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British P.M. Theresa May's Future Hangs in Balance over Brexit Plan; Saudi Prosecutor Calls for 5 to be Executed for Journalist's Murder; Cruz & O'Rourke Cross Paths at Airport, Pose for Photo; Facebook CEO: "Simple Untrue" Not Interested in Truth on Russia Meddling; Deadline for Florida Counties to Report Vote Tally Soon; At Least 58 Killed, 300 Missing in California Wildfires As 3rd Fire Starts. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired November 15, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Three hours in parliament today. Let's pause to see how some of those three hours went in parliament. Take a look at this.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Sure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, what we agreed to yesterday of not the final deal. It is a draft treaty --
MAY: -- that means we will leave the E.U. in a smooth and orderly way --
MAY: -- by 2019.
MAY: And which sets the framework for a future relationship that delivers in our national interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: I don't think any of us have seen a prime minister go through three hours like that. Utterly bruising. M.P.s asking her to step down, for extensions in the Brexit deal, for a second referendum. She just said, no, no, no, to all of it. On her part, on her track -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: As you said, that vote would just require 48 letters and then obviously the situation would change.
Nic Robertson, thank you very much for now, in London for us.
Meantime, Saudi Arabia admitting today that Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was tied up, injected with some sort of deadly sedative and then his body was dismembered. Prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 charged with his killing last month in Istanbul. Khashoggi served as a "Washington Post" contributor and a frequent critic of the Saudi monarchy. All of this coming just after the U.S. sanctioned 17 Saudi officials in response to Khashoggi's killing. The Saudis today, again, insisting the country's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, had absolutely nothing to do with what they refer to as the rogue operation.
With me now, CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, who has done extensive reporting out Turkey on this.
Clarissa, let's remember how this began. The Saudi government denied any involvement and initially said, oh, he had just walked out the back door of the consulate. Now they're saying this. Is this just their ultimate cover story?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's just incredible, Brooke, because the story keeps changing. With every iteration, there's another detail. I think the Saudis are clearly trying to give the illusion of due process, the illusion of transparency, but honestly, the more they reveal, the more complicated and confusing this comes. We're supposed to believe these 15 men flew over at the behest of the deputy's office with no knowledge of the crown prince himself, that the operation was only to try to interview and persuade Jamal Khashoggi to come back to Saudi Arabia, but if he didn't agree, there was a plan B to smuggle him to a safe house and send him back to Saudi Arabia. Once he got into the room, things quickly headed south. There was no sense Jamal Khashoggi was going to quickly go anywhere with him. At which point they say one man -- they don't name him -- unilaterally decided let's kill him. He was injected with a sedative, he was carved into little pieces and the pieces of his body handed to a local corroborator, who they say they can't name, and buried in a place where Turkish officials are still waiting to find out where that place is.
So many confusions here, Brooke. Who ordered this, being the obvious one because I don't think many people are going to really believe it's possible that an operation of this magnitude and seriousness and taking place in Turkey could have happened without the knowledge of the very, very highest heights of power. But to the point, how are we going to believe this idea they were just going to interview him when they came with a doctor, when they came with some kind of materials to dismember the body once he had been killed. It seems with every attempt to make the story clearer, in fact, what they're doing is to make it much more confusing -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: To your point off the top about this illusion of justice, right, you have the 11 suspects indicted, five of whom could face the death penalty. You have the Saudis, you have Trump, this White House. They can say, see, justice was served. And at the end of the day, Clarissa, despite all of this, MbS will still be the crown prince, won't he?
WARD: He will. I don't see any indication based on the conversations that I am having not just with people within the kingdom but with allies of the kingdom internationally. I don't see any indication there's appetite to further escalate this. There's a sense among sort of various diplomats that perhaps the crown prince has learned something from this, perhaps his wings have been clipped, perhaps he has been warned by his father, who is the ultimate arbiter of power in the kingdom, and that nothing like this will happen again. The Saudis have made a concerted effort, at least superficially, to show they're going through the motions of carrying out due process, having a judiciary review of the intelligence services, taking public relations opportunities to go and very publicly visit with Jamal Khashoggi's sons. There's a sense that everybody would like to forget about this and move on, but there are others, particularly Turkey, who feel that's unacceptable, that's it's inexcusable, that they want more answers, that they want to know where that body is, that they want to know who the local collaborator is. As much as the Saudis would like for this to go away, it may not totally disappear just yet -- Brooke?
[14:35:34] BALDWIN: Not just Turkey but his own family.
Clarissa Ward, thank you for all of that. Good to see you.
