Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Grim Details Emerge In Khashoggi Apparent Killing; U.S. Secretary Of State Met With Turkish And Saudi Leaders; Thousands Stuck At Bangladesh-Myanmar Border; Authorities Teen Kills 18 In Crimea College Attack; E.U. Source: Not Enough Progress In Brexit Negotiations; Saudi Arabia Denies Knowledge of Khashoggi's Fate; Showdown in Texas for U.S. Senate Seat; Indian Minister Resigns amid Sexual Assault Allegations; Health Officials Struggle to Contain Ebola Outbreak; New Pompeii Discovery Could Rewrite History; "Big Bird" Retires. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired October 18, 2018 - 01:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Searching for answers as the evidence grows that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. The U.S. President keeps defending Saudi Arabia. Plus, the unimaginable scene of what's being called a genocide. CNN gets rare access to Myanmar's Rakhine State where hundreds of Rohingya villages were burned to the ground. And we take you to the Lone Star State just weeks before an election showdown that may change the future of Texas.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, I'm Nick Watt and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Turkish media are describing a grisly scene that led to the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and new shreds of evidence are emerging as well. Turkish officials released a scan of a passport that appears to belong to the head of forensic medicine at the Saudi Interior Ministry. His presence would make it hard to claim that this was not premeditated. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will brief President Donald Trump Thursday on his talks in Riyadh and Turkey.

Meanwhile, Turkish investigators expanded their search for evidence. CNN's Arwa Damon has this day's development.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A caravan of Turkish forensics teams to send it on the Saudi consul's residence, gloves and hazmat suits on ready to conduct their first search of the property since Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance more than two weeks ago. Teams of Saudi investigators also piling in. This is US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he received assurances from Turkish President Erdogan that a thorough investigation is underway.

Turkey's Foreign Affairs Minister says Pompeo used his visit to deliver messages from President Trump as well as information from the Saudis. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was all smiled as he met with secretary Pompeo yesterday telling him he is also keen to examine the Khashoggi case but denied any involvement. The authenticity of that claim coming into question as sources tell CNN the mastermind behind Khashoggi's death was a senior intelligence official with one source saying he was close to Bin Salman's inner circle. Still, Pompeo left ample room for the oil-rich ally to find alternative explanations.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: Mr. Khashoggi is missing. I might get a -- get ahead with two countries conducting the investigation. We're going to give them a space to complete their investigations of this incident.

DAMON: And the basic facts surrounding Khashoggi's fate were not discussed.

POMPEO: I don't want to talk about any of the facts, they didn't want to either.

DAMON: According to Turkish media an audio recording from inside the consulate indicates Khashoggi was tortured and then killed soon after entering. A source tells CNN agents may have injected the journalist with a tranquilizer to subdue him. The gruesome details emerging as we learn more about who those agents were.

According to a source, Turkish authorities are now investigating (INAUDIBLE) a member of the elite protection brigade tasked with guarding the Saudi Crown Prince. Turkeys identified 15 Saudis who arrived and left the same day Khashoggi went missing as persons of interest in the journalist's death. At least nine worked in Saudi security forces, military or government ministries according to the New York Times till the United States is allowing Saudi to reach its own conclusions.

POMPEO: We have many overlapping interests, places we work together.

DAMON: Secretary Pompeo now returning to Washington with hopes that Saudi will keep its promise.

POMPEO: They made a commitment to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that.

DAMON: Arwa Damon CNN Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And as we're learning all this, President Trump continues to defend Saudi Arabia. Trump says he supports an investigation but he's being a little coy about it. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports now from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump denying the U.S. is trying to help Saudi Arabia cover up its alleged involvement in the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, not at all. I just want to find out what's happening.

ZELENY: Despite mounting evidence that the Saudi kingdom's hand the disappearance and suspected dismembering of The Washington Post columnist two weeks ago in Istanbul, the President still taking a wait-and-see approach even as he touts the importance of the U.S.- Saudi relationship.

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia's been a very important ally of ours in the Middle East. I want to find out what happened, where is the fault, and we will probably know that by the end of the week.

ZELENY: In the Oval Office today, the absence of us moral leadership on clear display. The President would not say why the U.S. is waiting for a Saudi investigation rather than relying on U.S. intelligence.

TRUMP: Well, he wasn't a citizen of this country for one thing and we're going to determine that. And you don't know whether or not we have, do you? No, but you know whether or not we've said the FBI?

[01:05:08] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you sent the FBI?

TRUMP: I'm not going to tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

TRUMP: Why would I tell you?

ZELENY: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is returning to Washington after a fact-finding mission to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Talking to reporters in Istanbul, he defended the U.S. decision to give Saudi leaders time and space.

