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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Federal Judge Rules Against Trump Administration, Orders Jim Acosta's Press Pass to be Returned; President Trump Says He Wrote Answers to Mueller's Questions, Not Lawyers; CIA Concludes Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Jamal Khashoggi's Assassination; NY Times: President Trump Asking Aides If Pence Is Loyal; 63 Dead, More Than 600 Missing In California Fire.. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired November 16, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:03] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Let's go back to work.
John Berman here sitting in for Anderson.
That's what our Jim Acosta said today after a federal judge, a Trump appointee, by the way, directed the White House to reinstate his press pass. It's a good choice of words. The work is the most important thing -- asking questions, holding elected officials accountable, keeping them honest, no matter who's got the microphone, no matter who is in the White House.
But it's this particular administration's words and actions that have sparked such concern. It's why so many other news organizations supported CNN when the White House did what it did with Jim's credentials. And it's why we're giving this claim by the president such close scrutiny tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You understand we want total freedom of the press. That's very important, more important to me than anyone would believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: He said that shortly after the judge ruled. We'll look closer at all of the legal angles in a moment and we'll talk to legendary journalist Carl Bernstein and Sam Donaldson about it.
Right now, though, let's focus on that claim that the president wants total freedom of the press, and it's more important to him than anyone would believe. Keeping them honest, it's hard to see much evidence of that. As the record shows, no president has ever expressed the kind of overt, ongoing bitter antagonism toward the work we do than this one has, which is not to say that plenty of other presidents haven't also had plenty of complaints, but until now even saying so out loud was so rare, it was considered a career killer.
Just for perspective, this was Richard Nixon lashing out at the press after his bid to become governor of California in 1962.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: As I leave you, I want you to know -- just think how much you will be missing me, you don't have Nixon to kick around anymore. That outburst helped land Nixon in the political wilderness for almost six years.
Today, President Trump barely goes six minutes between attacks on the press. And while Richard Nixon as president may have believed the press was the enemy of the people, it might have been connected to moves for example by allies against "Washington Post"-owned TV stations, it was always shadowy and deniable. For better or worse, President Trump just lets it all hang out.
Here's a tweet from October of last year with all of the fake news, he says, coming out of the NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license. Bad for country.
So leave aside as the factual matter NBC as a network does not have a license, to challenge, the intent there was plain and people noticed. They noticed this threat back in April against Amazon, which is run by "Washington Post" owner Jeff Bezos. I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their delivery boy. Amazon should pay these costs, plus, and not have them borne by the American taxpayer. Many billions of dollars, PO leaders don't have a clue, or do them.
That's the president of the United States threatening to use a government entity to put a financial bite on a guy who owns the newspaper he hates. Most those threats, though, seem to have faded from memory, or been eclipsed by the next tweet demonizing the press, and the next and the next, which, of course, has set the stage for pulling a reporter's access to the White House, which in turn has put the entire press corps on notice you could be next.
Was the chilling effect intentional? We don't know. Is it noticeable? You bet.
Is it coupled with other efforts, some of which that have been tried by other administration limiting access to information? Yes.
And finally, does it jive with this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want total freedom of the press. It's very important to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So today's court action was only preliminary. The judge focusing mainly on the due process side of things, not the First Amendment question.
CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us now with more on where this could be headed.
Jeff, was it the ruling you were expecting?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It wasn't but I think it was better than I expected and a very savvy and courageous move by the judge because -- he didn't turn this into a big press versus White House fight. He said to the White House, look, you do have the right to control the decorum, the discipline of briefings, but you have to do it in an orderly, fair way. You have to have procedures, you have to have rules that people can understand, and you have to have a person who is in charge of making those decisions. None of which the White House had.
So he basically sent the case back to the White House and said Acosta gets his press pass back immediately and make rules and then we will see where the case is.
BERMAN: He punted on the First Amendment, didn't decide on that per se yet, but made this preliminary judgment on the Fifth Amendment, due process --
BERMAN: -- saying to the White House you got to put a process in place. If decorum is what you care about, write it down.
TOOBIN: And the White House, the president, Sara Sanders today said we're going to put procedures in place which I think is a good idea.
[20:05:03] The question is, will they use the procedures to try to pursue Jim Acosta again?
My hope and I think if rational minds prevail, they will simply say, okay, these are the rules going forward, bygones are bygones.
BERMAN: To be clear, Sara Sanders today said, this is her quote, she says, the judge made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House. That's not what the judge said.
