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Trump To Receive Final CIA Report on Khashoggi Killing; WAPO: Trump Declines Troop Visits Over War Zone Fears; Student Vets Not Getting Some Payments From V.A.; Rain on The Way Could Trigger Flash Floods And Mudslides; Zinke Blames "Radical Environmentalists" For Deadly Fires. Aired 11:30-12a ET

Aired November 20, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:32:19] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today, President Trump is expecting to receive the CIA's final report regarding the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Sources have said that an early CIA assessment puts the blame right at the feet of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Saying that Mohammed Bin Salman personally ordered the killing, something President Trump has remained skeptical up to this point.

Despite the findings, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said that they will not allow the Saudi King or the Crown Prince to, in their words, be harmed over this investigation. So, what happens now? And what's President Trump to do?

Joining me right now is CNN Global Affairs Analyst Aaron David Miller. He is also a friend of Jamal Khashoggi. Aaron, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: So, let us assume that the CIA report lands on the President's desk today. Let's also then assume that it says that the CIA assessment that Crown Prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi's murder. What do you think the President is going to do about it?

MILLER: I mean I think, what you've seen already is more or less what you're going to get. We stopped refueling the 20 percent of Saudi and Saudi aircraft that are flying coalition missions over Yemen. We've imposed 17 sanctions on 17 individuals. Most of whom were responsible for this what is clearly a premeditated and willful hit.

And I suspect, unless the agency report can produce audible, some confirmation that in fact there is a conversation, one way or two way which basically has the Crown Prince demonstrating foreknowledge or orchestration of the killing or a mission accomplished phone call that essentially has him being informed directly that his mission has been complete.

I suspect the administration is going to try to find a way, and all the rhetoric suggests this, and some of the actions, of at least, I guess, getting or giving a get out of jail free card on this one.

I don't think the administration has any intention of signaling loss of confidence in the leadership of MBS. Let alone applying personal sanctions on travel, freezing assets, nothing like that.

BOLDUAN: And the fact that the President over the weekend, when you talk about he would need something more direct to change his position. The fact that over the weekend and he said that he was told that he did -- well, he said he didn't want to and he was told that he didn't need to listen to the audio tape that is out there of the murder. What do you think of that?

MILLER: I think it's the worst of both worlds. He's briefed clearly on what that audio contained. And yet, he demonstrates a kind of willful willingness to detach himself from hearing what he himself described as a suffering tape. And back in April of 2017, maybe Ivanka Trump was responsible for this.

[11:35:08] The President was actually moved by those pictures of the impact of Syrian C.W. attacks on innocent civilians, particularly on children. So, I think in a way, it's distancing. He emotes when he finds it convenient and doesn't emote when it's not. And I think that's not frankly -- well, it's a pretty telling aspect of the absence of engagement on this and leadership.

BOLDUAN: The President has said, I think he said Saudi was a spectacular ally. Regardless, he very much makes the case that Saudi Arabia is an important ally of the United States. I do wonder, though, how do you square that from the position that you -- the many positions and many presidents that you've advised?

MILLER: Well, I don't --

BOLDUAN: How do you square --


BOLDUAN: -- how do you square that with the fact that there is a need for justice for your friend Jamal Khashoggi?

MILLER: Well, first of all, you do not describe Saudi Arabia as an ally. At best, the Saudis are important security partners of the United States. An ally is a country with which the United States shares on a consistent or sustained basis both common interests and both common values. The Saudis do not share our values.

And I think frankly, episodically, from their war in Yemen to the boycott of Qatar, to the kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister complete with hostage video, to MBS's repressive policies at home. I think he demonstrate. If John McCain were here, he'd be up in arms about this as Lindsey Graham is. Basically, not allowing the Saudis or the administration to escape the proposition that allies need to also to a degree, share U.S. values.

So, I think the relationship probably is too big to fail. The Trump administration has invested heavily, so has Mr. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The President, Kate, went to Saudi Arabia as his first foreign trip abroad which is frankly a stunning departure when most of his predecessors probably went to Canada or Mexico.

So, I think they'll find a way to navigate this and to maintain the relationship. I just don't think in its current state, Kate, it's serving American national interests.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Appreciate your time Aaron. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

MILLER: Yes, and Kate, happy thanksgiving.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up, why President Trump has yet to visit U.S. troops in war zones? A new report from "The Washington Post" has a surprising answer. That's next.


