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CNN NEWSROOM

Saudi Foreign Minister Using Trump's Statement To Backed In The Essence Of Innocence In The Khashoggi's Murder; House And GOP-Led House Judiciary Committee Is Making An 11th Move; George Papadopoulos George Papadopoulos' Tweets Are Coming Back To Haunt Him Tweets Are Coming Back To Haunt Him; Aftermath Of The Hurricane Michael In Florida; Aired 3:00-3:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So on the "Gerald Ford," they don't use steam, which is the first one that I have heard of that doesn't use steam. 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 seam versus what they're doing on the "Gerald Ford," which is digital, if you can believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. All of our nemitz super carriers have been using steam for decades. We found it pretty reliable. The electromagnetic catapults they are running there offer some great benefits.

TRUMP: And you feel safe in the region? Do you see any hostility? Do you see any aggression? Because you know, you are hearing a little bit 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Let's start the hour with CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. He is in south Florida where the President is spending his thanksgiving.

So Jeff Zeleny, happy thanksgiving to you.

And you know, talking about the President there and listening to just part of his phone call, he answered a lot of reporter questions after he put the phone down, doubling down on his controversial decision to support the Saudi crown prince.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did, Brooke. Happy thanksgiving from here in Florida.

That call started out in a routine way, the President reaching out to armed service members serving around the world. Most commanders in chief do things like that but it quickly turned political, as you heard there. I mean, it was meant to be deflect some heat the President was taking for not yet visiting an active war zone as his other predecessors have done. But it was the comments he made about Saudi Arabia, again doubling down, perhaps tripling down from earlier in the week, siding with Saudi Arabia over his own intelligence community over that brutal murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Listen to what the President said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The CIA doesn't say they did it. They do point out certain things. And in pointing out those things you can 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. Look at what happens all over the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So the President, Brooke, has dramatically overstated the economic impact that those arms contract has with the U.S. companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. They are over at ten-year period. And he says billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs. That's overstated, all analysts will say.

But Brooke, what this is the latest installment and the President really being at odds and defying his intelligence community. We have seen it on Russia in election interference. We have seen. Some mention of it, with the President's relationship with Kim Jong-un and North Korea as well. So this is something that will be ongoing.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, even some of the President's allies, have said the President is wrong about this for siding with the Saudi crown prince.

Now those two leaders, the President and the Saudi crown prince could meet next week in Argentina at the G-20. But Brooke, the President then was asked if not Saudi Arabia, who was responsible? This is what he said.

Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a very vicious place.

So not specifically saying who should be held accountable, saying the world should be held accountable.

BALDWIN: It's reminiscent of his statement the other day. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't.

Before I let you go, we saw the President on the phone this morning with the U.S. military. How else is he spending his thanksgiving? ZELENY: Right. Well, Brooke, for the last several hours after doing

that, he visited some coast guard officials here who are working on this thanksgiving. And then since then, he has been spending time at his golf course here in West Palm Beach, Florida, the Trump international golf club. He is playing some golf presumably on a pretty nice day here in Florida. It's a little overcast and cloudy. But after that, all of his family has gather at the Mar-a-Lago resort. They will be having dinner there this evening, meeting with family and of course, donors and friends who are also members of his club -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

Let's get some perspective of what some of what Jeff is just reporting out.

With me now, former CIA operative Bob Baer, whose intelligence career had been several decades. He is also a CNN intelligence and national security analyst.

So Bob Baer, good to have you on. And thanks for joining me on this holiday here.

Let me begin with the news that the Saudi foreign minister using Trump's statement to backed in the essence of innocence in the Khashoggi's murder. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:05:02] ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: The CIA report that you talked about, actually we haven't seen it. So I can't assess it. And what we have heard as the President say that the CIA report is not what people say it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's a pretty extraordinary breach of authority, murdering somebody inside a Saudi consulate.

AL-JUBEIR: Absolutely, yes. But unfortunately these things -- mistakes like this happen with other governments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Trump says that this, despite the CIA's high confidence that MBS was indeed involved. Bob, your reaction to that.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look. The Central Intelligence Agency said that it has a high degree of confidence that Mohammed bin Salman was behind this assassination. It has intercepts, it has the tapes to the consulate, it's got audio from inside the consulate and on and on.

