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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Trump Ramps Up the False Claims Ahead of Midterms; Trump Pushes Conspiracy Theories about Migrant Caravan; Footage of Khashoggi Body Double Weakens Saudi Arabia. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 22, 2018 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Thank you, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome, my friends, to PRIME TIME.

You've got lies, damn lies and fake statistics. That's the Mark Twain line, right, with my little twist there.

It's never been more relevant. The upcoming elections have our president in lie mode. He's hit the apex on a mountain of mendacity and we are at a critical moment. So, we're going to spend our time tonight calling out the lies in the hopes of giving people out there somewhat of a more clear path to making choices in the midterms.

And do not be misled about the truth on critical issues that are coming to a head right now. He's been so busy, we needed the whiteboard. Yes, I had somebody else write it so you can read it.

All right. The biggie right now is the caravan. Trump sees this as his big ticket to rallying the base, apparently. And he can't seem to say anything truthful about it.

He's also saying there are riots in California right now. Did you know that? Of course you didn't, because there aren't.

And he pulled out an old favorite of his, fraudulent voting. He promised a tax cut that can't happen in days, as he promised.

He keeps changing his story on the Saudi arms deal. And all but claimed air pollution is over.

And he even lied about one of the rare bipartisan wins the opioid bill. Now, if it seems like Trump is really flooding the zone with bad information right now, that's because he is.

So, let's dig into the bigger question surrounding all of this. Why? Why is he doing this? And we're going to talk about why this is a much bigger problem than some seem to think.

We've got the two perfect guests for this tonight. Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein, and "The Toronto Star's" Daniel Dale. Now, he is tasked, enviable or unenviable, it's up to your own disposition, to fact check Donald Trump in real-time.

Gentlemen, welcome to PRIME TIME. Mr. Dale, that is one heck of a job you got yourself there. Tell us, what is it like fact checking Donald Trump? Have you taken a day off since he's been in office?

DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TORONTO STAR: No, I have gone on vacation, but then I have to catch up and that's even more exhausting.

CUOMO: Oh, the anxiety you must have when you're away.

DALE: Those are my worst days of the year, those catch-up days.

CUOMO: Now, am I right that we are in a moment right now that seems to be a little bit of a credibility crescendo for him, that he seems to be putting out a little more out there that is demonstrably false than usual?

DALE: Yes. I fact checked everything he said the last two years. I don't know if he's uttered more false claims this week than he has than any previous week, but the magnitude and the complete fabrication that he's doing is different. So there are weeks where he's exaggerated a trade deficit or two, where he's exaggerated a crowd size or two. What he's doing this week is just making things up, especially about immigration, especially about health care, but also about opioids, also about tax cuts.

His strategy seems to be, you know, lie as much as possible, just flood the zone with nonsense and hope it gets picked up by enough media that it will work for him.

CUOMO: It's effective, Carl.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not only effective, this is the story of Donald Trump as a public figure going back to when he was a young man. Donald Trump, and especially as president, his default in terms of the way he engages with the American people, the way he engages with the world, the way he engages with his base, the way he engages with foreign leaders, is through untruth.

He is waging a war on truth and succeeding at it for all kinds of reasons, including social media, including the fragmentation of our politics. But it's working to a large extent. And we do have to do more, I think, in the media than simply call out Trump lies and see ourselves as Trump lie catchers.

I think we need to look at what we cover, how we cover it, and cover real stories about the things he's lying about in greater depth to give some more perspective to people who watch and listen and read our accounts. But make no mistake, this is Donald Trump's M.O. going back to when he ostensibly or his ghost writer, Tony Schwartz, wrote "The Art of the Deal."

It too was about lying.

CUOMO: True.

BERNSTEIN: That is his default. Not the truth.

And we've never had a president of the United States -- we've had plenty of lying by Lyndon Johnson, by Richard Nixon, by Bill Clinton, we've never had a president whose --

CUOMO: But that's a big defense for him, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: No. Wait a minute, we've never had a president whose basic default position is to engage by lying.

CUOMO: But because he's in the land of liars, Carl, because he's in that business, a liar's business, he gets defense for that. People say, oh, they all lie, Carl, they all lie. You only go after him because you don't like him. They all like. You never went after the other ones the way you go after him, because you don't --

BERNSTEIN: I wouldn't say that certainly that Bob Woodward, Myself, "The Washington Post," and "The New York Times," were easy on Richard Nixon. I don't think anybody was easy on the Clintons. I don't think they were easy on Lyndon Johnson and the war in Vietnam and his lies about that.

