court.

Now, Zervos' side, of course, disagrees and says that a sitting president can be sued in state court, no one is above the law. That is a quote, in fact, from the lower court judge. And she points to Clinton vs. Jones, the Supreme Court's decision in that case back in the '90s, that said that a president is not immune in federal court.

The difference, of course, is this is state court, so that issue is open. That's why they're making these arguments. But Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said, look, the state court has no power, no authority under the Constitution at all over the president.

Zervos' lawyer says, look, state court judges can just as well as a federal court judge work with the White House to keep any sort of court -- from any sort of lawsuit from conflicting with the president's duties. So that is the issue at hand.

There were some tough questions from both sides. It was a five-judge panel. And both sides were asked tough questions, among them, this idea that, OK, if a president is not immune from a lawsuit, does that mean he could be sued in city court? Does that mean he could be sued in small claims court?

Zervos' lawyers allowed that, yes, ostensibly, but that's not likely. There was also an issue over, well, what happens if a state court orders the president to comply with something, let's say a deposition, and he refuses to do so? Then what happens? Can he be held in contempt? Can he be jailed?