POMPEO: It's not about benefit of the doubt, it's that it is reasonable -- it's reasonable to give them a handful of days more to complete it so they get it right, so that it's thrown complete.

ZELENY: As the diplomatic and political crisis deepens for the White House, a growing chorus of Republicans saying the president is not doing enough.

SEN. JOHN KENNDY (R), LOUISIANA: I don't think he failed through a hole in the space-time continuum, I think he's dead and I think the Saudis killed him. With the exception of Israel, I trust every country in the Middle East as much as I trust gas-station sushi.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: I hope he's listening to all that information, not just the arguments that are coming from Saudi officials.

ZELENY: The choosing Saudi Arabia last year as the site of his first foreign trip as president, Trump has worked to forge a strong rapport with the Kingdom showing little if any skepticism of Saudi leaders.

TRUMP: I hope that the king and the crown prince didn't know about it. That's a big factor in my eyes and I hope they haven't.

ZELENY: That interview with Fox Business only the latest in the president's media blitz doing a crush of appearances 20 days before the midterm elections. He's placing himself at the center of the conversation, but when asked whether he will own some of the blame if Republicans lose control of Congress he told The Associated Press, no.

ZELENY: Now President Trump expecting a briefing from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Thursday here at the White House. Also Thursday a decision finally from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin if he will still attend that business conference next week in Riyadh. Of course, so many CEOs have pulled out of that wanting to distance themselves from Saudi leaders. The U.S. has not made a decision, Mnuchin said he will by Thursday. Jeff Zeleny, CNN the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And the Washington Post has just published what looks to be Jamal Khashoggi final column. It was written shortly before Khashoggi went missing and focuses on the lack of press freedom in the Middle East and the importance of free expression. Khashoggi wrights the Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement, and poor education through the creation of an independent international forum isolated from the influence of nationalist government spreading hate through propaganda. Ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.

Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and possible murder is already chilling the business climate in Saudi Arabia deciding Stock Exchange had another volatile trading day, a morning rally was followed by an afternoon sell off before the index recovered to close down by 8 points.

Meanwhile, as Jeff Zeleny just mentioned, more global bankers and investors are pulling out of this month's investment conference in Riyadh including Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund and U.S. Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin says he will decide on Thursday whether or not to attend. We get more now from CNN's John Defterios.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN HOST: The 33-year-old son of the king seized power last year to become Crown Prince. He's offered Western companies a volatile mix ever since. A high-profile 2030 economic reform plan with cutting-edge megacities coupled with heavy-handed moves to consolidate his grip on power. And now the apparent death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi a frequent critic of his leadership.

GARRY GRAPPO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO OMAN: The game-changer has been on the Saudi side that they act in this way against a perceived opponent and I think U.S. businesses and indeed all international businesses are going to have to take that into their calculation. DEFTERIOS: So why has Western business remain so engaged in the kingdom? Primarily because Saudi Arabia remains the number-one oil exporter in the world which has fueled an infrastructure boom well before the current Crown Prince came on the scene.

RICHARD THOMPSON, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, MEED: So you have that combination of oil income and the leadership committing to delivering key projects and investments that other markets around the world don't have and that's why potentially Saudi Arabia is one of the most attractive markets anywhere.

DEFTERIOS: Research compiled by MEED captures the scale, $1.4 trillion of major projects. A third of which are already under construction in a population just a tenth of the size of the United States. Last year I toured the Haramain train station. Part of a $14 billion rail network that will link the port city of Jeddah to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

[01:10:02] MOHAMMED FIDA, DIRECTOR GENERAL, HARAMAIN HIGH-SPEED TRAIN PROJECT: This is only the stuff we will go more and more -- bigger and bigger and better.

DEFTERIOS: The oil price collapse between 2014 and 2016 slow down master plans at Haramain and Scores of other projects. But new state- of-the-art buildings, metros, and economic sites can be found everywhere.

MARIA BARTIROMO, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

DEFTERIOS: Young Crown Prince marched in and added a layer of complexity with this 2030 plan which is dependent on Western know-how and political predictability which seems to be lacking now.

GRAPPO: U.S. businesses are going to think long and hard about how they're going to continue their relationships with Saudi Arabia when this particular government takes actions of this nature.

DEFTERIOS: There is a big bounty in the kingdom for international business, the great risk now as well. John Defterios, CNN Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And now to the Rohingya crisis that saw more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims flee into Bangladesh in just the past year. They were escaping a military operation in Myanmar that the U.N. calls ethnic cleansing. CNN's Matt Rivers got rare access to the area. Here is what he found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These people are Rohingya Muslims, some of those who fled from what the U.N. calls a genocide. Myanmar's government wants you to believe it never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our main importance to save life. We afraid our life.

