Return to Transcripts main page
South Carolina Floor Collapse Injures 30; Trump Skeptical of Saudis' Response on Khashoggi Death; U.S. pulling out of Nuclear Treaty with Russia; U.S. Marines And Allies Practice Attack Response; Hundreds Try to Cross into Mexico to Reach U.S.; Trump Media Blitz. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired October 21, 2018 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. president Donald Trump appears to change his stand on Saudi Arabia's explanation of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying outright there have been lies.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Russia not pleased with the United States after the U.S. president announces that the United States is pulling out of a decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Moscow.
ALLEN (voice-over): Also at this hour, a large group of migrants are enduring sweltering heat and wading through rivers, still trying to make their way to the U.S.
HOWELL (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for joining us.
ALLEN: 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast. And in a state nearby there's been a tragedy we want to tell you about. Breaking news from South Carolina.
Dozens of partygoers have been injured when the floor collapsed out from underneath them at an apartment complex. It happened in Clemson just a few hours ago, university town near Clemson University.
Police say 30 people, 30 were taken to hospitals. Property management says partygoers were dancing together. That's when part of the floor opened up and fell into the basement. We have video of it happening.
We warn you it is disturbing to see these people as they fall when they were just dancing and having fun. This shows the moment the floor collapsed.
HOWELL: That's some of the latest video that we've gotten inhouse. It is terrifying to see. Just imagine what people were going through when that happened. We're hearing that 30 people were injured. None of the injuries known to be life threatening. Several people have been taken to hospitals with broken bones.
Of course we'll continue to follow the story here at CNN as we're reaching out to authorities there and we will bring you any new developments as we learn them.
Now we turn to the mystery surrounding the death of a "Washington Post" journalist. The U.S. president is now openly casting doubt on that narrative from Saudi Arabia about how Jamal Khashoggi died.
HOWELL: The Saudis denied any knowledge of his disappearance. Then the story evolved. Now after almost three weeks, the kingdom admits Khashoggi died violently after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
ALLEN: Donald Trump told "The Washington Post" this on Saturday, obviously there's been deception and there's been lies. Still, Mr. Trump stopped short of blaming the Saudi crown prince for Khashoggi's death.
HOWELL: He told the newspaper, quote, "Nobody has told me he's responsible. Nobody has told me he's not responsible. We haven't reached that point," end quote.
The question remains unanswered, where?
Where is the body of Jamal Khashoggi?
The latest we're hearing from a source close to the Saudi royal family is that the body was handed over to a local collaborator.
ALLEN: Not sure what that means. The source says the Saudis don't know what happened to it afterward. President Trump seems to think the mystery will 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: CNN has correspondents covering all angles of this story in the region. Our Sam Kiley, live in the Saudi capital. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, live in Istanbul.
Nic, let's start with you regarding what you're hearing about the biggest question into the mystery of the missing body of Jamal Khashoggi.
Is there anything new to report?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It seems on the surface today, still nothing. Of course, it is vital for investigators to find Jamal Khashoggi's body because the forensic evidence of that will yield for investigators, be them Saudi investigators or Turkish investigators, should go some distance to answering some of the questions --
ROBERTSON: -- about precisely how he died.
What we've been told or led to understand from Turkish officials so far, he met a very gruesome end. So possibly his body being dismembered. So that leader finding his body will be critical to understanding whether or not that, in fact, is true.
What we understand from Saudi officials is that they're collaborating, working with, have been for some time, working closely with Turkish officials. One would expect if that's the case that it shouldn't take too long.
The people that the Saudi officials are investigating and questioning back in Riyadh are offering up all the details about what they did here, then that should lead to the person, this collaborator, who took away the body supposedly.
And Turkish officials are trying to track down the movements of a couple of vans that were shuffling between the consulate and consul general's house in the hours immediately after Jamal Khashoggi disappeared.
So all of that still seems to be in play and vital for the investigators here to find Khashoggi's body, vital, too, for his family and friends, to have a real sense of closure. But from a forensic point of view, the longer it takes to find the whereabouts of Jamal Khashoggi's body, the less value potentially that line of evidential material may have.
HOWELL: Certainly, Nic there in Turkey, this question around a collaborator, an open question for investigators there.
