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Caravan of Migrants Destined for U.S. Waiting at Mexico Border; Saudi Arabia Claims Journalist Died in a Fistfight; Russian Woman Indicted for Election Meddling; Joe Biden Headlines Rally in Las Vegas; Trump Suggests without Evidence Democrats are behind Migrant Caravan. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 20, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:51] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome.
Right now thousands of migrants in a massive caravan are waiting on a bridge to cross the Guatemalan border into Mexico hoping to make it to the United States. Take a look at those images right there -- extraordinary.
Their week-long journey from Honduras came to a chaotic halt yesterday during what appeared to be clashes with Mexican police. Migrants pushed through a steel gate but retreated when police began throwing tear gas and smoke canisters.
CNN special correspondent Bill Weir is traveling alongside that caravan at the Mexico border. So Bill -- women and children have been allowed to pass through the gates in some circumstances. What is the scene and where are you right now?
BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: We are on the banks of the Suchiate River. This is the border -- Guatemala on that side, we're on the Mexican side. And right behind me in the distance you can see the bridge, the border crossing where it was a scene of so much chaos yesterday a migrants, this caravan of some maybe 4,000 people rushed the gates, burst it open.
There was tear gas, there was self-order in a way, and there are so many stories of desperate humanity. Take a look.
WEIR (voice over): At high noon, the bridge over the border is empty. But then a crowd of thousands overwhelmed a small contingent of Guatemalan police and sprints north.
(on camera): No, closed. It is closed.
(voice over): The first try to form an orderly line, but it lasts only seconds as thousands more pour across, all with a mixture of exuberance, frustration and determination.
(on camera): The surge of the crowd has managed to shove those padlocked gates open. (voice over): But waiting on the other side are hundreds of Mexican Federales in riot gear. They manage to hold back the human tide with the help of a single tear gas canister.
After a half hour of chaos, the crowd calms itself, even turning on the few troublemakers in the crowd, convincing them to climb back down off the fence. But some can't take the heat and the crowd so they jump into the river.
ORLEAN HERRERA, HONDURAN MIGRAN: Our message is we're not criminals. We come here because we want to work. We need a job. We need better, you know, a better life. That's why we're here.
WEIR (on camera): You understand that President Trump is going to use the pictures of thousands of people surging to the gates against you. He is going to point that to people and say this is scary.
HERRERA: Well, it's his politics. You know, we respect, you know, he's the President. He's the President of the United States. And with all due respect, you know, we are not criminals.
WEIR (voice over): "Donald Trump is the anti-Christ", this man says. "If he doesn't repent, he's going to hell. We are not criminals. We are workers and fighters."
Eventually Mexico opens to the caravan, but only a trickle are let through. Women and children first, including Marta Torres, who tells me her husband was murdered by Honduran drug gangs. After walking for a week, her three other kids are still across the river.
(on camera): Do you want to go to the United States? Have you heard though that President Trump doesn't want more people coming, and he's even separated families who try to come?
"What should we do now then," she says, breaking down.
There's no way you can go back home.
"I don't want my kids in the middle of crime. I don't want to have the lives of my children further destroyed."
(voice over): Mexico has taken the rare step of calling on the United Nations to help sort this crisis. But this standoff makes clear that for most of these folks, there is no turning back.
WEIR: So thousands of people spent the night on that bridge. And it seems they're determined to wait there as long as it takes to get through the official gate. But for those that don't have patience and may have a few extra pesos, they can simply float or save the pesos and walk across.
This is a very loose border here as well. The last president set records in number of deportations of Central Americans. The incoming president says he wants to soften that stance, come up with an economic solution for these folks.
But as you can see, Fredricka -- for most of these folks, it is like fleeing a burning building. There is no Plan B.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. A colossal undertaking for so many. All right. Bill Weir -- thank you so much.
Let's discuss this further. With me now is CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago who has been on the ground with the migrant caravan.
President Trump has already called, you know, many of these migrants bad people, hardened criminals. He says even sarcastically as if, you know, there aren't any babies in the mix and we see that there a lot of families in the mix.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
[11:04:58] WHITFIELD: What is the story, you know, the common denominator story of so many of these people who are trying to get across?