This is of a different magnitude. It's of a different psychology. His -- again, he begins by lying.

His view as expressed of the universe that he engages with is to put out untruth to describe the landscape, the very landscape that he engages with as a politician, as a president, as a businessman has always been about lying. Not relying on a truthful basis. This is very different.

CUOMO: Strong and wrong is what we call it here, Daniel, on a regular basis. We saw it today, the sanctuary cities. They're rioting in California about sanctuary cities. No, they're not.

So somebody says to us, where, where, and he looks back at them. You love this clip as well. So let's play this for all of you at home because to us, none of us is a psychologist here, but if you watch Trump long enough, you get to see patterns in his behavior and how he reacts, especially when challenged. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: You said Californians were rioting over the sanctuary cities. Where?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You shouldn't have -- take a look. They want to get out of sanctuary cities. Many places in California want to get out of sanctuary cities.

REPORTER: But that's not rioting, right?

TRUMP: Yes, it is rioting in some cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Yes, it is rioting in some cases. It's like, yes, same to you, buddy.

He doesn't know of anything like that because it doesn't exist, Daniel. But it's that strong and wrong, it's double down. And people see it as strength in him as opposed to just gross deception. Why?

DALE: Because I think manner and personality often matters more than the content of what one is saying. So you can be entirely truthful but sound like you're a lawyer, that you're hedging your words, even though that's because you're thinking about how to be honest, and you seem more deceptive than if you're a guy who just blurts out lies incessantly, which is what this president basically does.

So, I think he's mastered this art, if you will, of sounding authentic while saying almost nothing that is indeed authentic.

CUOMO: He doesn't have to sound authentic, Carl. When I talk to more and more -- I have this radio show now during the day. We talk to people all over the country.

And Trump folk most often say, look, I don't care about what he says, I don't care about any of it. I don't care. The tax cuts, I like. I like the projection of strength. The other stuff, that's just who he is.

BERNSTEIN: I think what you're saying is absolutely true. That he is succeeding in this war on the truth partly because he understands how to exploit the situation. He has made the conduct of the press the issue instead of the conduct of the president of the United States.

Richard Nixon tried it, did not succeed at it. He succeeded at it. Imagine, in the same week that the world is watching what the Saudis are doing in regard to the murder of a journalist, he is praising, at a rally in Montana, a congressional candidate for body slamming a reporter, and at the same time reverting once again to the whole notion of the press as the enemy of the people with all of its echoes of totalitarianism, of terror, of tyrants.

Look, he knows what he's doing. It's succeeding. And one of the reasons it's succeeding is he's delivered on what he said. And what did he say? He said I'm going to shake the place up.

CUOMO: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: He's shaken it up, but he has shaken it up with untruth.

CUOMO: But that's what people liked about him. People have said misdiagnosed early on, saying, you know, some people see him as an antidote. No, they didn't, they saw him as a virus. They saw him as something to inject into the corpus of politics and let him go in there and make them sick. Beat them at their own game.

DALE: Yes.

CUOMO: And they take some pleasure out of it.

But what I don't get, Daniel, and I do not envy your task, he lies when he doesn't need to. You know, he lies when the truth is more than enough for him. And that's got to be a different dynamic than what you're used to seeing.

DALE: It is. That's one of the things that's been most striking to me. It's the needlessness, the sheer trivia triviality and pointlessness of some of these lies.

You know, we saw President Nixon, President Clinton, even president Obama deceive or lie when they're on the defensive. But Trump lies simply because the truth is never good enough for him apparently.

I think some of these trivial lies betray a fundamental insecurity at the heart of his personality. You know, he is not content with, you know, a 19,000-person crowd when he can make it a 22,000 or 24,000- person crowd. And he knows that he'll get away with it.

You know, as Carl said, he's been doing this for decades. It's rarely stopped him from accomplishing anything. In fact it's helped him.

And so he has learned over the course of decades that this is effective. And I don't think that the political press for the most part even after three years of this, has risen to the challenge and found a way to combat this with sufficient aggressive -- aggression and sufficient intelligence.

BERNSTEIN: With all due respect to Daniel, it's not pointless. It works.

And the point of it is he has built his base, and his base has been getting bigger and more energized and uglier in terms of its expression of untruth and favoring untruth and being happy to hear these untruths about the press, for instance, about real information. He has taken us to a place where untruth is the order of the day and he's also changed our agenda in the press.

