Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Stood Firm On His Support Of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman; Representative Goodlatte Is Requesting Private Depositions From Comey On December 3rd And Lynch On December 4th; President Trump Intensifying His Clash With Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts; Four-Star Commander Of U.S. NATO Forces In Afghanistan Was Photographed Carrying A Loaded Assault Rifle While Walking With Local Officials In Ghazni, Afghanistan; Eighth Grade Girl From Milwaukee Wrote This Compelling Essay About The Impact Of Gun Violence Was Tragically Shot And Killed By A Straight Bullet As She Was In Her Own Home. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:02] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. Happy thanksgiving to you. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me on this holiday afternoon.

Here we go. Moments after the President's overseas phone call to show his support for U.S. troops, he once again discounted the work of another group of Americans who has dedicated their lives to this nation, his intelligence agents and analysts.

Earlier today President Trump stood firm on his support of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the fact according to two sources that his CIA has determined quote "with high confidence that the crown prince ordered the murder and torture of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi," a frequent critic of the prince. As any intelligence official will tell you, no intelligence report gives 100 percent certainty. In case you missed it, here was the President today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The CIA doesn't say they did it. They do point out certain things. And in pointing out those things, can you conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn't. That was another part of the false reporting. Because a lot of you said yesterday that they said he did it. Well, they didn't say that. They said he might have done it. That's a big difference. But they are vehemently denying it. And we have hundreds of thousands of jobs. Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs?

And frankly, if we went by this standard, we wouldn't be able to have anybody as an ally. Because look at what happens all over the world. I dislike it more than you do. But the fact is, they have been a very strong ally. They create tremendous wealth. They create really tremendous number of jobs in their purchases. And very importantly they keep the oil price down. I hate the crime. I hate what's done. I hate the cover-up. And I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do. And they have vehemently denying it. The CIA points it both ways. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That was part of the President - just keep in mind, it is the work of U.S. intelligence that led to sanctions against Russia for attacking the U.S. election in 2016 or of course, tracking down Osama bin Laden before killing him in 2011.

So with me now, CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny who is following the President there as he spends the holiday in Florida.

So Jeff Zeleny, first, happy thanksgiving to you, my friend. And talk to me a little bit more about this phone call that the President made this morning where when you talk to retired military, they will say he put his military leaders in a tough spot.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, no question about it, he certainly was. And happy thanksgiving to you and everyone on the show.

The reality is if we had to fact check everything the President said this morning at Mar-a-Lago, it would take longer than an hour probably that he spent there on the phone with troops answering questions. The reality is about the Saudi crown prince, to say that he regrets it more, probably almost certainly not true. But Republicans on Capitol Hill will get to that at some point. They say they are going to take action.

But, Brooke, it was the unusual nature of this phone call. Presidents often are reaching out to armed service members. The President did this last year on the phone. So that was a normal course of business. He had a script in front of him. Then it went entirely off script when he was talking to a commander in Afghanistan, essentially equating what was happening in Afghanistan to what the President is trying to do on the southern border here.

Brooke, take a look at this - listen, rather, to how the President, the commander in-chief, was addressing his military leaders today.


TRUMP: So, colonel, how many people are you commanding right now would you say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirteen thousand.

TRUMP: Wow. That's a lot of people. What do you see in the region? What's going on in the region? How are they feeling about things? How are they feeling about trade? Because you know, trade for me is a very big subject all over. We have been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals. We don't have any good trade deals. How are you finding things in the region, nick?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, from our perspective out on the water, sir, we are seeing there is an abundance of trade happening in the region. TRUMP: Tell me about the catapult system. So on the "Gerald Ford"

they don't use steam, which is the first one that I have heard of that doesn't use team. And I know they have some difficulties, which I'm not happy about and they spent a lot of money. And I was just curious, the steam system is tried and true for many, many years, as long as we've had aircraft carriers. How do you find steam versus what they are doing on the "Gerald Ford," which is digital, if you can believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. All of our nemitz (ph) super carriers have been using steam for decades. And we are finding it pretty reliable. However the electromagnetic catapults they run in there offer great benefits.

[14:05:02] TRUMP: And you feel safe in the region? Do you see any hostility in the region? Do you see any hostility? Do you see any aggression because you know, you are hearing a little about aggression from a couple of the players. What are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. We have safe and independent operations out here throughout the theater. We do feel safe.


ZELENY: He was certainly asking many operational questions in nature there, something that perhaps should not have been done on a live, televised event.

