Return to Transcripts main page
Trump, "Not Satisfied with What I've Heard" on Killing; Trump Escalates Rhetoric as Caravan Grows, Heads North; Trump May Roll Back Protections of Transgender Americans; Four Americans Filled in Rafting Accident in Costa Rica. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired October 22, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: This just in. President Trump saying he is not yet satisfied with the explanation from Saudi Arabia about the murder of a "Washington Post" columnist. And it comes after exclusive surveillance video obtained by CNN shows a possible cover-up in Jamal Khashoggi's killing. Footage shows a body double posing as Khashoggi leaving the Saudi consulate in Turkey on the day that he disappeared.
Turkish officials say the man is a Saudi operative dressed in a beard and what appears to be the murdered journalists' clothing, except for the shoes. Joining me now is Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS". Of course, and just days ago the Saudi had said that he died in a fistfight. There have been shifting stories from the very beginning, as we know, but this video is really something. Turkish officials say they believe this shows it was premeditation. How does this now figure into where we're at?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I think the most important thing that's going to happen is going to happen tomorrow when the Turkish President, Erdogan, is going to make a speech in parliament. And he has promised he's going to lay out, in detail, exactly what happened. What's fascinating about this is that many people thought that the Turks were just presenting enough evidence to embarrass Saudi Arabia, to then extract some kind of price in terms of loans, payments, and it's certainly that the Turkish economy needs that.
But Erdogan has now gone far enough that I think it would be very difficult for him to back down. He is suggesting he's going to present an alternative view from the Saudi view. If that happens, since Turkey has incontrovertible intelligence, I think it would be very hard for the Trump administration to continue with what has been the essentially pro-Saudi view, endorsing some of the Saudi version of events. And you can see President Trump, as he often does, beginning to distance himself, essentially from his own comments of only four or five days ago. So, it suggests that everybody's beginning to recognize the Saudi explanation is not going to hold water.
HILL: The other thing that's fascinating, it was just over a week ago that the President Trump said on 60 minutes that there would be severe punishment. Can you have severe punishment from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia while still maintaining this relationship, which we know is very important, not just to the country, but the President Trump himself? Can you have both moving forward?
ZAKARIA: You can. I think you need a more skilled foreign policy than President Trump is currently demonstrating, but I give you an analogy. Tiananmen Square. This was the Chinese brutal crackdown on student protests, pro-democracy protests that took place in 1991, I think it was. And when President Bush, the elderly, confronted this, he immediately condemned it. He slapped sanctions on the Chinese, but then a little bit later, I think it was a month later, he sent his national security adviser to Beijing and said, we want to maintain the relationship. This is an important strategic relationship. But what you guys did was wrong, and we have to call you out on it.
So, I think that the mistake here is to try to, in some sense, collude with the Saudi cover-up. I think that the United States needs to be very clear and strong, that we need complete transparency. We want the facts. This is what appears to have happened. And if it is, in fact, a brutal premeditated dismemberment and murder of a journalist, it has to be condemned and they have to be some kind of punishment. Then you can move on and say, OK, you know, this relationship is important. We're past this point.
The Trump administration is almost simultaneously doing, you know, both colluding and then talking about punishments and mixing it all together, so what you get is incoherence rather than a strategy that suggests that there's a punishment and yet the relationship is important.
HILL: There is certainly a lot of confusion. You used the word transparent, transparency. Earlier today, Jared Kushner, who very rarely, if ever, is sitting down for an interview and talking on camera told Van Jones that his advice to Crowned Prince Mohammad bin Salman that he needed to be transparent. That transparency was key here and that the world was watching. That really made my ears perk up too. Because we have Jared Kushner basically saying, yes, I'm talking to him and here's what I told him. Is Jared Kushner the right messenger?
ZAKARIA: Well, Jared Kushner is the right messenger in the sense that the Crown Prince knows him, trusts him, he is the President's son-in- law. Look, family relationships do matter. One can pretend they don't. He is in the White House. But the key is, I'm not -- to really drive home that point of transparency, because otherwise it becomes an Orwellian message. By which I mean, the Saudis know what happened. They planned it, they directed it. From every account we can get, this is not some operation that went awry, the operation went as planned.
[15:35:00] What went awry was the public reaction to it. That was not what they expected. And so, now they're trying to come forward with some story to tell the Crown Prince, find out what happened. That's nonsense.
