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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Stokes Fears about Immigration; Trump Worried about Zinke; Khashoggi's Fiance to Trump Administration. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 2, 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: President's closing argument, as it were, before the midterm elections, which is so focused on immigration and fear particularly of this migrant caravan. Yesterday he said something that caught the attention of numerous former battle commanders that I've spoken to saying that protesters who throw rocks should be shot by U.S. soldiers who are being deployed by the thousands to the border. Do you agree? Should unarmed protesters who throw rocks, if they do, be shot, met with deadly force, in effect?

MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the reality, Jim, is that as you cover on CNN, the military will be there, will be in support of Customs and Border Patrol and not actually on the front lines of the border and they'll be given direction by Secretary Mattis and other commanding generals. And so those probably almost certainly will not be the rules of engagement.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: So why is the president, who is the commander in chief, who has then ordered these thousands of troops to the border, why is he saying that?

SHORT: Jim, let's step back for a second, because I think that -- that for a lot of the criticism is accurate, that we should be having more compassion for people trying to come to this country to find a better living and better life. In fact, my first introduction to Mike Pence as I was chief of staff for Kay Bailey Hutchison and we were working together on a guest worker program that provided more opportunities for migrants to come into this country.

At the same time, the president is right in pointing out that our border is porous and that there is -- it is a lawless situation at the border right now and he is using every element he can to draw attention to that because I think it is a stark divide between what Republicans are asking for as far as the tools to secure our border versus what Democrats have had the opportunity to provide and have failed to do. So he is drawing that stark contrast.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. He is to draw that contrast for political message in effect. He is using the organs of government. He said he wants -- already there are more troops at the border than there are in Iraq fighting ISIS. He has raised the idea of raising that to 15,000, which would exceed the number that are in Afghanistan fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban. In your view, is that the correct -- is that a fair -- is that a smart allocation of the U.S. military?

SHORT: I'm not privy to the current national security information. I think that, again, Secretary Mattis will end up making a recommendation about the number of troops that need to be deployed at this point to support the mission that's been outlined. He said it should be about 5,000.

SCIUTTO: Would I -- just like from a reasonable perspective, though, because, as you know, the president is portraying the migrants as a clear and present danger, a deadly danger, rock throwing migrants as a threat that need to be met with deadly force. I mean that is clearly intended to political effect because it's part of a broader message about the immigrants. I'm just asking you as a Republican who served in this White House, is that -- is that a fair -- is that an American message in the year 2018?

SHORT: I'm not convinced that right now the migrant caravan is a clear and present danger, but I am -- I am convinced that the border is not secure. And I am convinced that that is a threat to the United States. And I do believe, you know, you talk about the comments the president said yesterday about changing the asylum laws. The reality is that 10 years ago there were 5,000 asylum claims at the southern border. This year there will be over 100,000 because human traffickers know our laws are so broken that they actually encourage people to come across the border and turn themselves in to Customs and Border Patrol and say I have a credible fear. And they know that puts them in a judicial system that takes more than three years to adjudicate. So the system at our border is absolutely insane, and it needs to be fixed, and the president's trying to draw attention to that.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this question because you saw the job numbers out today shortly before our broadcast, 250,000 jobs in the last month, exceeding expectations. The president has a positive economic message and yet he is spending his time on this message of fear. And the president's a smart politician. I have to imagine that he's doing that because he believes Republicans will not be given credit or the president will not be given credit for the economics, so he needs to go this negative path. Why not focus on economics rather than fear?

SHORT: Well, I think that's half of it, Jim. I think half, you're right, is that there's a sense that the administration won't get credit for how good the economy is, despite, I think, a lot of the regulatory reform and tax policies that I think are a credit for why the economy is doing so well.

But there's another part of it, which is that right now many voters look as to, OK, well, you already solved that problem for me. That doesn't give me a motivation to come out and vote. What is -- what is the next problem you're going to solve? And so I think the administration has chosen to outline this is it and it's one that I think was consistent with this campaign in 2016.

SCIUTTO: Marc Short, thanks very much.

SHORT: Jim, thanks for having me.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Credit, Jim, to the president on this economy. This is an economy he owns right now. And we say it every day right here. [09:34:55] Coming up for us, another Trump cabinet official this morning accused of possibly violating federal rules and reports that the president himself is pretty worried about these allegations, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

Moments from now the man accused of mailing at least 14 pipe bombs to high-profile Democrats and right here to CNN is due in court in Miami. During today's hearing, a federal judge is expected to decide if Cesar Sayoc will stay in jail until trial. The judge could also determine if Sayoc will be transferred to New York, where several of those pipe bombs were sent. He is charged with five federal crimes, faces up to 48 years in prison if convicted.

