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Trump Will Not Listen to the Recording of Jamal Khashoggi's Murder; This Is Life Season Ender; This Week's CNN Hero. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 18, 2018 - 16:00   ET



[16:00:00] ROBERT GOODMA, ESCAPED WOOLSEY FIRE: Like when your kids, you know, growing up, the report card, the first, you know, pictures they drew and all that. That you can't replace.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump witnessing the devastation firsthand this weekend when he visited the towns of Paradise and Malibu with the state's governor and governor-elect.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To see what's happened here, nobody would have ever thought this could have happened. So the federal government is behind you. We're all behind each other. As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet. We're up to a certain number, but we have a lot of people that are unaccounted for. And this is the kind of destruction -- in fact, I mean, this is even not as bad as some areas. Some areas are even beyond this, just charred.


WHITFIELD: Survivors of the Camp Fire face a real grim reality. Hundreds left homeless, many have even camped out in parking lots.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Chico, where people have taken shelter in a parking lot there and describe what are they dealing with.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, they're dealing with a lot because they've been asked if they can voluntarily move out of this parking lot and get themselves to safety. And I have to say, I'm seeing a very organized departure and shifting here. Look behind me. These people are still continuing to cook for these other people who are homeless.

And then off in the distance where they erected this tent city, they have told me they're going to stay. And I just spoke with not only a Walmart spokeswoman and some security guards who declined to go on camera, but they told me in no way shape or form are they going to make anybody leave the grassy area. So that's good news for all of them. It's rather heartening to see these people be so organized. Also heartening to me, I want to tell the story of a school bus that

left Ponderosa Elementary School right in the middle of the inferno. It was raging. Not single set of parents could pick up their children, so 22 children, two teachers, and a bus driver got on a bus, took a trek through raging flames all around them, smoke as well.

Let's listen to some of their accounts.


MARY LUDWIG, SURVIVOR: It was very scary. It was like -- felt like Armageddon. I don't know another word to say.

CHARLOTTE MERZ, SURVIVOR: I was, like, seeing, like, smoke everywhere. I couldn't see hardly anything. I saw, like, houses burning and animals and cars whining. And I love animals. It was so crazy. And there were, like, fires left and right, everywhere you look. There was, like, smoke everywhere and people trying to get out. And it was, like, really hard.


VERCAMMEN: That's Charlotte, one of the most articulate fourth graders you would ever want to meet. The bus ride, as they call it in Chico, down the hill from Paradise. It should usually take about 20 minutes, a little more. It took five hours, Fred. But they're all glad that they're living to tell about it.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And sharing those horrific stories. All right. Thank you so much, Paul Vercammen. Appreciate it.

All right. The president of Finland says he did discuss the California wildfires with President Trump, but he doesn't quite recall the conversation the same way. Not about raking leaves, which is the way President Trump seems to have heard.

President Trump made the comment Saturday while looking at California's wild devastation.


TRUMP: You look at other countries where they do it differently, and it's a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland, and he said we have a much different -- we're a forest nation. He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don't have any problem. And when it is, it's a very small problem. So I know everybody's looking at that, to that end.


WHITFIELD: The Finnish president responded to that, telling a local newspaper that he only sees raking in his own yard and that President Trump might have brought up raking after seeing firefighters raking some burnt-out areas in California.

All right. Let's bring in Democrat California Congressman John Garamendi.

Good to see you, Congressman.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. This is weird. You know, I mean, it was pretty impactful, you know, for the president to be in California, to see firsthand. And there were so many people who were looking forward to seeing the president.


WHITFIELD: So he could see for himself the reality of it. But then when the president talked about, you know, controlling the forest and other countries do it and the raking.


WHITFIELD: I mean, that just opened the floodgates of stuff. And now you've got the Finnish president, you know, saying it's not quite -- that wasn't quite the conversation.

[16:05:05] So what are your thoughts on this?

GARAMENDI: Well, my thoughts are, first of all, it's a horrible, horrific situation in Paradise.


GARAMENDI: Over 9,000 homes destroyed and 73 or more deaths now. It just couldn't be more horrible. And so the first thing is that this has just been a tragedy for thousands, a town of 26,000 wiped out.

Now there is an issue of how are we going to survive in the era of climate change. This is a very real national and frankly worldwide crisis of climate change and a very rapidly changing environment in which all of us are living.

