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Trump Says on Whether the Crown Prince Had Knowledge of The Khashoggi Murder, "Maybe He Did and Maybe He Didn't."; Trump Signals That the U.S. Will Not Punish the Saudi Crown Prince Over the Killing; Ivanka Trump Used Personal Email for Government Business. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired November 20, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: In Saudi Arabia, that is despite the fact that his own intelligence agency according to sources has included that the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman ordered this murder on the "Washington Post" columnist. Let me just read a portion of the President's words here in the statement that is in from the White House.
"The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one and one that our country does not condone.
Representatives from Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was a, quote, enemy of the state and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood but my decision is in no way based on that. This is unacceptable and a horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agents continue to assess all information but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of the tragic event -- maybe he did and maybe he didn't.
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran."
Let's go to Secretary Mike Pompeo.
SECRETARY OF STATE, MIKE POMPEO: -- a peaceful lasting solution to the Syrian conflict.
With that I'm happy to take a few questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Secretary, one of the things that the President points to in his statement is a $110 billion arms initiative but by the State Department's own record, only $14.5 billion has come through. When do you expect to see the rest of the money from that arms agreement?
POMPEO: Some of these contracts, defense contracts in particular are complex, lengthy contract negotiations, we are working diligently on the remainder of those. We actually hope that number will end up being even greater. I couldn't tell when you those negotiations will conclude but we are hopeful that each of those commitments that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made to the United States to purchase equipment will be completed in a timely fashion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, based on the President's statement, moving forward, relations with Saudi Arabia won't be affected by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and how can you differentiate between the kingdom and the crown prince?
POMPEO: Yes. So, it's a mean, nasty world out there. The Middle East in particular. There are important American interests to keep the American people safe. To protect Americans. Not only Americans who are here but Americans who are traveling and working, doing business in the Middle East. It is the President's obligation and indeed the State Department's duty as well to ensure we adopt policies that further America's national security. So as the President said today, the United States will continue to have a relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, they are an important partner of ours. We will do that with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its people. That is the commitment that the President made today. It's that straight forward. By the way, this is a long, historic commitment and one that is absolutely vital to America's national security. We are determined to ensure what we continue to make sure that we take care of the American people in all of the strategic decisions we make about with whom we work from around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One quick follow up and then a question on Iran. Does the America-first agenda mean putting U.S. business interests ahead of human rights concerns? And on Iran, have you considered any specific sanctions to pressure Iran to release the American citizens who are held there?
POMPEO: Taking your second question first, we are gauged every day, literally every day in working to return every U.S. citizen who was either wrongfully detained or a hostage somewhere around the world. That certainly includes Bob Levinson and those held by the Iranian regime. We are determined to get them back. As President Trump has made very clear, we're not going to pay a price for their return but we are prepared to work with all of those who can assist us in getting those Americans returned to their families and return here to our country.
The other question is best answered by talking about what we have already done. There has been an enormous effort with respect to be fact finding pertaining to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. A lot of U.S. resources have been devoted to determining the facts to the best of our ability. The United States took a very strong response.
We have sanctioned 17 individuals in connection with that investigation. We are at the same time committed to making sure that we place America's national security interests and all the actions that take place in the context of doing the right thing to make sure that America continues to thrive and grow and when we do that, the world is better off for it, too, and the Middle East is better off as well.
[14:05:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mentioned -- I wanted to ask what's the message he's going to be send being as far as what the U.S. government would like to see South Korean government do as far as coordinating their inner Korean efforts and the denuclearization efforts?
POMPEO: So, I think there's complete agreement between the South Koreans and us with respect to how this should proceed. We now have a working group that formalizes those processes so that we can be sure that we don't talk past each other, that we don't take an action or the South Koreans don't take an action that the other is unaware of or hasn't had a chance to comment on or provide their thoughts and that's the purpose of the working group that's being led on our side. We have made clear to the Republic of Korea that we do want to make sure that peace on the peninsula and the denuclearization of North Korea aren't lagging behind the increase in the amount of relationship between the two Koreas. We view them as tandem, as moving forward together, as important parallel processes and that working group is designed to make sure they continue to remain that way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned you're gathering all these facts. Does the President's statement today mean that fact finding segment is over and have you seen the assessment he is expected to get today?
