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Thirty Injured After Floor Collapses At An Apartment Clubhouse; Trump Says U.S. To Pull Out Landmark Russia Arms Treaty; Saudi Journalist Killed; Mitch McConnell Heckled Inside A Kentucky Restaurant. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired October 21, 2018 - 06:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia has violated the agreement. We're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement so we're going to terminate the agreement. We're going to pull out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Turkish investigation here focuses in good part on trying to locate the body of Jamal Khashoggi.

TRUMP: No, I'm not satisfied until we find the answer but I want to get to the answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not criminals. We are coming over here because we want to work. We need a job. We need better, you know, a better life.

BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You understand that President Trump is going to use the pictures of thousands of people surging to the gates against you?

TRUMP: I think some bad people started that caravan. You have some very, very bad people in the caravan.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: A lot to talk about this morning. Good morning to you. I'm Leyla Santiago in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.


BLACKWELL: This is frightening. Dance floor collapsing here during a party. This is in Clemson, South Carolina. You can see the video here the people at the party trying to crawl out of this pit.

SANTIAGO: So many questions here. Let's go ahead and get straight to Polo Sandoval. He's following this.

Polo, what do we know so far? POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leyla, when you see these pictures it really is incredible when you find out that there were no serious injuries reported according to police there in Clemson.

This happening near the Clemson University campus. Thirty people sent to area hospitals when the floor at a common space there at this apartment complex essentially began to buckle and then failed into the clubhouse's basement. We are told that, again, about 30 people had to be hospitalized.

This was a private party that was being held there. A group had reserved that space to hold that gathering when just after midnight, about 12:30 a.m., that is when this happened. Authorities are, of course, now investigating.

We should note that this happened not very far from the Clemson University campus. A very busy weekend to this homecoming and, obviously, there were many people out and about who were celebrating their football team's victory over their rival N.C. State. So certainly it was a very busy weekend there in and around Clemson University.

At this point, investigators are still trying to find out exactly what happened. But again the main headline and some positive news after you seen these incredible pictures, no life-threatening injuries, also no people were trapped after the floor in that common space in an apartment complex gave out this morning -- guys.

SANTIAGO: All right. Polo Sandoval, so incredible to see people started crawling out of there. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. With us on the phone now Jeremy Tester who was at that party. Jeremy, first, are you OK? And tell use -- give us an idea of what you saw.

JEREMY TESTER, WITNESS (on the phone): Yes, I'm perfectly fine. What I saw -- I was literally two feet from what happened and I saw like 60 people just fall straight through the floor. It's like this crazy how it happened.

SANTIAGO: And so, Jeremy, did -- was there any sort of indication that this was going to happen? Did you feel the floor was vulnerable or any sign that this was coming up?

TESTER: Like when this all came on, like, everybody was, like, jumping around. You can definitely hear -- like you could hear the floor like about to go through and, like, (INAUDIBLE), and like, nobody really thought it was going to happen. They just kept going.

BLACKWELL: So we see the people fall here. I mean, what were some of the injuries? Was everybody conscious? How did they get out?

TESTER: I mean, it really took minutes for firefighters to get there, police to get there. Everybody got there that quick. I mean, I did see like people because we were held there for a long time, I saw people with like holding their arms and like, I saw with, like, body, legs, and stuff like that.

BLACKWELL: What was on the level below that everyone fell onto?

TESTER: There were, I think a couple of pool tables and just about -- like, it's at least a 15-foot drop.

SANTIAGO: All right. Jeremy, I know that you shot this video. Incredible. One of the things that sticks out is the sounds you hear, the screams that really sticks with you.

Let me play this for our viewers and sort of walk through this one more time.


SANTIAGO: That is chilling. Not just to see but to hear. You hear the fear in the voice. The shock of people when this happened.


What went through your mind in the seconds, in the minutes after the fact? At what point did this sort of hit home of what had happened and the potential for some pretty serious injuries here?

