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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sources: Turks Immediately Suspected Journalist Was Killed; Russian National Charged with Interfering in 2018 Midterms; Paul Manafort Appears In Court In A Wheel Chair; Haley Speech Fuel's Speculation About Her Political Future. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 19, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within mere hours of Jamal Khashoggi's arrival at the Saudi consulate, Turkish officials suspected he had been killed. An adviser to the Turkish president now telling CNN that after Khashoggi's fiancee who's waiting outside the building called about his disappearance, they immediately alerted Turkish intelligence.

[16:30:01] Secret audio and video feeds from the consulate which the Turks have not admitted they have but sources tell us exists showed evidence of an assault and a struggle, followed by Khashoggi's death. As the alleged 15-man hit squad rushed to fly back to Saudi Arabia, Turkish intelligence raced to the airport to intercept one of the two private jets they had flown in on.

Then, dressed as airport workers, investigators boarded the plane to search it, according to a police report. But nothing was found, and the plane was allowed to leave. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are carrying out their own investigations.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to find out who knew what, when and where. We're going to know over the next two or three days, we're going to know a lot.

MARQUARDT: The Trump administration so far cautiously withholding judgment of one of its most important Arab allies.

ROBERT JORDAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: If that report is as damning as we think it likely is, then there still is time for the United States to have a forceful reaction. I think they have been trying to buy time up to this point.

MARQUARDT: And as the White House waits, the president has reportedly been distancing himself from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, or MBS, telling allies, according to "The New York Times," he barely knows MBS, also downplaying the close relationship between his son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and the crown prince.

Back in Istanbul, Turkish authorities on Friday interviewed 15 members of the Saudi consulate staff, according to Turkish media. All of them are Turkish nationals. They're also waiting on lab results from what investigators found

inside the consulate and the nearby consulate general's residence. Once the investigation is finished, the Turkish foreign minter said they plan to share their findings with the entire world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: And no word, Jake, on when that Turkish report is coming, nor when the Saudis plan to put out theirs.

Now, remember, "The New York Times" has reported that the Saudis are expected to accuse a top Saudi general close to MBS of leading the operation, but without the knowledge of the crown prince, thereby giving him cover -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.

Let's turn back to politics now. I want everyone to take a listen to President Trump speaking during a rally for Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte last night in Montana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I had heard that he body-slammed a reporter. Any guy who can do a body slam, he's my kind of guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: A lot of journalists and others taking issue with that today. What did you think?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, a couple of things. One, it's incredibly dangerous for the president of the United States to be saying that, because now he's the president and people around the world are watching him and gives them license to be abusive of journalists.

But the second piece on the politics front is, you know, I think it's a fascinating dynamic with him. He's clearly obsessed with the media, because he watches it all day long, tweets in response to it, does tons of interviews. But he wants the people who are obsessed with him to hate the media, because he doesn't want them to think anything is legitimate.

So it's a fascinating dynamic. Will it work? Maybe. The people were cheering for him in Montana. That's frankly scary as a democracy, but, you know, his strategy may be working for his purposes.

TAPPER: Can I just say, having covered you when you were senator --

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

TAPPER: -- you had issues with the media. But you never suggested that we were the enemy of the American people. You never suggested that it was funny when people physically assaulted us. I mean, you handled it very differently, and you had frustrations. SANTORUM: Yes, and here I am.

TAPPER: Right, and now, you're a member.

SANTORUM: Here I am as opposed to on the other side of the camera.

TAPPER: Oh, I see, OK.

SANTORUM: Donald Trump effectively took something that have historically plagued Republicans, which is media basically beating up on conservatives and decided I'm not going to take it any more and I'm going to, you know, turn it against them. And it worked.

And it -- you know, maybe it wouldn't have worked for me. Maybe it wouldn't have worked for other people. But it's worked for him. And it's got him, you know -- people -- a lot of folks energized behind him.

