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Trump Vows Severe Consequences if Saudis Murdered Jamal Khashoggi; Turkey Likely to Share Results of Khashoggi Probe with the World; Jamal Khashoggi's Warning on Saudi's Aggressive Behavior in 2017; Paul Manafort Appears Before Judge for Sentencing. Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired October 19, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: First-time voters, yes.
SCIUTTO: So tell us why you're voting. You can weigh in on the conversation. All you got to do is post a video to Instagram telling us what's pushing you to the polls. Just make sure to use the hashtag #whyivoteCNN.
HARLOW: All right, top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. President Trump is again vowing severe repercussions if Saudi Arabia and specifically the crown prince are found to have orchestrated the apparent deadly torture of Saudi dissident, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the same president last night saying the praises of Republican congressman who assaulted, body slammed a journalist simply for asking a question.
Here's the president in full campaign mode in Montana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that? Never.
(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)
TRUMP: Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my kind --
TRUMP: He is my guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: You'll remember that now congressman body slammed a reporter just for trying to ask him a question. Well, that reporter's editor, the U.S. editor of "The Guardian" newspaper, quick to condemn the remarks of the president warning, quote, "they run the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists across the world."
Here's the audio clip of when that happened when then candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted "Guardian" reporter Ben Jacobs in May of last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN JACOBS, REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious about that right now.
REP. GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA: OK, speak with Shane, please.
I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last time you came in here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here.
JACOBS: Jesus --
GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here. The last guy did that same thing. Are you with "The Guardian"?
JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Let's go to the White House. Our Abby Phillip is there. On the same week that the White House is saying there will be severe repercussions for whomever carried out or knew about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist, and the president says any guy that body slams, you know, a journalist is my guy. What?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. It's quite a time for President Trump to be making a joke like that, especially right now as they are struggling to figure out how to deal with this issue involving Jamal Khashoggi. And essentially the administration has been sending mixed signals for the last several days now about whether or not they're willing to punish the Saudis and how severely.
The Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is not going to that Saudi conference in the desert that a lot of business leaders were going to, but at the same time, the administration is trying to put the brakes on any rush to judgment on whether the Saudis and their leaders were responsible for what happened, the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.
One thing that we are learning is that President Trump is getting some counsel from his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was very close to the crown prince and has spoken to him privately several times over the last week. Kushner is urging President Trump not to jump to conclusions, not to cave to pressure to act too quickly, and warning him that isolating the Saudis at this time could have repercussions for a slew of issues including for Iran.
But all of this is happening as there is growing pressure on the administration to square the Saudis' denials with some of the talk that we're hearing, perhaps an audiotape that might exist of what happened in the consulate, and we also have heard this morning that Mike Pompeo is denying strongly that he had heard this audiotape or seen the transcript while he was in Turkey this week.
Now that's really important because if he had heard or seen that, that would be a key piece of evidence that would go toward whether or not the Saudis could be trusted with their explanation. But as of now, the State Department is strongly denying that he's heard anything about that, and President Trump continues to say that he's not -- he's not sure if there is any evidence of that sort.
So as President Trump travels in Arizona today, he's got a campaign rally and a couple of other events, I'm sure he will be asked more and more about this, but the real question for him is how much time are they going to give the Saudis to figure this out? And how much weight are they going to place in these denials? Will there be a story coming out of the Saudis that gives them a break on whether or not they were responsible and how does that square with the facts that are unfolding on the ground in Turkey -- Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW: All right, Abby, thank you for the update on all fronts.
From the White House this morning. With us to discuss, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and from "The Washington Post," CNN political analyst Karoun Demerjian.
Karoun, let me start with you just on your reporting this morning, a really fascinating piece. Disturbing that there are some, certainly not all conservatives, but there are some that have launched a deliberate effort, a conservative smear campaign against Jamal Khashoggi.
KAROUN DEMERJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Look, in this situation, basically there are people, elements of the GOP that are basically mounting a whisper campaign in some circles. A, publicly saying at campaign, other sorts of conservative media that is trying to highlight the fact that Khashoggi had ties back in the days to the Muslim Brotherhood, trying to kind of pervert the coverage he did of Osama bin Laden to be a negative on him, and in a way doing this to give the president cover if he needs to take a lighter touch with the Saudis.
