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Trump Skeptical of Saudis' Response on Khashoggi Death; U.S. pulling out of Nuclear Treaty with Russia; Hundreds Try to Cross into Mexico to Reach U.S.; Afghanistan Voting Marred by Violence and More Delays. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 21, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There's been deception and there have been lies. U.S. president Donald Trump now apparently highly skeptical of Saudi Arabia's official explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

And Mr. Trump says he is pulling the U.S. out of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia because Moscow hasn't been keeping its end of the bargain.

Plus a migrant caravan headed to the U.S.. While some migrants turned back, hundreds scrambled to cross the river into Mexico.

Live from the center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: The president of the United States is now openly casting doubt on the credibility of Saudi Arabia and its varying versions of just what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi. First, the Saudis had denied any knowledge of his disappearance on October 2nd.

Now after almost three weeks, the kingdom admits Khashoggi died violently after he entered the Saudi consulate. Donald Trump told "The Washington Post" on Saturday, obviously there has been deception and there has been lies.

Still the U.S. president stopped short of blaming the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi's death. He told the newspaper, "nobody has told me he is responsible. Nobody has told me he is not responsible. We have not reached that point."

And still unknown is what became of Khashoggi's body. A source close to the Saudi royal palace tells CNN the body was handed over to a local collaborator and the Saudis do not know what happened to it.

When asked about it on Saturday President Trump seemed to think that mystery would eventually be solved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: No, we don't. Nobody seems to know. Somebody knows but nobody of the various investigation groups at this moment know but we'll find out. It's a concern. We'd like to find out where it is and what happened and I think we're -- we're inching our way there.


VANIER: CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Istanbul.

Nic, do we have any leads at this stage on where the body might be?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Leaks that we have, leaks, not the official lines from the Saudi government at this time. But the line that you just mentioned, that collaborators helped to take the body away. At the moment we're still waiting for the Saudi investigation, the Turkish investigation here does focus in good part on trying to locate the body of Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudi investigation, from their point yesterday, government statements indicated that could be a month away. We heard from the Saudi justice ministry yesterday, saying that as this happened on sovereign territory involving Saudi citizens, this is their jurisdiction.

So the implication being that if a body was handed off to Turkish collaborators, that's the implication, then this would be, if you will, on the Turkish to discover where the body is.

What we have heard in the official statements from Saudi Arabia is that the Saudi officials are cooperating closely with Turkish officials on the ground here. It has not looked that way, given the length of time that they were blocked from getting into the consulate and found a lot of the inside of the consult, where there was believed to be -- where the Turkish investigators were looking for evidence, a lot of it had been painted over.

We that there was a very high-level forensics expert on the Saudi delegation. Of course, no word from the Saudi investigation yet, even naming him as being on this 15-man team that came from Saudi Arabia and were in the consulate that day.

So many unanswered questions but I think the very big question at the moment has to be if there is this close collaboration between Saudi and Turkish officials, as the Saudi narrative maintains, then one would imagine this so-called collaborator must be known to Turkish authorities and therefore one would have expected by now that this help from the Saudis would have helped the Turkish authorities track down Khashoggi's body.

So that part is again just a very, very big mystery and I think we have a lot to learn and a lot more transparency to come in understanding all of this.

VANIER: Donald Trump says we will soon know more. Those were his words. He says we're inching towards finding out. It is hard to establish whether there really is, at this stage, an earnest investigation going on, especially on the side of the Saudis

But Donald Trump repeatedly in his statement has said -- has suggested that there is more information coming to the fore.

Do we have an understanding of whether this is coming from the Turks or whether this is coming from American investigators themselves?


ROBERTSON: I suppose if we examine the pieces of information that have been publicly laid out by all sides here, when President Trump says that we're inching towards that information, I supposed that could be a reference to the fact that the Saudis have said that their investigation results should become clear in a month. That suggests that President Trump believes the process is going to be slow and the Saudis are indicating that they'd like to take that time over it.

We don't have a timeline from the Turkish authorities yet, when they will get their investigation done. I think, when listening to President Trump, that we were just playing that clip from him, just -- you were playing it just in the last couple of minutes, he clearly does say that there's more information to come.

When asked about the crown prince and his involvement, he does seem to indicate that we do not have all the facts and that somebody may be lying. But he's certainly not indicating that he believes that the crown prince is lying.

And the same as we've heard from President Trump so far do tend to indicate that he would believe that the crown prince perhaps does not have a role in this. However, there is some skepticism left there. So you know, I think -- I think at the moment, there are just huge, huge holes in the narrative and those holes will need to be filled.