I want to take the point that Steve Scalise made, because if you listen to what the president said, he said, anybody that can do a body slam is my kind of guy. He didn't say, anybody can body slam a reporter is my kind of guy. I think --

TAPPER: But he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for body slamming a reporter.

SANTORUM: I understand that. But I think the point he was making, and this is what Scalise's point was, that he wasn't, you know, talking about the press. He was just making the case, hey, anybody that can pick someone up and body-slam them, that's my kind of guy.

PSAKI: He should have used Hulk Hogan or WWE guy.

SANTORUM: I think there is a distinction there that's being lost.

TAPPER: So, President Trump was just asked minutes ago if he regretted the comments. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, no. Not at all. It's a different world. That was a different league, a different world. And he's a tough cookie. And I'll stay with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I just don't see how you can say that he wasn't specifically talking about the journalist, because the only reason he would be talking about it is because he did this to a journalist. And so, you know, at a bare minimum, he should be condemning it, not getting a crowd all riled up about it.

[16:35:05] And if you look at the crowd cheering this, it's very disturbing. And I think that it's very irresponsible. And what he did to Ben Jacobs was horrible. You know, I mean, even if

he wasn't a journalist. And the idea that now Trump is tapped into this anti media vein, you know very well, this has gone on forever. Fox News exists for this reason, success for this reason because conservatives view the liberal media as being out to get them.

So, Trump is taking it to another level. I think we've all understood when conservatives make that criticism. This isn't what he's doing. What he's doing is actually demonizing him and encouraging violence against journalists.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER COLUMNIST: Well, bear in mind, the body slam isn't something that happened yesterday. It happened prior to a special election that that candidate then won in the state of Montana. So I think the idea that it's going to be politically harmful to that candidate to have this back in the news or that it's the sort of thing that turns voters off, it wasn't the case the last time this man was on the ballot statewide in Montana.

TAPPER: Speaking of turning voters off or on, CNBC's John Harwood has a new piece which highlights some of the racial messages, if not racist messages that are showing up in specific campaign ads from Republicans against Democrats. I want you to take a look at a few examples.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD ANNOUNCER: Liberal Dan Feehan celebrated Colin Kaepernick's protests of our national anthem.

AD ANNOUNCER: Spanberger doesn't want us to know she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed "terror high".

AD ANNOUNCER: Ammar Campa-Najjar is working to infiltrate Congress. Ammar Campa-Najjar, a risk we can't ignore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's just a sampling. But Harwood's point is, these are no longer dog whistles. People are just blaring from a trumpet now.

ANDERSON: Well, they're trying to make the case these folks are threats to national security. So I would still argue, these are ads that are not explicitly trying to say that race is an issue so much as trying to use imagery to tap into latent fears. Like, I don't view these as being -- they are still, I think, in many ways dog whistles.

But I think for a lot of voters, even those who do not hold racial animus, they feel like, yes, you should stand up and say the pledge to the flag. Yes, you should stand up for the national anthem. I don't like terrorism. And so, what these ads are trying to do is speak both to a base of voters who for those voters this is telling them, you need to get out and vote right now, because you are under threat. Your way of life is under threat.

TAPPER: So you disagree with Harwood. ANDERSON: I don't think that it's as overt in those ads as he's

making the case.

TAPPER: What do you think?

POWERS: I think it's pretty overt. The idea that, you know -- I alluded to this earlier, that conservative voters really don't like protests. And so I think in particular, they don't like protests from people who are -- feel they are oppressed by the system.

And so when they look at the women who are protesting, they say, well, they weren't peaceful enough. And it's like, but people are kneeling, and that's very peaceful. And that's not okay either. And I think that it's a lot about who is doing the protesting that's problematic and it's problematic in that case that it's a black person and other black people that are protesting a white, racist system and they don't want to hear about that.

TAPPER: What do you think?

PSAKI: I think it's pretty overt. And look, the fact is, there's a lot of context here in addition to the ads. You know, there's the president of the United States who is saying, you know, white men are being discriminated against, who is doing dog whistles --

TAPPER: I think he just said men.