RIVERS: To meet these people, it took several days and a rickety boat ride to get to this part of a Rakhine State and remote western Myanmar. So foreigners aren't allowed in this part of Rakhine. The only way we're here is on a government escort. We're only taken where authorities want us to go. Our first stop the Village of (INAUDIBLE). There used to be more than 6,000 Rohingya living here.

It's a Rohingya?

Their existence now all but erased.

That way, OK, thank you.

So this is what's left of the Rohingya village that was here. It's completely overgrown. It's hard to tell that there were any structures here at any point. The only clues we have to the violence that took place here are trees like this one still a year later bearing the scorch marks of the fires that burnt this village to the ground.

The government said their forces did respond to Rohingya terror attacks here in 2017 but that the Rohingya burnt down their own houses. Only local Rakhine Buddhists remain now. This man supports that story.

The Rohingya started threatening the army, he says. The Muslims announced that they would have a celebration slaughtering and cooking the soldiers and Rakhine people. Though clear evidence shows it was the Rohingya who were the main victims of slaughter, ten Rohingya men were hacked and shot to death by Myanmar soldiers, a massacre the military has admitted to and that two Reuters journalists were jailed for investigating. The U.N. says many more men, women, and children were savagely killed here as well.

The trip then continues through a barren, empty landscape. It makes sense when you remember the U.N. says 720,000 Rohingya fled when violence broke out last year. A full U.N. report documents how the military and local groups engaged in rape, torture, and the murder of at least 10,000 people to get rid of the Rohingya, a group many in broader Myanmar regard as subhuman, non-citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So do you continue to claim the genocide did not happen in Rakhine State?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): During the incident, there was some damage. Regarding the army, they did everything within the law. We cannot comment on whether it was right or wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is very simple. Do you believe that genocide happened here or not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm not saying genocide didn't happen.

RIVERS: Myanmar civilian leader Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi also denies genocide. Her government says it's ready to bring back Rohingya refugees like these stuck in no-man's land forced out of Myanmar and not allowed across the border into Bangladesh. They're staying put in part because security forces that would oversee their return are some of the same people accused of carrying out the killing in the first place.

The conditions inside that camp are obviously horrific. There is no access to education, no health care, no electricity, food is scarce, and yet still they rather be on that side of the fence than this one because they're too afraid to come back.

Myanmar might continue to deny ethnic cleansing but the evidence gathered by the U.N. and others is overwhelming. The government- sponsored trip does nothing to change that fact.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[01:15:12] WATT: Matt joins us now from Beijing with more on his special report. I mean, Matt, what's next for these people?

RIVERS: Yes. I mean, there's just no clear path forward at this point. I mean, besides the fact that the Rohingya are terrified to come back into their native land, where their homeland is what they call it in Myanmar, as we mentioned in our piece. But there's also broader issues surrounding citizenship and property ownership.

So right now, despite having lived for decades, and decades, and decades, in Myanmar, the Rohingya are not given full citizenship rights by Myanmar's government.

And also, the Rohingya said, they want to go back to the same lands that they were forced to out of which you can understand you probably want to do the same thing if you were in that situation. And yet, Myanmar's government has already said, they're not going to go back home if they do come back.

So, for all of those reasons combined, the Rohingya, say, well, what is the point of going back to Myanmar? They're just going to stay in Bangladesh where no man's land. But that's not a sustainable operation either for Bangladesh or for -- or within that no-man's land.

So, really it is a mess of a situation. It will take some sort of International involvement to fix it. But what that fix eventually looks like? We've spoken to a lot of people experts, NGOs, government officials, and no one has a good answer.

WATT: Matt Rivers in Beijing. Thanks a lot. Meanwhile, they kept a cordial in Brussels, but E.U. leaders left Theresa May in no doubt. They don't want to play ball with her Brexit proposal. An expert's outlook just ahead.

Plus, the stakes are high in the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas. President Trump supports incumbent Ted Cruz. But can his opponent Democrat Beto O'Rourke knock him out?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATT: The Taliban in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for another deadly bombing ahead of this weekend's parliamentary elections. The blast in Helmand Province killed candidate Abdul Jabar Quaraman and three others. The province is a stronghold of the Taliban. At least 10 candidates have been assassinated in the run-up to Saturday's election.

The Taliban has vowed a campaign of violence to keep Afghans from voting. About 50,000 Afghan troops have been assigned to protect polling places on Election Day.

And Russian authorities are investigating an attack at a college which left at least 18 people dead and dozens wounded. It happened Wednesday afternoon in Crimea, in the coastal town of Kerch. Investigators say the gunman was an 18-year-old student.

