Return to Transcripts main page


Saudi Arabia Admits Death Of Washington Post Columnist, Intel Services Deputy Dismissed, 18 Saudi Nationals Detained; Trump: "No Regrets" After Praising Assault On Reporter; Chaos Erupts As Caravan Reaches Mexico's Southern Border; Manafort Appears in Court in Wheelchair Wearing Jumpsuit; Saudis Confirm Death of Missing Journalist as Trump Allies Launch Smear Campaign Against Khashoggi. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 19, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. Our breaking news coverage continues right now with "Erin Burnett OutFront."

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: "OutFront" next, breaking news, the Saudis making a major announcement tonight, admitting after weeks of denials that "The Washington Post" contributor is dead. What would President Trump do now?

And Trump doubling down on his praise for Republican who body slammed a reporter. His allies say he was just joking. Was he?

Plus, a caravan of thousands of migrants have made their way to Mexico tonight. The President says they're headed to the United States next. Is it just feared mongering? Let's go "OutFront."

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett.

"OutFront" tonight, we do have breaking news and a major admission tonight from Saudi Arabia. After 17 days, state T.V. finally confirming what the world already expected, "Washington Post" contributor Jamal Khashoggi is dead. The government, the Saudi government, also revealing that 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested in connection with this.

And this man, we'll show you, Major General Ahmed al-Asiri, the deputy of the intelligence services, has been dismissed, relieved of his duties. He's a close adviser to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This all comes after Saudi Arabia, for weeks, denied any involvement in his mysterious disappearance.

But we now know, according to Saudi Arabia, that he was killed after what they claim was a fight inside their consulate in Istanbul. But so many questions remain. What role did the crown prince play in this? Is any of this -- any of the details coming out true or just a cover story tonight? Let's get to some answers.

Clarissa Ward is "OutFront" live in Ankara, Turkey for us. Clarissa, what more are you hearing from the Saudi government tonight? CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the most significant thing that we probably heard tonight, Kate, in this news bulletin is that not just General al-Asiri, but another man, Saud al-Qahtani, has been dismissed. He has been relieved of his duties. This is as high as it gets.

Other than the crown prince, he is one of the top three most senior closest advisers to the crown prince. He is the man who has sort of spearheaded on Twitter, a sort of ugly propaganda campaign against people who speak out against the kingdom, and he is a very senior, important man in Saudi Arabia. He has been dismissed of his duties.

Obviously, the Saudis are hoping that on some level, this will deflect or shield the crown prince. But I do want to point out to you that our Tim Lister actually found a tweet that was written by Saud al- Qahtani a year ago in which he said, "Do you think I think without orders? I am an employee. I carry out orders from my king and my crown prince."

So, if the Saudis are hoping tonight that they have created some distance, that they have created a plausible story whereby some rogue elements or Saud al-Qahtani ordered this operation without the crown prince knowing about it, Saud al-Qahtani's own words would appear to contradict that.

One other thing, Kate, that we're hearing that's interesting, the wording of exactly what happened to Jamal Khashoggi when he went in to the Saudi consulate, according to the statement today, they said that he was interrogated, that there was some kind of physical altercation.

I'm being told by sources very close to the royal court that they're preparing to issue a kind of correction or a clarification, rather, to say that it was some kind of a chokehold, that there was some kind of an interrogation and then he was strangled and that apparently is how he was killed, though it's anyone's guess as to whether this will be enough to satisfy the international community, the American people, and of course the Turkish authorities here where the dreadful murder took place, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, so much more to learn tonight. Thank you so much, Clarissa. I really appreciate it.

I want to go now, though, to the White House. Pamela Brown is there. Pamela, the President promised severe punishment if it turned out that Jamal Khashoggi was killed by the hands -- by the Saudis. What does the President -- what does the President do now?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's a big question, and we know that the White House is monitoring the situation. We haven't heard an official response, but the President said earlier today that within the next couple of days, perhaps by Monday, that we would have more answers to who, what, when and where in terms of what exactly happened and whether there would be severe consequences.

The question is, how does that square with what we're hearing from the Saudis now, that they've developed this commission and that it could take a month to investigate and to release a report on this.

Also, the question is, how will the President respond to the action taken by the Saudis, of course the dismissal of the high ranking intelligence official who was a close adviser to the crown prince. The President's own intelligence officials believe that it's highly unlikely for an operation like this to have taken place without the knowledge of the crown prince.