Coming up, we are closing in on the deadline in Florida, 25 minutes away here. All 67 counties are supposed to submit their recount totals by 3:00 Eastern time in the races for governor and U.S. Senate. We have crews on standby for those results, updates and numbers.
Also ahead, former rivals united at least for a brief moment at the airport. The story behind this stunning photo as Senator Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke cross paths at the airport in Texas.
Back in a moment.
[14:40:17] BALDWIN: Bitter rivals, political enemies reunited at the airport. I want to show you this picture here in second. Backstory, a young woman waiting to catch a flight from Houston to D.C. suddenly realizes Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz are on her flight. By the way, she sees these two men greet one another for the first time since the election and convincing them to pose for a group shot. Now take a look with me. We'll show you this picture.
This is Texas A&M student, Tiffany Easter. She's studying at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. She watched this chance encounter just eight days after Cruz won reelection to the Senate.
Tiffany Easter with me now live from Washington, D.C.
Tiffany, this is wild. Set the scene for me. Who saw whom first and who made the first move?
TIFFANY EASTER, STUDENT, TEXAS A&M BUSH SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT & PUBLIC SERVICE: I was sitting down with my best friend, Carrie Wineman (ph). She looked at me and said, I think that's Ted Cruz. I said, no way. I looked up and the guy sitting next to her said, you all are not going to believe this, but I believe that's Beto over there. We said, no way, not a chance. So he gets up and walks over there, starts talking to this guy. They're walking towards us. It is Beto. Beto walks around to the other side where Cruz is. He stands up, shakes his hand and says, hey, congratulations on reelection. Just I wanted to say that. If there's anything else I can do to help in the future, please let me know. Cruz responded in the same way. And we all just kind of sat there and thought, this isn't happening. Then they got done chatting. We asked if they would take a picture with us. They were both more than happy to do so. We chatted a little bit with them about who we are and what they were doing. It was short and sweet but incredible.
BALDWIN: So hang on. So it's Beto who goes to Ted Cruz. He approaches Senator Cruz.
BALDWIN: They strike up this conversation. You're close enough to kind of efficiency drop eavesdrop?
EASTER: Yes, ma'am.
BALDWIN: No need to ma'am. My goodness, that makes me feel old.
So when you're hearing this whole notion of how they're saying they want to work together, do you believe them?
EASTER: I choose to believe them. I study at the Bush School of Government. My classmates and I talk all the time about bipartisanship and working together. I think we, as Americans, and we, as humans, in general, are enticed by drama but when we choose to believe this interaction was genuine, and from all accounts of everybody watching, it was, I think that's incredible. A simple three-minute conversation and a photo has sparked so much positivity. I think it echoes what America is craving, which is positively, bipartisan. I choose to believe it and expect the best from both of them.
BALDWIN: Was there anything that either Beto O'Rourke or Ted Cruz said to you that you want to share with the rest of the country?
EASTER: We just talked to them, told them where we were studying and what we were doing. What I wanted to tell them was thank you for engaging Texas in such a high-profile election and getting out all the people to come vote. At the Bush School, we did a campaign of registering people to vote. And because of what they did, because of their public service, they inspired all of that. So really I wanted to tell them thank you. And I think they were both kind of appreciative and will little bit shocked by the positive engagement as well.
BALDWIN: With your degree in government or politics, do you want to step your big toe into Washington? What do you want to do?
EASTER: You know, public service is the goal. Whatever route that leads to at the end, my goal in my career is to know the people of this country and to serve them well. You know, whatever line that means stepping across serving the people, whether it be Democrat, Republican, independent, whatever that is, that's the goal, just to serve the people of America because they deserve good public service.
BALDWIN: Amen to that.
Tiffany Easter, you have the photo of the day, photo of the week.
EASTER: Yes, ma'am.
BALDWIN: Thank you so much. Now get back to that conference in Washington, D.C. Thank you so much.
EASTER: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.
[14:44:45] BALDWIN: Just in here to CNN, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responding to a damning "New York Times" report questioning how the social media giant handled the crisis over Russian interference and when it actually knew about the Russian meddling.
Also, Florida, Florida, Florida. Moments ago, a federal judge denied this motion to delay the deadline today. The deadline is 15 minutes from now. They wanted more time, worries about getting all those numbers and recounts in, specifically in Palm Beach County. What we will learn in 15 minutes.
Stay right here. You're watching CNN.
