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CONNECT THE WORLD
Pompeo Told Trump to Give Saudis A Few More Days to Investigate; Washington Post Publishes Khashoggi's Final Column; Top Afghan Police Chief Killed in Kandahar; U.K.'s Theresa May Shifts Position on Brexit; Steve Mnuchin Will Not Participate in Saudi Business Summit. Aired 11-12p ET
Aired October 18, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: -- be tough on them with Ukrainian Crimea. So, yes, absolutely, it can
survive. And Jim, it should survive. The alliance in partnership with Saudi Arabia in the region is vital, it is important. And President Trump
is not wrong to want to try to find ways to preserve it and keep it moving forward. But that doesn't mean you can't be hard and very tough on them
about this particular incident.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Critics would argue that administrations prior to this -- including the Obama administration -- arguably gave Saudi Arabia
too much of a pass when it comes to human rights. We will keep following this the breaking news. We'll pass it off. Thanks for joining us today.
I'm poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: I'm Jim Sciutto at this hour, Kate Baldwin starts right now.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Thanks to Poppy and Jim for that update there. Hi, I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Sitting in for
Becky Anderson here in Atlanta.
Our top story, of course, pictures, words and key meetings, they are new developments in the story of missing journalists, Jamal Khashoggi. Here's
the latest. U.S. President Donald Trump was just briefed by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, about what Pompeo found on his visits to Saudi Arabia
and Turkey this week. Pompeo, as you heard, says the Saudis have assured him that the investigation will be thorough and he told the President that
the U.S. needs to give the Saudis a few more days to probe the case.
Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" has published Khashoggi's final column, a plea to the Arab world to respect journalists and embrace freedom of the
press. And Turkish media has published surveillance footage said to show one of the main Saudi suspects in Istanbul on the day Khashoggi
disappeared. Although security camera images reportedly show a man named Maher Mutreb. He is a Saudi security official thought to be tied to Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Now images placing him in Istanbul would seem to bring the plot against Khashoggi closer to the Saudi royal family.
So, we, of course, continue to cover the story from all angles. Sam Kiley is in Riyadh, Abby Phillip is at the White House in Washington, and Ben
Wedeman is in Istanbul. Ben, I just want to start with you first and these new images we're getting and how they play out? Ben doesn't seem to have
sound, I don't think. Let's go to Sam first. We just laid out some of these images, same Has there been any reaction in Saudi to them?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when Ben rejoins us, he can take us through the movements of one of the key players Maher
Mutreb who is at least a colonel, if not higher, in the Saudi security forces and very, very close, indeed, to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown
prince, as are according to nine other members of that 15-person team that traveled to Turkey. According to the "New York Times" either members of
the security forces or government employees of the Saudis.
Now, all of this mounting evidence is being fed through the international media, not least to the Saudi government here in Riyadh. And the official
position remains that Mr. Khashoggi left their embassy -- rather consulate, Robyn, intact. However, in the local media they are repeatedly and with
increasing stridency insisting that this is all a fake news plot cooked up by the Qataris who of course are locked in regional rivalry with Saudi
Arabia and the UAE. Both of whom are blockading that island nation at the moment.
In terms of what's been going on privately, there are indications from the administration here that they are trying to find a way to conduct an
investigation and to make some kind of publication about its results in a timely fashion, but we understand that it's unlikely to implicate any very
senior members of the government here. Because the line we're hearing from sources is that this was potentially a rogue mission. That said, none of
those positions are official positions. They're just what sources have been telling us, Robyn.
And we also have to recall that it is Turkey that is drip feeding out all of this information. And the Saudis so far have been entirely passive.
They are under a huge amount of pressure, I think, to come out with a version of events, but I get the impression that they want to try to come
out with a definitive version of events, rather than respond to what may be erroneous leaks by Turkish officials -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK, thanks for that. Standby, I want to go to the White House. Abby Phillip is joining us as well. Abby, so basically what Sam was just
saying, we also see this coming out of Mike Pompeo just the last few minutes. We heard him and many ways the U.S. is also saying, despite all
the pressure, let's give Saudi some time, let's give them a few days.
[11:05:03] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Robyn. And what we heard from Mike Pompeo just a few minutes ago was not
anything definitive about where the White House stands on this issue. Basically, he said that after briefing the President, they were going to
give the Saudis more time to figure this out. More time to conduct their own investigation, even though there are lots of questions about whether
the Saudis can essentially investigate themselves in this case. And Pompeo is emphasizing the U.S. long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia and he
is -- he said almost nothing at all about Khashoggi's disappearance, about his apparent death inside of the consulate. He said nothing at all about
the facts of the case.
