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House Dems Mounting Fight to Protect Mueller; Trump Facing Criticism on France Trip; U.S. Will Hold Khashoggi's Killer Accountable. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 12, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:57] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning, top Democrats in Congress are warning President Trump's pick for acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, recuse yourself from the Russia Mueller probe or expect to be investigated. Listen.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), RANKING MEMBER OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Our very first witness on -- after January 3rd, we will -- we will subpoena Mr. -- or we will summon, if necessary, subpoena Mr. Whitaker.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER OF THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If he doesn't recuse himself, if he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russian probe, we are going to find out whether he made commitments to the president about the probe. Mr. Whitaker needs to understand that he will be called to answer, and any role that he plays will be exposed to the public.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Whitaker has criticized the special counsel multiple times in the past in public, which has key Democrats signaling that they may tie legislation to protect Mueller to a future spending bill, a move that could potentially trigger a government shutdown.

Joining us now is Shan Wu. He's a CNN legal analyst.

So first, Shan, on the law, just so folks understand, myself as a layman, do public comments by an official pre-appointment like this, do they create a legal justification for recusal? I mean he wrote on CNN. He made other public comments criticizing the Mueller investigation. Is that legally relevant?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, a great question. I think that's a little bit of a gray area. This is very different than the reason that Sessions had to recuse himself. His comments here certainly make him look biased. But the particular regulation, the CFR regulation that governs the recusal that Sessions invoked, goes to whether a Justice Department employee has a personal or political relationship with an entity or person under investigation. And that's arguably implicated here. And normally he would recuse.

I mean these sorts of recusals are usually done very quietly outside of the spotlight, mostly because the department and the higher ups want to preserve the integrity and the public appearance of the department. They don't want to have a lot of attention called to what conflict there might be. So it's usually done very quietly. People err on the side of recusal.

Sessions was in a very different position. I mean two things. One, he was a surrogate for the campaign. The campaign was being investigated. And, two, really, he arguably made a false statement during his confirmation hearings.


WU: I mean he denied having an connect -- any meetings with the Russians. So it's very, very different. But no question that he looks very biased here and no question that if I were advising him, you know, if I was counsel to this AG, I would tell him it would be a good idea to recuse.

HARLOW: Yes, I would not hold your breath on that one.

Senator Chuck Schumer said to Jake Tapper yesterday, look, it's a constitutional crisis, his words, if Whitaker doesn't recuse himself. But if you look back, a long time ago, 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Eaton that indeed a temporary appointment to a primary position, a principle office like this, is constitutional if the person has served in that office for 90 days, which Whitaker has. So, is it a constitutional crisis?

[09:35:00] WU: I don't think so. There's some very well respected legal experts who have weighed in saying that they think this is an unconstitutional appointment. I don't agree. I mean when I was in the department, there were numerous instances where we had temporary acting people, sometimes staff people, if the attorney general was traveling or that, you know, the deputy was unavailable.

I think so long as the duration is properly limited, that should be OK. I mean I think it raises some interesting questions, but I don't think that it's an unconstitutional appointment. But if it became an attempt to declare let's say by presidential proclamation that he is the AG, I think that would definitely be problematic.

SCIUTTO: Final question, before I let you go, how long can he serve, Whitaker, before he would require Senate approval?

WU: I believe that the time is around 200 days. I'm not 100 percent clear on the exact amount of time. But the duration needs to be limited. And I think one problem is that they have not been talking about it being a limited duration and they need to quickly say, this is an acting situation and we're going to get a nominee in place.

SCIUTTO: Because, I should note, that a lot could happen in the Mueller investigation during those days.

HARLOW: In 210 days.

WU: Yes.

SCIUTTO: During the time in which Whitaker is overseeing it, and has a lot of power to limit what Mueller could do.

WU: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Shan Wu, thanks very much, as always.

WU: Good to see you.