We need to be focusing more than we are, I believe, on real existing existential America, our people, our culture, and then try to put into place this bodyguard of lies, to quote somebody very learned, that he has surrounded his presidency and our national life with. But we need to present a little more about what the reality of what's going on, not just in the caravan, but in our country is about. We need to be looking at different stories.

Let's look at voter suppression. Let's do a big story about whether or not it exists and how big is it? This is the week to do it, rather than just let him persist. And if he's telling the truth, we'll say so. But let's do the story.

CUOMO: Right, no, 100 percent because he's defined voter fraud not as suppression that we know exists, but by millions of people who voted when they weren't supposed to, which doesn't exist.

Carl, thank you very much.

Mr. Dale, you have the full employment plan, my friend.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Lucky for you, you're going to be -- you're going to be in sweet tea for a while.

All right. Thanks to both of you gentlemen for being with us tonight.

DALE: Thank you.

CUOMO: You know, one thing that you should also take, he's below 50 percent, the president. What does that tell you? There are a lot of people that resonate this message, it resonates with them, but there are more that it doesn't.

So, he's dangling this disinformation and he is, as Carl was just saying, he's counting on the base to bite. And they have, like striped bass on bunker in the fall time. But we're going to lay out for you the issue, the lie, and then the fact. And then you can make your own choice, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: They are criminals. Middle Easterners are trying to storm our southern border. That's the president talking about the caravan, his latest target.

He's betting on this caravan bigly for the midterm elections to get people afraid and out to the polls. And the proof is that he is lying so much about this caravan, so much. It'd be very important.

First, he claims the Democrats are bankrolling the caravan. Unproven. And the video that he retweeted and had other some people talk about to fuel the fraud was proven false.

Then he says the caravan is actually not what most say that it is, including the men who organized it, which is a mass of migrants looking for a better life and traveling in numbers for safety. He says, no, it's a mob comprised of all the worst people, including Middle Easterners -- and I do that in quotes because we know it's code, right, for terrorists.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Go into the middle of the caravan, take your cameras and search. You're going to find MS-13, you're going to find Middle Eastern, you're going to find anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You will, in very, very small quantities, not the majority. So why paint them all as what you'll find only with a few.

Sarah Sanders following up, doubling down -- strong and wrong. The White House says, absolutely we have evidence. People from the Mid- East are in the mix. She says ten suspected terrorists try to get into our country every day that way.

So, we asked homeland security, can we please see the proof? Nothing.

A simmering issue in this immigration battle is sanctuary cities. Trump says there are riots in California as a result. Not true.

So, he gets asked, where? What does he do? What he does best -- double down on wrong, but not a single specific incident that he can point to.

Another favorite, election is a beautiful way to deal with the fears of the process. Voter fraud. Not voter suppression, which happens and is documented and ignored by his party.

Instead, he tweets, warning all those who are considering fake voting. Remember, he claims millions did it in the last election, so don't do it this time or you'll get big penalties, he repeated this weekend.

It's all false. It's so false that he had to disband his own commission that was set up to find the fraud. His talk of a Saudi arms deal creating up to a million jobs not even close.

So, what does he do? He keeps changing the numbers. Initially he said it would create 450,000 jobs. Later then he said 500,000. Then it was 600,000. And I think by Saturday, it was like a million.

But it doesn't matter, none of them had a basis in fact. Just hours ago, he tweeted the U.S. has the cleanest air in the world. Demonstrably false. The map he tweeted to back up his claim is from when Obama was president and the U.N. data it's based on says we're not even in the top five.

So, what better gift to promise during an election than a tax cut, right? So Trump says we're coming with another one and this one is for the middle class. Remember, that's what he said about the last one, remember?

And then he said, well, no, I had to take care of the businesses. You know, I made those permanent. No, you said it was for the middle class, but I guess it's all okay, right?

So he says it's coming, it's just days away. Congress isn't even in session. So then he gets confronted, which is truly an embarrassing embellishment, right? He says, oh, yes, yes, no, after the election.

Then he said, but, you know, the Democrats, of course, they're going to stop it. They stop everything. Look at the opioid bill, he says. It's proof, the Democrats -- they won't help anything.

Now, just a little thing to point out here. That bill passed the Senate 98-1. He called that very little Democratic help. They all voted for it, every Democrat. The one who voted against, Republican Mike Lee from Utah.

So, it's a lot to unpack. But keep in mind, this isn't because the president doesn't have the information. He has access to the best information. He has the resources of federal law enforcement, the intelligence, the U.S. military, they're very extensive.

But he doesn't care. He stokes these untruths because they work. He chooses to stay on the murky edges because it helps him politically.