POMPEO: I can't comment on intelligence matters. I direct you to the DNI Director Coates or to the CIA to talk about particular intelligence issues. Facts will obviously still continue to come to light. I'm confident about that. It's the way the world works.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as these facts come to life, would you pursue further actions against whoever -- even if it does show culpability --
POMPEO: We have been unambiguous with respect to how we have treated the data set we have been able to get. When America has the information it needs it, will do the right thing to protect American interests. And we have done so every time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you trust the Saudis if there's so much disinformation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One other question, Prime Minister --
BALDWIN: And the questions continue to be shouted and Secretary Mike Pompeo walks off stage right there. Let me begin with our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward who was there in the thick of things. Is this White House essentially saying vis-a-vis the Secretary of State and through this Trump statement that this White House is essentially saying we don't care what happened, we're sticking with Saudi Arabia?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That seems to be the essential message. I mean with the words of President Trump himself about the crown prince, maybe he did, maybe he didn't. The U.S. is much more focused on the weapons deals and various investments that exist between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. President Trump talks about $450 billion. I have not been able to verify that figure but certainly we are talking about more than $100 billion. The U.S. is very much focused on fighting Iran and President Trump clearly believes it needs Saudi Arabia to be able to perpetuate or have any momentum going in that fight. And he also mentions the U.S. being focused on the war against terrorism, though of course, Brooke, it does bear mentioning that Saudi Arabia has played a very mixed role in the foot against terrorism, often being sort of the arsonist and the firefighter because it plays a role in both perpetuating the type of religious ideology that is connected with so many terrorist acts but also of course it has played a strong role in trying to fight terrorism because it's a threat to the monarchy itself. So essentially what you're hearing from President Trump, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it doesn't matter that Jamal Khashoggi died because these things are more important. What I found was the insertion of the possibility that Saudi Arabia has described Jamal Khashoggi as an enemy of the state who was also a member of the Muslim brotherhood. I'm not saying that I agree with that or that has anything to do with my decision but I'm just throw it out there into the ether.
[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Why dangle that, Clarissa, in the middle of the statement? Why?
WARD: With one specific objective, Brooke, and that is to make Jamal Khashoggi look like some kind of a deranged, Islamist would be- terrorist. You say the word Muslim brotherhood to a lot of people in the U.S. who doesn't know the full history of the group, who don't stand the full geo political context --
BALDWIN: It frightens them.
WARD: And it frightens them. It's a very clear and unsettle dig at Jamal Khashoggi, which seems in light of the fact that he's not here to speak for himself and defend himself and that he was a respected columnist for "The Washington Post," was well known and loved by many in the U.S., sat down in evenings with people drinking wine all around him, this man was by no means any kind of fundamentalist. And to imply so feels unkind and unnecessary.
BALDWIN: Let me bring in our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown. You heard the secretary being asked at the very end, we knew today that final assessment with drop with what they believed to be the facts of how Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. Do you know if the President has seen that report? We've seen the President pardoning turkeys and issuing the statements he's about to bounce to Palm Beach, do we know if he's eyeballed it, A, and B, about the time of the statement before he's seen it?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line is he released the statement before seeing this assessment from the intelligence community, this report. So that is what is so puzzling about the timing here, Brooke. It's been nearly two months since Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi Arabia consulate and turkey. Since then there's been sort of this slow walk strategy here at the White House, playing up the important relationship with Saudi Arabia but also saying that it's a terrible act but we need to wait and see all the facts. And then on the same day that the President is supposed to be briefed, receive this in-depth report from the CIA, the assessment of what happened, he releases this statement before that. Our reporting, Brooke, is that the CIA has assessed that the crown prince directed the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. So, the timing is certainly questionable here. We know the President is supposed to leave later today to go to Florida for the thanksgiving holiday. Just a few days ago overseas, Vice President Pence say that every person involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi will be held accountable. But then you look at this statement from President Trump basically saying it doesn't matter if the crown prince had knowledge of this or was involved. He said, "maybe he did or maybe he didn't." The big picture here is once again the President is at odds with his intelligence community. This is a slap in the face to the intelligence community who has been working for the last several weeks, months to gather this intelligence, to make this assessment. The fact that he didn't even wait to see this report before issuing this statement certainly once again puts him at odds with the intelligence community.