But Brooke, no matter how you sliced it, the reality is, this is an unscripted event. The President taking the reins of all this. There is largely he is unsupervised here in Florida, Brooke. All the senior staff is elsewhere. So he was doing that on his own largely. And now, he was also asked for what he is thankful for. Brooke, he said he was thankful for the difference he made for the country -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you.

Let's discuss more with retired rear admiral John Kirby, former spokesman for the Pentagon, state department and CNN military and diplomat analyst.

Admiral, Happy Thanksgiving to you, sir. And thank you for all you have done for this country.

You know, when you sit there and you listen to President Trump, I want you to just put yourself in the boots of these, you know, commanders, these military leaders, obviously in front of their own soldiers, sailors, and you know, when you are being asked about operational details and trade and politics, what kind of position are you put in?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: A very, very difficult one and an unfair one for the commander in-chief to put them in.

But I got to tell you, I was really impressed by how they all handled it. All of them pivoted back to their own lanes and to their mission and what they are doing and what they are seeing. They all pivoted back to their own scope of responsibility which is exactly what you would have wanted them to do. Certainly, me as a form of press secretary would have exactly wanted that. But it was very unfair for the President to do that. It was completely inappropriate.

I wish I could say, Brooke, that I was surprised, but he did the same thing last year when he made this call on thanksgiving. He just can't help himself. I think he actually looks at the military as an arm of the Republican Party or an arm of his on White House. And of course, they do report to him as commander in-chief but they don't have personal loyalty in the same way that he expects from other people.

BALDWIN: Do you give the man any credit for picking up the phone and at least calling troops? Man, I mean, maybe we are at that point where I need to ask you that question and just the fact that he did say maybe he will go see them?

KIRBY: Yes. Look, I mean, there's certainly nothing wrong - I mean, I applaud him for taking the time on thanksgiving to spend a little time on the phone with them. And then he went and visited a coast guard station, all commendable, but he just can't help himself when he is around them of trying to score political talking points. He knew the press was covering this phone call and that they would cover his visit to the coast guard station.


KIRBY: And he used those cameras to make political points and that's totally inappropriate. I will say one more thing, Brooke, and I said this before.


KIRBY: I'm actually -- I would not be all that bothered if he doesn't go visit troops in the war zone. Yes, it's an obligation that a President incurs. Yes, in a normal circumstance, I would want my commander in-chief to be out there showing support. I just don't think he can do it without politicizing the mission and without by default politicizing them. So if he doesn't go, I would be OK with that.

BALDWIN: Wow. Admiral Kirby, that's something to say. Thank you very much. Good to see you, sir. Appreciate it.

New today, the House Judiciary Committee led by Republican chairman Bobby Goodlatte handing down subpoenas for former FBI director James Comey and former attorney general Loretta Lynch. Goodlatte is requesting private depositions from Comey on December 3rd and Lynch on December 4th. House republicans have been investigating the FBI's role in the 2016 campaign. But the clock is ticking. Democrats take over the committee come January.

CNN senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is with me now.

And Alex, first, what's the reaction from Comey or Lynch? ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, nothing,

Brooke, from Lynch just yet. But Comey did respond quite quickly and early on this Thanksgiving Day saying in essence that he is willing to sit down with the committee again, but that he doesn't want to do it behind close doors. He wanted it to be public.

Let's take a look at this tweet that he wrote just before 11:00 o'clock this morning.

He wrote, Happy Thanksgiving. Got a subpoena from House Republicans. I'm still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions, but I will resist a closed-door thing because I have seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion. Let's have a hearing and invite everyone to see.

Now, Comey's lawyer is also responding to this, Brooke. He is calling it an abuse of process and saying that he and Comey will go to court to fight against this being done behind closed doors. But you -- the real essence of this, you hit on right at the top. This is a timing thing. Democrats take over in January. And the Republicans only have a few days, if that, to get their last shots in because Democrats really could just get rid of this entire probe when they take over.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you about something else then we are going to analyze with my next guest. But George Papadopoulos, easy for me to say, you know, the former Trump campaign adviser, just talk to me a little built about how his tweets are coming back to haunt him.

[14:10:06] MARQUARDT: Yes. So this is a 180 in terms of his change of tune. So remember he was sentenced to 14 days in jail as part of a plea agreement. And part of that was because he had shown that he was so contrite, that he was sorry, that he was ashamed. And since then, he really has changed his tone. He has gone on twitter. He has written about calling this a case of entrapment, talking about corruption, the investigation. He says he regrets pleading guilty and striking a deal.