And the Turkish authorities believe they still have evidence to put forward that could fill some of those holes -- Cyril.

VANIER: Absolutely. Nic Robertson reporting live from Istanbul in Turkey, thank you very much.

Confirmation of Khashoggi's death was especially hard on his loved ones. His fiancee reacted to the news with this heartbreaking tweet.

"It took your bodily presence from my world but your beautiful laugh will remain in my soul forever."

While many Western governments have scoffed at the latest Saudi version of events, Saudi allies in the Gulf are voicing their support; Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are among those praising the Saudi royals for their transparency in seeking the truth and legal accountability.

Journalist Borzou Daragahi is an international correspondent with "The Independent" newspaper. He joins us from Istanbul.

Borzou, yesterday Donald Trump said the Saudi story about Khashoggi's death was credible today. Today he says there have been lies.

Why does Donald Trump keep wavering about this?

Why is it so difficult for him to find a consistent response to this?

BORZOU DARAGAHI, "THE INDEPENDENT": It is hard to figure out what the president is thinking but (INAUDIBLE) the very, very strong suggestions are there. If there is some kind of diplomatic and geopolitical negotiating going on, maybe behind the scenes, maybe not even sort of stated, a lot of attempt to see what each party can get out of this affair, what they have to give up and so on.

So I think that the culpability of, for example, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman might be less a legal matter in terms of establishing it forensically or in terms of evidence, that kind of diplomatic matter to negotiate whether the crown prince will accept responsibility for this and what the consequences of that will be.

And I think that this prevaricating on the part of the president of the U.S. as well as on other leaders, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who along with his associates has also been in various kind of scams (INAUDIBLE) --


VANIER: So let's look at it then from both the Saudi point of view and the Turkish point of view, since we examined the American point of view. Saudi Arabia was under pressure to put out some kind of explanation for what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. Now that they have done that and irrespective of the fact that virtually nobody actually believes their version, do you think that Saudi can afford to just wait for this to blow over now?

DARAGAHI: I think that remains to be seen. It has to do -- you know, it depends on how the news cycle moves and on our interest in the story. I think that the idea of the crown prince as this modernizing, reforming figure, I think that's dead, maybe for 5-10 years if he remains in his place and eventually becomes king.

This illusion that he spent tens of millions of dollars in two years building up is never going to be resurrected in the way it was before. But as to whether he retains his position, again, that is a very important thing. Whether the king will decide to toss him under the bus and bring his brother or someone else into the position of crown prince, that is really --


DARAGAHI: -- the big question right now for the Saudis.

VANIER: Yes, that's really interesting, Borzou, and I have been asking that question to every analyst and specialist and guest that I've spoken to over the last few days. Most of them have said this will not derail his ascension to the -- ascension to the throne. But you are putting a question mark on that and that is interesting.

Borzou Daragahi, joining us today. Thank you. We always appreciate talking to you.


VANIER: We are following breaking news here in the U.S. We're getting reports of multiple injuries after a floor in an apartment building collapsed in South Carolina. The property manager says it happened at a party in Clemson while people were dancing.

The floor collapsed into the basement. Several people have been hospitalized with broken bones but the extent of the injuries, the number of people hurt, that is still not clear. We will continue to follow this breaking news story. We will bring you updates as soon as we get them.

One of the treaties that made the world a little safer during the Cold War is collapsing. The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty -- or INF as it is known -- the U.S. and the Soviet Union signed it in 1987 at the height of the Cold War and subsequently destroyed nearly 2,700 missiles.

Now U.S. president Donald Trump says he is pulling the U.S. out of this agreement because Russia, which inherited that deal from the Soviet Union, isn't holding up its end of the bargain.


TRUMP: Russia has violated the agreement and they've been violating it for many years and I do not know why President Obama did negotiate or pull out. And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to.

We're the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we've honored the agreement. But Russian has not. Unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we're going to terminate the agreement.


VANIER: Fred Pleitgen joins us from Moscow with more on this.

Fred, what is the reaction where you are?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, it's certainly not something that many Russians would have wanted to wake up to on a Sunday and probably something that many Americans wouldn't have wanted to wake up to, either.

It's interesting because in the past couple of days we have heard rumblings in the upcoming visit of national security advisor John Bolton here to Russia. He's probably on his way right now. That perhaps he would tell the Russians the U.S. intends to pull out of the INF treaty.