TESTER: First I thought like a gun was going off or something like that. I had no clue what was going on but then I saw people like dropping, like really quick. And then like (INAUDIBLE) like two feet in front of me was just a big box hole.

And I was like -- like didn't know like how do I even (ph) take in that. I just started running outside. I kind of followed.

BLACKWELL: Jeremy Tester, thank you for shooting this video and sharing with us. We're glad you're OK. And again no loss of life, no major injuries after seeing this remarkable video.

Jeremy, again thank you.

TESTER: Thank you.

SANTIAGO: Incredible.

Russia's deputy foreign minister says by moving to end a longstanding nuclear agreement, the U.S. is bringing the world back to the cold war. President Trump announced yesterday the U.S. will terminate the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty. The deputy foreign minister is as you might imagine demanding an explanation and is already talking about the possibility of retaliatory measures.

Joining me to explain why President Trump wants out of the treaty is CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. I can't imagine what the reaction must be right now for those in Russia.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's pretty incredible to see, Leyla, how many top-level Russian politicians have been commenting on this even in the very early morning hours of Sunday.

They are, obviously, extremely angry and extremely concerned. There are some who were saying that the U.S. is trying to blackmail Russia. There are other who are saying that this is could have catastrophic consequences not just for Russia and the U.S. but for the world.

The U.S. however says it believes that this agreement is no longer in its interest and is obsolete. Here is what we heard.


ALEXEY PUSHKOV, RUSSIAN SENATOR: Both sides have won, that they have moved from this dead point in the relation, which is a dangerous thing, basically, because both the United States and Russia play an extremely important role in today's world and also if they go to conflict it will be a world conflict. So I think it was a victory for both sides.


PLEITGEN: So there you have a top-level Russian politician commenting on all of this. Obviously the Russians are extremely concerned about what is going on. However the Trump administration is saying, look, they believe that the Russians have been violating this treaty for a very long time.

And it's really interesting thing that we have John Bolton, the national security adviser, he is actually coming over here to Russia probably on a plane actually right as we speak to have these top-level talks with the Russians and so the Russians believe that one of the messages that he is going to have is that this agreement, the U.S. is going to kill it very soon, Leyla.

SANTIAGO: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: Joining me now to you talk about why President Trump wants out of this treaty and what it means for an already tensed relationship with Russia is CNN political analyst and historian Julian Zelizer.

Julian, good morning to you. You've written about this treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The significance of the president's decision and the justification from your estimation for ending this agreement.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a treaty that came out of 1987 when Gorbachev and Reagan began the process of ending the cold war. Since 2014, the U.S. has been arguing that the Russians are violating the treaty.

And so there were two paths. One path was to try to create international pressure so that the Russians would comply once again or the other is the path we are seeing today which John Bolton has been a strong supporter of and that's abandoning it altogether. This opens up the potential for an arms race, both with Russia and also with China. BLACKWELL: All right. So let's talk about what the president said yesterday offering criticism of his predecessor. Here is the president.


TRUMP: They have been violating it for many years and I don't know whether President Obama didn't negotiate or pull out.


BLACKWELL: You mention the 2014 and the realization of the violations from my reading by potentially in 2008 by the Russians. Fair criticism from President Trump?

ZELIZER: Well, it's not totally fair in and that Obama understood what was going on. And again, his idea, former President Obama, was that if you abandon it, it doesn't make the situation better so you want to try to create some kind of infrastructure to contain the Russians.

Now all incentives go away to follow any kind of limitations. But look, any hawks, including Bolton, have argued that these agreements are essentially worthless and this is the counterpoint of what the Obama administration stood for.


BLACKWELL: You mentioned China. The president mentioned China. Talk about their significance here.

ZELIZER: China has not been part of this agreement. Again, this goes back to Soviet/U.S. agreement. And so one of the concerns with U.S. policymakers, not simply Republicans or Trump administration officials, is China doesn't have to abide to this so they have been able to build up their weapon system while the U.S. can't.