A telling part of the play here is where we tend to see most of his lies, at the rallies. He's playing to an audience, one that wants to believe him. And that is entertained, and that's a big deal to the president. So much so that even if you support him on policy, it's hard to separate that from the B.S., but you know what? We have to.

It's very important right now because we are in a hyper-partisan environment. And in that mood and mode, the truth is now its own individual and distinguishable side. So be on that side. And, of course, all this is happening with timing being of the essence -- two weeks until Election Day, control of Congress in the balance. Why do you think the president is going into mendacity mode the way he is?

The question is this caravan and all the lying, is it going to help or hurt the president's effort to keep control for the Republicans, especially in the House. What do you say? We'll take it on next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The migrant caravan.

You could argue we should call it the Trump train, because he is driving this to what he hopes is a midterm win. He's investing so much energy on false claims about who started it, who's in it, what it means to the United States.

My suggestion is why he doesn't spend that same time that he's spending making you afraid of these people working with Congress to figure out what to do about them. Everybody says the law needs to change, nobody is changing them.

Certainly fodder for a great debate, but no competing heads tonight. I've got two people on the same side against little ole me. Two of my favorite people, Ken Cuccinelli and Rick Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I feel so bad for you.

CUOMO: That's a lot of handsome Italians on one screen.

SANTORUM: I like that.

CUOMO: They break some rules.

So, let's look at what is happening here.

Rick Santorum, the way the president is casting this, the truth is good enough for him here. You have thousands of people coming to the United States right now. Most, if not all of them, have not filed in advance to come in legally.

So, he's got what he wants. Why invest in all of this George Soros and the Democrats and it's filled with terrorists and they're all from the Middle East? Why all the B.S. when the truth is good enough?

SANTORUM: Well, first off, I think you're overstating what he stated. He didn't say they were all from the Middle East. He said if you take a camera in there, you're going to find some people. You admitted that that was true. In fact there was a reporter today that found somebody from Afghanistan in there.

CUOMO: Right, I'm sure there's going to be a little bit, but why cast the whole group as a function of the few?

SANTORUM: I think he wants to -- I think this is a legitimate thing to do, because the other side, I was watching Van Jones on the last -- on Anderson's show talking about pregnant women and children, as if everybody in the group -- now, you don't go after Van and say there's not -- OK, there may be a few pregnant women, but that's not -- that's not who the base is.

So, I think both sides are guilty of trying to put the best face or the worst face on this group. I don't think that's a lie. I think that's a spin.

CUOMO: I don't see -- I'll give you that both are maybe exaggerations, but they're done for very different reasons. When you're saying that it's a mob and they're coming here and they're criminals and they're bad, you're doing that to demonize the population. When you're saying that there are women there and they're pregnant and there are a lot of children, which is certainly more true than that they're all criminals --

SANTORUM: He didn't say all.

CUOMO: But I'm saying, if you don't look at the propositions --

SANTORUM: Look, I can tell you that I'm getting reaction from ordinary Americans as I talk to people, and I hear people are sort of -- the mob fits. I mean, 7,000, 10,000, however people coming to our border saying you will take us in. That is a very frightening thing.

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

CUOMO: First of all, we don't know that they're saying you will take us in.

SANTORUM: That's what they're saying.

CUOMO: They were organized to travel in safety. It is scary, I agree with you about that.

But what I don't get is why don't you deal with what's coming your way, Ken? He says I'm going to have the military go down to the border. Who's going to get behind that idea? That is a recipe for disaster. You like that idea?

And forget about posse comitatus. I'm just saying, you know, there's a law out there that says you can't have the U.S. --

(AUDIO GAP)

CUOMO: Uh-oh --

CUCCINELLI: -- if you hit it right on the border, if they're not coming to (AUDIO GAP) which is what I expect is likely to happen.

I watched an interview with one of the chiefs. They divide the border up into regions. One of the border patrol chiefs, Chief Padilla, who made the very logical point, and frankly this is just one of a rolling version of these, that every single one of these organized caravans that comes in easily invites the next ten. And so --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: What do you mean by come in easily? What do you suggest doing? What do you suggest doing with the military?

CUCCINELLI: I mean coming in illegally.

CUOMO: So, don't let them in.

CUCCINELLI: I suggest turning them away at the border, flat turning them away at the border.

CUOMO: What do you think is going to happen if military is there?

CUCCINELLI: If Mexico is going to let them come through, you said the military. I just answered your question.

CUOMO: Trump said the military.

CUCCINELLI: I expect the border patrol --

CUOMO: Trump said the military.