SANTIAGO: Well, just about everybody will tell you there's no turning back. They can't go back to where they came from because of poverty or violence -- two factors that they're hoping gets them asylum, but certainly don't guarantee that.
There's no guarantee of asylum if they reach the United States with those factors. But you know, one thing that's important, these caravans are not a new thing. Remember in April --
WHITFIELD: It is seasonal.
SANTIAGO: Right. Well, in April, remember we followed --
WHITFIELD: You were there.
SANTIAGO: - another caravan that was also at the center of President Trump's tweets and wrath. And many of those made it to Tijuana and there they turned themselves in at a port of entry. That by the way is the legal way to do it, so they did it the legal way. Some are still waiting for their day in court today.
WHITFIELD: And so many feel like and know that they're supposed to have paperwork. But in so many circumstances, people don't have necessarily paperwork. They have, you know, the clothes on their backs. They have their children with them, et cetera.
What are they traditionally met with? What we're seeing right now-- is that typical, or is this a heightened manner of everything you have already seen?
SANTIAGO: Great question. What you're seeing right now on the border is not typical. And when I say border, I mean Mexico-Guatemala border. I have been there multiple times and I have never seen that level of migrants, a, coming in like that; but also of security, those forces there. Mexico didn't have that last time. and when I say last time, I mean the last caravan that we covered. That is not typical. It is typical to see people crossing, to see those rafts going back and forth, but not typical to see that level of law enforcement, that presence of military, you know. That is not -- that is a reaction to this caravan particularly and, you know, after President Trump's tweets.
WHITFIELD: And is it the feeling, I know you're going to be returning to the region soon, but is it the feeling that this is being orchestrated by pressure from the Trump administration, or is this Mexico, you know, taking it upon itself to do this, to have this kind of law enforcement reinforcement that you described?
SANTIAGO: Depends on who you ask. You ask President Trump, he'll tell you this is the work of the Democrats, these migrant caravans coming in.
You ask Secretary Pompeo, who was just in Mexico meeting with the Mexicans, he'll tell you that this is work of the opponents of the Honduran president.
You ask Mexico, they'll tell you now, we're doing this because we want to protect our own borders. And they have, to their credit they have stepped up enforcement on their border, but never to this level, never anything like this.
And the irony is that President Trump is threatening to cut foreign aid as a way to sort of hope that incentivizes them to do something. But you ask anybody that has a program in Central America, funded by foreign aid and they will tell you if you cut these programs, these programs that are put in place to prevent violence and poverty, you will create more of reason for them to go, to continue.
WHITFIELD: It does the opposite. It makes a desperate situation even that much more --
WHITFIELD: -- terrible.
All right. Leyla Santiago -- thank you so much. Good to see you.
SANTIAGO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Appreciate it. All right. Still ahead, Saudi officials say a journalist missing for two and a half weeks died during a fistfight inside their consulate in Turkey. But their editor calls that claim, quoting now, "BS". Who does President Trump believe?
That is next.
[11:08:32] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: A drastic shift from Saudi Arabia. The country finally admitting two and a half weeks later that "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi died in its consulate in Turkey. That's a big shift from Saudi Arabia's original story that the journalist walked out alive after getting papers for his upcoming marriage.
Now the Saudi government claims that an argument broke out in the consulate and quickly escalated into a violent fistfight and that's how Khashoggi died.
That's very different from Turkey's version of what happened. They say Khashoggi was tortured, murdered, and dismembered.
As for President Trump, he says he believes the latest Saudi explanation and he believes it is credible. Our lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are raising skepticism and even calling on the U.S. to jump into the investigation.
CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joining us now from Istanbul outside the Saudi consulate where Khashoggi's death investigation is unfolding.
How much activity are you seeing in that consulate in terms of Saudi investigators or even, you know, Turkish investigators coming in and out, removing evidence, trying to piece together this story?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: you know, Fredricka, the different thing outside of here today is that we've seen what appears to be a sort of a Saudi consulate guard pacing up and down outside. We haven't seen that level of activity and confidence even, dare I say from the Saudis here. They have been sort of standing by the doorway. So that's a little different.