HARLOW: All right, so ahead for us, a clash over nationalism. A key ally, the president of France, rebuking President Trump on the world stage.


[09:40:30] SCIUTTO: The president is back home this morning and facing criticism over his trip to France to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War I.

HARLOW: Also, French President Emmanuel Macron really appearing to rebuke President Trump in person on the national state this weekend because of the president's embrace of nationalism. As President Trump looked on, listen to what Macron said.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism, by saying our interests first, who cares about the others? We erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it grace and what is essential, its moral values.


SCIUTTO: David Sanger now, CNN political and national security analyst, almost happens to be the national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

So, David, for the French president to use those words yards from the U.S. president, to criticize nationalism in no uncertain terms, days after the president called himself a nationalist, is there any way that the president could not take those words as directed at him?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, they were directed at him. If the president took it that way, he took it accurately. And it's why that, you know, he always shows up at summits like this as if -- looking as if he's going to a high school reunion with classmates he didn't really like, right?

So you saw this throughout the weekend. So the Macron critique was two-fold. One, it was the use of the word nationalism and basically he made the argument that the bigger form of patriotism was to understand your nation's interest as interlinked with the interest of other nations as well. And in many ways that's what the entire weekend was about, right? I mean if you're going to do a 100th anniversary of the end of the great war, as it was called, you want to spend your time thinking about the mistakes made that led the world to that tragedy. And the mistakes made all had to do with just an overzealousness of nationalism. Followed after World War I by overzealous isolationism by the United States. And I think that was part of the message, too.

HARLOW: Do you think, David, that the 44 hours that President Trump spent there in Paris with world leaders did more to bolster the transatlantic partnership or more to just further expose its cracks? I mean regardless of talking points from either side when you really look at it, what did we get?

SANGER: Poppy, you got a graphic on television illustration of what we've all heard from talking to European leaders and even Americans who deal with Europeans, that a president who perhaps, for perfectly legitimate reasons of weather, didn't show up at the first cemetery commemoration. His staff managed to find a way to do that, and even if they had to drive. You had a moment where all the leaders were supposed to be coming down to the Arch of Triumph together. Only two showed up late, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. So that sort of sent a message.


SANGER: And these are highly coordinated events and all it just seemed to do was illustrate the splits.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. I'm sure you hear -- you speak to European diplomats, national security officials. I will ask them, you know, I'll say, how does that public tension affect the private relationship, intelligence sharing behind the scenes, defense cooperation, et cetera? And they will tend to say, listen, you know, relationship is strong as ever at this level. Is that true from what you hear and is it possible for that to last when the commander in chief and the president of France are clearly on such different pages? How do those relationships stay so strong?

SANGER: It's a difficult thing to nurture. And, Jim, you know from your time here in Washington covering this same area, that the professionals say that they've built up their own relationships and they're there to work with each other no matter who the president is. And much of the intelligence community, and much of the diplomatic community, they're made of career people who know that they will be here after Donald Trump is no longer president, and after Macron is no longer president and they sort of build up their business.

[09:45:07] On the other hand, what's happening at the top has got a corrosive effect. I'll give you a -- one clear example. The president's announcement with no notification to the Europeans or no consultation, I should say, that he was going to withdrawal from the INF treating, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, they felt, put the Europeans in the Russian target set here without having consulted with the. And that is deeply corrosive now. Though we now know the president's likely to take that up with Putin when they meet in Argentina. SCIUTTO: They're the target of those medium and short-range missiles.

SANGER: That's right.

SCIUTTO: It's natural for them to be afraid of them.

David Sanger, thanks very much.

HARLOW: And, David, great piece this morning in "The Times." We didn't have time to get to it but everyone should read your most recent reporting on North Korea and their ramping up on the ballistic missiles program. Thanks for being with us.

HARLOW: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning Saudi Arabia's crown prince the U.S. will make sure that journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killers are held accountable. How will they do that? It's been more than a month. Ahead.