And the reason in all of this is coming up now is because he is supposed to report to jail on Monday. He is supposed to go to a federal correctional facility in Wisconsin for that a 14-days sentence. And I just want to keep saying, 14 days. He could have gotten up to six month. But he is asking for a delay because there is another case in another court that is challenging the validity of the entire Mueller probe. And he and his lawyers are arguing that they need to see what happens there before he goes to jail. Of course the special counsel disagrees with that. They have responded saying that there shouldn't be any sort of delay. The quote was "the defendant received what he bargained for and holding him to it is not a hardship" -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alex, thank you.

With me to discuss, Joseph Moreno, former justice department prosecutor and former national security prosecutor.

So Joe Moreno, first and foremost, thanks for talking to me on a holiday. Happy thanksgiving. On the note on Papadopoulos, bigger picture, is this move a clear sign that the special counsel will use Trump's tweets, he is using Papadopoulos', will use Trump's tweets against him in an obstruction case?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR: Hey, Brooke. I mean, in this longstanding Mueller probe, I hate to say anything is a clear sign. But it's a pretty good sign. I mean, anything that the President tweets out there is fair game. So certainly, and some of us cringe when we see some of these things. Certainly, could be used against individuals and the President himself depending on where the case is going and what the tweet says.

BALDWIN: On the subpoena point from Goodlatte, right, the House Republican's in-charge and just until January, do you think this is just a parting shot? And the fact that Comey did tweet, you know, I'm happy to sit in the light. You know, he is happy to come out and talk about this. What did you think of that?

MORENO: Well, I think obviously congressional oversight in a vacuum is a good thing. And Congress is free to investigate who and when and what it wants. That being said, I think it's fair to say that the American people expect that any congressional oversight both be relevant, like it's going someplace, and also bipartisan. And we heard that from reporting that representative Gerry Nadler is taking over the committee in January. So this came out of the blue. We had no warning about this subpoena to these individuals.

So the idea that there these 11th hour subpoenas about things that happened years ago that are probably been litigated, that been vetted, we know what happens, because it was seems like, you know, sort like a big stretch.

And the idea that the Republicans, you know, took a pretty good hit in the midterms a few weeks ago and one of the reason was that they were seen as not sufficiently conducting their oversight function, it seems like a bad move both politically and legally.

BALDWIN: Joe Moreno, stay with me. I have more for you.

Coming up next, President Trump is escalating his public feud with Supreme Court justice John -- chief justice John Roberts on whether federal judges are politically biased as he slams rulings by the ninth circuit, calling their opinions unfair to our military. So we'll talk about that.

Also, she was a sixth grader from Milwaukee who wrote an award-winning essay about senseless gun fire in her city. Two years later that very same girl has now been killed by a gun, hit with a stray bullet while inside her own home. Her story and her important words, I'm going to read every single one of them for you on this thanksgiving.

Also ahead, heart-pumping moments caught on camera as this fire engulfs this apartment building. You see people jumping from the windows. One baby tossed into the arms of a complete stranger below.

Stay with me. You are watching CNN on this thanksgiving. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:18:00] BALDWIN: We are back. Happy thanksgiving. Once again, I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Here is the news. President Trump intensifying his clash with Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts who criticized the President for calling the jurist quote "an Obama judge." Trump hit back insisting Obama judges exist and he slammed tonight circuit court of appeals which ruled on the travel ban and may rule on recent court decision that blocks Trump's asylum ban.


TRUMP: We get a lot of bad court decisions from the ninth circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side. It's a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It's a shame. It's a shame. It's a disgrace frankly. And essentially they are legislating.


BALDWIN: Joseph Moreno is back with me.

So Joe, just -- let's fact check. Trump says the ninth circuit overturned more than any circuit in the country. Is that true?

MORENO: So, Brooke, that's a misconception that has been thrown around and the President has sort of made it worse by repeating it. In fact, it's not true. It is I think fourth in line in terms of the circuits that are overturned by the Supreme Court.

And it also has to be taken in the property perspective, right. There are 13 circuits. The ninth circuit is by far the largest. It covers nine states and two overseas territories. So it gets a lot of cases from a lot of states that are very diverse. So it's a real misconception and it's a really poor thing to kind of using as a cudgel to indict the judiciary as a whole and judges because it is an unfair criticism.

