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Saudi Prosecutor Calls for 5 to be Executed for Journalist's Murder; Christian's Fate in Balance after Death Sentence Overturned; NYT: Schumer Ran Interference for Facebook While Senate Investigated False Information During Election; Death Toll & Number of Missing Rise in California Fires; Deadline Soon for Florida Counties to Report Recounts; Critics Cheer as Domestic Abuse Charges Levelled Against Michael Avenatti. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 15, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:31:25] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Placing blame for the murder of a "Washington Post" journalist, a prosecutor in Saudi Arabia now says the country's former deputy intelligence chief planned the entire thing. He said they were supposed to bring Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from Turkey, whether he wanted to go or not. But they were prepared to murder Khashoggi and dispose of the body. Right now, the prosecutor is calling for the death penalty for five of the 11 people arrested in the investigation. He also cleared Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of any role in the operation, but there are many who doubt that. And there are unanswered questions, like where is the body. Also, Turkey wants the suspects tried in their country where the murder took place.
Here with me now is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. He's a Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also on the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Sir, you have said these Saudi stories have been an insult to the United States. And we saw that the Treasury Department sanctioned these 17 individuals involved in Jamal Khashoggi's murder. Is that enough or is the president being soft on Saudi Arabia?
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: I think it's doubtful that in an authoritarian regime like Saudi Arabia that anything happened without the crown prince's support. I think the crown prince in all likelihood did know of this and probably directed it.
But I've been more concerned not just about the killing of the dissident, but I've also been concerned about Saudi Arabia's indiscriminate bombing in Yemen and our participation supporting Saudi Arabia in Yemen. I have been pushing very hard to say we should quit selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Sanctioning people who are already in jail is like pretending to do something, because if you sanction them, they're already in jail, five of them are death row, do you think they really care if they've been sanctions? Saudi Arabia cares about the weapons and I also think Saudi Arabia's air force would not fly without replacement parts and mechanics and training for their pilots from the United States. You stop that, you stop the war in Yemen. KEILAR: Arms sales to Bahrain, a major ally of Saudi Arabia's in the
war in Yemen. You have legislation. This is something you want to push to cut off that source for Saudi Arabia. According to our reporting here at CNN, it's not expected to get through the Senate. What can you do when you have a White House who is reticent to even criticize Saudi Arabia over the death of this journalist?
PAUL: People talk about checks and balances, and under the Constitution, we really are supposed to be the ones who declare war, Congress is. We're supposed to be very, very involved. And we've abdicated that power, not just to this president, but to the previous president as well. The war in Yemen began under the previous administration and has been supported by both administrations. Yet, we have the ability to stop it at any moment. When I forced the vote today, we did lose the vote because people are sort of afraid of their own shadow, like, oh, no, Bahrain will be upset. My point is Bahrain will get the message that we are serious. Stop bombing civilians.
Here's the problem. Pompeo said about three weeks ago that Saudi Arabia and the coalition needs to stop bombing civilian centers. In the last two weeks, the Saudis have bombed 200 times in Hodada, which is the city and the port where most of the humanitarian aid needs to come in. So food can't get in because the Saudis are still bombing civilians, even though we told them not to. So I think we need to send them a stronger message, and that's no arms.
KEILAR: I want to talk about an issue that has gotten a lot of attention internationally. That is Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in Pakistan, who -- this all started when she drank out of a communal cup, and because of some vestiges of a caste system that dictated she should have waited until he neighbors, who happened to be Muslim, drank before her. This turned into an altercation that ended up with her facing blasphemy charges and then on death row for eight years. The court is going to make a final ruling on her freedom in the next few days. You have been spearheading some efforts on this. What do you want to the see here?
[13:35:20] PAUL: I have been fighting for them to free Asia Bibi. I've talked to the president about granting her asylum and refugee status here. I'm interested in talking to religious leader in our country who will raise money to support her and her family to come over here. I'm worried that she is going to be killed. They are throwing it back to a lower court. There will probably have to be another trial. They will probably convict her again. She goes through all of that -- she's already spent eight years in prison on death row, which has to be a horrific experience. I'm worried that she won't survive.