For California, we do get rains in the winter, even though we did have a five-year drought. We did have winter rains and the vegetation grew. But this issue is things got very, very hot and the vegetation got very, very dry in the forest, both private as well as the national forest. Millions upon millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of trees are dead as a result of climate change and beetles and other stresses.

We have a forest management problem, and the president is correct about a management issue that we must deal with. Mismanagement is the wrong word. Smokey the bear, no fires in the forest, logging has been curtailed. We need to manage the forest. Fortunately, we do have a new piece of legislation that passed last spring that gives the Forest Services two budgets. One budget for fighting fires and other forest management. However, keep this in mind. The fire in the Paradise area was not in the national forest. It was on private lands that swept into the town.

WHITFIELD: And it still isn't clear exactly, you know, what sparked that. You know, they're looking into it.

GARAMENDI: That's correct.

WHITFIELD: But, you know, it's a very complicated issue.

GARAMENDI: It is. And --

WHITFIELD: And as Governor Jerry Brown, you know, he was standing alongside the president when the president made those comments, as was the governor-elect. Neither decided to, you know, correct at the time, but Governor Jerry Brown did get on CBS earlier today and he tried to spell out just how complicated it is. Listen.


GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Where Paradise is, of course, is surrounded by federally managed land. These are national forests. They're not state parks and they're not private property by Californians. So it is the federal government. And the fact is that managing the forest is part of it. They're a lot denser than they were 200 years ago. But on top of that, we have this five-year drought. We have reduced rainfall. We have the dryness that turns vegetation and bushes and houses and trees into -- literally into timber so it's ready to explode.

So there's an atmospheric element, which is part of the natural cycle, and then there is an increasing effect of climate change. In fact, I have read specifically peer-reviewed scientific articles that say that the amount of land burnt in California over the last 15 years has doubled because of climate change. So --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you make that case to President Trump?

BROWN: I certainly raised it, but I didn't feel that that was where we needed to go. We need the money --


WHITFIELD: So you really are echoing one another in terms of, you know, all the proponents here, what makes this fire as bad as it is but -- go ahead.

GARAMENDI: Well, this is another piece to that, in that the president has in his mind that the forest can be managed like his golf courses. That's just not the case. But we do need to better manage the forests. We call it forest health. It needs to be done. We're going to need federal money for that. At the same time, and I think this is why Governor Brown didn't really drive the climate change issue with the president, was that we're going to need federal money, probably in the range of $500 million to $700 million to rebuild the public infrastructure that's been destroyed in all of these fires down in Malibu, as well as here in northern California.

And so we do need the federal government involvement in this. And we're going to have to get that done in the next two weeks in the final lame duck session. WHITFIELD: Right. Trying to prioritize the immediate needs.


WHITFIELD: So let me switch gears, you know, if I could, Congressman, right now, and talk about midterms. You know, Democrats dominated.


WHITFIELD: You know, across the state of California, your state, including winning all the seats up for grabs in Orange County. In your view, what was the momentum behind this? How did this happen?

GARAMENDI: Well, I think there's a couple of reasons. First of all, I will be going to Orange County here in a couple of hours. There's a big celebration down there, and rightly so. Years and years ago, Democrats would simply skip over Orange County.

[16:10:02] You'd go to Los Angeles County and then you try to get as far south in San Diego County as you could. But right now Orange County is a blue county. All of the seats are in Democratic control.

So why did it happen? Well, the Democrats have always been for the people. Our issues, whether it's health care or infrastructure or tax policy, is to make sure that the middle class and the lower class has an opportunity, whether it's education, health care, on and on. And I think people are beginning to realize that, particularly after this last session in which the tax cut, $2 trillion, 87 percent of the benefits go to major corporations and to the super wealthy.

People said, whoa, wait a minute. And then there was the health care issue. Finally, President Trump. All of those things came together and gave an opportunity for, finally, after more than half -- well, actually three-quarters of a century, for Orange County to turn blue.

WHITFIELD: All right. Congressman John Garamendi, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, a giant in Florida politics has fallen. Senator Bill Nelson conceding the race to Governor Rick Scott. His outgoing message for voters, next.