[10:05:16] It is not really considered acceptable to actually say that, oh, it's good that somebody was allegedly murdered or potentially murdered in a very, very brutal way, but it is a way of basically diverting attention away from the heroism of Khashoggi and this narrative if the president decides he does not want to come down on the Saudis with an iron fist about it, as many other people in the party want him to do.
Look, the president made a point of reestablishing very close ties with Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration moved toward Iran. The Trump administration took a hard turn back towards Iran with Saudi Arabia. They're kind of the two opposite poles in the Middle East for a large part of the policies there, and we know the president doesn't like reneging on people that he's decided he likes even when popular opinion says he should.
I mean, this is the president that said I believe Putin when he told me he didn't meddle in the election. If Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, who's saying some more tings, we may not see the president sanction people like that even if GOP leaders would like it, and this is all part of giving him an excuse. SCIUTTO: Well, let's deal with one of the subjects of the smear
campaign head-on. I mean, there's been this allegation that he was pals with Osama bin Laden because as a reporter, a journalist during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the '80s, he met, he interviewed Osama bin Laden, as other journalists did.
SCIUTTO: And in fact he became a source for Saudi intelligence, Khashoggi did, because of those contacts with the Mujahideen at the time. And I'll remind folks the U.S. was supporting the Mujahideen.
Anyway, those are the facts. Let's not let them --
DEMERJIAN: That's important. It's important.
HARLOW: Thank you. Right.
SCIUTTO: -- get in the way of a good story.
Jeffrey Toobin, fact is this is not nameless, faceless Twitter trolls who are sharing these smears. False smears of Khashoggi. They include the president's son, Donald Trump, Jr. retweeted one of these. Other prominent members of conservative organizations have. Your reaction.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, hatred of journalists is part of the Trump brand. You know, this is not unrelated to what went on in Montana last night where the president, you know, essentially praised the congressman for body slamming the reporter for "The Guardian." Incidentally, the congressman pled guilty to a crime, a misdemeanor.
TOOBIN: For that assault on the reporter. The fact that this was a murder of a reporter, not just a, you know, U.S. resident, I think is going to give an opening to the people who hate journalists, who are part of Trump's base, to say this isn't that big a deal. And we shouldn't reorient our foreign policy, which has been very focused toward Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iran, in light of it. You know, it's like, it's too bad he was killed but let's move on.
HARLOW: What's fascinating, though, is sort of in the same breath as the president praised, you know, a crime against an assault against this reporter last night, he laid out the -- you know, the rallying cry for the party ahead of the midterms, and it was the caravan or the party, the caravan and this is the campaign of the caravan and of law and order. And --
TOOBIN: Right. And what he calls the Democratic mob.
TOOBIN: It's like the Democrats are the mob. Yes.
HARLOW: Exactly. Is he the GOP's poster boy for law and order then? Gianforte?
TOOBIN: You know, this is the base of the party. Love someone who takes on journalists. I mean, this hatred of journalists, you know, CNN prominently among them, is just part of the Trump brand at this point and a lot of people support him in that.
SCIUTTO: And it's with intent, right? Because it's helpful to his agenda to attack stories that are critical or that expose things that he does not want to be exposed.
A counterpoint within the Republican Party to this posture is and has been Nikki Haley. Recently left as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She was at the Al Smith Dinner last night, a gathering of the hoi polloi, and she had these comments.
Karoun, I want to get your reaction. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: In America, our political opponents are not evil. In North Korea where American student Otto Warmbier was tortured to death, that was evil. In the last two years, I have seen true evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Of course, the president has used evil to describe journalists and he often does at rallies. The fact is, her departure from her post caught the White House off guard. It was earlier than they wanted.
Do you see in those comments her deliberately putting distance between herself and the president?
DEMERJIAN: Well, it's very interesting that she's choosing to use a word that the president has chosen to use and been criticized for it.
DEMERJIAN: It's also interesting that she's deciding to juxtapose it with things like true evil in North Korea where you know the president has said that he feels like he's got a loving, warm bond with the North Korean leader and that's also shocked people.
She's not even completely out of the door but she's clearly establishing herself as apart from the president.
[10:10:04] Even if she's not directly saying President Trump, what you've said is wrong and incorrect and untruthful, she is hinting that with the words that she's laying out. And with here she takes it. It's not a strong counterpunch but it's definitely is saying no, I'm here, you know, at a different plane than you are. And she's a very strong voice and rising power in the GOP so we'll see where she takes this and if other people follow.