PSAKI: Sorry, men. But I think he has a clear preference for white men or men of color in the consistency of his remarks.

So, you know, this is something where tapping into racist fears, the politics of fear, has been effective for him. And I think the party committees and others who are supporting these candidates are trying to tap into that. They're desperate at this point to try to hold on to the House.

TAPPER: What do you think, sir?

SANTORUM: If you look at the ads, I mean, Colin Kaepernick did what he did. I mean, it's an important issue, an issue that is important to Americans that we respect our flag and respect the national anthem, and it's a perfectly legitimate thing, if that person tied themselves to Colin Kaepernick to bring it up.

PSAKI: But that issue is about race. It wasn't about the flag.

SANTORUM: Well, it depends on who you talk to. I mean --

PSAKI: You talk to Colin Kaepernick. That's what it was about.

TAPPER: But it is about showing -- whether -- you can have an issue of race and still respect the flag. And that's what people are saying. And that's the real divide here. And it's a completely legitimate thing to bring up, because it is a dividing issue.

On the thing on terror high, well, it was called terror high. I mean, she worked there. I mean, to suggest we should ignore that, someone worked there, and I don't know all the details, but that somehow or another they were related to that, that's a legitimate issue.

And I -- the last one, I don't know -- again, I don't know the details of that particular thing. But if it's just because he's Muslim, shame on that guy, whoever ran that ad.

TAPPER: He's not. He's Christian, but he is related to a -- his grandfather was a Muslim terrorist, but he's a Christian American.

SANTORUM: Yes. Well, again, I don't know the facts. If it's simply a matter of a relation and there's no evidence of any kind of complicity, then bad on them.

[16:40:05] TAPPER: All right.

ANDERSON: Yes, for sure.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

A Russian woman was just charged with trying to mess with the midterms. President Trump just weighed in with his own take about protecting your election. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're following breaking news in our politics lead. The Justice Department late today charging a Russian woman with trying to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, which are just 18 days away.

CNN political correspondent, Sara Murray, joins me now.

Sara, what is this Russian alleged to have done?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, she's basically being charged because she was part of this scheme allegedly to try to sow discord, to try to manipulate voters. And, you know, we've heard plenty about election meddling in 2016, but the Justice Department said this was continuing in the run up to the midterms.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:44:57]

MURRAY: The Justice Department charging a Russian woman Friday with conspiracy for trying to manipulate voters in the 2018 midterms, as it cracks down on election meddling beyond special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Elena Khusyaynova of St. Petersburg, Russia, allegedly managed the financing for a social media troll agency. Which sent out these ads and means that ban division between racial minority groups, political radicals, and disaffected voters.

This as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was back in a Virginia Court for the first time since his conviction in a wheelchair. A shock that quieted the courtroom as a judge set Manafort sentencing date for February eight.

Manafort clad in his green inmate uniform, sat with his foot raised off the ground in a sock. His lawyer said Manafort is facing significant health issues related to the terms of his confinement. Manafort's attorneys pushed for him to be sentenced quickly.

A person familiar with Manafort's condition said he is experiencing inflammation related to his diet. Manafort is awaiting sentencing on eight charges of tax fraud and banking crimes.

Judge T.S. Ellis, said today, 10 additional charges that the jury could not agree on will be dropped. As he prepares for sentencing, Manafort continues to cooperate with Mueller's team. Meeting with them, at least, nine times in the past four weeks.

Meantime, the man overseeing the Russia probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is set to speak to congressional leaders next week about reports that he discussed wearing a wire to secretly record President Trump and efforts to remove Trump from office.

The session is slated to take place behind closed doors with Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. Cutting out some of the rank-and-file members that have been most critical of Rosenstein.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Instead of having him here under oath, they're going to have some little game of patty- cake with the committee chairman and the ranking members. This is no way to conduct the oversight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, Rosenstein may be under pressure. But we are told he is not passing that pressure on to Robert Mueller. A source of the Justice Department says that there is no pressure on Mueller to wrap up his probe the day after the midterm election. So, this will continue, at least, for a while. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Let's bring in CNN's Laura Jarrett and Kara Scannell into the conversation. Laura, let me ask you. How significant was this Russian interference campaign?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: This is pretty remarkable. This is the first criminal case that we have seen, having to do with political interference in advance of the 2018 midterms.