BALDWIN: What about though, you know, the chief justice's point? Part of his quote was we don't have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges but, Joe, I mean, don't Presidents through the years pick judges based upon their political views?

[14:20:13] MORENO: Well, sure they do. I mean, they pick judges that they expect will follow a certain type of judicial interpretation, a certain type of decision-making process, right.


MORENO: And that's fine. And there are presidents for decades that are aggravated by the decisions they get, sometimes from judges of their own party and sometimes judges from the other party. So absolutely there are -- factually, yes, of course there are judges that are nominated by different presidents and they will have their own ideologies. But I think what really jumps out at me here is how one sided this war of words is, right.

BALDWIN: How do you mean?

MORENO: The President has this giant mega phone, right. He can tweet. He can give press conferences. He can have rallies and he can really criticize the judiciary.

And I mean, with the exception of this pretty mild retort from chief justice Roberts, federal judges can't fight back. So you don't expect them to fight back, right. We expect them to keep their politics to themselves. You don't want hundreds of federal district courts and appellate judges giving their personal politics and insulting the president in return. Otherwise, you are going to have a real mess on our hands.

So, look. Presidents can be aggravated. They can even -- they can even criticize the decision that they might not agree with. But calling out judges effectively by name, and this is not the first time it has happened, it's so inappropriate, it is so one-sided, and it brings us down a road that we really don't want to go down.

BALDWIN: Yes. Just so rare to see this kind of exchange between a chief justice and a President of the United States.

Joe Moreno, thank you. Happy thanksgiving.

MORENO: Happy thanksgiving.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up, after a close call about a month ago, the top commander to the U.S. NATO forces in Afghanistan is now seeing, right there in the middle of your screen, carrying this loaded assault weapon. Why this image is getting all kind of attention.

Also ahead, what we are learning about an American attacked and killed on this remote island by one of the most isolated tribes on the planet. What happened? We have the story for you.


[14:26:39] BALDWIN: In a rare move, this four-star commander of U.S. NATO forces in Afghanistan was photographed carrying a loaded assault rifle while walking with local officials in Ghazni, Afghanistan, this despite having Afghan military personnel and his own security detail of heavily armed troops with him.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us now.

And Barbara, people may think, well, why is this odd? It's a war zone, you know. Of course. But it is an unusual moment and unusual photo. Tell me why.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is very unusual. It is rare that you would see the four star commander carrying -- feeling the need to carry a loaded M-4 carbine assault rifle when he is surrounded by his own security detail for good reason.

Security in Afghanistan is not very good in some places. In Ghazni, south of the capital of Kabul, where General Miller was yesterday is at very uncertain situation. The Taliban had been resurgent there. General Miller just last month was caught up in an insider attack in another area of Afghanistan where another general wound up being wounded. And now he is carrying his own M-4 assault rifle.

Does it show a vote of no confidence in Afghans? I think many people would tell you just the opposite. He is willing to go places, do things that his troops, that the Afghan troops are doing. He is not staying hold up in his headquarters in Kabul. He is getting out there and he went to Ghazni yesterday where the Taliban have been fighting Afghan forces for U.S. troops that had to go in and lend a hand. The situation has been very volatile there over the days and he went to lend his support. But General Miller is a guy who has been in special operations for decades. And he is very used to looking at his own security. He trusts his people, no question about that, but he is the guy who likes to have his own rifle in his own hands apparently.

BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE). Barbara, thank you very much. Happy thanksgiving to you.

STARR: You, too, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

And now to this, this eighth grade girl from Milwaukee wrote this compelling essay about the impact of gun violence was tragically shot and killed by a straight bullet as she was in her own home.

Our affiliate WISM reports 13-year-old Sandra Parks was watching TV in her bedroom when this bullet blew through her window and hit her in the chest. The teen died in front of her mother.

Two years ago, Sandra wrote this award-winning essay about the constant shootings in her neighborhood and how it affected her life and it is called "Out Truth." And just on this thanksgiving, I want to read every single word of it for you.

This is what she wrote. Sometimes I sit back and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day. I put my headphones on and let my music take me away. I move to the beat and tried to think about life and what everything means. When I do, I come to the same conclusion, we are in a state of chaos.

In a city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost every day. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence. There is too much black-on-black crime. As an African-American, that makes me feel depressed. Many people have lost faith in America and its ability to be a living example of Dr. King's dream. The truth is faith and hope and what people can do and has been lost in the poor choices we make. We shall overcome has been lost in the lie of who we have become. END