Our Sam Kiley is live in Riyadh.
Sam, what has been the reaction to all of this in Saudi Arabia?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been fascinating, George. There's been no reaction to the line that CNN and other media outlets, saying that the body was handed over to a collaborator.
That begs the question, why have the Saudis not handed over the name of the collaborator of the Turkish officials, who could conduct the forensic analysis that Nic is talking about? Nic is pointing out in the last hour how sources are telling him how
the Saudis are trying to regather the ownership of the narrative with regard to Mr. Khashoggi and his demise. It's fascinating. He's emerging here as something of a national hero, who it would seem fell victim to an unfortunate set of circumstances, rather than any kind of state authorized plot against him.
Take a look at the Arab news here, George. "He was a good man." "Goodbye, gentle giant," it trumpets. And on page 3, a full page article. Now Mr. Khashoggi was a very popular man. He was indeed deputy editor of this publication for some time. And we see he's described by colleagues, he was a huggable panda. He was passionate about Saudi Arabia.
His role as a Saudi patriot is what is being fed very strongly here now in the local media. Gone are the days when the plot against him was dismissed as nothing more than Qatari propaganda.
Now the attempt by the state-owned media is to own him and own his legacy. Particularly striking is a line from the editor in chief of the Arab news. He says he repeatedly declared his love for the kingdom and its people even though he disagreed with some of the practice of the current Saudi leadership. He remained loyal.
I think that has two effects really. The first is to send a signal perhaps to the ruling regime here, the crown prince himself, that the journalists here feel very angry that his loyalty and patriotism might have led to an intent to forcibly repatriate him here.
But also it sets himself -- there's even talk here, George, of a national day of mourning for Mr. Khashoggi. The narrative is rapidly being established that Mr. Khashoggi was a hero of modern Saudi Arabia, whose life was taken, whose nobility was taken from the nation by rogue elements, not by the state -- George.
HOWELL: Let's add to that narrative the context, Sam. The context is always important, never forgetting that Khashoggi was critical of Saudi Arabia, the government, the leadership. So it is interesting to hear this new narrative that is forming. Critics might say it was buying time. Them now choosing the narrative and now owning a particular narrative.
Nic Robertson, one question to you. With so many questions around the Saudi explanation, is there a path out for that nation now?
Or will things seem to get worse --
HOWELL: -- before they get better?
ROBERTSON: I think, you know, for many people, when you're an interest national businessman or the head of government, the head of state around the world, this has opened up huge questions for the rule by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. If he is able to show that he wasn't involved in this, that this was
some kind of standing order, to bring back dissidents to the country, he actually didn't pass an order specifically saying that Jamal Khashoggi should be brought back to the country at all costs, if it does -- if he is able to proof this narrative, that this was a rendition of something that went wrong by rogue elements, if no one else, this will put Turkey in the frame as able to prove otherwise or any intelligence agency around the world is able to prove otherwise, this will allow crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, to a degree, to carry on.
You know, but his image is tarnished for sure and it's going to be difficult to see how he personally can get beyond that. Of course, the kingdom is much bigger than one crown prince.
But he has been occupying such a big role. It would be, I think, in the coming years, let's say, how does the kingdom itself deal with this? At the moment, that lies in the hands of pretty much the crown prince himself. There is a path out but it still doesn't leave -- doesn't clear the road behind him entirely, so to speak.
HOWELL: Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, live for us in Istanbul, Turkey. And Sam Kiley, live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Gentlemen, thank you both for the reporting and context. We'll continue to follow this story.
ALLEN: Right now we're following the international response to the Saudis' explanation about Khashoggi's death. It has been widespread criticism. We have this from the E.U., for example.
"The European Union insists on the need for continued thorough, credible and transparent investigations shedding proper clarity on the circumstances of the killing and ensuring full accountability of all those responsible for it."
HOWELL: But Saudi allies in the Gulf have been full of praise. The Gulf Cooperation Council saying this, quote, "The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has demonstrated its keenness to reveal the circumstances of this unfortunate incident in a transparent manner," end quote.
Let's talk about the fallout here. Joining us from London is Dr. Kori Schake, deputy director general of the think tank International Institute of Strategic Studies.