The problem is this strategy points to both sides meaning China and the United States entering into an arms race rather than trying to find some kind of agreement to curtail the expansion of nuclear weapons. This is a dangerous path. This is the opposite of what we were trying to do in late 1980s.

BLACKWELL: What does this mean for the broader U.S./Russia relationship?

ZELIZER: Well, as soon as Bolton enters into Russia, many hard feelings will emerge, many Russians don't like him. This is a hardening of relations, at least in terms of weapons.

So this is, in some ways the reverse of some of the dynamics that we have seen between President Trump and Putin. And so we are moving in two different directions within one administration.

BLACKWELL: And finally, Julian, to you beyond the U.S. and Russia and China, how do you believe that our NATO allies receive this decision? ZELIZER: Not in a good way. They have always very much wanted this agreement to stay in place. This is always been not simply about the U.S. and Russia, but about protecting our NATO allies from these kind of intermediate range missiles, which threaten them.

This is where the agreement originally stem from, the concerns of Europe as much are the concerns of the U.S. So they are not going to be happy with this and it will create more friction between the U.S. and NATO allies which are already not in a great state.

BLACKWELL: All right. Historian and CNN commentator -- contributor, I'm sorry, Julian Zelizer. Good to have you this morning.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

SANTIAGO: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was out to dinner with his wife when a heckler had a little something to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave him alone.



SANTIAGO: How did the senator react? More after the break.

BLACKWELL: Plus, the migrant crisis in Honduras. Two citizens from El Salvador so desperate to get out of their countries they hijacked a big rig nearly crashed it through a police fence. More of this video.



SANTIAGO: New developments this morning in the killing of a Saudi journalist. President Trump criticizing Saudi Arabia's explanation of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. Saying that obviously there has been deception and there has been lies.

Saudi's claim that Khashoggi was strangled to death by a choke hold after a fist-fight got out of hand inside their consulate in Turkey. CNN's Sarah Westwood is in Washington this morning.

Sarah, what else is the White House saying?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Leyla, President Trump has been shifting his tone when it's comes to Saudi Arabia going from describing the latest Saudi explanation that Khashoggi died in the Turkey conflict during a fist fight gone wrong to acknowledging that there has been lies and deception from the Saudis since they've changed their stories several times in the weeks since Khashoggi's disappearance.

President Trump once threatened to impose severe punishments against Saudi Arabia if it turns out Khashoggi was murdered but he hasn't spelled out what the severe punishments would like. Yesterday he was asked whether his administration would consider imposing sanctions against Saudi Arabia. Here is how he answered.


TRUMP: It may. And I'm going to work also with the Senate, with the House. We will be working with Congress because, you know, they are very involved and I wanted to keep them involved much as I did with Justice Kavanaugh.

I wanted to keep them involved. I think it's important.


WESTWOOD: Now in an interview with "The Washington Post," President Trump stopped short of criticizing the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young Saudi leader who critics suspect of being involved in Khashoggi's disappearance, asked whether President Trump thought Khashoggi was involved in this killing. Here is what President Trump had to say.


TRUMP: It's possible. You don't know that but it's possible.


WESTWOOD: Now the president has come under increasing pressure to retaliate against the kingdom for Khashoggi's disappearance with Democrats and Republicans alike rejecting Saudi's explanation here, Leyla and Victor.

SANTIAGO: All right. Sarah, thank you so much. And here is one more part to this story. Also this morning, the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi posed really heart-felt message to him on Twitter saying, "They took your bodily presence from my world but your beautiful laugh will remain in my soul forever. My darling."

That laugh she is referencing you can actually hear in video that attached to the tweet. Let's go ahead and take a listen.




BLACKWELL: We will talk more about this story throughout the morning.

Senate majority leader Mitchell McConnell was out to dinner when a protester came up to him and told him to leave the country.


[06:20:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay out of here. Why don't you leave the entire country alone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave him alone.



BLACKWELL: But other people at the restaurant came to the Senate majority leader's defense. We will have more on that next.


SANTIAGO: Welcome back. I'm Leyla Santiago in for Christi Paul.


BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell good to be with you. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is the latest politician to be harassed heckled while out at a restaurant. McConnell and his wife, the secretary of transportation Elaine Chao, there were at a restaurant in Louisville when this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here. Why don't you leave the entire country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave him alone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) threw the leftovers at (ph) them (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He threw their leftovers at them?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know that.


SANTIAGO: Now other people in the restaurant, you just saw them. They came to McConnell's defense telling the man to back off while the couple had dinner. According to our affiliate WKLY, one of the men threw the senator's leftovers out the door.

McConnell's office released this statement overnight saying. "The leader and Secretary Chao enjoyed their meal and Louisville last night and they appreciate those who spoke up against incivility. They hope other patrons weren't too inconvenienced by left-wing tantrums. As the leader often says, the Senate will not be intimidated by the antics of far-left protesters."

The restaurant called Havana Rumba says it regrets the incident and wants everyone to feel safe eating there.

BLACKWELL: Now ahead of the midterm elections, President Trump is using incidents is like the one you just saw to open a new line of attacks against Democrats. Watch.


TRUMP: The choice for every American could not be more clear than it is right now. Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs.


BLACKWELL: The question here -- will the message resonate with voters ahead of the midterms?

Let's talk about it now.

SANTIAGO: Joining us now deputy managing editor of "The Weekly Standard" Kelly Jane Torrance, and Brian Stelter, CNN chief media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Let's go ahead and talk about this guys because we are seeing the president say, jobs not mobs. We're seeing images from the caravan. We're seeing McConnell playing out.

How will the Democrats respond to this? Because President Trump has shown to be successful with such message in messaging.

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, yes, Leyla, that is true. And I have to say, first of all, there are bad people on both sides as, you know, just last week, we had Nancy Pelosi who was facing some anti-communist protesters. Who -- yes, they heckled here and kept calling her a communist.

They called here a piece of blank.

BLACKWELL: Actually, you know what, Kelly? Let me jump in here because we have that video. Let's play here.

Great, great. Perfect, perfect.

BLACKWELL: Let's show it here. Let's watch it.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE) communist. You don't belong here you (EXPLETIVE) communist. Get the (EXPLETIVE) out of here. Get the (EXPLETIVE) out of here.


BLACKWELL: And as we're saying there that heckling of and heckling by -- heckling of elected officials is not reserved to one party, right? So we're seeing this on both sides.

Leyla's question was, what are Democrats going to do and is this going to resonate? Just to remind the viewers.

TORRANCE: Well, you know, there are bad people on both sides as I just said, but it is true that I do think we are seeing a bit more of this coming from the left. Now can you blame Democrats for it? In many cases these are obviously just people on their own making these statements but you have had a couple of people, not many, but a couple of people who have -- that encouraging such behavior.

You had Maxine Waters as President Trump likes to remind people saying you got to go where they live and you got to go where they eat and you can't stop. Now of course she said that in the context when the new first broke about families being separated at the border. But I think a lot of people have taken that seriously.

And of course, the biggest leaders of the Democratic Party are not saying that but there are some people who are and I don't see a lot of pushback happening on that. And so I think Republicans do have an opportunity here to say, to blame Democrats in a way. Now they have to be careful that they don't do the same thing and which we saw last week with Nancy Pelosi.

BLACKWELL: Brian, to you. We have seen some reporters actually on Twitter saying that this should not happen, that you shouldn't attack people, shout at people, heckle people in public.

Wesley Lowery, CNN contributor had some thoughts on that. An interesting exchange on Twitter. Here's the core of the position. He says that, "Yelling at elected officials in public is protected first amendment speech and it's pretty disgusting to see journalist lecturing our fellow citizens for directly petitioning government officials."

What is your take on that?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I thought that was a really thought provoking point by Wesley Lowery because there has been a lot of attention, a lot of talk here on television, on social media among journalist and commentators saying, cool it down, bring the temperature down, let's try to be civil.



