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Journalist's Text Messages May Offer New Clues in His Murder; Cohen Says He Briefed Trump on Trump Tower Moscow Project as Late as June 2016; Preparations Underway to Fly President Bush's Casket to Washington; NFL Player Speaks Out After Pushing, Kicking Woman. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 2, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: -- arrangements are being made to reunite them with their ring.
Hello on this Sunday. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us.
It is now two months since Jamal Khashoggi walked into Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul and never re-emerged. And one question remains -- why? Why was he killed?
CNN's Nina dos Santos has a CNN exclusive tonight. She obtained 10 months of Khashoggi's WhatsApp messages that he sent to a fellow Saudi dissident named Omar Abdulaziz.
Now, the messages provided to CNN by the Canadian-based dissident offered clues as to the motive behind Khashoggi's murder.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR (voice-over): These are words you won't have read in Jamal Khashoggi's columns. Instead, they are WhatsApp messages never seen before sent by Khashoggi in the year before his death.
They laid bare his disdain for Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, saying, quote, he is like a beast, like Pac Man. The more victims he eats, the more he wants.
In another, may God rid us and this nation of this predicament.
The words were exchanged with Omar Abdulaziz, a fellow critic in exile in Canada.
OMAR ABDULAZIZ, SAUDI ARABIA DISSIDENT: He believed that MBS is the issue, is the problem. And someone has to tell him that, you know, you have to be stopped.
DOS SANTOS (on camera): Talk like this is dangerous for those on the country with one of the world's worst records for human rights.
And it wasn't just political views that the pair was trading but plans to hold the Saudi state to account, creating an army of so-called cyber beasts on social media leveraging Khashoggi's name and the 340,000 strong Twitter following of his confidant.
ABDULAZIZ: At the beginning, it was a bit difficult for us to have this kind of relationship. For me, I was a dissident, and he was a guy who worked for the government for almost 35 years.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Khashoggi pledged funds and Abdulaziz bought the hardware, hundreds of foreign SIM cards to send back home, enabling dissidents to avoid detection.
In one message, Abdulaziz writes, I sent you a brief idea about the work of the electronic army.
Brilliant report, Khashoggi replies. I will try to sort out the money. We have to do something.
DOS SANTOS (on camera): How much money did he originally say he would commit to the project?
ABDULAZIZ: He said 30,000.
DOS SANTOS (on camera): Thirty thousand U.S. dollars?
DOS SANTOS (on camera): How dangerous is a project like that in Saudi Arabia?
ABDULAZIZ: You might be killed because of that. You might be jailed. They might send someone to assassinate you.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Just like Khashoggi, Abdulaziz believes that he was also targeted after two Saudi emissaries were dispatched to Canada, he says, last May, to coax him into the embassy there.
He made these secret recordings of their meetings and shared them with CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have come to you with a message from Mohammad bin Salman. I want you to be reassured. We don't have to approach someone from an official department or the state security. The Saudi Arabian embassy awaits you.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): When Abdulaziz refused, they got to him another way -- hacking his phone, according to a lawsuit Abdulaziz filed this week against the Israeli firm behind the spyware.
When the pair's plans were discovered, Khashoggi panicked. God help us, he wrote.
DOS SANTOS (on camera): How much of a target did that make both of you?
ABDULAZIZ: The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal. I'm really sorry to say that. You are trying to teach people about human rights, about freedom of speech. That's it. This is the only crime that we have committed. DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.
CABRERA: CNN has reached out to Saudi officials over Omar Abdulaziz's allegations. We have not yet received a response. The Israeli company, however, behind that spyware did not respond to multiple attempts for comment either but, in the past, has said its technology allows government agencies to identify and disrupt terrorists and plots.
Fallout from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi made things a bit frosty for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the G20 Summit.
He got the cold shoulder from many world leaders, and he seemed to be on the outer most edge of the G20 class photo. But MBS got a warm welcome from Russian President Vladimir Putin with an enthusiastic handshake that looked almost like a high five.
Mr. Putin, he had no such warm exchange, though, with President Trump who canceled their planned meeting, blaming Russia's alleged aggression in Ukraine. The two leaders did end up talking briefly in between meetings.
The Russian President told reporters he answered President Trump's question about the situation in the Black Sea but that they each stayed in their own positions.
That brief exchange came as Defense Secretary James Mattis told a crowd at a defense forum in California that the Russian President, quote, tried again to muck around -- those words are his -- in the U.S. midterm elections last month and that such efforts continue.