TOOBIN: Well, I -- in fairness to Sara Sanders, I think that is close to what he said. I mean, he did say the White House can make rules, there is no absolute access to the White House, from anybody under any circumstances. But he has -- but the rules have to be fair. And they have to give journalists notice of what the rules are, and the opportunity to challenge them if they're punished.
BERMAN: So is there a chance this becomes the de facto permanent status there? Is it in anyone's benefit? Is it in CNN's benefit in your mind to play this out to a trial?
TOOBIN: No. I mean, look, CNN has to do whatever it can to let Jim Acosta keep doing his job.
TOOBIN: Permanently. And so far, so good.
The -- if the White House says these are the rules going forward, but we're not going to apply them retroactively to what we thought Jim Acosta did, then I think that's a pretty fair solution. The problem is, if the White House says under the rules we're now prescribing, Acosta is out again, then we have to go back into court and continue the fight.
BERMAN: So that could be the future. If they decide they want to play it that way?
TOOBIN: Correct. That's going to be up to the White House now. They're going to make the rules, but the question is, are they going to apply them retroactively to Jim?
BERMAN: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much. I want to talk to you again in a little bit.
I want to drill down deeper of a notion of a chilling effect on this and other efforts to make holding this administration accountable that much harder. Joining us now for that, two veteran journalists who sparred with presidents over the years, and at times clashed with them in pursued of answers that we are all grateful they got. With us here is CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, whose reporting brought Richard Nixon's misdeed to light, and joining us from Albuquerque, Sam Donaldson, former long time ABC News White House correspondent and anchor, whom I did research for, whose questions to Ronald Reagan were truly something else.
Sam, great to see you. Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for the declaration you submitted on behalf of Jim Acosta to the court.
What do you make of the ruling today and the response by the White House?
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Well, I'm glad the judge went as far as he went. But I'm worried about these rules. Sarah Sanders said there was to be decorum at the White House and we'll have rules to make the press fair and orderly.
Now, what does that mean? Does that mean for instance one question? And if a reporter tries to follow it up, he's out or she's out? For instance, Acosta says, Mr. President, why do call it a convoy? Then the president says it's my opinion, and that's it? That doesn't accomplish anything.
And if the rules are aimed at try to suppress tough questions, the questions that dig in, then we're all in trouble. You know, John in 1999, at a White House prime time press conference, I asked President Clinton whether it was true he had raped Juanita Broaddrick as she claimed. Well, he said his lawyer had given a statement about that, and the statement said it was not true, and he wouldn't comment. So, I followed up by asking, couldn't you just deny it, sir? And he said, see my lawyer.
Well, those horrible questions, they were questions at the moment, though, but I never heard a word of complaint from President Clinton or anyone else at the White House about that. If President Trump thinks somehow rules can avoid his having to answer
Jim Acosta, Jon Karl, ABC's correspondent, we all used to work for ABC, or anyone -- April Ryan, anyone else, he's wrong. I just hope it doesn't come to that.
BERMAN: Carl, the president said today nobody believes in the First Amendment more than he does.
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: I think he believes in the First Amendment when it suits him, and he's a creature of the press. He was invented by dealing with the press and by dealing with the New York tabloids which went to bat for the false image of himself that he peddled. He would be nothing today were it not for his manipulation of the New York tabloids. So, he understands how to manipulate the press.
I think what we saw today is a first-rate decision that enables the press to pursue the best attainable version of the truth, which is its job at these preferences and at these briefings. And we need that and it was a good suit that CNN filed. And we should prevail.
Beyond that, I think we need be rethinking how we conduct these briefings and what our response to the press conferences and briefings when the president of the United States basically used them as an occasion to lie for abject prop and to manipulate the press.
[20:10:05] I don't think we should necessarily be running them verbatim from beginning to end. I think it's like giving him free air time during the campaign. I think we need to reevaluate how we engage with the president, not get ourselves manipulated.
Our job is reportorial, the best obtainable version of the truth, and I think that the format has seized, particularly under this president to serve the interest of the truth, and we need as a profession to start finding new way to do business in this White House.
BERMAN: On the flip side of that, Sam, is that there was this threat from the White House today, which is to suggest if they don't like a question, they might just end the news conference. They might just walk away. They may try to turn reporter against reporter there.
What happens then?
DONALDSON: Well, it would be terrible.
Carl's right. We have to rethink how we're going to the this. We've never had a president like this.
BERNSTEIN: That's right.