[11:42:09] BOLDUAN: A new report from Washington post, lays out that the President appears to be finally considering visiting troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. A historical tradition for commanders in chief that President Trump had so far not done, avoided maybe. This report also is offering a bit of a window into why President Trump hasn't made a trip yet.

One former Senior White House official who've been discussing the issue with the President putting it this way in the post. He's never been interested going, the official said of the President visiting troops in a combat zone. He's afraid of those situations. He's afraid people want to kill him.

The report also cites other current and former advisors who say the President doesn't want to be associated with wars that he views as failures. No matter they're view on any particular conflict, his predecessors did show up multiple times.

George W. Bush, made a surprise for tour Iraq just months after the invasion in 2003. Obama visited combat zones, I think it was seven times as President.

Joining right now for some perspective is Paul Rieckhoff. He's the Founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a veteran himself, having served in Iraq. Paul it's great to see you.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for coming in.

RIECKHOFF: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: You and I talk all the time, and it's always important to say Veterans don't always have the same view. Veterans don't always speak with one voice and you don't speak for all Veterans?


BOLDUAN: But you do speak to Veterans every day. And I did want to get your perspective, your reaction to when you heard the reasoning of why President Trump has so far not gone to visit troops in a combat zone, because he's afraid.

RIECKHOFF: It's disappointing to say the least, if it's true. I think the bottom line is he should go.

Not every Veteran agrees on that frankly, but I think he should because it brings attention to the fact they're there. Afghanistan, for our community, has become forgot to stand. People are killed, people are wounded, hardly registered on the Congressional elections, there's not a lot of news coverage. And those are our friends over there. Those are our buddies. Those are America's sons and daughters. And those are folks who are going to miss Thanksgiving this week.

There are going to be empty seats of Thanksgiving tables because folks are over there. And if he can bring attention to their situation, even if he doesn't support the policy, which he should more aggressively work against if that's the case. But he has an obligation as a commander in chief to boost the morale, to show them they are remembered and appreciated. And to drive support for issues like mental healthcare when they come home for forming the BA and real world example, fixing the G.I. bill skill.

BOLDUAN: Hold on that because I'm going to get to that.

RIECKHOFF: Got to have it right now, yes.

BOLDUAN: This is something that should make everybody's blood boil when we get to that.


BOLDUAN: When in this report at all, when it says that the President also doesn't want to be associated with wars that he thinks are failures or wars that he doesn't like. What do you think of that?

RIECKHOFF: Too bad. He owns them. I mean, he's the commander in chief right now. And, you know, I wasn't crazy about Iraq when I was there. I was in Iraq when President Bush came.

BOLDUAN: I was wondering with that.

RIECKHOFF: Yes, I was there for thanksgiving. We didn't see him. I mean, he was in and out.


RIECKHOFF: But it made you feel like the attention of the country was there. It made you feel like you weren't forgotten.

BOLDUAN: Yes. RIECKHOFF: And that's part of the commander in chief's role. Is to support all Americans and be an advocate for all of us. And especially the folks that are on the front lines and especially folks that he's also sending to the border.

He's sending us all over the world, that's his responsibility, it's his authority. And he has a responsibility to support them and bring all the attention, love, and support and remembrance that we can't.

[11:45:11] BOLDUAN: And this is all, even, becoming kind of -- and more of a focus on this because of what the President said over the weekend, when he attacked over the weekend William McRaven, the architect of the Osama Bin Laden raid and so much more for all being honest.


BOLDUAN: When you saw that the President, the best way to sum it up would be kind of dismiss him as a partisan or mock the fact that it took law a long time to find OBL. I don't know.

RIECKHOFF: It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. It's insulting to McRaven who really is kind of a hallowed figure in the military. It's bad for President Trump. It's bad for his relationship with the military. It's stupid. It's an unforced error. It's shooting yourself in the foot.

And especially with his base, I mean, not even his base can appreciate this kind of an attack. And I think look at it from the perspective overseas. Look at our enemies who are watching the President attack a former Navy Seal in the national media. Our enemies celebrate that kind of division. And we need unity. We need focus, especially behind folks in our military.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about focus on something that everyone should be talking about. Another issue with the V.A., but a real life should be fixed right now, should've been fixed yesterday problem.

You got student veterans, I think is it more than 10,000 student veterans now? They have not getting payments from the G.I Bill that they're owed, money that they use for tuition and for housing.


BOLDUAN: The V.A. blames it on a technical glitch.