We've talked about 2016 a lot, but they are still doing this. And the Justice Department revealed today just the kind of extent to which people try to sow discord. Everything from immigration to the NFL kneeling debate. I mean, you can see the ads in Sara's piece. One of which talks about every deported illegal household saves taxpayers $700,000. This is why it's very important to keep families together as they are all being deported.

You can just see trying to touch on hot-button issues of the day to sow discord. Now, it's interesting this person is obviously a Russian national. She is not going to be charged -- well, she's not going to be appearing here even though she's been charged here in federal court. So, it's part of this sort of charging and shaming that we've seen before from the special counsel's office.

TAPPER: And Sara, President Trump was just asked about this. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in 2018.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It has nothing to do with my campaign. And all of the hackers and all of the -- everybody that you see, nothing to do with my campaign. If the hackers, a lot of them probably like Hillary Clinton better than me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, one would think a president would be like this is going to stop, this is why my Justice Department is on the case. I want to protect the integrity of the vote, no. It's all about -- I had nothing to do with it.

MURRAY: Yes, and this is why there has been this -- you know, concern. We've seen it essentially since Trump took office about how seriously he takes the question of election meddling. Whether he -- you know, is really invested in efforts to try to stop it. And he sort of just sees it as -- you know, this is not what helped me get elected, this is not what helped my campaign rather than, OK, I'm the President of the United States now, and it's my job to ensure that democracy remains intact.

TAPPER: Well, there was one time, Kara Scannell, when President Trump did talk about in a high-profile way election interference at the U.N. but it wasn't about Russia. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election. They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, it's worth pointing out that the Trump administration has not presented any evidence the Chinese have been trying to interfere in elections. It's not to say that they aren't, but it is interesting that he talked about that, and yet, wouldn't call out Russia at that same forum.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And even today, his own intelligence community issued a warning that there's still interference and named Russia in that. But the president hasn't embraced that. He didn't even acknowledge this indictment today when asked about it as something that is actively happening with there. You know, they're saying they had $10 million budget that they were spending this year, the first six months of this year. And part of that on the U.S. election.

TAPPER: And Sara, national security adviser ambassador John Bolton is heading to Moscow this weekend to meet with Russian officials. One assumes he'll bring this up.

[16:50:07] MURRAY: One does assume. But, who can ever say, Jake? I mean, we get such little information when we've seen members of this administration meet with the Russian president about what is discussed.

And you know, when Trump himself has met with Putin, he comes across saying -- you know, he says he's not involved in this. He says he's not involved in meddling. And so, it will be interesting to see if we get a different tactic when it comes to a Bolton.

But you know, I'm not holding my hopes out that suddenly, the posture of this administration is going to change overnight just because we've now seen -- you know this latest indictment.

TAPPER: All right, Kara, let's talk about Paul Manafort for a second. President Trump's former campaign chairman. He was in court today. He'll be sentenced in February. Does this mean that his cooperation is complete?

SCANNELL: No, not at all. And in fact, the judge asked the prosecutors today if they could put a timeline or date certain on when Paul Manafort cooperation would be complete. And they said, no, they couldn't. And the judge said, "That's fine, I'm not willing to wait."

So, that's why he set the sentencing date for February, which is still five months -- you know since Manafort was convicted. So, there is a quite amount of time here that the prosecutors can continue to meet with him. And as we've been reporting, you know, they've been -- and Manafort has been in nine times the past four weeks. And you know, you can imagine that will continue.

TAPPER: Laura, I want to ask you about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, appearing for a closed-door interview with chairman and ranking members of the House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee next week, not participating.