DONALDSON: Carl might even say that even Richard Nixon wasn't even quite like this, not even in public. But we've been discussing whether we should walk away, should the press corps walk out? I don't think so. It's our job to ask questions. It's our job to stay there. We got to keep our cool, of course. You know, I think it's fair discussion did Jim go too far, did he
press to hard, did he held on to the mic -- I think he was doing the right thing. But that's a fair discussion. What's not fair in the sense of trying to suppress the press is that he asked a tough question, the president made it clear he didn't want to answer it. Well, excuse me, sir, we want to get answers for. What, us? No, for the public we serve and we're going to keep on.
BERNSTEIN: I'm going to say an amazing thing here. I went to Jack Kennedy's press conferences as a copy boy and I dictated a text back to "The Washington Star" where I worked for an afternoon newspaper. And to watch Kennedy engage with the press, to tell the truth, to have a kind of erudition in his answers and to understand this national engagement of the press was a thing to behold. And with successive presidents also did this.
And it began to disintegrate actually in the mid-'70s, in the '80s. Sam remembers because I was actually nominally Sam's boss from anybody could be Sam's boss at ABC, and I said to Sam at the time, I think we need to rethink how we cover these press conferences, and I still believe that.
BERMAN: Are the answers worth it, Sam? That's the suggestion that Carl is getting to there. What we're hearing from the president may not be worth it.
BERNSTEIN: We need to be able to get the truth out of these events.
DONALDSON: Whether it's worth it or not is a value judgment. But he gets to say it.
Carl and I get to ask questions and the people there now. He gets to give whatever answers he wants, but his answer, whether they're worth it or not in the long run, whether history will say, well, that wasn't the truth or that made no sense. It's not us -- for us as reporters to try to get the questions. That's why we're there. We got to keep trying to do that.
And, you know, Carl, I went to the John Kennedy press conferences also, about three or four of them. I never had the courage to ask a question of him, and he was a charmer. But many of the questions asked in those days were like this, Mr. President, sir, if you don't mind, could you mind telling us about how you feel about the -- no, no, come on, folks.
And one question came famously said, Mr. President, this was to Lyndon Johnson later, it's a lonely job, isn't it? Well, I think it probably is a lonely job but we have to ask direct questions politely, but firmly on issues of the moment and not put our punches and say, gee, it's too bad this happened. It's not your fault, but maybe you could have done something about it. No, not that. Not that.
BERNSTEIN: Let's say one other thing about reporting of this president, it has been fabulous reporting that indeed has exposed this president from the beginning of administration through today in a way that no presidency has been covered with such persistent excellence by the Washington press corps to reveal what the president is saying, doing, and what we are learning is because of a free press exercising its reportorial function. And we should not go deferential in a kowtowing way, but we do need to find a way to engage that makes it possible to get better information out of it and not allow the president to simply conduct a symphony.
BERMAN: Sam, quick, last word?
DONALDSON: But, Carl, when you and Bob were covering Nixon earlier and breaking stories, and nobody was paying attention to them, the public was listening. It was watching. And as Watergate went on and on, the public got on to what was happening and came to believe that Richard Nixon ought to leave.
[20:15:02] BERNSTEIN: That's right.
DONALDSON: What's happening now is these good reporters at the White House are bringing forward things that the public should pay attention to, and half the public or almost half the public doesn't care.
DONALDSON: The president's right.
BERNSTEIN: The president is great at making the conduct of the press the issue, not his conduct. And indeed, he has sought to undermine our credibility at every turn through lying, and that is something we need to engage with.
BERMAN: Sam Donaldson, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
BERMAN: Sam, thanks for being with us tonight, and thank you for the example you set for me and so many others over the years. Really, really appreciate it. I could listen to both of you all night.
Carl, stick around. We're going to talk to you a little again to get your input on another story coming up.
Ahead tonight, breaking news in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. For weeks now, the question has been, what did Saudi Arabia's ruling crown prince know about the murder? Perhaps, even did he order it? Tonight, new reporting, what the CIA has concluded, and it's big.
Also, Vice President Pence who can look adoringly at the president the way few people can, after all, it is his job. So why, then, is the president said to be asking all the time about his loyalty? Him, that guy. Details ahead.
[20:20:26] BERMAN: President Trump as you've seen has been a little tense these last few days and as we've been reporting, you can blame some of it on the homework assignment he and his legal team are working on. They're formulating answers to questions from Robert Mueller's team.
Today, he was asked when he will turn them in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you provide answers, sir?