[19:05:02] And so that is still an open question, did he know? Was he involved, as the intelligence officials believe? And it's hard to believe that President hasn't been briefed on that. But what is also clear, Kate, is that the President is walking this fine line here because he wants to preserve the relationship with Saudi Arabia.

He said it today. He said, "They're a great ally of ours." It's clear that the arms deal is very important to the President, the partnership with Iran, with Syria, very important as well. And so this could be a big test for the President in how he responds.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, Pam, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

"OutFront" with me now is Democratic Congressman Jerry Connolly of Virginia. He sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thank you for coming in. Jamal Khashoggi was --

REP. JERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Good to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: -- was your constituent. He lived in Virginia. Your reaction tonight, first and foremost, to the Saudis finally confirming that he is dead.

CONNOLLY: Well, it's amazing that it took two weeks of lying and subterfuge for the Saudi government to finally admit, "Well, yes, he died. And he died at their hands and in our consulate."

Now, they're engaged in a cover-up to protect the crown prince. And we'll see how that works for them, but I call this another nice try, because there is no way this kind of premeditated operation could conceivably have happened in the Saudi consulate without the knowledge of and approval of the crown prince.

BOLDUAN: Well, and then what do you make of the fact that they're reporting, coming from my colleagues overseas tonight, is that they're putting together basically a group to issue a report in a month and the person heading up this investigative group is the crown prince himself, MBS.

CONNOLLY: Right. I think that's the sure fire sign that a cover-up is under way. And you know, the Turkish government and Turkish intelligence community has been very helpful in leaking details of what, in fact, they know, all of which have pretty much been confirmed so far.

And they're the ones, don't forget6, who said not only was there a dispute, he was tortured before he was killed. And after he was killed, he was then dismembered, so this wasn't some rogue operation where it got out of hand. This was premeditated.

15 individuals flew into Turkey with, you know, malice aforethought. They knew what they were doing and there's no way, given who they were, and given how they came into Turkey, there's no way they would have done this without the clear knowledge of and approval of the crown prince.

And indeed, there are intercepts, apparently, that the intelligence communities have that the crown prince was actively engaged in plotting at least the abduction of Mr. Khashoggi.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, you do not believe what's coming out of the Saudis tonight, absolutely not.


BOLDUAN: Do you believe, then, you call it a cover-up. Do you believe that the general that they've relieved, General al-Asiri, do you really see -- do you think if this is tell you he's just the fall guy?

CONNOLLY: I think that's exactly what's going on. It's almost like a classic mafia operation. It's tragic to watch and tragic to comprehend the consequences. But as your earlier reporter just said, you know, I think that gentleman was quoted saying, "I take my orders from the king and the crown prince. I don't use independent judgment before I act."

And I think that's exactly how the Saudi system works. It's a very -- it's both consensual in terms of the royal family, but hierarchical in terms of this crown prince and how the system works.

BOLDUAN: So, Congressman, I think maybe now very quickly the most important question is what does President Trump do? What do you want to hear from him now?

CONNOLLY: Wouldn't it be nice if we had a President who actually held murderers to account? Instead -- with the U.S. president --

BOLDUAN: Well, he has said that there will be severe punishment, severe consequences if it is shown that the Saudis murder -- he was killed at the hands of the Saudis. So now, what?

CONNOLLY: You know, Kate -- yes. Kate, I think that's a throw away line for President Trump. He's also said we can't jeopardize $110 billion in arms sales. This is important relationship. We need their oil. They were going to prevent Secretary Mnuchin from going to Davos in the Desert, Saudi conference on the future of Saudi Arabia --


CONNOLLY: -- because of our distaste for what has happened and now we're learning he's going.

BOLDUAN: What does Congress -- Congress can act.


BOLDUAN: Will Congress act?

CONNOLLY: Yes, I believe we will. I think there is sufficient bipartisan horror and revulsion at what has taken place and clarity about who did it.

[19:10:01] And that I think Congress is going to take punitive measures, that the range of, you know, on that menu is everything from arms sales to sanctions, to financial cutoffs in terms of international banking as a starters. But the Saudis have to be held to account. And we're not going to settle for cover.

BOLDUAN: First things first, I think everyone is interested to hear now what President Trump has to say after this report coming out.

CONNOLLY: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you for coming in. I appreciate your time.