WHITFIELD: All right. This developing political story out of Florida. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson concedes the U.S. Senate race to Republican Governor Rick Scott.

[16:15:07] This follows a statewide recount showing Scott with a little more than a 10,000-vote lead. Nelson says he was proud of his campaign and will always fight for what's right.

Our Ryan Nobles is in Tallahassee. So, Ryan, explain what happened. RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, there

wasn't really much doubt that Rick Scott had won this election, as we went through the hand recount. The automatic hand recount that went into place on Thursday. We could tell from canvassing boards across the state there just were not enough votes to flip the race from Rick Scott to Bill Nelson.

The question we had today, would Bill Nelson concede or would he continue the legal fight in challenging this election? But Nelson said in a statement that was posted not too long ago that it's time for him to step away, and he conceded the race to Rick Scott.

Take a listen to what Nelson had to say not too long ago.


SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I want to say thanks to all of you who rallied to our cause. You walked the precincts, knocked on the doors, made phone calls, and contributed your time and your resources. And with an optimistic heart, I wish to say something else. We may have been heavily outspent in this campaign, but we were never outworked.

To all Floridians, whether you voted for me or for my opponent or that you didn't vote at all, I ask you to never give up this fight.


NOBLES: And this was often a bitter, sometimes contentious recount between both Rick Scott and Bill Nelson, both sides calling each other names, but we're told today that Bill Nelson did, in fact, call Rick Scott and congratulate him on his win, that they did exchange pleasantries. And Rick Scott did release a statement today thanking Bill Nelson for his lengthy career in public service here in the state of Florida.

The question now, Fred, is how does this impact things in Florida going forward. There were two very dramatic finishes here, both in the governor's race and in the U.S. Senate race. Republicans did prevail, but Democrats were very close. It has been some time since Democrats won a statewide election here in Florida, but this remains one of the most important states heading into the 2020 presidential election. It's a state that President Trump cares deeply about. He, of course, has a home here. And you can bet there's going to be a special focus here in the Sunshine State over the next two years -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much in Tallahassee.

All right. Still ahead, President Trump leaves the door open on whether he might do a one-on-one interview with the special counsel on possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. This as he says the fate of the Mueller probe will be left up to his new acting attorney general.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:22:34] WHITFIELD: All right. New today, President Trump now says he probably won't sit for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That's after telling reporters yesterday he had finished writing answers to Mueller's questions about possible collusion and saying those answers would be submitted this week, by Thanksgiving. But in a new interview that aired on FOX News today, the president says he has no plans to respond to questions about obstruction of justice in writing or in person.

Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez.

So, Boris, what else?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, this was a wide-ranging interview by Chris Wallace on FOX News with President Trump. A number of topics related to the Russia probe came up.

The president notably, as you mentioned, saying that he probably would not sit down for a one-on-one interview with Robert Mueller. And this comes just months after the president actually said that he was looking forward to such an interview. It appears that the president has been listening to his attorneys, whom sources have told CNN, have informed the president that that would be a bad idea.

The president also opened up about his acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, who replaced outgoing attorney general Jeff Sessions. Whitaker in the past has made statements very critical of the Russia probe, at one point even suggesting that it could be stifled by cutting off its funding.

The president in this interview said that he didn't know that Matt Whitaker held these strong positions in the past. He also said that he would not intervene if Whitaker decided to interfere in the special counsel's probe. Listen to this.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: If Whitaker decides in any way to limit or curtail the Mueller investigation, are you OK with that?

TRUMP: Look, it's going to be up to him. I think he's very well aware politically. I think he's astute politically. He's a very smart person, a very respected person. He's going to do what's right. I really believe he's going to do what's right.

WALLACE: But you won't overrule him if he decides to curtail?

TRUMP: I would not get involved. And all these people that say I'm going to end the investigation, you know, they've been saying that now for -- how long has this witch hunt gone on? It's gone one for what?


SANCHEZ: Now, Fred, Chris Wallace pressed President Trump, asking specifically when he found out that Whitaker held these views about the special counsel. The president didn't answer specifically, instead saying, quote, "I don't think it had any effect," Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

All right. Let's talk more about this. Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic" is with me, and Zachary Wolf, digital director for CNN Politics.

[16:25:07] Good to see you both.