TRUMP: About what?
REPORTER: The special counsel?
REPORTER: Are your lawyers working --
TRUMP: Yes, my lawyers are working on that. I'm working on that. I write the answers. My lawyers don't write answers. I write answers.
I was asked a series of questions. I've answered them very easily, very easily. I'm sure they're tricked up because they like to catch people, gee, was the weather sunny or was it rainy? He said it may have been a good day, it was rainy, therefore he told a lie, he perjured himself, OK? So, you have to be careful when you answer questions of people that have bad intentions.
But it's -- the questions were very routinely answered by me, by me. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Very routinely answered, he says, by me.
Also, yet a source familiar with what we've been reporting says that long-running negotiations between the White House and team Mueller, they say the president's legal team has taken issue with some of the questions, especially those covering the transition period after the 2016 elections.
The source would not explicitly say whether the president answered those questions other than to say that there are responses to all the questions that were asked.
Back with Carl Bernstein and Jeffrey Toobin. And joining us, CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.
Jeffrey, I'm not sure what the president was getting at, what he was saying, I'm answering the questions. Not my lawyers here, I'm answering it.
But the lawyers are involved.
TOOBIN: Right. This is a take-home open-book exam, and the advantage of it is you get to have help and he gets help from his lawyers, but what I think he was doing was responding to Rudolph Giuliani's interview in "The Washington Post" yesterday where he said, oh, there are a lot of troubling issues and some of the questions are problematic. And the president is trying to give the impression this whole thing
was a piece of cake. I have nothing to fear, I answered the questions easily, I don't need my lawyers. That's the message he's trying to send. Whether it's true, that I couldn't tell you.
BERMAN: And, Carrie, we've been calling this a take-home open-book exam, making light of the fact that he has his lawyers there, as opposed to answering questions out loud, but still he has to tell the truth. I have to believe the legal team is going over every word of these questions and every word of their answers meticulously. What's going on behind closed doors?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, of course, they're going to review his answers. So, some of this information particularly if it has to do with the allegations of obstructions, those go to his intent when he took certain actions, whether those are things that took place before he was president or whether those are things like the firing of the FBI director.
So in some of these cases it may only be him who knows what the actual answer is, but certainly his lawyers are going to be reviewing these, perhaps rewriting these, redrafting them, writing them in the way that they think minimizes his exposure when the responses are provided. But I'm really struck, John, by his statement that the questions are from, quote, people who have bad intentions. He's talking about federal prosecutors who are part of the executive branch and who are charged with enforcing the law.
So, it's just really -- every time he does it, he said these types of things before. But I just think it's worth pausing on it because it's so extraordinary for a president to constantly denigrate prosecutors whose job it is to enforce the law.
BERMAN: And it was an intention of what he said yesterday, Carl, when he went after the special counsel by name.
BERNSTEIN: Look, Robert Mueller has a distinguished record as few public servants in this country have, who is respected and highly regarded by Republicans and Democrats, who was head of the FBI under both Republicans and Democrats. Along comes President Trump and calls him a disgrace. There's no evidence of Robert Mueller ever having been a disgrace in anything he's done in public life.
We have seen a rage-a-holic president of the United States, such as we have never seen, certainly in our modern history. We have never seen a president in a prolonged rage, a public rage such as we have seen these past weeks, in Paris, in Washington, at the special prosecutor, at the press.
[20:25:06] It has been unceasing. It has been horrible to look at in terms of what does this mean, in terms of our governance.
What we are seeing now is this president has his back to the wall.
I want to say one thing about -- he keeps saying no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. We know that Mueller has a sprawling investigation that is all about looking for collusion among Trump's associates, his family, his campaign aides. Whether or not he has found it or not, we don't know. But it is a serious sprawling investigation with lots of dots following the money and following the connections.
And Trump understands that. What has happened with Matthew Whitaker as the new deputy attorney general is that Trump --
TOOBIN: Acting attorney general.
BERNSTEIN: Acting attorney general, thank you, is that Trump has a spy for the first time who is looking at what Mueller has. And he has been, Trump, throughout his presidency absolutely in a crazed state because he doesn't know what Mueller is doing. Now, he has a sense of what may be going on and we may be seeing that in this rage-a-holic behavior.
BERMAN: And yesterday, he wrote about the innerworkings of the Mueller campaign is that because all of a sudden, he knows about the inner workings. We don't know. We don't know what Matt Whitaker's been telling him.