The investigation inside the consulate and consul-general's house around the corner (ph) seem to be over for the moment. Yesterday, a number of workers from the consulate were being interviewed at the prosecutor's office here in Istanbul.
But I think the word from President Erdogan here today and from his spokesman from his party speaking for him really tells you that in diplomatic language that what Saudi is offering up so far really doesn't go far enough.
They're saying we're going to continue to shed light on this issue. Let no one be in any doubt that we're going to continue with our investigation. So although we may not see things going on here right now the Turkish authorities are indicating they still have some ways to go on this.
And Saudi's narrative doesn't measure up at the moment. And it doesn't measure up in particular to what we understood happened here within those minutes of Jamal Khashoggi arriving.
[11:15:07] This is the time line we have.
ROBERTSON (voice over): Just before 5:00 p.m. on October 2nd, Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee begins to panic. Hatice Cengiz is waiting outside the Istanbul consulate nearly four hours after Khashoggi went in.
She makes a call to a senior Turkish official in the capital Ankara and within minutes the alarm is raised. Turkey's intelligence agency is alerted.
(on camera): The official who talked to Cengiz that afternoon tells CNN he called the Saudi ambassador in Ankara who expressed surprise about the disappearance of Khashoggi. Within hours, however, that mystery turns to horror.
(on camera): CNN has learned that by mid-evening Turkish intelligence was reviewing an audiovisual feed from inside the consulate -- a feed they have not officially admitted to having.
On it, evidence of a struggle, an assault, and the first indication that Khashoggi was dead.
Intelligence officials raced to Istanbul airport where a private Saudi jet was waiting to take seven men back to Riyadh. One of them had a diplomatic passport.
According to a police report obtained by CNN, the airport search was ordered because there was a risk that Jamal Khashoggi had been abducted. The police officer at the gate was instructed to hand over the passenger and crew information for the flight.
At around 9:00 p.m., disguised as airport workers, the intelligence agents searched the jet while the Saudi passengers waited, apparently unaware.
(on camera): The police report we've obtained says the intelligence officials also searched the bags of the passengers to make sure there were no body parts. So just five hours after the alarm was raised, Turkish authorities are beginning to suspect Khashoggi was killed.
Nothing was found. And eventually the plane was allowed to leave.
(voice over): But the Turks' work was only just beginning. They spent the next few days analyzing every scrap of surveillance footage, the vehicles, the passengers, their movements -- trying to piece together how Khashoggi had died and who killed him.
ROBERTSON: And so now we know that the Saudis are admitting to his death happening at the end of a fight, but it is not clear why the fight was precipitated and how precisely it came to an end.
Of course, the search for Jamal Khashoggi's body is still under way. And therein lays one of the holes in the narrative arriving out of Riyadh. So far they say they are deeply sad and have regrets about what happened.
For his family though, of course, knowing what happened to his body in all of this would be one of the most important and biggest things -- Fredricka. WHITFIELD: So Nic -- do, at least, Turkish authorities have a working suspicion as to where the body or where his remains might be?
ROBERTSON: Their analysis, Fred -- has really been, since the outset here, that his body was dismembered inside the consulate. Precisely what happened after that, I think they believe that it was moved from here possibly to the consul-general's building house just around the corner. From here they searched that, they searched the cars, but the body hasn't shown up. So the question of where it is just isn't clear at the moment.
Investigators, obviously that's something they would like to -- they would like to figure out but, you know, the word we get from Turkish officials is not holding out a great deal of hope. And perhaps they may have got some clues through those questioning of consulate workers yesterday afternoon -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Nic Robertson -- thank you so much, in Istanbul.
All right. President Trump avowed severe consequences if Saudi Arabia is responsible for Khashoggi's death.
Let's go to CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood. So Sarah -- the President sending a message that he, you know, is somewhat satisfied with the Saudis' explanation. But is he also weighing whether in any way the U.S. would get involved in this investigation?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: well, Fred -- President Trump was quick to accept the Saudis' explanation for what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, even as lawmakers from both parties are pressing for those additional answers and are expressing deep skepticism that Saudi leaders are telling the truth here.