Witnesses say the attack started with an explosion, then more blasts followed by a hail of gunfire. The gunman later killed himself. The attack was first being investigated as terrorism but has since been labeled a mass murder. Russia has declared three days of mourning.

And European leaders have dropped plans for a special summit to complete the deal to pull the U.K. out of the E.U. That's according to two European Union sources. The reason, not enough progress has been made during the Brexit talks.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's big speech in Brussels on Wednesday did little to bring the two sides closer to an agreement. The President of the European Parliament politely said he wasn't impressed with what Mrs. May had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:21:10] ANTONIO TAJANI, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (through translator): There is a message of goodwill, there is a readiness to reach an agreement. But I did not perceive anything substantially new in terms of contents as I listened to Mrs. May.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: The key issue holding everything up is the so-called backstop agreement. That's a guarantee of no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. After Brexit, Mrs. May and the head of the European Commission are set to hold separate news conferences, Thursday day morning.

CNN's European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas joins me now. So, Dominic, Theresa May's big speech landed with a squelch, not a fizz.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Right. And of course, this is not the first time that this has happened. The irony of this, of course, that the latest solution to leaving the European Union is to ask to stay in it just a little bit longer.

In fact, not just a bit longer but almost three years from this particular moment down the road is the latest suggestion so that they can iron out some of these particular issues. This is, of course, going to be unacceptable to the Labour Party, and it does not want to wait around in the wings of power of three more years watching the Conservative Party shepherd the U.K. out of the European Union

And certainly, when it comes to Theresa May's hardcore right faction of Brexiteers. And they want complete severance from the European Union not staying in there longer, having no say over it, and having to pay into it. And if there's anything they were waiting for and hoping for, is that Theresa May would be in the hot seat come March.

That there would be at some point out of the European Union. And they could begin the process of trying to identify a new leader for the Conservative Party as they headed into post-Brexit general elections at the latest a few years down the road in 2022. So, this is unlikely to satisfy anybody really.

WATT: And as we mentioned, is the Irish border that is the real sticking point? As far as I can tell, Theresa May's only possible solution to that is just to kick the can down the road. We know what's really putting forward a viable solution of this.

THOMAS: No, no. Absolutely, and having -- you know, talked about all of a sort of different variations from the soft Brexit, hard Brexit, blind Brexit, and so on, one just has to wonder what is possibly going to come up.

We had the backstop to the backstop just a couple of days ago, now along the moment. In fact, what's so ironic about all of this, one should not forget the fact that Northern Ireland along with Scotland voted at the Brexit vote in 2016 to remain in the European Union. It was England and Wales that voted to leave.

And one cannot help but think that as time goes on, and as people become increasingly disillusioned with this negotiation process, and increasingly aware of the implications for Northern Ireland. That even though this is not something that the DUP wants. That the Northern Irish may come around to the idea that the best solution for them is to actually unify with the Republic of Ireland, and become one country outside of the United Kingdom.

And we're seeing some evidence and some polling that, that could be the way forward. Now, of course, if that happens, let's not forget that Scotland would very much like to go down this -- to go down that path. The longer these negotiations go on, the greater likelihood is that they will fail and that we will end up with these kinds of scenarios.

WATT: I mean, you're talking there about the possible disintegration over the United Kingdom. I mean, is it now time for us to seriously start talking about this second referendum -- this people's vote?

I mean, you know, it has been suggested, it has a few -- you know, famous people in Britain supporting Armando Iannucci, Gary Lineker, Dominic West. You know, people -- there is a groundswell. [01:25:03] THOMAS: There is. But it's also, it's so unpredictable. And, of course, the argument being made that a vote happened in the first place. We know that it was unfair, we know that the promises made were unrealistic.

I think that people now over the past couple of years have the real education and a better idea as to what it would mean to leave the European Union. And you could argue that the vote would be a little bit more informed.

But let's just say that the vote was to leave the European Union again. Is this really going to solve the long-term discussions as to what kind of Brexit is going to be in place? And as we keep saying, it seems that remaining in the European Union is going to be the best solution for everybody and we see on the part of E.U. leaders a flexibility there, because they understand that an unfortunate -- you know departure of the United Kingdom doesn't bode well.

A lot of people are going to get hurt by this. But the long-term discussions and dragging this on for two to three more years down the road sends an awful message to other members of the European Union. And is also distracting from the business that the E.U. has at hand. Which is to tackle some major 21st-century challenges and this Brexit thing continues to haunt the discussions. Let alone further divide the United Kingdom.

And so, it's hard to see that our vote as welcomed as it may be where it to come and provide for a remaining in the European Union, is going to solve the complex question of this divided United Kingdom over these sorts of questions.