Jeffrey, we do know once again the president is talking about something he likes to refer to as a perjury trap. As you and I have discussed, that's not something they taught you at Harvard Law School.
TOOBIN: Right, perjury trap, it's a phrase people throw around. I think it is literally a meaningless phrase because perjury is perjury. And this idea the president talked about it, is if you say it was a sunny day and it was cloudy, they're going to charge you with perjury -- of course not. Perjury has to be a substantive statement that is relevant to a central issue in the case. It's not just -- and it has to be an intentional falsehood, not a mistake.
And just because your testimony conflicts with another person, that doesn't mean either one of you is lying. Perjury is about intentional lying, and it is rarely prosecuted, but it is prosecuted when prosecutors see it. They don't prosecute people who make mistakes.
BERMAN: What's the best way to avoid perjury, by the way?
TOOBIN: Tell the truth.
BERMAN: Carrie, these written answers, they're not the end here necessarily, they turn in the homework assignment, but the special counsel could come back and follow up on these, right? What's the procedure?
CORDERO: Sure. Well, so the special counsel will receive at some point in time these answers it seems like and they'll decide whether or not they find those answers sufficient, whether or not they want to still pursue potentially talking to the president. So much time has gone by that it does seem like if the president was requested to interview or even if they decided to go forward with a subpoena, they certainly would challenge it.
And that's where the appointment of Acting Attorney General Whitaker becomes really important because the acting attorney general over the special counsel's investigation exercises real substantive authority, and a decision like whether or not to serve a subpoena on the president is something that right now could be decided by the acting attorney general, who is in a questionable legal from a statutory perspective, a questionable legal appointment.
So, it is hard to understand with all of the other Senate-confirmed senior officials who could have been and should have been appointed as the acting attorney general after Attorney General Sessions resigned, that position becomes quite important.
TOOBIN: And remember, he has only agreed to answer questions about events during the campaign. He has said, his lawyers have said he's not answering questions about the firing of Comey or any of the acts he made as president because that's protected under Article 2 of the Constitution.
BERMAN: All right. Jeff, Carl, Carrie, thanks so much for being with us. Great discussion. Really appreciate it.
Next, we have breaking news. What the CIA has concluded about who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
[20:32:50] BERMAN: Breaking news tonight on a very dark subject, the murder of American-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, specifically whether that a fact now Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, order the killing.
According to new reporting, which first broke in "The Washington Post," the CIA had concluded the answer is, yes, which may be tough for the White House to swallow given how tightly the administration has tied its fortune to that prince known by many as MBS.
The "Post" John Hudson did some of the reporting on this story. He joins us now. John, thanks for joining us. The CIA's conclusion that the crown prince ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, what did base on? Do we know?
JOHN HUDSON, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: So this comes from multiple intelligent sources that this -- obviously that, you know, a major part of this is the audio that the Turks had, but the CIA had multiple sources of information, including a phone call that was made by the Saudi ambassador to the United States to Jamal Khashoggi.
And so, it's based on a number of pieces of evidence and it is a high confidence assessment by the CIA that Mohammed bil Salman ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
BERMAN: And, again, in that reporting you suggest among other things that it was the Saudi ambassador who suggested to Khashoggi that he go to the Turkish embassy. That Saudi ambassador issued a statement tonight vehemently denying those claims. What do you make of that?
HUDSON: Yes. So we included the essence of the statement in the denial. You'd see him on Twitter saying that, you know, they provided a longer statement and then they published that -- they put that out there. But we boiled down the essence of that and put that in the story. But, of course, we also reflected what we've heard from other sources on this story, people familiar with the situation.
BERMAN: And President Trump, you're reporting that he has been briefed on this? He has been told the intelligence community who thinks that the crown prince ordered this assassination. Do we know what his reaction has been?
HUDSON: Yes. So we've seen the reaction and we've seen this play out over several days that the President has always said that the relationship that the United States with Saudi Arabia is important.
[20:35:08] But he's also made, you know, made it very clear that he believes this was one of the worst cover ups ever. So what they've tried to do is balance what is a growing amount of evidence that this was something directed by very senior Saudi leadership and they tried to balance that with the reality that they would like to keep this relationship with the crown prince who they've tried to cultivate a very strong relationship with for a couple years now, and which what they consider the lynch pin of their Middle East strategy.
BERMAN: John Hudson, terrific reporting. Thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it.
HUDSON: Thank you.