HILL: Right, to have him lead the investigation.
ZAKARIA: Exactly. Tell us the truth might be, you know, the better advice would be, come clean, explain what happened, at that point, you can move on better than if you continue to insist on an Orwellian cover-up.
HILL: And we're seeing -- I mean, a bone saw, a body double. That does not add up to an interrogation.
ZAKARIA: A man sent there who was the head of the Saudi council on forensics, who authored an article called mobile autopsies. I mean, you couldn't write this into a movie. This guy's specialty was cutting up bodies, you know, on the run, in a mobile fashion.
HILL: Absolutely. I do want to get your take on this. We know John Bolton is in Russia. The President was just making a comments a short time ago on the lawn -- before leaving for Texas -- about pulling out of the INF Treaty with Russia. We're also learning that John Bolton told Russia that interference in the U.S. election didn't have any real effect. But went on to say the desire to interfere really caused distrust. What do you make of those comments?
ZAKARIA: I think on both fronts, I think actually Bolton is presenting a tough intelligent line. I think on the treaty, it's a negotiating ploy. I think the idea is to try to get attention of the Russians, they have been violating the treaty for a while. There are people who feel this is the wrong way to go about it, but I think here you see Trump, as on trade, trying something more dramatic than others have tried, where there is a legitimate grievance.
On the Russian interference in the elections, that is exactly the message that President Trump should have delivered on day one. And if he had delivered that message on day one, which is, we don't think it made a difference. We think President Trump would have won anyway, which they have to say, of course, but this is a huge problem that you did it and you know, we -- the relationship cannot survive if you continue to try these kind of interferences. That is what the President should have said from day one. If he had said that from day one, nobody would be sitting here talking about, why is the President being so soft on Russia. Why is he giving them a pass? Why doesn't he want to admit it? You see, with Bolton he took that issue off the table. And if they had done it from the start, they would be in a much better place than they are today.
HILL: Fareed, always good to have you with us. Thank you.
HILL: And a reminder you can catch "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" on Sundays at ten o'clock a.m. eastern.
Up next, President Trump repeating an unsubstantiated claim that unknown Middle Easterners, in his words, are part of a migrant caravan that has grown to more than 7,000 people. We are live in Mexico to separate fact from fiction.
[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HILL: We are continuing to monitor the migrant caravan as it heads towards the U.S. the massive crowd now tops more than 7,000 people and they are on the move again, as they trek north from Mexico's border with Guatemala. The caravan began in Honduras. They have more than 1,500 miles to cross before reaching the U.S.
This morning, President Trump tweeting, without evidence, that unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in with the crowd. He repeated that claim moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Go into the middle and search. You're going to find MS-13, you're going to find Middle Easterners, you're going to find everything. And guess what. We're not allowing them in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: CNN's Patrick Oppmann is there, with that caravan, and has been for a number of days, along with the camera. As we know you've been speaking to so many people. You're joining us now live from Mexico. So, what are you seeing? Who are the people making up this caravan?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can just see behind me but we'll go down a little bit further, because they come in waves, but at certain points, it just goes on for miles. People walking by the side of the road, trying to get rides from cars. They have got about 15 more miles to go and it is a very tough slog here, because it's incredibly hot. They don't have enough water. They don't have enough food. And there are not enough cars to take them. And people say they are determined.
[15:45:00] They say that they are not gang members, but the victims of gang members. That they are people who have been victimized, that have essentially been ordered to pay a tax to gangs, who have had their lives threatened and they are hitting the road. They say there's nothing back for them in their home country. Most people here are from Honduras. The vast majority are from Honduras. And they say that essentially, they're coming from a failed state and they're hoping that a better life awaits them on the other side of the U.S./Mexico border.
HILL: Patrick Oppmann live in Tapachula, Mexico, for us this hour. Patrick, thank you.
Human rights groups are pushing back against the Trump administration after "The New York Times" reported on a draft proposal to roll back protections for transgender Americans. We're going to explain what that move could mean, next.
[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HILL: The Trump administration is considering federal plan to limit gender definitions which would severely affect America's transgender community. "The New York Times" reporting the Department of Health and Human Services is working to define a person's sex based solely on their gender at birth with no room for change. Gender rights activists are slamming the proposal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JODEE WINTERHOF, SENIOR VP, THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: No matter how hard the White House tries to get rid of us, we will not be erased.