BOLDUAN: What is happening? Have you gotten any -- I mean, this is clearly top of mind for you.

RIECKHOFF: Yes. The numbers are all over the place, but the bottom line is some number of Veterans it looks like thousand, have been waiting for payments from the V.A. for their housing allowance and for the costs associated with going to school. It's created tremendous stress. Some of them have been worried about having to drop out, they've been trying to figure out how to make their rent payments or their mortgage payments and just keep themselves in school. It's an absolute bureaucratic failure.

The V.A. knew it was coming. We another veterans group testified before Congress, warned them back in September. Stars and stripes, many other people covered this. And they knew it was coming and they avoided it. And now it's affecting people in real time around the holidays sand increasing their mental health stress and all of the other stuff they're dealing with.

These are folks who are doing the right thing. They're going to school. They're trying to succeed, and the government is failing them, absolutely failing them. And the President has been completely silent on this, too. He hasn't said anything, Sanders hasn't said anything. They need to immediately resolve the situation and provide help in the meantime.

BOLDUAN: Let's continue talking about it. Thank you so much Paul. I really appreciate you being here.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you too, of course anytime.

BOLDUAN: Paul almost didn't make it because of traffic, but I appreciate it you Paul --

RIECKHOFF: And you have another segment, yes.

BOLDUAN: We'll talk about that next time and thank you so much.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Trump administration now blaming, "radical environmentalist" for deadly wildfires raging in California. What's happening here? That's next.


[11:52:11] BOLDUAN: Firefighters battling the deadliest blaze in California history might be getting a break. Rain is on the way but it could be a bluffing and a curse at the same time.

Flash floods and mudslides could hinder any search efforts. The campfire have left only 79 people dead and nearly 700 people are still unaccounted for.

President Trump has blamed the fires on mismanagement of the forest. Now, his embattled interior secretary is backing him up. CNN's Rene Marsh is joining me now. She has more on that.

Rene, what is Ryan Zinke saying?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says this is not the time for finger-pointing when it comes to who's to blame for these deadly California wildfires but then he turned around and pointed fingers.

So take a listen to who he's blaming.


RYAN ZINKE, INTERIOR SECRETARY: It's not time for finger-pointing. We know the problem. It's been years of neglect. And in many cases it's been these radical environmentalists that want nature to take its course.

We have dead and dying timber. We can manage it using best science, best practices. But to let this devastation go on year after year after year is unacceptable.


MARSH: So Zinke blaming environmental radicals in his words. It mirrors what we heard from President Trump who blamed the fires on a lot of factors including "forest management".

The president saying that we don't take care of the floors of the forests, saying that we don't rake and clean the forest -- floors of the forest, removing that dead timber. It's worth noting that Zinke is facing several investigations by the inspector general. The justice department and house Dems are also saying they plan on launching an investigation.

But what is -- what both men are not saying is that this has anything to do with climate change or the extreme dry conditions that we've seen in California. That is really what experts say is a part of this whole picture in this whole story here as it relates to the California wildfires. But not hearing that from the president or Zinke, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Definitely not. Rene, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

So from that to cold Turkey. I have tried. There's -- or something like that. Thanksgiving Day could be one of the coldest in a century for parts of the Northeast including New York City.

CNN's Chad Myers has joined me now. Don't laugh at my bad jokes, Chad. How cold are we talking?

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: You know, standing there watching snoopy go by if he even goes by with the wind because it's going to be almost 20 miles per hour. You're going to feel like six degrees. That's how cold the air is going to be.

As for this today, cold air gets in here really for Thursday morning right in time for the big parade there across the Northeast.

It's warm in the west. Denver may be 40 degrees warmer than New York City. That usually doesn't take place. It usually is the other way around, but 22 record lows may be set on Thursday morning.

So, yes, as you get to grandma's house, it is going to be cold. Even New York City, the temperature, the wind chill is going to be nine.

[11:55:06] Syracuse, one below. Good thing there's no real big things to go outside there other than shopping on Black Friday.

BOLDUAN: I'm not ready for it. I'm just going to say it. I'm not ready for the cold. Anyway, all right. It's not about me. As I would say, great to see you Chad, thank you so much.

OK. Let's try this one for the other side (ph). This is at the White House briefing room earlier this hour. Yes, a caption contest in the briefing room. Will it be peas or will it be carrots? That's the Turkey's name. One is going to be pardoned this afternoon. The other one, well you know. Stay with us.