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Footage of Saudis Using Body Double to Cover Up Murder; Trump Says There's Deception and Lies in Saudi Arabian Story; Trump to Campaign for Former Rival Ted Cruz; Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired October 22, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: 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 appeared to be Khashoggi's own clothes after Khashoggi was last seen entering the consulate. With this new information, how will President Trump respond?
And in an hour from now, National Security Adviser John Bolton will enter tense negotiations face-to-face with Russia after President Trump vowed to pull out of a decades-old nuclear arms treaty. What this means for the U.S., for Europe, for the world.
Let's begin, though, with CNN's exclusive reporting. Chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward in Istanbul.
Clarissa, I know you've been talking to Turkish officials here. They have been providing a lot of this evidence here. What does this show you, show them, about what the Saudis apparently were trying to pull off here?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, Jim, what Turkish officials here are saying is that there can be no doubt that this was murder and that this was premeditated murder. And they believe the sort of one thing, one of many things, I should add, that definitively shows that this was premeditated is this use of a body double.
Turkish officials sharing with us exclusive footage, part of the government's official investigation that appears to show a man dressed as Jamal Khashoggi leaving the consulate here behind me in an attempt to cover up his killing. Take a look.
WARD (voice-over): At first glance, this man could almost pass for Jamal Khashoggi. And that's the idea. These are the last-known images of Khashoggi alive, moments before he entered the Saudi consulate. Take a look. Same clothes, same glasses and beard, similar age and physique. Everything except the shoes.
But a senior Turkish official tells CNN that the man on the left is a body double, one of 15 Saudi operatives sent to kill Khashoggi and then cover it up. His name is Mustafa al-Madani. Surveillance cameras capture him arriving at the consulate in a plaid shirt and jeans at 11:03 with an accomplice. Two hours later, Khashoggi arrives. He was killed inside shortly afterwards.
(On camera): While Khashoggi's fiancee waited in the front entrance, we're told al-Madani came out through this back exit. Disturbingly he appears to have been wearing the actual clothing of the murdered journalist. The intent Turkish investigators say was to perpetuate the lie that Jamal Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed.
(Voice-over): The apparent double and his companion take a taxi to Sultan Ahmet Mosque. It's one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions and an easy place to get lost in a crowd. The men head to the bathroom. The accomplice carries a plastic bag. When they emerge, al-Madani is wearing his own clothes again.
(On camera): And just like that Jamal Khashoggi had disappeared forever, or so the Saudis would have had the world believe. Little do they know Turkish authorities would quickly uncover the cover-up.
(Voice-over): From their next stop at a nearby restaurant where al- Madani appears to have ditched his fake beard to a dumpster where the men finally dump the plastic bag. The senior official says investigators believe it likely contained Khashoggi's clothes. As they head back to their hotel, the pair appear visibly relaxed. Their mission is complete.
WARD: Now Turkish investigators are continuing their investigation today. They have interviewed once again a host of different people who were employees at the consulate behind me.
And we have also heard, Jim, from President Erdogan himself. He is promising to make an announcement tomorrow, which he says will, quote, "reveal the full naked truth." A lot of people waiting to hear exactly what he might say. And still waiting to hear what the Saudis might say.
I have reached out to a source close to the palace who said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of a body double, but he said one thing is certain, the killing was not intentional -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Didn't deny it. So Turkish Saudi employees of the consulate, they're going to give statements today in Khashoggi's case. And I suppose the Turkish employees in particular, they would be under enormous legal pressure, right, to tell the truth of what they know, of what went on there?
WARD: They are under enormous pressure. And I think the Turks are under pressure as well to try to bring this investigation to a close. They don't want to have it drag out, but at the same time the key component that is still missing here, Jim, is the body.
[10:05:02] And I think there's a strong sense behind the scenes that they are waiting for Saudi officials to be more forthcoming about what exactly happened to the body. You may know Saudi officials have claimed that in fact the body was given to a local collaborator and they don't know where it was dumped, Jim.
SCIUTTO: As if that explains it. A local collaborator.
Clarissa Ward, thanks very much.
Meanwhile, President Trump's tone on Saudi Arabia is shifting. He's now telling "The Washington Post" that the Saudi stories have been, in his words, all over the place and that they have included deception and lies.
CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House. What's happening here? Because the president's resisted for nearly three weeks directly calling out the Saudis for this, even as others have. Why the change now?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump, Jim, is facing intense pressure on this issue, and since the Saudis' version of their story came out on Friday, it has been met with so much disbelief here in Washington that President Trump has over the last couple of days only slowly come around to acknowledging what he termed as deception and lies in their explanation.