Thank you for adding your insight to this. As we just saw from our reporter in Saudi Arabia, it seems the Saudis are looking to own the legacy of this journalist and kind of point to, perhaps, some kind of rogue mission that took his life.
How do you think their story is holding up?
KORI SCHAKE, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STRATEGIC STUDIES: Not very well, to be honest. That they have been pushed by international pressure to admit that Jamal Khashoggi is dead, that he died in custody in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that he was forcibly kidnapped and taken back to Saudi Arabia, that that kidnapping, that rendition was the official policy of the Saudi government and that the person who put that policy in place is the crown prince, that's a big set of admissions.
And that they attempted to say the government of Qatar was behind this and that they're trying to build such a big firewall between the policy and the crown prince, the Saudi king has shown his endorsement of the crown prince by putting him in charge of the investigation and the restructuring of the intelligence community. They've fired five people involved, arrested another 15.
SCHAKE: So they're scrambling to try to build a firewall between the leadership and what they have already admitted the government of Saudi Arabia is responsible for.
ALLEN: Right. The question is, how strong could that firewall be right now?
This crown prince has been on a charm tour, came to the United States. At one point, he was brazen and bold. That was the appearance. And now we've been hearing things like reckless.
So the question is -- we just heard from our reporter there in Turkey, saying his image may be tarnished.
What effect could have this on the kingdom?
What are your thoughts?
SCHAKE: I think your reporting is exactly right, namely the likelihood that it will affect foreign investment, it will affect judgments about the rule of law.
SCHAKE: It will remind us all of the value of checks and balances. You know, yesterday here in London, a quarter million people were out on the street, protesting their government's policy on leaving the European Union. And it stands in striking contrast to a government that cannot tolerate the dissent of one journalist.
ALLEN: Exactly. I want to talk to you about the world's relationship with Saudi Arabia. You know, it's arms, it's oil and so many Western nations have always kind of looked the other way about certain human rights abuses and limits to human rights.
Do you think that could change or is it going to end up being business as usual at some point?
SCHAKE: Well, I think President Trump is personally a pretty interesting bellwether because he -- the Obama administration was very heavily invested in Iran as a potential partner in the Middle East.
And the Trump administration has overcompensated on the other side of the ledger, making Saudi Arabia the anchor for American policy in the region. And that President Trump is being pushed to try and protect his son-in-law, who is personally so involved in this.
And President Trump, who himself has encouraged threats to the media, is feeling pushed to distance himself from Saudi Arabia, I think, shows the level of damage to Saudi's reputation internationally.
ALLEN: That's a good point. And you bring up Jared Kushner, one of his top advisors. This had been his mission, the relationship with Saudi Arabia. And he became close to this crown prince.
Do you think this White House -- you indicated that, you know, President Trump seemed earnest in wanting to get to the bottom of it.
Do you think this White House is sincere in that?
SCHAKE: Well, I think irrespective of the White House's motives, the vibrancy of American journalism and American civil society and the extent to which our international behavior is grounded in our values, is forcing the president that direction.
I thought it was actually really funny that President Trump yesterday tried to say that, well, both Jared Kushner and the crown prince are young men in their 30s. You need to cut them some slack.
That's a lot easier to do in a system where there are checks and balances than in an authoritarian government, where personal control of the policies is centered in an individual. It's very hard to distance yourself from policy mistakes when you have all of the authority.
ALLEN: Kori Schake, we appreciate your insights and your analysis of this situation. Thanks so much for joining us.
HOWELL: Congress is really asking a lot of questions in this case now.
ALLEN: From both sides of the aisle.
HOWELL: We'll see where it goes.
Still ahead, it was a milestone for peace in the middle of the Cold War. Now a U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty is about to be history. We've got reaction from Russia still ahead.
HOWELL: One of the key moments in the Cold War was the signing of the INF treaty in 1987. This greatly reduced the number of intermediate range nuclear missiles the U.S. and Russia had.
ALLEN: Now U.S. president Trump says Russia is not holding up its end of the deal. He said Russia is, in fact, developing the missiles the treaty prohibits. Mr. Trump adds that puts the U.S. at a disadvantage because countries like China are developing the weapons with no such restrictions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for years and I don't know why President Obama didn't 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. Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement so we're going to terminate the agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is following this story live in Moscow.
