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Today: Manafort Appears Before Judge to Prep for Sentencing; Secretary of State Pompeo Visits Mexico Amid Caravan Crisis; U.S., South Korea Suspend Military Exercises; Journalists at Risk. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 19, 2018 - 10:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: 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: 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, but obviously, you know, the prosecution and Mueller's team want as much cooperation as they can get.

TOOBIN: And prosecutors always want delay of sentencing because they want to keep the hammer of, you know, the statement of cooperation over the defendant before he's sentenced.

HARLOW: No impetus to cooperate once you're sentenced.

TOOBIN: Correct. And the judge here, Judge Ellis, very cantankerous guy has been pretty hostile to the Mueller office.

HARLOW: Right.

TOOBIN: So it's been interesting to read their court filings. They're basically saying, judge, we'll do whatever you want to do, like stop yelling at us. But you know, given the accelerated pace of his cooperation, the fact that he's told them what he's going to tell them is probably all the Mueller team needs to know. I mean he's not likely -- it would be a big problem for him if he tells a separate story if he later testifies down the line. So I think it's likely a sentencing date will be set, probably not immediately but relatively soon.

HARLOW: Right.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Based on what Manafort knows and his relationship with the president, what he was present for during what times he was present for, including during Russia's interference in the election, should the president be concerned about what information he's provided?

TOOBIN: He should certainly be concerned. You know the president has made much of the fact that Mueller did not work on -- that Manafort did not work on the campaign for a long time, they had no --

SCIUTTO: Only those crucial months.

TOOBIN: Only the most crucial months and he was only the chairman.

HARLOW: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean he was not exactly, you know, the coffee guy, as they described others. But it is true there was not a close personal relationship. You know, as for what he knows, I don't know. You know, I mean, that's why this is important and somewhat of a mystery. What he knows, particularly about Russia. What makes his information so tantalizing is that Manafort made his name and millions of dollars working for the pro-Putin political party in Ukraine? So he does have a political alliance in that world, but whether he knows of anything improper, we just don't know.

SCIUTTO: Will we get a sense, if based on the number of charges he's been convicted of, in the sentencing, if the sentence is reduced from smart people's expectations of what that sentence, would that give you a sense of how much he's cooperated? You wouldn't reduce unless you got something of use.

TOOBIN: The most important document that we will see is the prosecutor's letter that they write to the judge, which is called a 5k letter under the federal sentencing guidelines. That letter will outline his cooperation. That letter has not been written yet. The - and as we were discussing, the prosecutors want to put off the moment when they have to write that letter as long as possible. That's really the document that we will learn the most from.

HARLOW: That could come at any time.

TOOBIN: Well, it will come when the judge tells them to send it. I mean that's what today is about --setting a schedule about when the whole -- the actual sentencing process takes place.

HARLOW: OK. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much.

HARLOW: Have a good weekend.

TOOBIN: Nice to see you, guys.

HARLOW: You too.

SCIUTTO: Thousands of migrants are marching toward the U.S./Mexico border. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Mexico talking to top government officials there. Will they strike a deal over how to handle what the president calls the caravan crisis?


[10:38:06] HARLOW: All right. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has had a busy week to say the least. This morning, he's in Mexico. In just a few minutes, he will be meeting with his counterpart there. Later today, he'll meet with the Mexican president, is this comes as thousands of Honduran migrants are making their way in this caravan towards U.S./Mexico border, many of them by foot.

SCIUTTO: Ahead of Pompeo's visit, President Trump tweeted his thanks to Mexico for working with the U.S. on what he's called the caravan crisis, a lot of claims being made about this, many of them untrue.

Let's go to global affairs correspondent Elise Labott with the straight facts. So tell us, Elise, if you can. What this is, who these people are, who's organizing them, and what their intention is when they come to the border?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, guys, these are basically some, up to about 4,000 immigrants, migrants, most from Honduras, some of them from Guatemala coming up through Mexico to the United States. You heard President Trump in the last few days threaten to cut off aid to these Central American countries and Mexico if Mexico allowed them to enter the United States, a lot of concern about this.

The Mexican government in the last 24 hours has asked the United Nations high commissioner for refugees to help with these migrants, the ones that are coming in legally, to process them for possible asylum in the United States and somewhere else. President Trump is saying that this is a deal between Mexico and the United States. But the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. told Fox News that's not the case. Take a listen.