Does it have a tape of Mohammed bin Salman giving orders? No. That's a smoking gun that you would never get in intelligence. But clearly taking the Saudi word for it is just silly. I mean, of course they are defending the prince. And they have to as their lives depend upon it. So what the foreign minister says is completely irrelevant. And I

think we have to go to CIA judgment that Mohammed bin Salman ordered this.

And by the way, Brooke, there's another part of this disturbs me. And the President supporting the crown prince like this, he is cutting off any opportunity to remove this man who is clearly not capable of holding that position.

BALDWIN: And why do you think he is not? What's in it for him?

BAER: I think, first of all, that he staked his foreign policy in the Middle East on Mohammed bin Salman, peace with Israel, the war against Iran, oil, Yemen and the rest of it. And if that falls apart, there goes his Middle East policy.

BALDWIN: Let me also ask you about we played some of the clips, Bob, from the President's phone call with the, you know, U.S. military leaders and, you know, having to answer these questions in front of their own soldiers and sailors and talking about, you know, politics and operational details and judicial issues he is having back here at home. And I'm just wondering, putting yourself in the shoes and boots of these commanders, how awkward of a situation where they put in?

BAER: Well, they were told that traditionally Presidents just wish them happy thanksgiving, ask about their families, whether they are getting enough supplies, whether they get back enough, promises that, you know, their deployment, we are going to try to cut them shorter and things like that. So in a way, it's sort of like coming back with, and you know, talking to your uncle at thanksgiving who is a little bit -- well, not with it and asking weird questions. I mean, asking about the catapults on the carriers, that's very strange. And the rest of it, I mean, I think he is really trying to talk to the troops, have a conversation with them, but none of this is scripted and it comes off very awkward.

BALDWIN: What you are saying is exactly what I have been hearing from retired military folks.

And just lastly, I want to put this picture up on the screen. In is General Scott Miller, four-star commander of U.S. NATO forces there in Afghanistan. And he has photo in the middle here carrying this assault weapon. And he was walking with local officials, Afghan military personnel, he has his own personnel security there. And a lot of people are, you know, in a war zone, one would think, why is it a big deal that he has this particular kind of rifle. But it is quite rare, Bob. Can you explain why?

BAER: I have never seen a commander carry I think that's an M-4, ever before in a combat area. And what that is signaling is I don't trust the locals. The last time he had a meeting in Kandahar, he almost was killed. There was a shoot-out. One of his aides was wounded. So clearly the local troops aren't to be trusted. I mean, I don't blame him for carrying one. But he is worried. He gets in a fire fight, he would like to have a weapon to shoot back.

BALDWIN: Normally it's a .9 millimeter, right? This is an M-4. It is quite --.

BAER: Yes. It is in a full combat situation, you know, where you have to defend a place. It's weird. It is very weird. Disturbing.

BALDWIN: Bob Baer -- yes. Bob, thank you very.

Coming up next here, James Comey's attorneys say he will fight attempts to subpoena him for yet another congressional hearing. We will talk about what's behind that move from House Republicans.

And the late Senator John McCain's widow Cindy getting candid in her first interview since her husband's death. Why she says she may never get over President Trump's insults of John McCain.

And later, more than a month after hurricane Michael destroyed parts of Florida, CNN is back see how they are coping on this Thanksgiving Day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:14:03] BALDWIN: Only a short time remaining for the Republican control of the House and GOP-led House Judiciary Committee is making an 11th move. Here is what they are doing, handing down subpoenas for former FBI director James Comey and former attorney general Loretta Lynch. The Republican chairman Bobby Goodlatte is requesting private depositions from Comey on December 3rd and Lynch on December 4th, all is part of House Republicans' investigation into the FBI's role in the 2016 presidential election.

So CNN senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is with me on all of this.

And we haven't heard anything from Loretta Lynch commenting, have we? But we did hear from Jim Comey.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. We haven't heard from Lynch. This is probably not the way, Brooke, that they expected to start their thanksgiving.