TOOBIN: But isn't the real story how little dissent there is in the Republican Party, not how much. You know, we always talk about Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse, and they talk and do nothing.
TOOBIN: And they never vote against the president. They never actually take a stand. They're always very concerned. They're troubled, but then -- I mean, it's like this comment. You know, you have to parse it very carefully and know the history to know that it's critical. It's not very critical. And Nikki Haley has said she's going to be campaigning for the president in two years. So...
HARLOW: Right. In 2020.
SCIUTTO: And some of the point of criticism of course comes from outgoing lawmakers who have nothing to lose politically.
HARLOW: Almost all of it.
TOOBIN: Exactly. Almost all -- Ben Sasse is the only one who's sticking around, but he's, you know, voted with the president down the line. Flake is leaving, Corker is leaving.
HARLOW: Flake has said as much. If he were running again, he couldn't be so critical, right?
TOOBIN: Correct. There you are.
HARLOW: Thank you both. Have a good weekend.
SCIUTTO: Thank you, guys.
New this morning, Turkey is announcing that it will share to the entire world the results of its probe into the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi. CNN also learned that Turkish officials had suspected within hours of his disappearance that he had likely been murdered.
Let's bring in international -- chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward.
Clarissa, there, how close is Turkey now to releasing the results of its investigation?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so we know they've searched the consulate. They've searched the consul- general's residence and they are also now in the process of talking to the employees of the consulate. But so far, no word as to when they will release the findings of their own investigation.
We heard from the justice minister that it will be soon, Jim, but we are starting to get a sense of just how quickly Turkish officials knew that something had gone terribly wrong. It appears that they had access to that audiotape or listened to that audiotape in the hours after Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee first sounded the alarm.
We are learning from multiple sources that apparently Turkish intelligence officers rushed to the airport disguised as airport workers and tried to get on that plane. In fact, did get on that plane that had at least half of the Saudi team that had been dispatched to deal with Khashoggi in Istanbul as they were preparing to take off to return to Riyadh. They searched the plane.
They also even, Jim, apparently spoke to the man who mans the x-ray machine and asked him specifically if human body parts would have shown up in the luggage of those Saudis when their luggage was going through the x-ray machine. The x-ray machine operator reportedly telling them that, yes, it would. This is from a police report that CNN has seen.
Now it's interesting that the Turks then waited another five days before they loudly and volumably sounded the alarm, that it was likely that something terrible had happened to Jamal Khashoggi. And that apparently was because they were giving the Saudis an opportunity to respond, giving them an opportunity to get their side of the story on the record with Turkish authorities. It was only when that did not happen that they decided to go public -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And now the U.S. giving the Saudis more time. Secretary Pompeo said as much yesterday.
Clarissa Ward, thanks very much.
Nearly a year before he disappeared, Jamal Khashoggi warned that President Trump was encouraging Saudi Arabia's, quote, "aggressive behavior." We've got the video of those comments and we'll air them next.
HARLOW: Plus, soon we will see the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort back in court. This as Manafort's team has met with the special counsel's office a number of times. We'll give you a live update on that.
And also, the big question, will you, will we, Jim, have to go back to work on Monday?
HARLOW: We'll see you here Monday. Mega Millions drawing tonight. A record high. Over a billion bucks.
[10:18:47] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. It was a chilling warning nearly a year before his disappearance. Jamal Khashoggi in an interview with CBSN, CBS News' live stream, said that President Trump may have emboldened violent behavior by Saudi Arabia. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMAL KHASHOGGI, MISSING SAUDI JOURNALIST: I think Saudi Arabia is receiving new message from the United States. One from the president which encouraged some of this aggressive behavior, and some from the administration, from the State Department, which is more reasonable. The State Department, of course, discouraging any kind of intensifying tension in the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: He was describing a time when it was Rex Tillerson who was secretary of state.
Let's discuss with former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan. He's also the diplomat in residence at Southern Methodist University. He's also the author of "Desert Diplomat."
Ambassador Jordan, thank you for coming back on our air.
ROBERT JORDAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: So you heard Khashoggi there more than a year ago saying that the Trump administration was encouraging aggressive behavior, in his words, by Saudi Arabia. Do you agree?
JORDAN: I think there's some likelihood that this did encourage aggressive behavior.