All right. So, Ron, you first. You know, the president says he probably won't sit for an interview with Mueller. And he says he will leave it up to his acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, to make decisions on whether to curtail, you know, the Russia probe. Trump says he wouldn't get involved. So then why again was Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked to resign?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, right. So look, I mean, this is an extraordinary situation. You have the target, you know, in some ways of an investigation deciding the limits of what he will answer and constraining that, curtailing that in two very significant ways. First, signaling that he would not sit down for an in-person interview. And second, that he will not answer questions having to do with after he took office and potential obstruction of justice.

It is worth reminding everyone that Ken Starr in 1998 did subpoena Bill Clinton to testify in his inquiry and ultimately they negotiated, you know, terms under which he would do so on videotape. So I think it's a momentous decision facing the special counsel. Will he accept this limited form of cooperation that fences off both the in-person interview and some very potentially important areas of inquiry about what the president did after he took office?

WHITFIELD: Right. And Mueller has the power to issue that subpoena, but it's -- you know, will he? That's the big question.

So, Zach, you know, today Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said it would be a disaster for the GOP if the Mueller probe was shut down. And is that the general consensus among Republicans?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICAL DIGITAL DIRECTOR: I mean, you see people like Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, who's been very loud about this. Flake is a serious Trump adversary. Lindsey Graham has tried to, you know, sort of play inside ball and get very close to the president. I don't think there's any Republican out there who really wants to create a constitutional crisis, you know, by shutting the Mueller investigation down.

They also don't -- probably many of them want to read any sort of Mueller investigation report. So I think they're kind of two minds probably right there.

WHITFIELD: Except Mitch McConnell isn't really pushing for --


WHITFIELD: You know, any kind of vote on that bipartisan measure to protect Mueller. That says a lot, doesn't it, Zach?

WOLF: Yes, I think it does say a lot and specifically because there have been some people like Jeff Flake, like Lindsey Graham, who have said that it should be protected. But Mitch McConnell is going to be the final word on this. He's in charge of the Senate and everything that goes to the floor. So if he doesn't want it, it's probably not going to happen.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, you know, in that same -- go ahead, Ron. You want to say something --

BROWNSTEIN: You know, what's striking -- you know what's striking about that, Fred, if you look at the exit polls from the election, there's really not evidence that the underlying question of the Russia investigation hurt Republicans very much. What hurt them and what clearly was a huge force in the House was reflected in what Mitch McConnell is doing which was the sense that they would not, in any way, impose constraints or oversight on the president. And in many ways, he's just continuing to feed into that narrative by refusing to bring this up to a vote.

WHITFIELD: So in that same interview on FOX, the president, which talked about a whole lot of things, including, you know, he was asked about the midterm, you know, results. He continued to downplay the lopsided losses for Republicans in the House and even said -- even though prior to the midterm he said this was kind of a referendum on him, especially if they were wins, but then he changed his tune today. Listen.


WALLACE: This is a historically big defeat in the House. You lost 36, maybe 40 seats. Some would argue that it was a thumping.

TRUMP: Are you ready? I won the Senate. And that's historic, too. Because if you look at presidents in the White House, it's almost never happened where you won a seat. We won -- we now have 53 as opposed to 51. And we have 53 great senators in the U.S. Senate. We won. That's a tremendous victory. Nobody talks about that. That's a far greater victory than it is for the other side. Number two, I wasn't on the ballot. I wasn't --

WALLACE: Wait, but you said -- you kept saying --

TRUMP: No, I said, look at me -- I said look at me.

WALLACE: You said, pretend I'm on the ballot.

TRUMP: But I have people. And you see the polls, how good they are. I have people that won't vote unless I'm on the ballot, OK? And I wasn't on the ballot.


WHITFIELD: So, Ron, but he did campaign really hard. I mean, he was out there at rallies. How do you explain that? BROWNSTEIN: A few quick facts. A few quick facts. First, Democrats

are probably going to win 38 or 39 seats in the House. That will be the most they have won in any election in the House since Watergate. Second, their total margin in the popular vote, as my colleague Dave Wasserman keeps track of assiduously, has now crossed about eight million. They will win the popular vote in a likelihood by more than Republicans did in the Tea Party election of 2010.