[14:49:48] BALDWIN: Facebook on the defense of today, firing a conservative public relations firm it had hired, among other things, to just dig up dirt on its competitors. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling claims it's not interested in knowing the truth on Russian disinformation, quote, "simply untrue." All of this after this damning the "New York Times" report about how Facebook has handled its bad P.R., Russia meddling to data privacy infractions. "The Time'" headline, "Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook's Leader Fought Through Crisis."
Not only does it claim that Facebook knew about the Russian election interference as early as the spring of 2016, it also suggests the social media giant hired a P.R. firm to redirect the blame.
With me now, CNN Business senior technology correspondent, Laurie Segall.
What is Facebook's response?
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've put out a posting that there are a bunch of different inaccuracies. Right before I came on, there was a call with Mark Zuckerberg and reporters. He pushed back this idea that Facebook discouraged their former security officer from looking into Russian activity. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK (voice-over): I said many times before that we were too slow to spot Russian interference, too slow to get on top of it, and we certainly stumbled along the way. But to suggest that we weren't interested in knowing the truth or that we wanted to hide what we knew or that we tried to prevent investigations is simply untrue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEGALL: This is one of many claims in this damning report. Alex Stamos, he's left the company. He tweeted that Facebook had encountered an unprecedented situation. He said he was never told by Mark or Sheryl not to investigate.
I can tell you this. Sources have said to me that he wanted to be more vocal at the time when he discovered Russian influence. He was able to put out a transparency paper. But if you look back at that first transparency paper where they talked about the influence, there was no mention of Russia at the time. That mention was taken out. I think a lot of these details are beginning to emerge.
BALDWIN: You landed the big Mark Zuckerberg interview. You are the one entrenched in Silicon Valley doing this entire documentary about Facebook the last couple of months. What did you hear? What is it that we aren't seeing?
SEGALL: It's a good question. I think, look, there's some things you notice. I sat in on a content meeting at Facebook, which was fascinating to hear engineers -- imagine a small room, a table like our editorial meeting at CNN, where you have about ten people looking at content and deciding whether or not it should stay up. I remember thinking this is fascinating, who are these people to be making these editorial decisions. And there's a fine line between hate speech and free speech. These decisions being made behind closed doors are getting the company into trouble. The company doesn't want to be in this position. Also, this is coming at a time where Facebook is very concerned about having a liberal bias, appearing to bias in one direction, when they have to play nice with the government. You have imminent regulation coming. You have people calling to break up Facebook. You have people upset on all sides. It's a very delicate time.
I'll tell you something else. A lot of folks, Brooke, having talked to a lot of my sources in Silicon Valley, have things they want to say about Facebook, are worried about some of the power and control, and they are simply too afraid to say it. They say it could ruin their jobs. The company is simply too influential. And these are big folks saying these things kind of behind closed doors in Silicon Valley at the dinner tables.
BALDWIN: Facebook is just that powerful.
SEGALL: Absolutely. BALDWIN: It's just that powerful.
Laurie Segall, I look forward to seeing that.
SEGALL: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you very much.
Breaking news, two major races hang in the balance in Florida. And in seven minutes, the recount deadline is here. What happens? We'll all find out together.
And new developments on the devastation in California. The death toll now at nearly 60. Here's another number. More than 300 people are just unaccounted for. How is that possible? Who are they? What are they doing to reunite them, to find them? Next.
[14:58:21] BALDWIN: It has been one week since two fires scorching California, the deadliest of the two being the Camp Fire in the northern town in the northern California, town of Paradise. And 56 people have died, hundreds more are reported missing. In the south, the Woolsey Fire is nearly 60 percent under control. But just north of it, another brushfire, the Briggs Fire, that broke out today. Fire officials say it's not threatening any homes as of now.
Our Nick Watt is live near the L.A./Ventura county line.
Nick, I want to highlight, we were talking to the American Red Cross crews there yesterday about this, the number of unaccounted for is 301 from the Camp Fire area. Are those people -- what are they doing to find them?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Brooke, that number may well drop. There may be duplicates. Some of those people may just have fled and no one can communicate with them. But the death toll is, I'm afraid to say, almost certainly going to rise. What they're doing to try and identify those bodies is, frankly, gruesome and grim. They've got anthropologists searching through destroyed structures because the intensity of this fire was so great, unless you're trained, you may not be able to identify what is a human body, what are human remains and what are not. They're also asking relatives of people on that missing list to provide DNA samples to try and help them identify those human remains.
I want to talk to you a little about this. This is Calabasas. This is what California face. Wildfires from the top of that ridge to this house in two or three minutes. The winds have been so strong causing this devastation.
Brooke, back to you.
BALDWIN: Nick Watt, thank you, in Calabasas.
[15:00:08] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.