STELTER: I think the problem with the core of this conversation is that we are living through an age of incivility led by President Trump. Obviously he is the most powerful official in the United States government and he is anything but civil.

Certainly he was not calling out the Tea Party or other conservative groups that were engaged in protesting a number of years ago. Now it's very convenient for him to call out left-wing protesters and that is logical and of course, he is going to do that. I think the problem for the Democrats is that there is no person with equal stature. Nobody is loud or effective as president Trump to pushing back on his jobs not mobs rhetoric.

It's obviously a slogan. It's propagandistic. He's going to say it over and over again until Election Day.

I think it's a very effective slogan but there's nobody on the other side to counter him that is as loud as President Trump. I think the bottom line here is that there's a lot of hypocrisy to go around.

To Kellyanne's point, you know, we are seeing examples of this kind of extreme behavior on both sides. We remember that incident with Sarah Sanders at the restaurant. Ted Cruz was confronted at a restaurant.

We saw this most recent video of McConnell at the restaurant. However on the other side you have got Nancy Pelosi being shouted at by protesters.

So there is a lot of this to go around and nobody's yard is clean. Right? If you're a neighbor and you've got a neighbor who's yard is really dirty you have got lot more credibility of criticizing them if your yard is clean, but nobody's yard is clean in this conversation. I think that is the fundamental problem.

SANTIAGO: So, Brian, you're saying there is no one on the other side but if it had to be, who is powerful enough? Who has the voice to take on the mobs not jobs 16 days before midterms?

STELTER: Yes. I still think Barack Obama has so much political capital, so much goodwill on the left. He is the most powerful communicator the Democrat Party has and actually Barack and Michelle Obama together are the most powerful communicators the Democrats Party has.

I don't see Pelosi or others trying very hard to be combating Trump's daily lies. Right now they're not trying to -- they don't seem to be trying that hard to do it. So Trump does have the stage almost all to himself.

But I think we should keep Lowery's point in mind that this is for the most part what we are seeing legal attempts to express grievances by the public.



STELTER: Sometimes it is not pretty at all but most of the time it's legal and it's part of the First Amendment.

BLACKWELL: And, Kelly, that's an important point there where he draws the line at legal. Because there was also a message from Steve Scalise the GOP House whip who we know was shot during a congressional baseball practice in the morning and he tweeted, "I don't agree with Nancy Pelosi's agenda but this is absolutely the wrong way to express those disagreements. If you want to stop her policies, don't threaten her, vote. That's how we settle our differences."

He, of course, knows better than most how this can escalate.

TORRANCE: Exactly, Victor. I have to say, I mean, harassing a 76- year-old man while he is eating his dinner is this petitioning your elected officials? I don't think so.

I watched the video a few times --

STELTER: I mean, technically it is. Yes, it is the legal definition of petitioning the government (ph).

TORRANCE. Well, I watched the video a few times. And, you know, I didn't hear this guy really talking about any issues. I -- mostly said, why don't you leave the country? Why are you here? Go away.

I'm not seeing -- you know, some of the stuff, yes. I think you should be able to let politicians know how you feel but yelling at people, you know, just to name things while they are eating dinner, I don't think that is the way to go.

And I have to say one of the things I don't like about this environment is everything now is so political. And of course, politics is my life. It's what I focus on. But politics should not be the only thing that human beings talk about and worry about and I think there should be a safe space and so to speak when you're in your private life that you can go out and have dinner.

I was impressed by the other patrons who are telling this guy, come on, give it a rest. The last point I want to make it is just Nikki Haley I think made some great comments last week about how our political opponents are not evil, they are our opponents.

BLACKWELL: All right. Brian Stelter, Kelly Jane Torrance, thank you both for that. Brian, I heard you chime in there and say that this actually is petitioning one's elected officials so I want to make sure that while there was cross-talk we heard that point too. Thank you both.

TORRANCE: Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

SANTIAGO: All right. Staying on politics here. It is the race for Florida's governor that no one predicted. Republican Ron DeSantis and Democratic Andrew Gillum take part in a live CNN debate moderated by our own CNN Jake Tapper tonight at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Hundreds of migrants trapped on a bridge to get to Mexico. Now President Trump is threatening two big moves to make -- Mexico let's them toward the U.S. border.