We asked repeatedly about whether he believed there was video or audio evidence, there was no answer to that. He wouldn't even answer whether or
not he believed Khashoggi was alive or dead.
So, what we're seeing from the White House right now is an effort to give Saudi Arabian authorities more space to figure out how to resolve this
issue, not caving to the pressure being put on in part by the Turks who are putting out all this information selectively about what they know to be the
case about what might have happened to him. And the President is -- has over the last few days also reiterated that he doesn't necessarily think
that blowing up the entire strategic relationship is warranted in this case. So, we're still in wait and see mode.
And there is one outstanding question here for the White House, which is, whether or not Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, is going to continue
with plans to go to the conference, the Saudi Arabian conference, that was slated for the next coming days. We're expected to get a decision on that
today. One of our -- my colleagues just saw Mnuchin here at the White House a few minutes ago and he said a decision would be coming very soon.
CURNOW: Ok, great. So, we'll keep an ear out for that. And we do have Ben Wedeman back. I think you can hear us now, Ben. And just again, just
take us through these images that have been released by the Turks. Because they're really telling, aren't they, when it comes to the timeline?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. These are CCTV images published in Sabah, the Turkish daily here in Istanbul, that show
Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, who is a colonel in Saudi intelligence. A man who traveled with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United Kingdom, to
the United States, and is now part of his special security guard.
It shows -- the CCTV pictures show him entering the consulate here on the second of October after 9:00 in the morning. That's the same day when
Jamal Khashoggi entered this consulate never to be seen again. Later there's a picture of him in the afternoon leaving the consulate at about
three and a half hours after "The Washington Post" columnist entered. And then other additional pictures of him checking out of the Movenpick which
he had a room reserved until the 5th of October but leaving on the second. And then the final picture of him at Istanbul's Ataturk airport preparing
to board a private jet that first went to Cairo and then to Riyadh -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK, so that is telling also. There's also, again, suggestion of some sort of audio. We've heard the U.S. President saying, well, maybe
there's audio, maybe there's not. Has anybody heard this audio particularly within U.S. intelligence?
WEDEMAN: We don't know that. And that's a very good question. Because everything seems to hinge upon this audio recording. And even the reports
that have been in the Turkish media and other media, it's really sort of thirdhand. It's reporters being told, briefed by somebody who has been
briefed by somebody who has listened to the audio recording. So, at this point we simply don't know.
The details, of course, that are coming out are gruesome. They talk about the man going into the consulate and quickly being beaten, injected perhaps
with some sort of lethal drug, and then having his fingers cut off and then killed and dismembered. But, you know, we heard President Trump yesterday
said that hand over the recording. And he questioned whether it existed. And certainly, this whole drama seems to be endlessly longed because the
Turks, if they actually have this audio recording, are giving it out with an eye dropper. Not simply handing it over and saying this is the
conclusive evidence that murder was committed.
[11:10:00] Until that comes out or we hear more about the results of the two searches that took place nine-hour searches each of the consul
general's residence and this consulate here, we're sort of stumbling around in the dark with anonymous sources. There's no Turkish official who has
gone on camera or has made a statement basically repeating all these claims that are linked, for instance, to this audio recording. So, it's a bit
vexing to tell you the truth -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, it certainly is. And you made some excellent points there. This is a criminal investigation, a number of them, separate ones, the
Turks and the Saudi, but there's also the broader geopolitics here. Abby, I just want to go back to you at the White House, because we're hearing
from "The Washington Post" that the U.S. and Saudi are trying to come up with a mutually agreeable version of events. Is that what we're seeing?
Is that why there is this delaying, this slowness from the White House and what we've seen from Mike Pompeo?
PHILLIP: That is pretty much what we are actually witnessing, is that the U.S. government has said to the Saudis, you need to come up with an
explanation for what happened here. The question is whether or not it is possible for there to be a mutually agreed upon story about what happened
here. Especially if such a story would directly contradict any concrete evidence that exists about what might have happened in that consulate.