[15:50:00] Donald Trump and Mike Pence have spent nearly every day of their administration advancing an insidious agenda of discrimination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: The Times reports the proposal could reach the Justice Department by the end of the year. CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, fact checks what these potential roll backs mean and why this is on the table now?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, remember this?
TRUMP: I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.
AVLON: Well, that was then and this is now. "The New York Times" reporting the Trump administration wants to legally define transgender out of existence by officially recognizing only a personal's gender at birth. So, even if a person is transitioned, they could be retroactively required to be identify as whatever gender they were born at regardless of physical changes or how they choose to be identified. So, Caitlyn would still be Bruce to the U.S. government.
This is just the latest attack on several Obama policies that expanded protections against sex discrimination to cover gender identity in areas like housing, education, and the military. So, why now? Well it's plays to the base culture war politics, two weeks before the midterms. Remember, it was just three years ago that same-sex marriage became legal in this country. So, now the wedge issue has moved to trans rights. And conservative sites love to mock the issue of gender identity symbolized by Facebook's dozens of gender options. And while some liberals embrace a myriad of gender pronouns, for many conservatives and some moderates, it's a potent example of the p.c. culture that Trump constantly attacks to great effect.
Republicans want to benefit from this backlash and it's an easy target. Just look at the numbers. Transgender folks make up an estimated 0.4 percent of American adults, or 1.4 million people. That's still a lot of our fellow citizens, but it's many fewer than the millions of gay and lesbian Americans who most people now known as friends, family and coworkers. This is simply picking on minority rights to try to win the popular vote. The last time I checked self- determination was a pretty basic American value rooted in freedom and equality.
HILL: John Avlon there with your reality check.
Still to come, a tragedy in Costa Rica, four people in the same bachelor party are killed in a rafting accident, including the brother of the groom, what went wrong, next.
[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HILL: A rafting trip to Costa Rica turns deadly for a group of American tourists celebrating a friend's upcoming wedding. Four Americans and a Costa Rican tour guide died after the raft capsized within minutes of being out on the river. The men were part of a bachelor party from Florida. CNN's Martin Savidge joins us now with more here. So, what more do we know about what happened?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Clearly what investigators are going to be focusing on, Erica, is whether all of this could have been avoided. In the reason being that Costa Rica at this time was under the influence of a tropical weather system, a pretty strong one. It was dumpy a lot of rain. And so, now the question is going to be, well should the river operators of this white-water cruise allowed everyone to go out onto the water knowing how potentially treacherous it could be.
Let me take you back, last Thursday, 14 friends, all from Florida, all there to commemorate, celebrate, what was going to be a great event, an upcoming wedding of one of their own. The best way to do this, hey, how about a white-water rafting trip. I mean, it would be a thrill. And so, on Saturday, all of them -- and I should say they're all similar in age, 25 to 35 -- they push off in three different rafts with five guys and head on down the Naranjo River.
But very quickly, it turns very tragic. Because what happens is the rafts, there are three of them, are quickly flipped over. They hang on to them, they try to get back in, they do, but they're flipped out again. And eventually all of them are just rocketing down this wild river wearing helmets and life jackets, but they're being pounded by both the current, the volume of water and of course, the rocks and everything that is in that river.
Most of them managed to grab on to something and eventually get out of the current. But it turns out that four of those friends drowned, along with a fifth person, a river guide. In this is significant, because this would suggest that even the expert, a person that's been down that river many times presumably, also died. And that could also suggest the dedication that guy had to trying to rescue the people under his guidance there.
But it just turned into a tragic event. One of the victims is the brother of the groom to be. That wedding is to take place next month. There is just heartbreak now instead of all that celebration. And a GoFundMe page has been set up for a number of the relatives of the victims here. But again, you just can't stress, Costa Rica is a beautiful place with wonderful things, and you knew they all went in with this joyous celebration in mind and now is just heartbreaking -- Erica.
HILL: It really is. Martin Savidge, appreciate it, thank you.
SAVIDGE: Your welcome.
HILL: Thanks for joining us today. I am Erika Hill in four Brooke Baldwin on this Monday. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sophocles said, the truth is always the strongest argument. Trump said, I hate Sophocles. THE LEAD starts right now.