[19:05:08] All this as we get major revelations in the Russia investigation concerning plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow, an abandoned project we first learned about earlier this year.
Well, new court documents have been filed this weekend as part of Michael Cohen's plea agreement. And here is what the President's former attorney claims.
He says he kept Trump updated on this Moscow project as late as June of 2016, meaning while Trump was securing the Republican nomination and while Russia was working to get him elected.
He says he discussed the Trump idea -- with Trump this idea of traveling to Russia in the summer of 2016, again while Trump was becoming the Republican nominee.
And three, Cohen says he kept some of Trump's family members updated on this project as well.
Cohen had previously told Congress that talks about the deal evaporated months earlier, in January. He now says that he only told that lie out of loyalty to Trump. Here to help us understand what this could mean for the President and
possibly even his family members, CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callen and CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Michael Shear.
Gentlemen, the President tweeted that he lightly looked into a building in Russia, but he says there is nothing wrong with that. Listen to his reasoning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There would be nothing wrong if I did do it. I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn't have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business. And why should I lose lots of opportunities?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Paul, is the President right? Is there nothing illegal about what he did?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it depends on why you were having contact with the Russians at that time period.
Now, remember, he declared his presidential candidacy in June of 2015. By October of 2015, he had a negotiated letter of intent which had to do with building a Trump World Trade Tower, very, very expensive multibillion-dollar project in Moscow.
So -- and the President, later on, would say repeatedly he's had nothing to do with the Russians. So there had been misrepresentations made by him and, of course, by Michael Cohen under oath.
CABRERA: Well, when you think about this argument, too, that, you know, he was keeping his options open, essentially, in case he didn't win the presidency, he won't always be president. So does that argument raise questions about his motivations even now regarding what could come after his presidency?
CALLAN: Well, it certainly does. But I think the real question is, what does it prove in terms of impeachable conduct or criminal conduct? And you use the word motivation.
You know, when law enforcement people are looking at a crime, they often talk about motive and opportunity to commit a crime. And clearly, the motive and the opportunity were provided by the presidential election to President Trump.
He had -- the motive, of course, was to influence the election so that he could be elected. He had the means and the opportunity because of all of these pre-existing contacts with the Russians.
So that would be used as circumstantial evidence by Mueller when he tries to put a case together. That doesn't prove a criminal conspiracy -- I want to be very clear about that -- but it does provide circumstantial evidence to show that if he wanted to influence the election, he had the contacts in the Soviet Union or in Russia to do that.
CABRERA: Michael, while trying to hash out this business deal with Russia, Trump was not only running for president but he was also praising Putin, denying Russia was involved in any election meddling, asking Russia to hack his opponent. His campaign was also having secret meetings, we've learned, with Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. That's a lot of coincidences.
MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. I think there is another way in which motivation really is part of this story, and that is the question of answering the mystery that we've had for more than two and a half, three years now, which is why is President Trump always praising Russia? Why is he seeming to go soft on Russia?
There are questions, for example, about -- that we've all had about why President Trump didn't want the sanctions to go or talked about lessening the sanctions on Russia when the rest of the political establishment, Democrat and Republican, wanted to maintain them or make them stronger.
As you noted, President Trump, both as president and as a candidate, went out of his way to praise Vladimir Putin, to praise Russia, to minimize Russia's -- the sense that Russia is a geopolitical foe of the United States.
And so all of that, for the last two and a half or three years, has been sort of mysterious. What is it about Russia that had so sort of captivated President Trump?
[19:09:59] And now, we have one of the big answers, right? Because he had a financial interest to do so. Throughout much of that time, up through June of the campaign, he and his company had a financial interest in making sure that that deal went through.
And so it helps to fill in that narrative, that picture of -- that has been a question for a long time and will help to be part of the underlying story that Bob Mueller assembles once he lays out the entire picture.
CABRERA: And he was never transparent about this deal. We didn't even learn about it until after the President was elected. But, Michael, when you think about when Mueller dropped all of these new Cohen revelations, it was after Trump submitted his written answers to the Special Counsel.
CABRERA: Do we know whether Trump was asked about his -- this Moscow project and how he may have answered?
SHEAR: You know, I don't know, but one of the key things that you would imagine that Mueller wouldn't want to do would be to sort of give the President the cheat sheet before he'd answered the questions, right?