Now Trump had earlier highlighted those denials from Saudi leaders who initially said that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed and he similarly elevated the Saudi party line last night when he described the speed of arrests in Saudi Arabia as an important first step.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:19:58] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do. I do. I mean -- again, it is early. We haven't finished our review or investigation. But it is -- I think it is a very important first step and it happened sooner than people thought it would happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: That was the President speaking in Arizona. The President accepted the Saudi findings as credible, even though Saudi leaders have shifted their stories several times now from Khashoggi leaving the consulate in Turkey unharmed, denying any knowledge as to why he was missing for several weeks, and finally acknowledging his death, but blaming it on a fistfight gone wrong. And although the President threatened to impose those severe consequences against Saudi Arabia, he hasn't given any hint as to what those consequences might look like.
All he's really said about his response is that he wants to preserve that proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia. This as Democrats and Republicans alike are both pushing the President to take action against Saudi Arabia, so Trump likely to face pressure to spell out what those consequences might look like now that we know more about what happened to Khashoggi -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood at the White House -- thank you so much for that.
All right. Let's discuss further now. Our CNN team is spread out across the region. We have CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward in Turkey, and former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell also in Turkey. Josh in Istanbul and Clarissa in Ankara.
So Josh -- to you first. You know, some U.S. lawmakers are now, you know, putting on the pressure, saying the U.S. needs to get involved in this investigation. If that were to be the case, to what extent would the U.S. be involved?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Hi, Fred. Well, that's a really good question. As Sarah just mentioned, there are actually lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that are calling for the United States to hold accountable whoever is responsible for this.
We have Senator Bob Corker, we have Representative Eric Swalwell as well, you know, who've been out there basically asking for just that -- some type of U.S. accountability in order to get to the bottom.
And it's also happening here in Turkey. We haven't heard yet from Turkish officials or Saudi officials, requesting U.S. involvement. But just a short time ago, actually right behind where I'm standing, we had a press conference here with Turan Kislakci, who is the head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association -- a consortium of journalists here -- who is basically calling for the international community to ensure transparency.
And I asked him specifically what he meant by that and what role the United States could play. He actually called upon President Trump to ensure the real story gets out and that this isn't swept under the rug.
So far no indication the United States will be tapping U.S. law enforcement or U.S. diplomats to really start asking those tough questions. But again, the international community waits to determine whether this will indeed be a transparent investigation.
WHITFIELD: And Clarissa -- so you've got at least two investigations here. You've got Saudi Arabia's version. You've got Turkey's version. And while the consulate is, you know, almost described as kind of like Saudi, you know, soil -- who has the upper hand here? I mean are Turkish authorities able to collect as much evidence as it would like to, you know, get inside the consulate? Is the, you know, Saudi Arabian government able to, you know, keep Turkish authorities at a distance?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Saudis have already allowed, Fred -- the Turks to go inside the consulate and the consul-general residence and also to interview some of the staff there although it did take them nearly two weeks to do that.
But in terms of the sort of broader question of who has the upper hand, I would speculate that the Saudis never would have even come out with the version of events that they presented last night had it not been for the fact that Turkish authorities claim to have this audio recording. And that they seem to have knowledge within hours as you heard from Nic Robertson of Jamal Khashoggi going missing and his fiancee sounding the alarm. They seemed to have knowledge within hours of that happening that he was clearly in a very bad way, that he had either been abducted or potentially been killed.
And I think once they started leaking details of that to the media, it became clear to the Saudis that this wasn't going to be a situation where they could do the usual and just go with the flat denials -- he walked out of here, he walked out. We just can't provide video of him walking out because our surveillance cameras weren't recording that day.
So in that sense I would say, Fred -- that the Turks have the upper hand. The question now becomes have the Turks and the Saudis reached some kind of a deal? Or is there the potential of some kind of deal being reached in the future that would make Turkey happy enough to allow Saudi Arabia to keep going with its version of events, and we don't yet know that -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Ok. And so really -- so much is on the line, too, in terms of their working cooperation moving forward based on what the conclusion is to this investigation on all sides.
All right. Clarissa Ward, Josh Campbell -- thanks so much. We'll check back with you. Appreciate it. >
All right. Next -- new indications Russians are still meddling with U.S. elections. The charges a Russian woman is now facing in connection with next month's midterm elections and how the President is reacting. All that coming up.
