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Bolton Talks with Russia; Russia Denies Violating Treaty; Caravan Marches Through Mexico; U.S. General Shot in Attack; Clemson Party Accident. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 22, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A major concern for European allies, no doubt, who are well within the range of those types of missiles. And now, this morning, Russia says it wants an official explanation from the U.S., with one outspoken Russian politician going as far as warning of another potential Cuban missile crisis.

Joining me now, Frederik Pleitgen. He's CNN's senior international correspondent. He is live in Moscow.

As you look at this, as Bolton prepares to meet Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, are the two sides entirely at an impasse here, Frederik?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that the Russians certainly, as you said, will want some sort of explanations. And I think they are pretty angry. I mean you look at the one thing that that one Russian politician said about a possible new Cuban missile crisis, I mean there have been Russian politicians who have been coming out across the board and saying there's going to be a new arms race, saying that the U.S. is essentially trying to blackmail Russia. So there is a lot of anger here.

And you're absolutely right, the national security adviser is going to meet with Sergey Lavrov. Before that he already meet with the national security adviser of the Russians and he might also meet with Vladimir Putin as well. In fact, that's pretty likely, Jim.

Essentially what the Russians want to know is they're saying, look, we heard an off the cuff remark from the American president on the weekend saying the U.S. wants to exit this treaty. We want to know whether that's true or not. And the Russians want to know whether it's a final decision by the Trump administration or whether there might be some sort of wiggle room for new negotiations that could possibly move all this forward again. Because the U.S. has been accusing the Russians of violating the treaty. The Russians have been accusing the U.S. But the Russians, they do seem to be blindsided by the fact that now the Trump administration all of a sudden is talking about exiting this treaty right before the visit and now during the visit of the national security adviser here in Moscow, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks very much.

Let's discuss this in more detail with Jeffrey Lewis. He's the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Study.

Jeffrey, thanks very much for joining me.

First of all, do you read this as an official announcement from this president or, as he has done on other treaties, trade treaties and others, a negotiating tactic?

JEFFREY LEWIS, DIRECTOR, EAST ASIA NONPROLIFERATION PROGRAM, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES : Yes, well, I don't -- I don't think it's a negotiating tactic. I think he means to get out of the treaty. But, you know, it's not a formal announcement. And so this actually has to be done. And my guess is that the Russians, you know, they're not exactly following the treaty, but I think they -- they definitely want the U.S. to stay in.

SCIUTTO: OK.

There is evidence, though, of Russia violating this treaty. Not just the Trump administration is not alone in saying that. The Obama administration said the same, NATO has said the same, by deploying missiles in this category, in effect. I mean based on your knowledge, has Russia clearly violated this treaty?

LEWIS: I wouldn't say clearly, but I definitely think that they probably have. You know, this is a -- this is a serious issue. There are really two missile systems under discussion. One is a clear violation. It's a cruise missile that looks like it goes, oh, maybe a few thousand kilometers, you know, 1,000 miles or so. That's --

SCIUTTO: And Europeans, of course, a lot of European capitals within 1,000 miles.

LEWIS: Well, you know, that's exactly it. It's the ability to strike targets in western Europe from Russian territory. So that's one big problem. But, you know, there's another ballistic missile that the Russians have developed and so, you know, the treaty is in a lot of trouble and there were problems to be sure. But I think a lot of us were surprise by the immediate announcement as well.

SCIUTTO: So if Russia's violating it, and already deployed missiles in that category, why do you stay in the treaty?

LEWIS: Well, there are a couple of reasons. I mean one thing is to make sure Putin takes the blame for violating it. You know, the way things have emerged now, Putin gets to keep the missiles that violate the treaty, but Trump's the bad guy for pulling out. So, you know, it's kind of a diplomat own goal, so to speak.

But there's actually a second reason, which is the Russians are cheating but they tend to be very legalistic in how they cheat. And so they try to sort of have at least the appearance of staying in. Now all those restrictions are off. So they could really go gangbusters.

SCIUTTO: Another issue that the Trump administration has raised, and not just -- and Obama administration before, is that China is not covered by this treaty. Of course, in the mid '80s, China was a different power than it is now. Now it's an enormous economic and military power and it is -- it is developing a whole host of missiles. Is that an argument to say, listen, let's just -- let's tear this one up and let's sit down with Beijing, Moscow and Washington to negotiate?

LEWIS: Well, I mean, look, anything's an argument. It would be great if we could get China in the treaty. But I think it's important to note that this treaty only bans land-based missiles at that range. And, you know, the Pacific, it's an ocean. So the United States could have sea-based or air-based missiles and, in fact, the United States does. So China has a big land mass but we don't actually need those in -- for the United States.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

Final question here. I mean I understand one of the issues for the U.S. is that the U.S. may not be able to counter this Russian missile, is that right? That the U.S. doesn't have a good military answer to it?

LEWIS: Yes, well, actually, no one does. That's why we signed the treaty in the first place is these things are so close, they actually have a tiny amount of warning time. So they're very hard for missile defenses to intercept and they pose all kinds of stability risks. So it would be better off if we had none of these things.