CUCCINELLI: (AUDIO GAP) to participate as well.

Yes, well, that's the only resource he has at his disposal over and above the border patrol.

CUOMO: No, it isn't. He's got the National Guard.

CUCCINELLI: What are you going to do, send the IRS? I mean, what do you want to do?

CUOMO: He can send the National Guard if you had to send people who were armed. Why isn't the border patrol enough?

CUCCINELLI: Well, no, no, the national guard is not Trump's unless he federalizes it and then it's the military.

But I'll tell you what? The border states could send the National Guard and they can turn them away at the border as an invasion.

CUOMO: This part that you're just sliding in there, they can turn them away -- CUCCINELLI: States don't need federal permission to turn away

invaders under Article 1, Section 10.

CUOMO: I know, but, look, it's not about whether you're going to have the right to do it. That's why I waived away the idea of domestic law enforcement.

Rick, if you put military down there, we know what the God forbid is in this situation. And then how does it play? How is that good for anybody if -- because you're not going to turn away thousands and thousands of people, even if people start getting shot. And what message does that send? Who wins in that?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean you certainly have to -- you certainly can't just let people cross indiscriminately. You have to have some sort of process.

CUCCINELLI: Right.

CUOMO: But how are they going to cross indiscriminately. I mean, you've got fences and stuff in places. The place where it's open borders, it's very, very tough country to get there.

I've traveled down there with CBP. It's not easy, that's why so many people die. That's what's so regrettable about this.

SANTORUM: There's a lot of unknowns. I mean, people are going to -- at a border -- are 10,000 going to --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Do you think the military should be shooting people to turn them away?

SANTORUM: Are you going to see 10,000 people lined up like on that bridge and waiting to be processed? I mean, the system is already overwhelmed.

CUOMO: True.

SANTORUM: There are literally hundreds of thousands of backlogged cases.

CUOMO: True.

SANTORUM: If we process those people in.

CUOMO: Thousands of cases.

SANTORUM: The idea of those people will all probably end up, those who get processed through, will edged up in the country --

CUOMO: Two things, by the way --

SANTORUM: -- just like everybody else who gets processed through and not show up for their hearing -- (CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I don't think they're going to wind up in the country, Rick and Ken. I don't think it has to happen that way. But I'll tell you what, if you have a must happen, what do you think is worse for America, to have thousands of people come in that shouldn't be here and you have to chase them around and process them or to kill a bunch of people on the border who are coming in? What do you think is worse for America, Ken?

CUCCINELLI: You have -- you're going to extremes here --

CUOMO: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: -- and I want to adopt something you said earlier, which is the National Guard approach. National Guard troops are trained to deal with riots. I expect to see military and National Guard and Border Patrol in riot gear. That's how I expect this to be handled at the border if they're not coming in at entry points.

And to turn them away right there, it's an invasion, treat it as an invasion, turn them away.

CUOMO: You see these as an invading force, these people?

SANTORUM: They're not coming in legally.

CUCCINELLI: Of course, it is.

SANTORUM: I mean, they're crossing the border illegally.

CUCCINELLI: No, they sure as heck are. This is an illegal alien expeditionary force --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: They're going to come here -- they'll splinter out as they make the next few hundred miles. That's the way it tends to go with the caravans. You could be in crisis mode with Mexico if you had a better relationship with them, you could be working this right now and sending a ton of your assets down there to help diffuse this group.

CUCCINELLI: Why isn't Mexico turning them away?

CUOMO: Do you think they have the resources to deal with this the way the United States does? Why aren't you working with Mexico?

CUCCINELLI: They have a much smaller southern border.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Instead of spending the time getting Americans ready to hate them and talking about maybe having to turn them back at the border with the military, why not work with Mexico?

CUCCINELLI: Why are you excusing the Mexican government, Chris? CUOMO: I'm not excusing them. I'm saying they can't handle it.

That's why they just had thousands --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: That's the reality. They can't handle it.

CUCCINELLI: I have friends who live down in Mexico. When they have illegal immigrants in that country, they don't get due process, any literally go, grab 'em and send them back. They repatriate them immediately. And then they complain about --

(CROSSTALK)(

CUOMO: You have thousands that just poured through the border there because obviously they can't handle it. I think --

CUCCINELLI: And they let them through.

CUOMO: The fact -- well, then you agree with me then, Ken. That's why I don't have faith in the Mexican government because they can't handle it. They just them let through. But if you were working with them, if you had a better relationship, at least you'd be ahead of the ball instead of just waiting for them to come here and figuring out how to turn them away.