The governor of her province visited her in prison early on just to be sympathetic that we shouldn't put people to death for so-called blasphemy, and they shot him. This is a crazy intolerance that we have to do better off. Many of the faith of Islam are tolerant people and good people. But the ones who are teaching hatred of Christians, of Hindus, of Jews, we've got to do better. Really, some of it needs to come from the Islamic world. Pakistan needs to say, gosh, we are not going to kill Christians. I mean, this is absurd. KEILAR: But Pakistan --
PAUL And so I don't know we're going to do but we should let her come to our country.
KEILAR: Pakistan is another country that the U.S. has this sort of somewhat tenuous -- is a tenuous ally of the U.S. because it provides assistance in the region. With that in mind, and with the significance of Pakistan to this White House, do you think you have any sympathy from the president? Do you think this can really go somewhere?
PAUL: I think with Asia Bibi, I do. I think he's concerned about Christians that are oppressed around the world.
KEILAR: Have you talked to him?
PAUL: I have talked to the president about this.
PAUL: And I can't characterize his position, but I know from his concern for the pastor in Turkey and working to get that pastor out that it would be consistent with what they did with the pastor in Turkey to help get Asia Bibi out. And I hope they will. But I will tell you that there's a bipartisan consensus around here that is very dangerous to the country. People say we want you to compromise, but we have been compromising on foreign policy, and the compromise is we always sent weapons to everybody because we say, oh, it's the lesser of two evils. We like Pakistan because they help us sometimes in Afghanistan. They always sometimes hurt us because they fund the opposition and they fund people who actually attack us. I think we should stop selling arms to people who are not our friends. It doesn't mean we have to fight Pakistan in a war, but it means we shouldn't be aiding and abetting the things they do. The same goes with Saudi Arabia.
KEILAR: The "New York Times" is reporting that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ran interference on behalf of Facebook as the Senate was investigating the company for its propagation of false information during the election. "The Times" says that Schumer encouraged other Senate Democrats not to vilify Facebook, including Senator Warner, the top Democrat on Intel. We just spoke with your colleague, Senator Hirono, who said she did not receive a message like this from Chuck Schumer. But nonetheless, do you think this is appropriate?
PAUL: The whole Facebook thing presents a conundrum to us. It's a privately owned company and, most of the time, conservatives, we don't want to overregulate private businesses, but they do have a monopoly on this sort of social exchange of speech. What I've been saying for a while is we need to look at the barriers to entry the government might be creating and see if we can allow other companies to spring up. Not the government starting other companies but the government getting out of the way to allow competition with Facebook. I think if it gets so bad that they don't allow conservative view points on Facebook, I think you will get to a point where people will leave in droves and go to others. I think people already are. If Facebook wants to continue to make money, and they make lots of it, I would suggest to them they really advocate to let conservative opinions and not to somehow censor conservative opinions. If they become so politically correct that any kind of conservative opinion is unacceptable, if you are opposed to open borders or something, that's somehow hate speech of something, we will live in a world where people are eventually going to have to go somewhere else to communicate.
KEILAR: Real quick, before I let you go, Chuck Schumer doing that does not bother you?
PAUL: Well, no, I mean, people are always -- there's always political shenanigans going on up here. And he may have done that. To me, it's the bigger picture of what do we do about Facebook. Is there a governmental role? I don't like the government telling companies what to do, so I'm not in favor of breaking up Facebook or telling them what to do. But also, as a conservative, or a limited-government person, or a Libertarian, I am offended by the fact that my speech is being censored somehow or could be censored by Facebook. Facebook, if they want to keep making money, they will have to convince conservatives they are not the enemy.
KEILAR: Senator Rand Paul, thank you, sir. Really appreciate you being on.
PAUL: Thank you.
[13:39:57] KEILAR: More than 300 unaccounted for, nearly 60 are dead, and now another brush fire has erupted in California. We have a live report on the ground.
And it all comes down to this. We are just over an hour away from the recount deadline in Florida. These pictures are live for you as we look to see what the decision is in the fate of two crucial races.
