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CNN NEWSROOM

Putin, Bolton Meet Amid Tension Over Missiles; Kelly, Lewandowski Squared Off Outside Oval Office; Obama Takes a Swipe at Trump About Facts; Trump Spreads Lies and Stokes Fears Ahead of Midterm Elections; Trump Says There are "Riots" Over Sanctuary Cities; Dow Set to Tumble on Earnings Fears. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 23, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: In an interview months before his death, Khashoggi said that the U.S. was not doing enough to reign in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Have a listen to these prescient words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMAL KHASHOGGI, MURDERED SAUDI JOURNALIST: For there is no political movement in Saudi Arabia that could pressure him, number one. And the world is happy with him. Do you see anybody in America who is -- except for Bernie Sanders who is calling for putting pressure on Mohammed bin Salman. I'm sure the Americans are not going to apply any pressure to Mohammed bin Salman unless a true crisis happens in Saudi Arabia.

RULA JEBREAL, JOURNALIST: Or in America, similar to 9/11.

KHASHOGGI: Yes. Or something like -- yes.

JEBREAL: Yes.

KHASHOGGI: That will make Saudi Arabia important to them again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That interview with the journalist Rula Jebreal, first broadcast -- first printed, rather, by "Newsweek." We are following all those developments.

And this, just two weeks until the midterms the president's messaging strategy is clear. Seemingly ignore the facts, stoke fears. Is that strategy working with just days before voters hit the polls? We are on it.

But first our coverage begins this morning with CNN's Clarissa Ward. She is in Istanbul with the latest on the Khashoggi investigation.

Clarissa, some alarming, very public comments from the Turkish president today calling out the Saudis here, calling them liars in effect. CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right,

Jim. It was a very strong and emphatic, at times even fiery speech with rounds of applause bursting out from parliamentary who were watching it. But specifically I think there were two main nuggets that really stand out as kind of pushing the narrative forward a little bit about what exactly happened to Jamal Khashoggi.

He mentioned that a team from the Saudi consulate who were apparently apart from the 15 Saudi operatives who flew in here carried out some kind of a reconnaissance mission in two forests, Belgrade and Yalova forests, around Istanbul on the day before Jamal Khashoggi went missing.

This is interesting because, as you probably noticed over the past few days there have been a number of searches in those forests. Turkish authorities definitely zeroing in on them as a place of interest. So interesting the idea that a team from the consulate carried out some kind of a reconnaissance mission in those forests the day before the disappearance.

The second thing that President Erdogan mentioned, which was also very interesting, is the idea that the cameras, surveillance cameras inside the consulate behind me that the operatives had disconnected them from the hard drive. That meant that the Saudis were able to perpetuate this lie that they could say that their cameras were not recording that day.

And it also explains, Jim, why we never saw the Saudis release any footage of the body double who you may remember, of course, they had dressed up in Jamal Khashoggi's clothing and walked out of the back of the consulate.

Erdogan also then fired off a list of questions. Why did they gather in Istanbul? Who did they get their orders from? Why was the consulate not open immediately to investigators? Why have they offered so many different statements? Why has the body not been found? And finally, and perhaps most crucially, who is this local collaborator?

You remember Saudi officials saying that the body, they didn't know where it was because they had handed it over to a local collaborator and then it had been disposed of.

One other thing to note, Jim, CIA chief Gina Haspel is in Turkey today. Will she be cooperating and talking with Turkish intelligence? Will they be cooperating on the investigation? Still a lot more questions ahead -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Clarissa Ward there in Istanbul following the story.

Let's discuss now with John Carlin. He's the former assistant attorney general for National Security. He's also the author of "Dawn of the Code War: America's Battle Against Russia, China and the Rising Global Cyber Threat."

Thanks, John, for taking the time this morning. First of all, your immense experience in national security issues. When you look at this from your current seat, see the Saudi story here describing this as a rogue operation went wrong somehow, et cetera, but the evidence as released by the Turks here, including what we learn today about the cameras being taken out of the consulate just before this happened, are you skeptical of the Saudi explanation?