But let's build on the facts, we'll see what happens. You fellas come back and we'll keep talking it out shall because we all want to avoid the same thing. We all want to avoid the same thing. Nobody wins if it gets ugly on our border that way.

Ken, your shot wasn't great but you are.

CUCCINELLI: No open borders, nobody in. Right.

CUOMO: Look, that's fine. That's the way the process works. It's how you enforce the law.

CUCCINELLI: Supposed to.

CUOMO: That's going to become in very sharp focus when they get here. We'll take it back up.

Gentlemen, be well.

All right. We've known the Saudis have been lying about what's going on, right? There's been reporting, there's been information, now there's video. Who's this? Who's it look like?

It looks like Khashoggi, right? It's not Khashoggi. You know who it is? It's a human piece of proof of premeditation. That's who it is.

What does our president say about this? Not too much, right? He's too busy demonizing that caravan, right? What do you do with Saudi Arabia when it looks like they're trying to get away with murder? How much do we need Saudi Arabia, because that is really what it's about, right?

A special guest tonight who has insight that nobody else has. Former secretary of defense, Ash Carter, once dealt directly with MBS and King Salman. His perspective, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: What a demonstration we're living of the old, you know, children's tale, oh what a tangle web you weave and first you practice to deceive. Boy, does that apply to Saudi Arabia on Jamal Khashoggi. It just keeps getting more and more twisted, the inconsistencies and the tale are just growing.

Surveillance footage now, exclusively obtained by CNN. Take a look at this. Who does that look like? It looks like Jamal Khashoggi, right? But it's not.

Why would they have somebody who would look like Khashoggi, was wearing Khashoggi's clothes, a fake beard and glasses? In the face of mounting evidence that this was what it looks like, premeditated murder, what is the United States to do?

Now, a big part of that question has been the assumption that we really need Saudi Arabia. If this goes wrong and our relationship goes south, we are sunk.

Let's get somebody who has very keen perspective on this, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Chris, always a pleasure.

ASH CARTER, FORMER OBAMA DEFENSE SECRETARY: Chris, good to be with you, always. And always, by the way, grateful for your traveling visiting the troops. It means a lot to us. If somebody's mom sees somebody like you with them, it means something. So I appreciate it.

CUOMO: I see it as a privilege to do it and I hope to be able to do it again soon.

First, am I wrong? I mean this cover story seems clumsy at best and it seems the truth is --

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: It's never a good sign when you see one story after another being explained the same facts, which you'd think the people speaking had every reason to believe -- to understand. Now, I have no particular information on it. I -- it's obviously a serious matter. And I guess there's no reason for the United States to feel that we're taken hostage in this situation.

CUOMO: Now, that's a key point, because what we are obsessing on is the let's prove they did it. Because Americans have fascination and an obsession with due process, because if it happened here, that's the mode we'd be in.

CARTER: Right.

CUOMO: But it's pretty clear what happened. The more vexing question is what do you do about it? And the assumption from the administration, the spin to us is, hey, we cannot mess with this relationship. It's fragile. It is pivotal. And if we lose it, what we want for the Middle East, gone. Billions of dollars and weapons, gone. Jobs by the thousands and thousands, gone, so be careful.

CARTER: Well, you should always be careful. But in state craft, things are never walk away or give in. You lose -- you use the leverage that you have. We have substantial leverage over the Saudis.

And this gives us even more leverage. So, my advice --

CUOMO: This gives us more?

CARTER: Yes, because they're in a disadvantaged situation with respect to us and it is bared to everyone of how needful they are in this relationship.

Remember, oil isn't what it used to be. And so, they need us. For example, their military isn't that proficient yet. Remember, their style has been to pay others --

CUOMO: Proxies.

CARTER: -- to fight for them rather than to fight for themselves. They need to get better so that they can fight for themselves.

CUOMO: But the administration says they're going to buy these weapons from other people if not us.

CARTER: Yes, look, I'm a big supporter of arm sales. But arm sales aren't a gift we give to other people, it is a transaction.

Now, I'd call the bluff on that. And I would advise the president he shouldn't feel -- they don't want Chinese and Russian stuff. It's not as good as ours. It won't mix well with our stuff. It will endanger support in the United States for the things they already have. They're not going to go anywhere else with their arm sales.

Now, again, I support the arm sales, and I hope some way can be found through this. But in diplomacy and in state craft, particularly in defense state craft, you don't take all or nothing. You look at what your situation is. And I -- if I were advising the president, and I hope and trust that this is some of the advice he's getting, is you're in a strong position here. And by the way, we've needed to kind of reset this anyway for quite a while.