[06:39:15] SANTIAGO: And now to the migrant crisis in Central America. A potentially deadly caravan situation unfolding Saturday along the Honduras/Guatemala border.

Take a look at this CNN affiliate (INAUDIBLE) reports that authorities say two men from El Salvador hijacked a couple of big rigs then tried to leave the country by speeding through a police fence.

BLACKWELL: So see here the trucks plowing through the streets. A few people latched on to the back and sides of the truck. The other people just had to jump out of the way. Some fell onto the pavement there. Both men were caught and have now charged been charged with attempted homicide.

And while authorities try to manage the crisis along the bridge, the Guatemala/Mexico border, officials in Honduras say that thousands of migrants have already just returned home.


SANTIAGO: The Honduran foreign minister he said 2,000 people in the migrant caravan have been deported and at least 400 more are on the way back. Honduras president also promised those to those who return that they will be offered jobs and other type of aid when they get home.

We really can't ignore the overwhelming images of the thousands of migrants packed on that bridge. That bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala. The Mexican government is reporting 640 migrants have requested asylum.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Tapachula. That's right there on the border with Guatemala. Many migrants carrying nothing but the clothes on their back as they desperately try to enter Mexico running from violence and poverty back home.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some crossed into Mexico from Guatemala by boat. Others waited. Or swam, just barely.

The thousands of migrants, mostly people Honduras 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 most of his life and left behind a wife and daughter.

(on camera): Why 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.

(on camera): 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.

(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.


BLACKWELL: Well, Mexican authorities have not said whether anyone from that caravan will be allowed to travel to the U.S. border.

SANTIAGO: But if they do, if they do, President Trump warns that he'll do two things. He will cut aid to some countries in Central America and deploy the U.S. military.


TRUMP: I think some bad people started that caravan. More importantly or maybe, almost as importantly, you have very, very bad people in the caravan.

You have some very tough criminal elements within the caravan. But I will seal off the border before they come into this country. And I'll bring out our military.

Not our reserves, I will bring out our military.


BLACKWELL: Well, the State Department says Mexico is cooperating with the U.S. to try to find a suitable solution but the U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo called the caravan, an organized effort to violate the sovereignty of Mexico.

And in an interview with the Voice of America he also accused Honduran political opponents of underwriting that caravan.

Still to come, voters in Georgia, in one county, they are specifically are saying that they are being disenfranchised after the ballots were tossed out there. More ahead on that.



SANTIAGO: There are mounting lawsuits against one county in a Georgia over alleged voter suppression.

BLACKWELL: So this is Gwinnett County. They tossed out hundreds of ballots -- absentee ballots that disproportionately affected minorities just weeks before the midterms.

CNN's Drew Griffin has the story.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lilieth Walters had no idea her absentee ballot was rejected until CNN called her.

LILIETH WALTERS, GEORGIA VOTER: I would not have known.

GRIFFIN: And you would not have voted in this election?


GRIFFIN: What do you feel about that?

WALTERS: I was very disappointing because I thought that would surely there will be another way or a way to come indicated to me that my vote was rejected or my ballot was rejected. I wasn't informed.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): So after we told her about her rejected ballot, she called the Gwinnett County elections office and found out it was her signature that didn't match her voter registration card.

WALTERS: Maybe I didn't sign the same way I normally do. I don't know. But that just signature should not prevent one from voting.

GRIFFIN: Sherri Ann (ph) McClellans absentee ballot was disqualified for the same reason. She did get a notice. Here it is.

(on camera): Does that make any sense?

SHERRI MCCLELLAN, GEORGIA VOTER: And I'm like, wait a minute. I lived in Georgia for 17 years. I filled out my voter registration card 17 years I thought, well, that could be.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): She called the elections office and what did they tell her? That her letters were too close together. MCCLELLAN: I didn't have separation.