Also today, Indonesian authorities lifted the wheels off of crashed Lion Airline Flight 610, lifted them out of the Java Sea. Search crews also found an engine turbine. They have not brought that up yet. Authorities are analyzing the flight data recorder. They are still, though, searching for the cockpit voice recorder. All 189 people on board that flight died when it crashed just minutes after takeoff on Monday. Officials say they will have to use DNA to identify the victims because of the conditions of the remains.

[09:40:10] SCIUTTO: Just such a sad story there.

According to "The Washington Post," the president is growing more and more concerned about the misconduct allegations against his Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke. The report says that the president fears Zinke may actually have broken the rules, federal rules, while serving at the agencies. This comes after the Interior's Office of Inspector General referred that investigation into Zinke's behavior over to the Department of Justice to find out if they should conduct a criminal investigation.

Joining us now is CNN politics reporter Lauren Fox.

They don't refer to the Department of Justice for the possibility of a criminal investigation unless they're concerned. And keep in mind, we should note, this is Zinke's own department that has done this.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right. And CNN reported earlier this week that the Department of Justice is looking into Ryan Zinke for any potential misuse of his government office for personal gain.

Now, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the president is very concerned about this. And we should note, this is a marked change. The president of the United States has been very close with Ryan Zinke. They seem to have worked well together in the past. But there's a lot of concern. And while we don't know exactly the full scope of this investigation at the Department of Justice, we do know what the inspector general's office has been looking into. There are a few public probes. And one of them includes questions about whether Ryan Zinke, conversations that he had with David Lesar, the Halliburton chairman, about a project back in his home state of Montana, questions about what Ryan Zinke and that Halliburton chairman talked about when they met at the Department of Interior about that project.

Now, there are also questions about whether or not the boundaries of a Utah national monument were redrawn to benefit a state lawmaker and the IG was also probing whether or not the Interior Department got involved improperly up in Connecticut to block a casino project up there. Now, there's a lot to look into here and we just don't know the full scope of this investigation, but we're seeing that the president is getting concerned. And that's not a great thing for Ryan Zinke right before this midterm election.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it seems a key question is, did he use his office to personally profit from it and the Department of Justice now looking into it.

Lauren Fox, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Yes, a really important question.

All right, so new guests this week on our "Boss Files" podcast. Actress turned activist and entrepreneur Jennifer Garner. So she was raised around generational poverty in West Virginia by a mother who grew up in poverty that has led her to help the children most in need in rural America right now. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER GARNER, CO-FOUNDER, ONCE UPON A FARM: I grew up in West Virginia --

HARLOW: Yes.

GARNER: And really growing up surrounded by generational world poverty and also having a mom who grew up in rural poverty and who benefitted enormously form people giving her a hand up. But I was surrounded by kids growing up who didn't have that same start. And it always seemed really unfair to me.

HARLOW: Yes.

GARNER: So once I was in a position -- which is so strange to find yourself having a bit of a voice -- I hunted down what organization had the most efficacy in rural America, and it was Save the Children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: A fascinating conversation with her. Jim, doing a lot of good work. You can see and hear the full conversation on my "Boss Files" podcast on iTunes today.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: It's a great one. And it's -- a lot of folks didn't know about her.

HARLOW: I didn't know.

SCIUTTO: I'm going to be listening.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: The fiance, and a sad story here, one we've been following for a month now. The fiance of the murdered journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, speaking out again, one month to the day after he vanished inside the Saudi consulate as she waited outside, never to be seen again. She says she will not give up until she gets justice.

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[09:48:19] HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

It is one month today -- one month since the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered when he disappeared walking into the Saudi consulate trying to get papers to marry his fiance. Well, she insists there will be no cover-up over his death. She has written a new "Washington Post" op-ed. Hatice Cengiz says those responsible for his murder can never erase his vision for Saudi Arabia and the U.S. should be leading the fight to bring his killers to justice.

Here's part of her opinion piece. Quote, the Trump administration has taken a position that is devoid of moral foundation. She goes on to write, quote, some in Washington are hoping this matter will be forgotten with simple delay tactics, but we will continue to push the Trump administration to help find justice for Jamal.

SCIUTTO: Keep in mind, the Saudis have admitted that this was a premeditated murder after initially denying that he even was staying in the consulate. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it will take at least a handful more weeks before the U.S. has enough evidence to possibly impose sanctions on the Saudis.

Joining us now to discuss all this is Robert Jordan. He's the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Bush administration, particularly in those crucial weeks and months after 9/11.

Ambassador Jordan, thanks very much for taking the time.

ROBERT JORDAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: So, so far the U.S. has canceled the visas of a number of Saudis whose own government says they are guilty of premeditated murder. The U.S. says, and you heard Pompeo there quoted saying, they still need weeks to establish the evidence here. What message does this send, not just to the Saudis, but to other despots around the world who might carry out killings like this, but also to dissidents who stand up to those despots?