So let the President give the story that he is going to give about what happened with this deal, with this financial -- the Trump Tower deal. And then, you know, present what Mueller thinks really happened.
And so it doesn't surprise me, actually, that the timing of this was such that the revelations about the Cohen plea agreement didn't come out until after the President's answers came back to the special prosecutor.
CABRERA: Paul, quickly if you will, 70 hours. Seventy-plus hours, Michael Cohen has now met with the Special Counsel. You think they know more than what's in these plea agreement documents?
CALLAN: Far more because, remember, he played a critical role with the President as his personal attorney through the years.
I mean, the President now is saying he just had to handle a few minor things. He's a weak man. He's not very bright. Well, would you send a weak man who is not very bright to negotiate with the Russians to build a Trump Tower in Moscow?
Apparently, his attitude toward Michael Cohen has changed. So Cohen had a lot to reveal, I think, in those 70 hours that we don't know about.
And, you know, even circling back to the question that you just asked about the questions that were propounded by Mueller, Rudolph Giuliani has already said that, in his answers to those questions, the President said and admitted that there were contacts with the Russians about business projects and that these answers were consistent with what Michael Cohen had to say.
He did not reveal any dates, however, of when these things occurred. And I think the lawyers probably cleaned up the answers to make sure that the President could say when he was lying about it -- when Cohen was lying about it. It's -- he wasn't inconsistent with something that the President has said.
CABRERA: All right. Paul Callan, Michael Shear, thank you both.
CALLAN: Thank you.
CABRERA: Tributes are pouring in around the world for the late President George H.W. Bush. We'll have details just ahead on funeral arrangements and plans to honor him in the coming days here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go anywhere.
[19:17:22] CABRERA: The nation is preparing for a week of mourning and celebration as we remember the life of President George H.W. Bush. Tomorrow, President Bush's remains will be flown from Texas to our
nation's capital. And the public will then get a chance to pay their respects as Bush lies in state until Wednesday, which has been designated a national day of mourning.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Houston now with more on the plans for Bush 41's final farewell. Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Ana. Well, this is officially being called the Special Air Mission 41. That is the mission that will deliver the body, the casket of President George H.W. Bush to his final resting place.
The presidential aircraft is already here in Houston at Ellington Field. This is the same aircraft that carried President Trump to the G20 Summit in Argentina.
This is going to be the aircraft that will be leaving in a departure ceremony, 11:30 Eastern time, going to Joint Base Andrews tomorrow morning. And then the ceremonies, the official ceremonies, begin in earnest at 4:45 p.m. That is the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda where the President will lie in state.
And then it will be 7:30 Monday evening through 8:45 Wednesday morning that the public will be able to pay their respects. At 11:00 a.m. at the National Cathedral, that is when dignitaries, family, and friends will gather as well. And then the President's body returning Wednesday evening here to Houston where he will lie in repose until Thursday morning.
Then Thursday, there will be a second memorial service. That taking place at St. Martin's Episcopal Church. You might recall that is the same place where Barbara Bush was also memorialized.
There will be then, after that ceremony, a trip by train to College Station, Texas. That is where the Presidential Library and Museum are located. That is where the President will be buried alongside Barbara Bush, as well as their young child Robin who died at the age of three.
Ana, I have to tell you, people throughout Houston, and its beautiful day that we had here, paying tribute to the late president at these memorials, seeing the teddy bears, the flowers, even those colorful socks. Here is what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they are very well respected. I think he was a great statesman. I loved his socks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I loved seeing him on news, I loved seeing the Bush family. So I think he's going to be very missed here.
MOLLIE MERINO, HOUSTON, TEXAS RESIDENT: Maybe it's that Texas is obviously kind of a red state but Houston, the city, is very vibrant with progressive ideas. But I think there is that sense of unity still with that.
We realize that we're part of a larger picture here. It's not just about Houston, it's about Texas. And I think we really do rally behind the Bushes and kind of what they stood for in terms of civility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:20:05] MALVEAUX: And that is something that they are very proud about the President and the whole Bush family as the rest of the world prepares to say goodbye -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right, Suzanne Malveaux for us in Houston. Thank you.
An NFL player speaking out today after a video was released showing him assaulting a woman earlier this year. What he says now and how the lead is responding, next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Former Kansas City Chiefs' running back Kareem Hunt has now apologized to his team and the public days after stunning footage surfaced that shows him pushing and then kicking a woman.