There's an effort to give the Saudis more time to figure this out, but the U.S. is kind of withholding judgment for as long as they possibly can. The
White House and the President are trying hard to hold at bay a lot of people here in Washington, in the intelligence community, and in Congress
who are pushing them to be more forceful and pushing them to act on this. There are a lot of people who say if there is a mutually agreeable story,
that that story might not necessarily be the truth. And there are potential consequences for that. Potential consequences for the United
States when it comes to foreign policy long term but also in the near term. Political consequences for President Trump if he's seen as seeking to cover
something up that is as allegedly gruesome as this might have been.
CURNOW: Yes, this all is very much playing into the concept of real politic. Thanks so much to you all. Abby there in Washington, Sam in
Riyadh and Ben right there on the scene in Istanbul. Thanks, everyone.
So more than be two weeks after Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance, we hear his voice once again. Today "The Washington Post" published his final column
and fittingly it was about the value of free press.
He writes, the Arab world is facing its own version of an iron curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power.
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.
Khashoggi's colleague and editor at "The Washington Post" spoke to our Anderson Cooper about why his column is being published now. This what is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN ATTIAH, GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: We held off. We honestly thought that maybe we were dealing with, you know, perhaps an
interrogation situation. We thought that maybe he would come back to us. We thought maybe we were perhaps even dealing with an imprisonment or a
hostage situation. But as time went on, it became increasingly clear that I wouldn't edit him again. And so, I think this week we decided as the
story is moving on to sort of the U.S./Saudi relationship, a geopolitical story, rumors are swirling about who he -- who Jamal was.
We just decided we wanted to bring it back to his words, to his ideas, to his thoughts and who he was as a person and why he was so passionate about
being free here in Washington and being free here at "The Washington Post." So, we thought it was appropriate just to remind people of the human, of
the man, who fell victim to apparently a horrific, horrific crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Powerful words from journalist and his editor. Keep it here on CONNECT THE WORLD. U.K. Foreign Secretary, shadow foreign secretary, Emily
Thornberry will join us more on the global outcry over Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and his apparent murder. That's coming up in about ten
minutes time. So, stick around for that.
One of Afghanistan's most powerful security officials is dead. Afghan officials tell CNN that Kandahar's police chief was shot and killed
following a meeting with top U.S. Commander General Scott Miller. The Taliban has claimed responsibility, saying both the police chief and Miller
were targets. According to U.S. forces the commander escaped injury but two American citizens were wounded.
Nick Paton Walsh is in London. He's following all of this for us. And you've been to Afghanistan this year, you've reported on it a number of
times. What does this incident tell us? It came very close.
[11:15:01] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, frankly, one of the most startling breaches of security, certainly within
the tighter bubbles where you would expect U.S. commanders to travel that I can recall.
Now remember General Scott Miller, who escaped uninjured from the incident inside the Kandahar Palace where the governor of Kandahar, a very important
region in the south, General Scott Miller escaped uninjured. He's a Special Forces commander. So obviously, used to a wider risk envelope and
obviously, in circumstances like this you have to get out and meet leading Afghan officials.
What's extraordinary here is this appears to be an Afghan on Afghan incident. One armed Afghan in that meeting turned his weapon, it appears,
according to U.S. officials, directly targeting those key senior Afghan officials first. It appears that three Americans, in fact, were wounded.
One contractor, one civilian, and one serviceman according to the latest information we are getting. They've been evacuated.
But the key thing here, obviously, is who lost their lives. Now General Abdul Razak is the police chief of Kandahar and he is a towering figure,
frankly. Unethical some say, but certainly a strong man who has had great impact. He's relatively young. And he, of course, in his loss, leaves an
enormous power vacuum there. And an extraordinary question, literally days away from a vital parliamentary election in Afghanistan. How on earth with
was it possible for this to occur? Now Afghan on Afghan attacks are hard to legislate against. It involves the Taliban normally infiltrating the
inner circle of somebody, blackmail, threats, et cetera, getting them to turn their weapon, but it's extraordinary to have this kind of security
bubble penetrated to this coined kind of effect -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, you make really good points there. Because it just says a lot about the security situation in Afghanistan and what the Americans are
dealing with and certainly what ordinary Afghans are dealing with as well, particularly the security forces. So, the big question is what next?
WALSH: Well, yes. We are in frankly everyone says every year is the most significant year for Afghanistan, but the numbers here, the metrics are
staggering. A near record number of bombs being dropped by the United States Air Force there. Really lacking troops on the ground to do what
they did at the height of the surge about ten years ago, eight years ago, and using air power to hold the Taliban back.