Fred, people waking up in the United States and hear this news and maybe fear that somehow this sets the stage for a renewed arms race. Tell us about the significance of this development and what you are hearing there in the Russian capital.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think not just in America, George, I think also in Europe, which is actually the place where this treaty was supposed to make more secure and also in Russia as well.
A lot of people are going to be waking up and feeling a little less secure than they were before. Certainly this seems like a major development. If you look at this warning here in Moscow, there have been a lot of very senior Russian politicians who have come forward and criticized this move by the United States.
Of course, it comes just the day before John Bolton, national security advisor, is said to begin some high level meetings here in Moscow, where we're expecting him to say that the U.S. does, indeed, decide to pull out.
There are politicians describing this as a catastrophic decision by the United States. Others are accusing the United States of trying to blackmail Russia. Others say they want more information from the U.S. whether or not there might still be some wiggle room for further negotiations on this topic.
Certainly the Russians are saying this is going to make the world a little bit less safe. They're also saying the U.S. hasn't provided any evidence that Russia is, indeed, in breach of that treaty. The U.S. is saying Russia has developed new medium-range rockets and have deployed them.
That's why the U.S. has been saying since 2014 that the Russians are in breach of the agreement. The Russians, for their side, are saying they believe the U.S. is violating the treaty by developing missile defense technology. You see the accusations flying back and forth.
At least, from the Russian side, it seems they were more on board with keeping the treaty because they say that, despite the flaws it might have, it is a document from 1987, it has provided more security and does still have a place in trying to prevent nuclear weapons from becoming very prolific in the West, in Europe, and Russia as well.
HOWELL: Obviously there's a great deal of attention, Fred, on what Russia has been doing. The U.S. president, as you pointed out, says Russia has not honored that treaty.
Tell us more, what has Russia been doing?
PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, in this sense, in terms of the INF treaty, the Americans are saying -- they've been saying this since the Obama administration, since the second term of the Obama administration, they believe that the Russians are seriously beefing up their capabilities in the European and North Atlantic region, obviously saying, look, they have that new medium-range missile that the Americans say the Russians have been developing.
It's been seen, actually, on video. The Russians are saying they do have capabilities like that. They are saying these are not capabilities that violate this treaty.
On the other hand, of course, by and large, the Russians have been beefing up their capabilities in this region. Recently I was in Iceland and the U.S. Navy there told me they're concerned about some of the things they've been seeing from the Russians in Western Europe. Here's what we had to see.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The USS Iwo Jima off the coast of Iceland. In the hangar deck, Marines gearing up for an air assault, retaliation if there's an attack on a U.S. ally.
Corporal Derek Hussinger is part of the invasion force.
CPL. DEREK HUSSINGER, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We get our guns situated, put the tripod down, set the gun up and then stable platform, you suppress and fire.
PLEITGEN: The exercise also a deterrent, as the North Atlantic region becomes more contested.
(on camera): With this exercise, the U.S. and its allies are practicing their response in case a friendly nation gets attacked. While the adversary in this exercise is fictitious, it comes at a time of growing tensions for the U.S. and Russia.
(voice-over): As the Marines race to the Icelandic coast, new evidence that Russia is beefing up its capabilities right in the heart of Europe. CNN has exclusively obtained satellite images from the Israeli firm ImageSat International, seemingly showing massive construction work at Russia's bases in Kaliningrad; upgrading a nuclear storage facility there; adding new, bigger ammunition bunkers; and upgrading the military airfield.
Is Vladimir Putin building up his military in Kaliningrad? Russia's defense ministry didn't respond to CNN's request for information.
But the commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa tells me there's a pattern of Russia upgrading its capabilities in the region.
ADMIRAL JAMES FOGGO III, COMMANDER OF U.S. NAVAL FORCES, EUROPE- AFRICA: They're putting a lot of their modern weapon systems, anti- ship cruise missiles, radars, the Bastian (ph) system, the S-300 and S-400 in there.
PLEITGEN: Sending a message of strength to Moscow, the U.S. and its NATO allies are gearing up for an even bigger exercise in Norway.