I was very disappointed, Chris, in their contributions to the counter- ISIS campaign. I mean, I asked again and again, including Mohammed bin Salman, who was defense minister, my counterpart at that time, with whom I worked and tried to work extremely closely, particularly in his early days as he was learning his job, and I said, you know, first of all, OK, you don't want to get in Iraq, we'll talk about that later. But in Syria, fighting ISIS, how's about getting in on the ground with us? Well, they were not willing to do that.

And in honesty, I couldn't game say that because their ground forces are not very good. Their air forces and their naval forces is what they have invested in. That's what they're buying our weapons --

CUOMO: And that's why they need our stuff.

CARTER: But they need -- well, but they also need ground forces. Their most capable ground forces they use to guard the monarchy --

CUOMO: Right.

CARTER: -- not protect the country. They really could use some improvement there.

So that's fine. So he didn't do that. But then I said, well, OK, just do your age-old thing, open your wallet and pay in these Sunni areas, you're Sunni Arabs, they're Sunni Arabs, you don't like Iran and we agree with you and what it's up to there. And so, help them rebuild. And we didn't get anything in that.

So I was disappointed. I thought they could have done more.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something while I have you here. The elections are two weeks away.

CARTER: Yes.

CUOMO: Cyber, cyber, cyber, we talk about it all the time. That's supposed to be the point of the Mueller probe, find out what they did, how they did it so we can stop it. We bring light (ph) on that.

CARTER: Yes.

CUOMO: How big of trouble do we have coming our way in terms of the concerns?

CARTER: I think that the states are better than you think in terms of actually protecting themselves. What I think is concerning to me is not that they're going to -- any foreigners are going to actually change the outcome of the election. What is concerning to me is that they're certainly trying. The FBI just turned an indictment on a Russian woman who's been trying for two years.

CUOMO: Yes.

CARTER: Look at where we are, Chris. This is what bothers me and what I think we really need to combat and that's what I'm dedicated to now in my post-defense life. Facebook just opened a war room.

CUOMO: Just now.

CARTER: Just now. And she's been at this for years.

Twitter just released some traffic on this. That doesn't compete. Facebook is now thinking about buying a cyber security company, which tells me all these years and all these hundreds of billions of dollars in business later, they don't have confidence that they have grown this capability inside.

So, you put that together with things like China and A.I. and spying on their people and you have a situation in technology where we're not getting answers, and we need answers. We need solutions.

We're not getting them from our companies. We're certainly not getting them from the government either. I mean, you saw the hearings. And we need to get better at this. We need to get better fast, both in digital.

And think, Chris, about the bio revolution that is to come. That will make this whole thing look like a piker if we make errors like this. So we need to get good at this.

My view is that -- I'm a scientist, as you probably know, my original training, and returning to that a little bit, that unless the companies and the technologists participate in crafting those solutions, we're never going to get there, because legislators aren't going to do it by themselves. Likewise, legislators are acting on behalf of us all. Public policy really matters. You can't have your head in the test tube or a keyboard and act like what you're doing, it doesn't matter.

The atomic bomb people were the inventors, were the people who trained me years and years -- decades actually ago. And they told me that with my knowledge came responsibility. And I couldn't evade or avoid.

And the new generation that I see now, the young people that I see that I teach, and soldiers, generation and so forth that you -- they know something is wrong. And they know we need to do better. So, so, you know, we'll get through this election, but we're not going to get through the arc of history with this kind of absence of solutions.

And I would really like to help bring people together, technologists and government people in the digital area and in the bio area and get to answers on some of this stuff and get to some practical approaches that you would like to have seen come out of those hearings but didn't.

CUOMO: Well, Secretary, we are here to provoke it and to report on it. So, thank you.

CARTER: I appreciate it. I appreciate always, Chris. Always good to be with you and good to talk to you.

CUOMO: Secretary Ash Carter, you make us smarter just by being on set. Thank you very much.

CARTER: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So I wonder what you're going to make of this. This is a story -- the scientist in Ash Carter would certainly like it. The rest of you may be a little creepy.

Here's the key, it's a story that will get under your skin. You see that on the bottom? Under your skin, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in Don Lemon. This is going to be one that he likes.

So, Don Lemon --

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: That was quick. You didn't even give me a chance to get ready. I was waiting for you to do your whole --

CUOMO: Well, here's the story. I'm a little tight on time. I went longer with Ash Carter because he's so interesting and such insight.