The Taliban control more territory than they have done since the Americans turned up. There are more Afghan soldiers and civilians dying than there
ever have been at this pace. Violence has never been so bad. The stakes are high. Donald Trump said he will win in this, but he hasn't really made
it clear how. There's a new commander. He's just had this frankly I'm sure rude awakening -- an experienced special forces soldier is used to
this thing, but it is startling frankly, that we're talking about that kind of security bubble being breached -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK, thanks so much, Nick Paton Walsh, there on the developing story. Appreciate it, Nick.
Still to come here on CNN. United in anger, politicians across the globe condemn Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. We'll
speak with a foreign affairs spokesperson for Britain's Labour Party. That's next.
[11:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CURNOW: Hi, I am Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. Thanks so much for joining us. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. Welcome back.
Now while Saudi Arabia maintains relative silence regarding the disappearance and apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi, leaders and
politicians from around the globe are calling for investigation and accountability. The British Secretary of State for International Trade,
Liam Fox, is the late toast drop out of the Saudi investment summit. The so-called Davos in the Desert His spokesman saying it was not the right
time and that those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi must be held to account. So, for more on this I'm joined by the
U.K.'s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, who is part of the opposition Labour Party. She joins who us now from London. Emily, good to
see you. How should allied partners respond? How should the U.K. be responding?
EMILY THORNBERRY, BRITISH SHADOW FOREIGN SECRETARY: There are laws, there are rules, there is morality, there is what is right. And at a time like
this I think that world should be united in condemning what seems to have happened. We need to know what the truth is. I appreciate and we're
hearing many contradictory stories, but I think there's very little doubt now that he was -- that Khashoggi wasn't killed and really, we're waiting
for the Saudi Arabians to explain how on earth it happened. Whether some of the lured accounts are really true. And even if they're not how can it
be that someone can go into one of their buildings in Turkey and not come out again and seemingly be killed? There are rules and, frankly, we should
all be standing together and saying this is completely wrong and there must be accountability for it.
CURNOW: What kind of accountability would you suggest? If it comes to --
THORNBERRY: Well --
CURNOW: -- to fruition and there is proof this was a macabre messed up, botched murder within a consulate.
THORNBERRY: I think your own Congressman Ted Lieu put this well. He said that either the Saudi world family knew about this, which is terrible, or
they didn't know about it, which is equally terrible.
We have seen this before where there have been excuses put forward, for example, in what's happened in Yemen. So, when there has been a wedding
that has been bombed by the Saudi Arabians or a funeral or, indeed, a bus full of children coming back from a school trip, the Saudis have excused it
by saying it was a rogue element, we weren't in charge. We don't know how this happened. We will make sure that they are accountable.
Now some of the whispers that you hear is that that would seem to be the defense the Saudis are considering putting forward this time. But it's
just not good enough, is it? Because those of us who know about the way in way the Saudi regime operates, it would be difficult it seems to me for a
gang of Saudis to come over from Saudi Arabia in a private plane, to go into the consulate and to be involved in this and leave again without there
being some sort of nod from those in authority and particularly the crown prince.
CURNOW: Do you think there needs to be consequences and that's what you are suggesting there are rules. But at the same time the U.K. is just as
complicit as the U.S. in some of the violence in Yemen, for example. The U.K. sells arms to Saudi. Those are U.K. missiles that are dropping on
THORNBERRY: Oh --
CURNOW: So surely -- do you suggest then that the arms market is cut off as a consequence for the U.K.? Is there that moral obligation in the face
of the --?
THORNBERRY: The American -- I think the American government and British government agreed that for some reason they can excuse continuing to sell
arms to Saudi Arabia when they -- when the bombs and the planes are being used on the face of it for breaches of international humanitarian law. The
opposition in my country, led by me, in the foreign team, say absolutely not and we've been saying for three years that we should be stopping
selling arms to Saudi Arabia if those arms are being used in Yemen until there has been an international investigation. An independent
international investigation to show whether or not they have been used for breaches of international law. And I know that there are people on the
Hill in opposition to the current administration who say the same thing.