GERONIMO GUTIERREZ, MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: The Mexican government announced that we have requested the intervention of the U.N., the Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees to help us review as a result of this caravan, to help us review the asylum requests that might come by any one of the members of the caravan.

[10:40:09] And this allows us to have a solution that it's transparent, that it's respectful of international law and human rights.


LABOTT: And so the Mexican government is saying they're not going to use force against these migrants. They're going to stop them from coming to the United States because you heard President Trump threaten to deploy the National Guard and such to the border. But what they're saying is those who come into Mexico legally will be processed. If they have an asylum case, they can go to the United States or somewhere else. If not, they'll be sent back home. But this is really a way to avoid a conflict with the United States. President Trump very concerned about them coming to the U.S.

SCIUTTO: And certainly making a campaign issue of it. Elise Labott thanks very much. We have some news just in to CNN, the U.S. suspending another round of military exercises with South Korea. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. Barbara, not the first time the U.S. has done this and over the objection at times of Pentagon officials.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, indeed. Secretary James Mattis has been, shall we say, reluctant, hesitant to suspend or cancel these ongoing regularly scheduled war games exercises with the South Koreans. But we're learning this morning that in Singapore right now, where Mattis is, and he's just met with the South Koreans, the two ministers agreed to suspend, cancel, if you will, an exercise upcoming in December. This was to be an air exercise about 12,000 troops. Last year, it involved 230 aircraft, the two nations practicing their air operations. An exercise called Vigilant Ace.

Now, that exercise will not take place. And the statement the Pentagon is giving us is that it is being put off in order to give diplomacy a chance to work. Obviously, the denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea. Not a huge surprise, but each time one of these exercises is canceled, it does raise the question if the U.S. and the South Koreans are at peak readiness should there be a situation. Mattis has said they can handle it, you know. But it's not something that he has been rushing to do, the South Koreans very much on the track to try to get an agreement with the North. Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: To be clear, Barbara, with the others that were canceled earlier this year that would mean U.S. and South Korean forces would go the whole year without readiness exercises to prepare for an attack.

STARR: No. I mean, the Pentagon will tell you they will say no, that these exercises are ongoing all the time. They happen on a smaller unit level. They may take place in related area, sometimes in Guam, sometimes in Japan, sometimes in South Korea. But there's a series of very large exercises like this, very visible to North Korea, and those are the ones that they're putting off.

SCIUTTO: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon thanks for keeping us up to date.

HARLOW: All right, the search for answers in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. The journalist is of course highlighting the threat that reporters around the world face every single day just for doing their job. Coming up, we'll bring you the countries where journalists are most at risk ahead.


[10:48:11] HARLOW: The disappearance and the believed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is highlighting the danger that reporters face every single day just for doing their job. According to the committee to protect journalists, 44 reporters have been killed this year alone, so far around the world, for reporting the news.

SCIUTTO: The latest numbers available show more than 250 journalists were imprisoned while covering stories in 2017 as well. Joining us is Courtney Radsch. She's the director of advocacy for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Thanks very much for taking the time today. When we cover stories like the Khashoggi story, we often talk about what message these autocrats, authoritarian regimes and others are trying to send, what they're trying to accomplish with these attacks. What is it? Is the intention to silence?

COURTNEY RADSCH, ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS: I think it's very clear that the intention is to silence and to stoke fear in any other reporters that would dare to report critically, to report independently, especially knowing what's been happening in Saudi Arabia since the crown prince took power in 2017. To restrict critical reporting, restrict reporting on human rights and other sorts of abuses.

HARLOW: Courtney, a few questions as it pertains to the countries at issue right now in terms of Jamal Khashoggi and the broader issue because CPJ just warned last month that Saudi Arabia is becoming even more repressive, an environment for reporters since the rise of Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince. Has he made it even more dangerous to be a member of the free press?

RADSCH: Yes, he really has engaged in a serious clamp-down on the press in Saudi Arabia and apparently abroad.

[10:50:00] So we have seen an increase in arrests and not just of journalists but of human rights activists as well. We have seen a lot of fear now among people working there. And I think it's kind of out of line with this idea that he's some sort of reformer and that Saudi Arabia is on the path to some sort of democratic awakening. His treatment of reporters and journalists trying to report on human rights abuses belies that idea.