BERMAN: And to his last point here, here's a small sample of what the President has been saying lately. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As of this moment, they deny it, and they deny it vehemently. Couldn't be them? Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jared, your son-in-law, has got on the phone and asked the prince. Did he -- what -- did he deny it? Did he --
TRUMP: They deny it. They deny it every way you can imagine.
I just spoke to the king of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of what took place with regard to, as he said, his Saudi Arabian citizen. I've asked, and he firmly denied that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining me now was the former Director of National Intelligence, retired Lieutenant General James Clapper, author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence." Director Clapper, explain how sure the CIA it needs to be to come to a conclusion like this? When they conclude that the crown prince order this is assassination, how certain? LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think as I understand it, again, I -- you know, I can't officially corroborate the reporting on the CIA report, but let's just say for the sake of discussions it's accurate and valid.
And I think the fact that apparently this came with a high confidence, well, when you have U.S. corroborate high confidence level to a report, typically you have a, you know, very good sourcing from multiple sources. And so that's, I think, was the case here.
And I think beyond that, I think this report simply serves to reinforce what anyone with a modicum of understanding about how things operate in Saudi Arabia, which, you know, center around MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, who is de facto, the ruler in Saudi Arabia who involves himself in all matters big and small.
So, I think from the beginning there's no question that an operation like this could not have been planned and executed without just the acquiescence or knowledge of Mohammed bin Salman, but I am convinced of the direction. And I felt that way before this reporting of the CIA report.
BERMAN: And, again, the phraseology that you point out is high confidence, which you say means they have it from multiple sources. And the President, at least according to the "Post," he is yet, again, questioning the intelligence he's getting from his own agencies. We've seen that before. I wonder if this is a similar thing or if this is because he doesn't want it to be true for policy reasons.
CLAPPER: You know, I suspect it's the latter. And the President as we've seen over the last couple of years, those have a -- what I'll call -- what I'll characterize as an elastic evidentiary bar. And I'm quite sure that he will keep raising that in this case, the bar, ever higher. But, you know, it stretches credulity to think that Mohammed bin Salman wasn't directly involved and directly ordered this.
BERMAN: You know, Director, it's interesting to me because "The Washington Post" broke this story and then it quickly appeared to the "Wall Street Journal" and "New York Times," which mean someone moderated out there, someone wants it out there that the CIA has a high level of confidence that the Saudi crown prince ordered this murder. Why would someone want this out there?
CLAPPER: Well, somebody who -- and it may not necessarily have been someone within the intelligence community, I want to make that point clear because lots of people outside of the IC would have been aware of this reporting.
And so I think it's obviously somebody that's, you know, concerned about this whole situation, finds it despicable and wants it out there. And in doing so, I think it puts more pressure on the administration and makes it harder for them to tap dance.
BERMAN: So if it is true that Khashoggi's murder was ordered by the crown prince, should there be, in your mind, severe consequences? Does the United States need him as an ally? CLAPPER: Well, I think we need Saudi Arabia as an ally. Now that -- right now, I guess the administration view is that Saudi Arabia is synonymous with Mohammed bin Salman.
[20:40:03] I would hope, maybe I'm fantasizing here, that the royal family would think about some other heir apparent for the king other than Mohammed bin Salman because for my money, and I think for lots of other people, he has severely compromised himself by his involvement in this really despicable act.
BERMAN: Director James Clapper, thanks so much for your insight and helping us understand what's going on here. Really appreciate it.
CLAPPER: Thanks John.
BERMAN: All right, coming up, has the President lost confidence in his vice president? New reporting from "The New York Times" says the President has been going around asking aides if Mike Pence is loyal. We'll talk about that next.
BERMAN: Today, the President said he is "very happy with almost all of my cabinet." According to new reporting in "New York Times," that may not 100 percent include the vice president.
According to the reporting, the President has been asking aides and advisors if Mike Pence is loyal. He's asking it so many times that it has alarmed some of his advisors. Of course, you know never know this, by the way, that President acts in public. Here is just last week, a day after the midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the vice president be your running mate in 2020?
TRUMP: Well, I haven't asked him, but I hope so. Where are you? Mike, will you be my running mate? Stand up, Mike, please. Raise your right hand. No, I'm all good (ph). Will you? Thank you. OK, good. The answer is yes, OK?
[20:45:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.
TRUMP: That was unexpected, but I feel very fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You'll note that Mike Pence stood up when asked and did raised his hand when asked. That tells you something about loyalty there.