CONNOLLY: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: "OutFront" next, the President says that he doesn't regret raising -- praising, rather, the Republican congressman for body slamming a journalist. This, as his defenders say that he was just joking. Who is laughing? Tonight.

Plus, Paul Manafort in court in a wheelchair as we learn the Mueller team is still not done with him.

Plus, dramatic pictures from Mexico as thousands of migrants make their way north. Could this caravan drive Republicans to the polls?


BOLDUAN: Tonight, President Trump is doubling down, praising Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte's assault on a reporter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret bringing up last night at your rally the assault on a reporter by a congressman?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, no. Not at all. That's a different world. That was a different league, a different world. No, he's just a great guy.


[19:15:07] BOLDUAN: No regrets for this comment at a rally last night.


TRUMP: Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my kind. He's a great guy, tough cookie.


BOLDUAN: And the President's allies say it's no big deal.


ERIC TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: Oh, stop. He wasn't the guy who body slammed anybody. He can have fun.


BOLDUAN: President's son says it was fun. Republican Congressman Steve Scalise tweeting this, "President Trump was clearly ribbing Congressman Gianforte for last year's incident which he apologize for last year." Scalise went on to say it clearly was a joke, in his words, but the incident was no joke. It actually resulted in an actual assault charge and this, to remind you, is audio of that assault in May of last year.


BEN JACOBS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious about --

REP. GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA: Speak with Shane, please.

I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last time that 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.


BOLDUAN: Now, Gianforte was sentenced of 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management, $300 fine along with an $85 cork fee after all of this. If this was just a joke, what then is all of this from Trump, from the campaign and beyond?


TRUMP: Knock the crap out of them, would you, seriously. OK? Just knock the hell. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.

I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks. I'd like to punch him in the in the face, I'll tell you.

Maybe he should have been roughed up. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: "OutFront" tonight, Marc Lotter, he's a former Special Assistant to President Trump. He's currently working with the Trump reelect campaign. Jen Psaki is here, former White House Communications director under President Obama, and Patrick Healy, Politics Editor for "The New York Times." Thanks all for coming in, appreciate it.

Patrick, the President isn't thinking twice about this. Should it surprise anyone?

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, not at all. He likes this kind of thuggish talk and this thuggish behavior. I mean, he seems to almost get off on it at his rallies. It feels like it whips up the crowd, it's sort of his form of red meat.

And look, as both a candidate when he was running for president and now as president, he uses this kind of violent language and violent imagery at his rallies that is, like, nothing, honestly, nothing we have ever seen in American politics. We've seen it in other countries, sometimes whipping people up into frenzy. But we've seen nothing like it here.

And the notion that this is all a joke and this is somehow, oh, it sort of funny and liberals get so upset, you know, we're just kidding. We've seen this kind of behavior, whether making fun of a disabled "New York Times" reporter, mocking women, you know, calling Stormy Daniels, you know, by horse face.

I mean, and this notion that the Republican Party -- I mean, after all these years, still doesn't know how to just sort of condemn him or take some kind of moral stand on it but instead, you know, either says, oh, he's just kidding or, you know, hides. I mean, we saw during the campaign, people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell --


HEALY: -- leaders in the party who said things were unacceptable. And now it's, you know, they're just so afraid of crossing him, they just enable it.

BOLDUAN: Well, Marc, I mean, Gianforte was charged and pleaded guilty and apologized, especially given now the murder of another journalist, the timing is part of this. Can you make an honest case that this is funny right now?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I'll say I was a journalist. I started my career right out of college training to be a journalist and then serving more than a dozen years in television news rooms locally around the country and I have a high regard for journalism, but let's also not pretend that this is a one- sided thing.

We saw two congressional candidates in Minnesota attacked this week, both conservatives. We've seen other examples, including the shooting about a year ago of Congressman Scalise. We've got a problem with Americans not being able to have a discussion anymore about areas where they disagree without making it personal. And in some cases, as we've seen in recent weeks here in Washington, D.C. where we had violent clashes with protesters who disagreed over the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh.

BOLDUAN: Yet, that -- I mean, I would say civility is lost maybe on both sides, but does that -- I mean, I say it every time, two wrongs don't make a right, though, right, Marc? I mean, do you think there was anything funny about what the President was saying?

LOTTER: I think the President was riffing last night. The timing, obviously, because of what's going on with Saudi Arabia was not ideal, but I still take that as being a riff. In the meantime, though, just as well yesterday, we had on another network a Hollywood entertainer wanting the military to stage a coup at the White House.