JOHN CARLIN, CNBC AND PBS NEWSHOUR CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, Jim, I think there are two things going on here. One is the U.S. relations with Saudi, but the other is broader. And that's taking a step back and thinking about what's going on in the world right now, in the world of America's leadership. And when you look at North Korea's brazen assassination in Malaysia, when you look at Russia's poisoning using banned weaponry on the streets of one of our closest ally that ended up killing not even the intended target but an innocent British civilian, you wonder about America's leadership in the world.

[09:05:03] And are we calling out what we stand for to create a safer world for everyone or are we creating an environment where something -- and the facts continue to come in, but something that looks like an atrocious assassination of media journalists could take place?

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. In your role, you dealt with international partners, some of them U.S. friends, and some of them U.S. friends, I imagine, allies where we had differences. Did you, in that role -- because of course you'll hear from President Trump many times, you heard it from Jared Kushner yesterday, saying, listen, this is an important relationship. So we have to keep that in mind, et cetera.

Did you call out U.S. allies before and say, hey, listen, we're friends, we're partners, but we're not going to stand for this or that?

CARLIN: Look, America is at its best and what's great about American values is they're values that make the world better. And what do we stand for? We stand for free elections, right? A determination, a free press, the rights of women to participate in social activities and countries. And, yes, there have been times where allies do not share all of our values. But where American presidents who disagree on many other issues have agreed is that this is important. We're the only leader of the free world to articulate those values and explain where we differ.

I remember, for instance, when we partnered with Saudi Arabia when we had shared interests in terms of preventing terrorist attacks and the loss of innocent civilian lives, that was an area of partnership. We always disagreed, though, on the definition of what a terrorist was and what it means to abuse, for instance, social media. For us it had to do with conspiring to kill, not the views that you're expressing.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. There is the difference right there.

What could be the U.S. role in the investigation here? For instance, is it a mistake that the U.S. hasn't deployed the FBI? I know that Jamal Khashoggi was not a U.S. citizen. He was a resident. He didn't have permanent residency. His children, at least one of his children, is a U.S. citizen. Should the FBI be involved?

CARLIN: You know, that is a harder question. So the FBI, when I was at the FBI, worked as chief of staff to Director Mueller, working with him at the Justice Department, when actions took place overseas that weren't really FBI jurisdiction and the FBI doesn't have the right to operate, what you depend on is, is there a country that needs our assistance that asks the FBI in to aid in the investigation when it's -- especially here when it's not a U.S. citizen. And so often we were. And you'd be -- for technical expertise. Might be DNA analysis or a particular analysis of video.

Here it seems like the Turkish government has done a rather thorough investigation and continues to put out the findings of that investigation. So it would make sense, I think, to offer the assistance of the FBI. But then we're somewhat dependant on whether Turkey or Saudi Arabia accepts it.

SCIUTTO: Ask for it. OK.

John Carlin, thanks very much. It's a story we're going to continue to follow. And look out for that book, "Dawn of the Cold War." Appreciate your time.

Here at home, we are exactly two weeks away today from the midterms and the president's political battle cry riddled with claims that frankly often aren't true, stoking fear with warnings like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to find MS-13. You're going to find Middle Eastern. You're going to find everything. And guess what? We're not allowing them in our country. We want safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Referring there to the nearly 7500 migrants marching their way north through Mexico.

CNN special correspondent Bill Weir, he's been traveling with that caravan. He joins us now from Huixtla, Mexico.

So, Bill, the president makes these claims about Middle Eastern terrorists and unidentified Middle Easterners, as well as gang members, et cetera. You're in the midst there. What have you seen makes up this group of migrants?

BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll put it this way, Jim. Ginning up fear of the stranger is a tactic that's as old as politics. That's what makes the teachings of Christ to welcome the stranger so radical. That's what makes the "Declaration of Independence" that all men are created equal such a radical idea, the concept of America.