[09:35:04] SCIUTTO: OK, so what's the answer that John Bolton is going to give to the Russians today? Was this official, or not official? Can the president be talked out of it?

LEWIS: Oh, I think he's going to tell them we're out. I mean I -- you know, maybe the president's changed his mind. He's mercurial. But, you know, John Bolton has been writing op-eds about getting out of this treaty since 2011 when he was saying we needed to do it for Iran. So I think we're out.

SCIUTTO: And perhaps a sign of his influence within the administration.

Jeffrey Lewis, thanks very much. Something we're going to be watching very closely.

Stunning new video showing just how desperate the situation has become for some migrants now trying to escape Central America. Look at that there. A mother of three climbing down a ladder on a bridge. The story behind that perilous journey, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: A new threat from President Trump this morning over that caravan of migrants heading to the U.S. It's something the president has tried to keep in the conversation every day. The president says he will cut back or completely cut off aid to several Central American countries who couldn't stop people from leaving.

[09:40:09] That caravan, meanwhile, continues its march north through Mexico, some simply in search of work, others a new life, most escaping severe violence back home.

CNN's Bill Weir is live in Tapachula, Mexico, with the latest.

And, Bill, if we can begin, there's just this incredible video this morning of a mother and her children after being stuck at the border for 24 hours going down a bridge on to a river. I mean this shows some of the desperation. I know you know more about the circumstances of this. Walk us through it.

BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Her name is Rosaline Germon (ph). She's from Guatemala. And we spotted her dangling from this sort of crudest of improvised elevators after being stuck on that bridge between Mexico and Guatemala for a full day. They were running out of food and water. Some men pushed a hole in the fence and people were jumping the three-story leap into the shallow Suchiate (ph) River and then they went into town, managed to get rope and a ladder and came back and rigged this thing up.

She came down and then her two children, three-year-old little son, her daughter, Candy (ph), five years old. She also had a teen boy with her who eventually jumped. I'd actually seen her little boy the day before after the big fracas on the bridge and she was on the Mexican side. The boy was fascinated with the riot gear from the police. One officer from the Federalis (ph) picked him up. It was a very tender moment.

And I thought that they were among the lucky ones that made it through for processing. But she had gotten separated from her little girl, had to go back on to the bridge and spend a day there and then ultimately took that ride.

And I asked her, you know, what made you do that? And she says, I'm doing this for my kids. Their father is dead. They're hungry at home. We have no other options. She saw the caravan. She saw, this is my chance to taste my dream of a better life. Wouldn't your mother do the same for you? And I said, you know, President Trump is threatening to turn you away. They still have 2,000 miles to walk to fulfill that dream. And she says, I've heard this, but God will have the final say in our fate. So incredible just little taste of the fortitude and the determination and the desperation motivating so many of these people, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So the president tweeting about this multiple times a day. He certainly sees a political benefit as the midterms approach. Tell us what -- why now? Why is this group coming now? And what do they expect -- how do they expect to be greeted at the border? What are they hoping for if and when they reach the U.S. border?

WEIR: Yes, I've asked that to dozens of people. And you have to understand -- put yourself in the mind of somebody who would sell everything they have, pick up their child and walk 3,000 miles in flip-flops. They're not thinking about American politics. They're putting -- as Rosaline does, their faith in a higher power to get them across.

These are people running from a burning building. I keep quoting the great poem by Warsaw Shire, "Home." It says, you only leave home when home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border when you see the whole city running. So the violence in Honduras was the big motivation, the big part of that caravan.

But Rosaline, the woman on that bridge there, she won't pass the credible fear question that you need for asylum seekers. She is a -- she is an economic migrant. She has no other choice. But now President Trump threatening to cut off foreign aid to these impoverished countries, which will only exacerbate the situation for a lot of them as well.

But some are oblivious. Some have never seen a news report, are not reading Twitter, and they don't have any other choice. They're not thinking it through. And those who do know say it's a chance, it's a risk they're willing to take.

SCIUTTO: Bill Weir, it's good to have you there in the middle of it and we know you're going to continue to follow it. We'll come back to you in the coming days.

Meanwhile, a top U.S. general in Afghanistan wounded during really a bold Taliban attack. We have the latest on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:48:36] SCIUTTO: The Pentagon is now confirming that a U.S. Army general was shot during a brazen attack in Afghanistan last week. Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley oversees the NATO military advisory admission in southern Afghanistan and is now recovering from that gunshot wound.

Ryan Browne joins me now from the Pentagon.

What do we know about his condition and how this happened?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Jim, we're being told that he is recovering from that gunshot wound. He's still in command there in southern Afghanistan, but he is in recovery. And, again, he was one of two Americans wounded in this attack in Kandahar last week that took the lives of two senior Afghan officials. Now, the nature of him being there, he was one of several high-profile military commanders present in this meeting, including the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller was there, and this attack took place shortly after this high level meeting between senior U.S. NATO and Afghan officials. So, again, a very concerning breach of security that an attack could take place following such a high-profile meeting.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we learned last week that the commanding general had to pull his own sidearm to respond to the attack.