WATT: Fascinating and fraught politics. Dominic, joining us from Los Angeles. Thanks very much for your time.

THOMAS: Thanks, Nick.

WATT: Next, we'll go back to our top story. After the break, more on the disappearance of Jamaal Khashoggi, and why some believe the Trump administration is providing cover for Saudi leadership?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATT: Hello and welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Nick Watt with the headlines this hour.

Russian authorities are investigating an attack at a college in Crimea. At least, 18 people were killed, dozens wounded, and the suspect we're told was a student who eventually kills himself. The attack was first being investigated as terrorism but has since been labeled a mass murder.

And Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen met with law enforcement officials investigating the U.S. president's family business and charity. It follows meetings he's already had with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. They're investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and any possible obstruction of justice.

[01:30:00] WATT: And Turkish authorities search the Saudi consul- general's home in Istanbul Wednesday in the Jamal Khashoggi investigation. According to Turkish media an audio recording suggests the journalist was tortured at the Saudi consulate and was killed within minutes of his arrival.

For now Saudi Arabia is officially denying any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi but Sam Kiley reports that that may be hard to maintain as the Kingdom is already seeing some fallout.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Saudi Arabian authorities have maintained all along and they still do in public, and we're seeing this reflected in the media, that all and any of the suggestions coming out of Istanbul that Mr. Khashoggi died is nothing short of Qatari propaganda reinforced by the Muslim Brotherhood connections to Turkey. There's no evidence whatsoever for that.

What there is evidence of is that he was murdered or died during an interrogation that went wrong or possibly a rendition at the hands of what the Turks say are a number of Saudi officials, many of them with connections to the highest levels to the Saudi Kingdom.

Now the Saudis privately though are saying and have been saying since the weekend that they are inching towards making a statement that would perhaps project responsibility for the crime committed there to perhaps over-enthusiastic unit of intelligence officers.

Among the names of interest that the Turks have put is Maher Mutreb. Now he is a colonel in Saudi intelligence. He was a diplomat in London in 2007. And he has been seen all over the world in close proximity to the Saudi Crown Prince.

That is a problem for the Saudis. The extent to which the finger points in a very hierarchical nation to the top as opposed to what is likely to be the Saudi narrative when it finally emerges which is that this was a rogue element.

And all of this against the background of a major international conference that they're hoping to hold in a few days called Davos in the Desert colloquially, from which people have been canceling invitations, senior CEOs, massive organizations that would otherwise be here supporting Saudi Arabia's vision of a new and modernized nation by 2030 simply not wishing to be associated with the Kingdom.

Now that is going to be a permanent stain on this nation, whatever the outcome of the latest investigations.

Sam Kiley, CNN -- Riyadh.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Earlier I spoke about this case with Bob Baier, CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operative. I began by asking him, do you believe Donald Trump's claim that he is not covering for the Saudis?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: No. It's exactly what he's doing. He cannot afford to lose Mohammed bin Salman. He can't afford to break with Saudi Arabia. He's desperately looking for a way out of this and as more information comes out and more details, forensics, the harder it's going to be.

But right now the United States cannot afford to come after Saudi Arabia both in terms of Iran, oil and everything else. It's the old story -- Nick.

WATT: And we also heard the President say that the U.S. has asked Turkish authorities for this alleged audio recording from inside the consulate, the President said if it exists. It seems strange that the U.S. wouldn't already have that recording.

BAER: I think there's people who've listened to it but I think he would like the actual recording. And there's supposedly video taken from the scene, too and that as well.

But I would say right now, the United States is desperate for Erdogan not to release that -- the audio simply because it's so awful.

Look everything the Turks have leaked, right from the beginning of this has turned out to be true. They have provided abundance of evidence that a Saudi team was sent in, 15 people, two jets, people close to Mohammed bin Salman and the more we see this, the more it's a smoking gun pointing right at Mohammed bin Salman.

WATT: And I also wanted to play a little bit of video. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, who just landed back in Washington after a trip to Riyadh and to Turkey. Now there's been a lot of talks about him smiling in that meeting with Mohammed bin Salman. We just heard from a source who says that the smiling photo-op should not be read as to indicate the meeting was friendly.

The source said the smiles ended at the end of the photo-op and Pompeo stressed to Mohammed bin Salman that his future as king is at stake. Do you believe that source or do you think those smiles were genuine?

[01:34:59] BAER: I think they're genuine. I mean this administration has been currying favor with Mohammed bin Salman since it entered the White House. It's never changed. They cannot afford to lose him.