Joining me now is Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio, CNN Contributor and Author of "The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence." I believe the only man to have written a book about Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Also joining us is CNN Political Analyst and USA Today Columnist, Kirsten Powers.
Kirsten, this whole loyalty issue is interesting. And the reason I think this "New York Times" piece is getting so much focus is because the idea of Mike Pence and loyalty has there been anyone in this administration who has gone out of his way to just pour the praise on the President than Mike Pence?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, there hasn't. That's what makes it so ludicrous and it sounds paranoid, frankly, because this is not somebody that you think the President would ever even think twice about whether or not he was loyal because I think you could say Mike Pence is probably loyal to a fault.
There is nothing that the President does that he won't defend no matter how horrible it is. So this to me suggests that the President is not in the greatest state of mind if he is, in fact, questioning right now whether his vice president is loyal to him.
BERMAN: Michael, you've written about the President before. Is loyalty a one-way street for him?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, DONALD TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: Well, it always has been a one-way street. And let's think about the person before Mike Pence who was abjectly loyal or fawning where the President was concerned, it was Michael Cohen. So it's quite likely that the President has been reflecting on who is loyal, who is not loyal, who can I trust, and he is starting to be paranoid in a way that's almost feral.
You know, this is a cornered animal who really can't be trusted by anyone. And he's established in his life this problem of never gaining enough trust and therefore never giving any trust, and never creating any.
So, who would be loyal to Donald Trump after he has done what he has done to Jeff Sessions and James Comey and any number of people who he's betrayed. I think he must live in a world of betrayal and it's now catching up to him.
BERMAN: You know, Kirsten, there is an element of this in every president I've ever covered and I guess that goes back to Bill Clinton. There's been a rumor at some point or another, or a discussion at some level or another about what it might mean to replace the number two on the ticket, to replace the vice president.
BERMAN: Even Barack Obama, there was a discussion. I don't know how serious it was, but they said, "Hey, should we at least think about someone else other than Joe Biden?"
For Donald Trump, you know, we saw what just happened in the suburbs. We saw how he did with women voters in the midterms and there are people saying, "What about Nikki Haley?" You know, there is a reasonable political discussion here to be had even if it's not taken seriously. POWERS: Yes. I think that that's true. I don't -- but that wouldn't explain the questioning of the loyalty, right? I mean, he could just say, "Look, I have a problem with women voting for me and maybe we need to do something different." And -- but I will say I don't think that that would make that much of a difference.
I don't think a vice presidential candidate is going to make up for the deficit that he has with women, you know, assuming that Nikki Haley would even do it. I just don't think it transfers that way. He is the president, he is the person that people are voting for and a lot of women are turning against him.
BERMAN: So, Michael, it is interesting because in this reporting in "The New York Times," they make note of the fact that President Trump has never let go of the fact that Pence did issue a statement critical of him over the "Access Hollywood" tape. Trump is never one to forget a slight exactly, is he?
D'ANTONIIO: No, he never forgets a slight. And I also recall that Karen Pence was very upset about that "Access Hollywood" tape. And I think the President understands that the Pence's have a relationship that's very different from any marriage that Donald Trump has ever had.
You know, these are two people, Mike and Karen Pence, who respect each other immensely. They're very committed to each other. Karen has always been Mike's number one advisor in all matters. And I think she is disgusted by Donald Trump, there's really no doubt about that.
So we have to wonder, you know, the President may be right here to be thinking "Well, can I trust Mike Pence?" And who would be happier if Donald Trump left the White House early than Mike Pence. I think he'd be delighted.
And the vice president is a man who is always had his eye on the Oval Office. Since he was 17 years old he's had this ambition and he accepted the offer from Donald Trump to be his running mate over his wife's objections because he has designs on that ultimate job.
[20:50:11] BERMAN: Kirsten, what do you make of Michael's note that the questioning of loyalty very briefly. What do you think of the fact that this gets to the President's mind-set over the last two weeks?
POWERS: Yes, I think it shows that he's definitely feeling very paranoid. Now, I think it's normal to wonder about the types of the thing of whether or not he has his eye on the presidency. But, of course, he does. He's -- that's why he's vice president. He -- most people do that because they want to become president someday.
BERMAN: It's what being vice president is all about, unless I guess you're Dick Cheney. Kirsten Powers, Michael D'Antonio, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it.
An update now on the midterm elections. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams has ended her bid to become the first African-American woman to be elected governor in the U.S. Abrams acknowledged tonight that Republican Brian Kemp will become the next governor of Georgia. Kemp was repeatedly accused of voter suppression.