KEILAR: The devastation in California continues. At least 58 people have died and more than 300 are still unaccounted for, and no sign of relief in sight. In Ventura County, firefighters are tackling another brush fire, near Santa Paula, north of the Woolsey Fire.
CNN's Scott McLean is in Chico, a town in northern California not far from the Camp Fire.
Scott, more than300,000 residents have been displaced, so many of them very close to where you are. Tell us about it.
[13:45:29] SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, when you have an exodus of an entire city, Paradise, where more than 20,000 people lived, en masse, you end up with scenes like this. Tent cities and people setting up trailers and sleeping in their cars. Yes, there are shelters, but many are full. They are not very comfortable for people to go to, especially if you are a family. There are hotels in the area, but good luck finding a room and being able to afford one, considering all of the demand at this point. You ended up with a lot of people staying in their cars or tents. It's not just able-bodied young men here. We have talked to families staying in their cars. One family had a 7-year-old girl still coping with the loss of her house a couple of days ago. Now, all of a sudden, staying in her car. Another family had a 9-year-old boy who was near tears thinking about his house. He said all he really wanted was to sleep in his own bed. That is not going to happen for a lot of people for quite a while -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Scott, that is heartbreaking, especially for the kids.
Scott McLean, thank you for that report from Chico.
Politicizing domestic abuse. As charges are levelled against Michael Avenatti, his critics cheer on the news. S.E. Cupp is here to call them out.
A chance encounter at the Houston airport as former rivals meet for the first time since a highly contentious election. We will speak with a woman who got Senator Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke to take a photo together.
[13:51:32] KEILAR: Attorney Michael Avenatti is adamantly denying any wrongdoing after his arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence. He posted $50,000 bail last night as he exited the station. He told the reporters, quote, "I have never struck a woman. I never will strike a woman."
It's unclear who made the complaint against him. We do know it was not his estranged wife.
Avenatti rose to fame earlier this year while representing pornographic actress, Stormy Daniels, in her battle against President Trump.
We have CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," S.E. Cupp herself, joining me now.
S.E., your tweet caught our eye. You said, "I hate to be a wet blanket, but if this Avenatti story is true, it is no reason to dunk or high five. There's a victim at its center who likely doesn't care about the political chess pieces but carry on."
The idea of the victim getting lost in this, even from people who normally you would think are tuned into that.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED": Yes. Michael Avenatti is kind of a villain, pretty well disliked on both sides of the aisle. When this revelation came out, you saw a lot of people, conservatives, liberals, generalists, sort of dunking on the Avenatti getting his, sort of the comeuppance of Michael Avenatti. I thought that's really gross because somewhere in this story there's a victim. We don't even know who she is yet. At the very least, we should feel very badly that some woman potentially got beat up in this. But he's so polarizing we sort of naturally go to, you know, go to hating on him for political reasons or just because we tend to dislike him. But we should keep focused on the real story here, which isn't Trump, which isn't Stormy, which isn't CNN. It's the woman at the center of this and whether or not she was the victim of abuse.
KEILAR: I also wonder if, more peripherally, there were other victims that Michael Avenatti has represented women, including women with credible stories. And I wonder if it undercuts those stories when he is caught up in something like this.
CUPP: Look, from my perspective, and I've been an early and often opponent of Michael Avenatti, because it just seems like he is his own most important client, and he is exploiting women like Stormy Daniels and Julie Swetnick for his own political gain. But at the heart of what he is doing, in his own words, is supporting women who have been taken advantage of. That is on its face a very noble project and more people should be doing it. But for a guy who bullies reporters, he's called me a hack, he's gone after Meghan Kelly. He doesn't always treat women very well. This recent allegation -- we don't know if it's true -- but this recent allegation and arrest certainly would imperil future clients, even current clients, who are looking to him to represent them as women, as victims.
[13:55:04] KEILAR: S.E., we do appreciate your insight.
Do not miss "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. on CNN.
In one hour, the clock stops and all 67 counties in Florida must submit their recount totals under way in these live pictures. Stay with us for breaking news.
And West Wing drama. Why President Trump is seething with anger.