[19:25:05] This video posted on TMZ's website, Friday, prompted the Chiefs to cut Hunt from their roster. In an interview with ESPN this weekend, Hunt says he is extremely embarrassed by the incident that cost him his job and possibly his career.
CNN's Polo Sandoval has the story.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A plea for forgiveness from Kareem Hunt. In a Sunday interview with ESPN, the now-former Kansas City Chiefs running back admitted he was wrong in pushing and kicking a woman in February.
KAREEM HUNT, FORMER RUNNING BACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: I made a poor decision, and I'm willing to take full responsibility of any actions that come, you know, from this point on.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): First obtained by TMZ, this video shows what looks like a short conversation in a hallway and quickly escalated into a shoving match between Hunt and the woman.
Several people, men and women, attempted to break up the argument, but the woman is seen falling to the ground more than once.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two women that have bruises and cuts all over them.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Hunt is also seen kicking her while she is on the ground. Hunt also seen in this Cleveland Police body camera footage now shirtless being questioned by police. No charges were filed following the incident, according to NFL.com. LISA SALTERS, ESPN REPORTER: You kicking a woman, period. How do you
HUNT: You can't really explain it. The video shows it. I was in the wrong and I'm not that type of person. I'm really disappointed and embarrassed for myself and for my family. And I really am taking actions to learn from this.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): In a revealing moment, Hunt told ESPN he was never approached by the NFL to talk about what happened.
SALTERS: Has the NFL ever questioned you about that incident?
HUNT: No, they have not.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): On Sunday, the NFL released a statement saying their investigation started immediately after the February incident.
The League wrote, in part, the NFL's ongoing investigation will include further attempts to speak to the complainants involved in the incident. It will include a review of the new information that was made public on Friday which was not available to the NFL previously, as well as further conversations with all parties involved in the incident.
After Friday's release of the footage, the NFL placed Hunt on the Commissioner's exempt list. It means he couldn't practice, play, or attend games.
Right after that, the Chiefs cut Hunt from the team, saying he was not truthful with them in conversations about the incident earlier in the year. Hunt hopes for another chance with the NFL but made clear in his interview he is unsure if that will ever happen.
Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: Joining us now to discuss, CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan and former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth.
Christine, do you see this as an example of lessons learned or mistakes repeated after Ray Rice?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I think it's a little bit of both, Ana. It's really appalling that the NFL did not handle this better.
The fact that this happened in February -- we just saw the video the other day -- why didn't the NFL get that video before TMZ got it? The NFL needs to be much more aggressive on this.
Where is the Cleveland Police on this? And the Chiefs letting it all go which was because they apparently just saw the details. The printed word is very different, obviously, than seeing the video. All of this, four years and a couple months after Ray Rice. It's
really stunning the NFL hasn't figured out how to handle this incredibly important issue.
But the flip side is that Hunt is out of the League. And that, I believe, is a good thing. As sad as this story is every which way, the punishment is important and it is fitting. And I think that's what you can hang your hat on.
In terms of the end result, it's probably -- it's the result you should have. But why did it take so long to get here?
CABRERA: Donte, do you think it's a good thing he's out of the League?
DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER WIDE RECEIVER, WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Oh, well, I think with what happened through that video -- and he even admitted his embarrassment for it -- showing him kicking a young lady and shoving her and getting into an altercation that, obviously, he escalated and could have easily diffused the situation.
But, you know, it's hard for me to say that it's good for a young man to be out of the League. I think he needs -- I think he does need to take some time to understand the severity of the situation, and I hope he is able to get some help.
I'm willing to speak to him. I know a number of former players, including Kansas -- former Kansas City Chiefs great running back Larry Johnson who had a pretty bold, out front, in your face tweet about him setting himself as being an example for a lot of these younger guys in the NFL. Because Larry made some mistakes, and he made some decisions that he wished he could have taken back as well.
STALLWORTH: So I think the big thing with this is that, as Christine said, that the NFL somewhat -- they had -- well, not somewhat, they dropped the ball on this. They should have been ahead of it early on.
[19:29:55] And moving forward, I hope that Kareem gets help. And I hope he understands the severity of things, moving forward.
And I look forward to him, hopefully, maybe one day if things -- you know, if the stars align, him having another shot. Who knows when that will be? I'm not saying it should be immediately but --
CABRERA: I hear what you're saying.