[11:25:04] CURNOW: I just want to change tack slightly and talk about Brexit. Because that is another huge story and of course, a huge debate in
the U.K. at the moment. We're watching what's been happening in Brussels today. The deadlock, Prime Minister Theresa May has really turned heads in
the U.K. hinting that she actually could extend the Brexit transition period to bolster trade talks and this was kind of agreed to by European
leaders a little bit earlier on. European leaders we know are also dropping plans for a special November summit to complete the deal and also
ordering EU officials to intensify preparations for a no deal scenario. So, my question is, there's a large People's Vote march planned on
Saturday, some estimates about 100 people are said -- more than 100,000 are set to attend. Given the public feeling on this should there be a second
THORNBERRY: Lots of people think there should be a second referendum. All of us are very concerned about what on earth is going to happen next.
Because we seem to have been given a completely binary choice. It's either going to be a nonsense deal that Theresa May, may or may not be able to
cobble together or no deal at all. And we say it should not be a binary choice, that really that we need to have a proper negotiation.
And the problem in essence is this -- the Conservative Party that are in power in Britain cannot agree amongst themselves about what it is that they
want. Let alone what is good for the country. And so, because they've spent two years fighting amongst themselves we are running out of time and
cannot negotiate in Europe as a result of that.
The Europeans are saying, look, you've got this fantasy proposal, all right, fine, we don't think it's going to work, but we need a backstop in
case it doesn't work. And that's what they're fighting about. Now if the -- if those who are proposing Theresa May's Chequers deal really believe
that it would happen they wouldn't worry about there being a backstop. Because they think that Chequers would work. But we know that Chequers
won't work and that Chequers is basically an opportunity to try to tack together some sort of agreement amongst warring individuals within the
Conservative Party. I mean it's awful. You know, they're just not looking at what's good for the country. They are simply fighting amongst
In the meantime, many people say, well, if the government can't govern, then why can't we have another people's vote on this. The problem is
that's largely promoted by people who would like to remain in the European Union. And the truth is that public opinion hasn't really shifted that
much. And so, we remain divided as a country. So, my solution and it seems to me to be -- I'm just an old-fashioned girl, you know -- but if a
government can't govern, we should get another government and we should have a general election so that Labour can take over and we are united.
And what we want is we want a customs deal. We want to have a -- be in a customs union with a free trade arrangement on top. And that is a proper
negotiating position and that actually offers some hope for our country as we leave the European Union.
CURNOW: The Labour perspective there. Emily, great to speak to you. Thanks for giving us that there from Westminster, the British shadow
foreign secretary. Thanks for joining us.
Again, live from CNN center this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, the Khashoggi case could hit the Saudis in the wallet or will it? We'll
discuss the backlash from the business world next. Stay with us.
[11:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CURNOW: Good to have you with us. I'm Robyn Curnow. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. Welcome back.
(INAUDIBLE) -- the disappearance and apparent killing of Saudi journalists, Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed just a short time
ago by U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, about Pompeo's meeting this week with turn Turkish and Saudi leaders. Now Pompeo came out of that
meeting and urged patience. Saying both the Saudi's and Turks will be issuing reports from what happened in the next few days. He said the U.S.
wants to see those reports before taking any action.
And it comes as more evidence has emerged that could tie the Saudi royal family to the alleged plot against Khashoggi. Turkish media has published
surveillance footage said to show one of the main Saudi suspects in Istanbul on the day he disappeared. The man in the image is thought to be
a security officer who worked for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
So, all of this comes as more and more high-profile figures drop out of the so-called Davos in the Desert, an investment conference that was scheduled
for next week in Riyadh. The British Trade Secretary we're hearing Liam Fox is not going either, neither are the French and Dutch finance
ministers. Now the big question remains whether U.S. Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin will go. He's set to decide in the coming hours on that.
Our emerging markets editor, John Defterios is in Abu Dhabi to wrap all of this up for us. So, John, more big names dropping out. What is the
broader implication of this?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNNMONEY EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, let's start with the headline that's crossing right now, Robyn. We understand U.S. Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin has just tweeted that he will not be going. So, while we have across-the-board resignations from Liam Fox, U.K. trade
minister, you noted the finance ministers from France and from Holland, we now have the U.S. treasury secretary deciding to duck out as well.
That does surprise me knowing the position of Donald Trump. He's been steadfast in his support here for $450 billion worth of contracts over the
next ten years. But again, Steven Mnuchin deciding not to go. We have, Robyn, nearly 25 A-list players who are not going to the Davos in the
Desert. This is a group that would normally go to the world economic forum in Davos. It's not supportive of the kingdom itself. There's two ways to
look at it here. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is acting in defiance in one respect, going ahead with the event anyway, and sources
tell me this plays well at home.