[09:50:03] JORDAN: It's really a terrible message. It's beyond me why we couldn't at least have referred this to the United Nations Security Council, why we couldn't have had a more accelerated pace. I think American intelligence collection capacity is much more robust than the secretary suggests. And I also think that we have learned a great deal from Turkey, which they're continuing to dribble out. But I think there has to be a way for us to gather sufficient evidence much more quickly.

HARLOW: Ambassador, your opinion piece in "The Hill" this week is so important, and everyone should read it. Part of what you write is, quote, American leaders need to remind the Saudis that they need the United States more than the United States needs them.

We did hear Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say yesterday that he thinks sanctions will come. He did say a matter of weeks, but he said, quote, I think we will be able to get there. What kind of sanctions would remind the Saudis of the upper hand that the U.S. has here?

JORDAN: I think part of it a card that Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis are beginning to play, which is to wind down the war in Yemen by withdrawing American support. So they've called for a peace conference within 30 days and a cease-fire under U.N. auspices. I think this is positive and I think it does show they're willing to use some of the leverage that this Khashoggi episode has provided.

I also think we've got leverage in what's called the one, two, three agreement. The Saudis very much want a civilian nuclear program. They need American technology and American licensing to do that. Section one, two, three of one of our pieces of legislation requires American certification on this and I think there's a way for us to use our leverage there. I think we can also use our leverage in terms of these supposed arms deals that are many months if not years out to at least suspend them for the time being until we get more clarification.

HARLOW: But they're not doing it, right, Jim? I mean they haven't done it yet.

SCIUTTO: No, not -- not yet.

I mean another fundamental question here goes to Saudi leadership, because there is a view that the Saudi conference, Mohammad bin Salman, that it would be impossible or extremely unlikely for him not to have known about a plot, a premeditated murder for someone so prominent and who we now understand reportedly told the U.S. was somehow without substantiation an Islamism in sort of justifying this.

Can the U.S. and can this administration continue such a close relationship with the Saudi crown prince in your view?

JORDAN: I think it's going to be increasingly difficult, particularly if you put this in the context of the incarceration of so many people at the Ritz-Carlton last November of the detention of the prime minister of Lebanon. So many other reckless acts on the part of this crown prince. I think we need to send the message. So this is a guy who's going to be very hard for us to work with and he's certainly not burnishing his resume to become king.

HARLOW: You write, ambassador, in this opinion piece about the opportunity that could come from this.

JORDAN: Right. HARLOW: What is that?

JORDAN: Well, I think it's an opportunity for expanded diplomacy. The first thing we need to do is to have an ambassador in Saudi Arabia. We haven't had one for two years, nor in Turkey.

HARLOW: Right.

JORDAN: We have to have hard-nosed diplomacy in their face, constantly reminding them of what our policy goals are and trying to maintain at least some traction in the relationship.

HARLOW: Ambassador Robert Jordan -- oh, go ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No, I was going to say, laws -- it's a month, and we keep emphasizing this.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: It's a month ago today.

JORDAN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: He walked into that consulate. His fiance waiting outside, expectantly, and never sees him again. The Saudis still have not given an answer on the simplest question, where is his body?

Why can't the U.S., if the U.S. is indeed such close allies with the Saudis, us dependent on them in some ways, but them certainly dependent on us, why can't the U.S. get a basic answer to that most basic question? And isn't that fundamentally disrespectful to the alliance that they won't say where this man, who lived in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, where he is right now?

JORDAN: It's incredibly disrespectful. And we need to be doing more than simply telling these murderers that they can no longer come to the U.S. to go to Disneyland. I think this is a -- almost a trivial kind of response right now that needs a much more robust footprint.

HARLOW: That's a very important point.

Ambassador Robert Jordan, we're always grateful when you can join us. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

JORDAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: So the president, four days out from the midterms, stoking fears about immigration. Why isn't he just sticking to the facts? Great facts for him. Like the booming economy.

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[09:59:15] SCIUTTO: In just four days, four days, count them, Americans will sound off at the polls. So what issues are driving you to vote this year? We've been doing this every day pretty much leading up to the election. And here's what first-time voters told us in today's installment of "Why I'm Voting."

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NAOMI CAPLAN, VOTER FROM NORTH CAROLINA: In the year 2016, I didn't have a vote. But now that I do have one, I'm going to use it to put morally just leaders in office.

CHRISTIAN AVCEVEDO, VOTER FROM FLORIDA: I have so many issues that are important to me, like climate change and LGBTQ rights. And it's so important for us to vote for Latino officials that are actually going to push our country in a direction that's more sustainable.

ZANAGEE ARTIS, VOTER FROM RHODE ISLAND: I'll be looking at who's receiving money from corporate PACs and from the fossil fuel industry, who's fighting against the fossil fuel infrastructure.

[09:59:58] EVE LEVENSON, VOTER FROM CALIFORNIA: On November 6th, I'm voting for women's rights because I want all girls and women and all people to have (INAUDIBLE) access to education, jobs and affordable health care.