The Saudis just transferred $100 million. I mean the Saudis have transferred $100 million and I think you're going to see a lot of money exchanging hand and you're going to try to cover up the details of this.

I mean the very fact that the FBI, even symbolically, wasn't sent to Istanbul tells me that we're not all that interested in the details and the United States has not called for an international investigative body to look into this which is the obvious next step. But asking the Saudis whether they did this or not and then mimicking what they said coming back is just -- and this guy was a "Washington Post" columnist. I mean he was a permanent resident alien. He was well-regarded in this capital and around the world. And for Saudi Arabia in a premeditated murder, you know, they've crossed a red line but we simply don't know what to do about it.

We depend upon Saudi Arabia as much as they depend upon us. It's a very ugly marriage. And I don't see it getting broken up.

WATT: I just want to also play we heard from Mike Pompeo on the tarmac in Riyadh before he left. I want to play a little bit of what he had to say.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't want to talk about any of the facts. They didn't want to either. They made a commitment, too to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that whether they are a senior officer or official. They promised accountability.

WATT: The Saudis made a promise that they would hold anyone accountable. Really? What do you think?

BAER: It's nonsense. I mean where -- you know, at this point they should be offering up exculpatory, you know, facts. You know, why was -- why were those two planes there? Why would people around Mohammed bin Salman, his security detail -- why did they go to Istanbul? You know, there's been some leaks about well, they are on vacation, of course, which is utter nonsense.

The Saudis and this murder of Khashoggi are more inept than the GRU were in Salisbury. I mean they were caught red-handed. And you know, all evidence points to the fact that it was premeditated. And whether they filmed this or not to give to Mohammed bin Salman is the big question. And again, I go back to the audio and they're desperately trying to get the Turks at this point not to release it. It's going to look really bad.

WATT: I mean, Bob -- as you just said, you know, they're kind of if this was supposed to be plausible deniability it's not very plausible. Fifteen people coming in to Turkey, the "New York Times" reporting that nine of those were some division of the Saudi government, you know. We've been told by three sources this group was led by an intelligence officer with close ties to Crown Prince.

I mean how did the Saudis think this is going to play out that they would just do this and no one would mind?

BAER: It's the arrogance. It's pure arrogance. When they arrested and detained the Lebanese prime minister, they didn't care. I mean he had full diplomatic immunity when he went to Riyadh and they just -- they held him for almost two weeks. Took his phones, put him under house arrest, and it was a shakedown.

I mean they didn't care about that. So they're not going to care about it. And they think they have the protection of this administration for whatever reason. It really makes you wonder why they think that.

I mean they've gotten everything they wanted from this White House. Tearing up the Iran agreement, commitments to Saudi Arabia, you know, you go on and on and on and they think that this administration is in Saudi Arabia's pocket.

And the fact that we haven't been stronger on this, the fact that Pompeo's in Riyadh smiling and joking is not a good sign.

WATT: Finally Bob -- you know, some of the details were deafening (ph) here that this was, you know, torture. Then the body was apparently dismembered. I mean why the need for such brutality?

BAER: Vengeance. Vengeance. They're looking Khashoggi as an existential threat to the Kingdom. They have to shut down all critics. The fact that in the past he's had relations with the Muslim Brotherhood -- I mean there's no indication that he in any way had betrayed Saudi Arabia politically other than criticizing the Crown Prince.

But you know, those contacts and his visits to Qatar and the rest of it and the Crown Prince is paranoid. And, you know, a violent person and impetuous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And now to next month's crucial midterm elections here in the U.S. and the showdown in Texas for a Senate seat.

[01:39:58] Democrat Beto O'Rourke is trying to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz who leads in CNN's latest poll by 7 percentage points. The race has attracted nationwide attention including tweets from President Trump who strongly endorses Cruz.

Our Ed Lavandera reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Ted Cruz.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ted Cruz has mastered the postcard size political punch.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: If you want a big government gun- grabbing liberal. Well, the Democrats are giving you one.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE: Hey everybody.

LAVANDERA: The rapid fire jabs at Democrat Beto O'Rourke are designed to deflate the El Paso Congressman's soaring campaign.

CRUZ: On job-killing regulations -- he's for them, I'm against them. Guns -- I'm for them, he's against them. On Taxes -- he's for them, I'm against them.

LAVANDERA: In the last few weeks, Senator Cruz has unleashed a wave of television ads criticizing O'Rourke painting him as dangerous and radically liberal. O'Rourke has been hesitant to fire back directly saying he prefers to follow the positive path that has brought him to this point so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beto O'Rourke is no friend of Texas energy.

LAVANDERA: The Cruz television campaign and laser-focused message seemed to have halted O'Rourke's forward march in the polls. A CNN poll shows O'Rourke seven points behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beto O'Rourke wants to be a senator.