BALDWIN: Right.

MARQUARDT: But Comey did quickly respond this morning saying that he is more than happy to sit for another round of testimony in front of the committee. His one stipulation though was that he doesn't want to do it behind closed doors. He wants to do it out in public. That's what he is tweeting. That's what his lawyer is also saying.

Let's take a look at what the tweet read this morning.

It says, 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 the select of leaking and distortion. Let's have a hearing and invite everyone to see.

He is more than just resisting, Brooke. He is actually taking it to court. He and his lawyer are saying that is an abuse of power so they are going to try to fight in court for that testimony to be public.

But Brooke, you really hit on I think the most important thing off the top there, that this is really about the timing. And Republicans are well aware that they are not just about to lose control of the House, but of this probe into Hillary Clinton. So they are trying to get their parting shots in while they still can do.

[15:15:49] BALDWIN: What about George Papadopoulos, Alex, the former Trump campaign adviser. And talk about how his tweets are coming back to haunt him.

MARQUARDT: Yes. So this is a 180-turn in terms of his tone. When he was sentenced for lying to the FBI, he only received 14 days. And in part that was because the judge believed him, Papadopoulos, when he said that he was sorry, that he was contrite and that's why, frankly, he got such a light sentence.

Brooke, he is due to turn himself in to jail on Monday. He is supposed to spend those 14 days at a federal correctional institute in Wisconsin. He is now asking for a delay because there's another case in another court dealing with the actual legitimacy of the overall Mueller probe. And he and his lawyer saying that they have to wait and see how that plays out.

The special counsel's office, of course, sees it very differently. They are pointing to these tweets. And I should note some of them. In these tweets he said that he regrets pleading guilty and striking a deal. He calls it a case of entrapment. He talks about the corruption of the investigation.

So Mueller's office is pointing to these tweets saying basically it's on you. You struck a deal. And the actual quote, Brooke, is "the defendant, Papadopoulos, received what he bargained for and holding him to it is not a hardship" - Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alex, thank you very much.

Let's dealt on some of Alex is reporting there. With me now, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Shan Wu who is now a defense attorney.

And Shan, thank you for hanging out with me on this holiday. Happy thanksgiving to you.

On Papadopoulos now, is the bigger takeaway, not just on his specific tweets but that the special counsel here, Robert Mueller may be looking into Trump's tweet as well?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR/DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, yes. I mean, I think it shows that he Mueller team is Twitter savvy. So that should be a warning to everybody.

And as far as Papadopoulos, his tweets go, I mean, I don't know who was advising him, but given the incredibly light sentence he got, I mean, he should really just be quiet and just get the thing over with. I mean, it seems very, very silly for him to be mounting this time of attack. His chances of winning are very poor. I mean, there are very specific questions he goes through when he pleads guilty, specifically about waiving his right to an appeal, unless the judge imposes an illegal sentence which the judge has not.

So I don't know if he has really thought about this or his new lawyers are advising him. But, you know, worst case scenario for him is the special counsel says, hey, you know, as far as we are concerned, you are breaching the plea deal. You are no longer showing remorse. You are not accepting responsibility. Let's go back to the drawing board and start off with the false statements five years maximum penalty. That would not be a good outcome.

BALDWIN: No, would not. What about this outcome for these subpoenas from the House chairman Bob Goodlatte, you know, toward Comey and Loretta Lynch? And as we just pointed out, you know, the timing is key that the Democrats take over majority in January, so is this just purely political?

WU: I think it's purely political. And I agree completely with reporting, it's their last gasp trying to keep some attention on that. I think that Comey is showing his political and legal savvy by insisting that this be public. I mean, he is exactly right. Having it behind closed doors allows other people to spin it. He has to selectively divulge what he thinks is the truth on it. It's much better to have the whole thing in the light. And frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if former attorney general Lynch follows suit on that.

BALDWIN: How would Comey fight this? He has - he said, to your point, he wants to have this out there, you know, sit or speak in the light but he is vowing to fight it. His attorney is calling it an abuse of power. How does Comey do that?