[11:25:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
The Justice Department has charged a Russian woman with interfering in the midterm elections which are just now 17 days away. She is the first person to be indicted in connection with Russian interference in the 2018 election.
That indictment comes on the same day former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was in a federal courtroom where a judge set a February sentencing date for his bank and tax fraud convictions. This as Manafort continues to cooperate with Robert Mueller's Russia investigation team.
[11:30:10] CNN's Sara Murray has details.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: 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 memes that fan 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's sentencing date for February 8th.
Manafort, clad in his green inmate uniform, sat with his foot raised off the ground in a sock. His lawyers 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 his 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. Elliot said today ten additional charges that the jury could not agree on will be dropped.
As he prepared 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 Committee, cutting out of some rank and file members that have been most critical of Rosenstein.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: 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 oversight.
MURRAY: Now Manafort continues to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe. They set no end date for that cooperation in court on Friday.
Sara Murray, CNN -- Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk further about this. With me right now is Michael Zeldin who is a CNN legal analyst, a former federal prosecutor and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Department of Justice. Good to see you.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.
WHITFIELD: All right. So the Justice Department arresting Elena Khusyaynova for conspiracy to interfere with midterms, is she potentially someone the Mueller team would want to have access to, to see if, you know, she was instrumental in the 2016 interference or is this an extension of, you know, the 2016 interference, meaning, you know, her dabbling with the midterm elections?
ZELDIN: Well, I think it is continuation of what we saw in the first social media indictment by Mueller. In this indictment it is alleged that she was part of the conspiracy that started somewhere in the mid- 2014 period, ran through the 2016 election cycle, and it carried on into the 2018.
So yes, to the extent there's information that the eastern district of Virginia prosecutors, the ones that are bringing the case -- yes, that relates back in time to 2016 period which is Mueller's mandate than I think those officers will share information.
WHITFIELD: Ok. And then let's talk about Paul Manafort, you know, appearing in court, you know, in a wheelchair, getting the date for his upcoming sentencing. Do you see that his, you know, comfort/discomfort will in any way influence his sentencing?
ZELDIN: No. And in fact, T.S. Eliot, the judge, gave a sentencing date of February, so it is five months away. One can only hope that Manafort is given the treatment, the medical treatment that he needs. It is just not acceptable that a prisoner should be in harm's way because of the conditions in the prison that relate to diet and foot swelling. So that is something that I think the court should take account of immediately.
With respect to Manafort, he is going to continue to cooperate for the next five months, or as long as Mueller needs him and then he's going to get sentenced. And what this tells us though Fred -- is that earlier reports last week that Mueller was getting ready to wrap up and send his report in December probably were premature.
WHITFIELD: Ok. So then -- so that Manafort, you know, has pled in one case, you know, found guilty in another, talking Virginia and then D.C. jurisdictions, and that he has met with the Mueller team as Sara just reported some nine times in the last four months, that as sentencing is scheduled for February.
[11:35:01] Is that sufficient time for the Mueller team to continue to work with him? Might even his cooperation with the Mueller team impact his upcoming sentencing in February?
ZELDIN: Yes. I think that the Manafort lawyers want very much for Manafort to cooperate fully with Mueller so that at the time of sentencing, Mueller says to the court that Manafort has been an important cooperator. And now we see it in the fact that he went to trial, he should be given the benefit under the sentencing guidelines of some downward departure from the statutory exposure that he faces.
So I think that their whole plan now is cooperate to reduce the sentence that he gets in February. And we heard from Sara that he has been there multiple days for multiple hours because he's got a lot of topics as to which he can give information to Mueller, so there is a good opportunity for Manafort here if he has information and is forthright.
WHITFIELD: And then quickly before I let you go, the Deputy AG Rosenstein, you know, testified behind, you know, closed doors in Congress to talk about, you know, whether there was indeed any kind of considerations of 25th amendment, you know, wiring, all that kind of stuff. Do you expect to learn much about his, you know, involvement with those allegations?
ZELDIN: No. Not at all. I don't think anything ever leaks off of the Hill, does it -- Fred? Is there any likelihood of that?