LAVANDERA: For weeks as O'Rourke has literally run and barnstormed through every corner of the state, we've asked him how he would respond to the Cruz campaign's criticisms which seemed to be working.

Are you worried that those critics and those things are going to stick.

O'ROURKE: Yes.

LAVANDERA: Are you fighting back at him?

O'ROURKE: I think people are sick of the pettiness and the partisanship and the smallness.

LAVANDERA: Can you take the gloves off and fight a little bit tougher and dirtier if you have to?

O'ROURKE: We're fighting for a positive future for this country, not fighting against anyone. It's not against another party.

LAVANDERA: But with early voting starting next week, O'Rourke is shedding the nice guy approach.

O'ROURKE: Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you. He's going to make up positions and votes that I've never held or have ever taken. He's dishonest. That's why the President called him Lying Ted and it's why the nickname stuck because it's true.

LAVANDERA: Democratic strategist Herald Cook worked for Ann Richards, one of the last Democrats to hold state wide office in Texas. Cook says O'Rourke must sharpen his attacks before it's too late.

HAROLD COOK, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You can be high-minded while you're drawing a clear contrast between yourself and your opponent.

(INAUDIBLE)

COOK: Yes. And he needs to get on it because it's time.

LAVANDERA: An anti-Ted Cruz PAC has rolled out an ad roasting Cruz for cozying up to President Trump who once said the Texas senator had done nothing for Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If somebody called my wife a dog and says my daddy was in on the Kennedy assassination, I wouldn't be kissing their ass.

LAVANDERA: O'Rourke has rarely talked about Ted Cruz and President Trump in his campaign speeches but in recent days, that has changed.

O'ROURKE: We need a full-time senator.

LAVANDERA: He ripped into Cruz for shutting down the federal government and rolling back health care protections and even unleashed is sharpest criticism yet of the Texas senator for campaigning with the President.

O'ROURKE: Senator Cruz will put his political ambition, his prospects in the next election ahead of anything else, including his family, including those he is sworn to represent here in Texas. Texas has lost its voice in the U.S. Senate in Senator Cruz.

LAVANDERA: The showdown will continue for another three weeks in a race that's captivated a state not used to this kind of political clash.

Cruz's campaign manager reacted to this new O'Rourke strategy by saying quote, "When an unconventional candidate goes conventional that's when they get split open like a cantaloupe. Now Ted Cruz is facing a potential pitfall of his own even though Donald Trump won the state of Texas by nine points in 2016, a new CNN poll shows that currently his approval and disapproval rate are about even in this state.

Ed Lavandera, CNN -- McAllen, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And as we mentioned, the U.S. midterm elections are now less than three weeks away and CNN has you covered ahead of Election Day. We've got correspondents covering all the major races across the country.

We also have special coverage of some of the most contested. The first event, the town hall with the Democrat senate candidate from Texas, Beto O'Rourke who Ed Lavandera just told us about in his report. His opponent Republican Ted Cruz declined to participate.

Dana Bash moderates the discussion. That goes underway at 7:00 p.m. in New York; 7:00 a.m. in Hong Kong.

[01:44:56] And a series of sexual harassment and assault allegations has prompted an Indian government minister to resign. When we return -- how MJ Akbar is fighting those allegations.

Plus doctors have effective medicine to combat an ebola outbreak in Central Africa but many people won't let themselves be treated. We'll explain why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATT: An historic city in northern India has a new name and there are a lot of objections. Allahabad, the former home of Nehru, India's first prime minister, got his name from Muslim rulers in the 16th century. Now the governing BJP is giving it a Hindu name. From now on, it's going to be known as Prayagraj -- what it was originally called.

But members of opposition parties say Allahabad should be kept as it played a significant role in the fight for independence. There's growing concern from critics that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party is trying to erase India's historic diversity.

And now to a political sex scandal unfolding in India -- the country's junior foreign affairs minister is stepping down to fight accusations of sexual assault and harassment.

Our Nikhil Kumar has the details from New Delhi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN, NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: An Indian government minister who became the most prominent public figure to be named in India's #MeToo movement has resigned from office to challenge what he called quote, "false accusations".

MJ Akbar was the junior minister for foreign affairs in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and a former influential newspaper editor. He released a statement Wednesday saying that as he was suing one of his accusers for defamation he had decided to step down from office. His exit was confirmed by India's foreign ministry.

Now, Akbar's departure comes after days of speculation over his fate and after he went to court to sue a former female colleague who made the first accusation against it. He's filed a case against Priya Ramani, a journalist who in 2017 wrote a piece for the Indian edition of "Vogue Magazine".