Third, 90 -- according to the exit poll, 90 percent of the people who disapproved of President Trump, and it was -- those were a majority of voters, said they voted Democratic in the House. That was the highest share of presidential disapprovers who voted against this party in House elections since 1982. So he was very much on the ballot. And fourth, I think in some ways, the key to all of this was that we talked all year about the potential Republican erosion in white collar suburbs due to the low popularity of President Trump in those places and that played out in the places we expected like Minneapolis and Chicago and Philadelphia. But it also played out in places that have resisted this in the past.

Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Charleston, Kansas City, Oklahoma city, the erosion -- Maricopa County, which is the largest county in the country that President Trump won, voted by 60,000 votes for Kyrsten Sinema. The realignment of the electorate that President is kind of pushing forward, where Republicans are getting stronger among blue-collar rural older, sacrificing younger, white-collar, and suburban, is very real and a constraint on the ability of Republicans to compete for the House as long as that's the dynamic going forward.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: And then quickly, you know, Zach, regardless of what, you know, he just said, you know, Trump just said, do you see that he will use the midterm results as sort of a template on his plans for 2020?

ZACHARY WOLF, POLITICS DIGITAL EDITOR, CNN: For every reason that Ron just said, if he used the midterm plans as a template for 2020, it would turn out very badly for him. I think, you know, but you'll see this sort of play out as Democrats, are they going to go back and try and rebuild their, as Ron would call it, the blue wall there in the upper Midwest. Are they going to, you know, go out west?

I think the larger thing is looking at what Trump just said, in the space of one breath. He said both. I won and then I wasn't on the ballot. I think what's kind of interesting there is that, you know, he both wants credit for everything that's good and no bad things for anything that's bad. So that's going to be a conundrum for Republicans, because it is all about him for them. It was about him in the midterms. And it's definitely going to be about him in 2020.

WHITFIELD: All right. Zachary Wolf...


BROWNSTEIN: I say real quick, real quick. He has strength in rural small town, blue-collar America. But the erosion around the major metros was historic and widespread. WHITFIELD: OK. We'll leave it there, Ron Brownstein and Zachary

Wolf, thanks, gentlemen, always good to see you, and happy thanksgiving, thanks so much. Still ahead, President Trump says the U.S. has the tape that captured part of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the President will not listen to it. We'll tell you why.


[16:35:00] WHITFIELD: President Trump says he has declined to listen to a recording that captured part of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month.


PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We have the tape. I don't want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you want to hear it, Sir?

TRUMP: Because it's a suffering tape. It's a terrible tape. I have been fully briefed on it. There's no reason for me to hear it. In fact, I said to the people, should I? They said you really shouldn't. There's no reason. I know exactly -- I know everything that went on in the tape without having...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what happened?

TRUMP: It was very violent, very vicious, and terrible.


WHITFIELD: The State Department has issued a statement saying there is no final conclusion yet on who's responsible for Khashoggi's murder. This follows CNN's reporting that the CIA has assessed Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, personally ordered the killing. President Trump says he will have a full report from the CIA on Tuesday. CNN's Sam Kylie joins me right now.

So Sam, do you expect the President will value the CIA's assessment if it indeed does point the finger at the Crown Prince?

SAM KILEY, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, I think it's a very delicate balancing act involving the truth as ever, perhaps, with the Trump administration. But this one is one of real politic, Fredricka. On the one hand, you have a closing of the different versions of the narrative. It is now accepted, for example, in Saudi Arabia and in Turkey that Mr. Khashoggi was murdered. And the murder was premeditated.

The issue now is who gave the order for that murder. From the reporting that CNN has and the Washington Post has done the initial assessment, an earlier assessment of the CIA, is that he was indeed murdered on the orders of the Mohammed Bin Salman. That is not yet an official declaration as made by the United States. Government or indeed the CIA, it's an initial assessment. Now the United States have to balance that assessment, perhaps, with the real politic.

For example, a million barrels of oil have come off the market thanks to Donald Trump's suspension, or rather tearing up of the treaty that did away temporarily at least with the Iranian nuclear program. The Saudis have countered that loss of oil on the market with pumping their own so that the oil market has stayed steady around $70 a barrel.

That is something that, had it run out of control, had the Saudis not agreed to pump more, the oil markets would have been in disarray. And western governments would have gone into recession or economies would have done, for example. In other areas, though, Donald Trump has exaggerated the effect that Saudi Arabia has on domestic employment. Even the scale of arms sales, he claims to have sold $110 billion worth.