WU: He would have to argue there is something invalid about the subpoena itself. Really, I think the real politics strategy here is one of delay. If they can tie it up in the courts long enough that the House is taken over by the Democrats, that's going to ease the path a little bit for him. So legally, you know, it takes time to sort these arguments out. He can go to the court of appeals, maybe even higher. So in that sense I mean I think it has been a bit of delay battle. And of course, it's also a battle of public opinion.

BALDWIN: Shan Wu, thank you. Good to see you.

WU: Good to see you.

BALDWIN: Still ahead here on CNN, former president Barack Obama weighs in on whether a female or a person with color could beat President Trump in 2020. We will tell you he thinks about that race?

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[15:24:51] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have just now flown over Mexico beach and it's gone. It is gone. I want to - we are going to get show you guys exactly how bad it is, but I mean, it's obliterated. And it is awful - it is awful to look at. I mean, just as we watch the deterioration around the coastline, it was bad in Panama City beach, but I have never seen anything like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:25:20] BALDWIN: I will never forget flying over and meeting all these amazing people who just had lost everything in Mexico beach. It's been about five weeks since that category four storm hit the Florida panhandle. And today on thanksgiving, even amidst the destruction, families there are coming together, making sure everyone has a hot meal and a place to feel at home.

Here is CNN's Martin Savidge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL SCOGGINS, OWNER OF KILLER SEAFOOD: There was a building here, I promise. It was called (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN SAVAGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has been more than a month since the hurricane obliterated Mexico beach.

SCOGGINS: Here, you would be inside the building.

SAVIDGE: As Michael Scoggins shows me what used to be his restaurant, it's obvious the pain is still fresh.

SCOGGINS: An open kitchen where everybody could see what was going on.

SAVIDGE: Killer Seafood, the town favorite for years, it is gone.

Hal Summers was general manager. He has lost his job and his home. Both men could have wallowed in self-pity and left town. Instead they decided to help the only way they could. They cooked.

In a church parking lot amidst of roar of generators and the smoke of a grill, they began feeding first responders and residents three times a day, seven days a week, for free. They call it camp happy tummies, fueled by donations, it provides one of the greatest comforts in dark times, a hot meal.

HAL SUMMERS, GENERAL MANAGER, KILLER SEAFOOD: This is my planning menu.

SAVIDGE: This is your menu right here. Is it on parchment paper?

SUMMERS: It is parchment paper.

SAVIDGE: But over the weeks, this tent has come to mean much more than a meal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a safe place to cry, safe place to let your feelings out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody has a feeling that they are all together and we are all in this together.

SAVIDGE: At these tables, they have prayed, mourned the dead, even held a wedding reception. Helen and Michael, baked the wedding cake.

This is a place where folks temporarily escaped what lies just outside.

Crews are making progress cleaning up. And power, sewage and water are all making a comeback. But there is still one staggering figure. At least 75 percent of the homes in Mexico Beach have been destroyed.

Camp happy tummies is closing. Most of the first responders are gone. And food in Mexico beach is easier to find. But before them, Michael and Hal will help prepare one last meal to be distributed around town for thanksgiving.

Is there a reason to be thankful in Mexico beach?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely.

SAVIDGE: Even with all the destruction and everything that's been lost?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even, even, even.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are still here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are have a lot to be thankful for. We have our lives. And we can rebuild. And this is going to take time.

SAVIDGE: A month after the hurricane, people here have stopped looking for reasons to be sad. Instead they are finding reasons to rejoice.

SCOGGINS: Look at that. There you go.

SAVIDGE: To be grateful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a beautiful place and it will come back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's still paradise.

SAVIDGE: And instead of looking back, they're looking forward. In Mexico Beach, they have come to learn that every day is Thanksgiving Day.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Mexico Beach, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Marty, thank you. And wishing them a happy thanksgiving as well.

Coming up next, President Trump says he is thankful for the difference he has made for the country this thanksgiving. We will have more of this awkward call that he made with the troops that turned political.

Plus, former President Obama weighs in on who could beat the President in 2020. Hear his opinion and the argument he is not buying.

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