BALDWIN: It's stunning. Stunning. Pamela, thank you. On Pamela's final point, speaking of that intel report, Josh Campbell is with us, formerly of the FBI. Again, you know, the fact that Trump is dismissing the intel from folks in the CIA, again, who believe MBS had a hand in this murder, he is issuing this report without even getting their full assessment. Your thoughts on that?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, exactly, this whole thing is stunning if you look through that statement. Several points in there that are troubling. But as Pamela mentioned this is a slap in the face of the intelligence community.
The public should understand the intelligence community doesn't make policy they don't make foreign policy but they do inform it. They bring their best analysts to bear to help inform our leaders. We don't even care what you say, we're going to formulate our own conclusion is going to be perceived as a slap in the face.
[14:15:00] If you think of all the hosts of hard problem sets that they work on a daily basis, they see a pattern that might impact the President personally, he will jump to discount their work before their conclusions are even finished. It's troubling on a number of fronts, Brooke.
BALDWIN: I've got Sam Vinograd. Can we talk to Sam here as well? He's seated next to me. You've been listening to my conversation with Clarissa. I thought she hit the nail on the head in dangling this seed of doubt that perhaps in this journalist, in this "Washington Post" columnist that perhaps he was an enemy of the state, perhaps he was this member of the Muslim brotherhood, which would frighten Some persons Americans. It's dangerous of him.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's dangerous but the entire statement is fear mongering. He starts out a statement about Jamal Khashoggi's brutal murder talking about Iran and the fear they spread. He doesn't get to Jamal Khashoggi until probably the fifth paragraph. He's distracting from the fact that he's condoning state-sanctioned murdered going forward as long as you give dollars to the United States. He says this is about U.S. national security. I'd like to find one American who feels safer knowing that they could be targeted by Mohammad bin Salman or any other foreign leader if they hurt his feelings, as long as there's still money through this arms deal or oil.
BALDWIN: There's still money in these countries, you can get away with it.
VINOGRAD: We've seen Vladimir Putin use nuclear weapons. Jamal Khashoggi legally resided here. He happened to be in Turkey at the time that he was murdered, but he was a legal resident of the United States. If this was about U.S. national security, this would be about not only punishing the crime that happened but deterring future ones.
BALDWIN: Here's what John Brennan has tweeted. "Since Mr. Trump excels in dishonesty, it is now up to members of Congress to obtain and declassify the CIA findings of Jamal Khashoggi's death. No one in Saudi Arabia most specifically the crown prince should escape responsibility for such a heinous act."
I know Congress covers Washington, if Trump isn't going to do anything, what is the likelihood that Congress does?
VINOGRAD: I think it's very strong. There was bipartisan consensus that Khashoggi murderer should be held accountable. We could see the intelligence committees demand access to these documents to find out what happened. And then we could see the congressional committees move forward with more recommendations on sanctions or if these arms deals ever materialize, much of the $110 billion Trump has talked about hasn't come forward, they could put a hold on that, which would really, really upset the President.
BALDWIN: Stay with me. We also have CNN's Alex Marquardt who has followed this story incredibly closely. Alex, to you. What will the rest of the world think in terms of not only does the President start out talking about Iran but talks about the money before he even gets to Jamal Khashoggi. Is this again the President putting money over morals?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is the President putting money over morals. A lot of countries are going to look to the U.S. and note that this is a real diversion or change in the moral compass of this country. Already we've seen countries, and particularly authoritarian regimes around the world start adopting the same kind of language and techniques and strategies as the Trump administration. We've seen other despotic leaders talk about fake news. The Nigerian army justified shooting rock throwing protesters after the President floated that possibility down at the border with Mexico.