But at the same time, Jim, the president still appears unwilling to blame Saudi leadership for what happened in that consulate. He had nothing but praise for the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and also suggested that he was a strong leader who loved his country. The president is framing this as a basic question of whether or not it is worth undermining Saudi Arabia over this issue.
And he told "The Washington Post" this. "I would love it if he wasn't responsible." This is referring to the crown prince. Then he says, "I think it's a very important ally for us, especially when you have Iran doing so many bad things in the world. It's a good counterbalance to the world. Iran, they're as evil as it gets."
So President Trump is making it very clear that Saudi Arabia is so pivotal to his foreign policy in the region, he's not yet willing to really criticize them strongly, but of course, the world is watching and we are waiting to see what if anything the White House does in response to all of this evidence that is being unearthed over the last several weeks now, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, thanks very much.
Many Republican senators, members of course of the president's own party, they've taken a stronger stand against Saudi Arabia from the start. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: I think the cover stories from the Saudis are a mess. You don't bring a bone saw to an accidental fistfight inside an embassy in Turkey or a consulate in Turkey. So the Saudis have said a whole bunch of crap that's not right, accurate, or true.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: They've lost all credibility as it relates to explaining what has happened.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If the crown prince truly loved his country, he would not have put his country in this position. If he truly respected the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, he would never have thought of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Here with me now, CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers, who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
So you look at the differences there. The president is at least questioning the Saudi story now, but one word you didn't hear in the president's statement there was the word values or U.S. values which, you know, the Grahams of the world, Corker, and others have said this is a values issue. You're a longtime public servant. What's your reaction?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, It is. There is this underlying problem for the president and the administration in the sense that all of their pushback on Iran is balanced by Saudi Arabia. So everything that they have been trying to do to push back, to try to contain Iran's missile testing and other things, comes through the heart of Saudi Arabia. And so that's been their problem. I think that's why in the beginning they were a little misfooted in how to handle this.
SCIUTTO: Is that smart for U.S. policy to be so dependent on one partner there?
ROGERS: Well, I mean, it is a leading partner. It's not the only partner, but is -- you know, the heart and soul of the Arab world, they say, goes through Saudi Arabia. And so I think that this has been a long-term relationship. I think this administration put even more weight on their shoulders, and of course, this is what you have to worry about, as something exactly like this. And you can't tolerate this.
SCIUTTO: No. And listen, you can't be naive because the U.S. has had relationships with some dodgy dictators for years through Democratic and Republican administrations. The Shah of Iran, and the Central American dictators and the Saudis, frankly. Robert Jordan who was Bush's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who reminded me the other day that the Saudis told him 9/11 was an Israeli plot afterwards.
You've been told that before, but in your experience, I'm sure you had tough conversations with U.S. allies before, maintaining the relationship but I imagine setting limits and saying we won't stand for this.
ROGERS: Completely. One of the big things when I was chairman is we were pushing back on Saudi Arabia trying to get a handle on the money that was going to these madrasas, these schools around that were preaching radical Islam and violence in places like Pakistan and other places. So yes, there's this -- been this tension with Saudi Arabia for decades. Even through this administration, there's still that tension that exists. What you have here now is this is starting to split it open.
[10:10:01] And what was I found interesting today is that there's a report that Faisal went and heard the tape, who was a senior envoy for the king, and came out and said, this is trouble for the crown prince. Now that tells me that there's a crack in what's happening back there. My argument is probably the Turks likely recorded that from inside of the embassy, which would tell us a lot more than they're willing to tell us today.
That's why I think Erdogan will come out I think he said tomorrow and lay it out. My prediction is that whatever was on that tape is not just that short duration of when the murder happened.
ROGERS: It was probably before that. And if they mentioned the prince at all in those conversations --
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this.
ROGERS: -- it's be harder to --
SCIUTTO: Because the tape has come up repeatedly. And U.S. officials have been asked about this repeatedly, Pompeo among them, and said we have not this heard tape. You know, not confirmed the existence of this. If a NATO ally, which Turkey is, and we have an intelligence -- you know this better than me, intelligence sharing relationship with Turkey, had such a tape, is it plausible to you that at this point three weeks later that U.S. officials or intelligence agencies would not have been provided full access to or demanded access to the tape?
ROGERS: Well, I'm sure they demanded it. There is even though we have a good relationship with Turkish intelligence officials, there is still an on again-off again love affair with those intelligence services.