FOGGO: If they want to challenge us, we will challenge them. We're not going to be intimidated by those systems that are out there.
PLEITGEN: And that challenge is now playing out in the North Atlantic region with an increasingly assertive Russia and the U.S. showing it won't back down.
PLEITGEN: So then, George, you have the U.S. announcing that it wants to kill the INF treaty. You have the heating up and beefing up of the resources of both sides and by all sides, we take NATO into account in a region that has been so quiet for the past 20, 25 years -- George.
HOWELL: Fred Pleitgen with the details and that exclusive report. Thank you so much for taking us there, Fred. We'll keep in touch.
ALLEN: A story we continue to follow from Central America, after a grueling trip trying to reach the U.S. border from Honduras, thousands of migrants are going back. Our reporter who was there will tell you why next.
HOWELL: Plus, this floating pipe. That pipe designed to collect 50 tons of plastic drifting in the Pacific Ocean. We'll explain how it works as the NEWSROOM pushes ahead.
HOWELL: Following the breaking news this hour here in the United States. A floor collapsed at an apartment complex in South Carolina and we are getting more video inhouse of what happened. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: Welcome back, I'm Natalie Allen. Dozens of partygoers were injured when it happened. This was in Clemson, South Carolina, near Clemson University. Police say 30 people were taken to hospitals.
Property management says people were dancing together. You're going to see this. When part of the floor opened up wide and they fell into the basement. We warn you, the video you're about to see is disturbing because it shows the moment the floor gave way.
HOWELL: Terrifying to see just what they went through there. At this point, we understand none of the injuries are life threatening. Several people taken to hospital with broken bones. We'll bring you any new developments as we learn more information.
ALLEN: Certainly. Just happened a few hours ago.
Other stories that we're following, 2,000 people have left the migrant caravan that was headed for the U.S. They're now back in Honduras. That according to the Honduran foreign ministry. The country's president is promising to offer jobs, aide, assistance to those who came back.
HOWELL: But there are still hundreds of men, women, children, people continuing their very desperate journey north. Take a look at the scene on the bridge. That on the border of Guatemala and Mexico on Saturday.
At least 640 people crossed the border and registered for asylum. Still, many more are trying to get through. Keep in mind, the U.S. president has threatened to cut aid and to send U.S. troops to the U.S. border with Mexico if Mexico fails to stop the surge of migrants.
ALLEN: You can see there on the bridge the gate that was up trying to stop them. They were stuck on that bridge. Patrick Oppmann is with the caravan on the border. Here he is.
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 --
OPPMANN: -- 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.
ALLEN: We will continue to follow that story of course.
The U.S. president, this story ahead. His curious relationship with the media; he likes some, doesn't like others. But when he calls, obviously there are stories that we follow. We will, of course, tell you this Trump media blitz that's happening. Stay with us.
HOWELL: We've been covering stories of the U.S. president, hopping from state to state. He is on a media blitz at the same time.
ALLEN: Yes. He doesn't like the media but now he needs the media. And it's no surprise since the midterm elections are weeks away. He started the week with an interview on "60 Minutes" that covered a wide array of topics and ended with a "Washington Post" interview. That's a newspaper he has often maligned.
HOWELL: At the same time he bashes the media. He praised a congressman who body slammed a reporter for "The Guardian" newspaper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Any guy who can do a body slam, he's my kind of -- he's my guy.
TRUMP: No, he's a great guy. Tough cookie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Of course, all of that in the context of this story we're following in Saudi Arabia of a journalist who is dead and, of course, we continue to follow that story. Let's remind you how this particular story unfolded with the body slamming of a reporter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIAN: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious --
GREG GIANFORTE (R), THEN-CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Speak with Shane please.
GIANFORTE: I'm tired of you guys, the last time you came here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here.
GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with "The Guardian"?
JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The president called him a tough cookie for assaulting a reporter and that reporter asking questions. That's what reporters do.
Greg Gianforte is his name. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault last year after he was convicted of body slamming that reporter, Ben Jacobs, during his election campaign and he went on to win the election.
Michael Hiltzik joins me from Seal Beach in California. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and he has written for the "Los Angeles Times" for three decades.