BROWNE: That's right.

SCIUTTO: I'm wondering this, this attack took place last Thursday. Why did it take so many days for the Pentagon to identify that a general officer was the service member injured in the attack? [09:50:00] BROWNE: Well, this is an issue of policy that's been around

for some time. Now, the military typically does not identify wounded service members. When service members are killed in action, they do identify after family notifications but they don't on -- when it comes to wounded service members. But, in this case, it's relatively rare for such a senior ranking officer to be wounded. So the information did come to light a few days later. The coalition initially just identifying the wounded American as a U.S. military service member. But, again, now making positive identification that this senior commander was, in fact, wounded during this attack.

SCIUTTO: And just a reminder of how dangerous a place it remains 17 years after the U.S. invasion.

Ryan Browne at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

In other news we're following this morning, the New York Police Department is pulling nearly 3,000 body cameras from the streets after one worn by an officer exploded over the weekend. The officer says he noticed the camera smoking. He pulled it off moments before it exploded. Officials believe a faulty battery may be to blame. About 20 percent of the 15,000 cameras used by New York Police will be removed from service while an investigation is underway.

After nearly 20 years behind bars, former NFL star Rae Carruth was released this morning from a prison in North Carolina. Carruth was in his third season with the Carolina Panthers when he was found guilty of conspiracy to murder his girlfriend who was pregnant at the time. Prosecutors say Carruth blocked his girlfriend Cherica Adama's car so that a hired gunman could shoot her. Doctors saved the baby. Adams died four weeks later. According to a Department of Corrections spokesman, Carruth will be under supervisor for nine months with regular parole check-ins.

First-hand video here of the U.S. Coast Guard rescues underway. A Mexican fishing board burned at sea. The Coast Guard and Mexican navy both responded to the boat nearly 30 miles south of San Diego, but it was actually good Samaritans who pulled 15 people from the water. The Coast Guard then transported two people who needed urgent medical attention. Search still underway for three people who remain missing.

A night of celebration turned to chaos in Clemson, South Carolina. Have a look at this video. The video of early Saturday morning partygoers as the dance floor collapsed. Look at it there. Sending students falling into the basement below. More than 30 people had to be rushed to the hospital.

Polo Sandoval joins me now.

Polo, we're now hearing from people who were on the dance floor when it collapsed. Thankfully everyone survived, though, right? There were no deaths as a result of this?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A few broken bones, some lacerations, according to authorities, but they say it could have been much worse, especially when you look at the pictures, Jim. And the fact is, we just don't know at this point exactly what caused the floor to give way at this fraternity homecoming party. It was being held about three miles away from Clemson University. There were dozens of young men and women who had gathered there celebrating after a football game in which their team came out on top.

The video there you see, the moment when that floor literally gives out from underneath their feet. They were dancing in unison, jumping up and down. So authorities are, of course, asking if that possibly could have played a role. Possibly overcapacity -- or at least overcapacity could have been an issue here. And, of course, they're also taking a good close look at the building which we're told was built in 2014 according to property management.

I should mention, Jim, that authorities are not only investigating this but also university officials, though this happened off campus, are still offering support to these students, Jim, because put yourself in their position for a quick second. They're, of course, partying with their friends, celebrating together one moment, and then things take a terrifying turn. They have to crawl out of a virtual crater there, as you see, and a few folks being left behind along the edges.

So, again, no severe injuries, according to authorities. No serious injuries. Everybody seems to be recovering right now. The question, what exactly caused this.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Just thankfully they're all alive.

Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

CNN has obtained exclusive new video of what a Turkish -- senior Turkish official says is a body double, a suspect wearing the clothes -- the very clothes of Jamal Khashoggi just hours after the journalist was last seen alive. We are following it all. We're going to have an update and the latest coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:58:43] SCIUTTO: With just 15 days to go until the midterms and early voting starting in some places, we want to know what is motivating you to get out to the polls this year. We're asking people of over the country of all different political stripes to share their reasons in a segment we call "Why I'm Voting." Here's today's installment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORINNE MCLASH, VOTER FROM TEXAS: I'm Corinne McLash. I'm a Republican woman from Texas and I'm voting straight Republican ticket to keep Texas red and to keep Texas strong.

JENNIFER ZAHLIT, VOTER FROM LOS ANGELS: I feel like women's rights are definitely one of my top concerns, as well as environmental issues.

JUDI DAMON, VOTER FROM PITTSBURGH: Pro-life, Second Amendment, the economy, immigration. You name it.

DANIELA, VOTER FROM PENNSYLVANIA: For a lot of reasons. But I think one issue that like -- like sticks out for me is like gun control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Tell us why you're voting. You can weigh in on the conversation. All you've got to do is post a video to Instagram telling us what's pushing you to the polls this year. Just use the hashtag #whyivotecnn.

A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

[09:59:53] Turkey is now calling the murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi a, quote, violently planned murder. This after CNN has obtained exclusive surveillance video showing the Saudis using what appears to be a body double, a possible attempt to cover up his murder. The actor can be seen wearing what appear to be Khashoggi's own