ROGERS: And you remember, that started way back when Erdogan was elected but not serving. He denied the fact that the Fourth Infantry Division could go through Turkey.
SCIUTTO: I was in Turkey when they voted that down.
ROGERS: And I actually was -- met with Erdogan subsequent to that vote to try to get him to change his mind before he was seated as prime minister. And so there's been a long-term tension.
SCIUTTO: Yes. ROGERS: We've been friendly, but there's a tension. And that tension
has all kinds of consequences to it, including, by the way, Iran sends about a million people, they don't have to have visas in Iran to go to Turkey. And so they have a very special relationship with Iran. So you have the politics of that. You have this tension with intelligence services. Could I see that they might not want to share the tape?
And I'll tell you why Mike Rogers thinks this, as the former FBI guy and a chairman, is that they don't want to disclose their methods of how they got that recording, which in my guess, was they probably bugged the consulate for other reasons.
SCIUTTO: The consulate, I assume, get bugged sometimes, right? Or maybe even all the time, does it?
ROGERS: Doesn't happen. And you know, listen, our adversaries work very hard to get intercept devices inside our consulates, inside our embassies.
ROGERS: Even here in the United States. This is something that intelligence services spend a lot of time and effort. And I will say, the Turkish intelligence service is very good. So the confidence I hear coming out of Erdogan tells me there's more in that tape than they've disclosed.
SCIUTTO: Let me just add, just very quickly, the story emerged or the attempted story of the Saudis' rogue operation, MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, did not know about this, and you've heard some folks even in the U.S. say well, I can't imagine he knew, and the president says I hope he didn't know. Would you find that plausible?
ROGERS: It's getting less and less plausible, but there is a degree of plausibility. And I hear you, the body double tape tells me that that was not well thought through. That was very sloppy.
SCIUTTO: Seat of the pants.
ROGERS: Could have been. By the way, not only was his hair wrong, his shoes were wrong, he left with somebody who was identified with the consulate. He didn't enter with somebody identified with the consulate. And then they traveled around together.
ROGERS: That's just really sloppy trade craft. Tells me it could have happened at the last minute. Maybe not. But it could have. And in that case, they could have been trying to cover up their own tracks.
SCIUTTO: Mike Rogers, thanks very much, as always. We're going to keep on this. Still to come, in just minutes, President Trump's National Security
Adviser John Bolton set for very high stakes face-to-face meetings with Kremlin officials. This as the president says that his administration is ready to end a landmark nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
Plus, thousands of migrants taking desperate action as they continue their journey north in order to seek asylum in either the U.S. or Mexico. We're going to be live with some of their stories.
And a team of former rivals? President Trump set to stump for Senator Ted Cruz. Imagine that. We'll discuss.
[10:18:52] SCIUTTO: One-time political enemies turned allies. Tonight, President Trump heads to Texas to campaign for Senator Ted Cruz. "Lyin' Ted," as he called him. But who can forget the vicious attacks between these one-time rivals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Donald, you're a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.
CRUZ: The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist.
TRUMP: Lyin' Ted Cruz. Lyin' Ted. Lies. Oh, he lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, they're going to be standing next to each other on the stage tonight. The president back on the campaign trail as his numbers hit an all-time high with just two weeks to go until the midterms, his approval rating is now at 47 percent. This according to a new NBC News-"Wall Street Journal" poll.
Joining us now to discuss, CNN political commentator Alice Stewart and former communications director for Ted Cruz. Also with us is former RNC and White House spokesman Alex Conant.
So, Alice, Texas, Cruz and Trump back together again?
SCIUTTO: Could you have envisioned this a few months ago, even?
[10:20:01] ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A few months ago, yes. Last year at this time, no. But the reality is, presidential politics is tough. It is rough and tumble, and when it gets down to it, people do anything they need to to win, and this is exactly what happened here. But at the end of the day, Ted realizes that while you can be archenemies on the campaign trail, when you're in the same party and you're working to get an agenda passed, you work together.
What Ted stood for on the campaign trail, for limited government, strong national security, immigration reform, Scalia-like justices, those are the same policies that Ted Cruz advocated for and that President Trump is implementing. And it makes sense for them to work together.
SCIUTTO: So, Alex, it wasn't long ago that we talked about midterm -- Republican midterm candidates running away from the president or not mentioning his name. My colleague Chris Cillizza writes there is simply no safe political space for Republicans on the wrong side of Trump. What happened? What changed?