[19:20:05] You had a "Washington Post" columnist calling it a good idea while a couple of hosts on MSNBC were laughing about it. These are dangerous times and dangerous rhetoric. We shouldn't be doing this.


HEALY: The President of the United States, let's just say, he's first among equals in this regard and, you know, for a long time in the country, you looked to the President of the United States to sort of set the tone for something, and it's just, you know, it's -- yes.

BOLDUAN: Well, Jen, get in on this. I want to get your take.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER W.H. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, look, I think there's a couple of strong issues with what -- how President Trump has been behaving. One of them is, as Pat said at the beginning, the world is watching, and what the President of the United States says matters, and what the United States says about freedom of press and speech, whether it's the horrific issues happening in Saudi Arabia or President Trump laughing about or repeating the abuse that a congressman partook on a reporter, it's completely irresponsible, and it's not a joking matter. I also think --

BOLDUAN: Is it irresponsible on the -- like to what Marc was saying, was it irresponsible on the Democratic side too.

PSAKI: Well, I was going to say -- I think what Marc said, it's a really irresponsible combination of events. The vast, vast majority of protests on the other side have been peaceful. They have been kneeling. They have been people -- women protesting Brett Kavanaugh becoming confirmed to the Supreme Court. It is not the same thing.

If you are an elected official, people are allowed to come to your office and protest your actions. That's -- we're a democracy and that's something we should support. So, I am appalled that we can't -- this shouldn't be a partisan issue, that we can't all agree that prompting violence against journalists or people who are speaking out isn't something that should not be a part of our society. And it's perplexing that there wouldn't be broad agreement on that.

BOLDUAN: I also wonder, Marc, you know, kind of going at this from a different -- coming from a different vantage point, why can Republicans say that Trump is not saying anything dangerous and what he's doing is riffing but then Democrats, what they're saying is dangerous?

LOTTER: Well, I think there's a difference between riffing as we saw last night and Eric Holder saying when Republicans go low, kick them. Or Hillary Clinton saying there's a --

BOLDUAN: How is that not riffing? I mean, honestly.

LOTTER: But that wasn't a riff. He was actually making the comment, encouraging people to riff. President Trump did not encourage anyone last night.

HEALY: But why isn't that a joke? I don't understand why this is a joke, why that wasn't.

PSAKI: Well, but the difference is, Marc, that I don't think that Eric Holder should have said that. And I don't think most Democrats are advocating for violence. What you're saying is that both sides are equal. That's absolutely inaccurate.

You have the President of the United States sitting in the Oval Office and having the biggest mega phone in the country, projecting to the world that violence against reporters and the media is acceptable. And what message are we sending when we have that happening?

LOTTER: He did not. He did not encourage violence last night. He was talking about something that happened a year ago and there was an apology for. What you had was Eric Holder going out and encouraging future violence.


BOLDUAN: You know what, I actually have it. Let me play what Eric Holder said. Listen.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: When they go low, we kick them.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.

REP. MAXINE WATER (D), CALIFORNIA: The people are going to turn on them. They're going to protest. They're going to absolutely harass them until they decide that they're going to tell the president, "No, I can't hang with you."


BOLDUAN: So is this all the same, Marc? LOTTER: I think there is a definite difference in what you saw coming from some of those Democrat leaders as opposed to what you saw last night coming from the President of the United States, talking about a congressional candidate and his activity that he apologized and pled guilty to doing.

And so I think we all need to dial it back a little bit on the rhetoric, on both sides, and remember that as Americans, we can disagree but we still have to be agreeable when we're doing it.

BOLDUAN: Honestly, good luck with that, Marc. I mean -- but, Jen, one recurring theme, if you will, is that when the President says something that isn't acceptable, I hear that it's a joke. Just listen to this.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President was clearly joking with his comments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was poking fun and making a joke.

SANDERS: He was making a joke.


BOLDUAN: Is this all we just can't take a joke?

PSAKI: Well, no. I think, first of all, it's very difficult to explain some of the statements -- many of the statements the President of the United States has made when he was running for office and since then.

And many of his staffers, they probably don't look at what he said hopefully last night or in many other occasions and think that was a positive statement or something they would support. And they don't know what else to say.

I understand why they're doing that, because I'm not sure what else their option would be. But really, this should be condemned across the board and, you know, the truth is even if they don't agree with it, they're still working for him, so.