But in fact, the sales last year are only $14.5 billion. But there's a lot to be balanced there in amongst the truth, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sam Kylie thanks so much. I want to bring in Samantha Vinograd now, a Former Senior Adviser to the National Security Adviser in the Obama administration, all right, good to see you. So the President would get this, you know, full assessment as early as Tuesday. What kind of detail would be in such a CIA report?

[16:40:02] SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Well, Fred, I want to correct the record on something. Because the President seemed to be implying in his public statements that he's in the dark on what the intelligence picture looks like ahead of this final briefing coming out as early as Tuesday. In my experience in post-crisis environments like this, the intelligence community keeps the President updated starting on day one, immediately after a crisis.

They're providing the President with continuously evolving intelligence assessments.


WHITFIELD: And that would be in those daily briefings, for example?

VINOGRAD: It would be in the daily briefings. It would be in any briefings that CIA Director Gina Haspel gives the President. So it's not like the President has been in an intelligence vacuum to date.

WHITFIELD: So why do you suppose he is saying it like that? I mean he -- before boarding Air Force One yesterday, he said he was going to be briefed, you know, on the plane. And now, today we're hearing him say, you know, in a previously recorded conversation that it would be Tuesday. Why would the President want people to think that he hasn't had any exposure to any kind of CIA findings or detail?

VINOGRAD: Because I think he's trying to espouse a stance that ignorance is bliss in this case. If he can say that he doesn't have a fulsome picture of what actually happened, he can kick the can down the road. Because again, intelligence, remember, is an input to policymaking and to decision making. So if he can say he doesn't have a full sense of what actually happened, he can try to delay making some very tough decisions about what to do to hold MBS accountable.

WHITFIELD: And then he says he doesn't want to listen to the tape. He doesn't really see it beneficial. You know it's gruesome. You know it's horrible. But is this the kind of information or detail that a President would need to hear because it could potentially influence the next move?

VINOGRAD: Well, this is a President that obviously doesn't like to be uncomfortable. He didn't want to get wet in France and didn't go to a cemetery for that reason. But with respect to this particular case, in my experience, presidents want to have the fullest picture possible of what happened. And this tape is a key intelligence input so that the President can make a decision on what to do. And not listening to that tape does leave him in the dark when it's so readily available.

WHITFIELD: And yesterday, prior to listening to, you know, or even commenting on the idea of listening to the tape, this is what the President had to say about Saudi Arabia and its importance.


TRUMP: They have been a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development. And I also take that -- you know I am President. I have to take a lot of things into consideration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if the Crown Prince, speaking to you, the President of the United States, directly lied to you?

TRUMP: Well, he told me that he had nothing to do with it. He told me that I would say, maybe five times, at different points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what if he's lying?

TRUMP: As recently as a few days ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you just live with it because you need him?

TRUMP: Well, will anybody really know, all right? Will anybody really know? But he did have certainly, people that were reasonably close to him, and close to him that were probably involved. You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. But at the same time, we do have an ally. And I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.


WHITFIELD: So Sam, does it sound like no matter what, the detail, whether it's the CIA report or even, you know, any recording, that the President may have already made up his mind about how to go forward with Saudi Arabia?

VINOGRAD: It certainly sounds this way. And the key point to remember here is that the President will set a precedent with his decision or indecision. If he lets MBS get off scot-free for this murder, he's really giving him a license to kill again, and giving any other leader who does a lot of business with the United States a license to engage in state-sanctioned assassination.

WHITFIELD: Samantha Vinograd, we'll leave it right there. Thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


[16:45:00] WHITFIELD: Imagine being so crippled by stress and anxiety that you have trouble leaving the house to go grocery shopping, to work, or even living near other people. So in this week's episode of This Is Life, Lisa Ling meets members of the furry community, people who create animal alter egos, often to help them deal with debilitating mental health and medical challenges. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stabilize me here.

LISA LING, HOST, THIS IS LIFE: The moment Lindsey puts on that suit, the shaking stops. And Leila comes alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I first imagined this character, I imagined her just like me, so kind of shy and withdrawn. It was very quickly that I realized the costume had a life of its own. The shyness was just gone, yeah.