I don't want to make this all about Kareem, though. I mean, the bigger issue, Donte, is when you look at just this week alone, kind of a double whammy happened with not just Kareem Hunt but there was the Ruben Foster case. Foster also was arrested on domestic violence charges. He was cut from his team, the 49ers, only to be picked up pretty quickly by the Washington Redskins.
Donte, does that send the message that the NFL takes domestic violence seriously?
STALLWORTH: Well, looking at it on the face of it, I don't think it does. And I don't know what the NFL has learned in the four years since the unfortunate Ray Rice incident. But I know personally Ray has done a lot to try to give back and try to understand how much he has hurt people and how much people have been hurt by domestic violence. So the NFL has talked the talk. Now we need to see them walk the walk. And they had -- they didn't do that with this instance in Kareem Hunt situation.
CABRERA: Christine, why is this such an issue for the NFL to take a hard line against domestic abuse? What's it going to take?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: It is mindboggling that we are here again with the National Football League. This has been a disastrous week for the national Football League with Washington picking up Ruben Foster and then the way the team handles it. Doug Williams, Donte and I both know Doug. He is a good guy. But calling domestic violence small potatoes then having to come back and apologize. It has been one mistake after the other by a once proud franchise in this town where we are right now speaking to you, that's Washington.
So I think the Chiefs, because the Chiefs saw this and said we got to get rid of him because look at the mistakes and the PR nightmare that Washington is living.
But in both cases the men are not able to play because they are on the commissioner's exempt list. That's a good take away. Moving forward, the NFL needs to start - we don't need to necessarily start over, but whatever they did four years ago, it's still not working. They need to do a better job. And there is really good people in the National Football League, men and women. Lots of women. Although men should care just as much amount of domestic violence who do work on this. And that is why it is just so incredibly troubling that the NFL is in this mess all over again.
CABRERA: I always appreciate both of your perspectives.
Christine Brennan and Donte Stallworth, thank you very much for being with us.
BRENNAN: Thank you.
CABRERA: A journalist plans for a digital army to fight Saudi Arabia and President Trump's plans to meet again with North Korea's Kim Jong- un. A look at some of the big national security issues for President Trump just ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:36:53] CABRERA: Welcome back.
At the top of the hour and a CNN exclusive, we reported on text messages sent from Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the year before his murder where he strongly criticized Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Now in these texts, Khashoggi and a colleague planned an online revolution that would hold the Saudi government to account for its misdeeds. Those plans were discovered by Riyadh and may have led to Khashoggi's brutal killing. And right now, the "Wall Street Journal" and the "Washington Post" are both reporting that MBS, the crown prince was personally texting Khashoggi's killers in the hours before and after the journalist murder.
And that brings us to your weekend Presidential brief, a segment we bring you every Sunday night highlighting some of the most pressing national security issues the President will face when he wakes up tomorrow.
And joining us now is CNN national security analyst and former advisor to the national security council advisor, Sam Vinograd.
And so, let's just get right to first starting with Khashoggi's own messages. His plan to create a digital army to battle Saudi Arabia. What should we take away from that?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's worth noting that one of the reasons that the crown prince probably murdered Khashoggi is because he wanted to build a digital army and engage in information operations. So at the same time the crown prince high fived Vladimir Putin in Argentina this weekend while Putin is doing exactly that. It's pretty obvious that the rules are quite difference for the crown prince when things strike closer to home.
And Ana, I'm really struck by the facts the Saudis were using Israeli spy ware for this mission. The Emiratis have actually been accused of using exactly the same product. We don't hear a whole lot about gulf officials working with Israel to conduct their dirty work. So there may be more cooperation between the Gulf and at least the Israeli private sector that meets the eye.
CABRERA: What about this other reporting from "the Wall Street Journal" and the "Washington Post" about a senior aide who oversaw the assassination of Khashoggi exchanging multiple messages with the crown prince around the time of killing.
VINOGRAD: Well, that would be one of the core intelligence input that would go into a CIA assessment and that would lead the CIA to assess with either high confidence or now medium confidences as being reported that there was a direct link between the crown prince and this murder. And this is part of what the President would be looking at if he actually cared about what the intelligence said and used that to make a policy decision.
CABRERA: You know, MBS has left the G-20 as has President Trump. You have been those post meeting assessments and I know you have column in the "Daily Beast" G-20 post-op. How well the Trump team assess his visit?