BOLDUAN: All right, guys, thanks so much. I appreciate it.

"OutFront" next, President Trump on the thousands of migrants now making their way north.


[19:25:04] TRUMP: It's going to be an election of the caravan, you know what I'm talking about.


BOLDUAN: Plus, a Russian national charged with attempting to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections. Why was the President so quick, then, to defend himself?


TRUMP: Nothing to do with my campaign. You know, all of the hackers and all of the -- everybody that you see, nothing to do with my campaign.



BOLDUAN: Chaos unfolding tonight as a massive caravan of Honduran migrants reached the Guatemala-Mexico border. We just got these new pictures in, and look at that. They are powerful, thousands of migrants making their way to Mexico. Just look at that bridge, even breaking through a steel fence that had been padlocked shut. Mexican police in riot gear trying to push them back in that (ph). This comes as President Trump makes this prediction.


TRUMP: It's going to be an election of the caravan, you know what I'm talking about.


BOLDUAN: "OutFront" now, Ben Ferguson, host of the "Ben Ferguson Radio Show," and Maria Cardona, a Democratic Strategist.


Maria, let me start with you. The President says the election will be the election of the caravan. When you see these pictures as they're coming in, can you argue that immigration is going to be the issue?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we can certainly not be surprised that President Trump is trying to use the humanitarian crisis that is what this caravan is as these people are fleeing violence and certain death from their own home countries to use fear to inject into his base because he is absolutely concerned about the midterms.

He knows that the -- that the air is not at the Republicans' back, that the wind is not at their back and he's trying to use everything that he can, which includes fear-mongering, to scare Americans about these migrants when in fact, it's a humanitarian crisis, and what we need to do is focus on trying to find real solutions and not focus on trying to inject fear when all these people are doing are trying to find a better life from their home countries.

BOLDUAN: Ben, it's not all the president -- that's not all that the president said about the caravan. Let me play you what else he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I'm willing to send the military to defend our southern border if necessary. All because of the illegal immigration onslaught brought by the Democrats because they refuse to acknowledge or to change the laws. They like it. They also figure everybody coming in is going to vote Democrat.


BOLDUAN: He doubled down on that today. There's clearly no evidence to support the idea that Democrats are behind the caravan. Why does the president -- I also wonder why does the president need to go there? Does he not have a strong enough argument on immigration without making stuff up?

BEN FERGUSON, HOST OF "THE BEN FERGUSON SHOW": I don't think he's making stuff up. There's many Democrats that online have talked about the last caravan that came into this country, they wanted to donate money and help bring them across the border and support them financially when they got to this country. So, I don't think the president's making anything up.

The second thing is --

CARDONA: Oh, come on, Ben.

FERGUSON: -- let's stop calling these people migrants when they are illegal immigrants that are breaking down fences and gates to break into this country.

I'm so tired of people acting as if somehow this is some, you know, normal way of life, to break into countries, break through gates, to go after police in Mexico. This is people that are breaking laws, not just in America if they get here. They're breaking laws in Mexico. They have no -- they have absolutely no respect for the laws of Mexico or the laws of the United States of America.

So let's call them what they are. These are lawbreakers who are illegal immigrants right now in Mexico who would also be illegal immigrants in America and we have a right to protect and defend our border, and to act as if Democrats aren't helping support them with aid and trying to turn this into a humanitarian effort when it's clearly a political issue here. We're seeing it on TV. They're breaking into the country.

CARDONA: That's absolutely ridiculous that Democrats are funding --

FERGUSON: It's not ridiculous. You just showed the video.

CARDONA: Let me talk, Ben. I didn't interrupt you. Let me talk, OK?

Democrats are not funding these caravans. That is just an absolute outright lie.

FERGUSON: I didn't say they were. They're advocating for them.

CARDONA: Ben, let me talk.

FERGUSON: I'm just not going to let you put words in my mouth.

CARDONA: Let me talk.

That goes to my point about how desperate this president is to deflect on what is going on in the actual midterm elections where people are concerned about Republicans taking away their health care and Republicans giving huge tax breaks to the richest people in the country and corporations.

So, Trump does not want to talk about that. So, he focuses on this humanitarian crisis instead of being focused on solutions.

Democrats are not funding this caravan. These people are looking for asylum, Ben, and I'm glad you don't know the desperation that these people go through.

FERGUSON: This is not a humanitarian crisis.