But his organizers are not sharing any information. We've asked for the number of attendees, those speakers on the panels that still exist, and
we're not getting anything back whatsoever. I also think we should not forget the location of this event at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh was turned
into a jail just three weeks after the event that we attended in 2017. They arrested 380 Saudis and extracted $100 billion from them. In this
didn't play well with investment.
And I can show you a couple of key numbers here. Foreign direct investments during the reforms that the Crown Prince has been putting
forward only came in at $1.4 billion in 2017.
[11:35:01] And the capital flight surged to $80 billion last year. And J.P. Morgan Chase has suggested that would be another $65 billion in 2018
by the time this year wraps up. There's a double message here, the Crown Prince is defiant. He's going ahead. He's getting political support from
the United States, but the investors are showing force, they're playing in Saudi Arabia is a big market but the FDI since he pushed the reforms and
did those arrests has been dropping.
CURNOW: Yes, but I do want to talk about this decision by the treasury secretary in the U.S. not to go. As you say, it surprised you and probably
surprised quite a lot of watchers in the region. And I just want to read his tweet.
He said, I just met with the real Donald Trump, that's his Twitter handle and secretary Pompeo and we have decided I will not be participating in the
future investment initiative summit in Saudi Arabia.
And what this shows us, this tweet, is that there is a coordination here between -- at the top levels of U.S. government, between the Secretary of
State, the President, and the Treasury Secretary. That's a message as well to the Saudis.
DEFTERIOS: It is. And you heard Secretary of State Pompeo earlier in your program here making a statement suggesting they need full transparency from
the Saudis, but also offering to give them some time to complete their investigation. So, the message is here, we would like to have you maintain
the alliance with the United States, it's an eight-decade long alliance that they need for the security pack and the tough line against Iran. This
plays well with Saudi Arabia and UAE and Bahrain in the very staunch position against Iran. But you've got to give us something to work with is
the message from Treasury Secretary Mnuchin not going to the future investment initiative in Riyadh.
You have to come up with a credible report, and, in fact there's a lot of risks for Secretary Mnuchin to continue, but listening, Robyn, to the
narrative of President Trump in the White House yesterday, single handedly and single mindedly sticking to the numbers here of $110 billion of
military contracts and a potentially $450 billion over the next ten years for military contracts and corporate contracts within Saudi Arabia. I
thought Mnuchin perhaps was going to stay on board and let Mike Pompeo playing the tough cop.
He was smiles going into the meetings with King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince. He firmed up his position here and said give
them some time and now they're taking no risk with Mnuchin going over to Riyadh. I don't think that part is going to play with well in Riyadh
itself. I thought the Crown Prince would think that they would get that sort of support from the treasury secretary.
Yes. Let's talk more about all of this. John Defterios, thanks so much. Really appreciate that perspective. This is a developing story. So, let's
go straight to Robin Wright, who is a "New York" contributor. Has been reporting on the Middle East for many, many years. Robin joins me now.
Robin, your reaction to this announcement on Twitter that the treasury secretary won't be going to this key conference. What does that signal?
ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE NEW YORKER (via Skype): This is a huge setback for the kingdom which has relied on foreign investment to help
diversify its economy. The so-called Davos in the Desert economic conference was in part to bring in whether it's foreign investment,
technology, and expertise, for its so-called vision 2030. The Crown Prince's core idea to bring reform and modernize the desert kingdom. And
the fact that the American, British and French finance ministers are all refusing to attend, really puts extraordinary pressure not just over the
Khashoggi case, but also on some of the core kind of political issues, the practices, of -- in Saudi Arabia.
CURNOW: I want to talk about that because we know that Pompeo warned the Crown Prince that he was risking his taking the throne essentially. Do you
think that is a concern here, the internal dynamics within the Saudi domestic political situation, and has all of this perhaps seen a
reassertion of the old guard?
WRIGHT: Well, it's clear that the building momentum over this case is, indeed, putting into question the broad issue of Saudi leadership. Who is
leading, who is responsible for these practices, and putting on the table questions about can the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, survive this
ordeal? It's clear from with what the President has indicated, President Trump, that they may offer some kind of excuse about a rogue operation, but
the fact that we've now had several days even since President Trump floated that idea, and we still have no final report, is an indication of how this
government in Riyadh is floundering. And that, of course, is also going to put even more questions on the table.