These folks, you know, are 7,000 now. How do you know the hearts of all of them? They're human beings. But what I have witnessed is just touching humanity. People who are fleeing desperation at home with have no other choice and they're thinking about their children, wanting what most of us want, a better future for them. And you see it played out again and again.

Here is another example. These are local Mexicans who just came to the square to feed these folks as they pass north. And today they are staying in this town about 50 miles north of the border to honor one of their own who died yesterday, who fell off a truck overcrowded as they all packed their way north.

[09:10:01] So, yes, the insinuation and his comment about or his tweet about unknown Middle Easterners, we know what that means. That means terrorists. So that again implicates a whole other group of people unfairly in that way. But these folks, they're oblivious but if they do know about the president's tweets, it's going to take a lot more than that to stop them.

SCIUTTO: So, Bill, when you talk to them about the president's comments and accusations, how do they react? How do they feel about that?

WEIR: With exasperation. I'll give you an example here. I met a young man named Paolo. He's one of the volunteers who helps protect these people and encourages them to clean up their trash and whatnot. And I told him, you know, the leader of the country you're headed towards wants to paint you as terrorists and criminals, and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAOLO BALLESTEROS, VOLUNTEER, PUEBLO SAN FRONTERA (through translator): We are an honorable people. We are workers. Would you call a group of kids terrorists? A group of women who need help? We're asking for his support. Of course, we know he has no conscience. He is crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: So there you go. That's just one typical reaction. Most people say, look, he can say what he wants. We put our faith in God. We believe he will get us to a safer place -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Bill Weir, we're glad to have you there traveling with them. We're going to keep following the story.

Another one of the president's claims that middle class voters are getting a, quote, "very major tax cut, "according to the president. But he's now walking back the time line saying it will happen after the midterms. It's a promise he repeated several times at a campaign event in Houston last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle income families. It's going to be put in next year. 10 percent tax cut. Republicans passed the biggest tax cut and reform in history with massive tax cuts for the middle class. And now we're adding 10 percent to those numbers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: There weren't actually massive tax cuts in the middle class in that corporate -- largely corporate tax cuts. So let's look at the president.

CNN business and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci with me now.

So is there any truth to the president's claim that a middle class tax cut is in the works? Because I understand our colleagues on the Hill have spoken to Republican and Democratic lawmakers and they seem as surprised by this as anyone.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we've been making calls basically for the last two days to people inside the administration and on the Hill, and no one seems to know what the president is talking about or they're just simply avoiding our questions altogether.

I was making calls to Treasury officials and National Economic Council, administration officials as well. No one seems to have the details around this tax cut.

And look, what is going on here is that the president realizes that Democrats and other critics are out there saying that the tax cuts that were passed earlier this year really benefit the wealthy, helped corporate profits, helped CEOs get bigger and bigger bonuses. And meanwhile, the middle class hasn't had a real wage increase if you factor in inflation for a very long time. So the middle class and lower class hasn't seen the benefit really flow down to them. So he's trying to head off that criticism by floating this idea of a middle class tax cut with nothing to support it as far as we can see to date here -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, glad you're doing the fact check on that. We've been watching the markets this morning. Overnight some rough signs from overseas. What are we expecting when the U.S. markets open up in, well, about 16, 17 minutes?

ALESCI: Well, investors are very nervous for a number of reasons. The impending trade war, rising interest rates, and the fact is that many in the market who I spoke to this morning, said, look, we just think corporate profits, the bedrock of the market, has peaked, that there is nowhere to go from here. And we saw a little bit of that in Caterpillar, which is an industrial machine maker. It is a bellwether for the market. It came out this morning, beat expectations. But, yet, the stock fell because it warned of rising material costs as in part as a result of the steel and aluminum name tariffs.

So we're going to see more and more of this coming out, Jim. And I just think there is an overall sense of pessimism. We're going to look forward to see earnings from other companies this week and get a better sense of how corporate profits are doing then.

SCIUTTO: Cristina Alesci on the floor. We're going to bring you that market when it opens up. Thanks very much.