CARDONA: You have no clue what these people go through, Ben. And you know what? God bless you.

BOLDUAN: What is going on in Honduras is atrocious.

CARDONA: It's absolutely a humanitarian crisis.

BOLDUAN: Some of these people --

FERGUSON: Again, so let me ask you this.

CARDONA: The fact that you say otherwise means you're clueless about what happens.

FERGUSON: OK, let me finish. If you're -- let me get this straight. You as a Democrat and this is the reason why I believe the Republicans are going to do very well in the midterms.

You do not have any respect for law and order. I have no problem with people coming into this country legally. I have no problem with people doing it the right way, the legal way.

You're advocating for as many people that want to just come into this country because they have a tough life somewhere, doing it illegally.

CARDONA: Did I say that? You're lying too now, Ben. You're lying.


FERGUSON: --saying that I don't know what these people are going through.

CARDONA: You don't. You don't know what they're going through.

FERGUSON: I have no problem with people coming to this country the right and legal way. You're advocating for illegal entry.

[19:35:00] BOLDUAN: I think both things are true. I think -- CARDONA: Exactly, Kate. These people are coming and asking for

asylum. Guess what, Ben, it's in our laws that people are allowed to come to our borders and asking for asylum. That is what these people want to do.

FERGUSON: You're saying there's no political statement here and the people involved are not politically motivated here. Come on.

CARDONA: What people involved? What people involved? These are migrant people from Honduras.

FERGUSON: The people that are breaking laws, ripping through gates and fighting with police in Mexico, you're saying that this --


CARDONA: They're fleeing. They are fleeing certain death in their own countries.

BOLDUAN: One thing -- one, our reporters on the ground, Bill Weir, he's hearing they're fleeing their situation in Honduras.

FERGUSON: I'm not saying that you're not trying to come for a better life.

BOLDUAN: One other thing that I think is also worthy of pointing out is that they're also -- this is not all of them because there are a lot of them. Bill Weir hasn't talked to all of them but some of them have told bill they don't want to come to the United States. They're trying to get into Mexico to get a better life there. So there's a --

FERGUSON: Then Mexico -- if Mexico wants to allow this to happen, then Mexico should allow this to happen but I think you and I both know statistically and we've seen this from other caravans, that the ultimate goal is to come to the United States of America and if you want to come into this country, you don't break into this country. You don't breakthrough fences.

CARDONA: Seeking asylum is not breaking into the country.

FERGUSON: There's a way to seek asylum in a legal way.

BOLDUAN: One thing we don't know is -- they haven't yet made it to the U.S. border. We have no idea if there will be attempts to come in illegally or if this is simply when the people who want to come in will make asylum claims.

CARDONA: Ben's echoing Trump's talking points and it means they have no clue what's going on --

FERGUSON: Do it the right way. That's a talking point. Yes, I believe in law and order and legally coming to this country the right way.


BOLDUAN: Now we see why this is a big issue in the midterms. Raw politics, Donald Trump is making it a big issue.

Guys, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

OUTFRONT next, a Russian national charged with conspiracy to meddle in the 2018 election. What is President Trump's reaction? Watch.


TRUMP: Nothing to do with my campaign. All of the hackers and all of the -- everybody that you see, nothing to do with my campaign.


BOLDUAN: Plus, back to our top breaking news tonight, the Saudis making a major admission tonight about the death of "Washington Post" contributor Jamal Khashoggi but are Republicans already giving the president a reason to go easy on the Saudis?


[19:41:17] BOLDUAN: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort showing up in court in a prison jump suit and a wheelchair today, his right foot was raised and in a sock. A source telling CNN that he's experiencing a serious medical condition, inflammation that's related to his diet now. This is just days after we learned that he and his lawyers have met with Bob Mueller's team at least nine times in the last four weeks.

CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is OUTFRONT with me now.

Evan, where does this put us with the Mueller investigation and what we learned about Manafort?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we still don't know when Mueller is going to wrap up. We keep hearing that perhaps it might be -- by the end of December, he might produce a report. But in court today, one of the things that prosecutors say this the Mueller team, one of the things they said is that they don't know how much longer Paul Manafort will be providing cooperation as part of this investigation, because that's part of one reason why they were hoping that this judge would delay his sentencing.