WHITFIELD: Not in D.C. No way.
ZELDIN: No. So the good news -- the bad news is that he's got to go up there in the first place. The good news is it's only going to be the committee chair and ranking members, which means it will be a little bit more adult supervised.
I do think, however, that there will be a transcript. It will go into the hands of the most partisan of the Republicans on the Hill and that we'll see stories coming out of that and there will be, you know, political hay to be made by them.
WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there. Michael Zeldin -- good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much.
ZELDIN: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Political heavyweights on both sides of the aisle are in Nevada today making their closing arguments ahead of the midterms. The message former vice president Joe Biden is set to deliver to Democrats next hour as speculations swirl surrounding his own political ambitions. That's next.
[11:37:19] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
Live pictures right now out of Las Vegas. This is the prelude ahead of a Democratic rally in which the former vice president, Joe Biden, will be in attendance. He is trying to get the Democrats excited just 17 days ahead of now midterm elections. Now, of course, we don't know if he is going to actually try to challenge the President perhaps in 2020 but in about an hour or so we'll hear from Biden at that rally, hosted by Nevada State Democratic Party in Las Vegas where early voting has already started.
Biden will head to Florida on Monday for a two-day visit where he will rally for several Democratic candidates. The 75-year-old has said that he'll decide by January whether he would run for president.
William McCurdy II joins us now from that rally. He is the chair of the Nevada Democratic Party -- hopefully you can hear me. I know it is pretty exciting out there with so many people who have turned out. So William -- both parties are, you know, hosting huge rallies in Nevada this morning.
On Thursday, the President was very clear on the GOP's message ahead of the midterms saying, I'm quoting now, "Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order and common sense."
So what's the message that folks will be hearing from the Democrats? Oh, William -- can you hear me?
Ok. Well not for now. We're going to try and reestablish that connection and try and check back with him. William McCurdy is on stand by there in Las Vegas. We're going to try again in a moment.
All right. Meantime President Trump is holding his own rally in Nevada today. This, as he tests out new attack lines against Democrats and offers a controversial embrace of a Montana congressional candidate.
[11:43:48] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Let's take another look at live pictures out of Las Vegas where this is the lead up during a rally for Democrats where former vice president, Joe Biden will soon with taking to the podium as well. You can see the crowds have turned up in a big way.
We're going to try this again, our conversation with William McCurdy II. He is chair of the Nevada Democratic Party. I think you can hear me ok now?
WILLIAM MCCURDY II, CHAIRMAN, NEVADA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Yes, Fredricka -- I can hear you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Great -- William. So you've got quite the turnout there. Both parties -- Republicans, Democrats all holding rallies in Nevada today.
We know the President has reminded Republicans of what the GOP message will be -- Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order, et cetera, et cetera. What's the message that Democrats will be hearing?
MCCURDY II: Well, let's be honest, the Republican message isn't working here in Nevada and we are the party of opportunity, equality and a better life. We are the party that's going to fight for public education that is accessible, that's great for every child. We're the party that's going to make sure that we fight for immigrant rights, and make sure that we can take the family to stop separating families at the border.
And most of all, we are the party that's going to make sure that we have an economy that works for everyone.
WHITFIELD: Do you have any real clarity on what the former vice president will be saying?
MCCURDY II: Well look, the message is clear. We have to do everything that we can do to make sure that every voter turns out during early vote and on Election Day. And you're going to hear a message that's inspiring, that's going to speak to the heart of the Democrats here in the state of Nevada. And we're going to get it done.
I'm looking forward to hearing from the vice president, Joe Biden, this morning. And we're looking for ward to all we're going to do be successful on election night.
[11:49:57] WHITFIELD: So midterms, you know, traditionally turn out -- voter turnout will be a little lackluster. What is the incentive this time? How do you incentivize people to register, to get out and vote 17 days away? I mean, you know, their intention should be now what they're going to do on Election Day? But how do you inspire people who still remain apathetic when it comes down to midterms?
MCCURDY II: So I'm going to be really, really upfront. We are seeing levels of excitement that can be compared to one of the president's (INAUDIBLE).
Voters are excited. They already know what they're showing up for. They're showing up for a future that their children can have access to. They're showing up for -- you know, to make sure that we have education, that all of our students will be able to prosper.