HARLOW: And what about with Turkey? I mean when it comes to Turkey, which is conducting its own independent investigation right now, trying to get to the facts, it's important to remind people about the far from stellar record that Turkey has had, especially under President Erdogan, when it comes to press freedom, right?

RADSCH: Absolutely. Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists two years in a row with at least 73 journalists behind bars last year. And I think that is one reason that we are deeply concerned about what apparently happened in Turkey to the Saudi journalist and are calling for an independent U.N. investigation as well as for President Trump to certify the global Magnitsky Act which calls for the potential for sanctions to be leveed against those responsible.

SCIUTTO: Listen, I know your lens is focused on countries overseas where the threat to journalists can be frankly deadly, and we have seen that in the last week with the Khashoggi story, but do you -- does your organization ever turn your lens to the U.S., just to get an answer to the question as to whether the president's public and frequent public attacks on journalists have led to an increase in threats against journalists here or acts of violence?

RADSCH: We do. In fact, we split our Americas program into a north and a central South America program for exactly that reason. So now we have a North American program focused on Canada, U.S., and Mexico. And we also partnered with more than 20 organizations to launch the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker where we're systematically tracking threats and attacks against journalists in the United States.

SCIUTTO: So what are you finding? You're tracking it. Have you found an increase in the numbers? Are there statistics that back that up?

RADSCH: There are. Now, the tracker started on January 1st, 2017 in terms of tracking those incidents. So it's hard to say from before the Trump administration, but we do know that, for example, that at least 33 journalists were attacked in protests last year, and that covering protest demonstrations, political rallies, are one of the most dangerous times for a journalist in the United States because they can be attacked by both police, officials, but also the public. So it really is a dangerous time. And of course, we're also tracking things like the dangerous retaliatory vitriolic rhetoric that we see coming from a range of public officials.

HARLOW: Well, is there any indication to you that leaders abroad in some of the countries we just talked about are feeling emboldened to attack the press given the rhetoric out of the Trump administration on the free press?

RADSCH: Absolutely. We have been tracking this, and we have seen how leaders in Cambodia, in Poland, in a range of countries have specifically cited President Trump or the United States and its use of the term fake news, its restrictions on access to the press at certain official events to justify their own restrictions on access. Also, in Malta, where I just returned from the one-year anniversary for Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who was murdered there a year ago, we heard very similar things about what officials were doing there in terms of vilifying individual journalists, attacking journalists, et cetera.

HARLOW: OK. Courtney Radsch, we appreciate everything you do to protect the free press every day. Thanks for being with us. Quick break, we'll be right back.


[10:58:20] In a matter of hours, someone's life could be completely changed. And with that, that is the understatement of the year from me. Mega millions, have you heard? Over $1 billion. Polo Sandoval is with us for more. So, my friend, how many tickets did you buy?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far, just one, Jim and Poppy. I can tell you that we're a little surprised though. We haven't seen that mad rush of people that I witnessed for years back when the power ball jackpot reached about $1.5 billion. This has been more of its steady stream of folks. You're seeing at least two at this Rite Aid at Midtown Manhattan, folks hoping to secure their chance at that massive jackpot. It is expected to likely even surpass the billion dollar mark by the time that the drawing takes place tonight.

So kind of what we're seeing right now, of course as Lotto fever takes over. Let's be real though, the odds, one in several hundred million. So even if you buy that ticket, it certainly will be unlikely, but you may actually come out the winner, but certainly not impossible, especially if you're -- if you purchase a ticket, which means if you are looking for a definite payout, you may want to skip this machine and use the ATM next door. So I think that's really what we're seeing here, not only in Manhattan but throughout the rest of the country, folks hoping for a shot at the jackpot tonight.

HARLOW: Can you give the lovely woman behind you with the purple hat a big hello from us and tell her good luck and CNN is rooting for her.

SANDOVAL: You got it. CNN says good luck.


SANDOVAL: And everything turn out well for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll call you when I get the glass house and the custom made Mercedes.


SANDOVAL: There you go, Poppy. We have a Mercedes ride waiting for you.


SCIUTTO: Already got the shot.

HARLOW: I love that.


SANDOVAL: Good luck. Thank you, ma'am. There it is. There it is.

HARLOW: She made my day. Polo thanks. Good luck to her. And thanks for being with us. Have a great weekend everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto. "At This Hour" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.