So we could see other countries picking up on this, NSM was just saying justifying cracking down on activists, on human rights, on journalists, knowing that they're not going to have -- there won't be any sort of ramifications or punishment from the United States. I have to also say that this also highlights this very complicated relationship with the Saudi regime over the past several decades. It's impossible to know how the administration of George W. Bush or President Obama would have reacted in response to the death of Khashoggi, but for decades the United States has essentially worked with the Saudis, despite the fact that they have fomented Islamic extremism, cracked down on activists in their own country. They have run their country essentially with values that are counter to the U.S. because the U.S. really values them as an ally. So, this is an incredibly important moment, has been an incredibly important moment for the U.S. to assess its relationship with Saudi Arabia and what President Trump is essentially saying today is we're going to go forward business as usual.
[14:20:00] BALDWIN: Quick follow-up to you, isn't the difference and you've had multiple administrations from the past, both on the left and right, kind of turn the other cheek and ignored the warts that are you know that are humanitarian failures what you are alluding to from Saudi Arabia. The difference here is it would be MBS at the top who called the shots.
MARQUARDT: That's what the CIA is saying. Anyone who covers the region knows nothing look this could have taken place without the acquiescence or the consent of Mohammad bin Salman. So now essentially what's going to happen, if we game this out a little bit, the Saudis have rounded up almost 20 people, five are facing the death penalty, the United States has sanctioned some 17 Saudis, and what looks like is going to happen is the relationship will move forward without any punishment against MBS. We have to note on capitol hill there are a lot of Republicans and Democrats who will not be happy with this statement from the administration. They are going to be demanding a harsher reaction against not just Saudi Arabia but MBS in particular. So that's what we're going to be listening for today.
BALDWIN: We will listen to that. That was my key question, will Congress act? Thank you. Thanks to everyone. Much more as we await reaction from the fallout and the statement from President Trump. And another controversy here at the White House, personal e-mail used for government business. Sound familiar? This time it involves senior White House advisor and the President's own daughter, Ivanka Trump. Now House Democrats say they plan to investigate. That's next.
[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: We still have a little deja vu over the Florida recount.
Stop me if you've heard this one. "She was using a private e-mail account." no, not Hillary Clinton. This time it was Ivanka Trump. The President's daughter has committed this violation that her own father was fixated with as he ran against Clinton to become President. Remember those chance? "Lock her up"?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she does with e-mail. She doesn't even remember whether or not she was instructed on how to use e-mails. She deleted the e-mails. She has to go to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Yes, there are key differences between Clinton and Ivanka Trump's e-mail use, but as for Ivanka Trump's defense? I didn't know. Does that sound familiar? Only this time President Trump hasn't said one word. His daughter's e-mail use came to light after this ethics watchdog group called American Oversight sued for public records. Now the first daughter's e-mails will be part of this probe led by house Democrats into whether she violated the law when conducting government business. Let's go to our White House reporter Jeremy Diamond. What is the White House saying about this?
JEREMY DIAMOND, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House is simply looking at the facts here. The facts are that Ivanka Trump used a private e-mail address to conduct government business for at least several months at the beginning of her tenure as a senior White House official. These records on it and by the watch dog group show Ivanka Trump several e-mails sent to senior officials, including the secretary of commerce, the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. All of this show there could be a violation here. This is of course all drying cries of hypocrisy from both the President's critics but even some his supporters who remember the President's chants on the campaign trail of "lock her up," some of which you just played. Of course, this issue of Clinton's e-mails was a central line of attack from the President. Now it seems Ivanka Trump, at least through her attorney's spokesperson is using some of the similar defenses that Hillary Clinton used back during the 2016 campaign. Some of which include, this was mostly logistical e-mails, family scheduling and that they were ultimately forwarded to government accounts.
But there are some key differences here as you did point out, Brooke. And her attorney spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, is pointing some of those out in a statement saying, "To address misinformation being peddled about Ms. Trump's personal e-mail, she did not create a private server in her house or office. There was never classified information transmitted. The account was never transferred or how's that Trump organization. No e-mails were ever deleted and the e-mails have been retained in the official account in conformity with record preservation laws and rules."
But the President of course was not just focused on those details, he was using her use of personal e-mail, Hillary Clinton's, as a broader line of attack, but for now the President not commenting on certainly not calling his daughter, crooked Ivanka.
[14:30:00] BALDWIN: No, he is not. We will listen to see if he says anything as he is on his way to Florida next hour, Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much, from the White House.
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