But as you heard today, the judge said that he would sentence Paul Manafort in February, and he's looking at some very serious time, because of the eight counts that he was convicted in back in August in the Eastern District of Virginia. Now, keep in mind that he has been cooperating with the Mueller team since he pled guilty to the charges here in Washington, so we'll see how much more help and what kind of help Paul Manafort has been providing to Mueller and we'll see some of that come out in the months to come.

BOLDUAN: Also new tonight, though, the first person to be indicted in connection with Russian interference in the 2018 election. What can you tell us?

PEREZ: Right. That's a -- this is a big deal because a lot of this investigation has been looking back at the 2016 election, what we learned today is that the prosecutors say that the Russians are still doing this and they're doing it with related to the 2018 midterm elections. And this woman, her name is Elena Khusyaynova, she is a Russian national who is helping to fund some of these Russian trolls that we've heard about in the Mueller investigation.

And one of the things that these guys were doing was essentially trying to pit Americans against each other. This is a $35 million operation, according to prosecutors. It's something that they were doing not only in the United States but also in Europe, they're targeting issues like LGBT issues, anything having to do with race relations.

They were even targeting Senator McCain and members of the Congress and Robert Mueller. They said that Robert Mueller was a -- is a member of the establishment or is a puppet of the establishment. These are among the things that they're using Facebook and Twitter and other places to try to sow divisions among Americans in the lead-up to the 2018 election.

So, pretty much the same playbook that we saw happen in 2016 is what the Russians are up to again in 2018.

BOLDUAN: Yes. All right. Evan, thank you so much.

OUTFRONT with me now is former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick.

Harry, as Evan was just pointing out, in court today, prosecutors were saying that they couldn't say how much longer that they need Paul Manafort, that Manafort's cooperation is needed in the Russia probe. Does that tell you anything? Does that give you anything in terms of where they are in the investigation itself?

HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, it says that it's definitely not over yet. If he's going to be sentenced in February, and the prosecutors didn't say that they thought he would be finished cooperating by February, that they would need to submit some post-sentencing motion to give him credit for his cooperation. To me, that says they have hopes that they can use him to build more cases.

BOLDUAN: We know that Manafort and his legal team have met with Mueller's office, at least nine times in the last month.

[19:45:02] You've been involved in cooperation deals.


BOLDUAN: Is that unusual? What does that say about, I don't know, how useful Manafort is to the investigation?

SANDICK: I think it says that there's a lot of debriefing. Now, they probably did less debriefing before his entering into the agreement because we'll recall he was on trial and wasn't cooperating until pretty closely before his date in court in September. So, they have a lot of work to do. They have a lot of ground to

cover, and meeting twice a week probably for a full day suggests that there's a lot of downloading going on and it sound like this is going to continue for several weeks more, at least until he gets sentenced.

BOLDUAN: All right. Again, we will see.

Harry, thanks so much.

SANDICK: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you.

OUTFRONT for us next, as we await the president's next move over the death of the "Washington Post" contributor, are his allies already paving the way for something of a weak response?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Khashoggi was tied to the Muslim brotherhood and there were --




BOLDUAN: Plus, our race of the day, Harry Enten breaks down who's leading in one of the most crucial and closest governor's races in the country.


BOLDUAN: Breaking news, Saudi Arabia confirming the death of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The country dismissing a top general, also detaining 18 other Saudis in connection with this.

This is after, though, remember, weeks of Saudi Arabia denying any involvement, which begs the question, what will President Trump do now about all of this? Because some of his allies preemptively went on the attack, smearing Khashoggi to defend Trump's response.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Khashoggi was tied to the Muslim brotherhood and there were --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's iffy, to say that he was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was it then?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the president under fire with his muted response to the apparent murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the conservative cavalry is roaring to Trump's rescue.

[19:50:02] COREY STEWART (R), VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Khashoggi was not a good guy himself.

FOREMAN: Calling the missing man a radical activist, an apologist for Islamic terrorism. The president's own son retweeted this about Khashoggi, a democratic reformer, journalist holding a rocket- propelled grenade with jihadist. Another conservative called him a long time friend of terrorists.

TRUMP: I just want to find out what's happening.

FOREMAN: The president is in a tight spot. Evidence is mounting against the Saudi government in Khashoggi's disappearance. But the Saudis are also a key diplomatic, energy and military ally for the U.S. And the president's defenders are quick to say that relationship is enormously valuable.

PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: It's not something that you want to blow up willy-nilly.