[11:40:04] CURNOW: We've been hearing from "The Washington Post" that the Americans and the Saudis were trying to come up with some sort of mutual
narrative on this. Is this what we're also seeing here, is giving time, saying let's wait a few days, we just heard Secretary Pompeo say that
outside the oval office, is that a way of the Americans trying to at least give the Saudis and particularly Mohammed bin Salman some time to come up
with a story and perhaps a story that Americans can be on board with?
WRIGHT: The Saudis are the only ones who shouldn't need time to explain what happened. After all this happened in their consulate. They have
living witnesses. The 15 people who are in this alleged hit squad have returned to the kingdom, so has the consul in Istanbul. The Turks are
piecing together parts of the forensic evidence. But the Saudis will know what happened. This is a dictatorship that -- and the Crown Prince has
almost absolute control over every branch of government, it's really impossible to think that kingdom doesn't know what happened and is taking
this long to come up with some kind of narrative.
CURNOW: I want to talk about the consequences. Because there's been a lot of conversation about what, perhaps, the American government should be
doing? What this administration should do? Talking perhaps about American values. What is the expectation? I mean is let's play a little game and
say President Trump wasn't in the White House right now, would a different President react differently to this, particularly because of the strategic
relationship with Saudi that goes back decades and the huge amount of money -- as John Defterios has said -- that both sides rely on in terms of this
WRIGHT: Well, those are hypotheticals about another president, but it's clear that President Trump invested more in Saudi Arabia than his
predecessor. He invested his leverage, whether it's in developing a peace plan for the Arab/Israeli conflict, for creating a new counterterrorism
center in the age of ISIS, and in squeezing Iran to either change its behavior or change the government altogether. That Saudi Arabia is the
pivot. So, the stakes are huge.
What can the President do? They can deal with token or incremental steps such as arm sales, which are pivotal to Saudi Arabia right now because of
its ongoing and open-ended war in Yemen. It can, you know, cool relationships, call back some of its diplomatic staff. It doesn't have an
ambassador to recall. So, there are some steps that it can take. Is anything going to be meaningful enough given the stakes not just over this
individual case, but over future U.S. foreign policy and in the region, the world's most volatile region and U.S./Saudi relations?
CURNOW: OK. Stand by, Robin Wright. I just want to go to the White House. Kaitlan Collins is there right now. Kaitlan, what is the response
there to Steve Mnuchin saying that he won't be attending this summit in Riyadh? What are the implications of that?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well there are big implications here because if he still continued to go -- he's going on a
multicounty trip. This wasn't the only purpose of the trip but it was going to be a pretty significant stop. And essentially what critics said
that if Steve Mnuchin still went to this summit that it would signal that the United States is showing support for the Saudis as they're conducting
this investigation into themselves over whether they murdered this reporter who is missing after 16 days ago since he entered the Saudi consulate. So,
it would have been seen as a show of support for the United States or at least some kind of acceptance on their behalf if he still went. That was
the big question that the treasury secretary was struggling with this week, whether or not he should go. As you saw these executives left and right
were dropping out of this conference over the scrutiny over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. So that has really been the question
here whether he was going to do that. But clearly, he's made that decision.
It's interesting how we learned about this. The treasury secretary just simply tweeted out that he had discussed it with President Trump and the
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this morning during that briefing on Pompeo's trip to Riyadh and to Ankara. And essentially said, hey, we made
the decision we're not going to go anymore.
Now we had seen him in the West Wing and he had said a decision would be coming soon, but we didn't hear from President Trump on this in person as
we had assumed. They would let reporters come in oval during that briefing. Instead they had Pompeo come out to the microphone, give about
three minutes of remarks, take only two questions and then when the treasure secretary tweet that he is not going to attend this investment
summit in Riyadh.
So, it does seem they are trying to contain the fallout from all of this. The question now is whether or not this, this decision for Mnuchin not to
attend this summit, is going to turn into a wider response in the administration confronting the Saudis over the disappearance of this
[11:45:06] As it has increasingly shown in intelligence they are likely responsible for his death.
CURNOW: Yes. A coordinated response there from the Oval Office in the last half hour or so. This developing story, we'll be watching it.
Kaitlan Collins, always good to speak to you. Thanks for that there in the White House.
Live from Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, one step forward, two steps back. We'll tell you what EU leaders are saying about Brexit at
their summit in Brussels. Stay with us.