VINOGRAD: Well, to quote the great Ariana Grande, I think that there were a lot of thank you next moments at this G-20 because it was so clear that our allies really aren't really listening to what President Trump has to say anymore. They have moved on. President Trump said for example that he was not going to hold Mohammed bin Salman accountable for Khashoggi's death. Our allies sought out MBS and said that there were going to be costs for his action. The President said that he wasn't going to meet with Vladimir Putin supposedly because of Ukraine. Our allies met with Putin and told him again that there would be costs for his actions. And this was a great propaganda weekend for Vladimir Putin.
He blamed the cancellation of his bilateral meeting on President Trump not on his misbehavior but on domestic political issues in the United States. That helps sow divisions. And while President Putin looked strong, President Trump had vested hallowed victories. This new knock-knock, the trade agreement, the U.S. MCA still has to be ratified in the United States. And this China deal, Ana, really is a repeat of what we saw in 2017 when President Trump and President Xi agreed to spend 100 days doing a deep dive on trade issues and it really came up empty.
[19:40:40] CABRERA: All right. Thank so much, Sam Vinograd, for being here.
VINOGRAD: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: A massive CNN investigation. More than 1400 sex crime investigations in cases find startling facts. Hundreds of rape kits have been destroyed. Critical DNA evidence just trashed. Details on what we discovered, ahead.
[19:45:25] CABRERA: A massive CNN investigation of more than 1400 sex crimes cases across the country uncover a systemic problem with the destruction of rape kits. Once that DNA evidence is gone, it can never be used to lock up or rapist or exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
CNN discovered that this is happening all across the country since 2010. Fayetteville, North Carolina is one place where police are trying to correct the problems of the past, but is it too little too late. Here is one woman's story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fayetteville police chief says the department made a huge mistake by destroying hundreds of rape kits more than a decade ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm frustrated. I'm angry that one person may not get justice.
ASHLEY FANTZ, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I have never heard of any other police department going public and saying that we destroyed this massive amount of evidence. Where they were in an anomaly? And the answer is sadly they are not. CABRERA: CNN found hundreds of rape kits trashed long before statutes
of limitations expired and places are there's no crime limit to prosecute.
Reporter Ashley Fantz led the nation wide investigation.
FANTZ: I'm talking about kids destroy just a few months after victims reported their sexual assault.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to find way to cope.
CABRERA: This woman is one of the 333 victims in Fayetteville, North Carolina whose rape kit was destroyed. We referred to her as Christine as she has asked to remain anonymous.
CHRISTINE, REPORTED BEING GANG RAPED: I was right here when I got the call when the case was re-opened.
CABRERA: That phone call came in 2015 from Lieutenant John Somerindyke sexual assault cold case team.
LT. JOHN SOMERINDYKE, FAYETTEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: I felt we had a lot of rapes that were workable. Just the evidence needed to be sent off. But, you know, unfortunately, when I came looking for the evidence it was no longer here.
CABRERA: Why were they destroyed?
SOMERINDYKE: We were just clearing up space in the evidence room.
CABRERA: In North Carolina, there is no statute of limitations on rape. Despite the trashed evidence, Fayetteville police offered to reinvestigate cases like Christine's. It started with the girls' night out at a local bar 2007.
Christine and some friends have been drinking and ran into guys they had seen around town.
CHRISTINE: I regret even going out that night. I regret leaving with one of them who I thought was a nice guy.
CABRERA: Then what happened?
CHRISTINE: He took me to an apartment. I had consented to be with him and he said he had to leave the room and he came back and he had three of his friends with him. I told them no. I told them that's not what I wanted.
CABRERA: What was going through your mind?
CHRISTINE: I was fearful that if I made a noise or fought back that something worse would happen. I just laid there and took it until it was over.
CABRERA: Christine remembers going in and out of consciousness. The next morning --. CHRISTINE: The guy I had consented to was laying next to me and I was
terrified. I didn't have any words. I didn't say anything to him. I just asked him to take me home.
CABRERA: Christine says her roommate found her distraught and in tears and encouraged her to report the rape.
Every time a rape kit is collected the victim's body is treated as the crime scene. A nurse asks questions like did he ejaculate inside of you. Did he kiss you, lick you. For three to five hours the nurse swabs the mouth, breast, fight marks, scrapes under fingernails, combs pubic hair, insert a speculum inside the body and uses blue dye to illuminate torn tissue. Photographs are taken of every injury. Far away, close up with a ruler to show size.