LING: Twice a month, Josh and Lindsey hop in the car and head to one of her charity events.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just get super excited every time I put it on. I am going to go out there and perform and make people happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on? There's a giant dog driving around.


[16:49:58] WHITFIELD: All right. Lisa Ling joins me right now. OK, so at first, it really does seem like, you know, becoming a furry, you know, is something very light hearted, perhaps even silly. But this is actually very serious and therapeutic, if not medicinal even for a lot of people.

LING: Absolutely, Fred. It's our last episode of the season. And we saved a very, very special one to air last. We have been getting e- mails about covering the furry fandom for years. And to be honest with you, I kind of discounted them. Because I thought that's, as you said, you know, it's a little light hearted. You know our show is a substantive one. But the more we looked into it we realized that, first of all, this community is massive and global.

And so many of the people who call themselves furries are people who suffer from severe social anxiety or emotional challenges, and I mean I think we can all remember those days when we were kids, when we came in contact with Mickey Mouse for the first time and the kind of joy that it brought us. Well, there are lots of people who kind of never grew out of that and want to be able to offer that kind of joy to people around them as well.

In the clip, you met Lindsey. And when I was interviewing her, I am telling you, Fred, she could not stop moving. She was shaking profusely. And once she put that costume on, she just came alive and became animated with everyone. It was really a remarkable transformation that happened.

WHITFIELD: So you said this is really, you know a massive kind of, you know, activity or, you know, or really way of life. You actually went to a furry convention in Seattle. And is that when it was so eye opening to you, to realize that, wait a minute, this is no small thing, this is a big deal?

LING: Oh, yeah. They took over the entire hotel. And it was a little strange to see adults in furry costumes, you know, in the elevators and in the restaurants. But it is a really kind of unique community. I mean there's a reason why comic-cons and Star Trek conventions are so popular. It's a means of escapism, right? What's different with furries, though, is that this is a massive group of very creative people because they create their own identities.

And for them, just being able to be animated in ways that they are unable to be in real life is really a moving thing to be able to see.

WHITFIELD: So mostly we're looking at adults who are, you know, taking on these new characters, but it's not just for big people. But you noticed a lot of young people are doing this too, for the same reasons?

LING: Well, at the convention that we visited in Seattle, there were quite a number of kids and their parents. And there was a man who had a 14-year-old daughter there. And he became very emotional with me, because he talked about how his daughter could go days without talking to people because she was so shy. And when she put on this costume that she created, she was able to interact with anyone. And, you know, he was this kind of like guy's guy from the Bronx.

And to see him acknowledge that this was actually something that was really helping his daughter was pretty cool.

WHITFIELD: So did any of them talk about while it is transformative when they have the costume off, when they go back to, you know, life without a costume. How has it helped them, I guess, maintain some of that same level of, you know, confidence or, you know, shake some of those same anxieties?

LING: Well, it is a big transformation when they have the costume on. But we spent time with one man who suffers from severe PTSD, so much so that he has isolated himself from society. He lives as a hermit in the woods of Oregon. And he created this phenomenal character called Captain Boons. And he says that he is slowly starting to be able it integrate himself back into society. But he wouldn't have been able to do so without Captain Boons. Like, this character is actually helping him become more comfortable among people.

WHITFIELD: It's all fascinating, all right, saving the best for last.

LING: Absolutely.


WHITFIELD: OK. Lisa Ling, we can't wait to all dive in. Thank you so much. It's an all new episode of This Is Life tonight at 10:00 p.m. on CNN. Good to see you.


[16:55:00] WHITFIELD: All right, now to this week's CNN hero. When an emergency room doctor saw homicide rates on the rise, he decided to take action, both in and out of the hospital. Meet Dr. Rob Gore.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like pronouncing people dead. It's probably the worst thing that I have ever had to do. I want to preserve life. When I see patients that are coming in with violent injuries, when it's somebody who looks like you, from your neighborhood, a lot of this stuff really hits home. You realize I don't want this to happen anymore.

What do we do about it? It's important that we start training young people, helping them learn how to become change agents, working with them on a middle school level.


WHITFIELD: To vote for Dr. Gore or any of our CNN Heroes of the year, go to And thanks so much for being with me this Sunday. I am Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Ana Cabrera right now.