[10:20:02] You can't simply go around saying that journalists are the enemy of the people and not have others around the world believe that.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, the -- Turkish investigators, they're saying that there's a Saudi intelligence officer, former diplomat, his name is Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb.
SCIUTTO: Who played a pivotal role in this. He has some relationship with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Knowing Saudi Arabia as you do, having served there for many years and the structure of the royal family there, of the leadership, is there -- is it possible, is it credible that someone at that level would carry out something like this without the knowledge of the crown prince?
JORDAN: Absolutely not. This clearly had to have been within his knowledge, if not at his direction.
SCIUTTO: That's pretty straightforward answer. The president seemed to put him -- some distance between himself and the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
SCIUTTO: Interview with the "New York Times" yesterday, saying what often amounts to a kiss of death for this president, saying, I didn't know that person very well, which we've heard him say about others just before they departed.
Can the U.S. pressure the Saudi family to reduce MBS' role? Does the U.S. have that influence?
JORDAN: Well, we have a lot of influence, but I suspect that it will not go that far. I think more likely we can pressure MBS himself to try to regain some balance, regain some credibility on the international stage, but it's going to be very, very hard.
I think we've got to really get in their face, though, and make it clear that this kind of conduct is so far beyond the pale that it really endangers our relationship.
SCIUTTO: By delaying just that reaction, just that condemnation which has already come from some of America's closest allies in Europe, for instance, has the U.S. already diminished its own influence on this case by not coming out more forcefully, more quickly?
JORDAN: Well, I think the U.S. is heavily invested now in the Turkish report. And a lot depends on what that report says. They say they're going to make it public to the entire world. 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've been trying to buy time up to this point, which is perhaps something this administration often wants to do. They aren't quite sure what to do. But I do think the burden will be on this administration immediately after the Turkish report to provide some clarity to their reaction.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, though, because placing it all on the Turkish report, as the administration, and I think you're right, appears to be doing here, the U.S. has some fairly capable intelligence services and collection as well.
SCIUTTO: We know that they collected communications prior to his disappearance. Discussions of abducting Khashoggi. I imagine we have been poring over the U.S. other intelligence collection.
SCIUTTO: After all, Turkey is a NATO ally. There's an intelligence sharing relationship. Isn't it likely that the U.S. already knows a fair amount about the circumstances of his death?
JORDAN: Yes, I have been making that point as well. I think the U.S. probably wants to wait for the report, but it's certainly well informed by whatever collection the United States has done. I suspect they've gone back and looked at perhaps seemingly innocuous pieces of evidence that now may make some more sense to them. But clearly, we have significant capabilities ourselves. Investigative techniques like facial recognition, photos, audio, and I'm sure we're using all the tools in our toolbox as well.
SCIUTTO: Ambassador Robert Jordan, thank you again for weighing in.
JORDAN: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is heading back to court in just a few hours today. We're going to have new details next.
[10:28:41] HARLOW: All right. In just a few hours, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will be back in court. Today is the day he could find out when he will be sentenced.
SCIUTTO: He was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud in August, you'll remember.
Sara Murray is in Washington with the details.
Good morning, Sara. What are we likely to see today?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Jim. It is going to be essentially a timeline for when Paul Manafort could be sentenced. As we know, as part of his plea agreement, he has agreed to cooperate with Mueller's team and he has provided pretty extensive cooperation. We know they've met on at least nine occasions but his agreement also includes handing over any documents Mueller's team might want, providing testimony if they need it, and of course agreeing to tell the truth.
And you know, Paul Manafort has now been convicted on a number of counts. There are eight different counts here, so that's what he would be sentenced for, but the other big question is what's going to happen to these lingering 10 counts that are still out there. There are 10 counts that were essentially led to a mistrial. The jury could not reach a decision on these 10 counts. Prosecutors have said they're not ready to drop them yet, but we could get a little bit more resolution on what's going to happen to those in court today.
And of course the other thing we're going to be looking for is if the judge is able to ferret out any of these details on what exactly Paul Manafort is cooperating on, what he might be providing investigators. We know he's met with them a number of times but it's not clear exactly what information he may be still providing them.
Back to you, guys.
HARLOW: OK. Sara Murray, thanks for the update.
Jeff Toobin, our chief legal analyst, is back with us. Can't get enough of us this morning clearly.
HARLOW: Jeff, we're glad you're here. What does it tell you? I mean, the judge is sick of the delay. The judge wants the Manafort sentencing. TOOBIN: Correct.