I mean, if that's going to include, the people that are going to be there include Goodlatte, and Gowdy, and Nadler, and Cummings. But not participating with people that really been calling for this Congressman Meadows and Jim Jordan. Here is how Meadows responded to the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: He's not coming under a subpoena. Quite frankly, he thinks that the protection of a classified room is going to protect him from transparency, and it will not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is this a win for Rosenstein?

JARRETT: It's a huge win for Rosenstein. This was one of his biggest critic, someone who has called for his impeachment along with other allies of the President on Capitol Hill.

Now, obviously, he will still face a transcript. He will face a court reporter, he will be under oath. This is not a pleasant exercise. He's being forced to explain whether he did or did not say he wanted to wiretap the president.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all for being here. The ink on her resignation letter isn't even dry yet, but that's not stopping Nikki Haley from poking fun at her still boss, President Trump, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:56:08] TAPPER: She's not even out of office. She's only days removed from that Oval Office goodbye photo op. But outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is already cracking jokes at the expense of her boss, President Trump and drumming up among the chattering class even more speculation about her political future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Actually, when the president found out that I was Indian-American, he asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN's Jessica Dean's joins me now. And Jessica, Nikki Haley says she's not running for president. But as Maggie Haberman noted, that was a Trump joke disguised as an Elizabeth Warren joke.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Jake, and this appearance as you alluded to has the political world buzzing. She told jokes, she also got serious about what she described as our toxic political environment.

This speech is her first big public appearance since announcing her resignation, and it has only added fuel to that speculation she is gearing up for what comes next in her political life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM GAFFIGAN, AMERICAN STAND-UP COMEDIAN: It is my pleasure to introduce the next President of the United States, Nikki Haley.

DEAN: Didn't take long for speculation to swirl about Nikki Haley's political future, as she let loose at the Al Smith Dinner known for politicians unloading one-liners. HALEY: Everyone in Washington called me with advice about this speech. They all said the same thing, "Do not under any circumstances make any jokes about the president." So, good night everybody.

DEAN: She didn't shy away from teasing her soon-to-be former boss.

HALEY: The president called me this morning and gave me some really good advice. He said, if I get stuck for last, just brag about his accomplishment. It really killed at the U.N. I got to tell you.

DEAN: Haley did nothing to dispel the notion she is planning for the future, using the speech as a chance to introduce herself weaving in biography with jokes.

HALEY: People always wonder if I felt different or isolated as an Indian-American growing up in rural South Carolina. Actually, there was a benefit. It totally prepared me for being a Republican in New York.

DEAN: But she had more somber things to say about the current political landscape.

HALEY: We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil, they're just our opponents.

DEAN: A stark contrast to President Trump who's known to call opponents and media members evil.

TRUMP: Was a disgraceful situation brought about by people that are evil.

I've known some fellow Americans that are pretty evil.

DEAN: Haley who at times contradicted the president during her time as U.N. Ambassador, announced her resignation 10 days ago. Vowing to support the president during an unusual sendoff in the Oval Office.

HALEY: No, I am not running for 2020, I can promise you what I'll be doing is campaigning for this one.

DEAN: But with her time as a member of his administration coming to a close, she can now focus on what comes next.

HALEY: People ask me all the time what they should call me. Governor, ambassador, Nikki, you can call me anything. Just don't call me anonymous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: And when she transitions out of the administration, she's going to have a greater ability to differentiate herself from President Trump, like what we saw with that comment about political opponents' not being evil.

Jake, I think it's fair to say a lot of people wondering what comes next for her and we're just going have to see but a lot of speculation out there.

TAPPER: Jessica Dean, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Be sure to tune in Sunday morning, "THE STATE OF THE UNION". My guests will be Republican Senator Ben Sasse. You can see that 9:00 a.m. and noon, Eastern. And Sunday evening, I'll be moderating the Florida gubernatorial debate between Mayor Andrew Gillum and Congressman Ron DeSantis in Tampa, Florida.

That all happens live right here on CNN at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.