In a speech this evening, Abrams said that Kemp's eight years as the states chief elections officer resulted in systemic disenfranchisement, disinvestment and incompetence, she said.
Abrams and her supporters had hoped for a runoff and she was considering more legal challenges as recently as this morning but decided to end her campaign. Kemp ended up ahead by more than 54,000 votes.
BERMAN: And another twist in the midterms, remember last week when the President mocked Republican Representative Mia Love of Utah for not embracing him, mocked her before the race was actually called?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Mia Love gave me no love and she lost, too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Too bad, indeed, because right now Mia Love has just pulled ahead of her Democratic challenger. As of tonight, she is ahead of Ben McAdams by 419 votes.
Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Sir?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: JB, my man, you know, if you determine elections only by what happened on that Tuesday, that's how you wind up where the President was with Mia Love and many others.
You know, he doesn't get, I guess, I don't know why. It's crazy that I'm even saying this, but it's always taking weeks and that's why we're looking its very close. We're in a divided country right now. The electorate is reflecting that.
Now, tonight, we're going to take on a couple of big things in a deep way. What does this mean that the President says his answers are done for the Mueller probe? What must those answers include? And I will suggest there are things that must be in there. And what would that expose the President to? We got two great legal minds going after that four you tonight.
And, we're going to take a look at what the law is surrounding freedom of the press. What is lawsuit was really about and what remains as a challenge going forward. As we both know, it's not just about Acosta, it's not about CNN, there are much bigger prospects involved.
BERMAN: All right, you got me hooked. I look forward to seeing the show, Chris. Thanks so much. We'll see you in just a few minutes.
Ahead for us on "360," an update on the deadly and devastating fires in California. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[20:57:12] BERMAN: The death toll from the fire in Northern California has now risen to 63 and the number of missing is now more than 600, possibly as many as 630. The Camp Fire, as it's called, is the deadliest and most destructive in a history of the state. Kaylee Hartung has the latest.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The smoke from the Camp Fire lingers and survivors on the ground face a bleak picture. This makeshift campground in a Walmart parking lot is near the remnants of the town of Paradise. Many have lost everything. These survivors are just trying to catch their breath in the smoky air, looking for answers to the question, what's next.
ANNA GOODNIGHT, PARADISE, CA EVACUEE: Did it burn down or didn't it burn down, and we just don't know. And it's hard to try to figure out your game plan when you don't know your game plan.
HARTUNG: Anna Goodnight and her husband, William, rushed out of their home. They were only able to grabbed medication and some important documents.
GOODNIGHT: We saw everything burning down as we were leaving off the hill. That was scary enough.
HARTUNG: They have no idea if their home is still standing. They're just glad they made it out alive.
GOODNIGHT: I hope there is some closure for the families that have lost family, because we've been hearing so many horror stories. But I'm sure it's going to get worst before it gets better.
KRYSTAL STIRRUP, PARADISE, CA EVACUEE: We are living. There's a lot of people that didn't make it.
HARTUNG: Krystal Stirrup survived hurricanes Andrew and Irma in Florida. She and her four young children were planning to make Paradise their new home.
(on camera) This was the start of the next chapter of your life, putting a down payment on an apartment in Paradise.
STIRRUP: Yes. I thought that was -- you know, we were so happy, excited when they had actually called us and told us to come next week. It's supposed to be the time we're coming, but everything is gone and I don't know what's the next step. I'm just winging it.
HARTUNG (voice-over): Despite facing her own long road to recovery, Krystal's been visiting the people at the camp, offering to help however she can.
STIRRUP: I can't do anything but one day at a time. You know, it's out of my hands. Stay praying, stay asking the Lord to cover us or just covered them. Make sure they have a safe place to land in all of the situations.
HARTUNG: John, people are wondering why the number of people missing continues to rise. 630 names are on the list's last release by local officials, but they caution it is difficult for them to pinpoint that number because so many people have been displaced.
Paradise is a town with a population of more than 25,000 people. They say some people could have evacuated to areas where cell phone service is unreliable. Others, they say, could have evacuated and not reached out to family members so they don't even realize that people are looking for them.
Anna Goodnight, who you just heard me speak with, she told me she hasn't looked at the list because she's afraid to. She's afraid that she will know names on it. But, John, authority asks if you do look at that list, if you see names on it, people who you know are safe, please let them know, because in the meantime they will be working to make sure everyone is accounted for.
BERMAN: Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.