Then came that statement that we just heard from President Trump and that's obviously ringing a lot of alarm bells here in Russia. We do have, even at this early time here on a Sunday morning gotten some reaction from the Russian side, the head of the foreign affairs committee for the Russian Federation Council, that's the upper house here in Russia, his name is Konstantin Kosachev -- I'll just read a little bit of it.

He says, quote, "A nuclear power, one of the two participants in one of the fundamental agreements in the field of strategic stability, unilaterally destroys it. If this really happens, the consequences will be truly catastrophic."

Cyril, one of the other interesting things that sort of happened over the past couple of months, I would say, is that the Russians have been seeing the writing on the wall. The U.S. not really being committed to that treaty anymore in the view of the Russians.

They have sort of been hinting that they believe that the INF treaty is not really in their interest, either. However, of course, now you have these reactions that things seem to be coming more clear.

A lot of Russians I think, quite shocked and quite angry by the fact that apparently John Bolton is going to come over here with that message in a suitcase, telling the Russians that the U.S. is going to pull out of that treaty -- Cyril.

VANIER: Donald Trump is very clear about why he is doing this. He says essentially it's Russia's fault because Russia wasn't complying with the treaty.

Is that true?

PLEITGEN: Well, look, the U.S. has been saying since 2014 that it believes Russia is not in compliance with that treaty and the reason for that is a missile launching system, a missile called the Iskander N (ph), which is a medium-range missile that apparently now is nuclear capable.

There is also a cruise missile version of it as well. So the U.S. is saying that the Russians developed this missile, the Russians tested this missile and they also believe that in some cases they have deployed that missile as well. The Russians have obviously not acknowledged any of that.

So they say they have been in compliance. They, for their part, have accused the U.S. of not being in compliance for testing a missile defense shield that obviously the U.S. wants to employ in Europe.

This treaty is obviously is very important. I want to go back to what exactly this treaty means. The INF stands for Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, which means getting rid of the intermediate missiles.

We go back to the history of this treaty, it eliminates missiles with the range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The U.S. and Russia destroyed, you just mentioned it, around 2,700 missiles. It was signed in 1987 during the Cold War. And Russia has acknowledged a new missile system; it has not necessarily acknowledged that it is actually being deployed.

So this treaty has been quite important, especially to the Europeans. And one of the reasons why they thought it was so important is because these intermediate missile systems, the nuclear ones, are so dangerous because --


PLEITGEN: -- from the moment that they get shot to the moment that a nuclear warhead would strike, it is only a couple minutes.

It really wouldn't give any sort of civilian population any sort of time to get into any sort of shelters. So for the Europeans, this was something that was a very important treaty. It brought a lot of stability, especially to the European theater of the Cold War.

That is why many, I would think, in European capitals, once they wake up this morning and hear this news, I think you're going to hear a lot of very strong reactions from there as well -- Cyril.

VANIER: CNN senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen from Moscow, thank you very much.

Now 2,000 people have with the migrant caravan headed for the U.S. and are now back in Honduras. That is according to the Honduran foreign ministry. The country's president is promising to offer jobs and other types of aid to those who come back.

But there are still hundreds of men, women, children continuing their desperate journey north. This was the scene on a bridge from Guatemala to Mexico on Saturday. At least 640 people crossed the border and registered for asylum in Mexico. And still more are trying to get through.

Patrick Oppmann is with the caravan on the Guatemala-Mexico border. He filed this report.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some crossed into Mexico through Guatemala by boat. Others waited or swam, just barely. For thousands of migrants, mostly Hondurans, who said they were fleeing poverty and violence. Many are looking to reunite with loved ones.

Brian Covodrilles (ph) came across the river in a boat a week after being deported to his native Honduras from the U.S., where he lived for most of his life and left behind a wife and daughter.

OPPMANN: What do you need to get back?

BRIAN COVODRILLES (PH), HONDURAN MIGRANT: My daughter. That's the first thing. You know, I didn't have my dad when I was a kid, you know, at all. And I don't want the same for her.

OPPMANN (voice-over): On Friday, Mexican police stopped the estimated 4,000 strong caravan of migrants dead in their tracks on a bridge that joins Mexico and Guatemala. The bridge became a holding cell, one without bathrooms or water or mercy from the brutal sun, with a crush of migrants waiting to see if they would be allowed to pass.

Finally, people like Blanc Olivia (ph), who's traveling with her three children, couldn't take it anymore.

"The truth is, we're all going to jump in the river," she says, "and keep going forward."