CURNOW: You're watching CNN. Thanks for joining us. It is a busy day here at CNN. Lots of news and we do want to also update you on one of our
top stories that Brexit deadlock. While leaders emerging from talks in Brussels certainly tried to strike a positive note, other signs indicate it
is no easy end to the stalemate.
For instance, British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is saying she's convinced she can get a good deal, but then also says there are more
difficult moments ahead in the talks. She's turning heads in the U.K. hinting that the Brexit transition period could be extended. Meanwhile, EU
leaders were talking good moods hinting at progress. But sources say they're dropping plans for a special November summit to complete the deal.
Here to make sense of all of that is our Erin McLaughlin in Brussels. And Erin, you join me now. We've heard from the EU leaders in the last hour or
so. We've also heard from Mrs. May in recent moments. What did she say?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Robyn. We've heard from President Tusk of the European Council, President Juncker. We've also
heard from German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as well as British Prime Minister, Theresa May. And really the sense from all of those press
conferences that we're getting is that more time is needed for this process to play out. That they're searching for a political solution and it
certainly seems from conversations I've been having here among EU officials and diplomats, that solution exists in London, presumably at Westminster
with the calculus, the arithmetic required to pass any sort of Brexit deal that Theresa May might be able to strike through Parliament. There are
real questions surrounding that, and it was something that the British Prime Minister herself was pressed upon during that press conference. Take
a listen so what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I am confident that we can achieve that good deal and that when I take that deal back to parliament, I think
members of parliament will have -- I will be asking members of parliament first to recall that we're delivering on a vote of the British people. We
gave the people that choice.
[11:50:00] They voted to leave the EU. We will be delivering on that vote. And I'd also ask them to think about the importance of protecting jobs and
livelihoods in the U.K., protecting our security in the U.K., protecting the union of the United Kingdom. I think those will all be issues that the
members of parliament will want to consider when looking at a deal. And as I say, I believe a good deal for the U.K. will be one that does deliver on
the vote of the British people and does all those things. It protects jobs, it protects our security, and protects the union of the United
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: And the great gamble here, the key question, is that wishful thinking or is that optimism not simply not realistic? Only time at this
point will tell -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK, thanks for that. Erin, there in Brussels, thank you.
Live from Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. More, of course, on that breaking story that the U.S. treasury secretary says he is no longer
attending the conference dubbed Davos in the Desert. More on that after a short break. Stick with us.
CURNOW: You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Robyn Curnow. Welcome back.
We, of course, are following this breaking story about worldwide reaction to the disappearance and apparent killing of Saudi journalist Jamal
Khashoggi. U.S. Secretary Treasury Steve Mnuchin has announced he will not be attending a major Saudi business summit that some call Davos in the
Desert. Now many of the CEOs and finance ministers have said they would not go. So, we continue to cover this story from all angles. Sam Kiley is
following the Saudi reaction in Riyadh. And, Sam, how big a deal is this, particularly for the Saudis? Has there been any reaction to this
announcement that Steve Mnuchin will not be there some?
KILEY: Not yet, Robyn, and I would anticipate there probably won't be one. Even the organizers of this conference have been very opaque about who's
coming and who's not. But this comes on the same day that Liam Fox, the trade minister from the United Kingdom, the other great very tight ally
with Saudi Arabia, canceled his trip. The French and the Dutch trade ministers doing the same a bit earlier in the day. So, the indications are
that it is now being seen as toxic to be seen at the Davos in the Desert conference.
That said, I imagine that junior ministers, perhaps senior diplomats just like we're likely to see not the CEOs but the regional managers of major
corporations will go to this conference, will attend here in Riyadh. Because in the future Saudi Arabia still represents a very substantial
economy with a great deal of prospects for them. And they're in the business of making money.
[11:55:00] Whilst in the short term perhaps parading a bit of morality when it comes to the issue of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi.
But, Robyn, it will be a significant blow and will be interpreted in -- behind closed doors particularly in the palaces here as a serious snub
coming from the United States so soon after the visit of Mr. Pompeo. And it will be interpreted, whatever the reality is, that the Americans have a
view that something very untoward happened in that consulate in Turkey and that they do not wish at the moment to be publicly seen, to be endorsing
too heavily the Crown Prince -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK. Important perspective there from Riyadh. Sam Kylie, thanks so much.
I'm Robyn Curnow. This has been CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for joining us. Around the world, thanks for watching. CNN continues.