Michael, thank you for talking with us.
MICHAEL HILTZIK, "LA TIMES": Happy to be here.
ALLEN: At the same time the world is expressing outrage over the death of a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, the president of the United States was praising a member of Congress who assaulted a journalist who -- for being asked questions that he didn't like.
So considering that, where is freedom of the speech when the United States president is debunking the job of the news media?
HILTZIK: Freedom of the speech is where it has been for a century. It's here. It's healthy. It's under assault, as it's been many, many times in the past.
At this point it's under assault by a particularly crass and cowardly president. But we are getting used to that, unfortunately. We have a situation where President Trump is not speaking to the nation about these issues; he's speaking to his base and a particularly thuggish part of his base.
ALLEN: But what danger is there in that?
You mentioned that we're getting used to this.
Well, if you're just used to, oh, it's just the U.S. president calling the news media fake news, calling them out in front of a rally and his supporters love it, what danger is there in that, the dismissal of journalism and the job of journalism?
HILTZIK: Sure. Let's not forget the fact that he's called the press the enemy of the state. I think there is danger in that because it encourages and condones violence against journalists, attacks on journalists.
I think all of us who write with our names on our articles are familiar with comebacks from the submerged 20 percent of readers, who want to use this. They use the president's terminology against us. It doesn't keep us from doing our jobs but I think what's particularly germane in the Jamal Khashoggi case is that it seemed very likely that Trump's approach to all these issues encouraged the Saudis to think they could get away with this in the most outrageous sort of attack.
This was a murder. Let's not just say it was the death of Jamal Khashoggi; he was murdered. And the Turks certainly haven't been that shy in talking about that.
So I think that's a real danger is that people who follow Trump, that includes the Saudi regime, think that he's encouraging this or at least that he's willing to condone it.
And we certainly saw that in the speech he gave about Greg Gianforte, who assaulted a reporter and in fact is a criminal. He was convicted. He pleaded guilty to criminal assault.
And yet here's Trump praising him not for anything he's done in Congress but for violence. So, yes, I think there's a danger in that people will think that they've got the green light to do things like this.
ALLEN: Let's talk about something else that has broken, Michael, in the past 24 hours. We learned that the Justice Department was charging a Russian woman for information warfare against the U.S. She was charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and trying to impact people's views via --
ALLEN: -- social media prior to the midterm elections. It seems Russians are still trying to infiltrate the American democratic system.
What advice would you give people in trying to sort truth from fiction and from manipulation when there are myriad voices on social media?
HILTZIK: That's a good question. I think traditionally over history, people have learned how to read, how to understand the sources that they get information from. They learn how to read their newspapers. They know where their newspapers are coming from, they know where their radio commentators are coming from.
I think the degree to which this is focused through social media is a new phenomenon and it's taken the public longer to separate the wheat from the chaff, fact from fiction. I think people are learning that more and more.
And I think really this is going to be a problem for social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter because their credibility is at stake. We have seen certainly, in terms of Facebook, that they've been very, very slow and very poor at managing that aspect of their business. It's not going to be good for them.
I think that on the fringe, people may be swayed by the sort of information that Russian bots are purveying. I think, once again, this is another case in which President Trump is condoning it, is giving the green light to Russians interfering in our elections so they are going to continue to try to do it and that's certainly a danger.
I don't know how this is going to all play out. I don't think anybody does.
HILTZIK: I think over time people will learn not to trust what they read on social media. ALLEN: Thank you. We appreciate your insights so much. Michael Hiltzik, thank you for the work you do and carry on. Thanks.
HILTZIK: Thank you.
HOWELL: Next story about tons of plastic littering the world's oceans. One group thinks it has an invention that would change a lot.
ALLEN: Severe thunderstorms pounded parts of Australia's New South Wales on Saturday. Take a look.
That's one scary storm right there. And this is what got everyone talking about the storm was the lightning strikes. Some 300,000 of them according to local news reports. Amazing.
Well, 150 million tons of plastic, can you even fathom that amount?
I can't -- are suffocating the world's oceans. People the world over are looking for a solution, how do we clean it up?
One group claims they may have it.