Coming up, a not so-veiled attack. Former President Obama hitting the campaign trail and hitting out at the current president.

Plus, showdown in Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting face-to-face with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton. This after President Trump vows to pull out of a key nuclear weapons treaty. What is at stake?

And West Wing or the fighting ring? The Secret Service forced to break up a fistfight between Chief of Staff John Kelly and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. What happened exactly?

[09:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: A former president taking a not so veiled shot at the current one. Here is President Obama on the midterm campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's just one simple fact. This is a fact! This is not -- I'm just -- unlike some, I actually try to state facts. I believe in facts, all right?

(CHEERS)

[09:20:00] I believe in a fact-based reality and a fact-based politics. I don't believe in just making stuff up. I think you should -- like, actually say to people what's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Imagine that. His words are coming as President Trump tries to play to his base with out-right falsehoods, promising new tax cuts, warning of riots, playing up conspiracies with very little basis in reality. Joining me now to talk more about this, Cnn politics analyst Rachel Bade and congressional reporter for "Politico", and Sabrina Siddiqui who is politics reporter at "The Guardian".

I mean, you know, essentially, you look, you see President Obama there making what is a very basic statement. You know, facts are good things, gets cheers from the crowd. You see the president last night making as he often does, some specious claims, gets cheers from the crowd.

Rachel, you've covered American politics for some time, and is that -- that's where you are, right? I mean, in Trump's base it works.

RACHEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO & CNN POLITICS ANALYST: That's right. Republicans, they're really sort of changing up the midterm elections at the very last minute here. There's been sort of this decision in the White House and among Republican leaders that tax cuts in the economy is not enough to excite their base.

SCIUTTO: Yes --

BADE: And so they're reaching for something else. Immigration works for the president in 2016 and Republicans feel that if they can sort of frame this as an election on security and crime --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

BADE: That they can win that issue. It's interesting though because it's gone -- you know, this is totally different than the way midterms typically play out. Usually, it's local issues that dominate a midterm elections or you know, who is going to represent or who is going to control Congress.

So nationalizing this, we'll see if it works. But it really can have a backlash, there's a number of Latino -- districts with large Latino populations that Republicans are trying to hold right now. It will be interesting to see if him sort of slamming these immigrants coming here -- this caravan actually had the backlash on those moderates.

SCIUTTO: Yes, Sabrina, as you watch, you know, the caravan, it's an image. I mean, you see it playing out, I mean, the president referencing it, you see it playing out on conservative networks as an image that suits that message, right?

And it does -- I mean, it's hard to see it specifically in the numbers, but it does seem at least in the crowds where he goes within the base that this does fire them up.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Yes, the president essentially operating off the same play book he used in 2016, especially where immigration was such a central premise of his campaign. Let's not forget he launched his campaign for president by declaring that the majority of immigrants coming across the U.S. border from Mexico were rapists and killers. These were his words.

But the difference is that now he is the president, and so it's his administration that is accountable for the nation's --

SCIUTTO: Right --

SIDDIQUI: Broken immigration system. And the whole idea was that his zero tolerance policy of separating families at the border, that, that was going to deter immigrants from coming across the border. So he is one who has to answer why his methods haven't worked.

Now, the other --

SCIUTTO: And why the wall hasn't been built, right?

SIDDIQUI: And why the wall hasn't been --

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Some conservatives who hold him to account and coulter among them, right, and say, you know, where is that wall? SIDDIQUI: And why the wall hasn't been built. What's striking is

that it did review dozens of political ads that Republicans have put forth or groups that have backed the Republicans that put forth in 2018, and there is a lot of fear mongering among immigrants focus on MS-13 and linking immigrants to crime.

So what that also shows us is that Republican candidates on the ballot have fully embraced the president's rhetoric and --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

SIDDIQUI: And agenda on immigration, it's the turnout of the base in the midterms, but the long-term ramifications for the party with Hispanic voters. That's what conservatives are concerned about --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

SIDDIQUI: Internally.