So, in Sweden, they're putting chips under their skin.

LEMON: Not potato chips.

CUOMO: Not potato chips. Thank you, Don.

They're putting microchips under their skin for ease of access and entry to places like, you know, health clubs and stuff like that. And it is seen as the next step in terms of the digitization of our lives. You don't need your house keys any more. You don't need your credit cards. You just hold your arm up.

Would you do it, yes or no?

LEMON: No. Hell no. No. Listen, I already have this, right, which is like --

CUOMO: That's why I'm a yes by the way.

LEMON: OK. But we'll talk about that because you're a little cray- cray. But this already has, you know, keeps up with you. People know where you are. You can turn your notification on and off, but I don't believe if you turn your notifications off, whatever it is --

CUOMO: So they already got you.

LEMON: They already got you, but I was talking to Carl Bernstein about this as I was getting ready here in the green room. And he said, I would just like to be able to hide a little bit, at least to think that I can.

CUOMO: I'm all in.

LEMON: Why? Because I lose everything. Why are you all in?

CUOMO: I'm all in, because I lose everything. Now I won't. I'm not going to lose me. I have the chip in my arm. I'm good to go.

We got one in our dog. It's affecting (ph) that got going. I would have lost my dog if I didn't have that chip.

LEMON: And? CUOMO: And you had fans, it was a fan of Don's.

All right. I got to go.

LEMON: Listen, before you go, the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is going to be on. Also, I think this is a big story. We keep talking about the border crisis. That's the biggest story, voter suppression. That's what we're going to focus on this hour.

CUOMO: Strong, Don.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: Strong.

All right. How many of you are old enough to remember when President Trump and Ted Cruz were the bane of each other's existences. Now they're BFFs. Love fest in Texas tonight.

What a turnaround. People are so shocked. Not me, and I'll tell you why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: A brief reminder of the Ted Cruz/Donald Trump relationship during the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: L-Y-I-N apostrophe, Lyin' Ted.

I think he's crazy. Honestly, I think he's crazy.

He's a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: And the senator hated him right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This man is a pathological liar, a braggadocios, arrogant buffoon.

Donald does one of four things. He yells, he screams, he curses or he insults.

You're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: He insulted his wife, you remember that? And his father -- and they wrote both right. No, I'm kidding. Each believed the other was vile, repugnant to a presidency.

But then Trump won, and Cruz puckered up, complimenting and more importantly refusing to call out all the things that he did during the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: He's the president, and he's the president. I work with the president in delivering on our promises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: And Trump did Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's not Lyin' Ted anymore. He's beautiful Ted. He's Texas -- I call him Texas Ted.

I like him a lot. I actually like him a lot. I don't regret anything honestly. It all worked out very nicely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: It all worked out very nicely.

So here's the question. Why are you so surprised? The hypocrisy, it's so obvious, you say. Of course it is.

Two points. Politics is not for the easily shamed. Cruz, Senators Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Did you really expect them to oppose a president from their own party? Don't we all know by now that politicians act out of fear of consequence, not conscience?

Trump beat all of them at their own game, and Trump has done things they like -- taxes, regulations, judges. So all the lies and the hateful talk, they just shut their mouths and go like this. More, please.

And as for Trump, come on. This is who the president is. The man just proudly said, you know what I am? I'm a nationalist.

You know what that means? That means, yes, he's for the USA, but to the detriment of other nations. That's the message to send when we need allies more than ever?

That just tells you he says what's in the moment what he thinks he needs to say. He has decided to cast his lot with the minority of this country, feeding their disaffection and disrespect for politicians. They don't expect integrity, and he doesn't disappoint in that regard. And they like some of the deliverables as well.

And more and more, we see the president playing to an undercurrent in this country, rejecting moves in our culture toward sensitivity, toward minorities, political correctness. He sees that as hype. That's why the man who said during the election he would protect LGBTQ folks from foreign enemies has decided to create the law at home as an enemy, messing with Title IX, playing the religion liberty game, talking about Confederate flags and suggesting they're good people marching with the KKK. And then he makes the left out to be the really intolerant ones, not the racists?

That's what MAGA is about. Days before all of the sensitivities and accommodations hard fought in our culture to protect certain people and reinforce certain expectations of decency. That's what "Make America Great Again" is about, not forward. Back.

And Trump will lie even when the truth is a better story because that's who he is, and because it works.

So, here's a question for you. Not what it is or why it is. It's what will be done about it. Elections are about what the people want.

This is the time to test. We'll see where the people are.

Thank you for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.