ALEX CONANT, FORMER RNC AND WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Midterms are all about turnout. And especially in a state like Texas where if Trump voters turn out, Ted Cruz is going to win, and he's going to win easily despite having I think a very tough challenge from Beto O'Rourke.
Remember earlier this summer, Cruz's team went to the White House and asked the president if he would come campaign for them because they were underperforming with Trump's own voters in Texas and the establishment Republicans in Texas who have never loved Ted Cruz so much. So if you're underperforming with Trump voters and you're underperforming with the establishment, you need some re-enforcements. That's why the president is coming in tonight.
I think that after the Kavanaugh hearings especially, the Republicans have come home. That's why we've seen Trump's numbers rising, we've seen Ted Cruz's numbers rising in Texas. He probably doesn't need the president at this point, but it's not going to hurt his re-election.
STEWART: I think -- on that note, I think Ted has done well with regard to helping to execute the president's message, which was in turn his. But you look where he is now, he's up almost 10 points in the polls. We have --
SCIUTTO: Seven is the latest lead for CNN.
STEWART: OK, in a recent poll over the weekend, it shows a little bit higher but, you know, on the average, it's seven to eight points. And RSVPs tonight around 100,000. But Ted had a great several weeks. He's had several, tens of thousands come out over the weekend at various events for him. So he's doing good. The wind is at his back, and as you say the Kavanaugh certainly helped and certainly tax cuts and a low unemployment is helpful.
SCIUTTO: All right. The former Ted Cruz comms director speaking true to form.
On the president, if we can, so latest approval rating for him, 47 percent. And it was about a month ago, I think, when you saw the president's approval rating average figures which are the important ones to watch, down in the 30s. This was following Helsinki, standing next to Putin, et cetera.
What do you think, Alex, has been turning this around for the president?
CONANT: He had a really good couple of weeks. The Kavanaugh hearings obviously were a big political benefit to the president throughout --
SCIUTTO: For some, but not for everyone. You know, clearly it's energized the party. But there are others --
CONANT: Of course. And that was part of the issue but the president's numbers are up since the Kavanaugh hearing. Obviously the economy continuing to be strong is a big benefit to him, and I think the way that the Democrats are framing the election in these final days where they're the party of resistance, they're the party of the mob, and then --
SCIUTTO: The Democrats aren't framing themselves as the party of the mob. The president is.
CONANT: The president.
SCIUTTO: He's trying to call them the party of the mob.
CONANT: But is giving them plenty of evidence and ammunition to work with. It's just brought Republicans home. And so that's why the president's numbers are up. And I think, look, 20 days, 15 days is a long time in American politics, and I think a lot can change in the next few weeks. But right now, Republicans should be feeling much better about the midterms than we have at any point during this campaign so far. I think we're going to gain seats in the Senate and I would not be shocked if I wake up in the morning after the midterms and to discover that we kept the House.
SCIUTTO: Is that, Alice -- listen, I know that the president and other Republicans, sitting next to two of them here, would dram of that. Is that a realistic expectation that the Democrat -- that the Republicans, rather, retain the House?
STEWART: It will be close. You know, right now it's looking -- it will be a nail biter to the very end. Of course we have to look at each of these different congressional races. They're not jumping onboard with the president because these are in urban areas, areas where the president might not be quite as popular. So these are district by district races and they're very unique to the district. So what might work in one district will not work in the other. And it is all about turnout and getting folks out to the polls.
With the Senate, I clearly think we're going to continue the Senate because all the Senate races are in red states for the most part that are up, that are key Senate races, and that's where Trump is popular, and I think that's going to be key. But the key is voter turnout and Republicans giving people something to vote for, which is jobs and the economy, and now national security. And Democrats, a lot of what they're voting against.
SCIUTTO: All right. We've heard this comms speech, guys. Come on.
Alex Conant and Alice Stewart, thanks very much as always.
Still to come, the lengths that migrants are taking to get to the U.S. border despite new very public warnings from President Trump.
[10:29:33] SCIUTTO: This morning, a caravan of migrants is pushing onward after starting in Central America, the group is now Tapachula, Mexico, all with their eyes set or at least many, on the U.S. border. Some say they're in search of work. Others a new life. Most escaping violence at home. However, President Trump issued a new threat this morning saying that he will begin cutting off or seriously reducing aid to several countries that could not stop people from leaving.
CNN's Bill Weir is live there in Tapachula with the latest.
Tell us what you're seeing there, Bill, because you know how it's being portrayed here. What do you see mixing among those people heading north?