HOWELL: They say they may have created a way to get rid of 50 tons of trash by next year. Our Rachel Crane reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we see here are actually the stomach contents of a single sea turtle that was found dead two years ago.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was what was on one sea turtle?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One sea turtle.
CRANE: Look at all of that plastic.
CRANE (voice-over): Our oceans are already teeming with plastic but an audacious new plan to clean them up is just getting started.
There are approximately 150 million tons of plastic in the world's oceans and a recent U.K. report predicts that number will triple in the next decade. Pieces of plastic in the ocean can kill sea life, threaten industries like fishing or tourism and negatively affect our health when they end up in our food. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That plastic will be there in one year, 10 years, it's probably going to still be there in 100 years. Only if we go out there and clean it up, this amount of plastic is going to go down.
CRANE (voice-over): One young Dutch inventor and his team have their sights set on solving the plastic problem.
Meet Wilson, aka System 1. It's an almost 2,000 foot-long floating pipe with a net happening below, no motors, no anchor, no crew.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look around the world, there's plastic washing up on the beaches. Basically we designed an artificial coastline here as a method for taking the plastic out of the water over there. The wind is propelling the system through the area such that the open end of the U, so to speak, is going forward.
CRANE: So kind of a catcher's mitt for ocean plastic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. And every couple of months, there is a boat coming, like a garbage truck in the ocean, and that takes the plastic out there on the boats and brings it back to shore.
CRANE (voice-over): It's a seemingly simple solution to a complicated problem. But critics have worried about the system's effect on marine life.
CRANE: Are these the tubes that we see out there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So we have the floater at the top. That keeps it afloat but also prevents plastic from going over it while we have the screen underneath it that prevents plastic from going under it.
So we don't have anything that can entangle marine life. And what happens is that the current flows underneath it; all the plastic which floats will remain in this in front of the cleaning system.
CRANE: You obviously have a ton of support for your projects but there are also critics who say you guys are skimming the surface of this problem and you're not dealing with microplastics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 92 percent of the plastic isn't microplastic but are larger objects.
CRANE: It's not microplastics yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. So it's kind of a ticking time bomb. The sooner we get that out, the better.
CRANE (voice-over): On September 8th the ocean cleanup project towed the system out of the San Francisco Bay. They billed it as the largest cleanup in history. That's because they're starting with the Great Pacific garbage patch, a floating mass of trash, more than twice the size of Texas. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People actually do care. They do want this problem solved, which makes me hopeful that, if we get this system working, then we actually can get this to scale.
CRANE (voice-over): He says the first haul of plastic is expected to come back --
CRANE (voice-over): -- in the next few months. The group plans to make consumer products out of recycled plastic from the patch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This pair of sunglasses, we made this from the Great Pacific garbage patch.
CRANE (voice-over): But the ultimate goal, to clean up 90 percent of ocean plastic by the year 2040.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in the day, people said, well, there's no way to clean this up, the best way we can do is not to make it worse. To me that's a very uninspiring message. Everyone wants the future to be better than the present. So that's what we hope to achieve with the cleanup.
ALLEN: An ambitious project to be sure. Meantime, of course, the big issue is if we're still putting more plastic in the ocean.
ALLEN: If consumers are using it, it's just going to keep compounding.
HOWELL: People have to make that decision just not to use it, straws, things like that. Stop using it altogether.
ALLEN: Stop drinking water in plastic bottles is a big one.
HOWELL: Yes. Sure.
Well, the Invictus Games, they're off to a spectacular start in Australia. The opening ceremonies held at the Opera House in Sydney. The guest of honor, Prince Harry, led the festivities. He created the annual sporting even in 2014 for wounded military veterans.
ALLEN: He created it and he is still going strong, being involved, very hands on with 500 service members from 18 countries taking part as the Duke of Sussex and his pregnant wife, Meghan, looked on. They are on their first royal tour abroad. They earlier attended a reception inside the opera house.
The duchess skipped another event, saying that she was tired. One can understand. She's on a world tour and she is newly pregnant. We'll all continue to follow along on their journey.
Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: I'm George Howell. For viewers in the U.S., "NEW DAY" is next. Around the world, "MAINSAIL" is ahead. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.
ALLEN: See you next time.