In it she describes an experience of workplace harassment during a job interview with an unnamed editor. Last week, she tweeted that the unnamed editor was in fact Akbar, making her the first of a number of women who have since come forward to accuse him.

As news of his resignation broke, Ramani tweeted that quote, "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation."

And Akbar is not the only powerful man caught up in what's been a flurry of allegations, many of them published in social media over here.

[01:50:01] Recent days have seen women come out publicly to accuse big names in India's media and entertainment industries. In one case, a top political journalist has lost his position. In another a Bollywood production house has unfolded (ph) following harassment allegations against one of its co-founders.

But Akbar's name has easily been the most high profile taking the Indian #MeToo Movement right into the heart of government.

Nikhil Kumar, CNN -- New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: The World Health Organization is facing an uphill struggle right now, trying to contain an outbreak of ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least 216 cases have been reported with 139 deaths. But it's not because of medicine. Treatment now is more effective than ever. Rather it's because of deep distrust among the population and ongoing armed conflict with rebels.

We get the latest from CNN's David McKenzie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the eastern Congo, a deadly ebola outbreak in he middle of a conflict zone. The World Health Organization calls it a vicious cycle, the health team losing track of cases and contacts because of mistrust and violence.

TARIK JASAREVIC, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SPOKESPERSON: There are attacks and there's a violence between government and rebel groups that is not directly targeted to ebola responders but that force teams to not be able to function fully.

MCKENZIE: The Center for Disease Controls team has now been pulled out of the worst impacted areas because of safety concerns say U.S officials. For days, special teams haven't been able to function.

The Outbreak began in August. It lasted longer and killed more than they had feared.

PETER SALAMA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: You record every strategy, the three-month period. Now, we'll be looking at least another three or four months in order to really stem this outbreak.

MCKENZIE: The WHO says there is a high risk of regional spread and security. Large populations of displaced people and fluid borders are major factors that could cause a broader epidemic.

The greatest risk still is in North Kibu (ph) and the city of Benni. Some suspected ebola patients are too afraid to go to clinics believing it could be a death sentence. In reality, it's the best chance they have.

SALAMA: We have people that have been really lost to follow up. They've not been found for days on end. That's just from one day and repeat that the next day. An overwhelming majority of those people are in Benni for the (INAUDIBLE).

MCKENZIE: This outbreak still nothing like the catastrophic epidemic in West Africa in 2014 where more than 11,000 died in six countries from the highly infectious disease that leads to internal hemorrhaging and frequently death.

The WHO was criticized for acting too slow then. But it's different now. The teams rushed with a new weapon. They've already reached thousands in high-risk areas with an experimental vaccine. Doctors now use a more effective chemical regime learned from bitter experience in 2014 and new treatment.

It helped cure this woman in Benni. Doctors celebrating every victory because their battle is far from over.

David McKenzie, CNN -- Johannesburg.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Still to come, archeologists have unearthed a 2,000-year-old inscription that could rewrite Pompeii's history.

[01:53:40] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATT: The weather was cool and wet but the welcome is warm. Crowds in Melbourne couldn't get enough of Prince Harry and his pregnant wife Meghan Markle on their walk-about on day 3 of their tour of the Australia. They also attended a reception at Government House and visited a restaurant that mentors indigenous chefs.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex returns to Sydney this week for the opening of the Invictus Games. Prince Harry founded the competition for wounded military personnel after his service in the British Army.

And newly-discovered graffiti in Pompeii, Italy is being called an extraordinary find that could rewrite that fabled city's history. For years historians told us that Mt. Vesuvius erupted in August of the year 79 A.D. burying Pompeii along with her population.

But now archeologists have unearthed a charcoal inscription that supports a rival theory that the eruption occurred a little later in October of that year. They found the inscription which includes a date on the wall of a house that was being renovated at the time of the devastating eruption.

And the man who plays "Big Bird" on "Sesame Street" is retiring after nearly 50 years. 84-year-old Caroll Spinney also plays "Oscar the Grouch". He says he feels lucky that muppet creator Jim Henson had him play the two best muppets.

CAROLL SPINNEY, PLAYS "BIG BIRD" ON SESAME STREET": He said I'm going to build a large bird. I'm wondering if you might be interested in playing it. To me it's very much like some fellow came up to me and I was a drummer and said I've got a little band from Liverpool, would you like to be the drummer then.

I can't believe that Jim gave two such characters that have become iconic and are a part of so many people in America until now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: And he says playing "Big Bird" helped him find his purpose. He even met his wife while working on "Sesame Street" back in 1972.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Nick Watt. Another hour of news is coming up next with Rosemary Church. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)