Voters know exactly what the message is. And the message is that we have to start here in Nevada. Making sure that we elect Jacky Rosen to the United States Senate, electing Steve Sisolak as the governor all the way down the ticket -- electing Democrats and so we continue to stand in the trenches and fight for them.
That's what this is about. The soul of our country is on the line and it's on the ballot. But we've got to make sure that we do everything that we can to talk to every voter across the state of Nevada to ensure that they turn out not only during the early vote but on election night.
We've been able to expand our electorate. We have over 70,000 registration advantage (ph). We are doing the work day in and day out. And the Democratic Party is poised to win again come election night.
WHITFIELD: All right, William McCurdy II there in Las Vegas -- thanks so much. Appreciate it.
All right. Meanwhile, President Trump is ramping up his attack on Democrats ahead of the midterms. During a rally in Montana Trump yet unleashed another unsubstantiated claim. This time suggesting without evidence that Democrats were banking on a migrant caravan to arrive before Election Day to boost voting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 caused 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now, chief media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter.
So, you know, Brian -- the President clearly knows, you know, the power of the media. He uses it, you know, in which to convey whatever message it is that he wants to send. But now we're talking about the President talking about people who are crossing the boarder, who are not citizens who are, you know, seeking asylum, looking for jobs, et cetera. And that they are very quickly going to be able to exercise their right to vote.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Yes, this is the Fox News presidency at work because the President is watching Fox's coverage of this migrant caravan. He's reacting to it in very strong ways, very critical ways, claiming that some of the migrants are hardened criminals and saying that somehow the Democrats are involved in making this happen.
It is pretty unhinged rhetoric, but it is something we've come to see from the President because he is so informed by conservative media or, frankly, Fred -- I would say misinformed by conservative media.
This caravan started last weekend in Honduras. The organizers do this on purpose to get attention. They want the cameras. They want the attention, to draw attention to their plight. Fox started covering this in a big way on Monday and the President started talking about it on Tuesday. So we're seeing the Fox-Trump feedback loop in action.
But I think it ends up doing a disservice to the public because he's sharing misleading information. Did you see what he did last night? A reporter asked him, why are you saying these are hardened criminals, the people on this bridge -- the men, women and children, that are on this bridge -- trying to enter Mexico? Why are you saying they're hardened criminals? What evidence do you have of that? The President's answer to the reporter was, "don't be a baby". So obviously he doesn't really want to address where he's getting this information from.
WHITFIELD: Ok. So -- and he is, you know, masterful at using headlines to either underscore or perhaps misinform. And some of the more, you know, recent examples, not just that on the bridge, but, you know, praising a Montana representative who, you know, attacked a reporter. And at the same time, you know, that we are hearing -- the world is hearing gruesome details about a reporter, a U.S. resident, working for the "Washington Post", who is murdered, you know, at a consulate -- Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey.
Take a listen to what the President had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'd heard that he body-slammed a reporter. Any guy that could do a body slam, he's my kind --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:55:00] WHITFIELD: Then you hear the cheering so, you know, why does the President feel this is, you know, beneficial? The White House Correspondents Association responding this way, saying, "All Americans should recoil from the President's praise for violent assault on a reporter doing his constitutionally-protected job. This amounts to the celebration of a crime by someone sworn to uphold our laws and an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has solemnly pledged to defend it."
You know, again this is why you've got this, you know, investigation of, you know, this alleged heinous crime. And then the President seemed to be wishy-washy, you know, on that, too.
STELTER: Yes. This is tribalism in action, right. This is the President playing to his audience, getting laughs from the crowd. But what he should be doing is condemning all violence. You know, he's very concerned he says about Democratic mobs going up to people, going up to lawmakers. Well, he should be equally concerned or more concerned about any other violence, especially against a journalist who just wanted to ask a question about health care.
That's what that reporter was trying to do last year. He was actually -- the congressman did plead guilty to a crime and maybe the President should have acknowledged that in his answer.
WHITFIELD: All right. Brian Stelter -- thanks so much.
WHITFIELD: All right. We'll have so much more, right after this.
[11:56:12] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)