GRIFFIN: You didn't have separation?

MCCLELLAN: That's what she told me.

GRIFFIN: Sounds like something you'd hear in second grade.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN found Walters and McClellan and 593 other rejected Gwinnett County absentee voters.


On the Georgia secretary of state's Web site where they keep a tally. Here is what's a little troubling. Not all of the voters we called knew their ballots had been tossed.

"Right now, I'm fuming," said Carol Hutcheson who wanted to make sure you knew she was Republican. Her ballot was thrown out because of her year of birth missing. Voter Betsy Zeff (ph) was rejected due to insufficient oath information. "I was not aware of this," Zeff (ph) told us. And said that, "I have no idea why it would have been rejected."

Three others called by CNN say they were notified about mistakes on their ballots which they admitted to and were given new ballots. It's up to county elections officials to decide if absentee ballots are accepted and Gwinnett county told CNN, "The handling of absentee ballot applications and the acceptance and rejections of ballots by Gwinnett County has complied with the law and will continue to do so."

Citing a pending federal lawsuit challenging its handling of absentee ballots the county's spokesperson refused to say much else but it appears Gwinnett has a much stricter interpretation of the law than other Georgia counties and even more troubling is a racial disparity in ballots rejected.

A CNN analysis of Georgia voter data shows Gwinnett absentee ballot rejections account for more than a third of all the rejections in the entire state. And while the lawsuits do not allege a deliberate attempt at discrimination the results according to an analysis, done by a University of Florida political scientist show black voters in Gwinnett are more than twice as likely as a white person to have their absentee ballot rejected. If you are Asian, rejection is more than three times more likely.

Racist, disenfranchising? Yes says Kristen Clarke with the Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights Under Law.

KRISTEN CLARKE, LAWYER'S COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW: There is no other explanation but race that could explain this kind of outcome.

GRIFFIN: Clarke's group and the two lawsuits are demanding Gwinnett County and the state of Georgia promptly notify voters their ballots were rejected, provide extra time to vote and no longer reject ballots for sloppy signatures.

CLARKE: When we see racial disparities like this, they set off red flags and, sadly, this is a pattern that we are seeing across Georgia this election cycle, we are seeing policies and practices being implemented in ways that bear more heavily on minority voters across the state.

GRIFFIN: Georgia's Republican secretary of state Brian Kemp who is running for governor, has been calling reports of voter suppression politically driven rallying points for his Democratic opponent. His office points to record numbers of Georgians registered to vote and across Georgia early voting has already begun.

Lilieth Walters doesn't know what to believe. The reason she wanted to vote absentee is she's a poll worker and will be working this Election Day helping people vote.

WALTERS: You should do everything within your control, within your powers to make sure the person can vote. You should exhaust every resource system to make sure every person can vote.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Lawrenceville, Georgia.


SANTIAGO: A reminder, we are only 16 days from the midterm elections.

All right. Get your tickets. You now have not one, but two chances to win a big lotto jackpot. More on that coming up.



SANTIAGO: Nearly 10 percent of homeless adults in the U.S. once served in the Armed Forces. Many veterans have trouble getting the support they need after they leave the military. This week's CNN hero has created a way to help meet army combat veteran Chris Stout.


CHRIS STOUT, CNN HERO: What branch are you?

After starting to work with veterans, I realized a huge gap in services. If you've ever served you know that if one of your fellow platoon guys they need help, you help them. What we do here gives them an opportunity to kind of get stable, keeps them safe and secure place. And then fix what got them there in the first place.


SANTIAGO: Important stuff there. To find out more about this program, go to

BLACKWELL: We have all kinds of money to win out there.

SANTIAGO: Is there?

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SANTIAGO: Right now, the Mega Millions jackpot is tied for the biggest in lottery history at $1.6 billion. And it will likely (INAUDIBLE) before Tuesday's drawing. And just, you know, keep your expectations in check, the chances of matching all six numbers, 1 in 302.5 million. So you're saying there is a chance?

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