FOREMAN: Complicating the matter, the administration, with the guidance of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, has put a lot of hope in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was being hailed as a champion for reform, and not just by politicians. But more recently, headlines have howled about his alleged abuses of human rights, his imprisonment of critics and now questions are swirling about whether the White House's close tie in the kingdom was involved in the Khashoggi case.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: There are lots of flashing red signs that this was a reckless individual to be doing business with. But they ignored it all.

FOREMAN: Khashoggi was a sharp critic of the prince. Still, the president's defenders are pressing on.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIOTALK SHOW HOST: Donald Trump is keep his eye on the ball. Keeping his eye on the geopolitical ball. The national security ball.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: He's trying to figure out a way out, is what he's doing.


FOREMAN: "The Washington Post" where Khashoggi worked nonetheless is saying that these attempts to smear his name by bringing up old contact he had through his job or he had to talk to terrorists, things like that, they're saying that is reprehensible at this point -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Tom, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

OUTFRONT for us next, our race of the day, the Florida governor's race that's getting nastier by the day. Our Harry Enten has a new forecast for the race. Who's ahead?

Be right back.


[19:56:35] BOLDUAN: Down to the wire, folks. With a little more than two weeks until Election Day, Democratic nominee for Florida Governor Andrew Gillum is returning to campaigning after a pause, brief pause due to Hurricane Michael.

Gillum slamming his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis for his ties to President Trump and for airing negative ads during the storm that wreaked havoc on the Florida panhandle. Watch.


ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent spent his time running negative commercials all across the northern panhandle, while people were running for their lives. This man has no relationship to the truth. He didn't have it in Congress. And he certainly won't have it as a candidate. He takes his cues from Donald Trump. Donald Trump has no relationship to the truth either.


BOLDUAN: The race is neck and neck. A recent Mason Dixon poll before the hurricane showing Gillum with a one-point lead, well within the margin of error. And it is today's race of the day.

OUTFRONT now, senior writer and analyst for CNN Politics, Harry Enten. He's here.

Harry, what is -- what is your current forecast on this governor's race that everyone is watching?

HARRY ENTEN, SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST, CNN POLITICS: So, my current forecast is that Andrew Gillum will win by 4 percentage points. That's my forecast. That's based off the polling data that we've seen.

Yes, that Mason Dixon poll is close, but if you look at all the polls and how well they have performed historically, it projects that Andrew Gillum will win by 4 percentages. Wide margin of error, though. So, you know, Ron DeSantis still has a shot.

BOLDUAN: Still has a shot, and will, let's be honest, until Election Day.

ENTEN: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Does it appear, though, that one of them has momentum over the other? I wonder if the hurricane impacts that.

ENTEN: Yes, I think we're going to have to see what the polling looks like post-hurricane. There's no hurricane variable in my model, so we'll see. Some of the more recent, recent polls show DeSantis perhaps getting a little momentum, closing the gap a little bit. That Mason Dixon poll we've spoken about.

But of course we want to look at a bunch of different polls before coming to a projection.

BOLDUAN: And one thing Gillum is talking about is DeSantis and his connection to Donald Trump. He is one of Trump's top defenders in Congress. Look no further than of course some of the ads he's cut. Watch this.


CASEY DESANTIS, WIFE OF RON DESANTIS: Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by president Trump. He's also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids.


C. DESANTIS: He reads stories.

R. DESANTIS: Then Mr. Trump said, you're fired. I love that part.

C. DESANTIS: He's teaching Madison to talk.

R. DESANTIS: Make America great again.


BOLDUAN: There's some reporting -- I know, the ad is amazing -- some reporting from "Politico" that Trump is, I don't know, turned on DeSantis somewhat, viewing him as disloyal for disagreeing with him on Trump's take on the death toll with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Does Trump -- long way of saying, does Trump help or hurt DeSantis do you think in this race?

ENTEN: Well, I would say that if DeSantis doesn't have Trump on his side, it's big trouble insofar as the Florida Republican electorate loves Donald Trump. His approval rating is a little higher than you would think given that Florida is thought of as a swing state and how poorly is performing nationally. So, DeSantis has to kind of walk across right where he doesn't alienate the middle of the electorate while keeping the base in his side. And so far, it appears he's not doing that successfully.

BOLDUAN: All right. Again, let us see.

Great to se you, Harry. Thanks so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And you can see Gillum and DeSantis in a CNN debate live Sunday night, 8:00. We'll see you there. That's moderated by Jake Tapper.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.