CHRISTINE: It's almost like a continuation of the assault itself.
CABRERA: A few days after her rape exam, Christine met with a detective.
CHRISTINE: She told me what happened to me wasn't rape. And she got out the North Carolina statute and read it to me.
It takes me back.
[19:50:10] CABRERA: Eight years later, Christine saw her police report for the first time.
What had been done to investigate?
CHRISTINE: Nothing. Not an interview. Not follow up questioning. Nothing.
CABRERA: After their meeting, that detective had determined no crime was committed. Just seven weeks later, that same investigator authorized the destruction of Christine's rape kit.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a very sparse and shoddy investigation. The detectives' interpretation of the rape statute is wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we had the switched --.
CABRERA: Former investigators and legal analysts review dozens of cases for CNN including Christine's case. All agreed the detective botched the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or she just didn't do her job.
TOM TREMBLY, FORMER POLICE CHIEF/CURRENT TRAINER: Show had some names of the suspects. I want to know their background. I want to know if they have a criminal record.
CABRERA: As was the case with 85 percent of kits destroyed in Fayetteville, Christine's evidence was never tested.
There's a national database with millions of people's DNA in it and by not testing. What are you losing?
TREMBLY: You are losing the opportunity to link those cases, to connect these suspects with other crimes that they may commit.
CAROL TRACY, ATTORNEY, REVIEWS RAPE INVESTIGATIONS: The premature destruction of rape kits was also part of frankly sloppy investigations in general.
CABRERA: Case overload. Lack of training. A culture of victim- blaming. All factors in shoddy investigations leading to purged DNA evidence nationwide.
FANTZ: This is not like some old archaic practice. It's happening now.
CABRERA: So reporter Ashley Fantz tracked down the original detective in Christine's case.
FANTZ: You were sure that she was not raped.
DANIELLE HART, FORMER DETECTIVE: Even though she is intoxicated, she was able to make a decision. She was able to remember what happened and she was allowing this to happen.
FANTZ: We had seasoned prosecutors. We had legal experts hear the facts of this case and your decision making and said it was completely wrong. Do you have any response to that?
HART: No. That's their opinion.
FANTZ: Do you feel that the destruction of a rape kits what is a mistake?
HART: No. That is what the protocol was. When there was no crime that was committed, we don't keep the evidence. Do I wish that things were different in this situation? Yes. I wish I had had more time or more evidence to work with?
FANTZ: Do you think you should have interviewed the men? You should have tried to interview them?
HART: I could have, yes. I could have gone further with the investigation I guess.
CABRERA: Do you look at what happened with people like Christine and think this is on us, we dropped the ball?
SOMERINDYKE: Yes, absolutely. We could have done better and we should have done better.
CABRERA: Eight years later police tried to do better. The three men Christine originally named were finally questioned.
FANTZ: Each one of them took the fifth. They did not talk. They can't be compelled to talk. Authorities said we don't have anything to go on. We can't file charges. CABRERA: If Christine's kit had been tested, DNA from multiple men
may have corroborated her story or linked one of them to other assaults, but instead a dead end.
SOMERINDYKE: That's our fault for destroying the evidence and not doing the right thing years ago.
CABRERA: Fayetteville stopped destroying rape kits in 2009. That same year North Carolina made it illegal to destroy biological evidence in unsolved rape. Too late for most of the cold cases. Only three of the 333 have resulted in criminal charges.
What did you lose when those rape kits were destroyed?
SOMERINDYKE: A chance to get justice.
CABRERA: And what message does this send for not just the victims here in Fayetteville whose way kits were destroyed but around the country?
CHRISTINE: You don't matter. What happened to you doesn't matter. And it sends a message to perpetrators to go ahead and keep doing this. You are going to get away with it.
CABRERA: Again, Christine's story, it just scratches the surface.
CNN's investigation looked at destruction nationwide since 2010. And we learned 25 agencies in 14 states destroyed kits tied to cases wheel they could still be prosecuted. At least five departments acknowledge that the decision to destroy kits was made without even considering the statute of limitations. One department is still destroying kits after they are tested. Three stopped trashing kits because of CNN's inquiries, but, again, it took direct questions from CNN to get them to change.
For more on CNN's exclusive investigation on destroyed rape kits, go to CNN.com/destroyed.
We will be right back.
[19:59:54] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with me tonight.
We are following two stunning development in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. "The Washington Post' journalist who walked into a Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never reemerged.