SCIUTTO: Well, and the other -- one of the other speeches claimed is the idea that there are a middle eastern terrorists. So you know, in the midst of this caravan, there's no evidence of that. And when you ask national security officials, they don't -- they can't back up that claim either.

So when the president is challenged on some of these claims, one being that there are riots in California -- let's look at the way he answered when he was pressed on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many places in California want to get out of sanctuary cities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're saying they're rioting, sir, right?

TRUMP: Yes, there's rioting in some cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: You know, at the end of the day, doesn't -- he doesn't have to back up the claim, at least with his supporters which seems to be the focus of these comments.

BADE: That's right, and you know, the thing about this is, you can fact-check the president on this all you want. Voters, Republican voters, some of them, you know, they're going to hear what they want to hear and they listen to the president over the media. He's got a more favorable rating obviously with more Republicans than we do.

And I think the fact that the president -- I'm sorry, former President Obama is speaking to this directly, you know, that I support facts, shows just how big of an issue this is for the Democrats. You know, the president's approval rating right now is among the highest it's been in a long time. The congressional ballot that measures whether people want Democrats

or Republicans to control the house has very much narrowed. Democrats still had a lead, but if you go to those swing districts specifically, they're about even right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes --

BADE: So you know, the possibility of Republicans actually keeping the house is actually there.

SCIUTTO: Yes --

BADE: And this is become -- it's becoming a problem. And, you know, the president, he's just going to go out, he's going to continue making this about security and crime and it's working for him, regardless of facts.

[09:25:00] SCIUTTO: For sure, if it works right there, they're going to stick with this. Sabrina, when you speak to Democratic leaders, are they concerned that this midterm election is slipping away from them?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that they are certainly concerned that there could be some degree of complacency, especially with this narrative that there is a blue wave that's coming in November that Democrats are all but certain to take back the house.

Ultimately, they still had to turn out some of these -- for constituencies. Many of whom don't typically vote in midterms, so that's why there's a lot --

SCIUTTO: Young people --

SIDDIQUI: More effort around young people --

BADE: Latinos --

SIDDIQUI: African-American voters, that's why they're also very concerned about some of the voters suppression tactics in states such as Georgia and North Carolina and even in North Dakota among native American voters. But that's also why you're seeing President Obama take an increased role in this campaign.

Having said that, he would have sat out on the sidelines as many former presidents have done. His advisors that I've talked to have said he feels this is much bigger than the midterms. This is about the future of the nation's trajectory --

SCIUTTO: Right, well, and it's interesting that the president's approval rating, this current president's approval rating up to 47 percent, at least in one poll, the average is somewhat below that. It's actually higher than President Obama's was in the most recent midterm election.

BADE: Yes, imagine that. The Democrats still are favorites, let's be clear about that. You know, they have a monstrous hush advantage over Republicans right now. They have an expensive battleground, they're competing in 75 GOP-held seats --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

BADE: And they only need 23 for the house --

SCIUTTO: A lot of retirees in those GOP and the retirees right now --

BADE: Right, and historically, you know, midterm elections right after a new president is elected favors, you know, the other party. And so, typically, if the party in power loses about 30 seats, 30 seats is in enough to put the house for Democrats right now. So we'll just have to see if this -- you know, fear mongering and immigration change of topic works for them.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching closely, Rachel, Sabrina, thanks very much. The opening bell on Wall Street just three minutes away, it is not looking good. The futures numbers, particularly after events overseas, we're going to bring it to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Breaking news now on Wall Street, it is not looking good. Futures down ahead of the opening bell, way down. Cnn business and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci back with me now. What are you expecting to see when trading opens in just a few seconds now.

ALESCI: Well, investors are squarely focused on the long list of risk to this market. One of them being the impending trade war, the other one being rising interest rates. And I'm not even talking about the international factors like a slowdown in Chinese economic growth, not to mention an impending fiscal crisis in Italy.

You have those two factors hanging over things. And then, today, that's the macro picture on the micro level.