[09:50:37] SCIUTTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's warning to Saudi Arabia that the U.S. will hold everyone involved in the brutal killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi accountable. Riyadh insists that the crown prince knew nothing about the operation to target and kill the journalist. U.S. officials have said such a mission could not have occurred without the prince's knowledge and authorization.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh join us now live from Istanbul.

Jomana, this is a remarkable development that friends of Khashoggi, along with the Arab Turkish Media Association, they want to buy the Saudi consul general's residence where this murder is believed to have happened. Tell us how this is happening.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we attended a memorial yesterday marking 40 days since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. And we heard from his friends there. And there is the sense they're really starting to lose hope that this body is ever going to be found, especially with that theory that Turkish authorities are looking into that acid was used to dissolve his body. So one friend was saying that they have started this idea, this initiative where they're collecting money to buy the residence of the consul general. They say that they've been deprived of the ability to stand at Khashoggi's grave, so instead they want to turn that building into a memorial of sorts. And so they say that they have begun doing so, that they are collecting money, donations, to try and do that.

Now, of course, Jim, we still don't know -- we've heard from Turkish authorities here saying they are continuing their search for the body, for the remains of Jamal Khashoggi, a determination, at least publicly, from Turkey to continue on this path. And we've heard the statements from President Erdogan this weekend saying that they have shared the evidence, recordings of the killing of Khashoggi, with the United States, with several European countries. Pretty much putting the ball in the court of those countries right now to really now put the pressure on Saudi Arabia to try and get answers and to try and really, you know, get to the bottom of this and to hold those responsible for the killing accountable. Something Turkey has been really pushing for and so far they say they're extremely frustrated with the lack of cooperation from the Saudis.

SCIUTTO: Jomana Karadsheh, thank you.

And we're also learning that the family is going to attempt to hold a funeral this week, even though they have not been able to find the body.

HARLOW: All right, so this morning Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has not, but Canadian agents have indeed heard the recordings that are related to Khashoggi's murder. When I sat down with him for a wide-ranging interview I asked him, so then what will Canada do to hold Saudi Arabia accountable. Listen.


HARLOW: Canada has a $15 billion deal to sell light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia. You said last month Canadians expect there to be consequences for Jamal Khashoggi's premeditated murder. Will Canada cancel its arms sales to the Saudis?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have been working with -- with the international community to try and get answers on the -- on the terrible murder of Khashoggi. This is something that the entire world is outraged about. And we are demanding answers on it. But I -- I will point out that Canada has been in conflict with Saudi Arabia at a diplomatic level for a few months now --


TRUDEAU: Because we put out a statement condemning the arrest of a number of pro-democracy, pro-woman activists in Saudi Arabia. We will continue to stand up firmly for human rights, while at the same time looking for ways to be more transparent and more accountable in the economic choices.


SCIUTTO: Well, he wouldn't answer the question, right, about arm sales, yes.

HARLOW: I asked him more. You can see that online on that issue. But just like the United States, I mean, where is the line and what action will be taken?

SCIUTTO: And you, frankly, had silence from the U.S., largely, at least on the issue of the larger relationship and arms sales.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes. Yes.

SCIUTTO: More to come on that certainly.

Meanwhile, here at home, former First Lady Michelle Obama on the day that President Trump was sworn into office, she says what she was really thinking.


[09:59:13] SCIUTTO: Do you wander what Michelle Obama was thinking on President Trump's Inauguration Day? She tells all in her new book "Becoming." She says this might not surprise you. She couldn't even try to be happy that day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On January 20, 2017, the nation watched the peaceful transition of power from President Obama to President Trump. Mrs. Obama, in her own words, describes coming to terms with the new reality before her.

[09:59:43] MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: The vibrant diversity of the two previous inaugurations was gone. Someone from Barack's administration might have said that the optics there were bad. That what the public saw didn't reflect the president's reality or ideas. But in this case, maybe it did. Realizing it, I made my own optic adjustment. I stopped even trying