Mexican police watched as the migrants took to the river but this time didn't try to stop them.

OPPMANN: So this is what desperation has driven these people to. They were not able to cross the bridge so now they've come across on rafts, some of them very heavily loaded, some of them with small kids, carrying all they have on their back and now they're going to get off here, finally in the Mexican side, and continue the journey north to the United States.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Maria fled the violence of Honduras eight years ago. She's come to the river to see if her son will cross here. He was in the caravan and his cell phone died a day ago. Now she can't reach him.

"I'm worried because he told me to wait for him by the river," she says. "Until he comes, I will stay here."

After a week traveling, many of these migrants are out of money and hope is fading but they say they have no choice but to continue on -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, on the Mexico-Guatemala border.


VANIER: Afghan officials are extending some parliamentary voting for one more day. We'll go live to Kabul for the latest on elections when we come back.

Plus hundreds of thousands of protesters in London say they want to vote again on Brexit. We'll take you to the heart of one of the biggest demonstrations the British capital has ever seen. Stay with us.





VANIER: Voting continues in Afghanistan's parliamentary elections. An estimated 3 million people managed to cast their ballots on Saturday. But staffing and technical issues means many others did not.

So around 400 polling stations are scheduled to open on Sunday to give them a second chance. Saturday's voting was also marred by violence after multiple threats by the Taliban to disrupt this election. At least 28 people were killed across the country.

Let's go straight to Kabul and let's join Ali Latifi, a journalist there.

Ali, has everyone who wanted to vote going to get a chance to do so in the end?

ALI LATIFI, JOURNALIST: This is the question everyone is asking. So, overall, 400 polling centers had to be reopened today on Sunday so we will see how many people actually get to go back this time.

Of those, at least 40 of them are in Kabul and we have heard reports that there are already somewhere -- again, staff has not shown up. It hasn't opened. So we really have to see what's going to happen today.

VANIER: As to the security threats, we know the Taliban wanted to derail this election wholesale. And that is why there were so many threats on the election. They told people to stay away from the polling stations.

Are you able to get a sense of whether the threat actually kept people away?

LATIFI: The threat in some places definitely did keep people away. Like, for instance, in the northern province of Kunduz, there were multiple rocket attacks. The major roads in that province were closed. So people definitely had problems going to vote.

In the eastern province of Hosni, there was no election at all because that was delayed due to security reasons for an indefinite amount of time, like with the presidential election in April.

So it definitely worked to an extent but the biggest problem facing people right now is the logistical issues. Going to a voting center, not finding ballot papers, not finding ballot boxes, not finding commission staff, seeing that it is closed, that has really been the biggest thing that has kept people from voting this time.

VANIER: Wow, the logistical issues are actually a bigger challenge than the Taliban threats. That is really interesting, says a lot. Ali Latifi, thank you so much for your reporting from the Afghan capital. Thanks.

Thousands marched Saturday in London, demanding a new referendum on Brexit, Organizers estimate that 700,000 protesters took to the streets of the British capital. CNN could not independently verify that number. The U.K. is set to leave the European Union in just a few months.

Qatar has just recorded its highest daily rainfall total in the month of October. There was significant flooding in the capital, Doha, which is not used to seeing this.


[03:25:00] VANIER: Two more things to tell you about. First of all, an animal attack that is just rare and unexplained. The Indianapolis Zoo says a lion has suddenly killed the father of her three cubs last week. Nobody knows why.

Zoo workers heard an unusual amount of roaring coming from the outdoor lion pen. Staffers rushed over. They saw the lioness -- her name is Zuri -- holding a male lion -- his name is Nyack -- by the neck. Now they couldn't separate them and the male died. Here is the Indianapolis Zoo chief.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know it is a rare occurrence but it can occur in the wild and in human care. We're not sure what provoked it on this given day.


VANIER: I did not know that. The lion and the lioness had lived together at the zoo for eight years. There were no previous signs of aggression. The incident is under investigation.

The Invictus Games are off to a spectacular start. The opening ceremony was held at the legendary Opera House in Sydney, Australia. The guest of honor, Prince Harry, led the festivities. The British Royal created this annual sporting event in 2014 for wounded and ailing military veterans.

He called the games a symbol of strength. More than 500 service members from 18 countries are taking part. The Duke of Sussex and his pregnant wife, Meghan, are on their first royal tour abroad, which also includes visits to New Zealand and Fiji.

They earlier attended a reception inside the Opera House. The duchess, however, had to skip another event because she was tired.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.