Return to Transcripts main page


Transcript of Khashoggi's Murder; Republican Anxiety over Trump Legal Troubles; Possible Kelly Replacements; Supreme Court Ruling on Planned Parenthood. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 10, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:34:23] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The CIA briefed key U.S. senators, Republicans and Democrats, on the agency's assessment of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing. They were so horrified and said so publically.

Now a source has given CNN a briefing on a transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi's final moments.

CNN's Nic Robertson was provided with details of that translated transcript reproduced in this report of that audio. It correlates with the CIA finding that the Saudis team sent to Istanbul came there with the premeditated intent to kill.

[09:35:00] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): CNN can now reveal Jamal Khashoggi's last words, "I can't breathe. I can't breathe."

ROBERTSON (on camera): These previously undisclosed details of what happened that afternoon in October come from a source who has been briefed on the investigation. The source has read a full transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi's horrific final moments.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Within moments of his fateful steps into the consulate, Khashoggi recognizes someone, asks why they are there. The answer, you are coming back.

According to CNN's source, the Turkish transcript identifies that person as Maha Abdulaziz Mutrab (ph), a former Saudi diplomat and intelligence official working for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whom Khashoggi knew. Khashoggi is clearly alarmed and replies, you can't do that. People are waiting outside for me.

ROBERTSON (on camera): According to the source, the conversation ends right there. The transcript indicates noises as people set upon Khashoggi and very quickly Khashoggi can be heard saying, I can't breathe. He repeats it again, I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

ROBERTSON (voice over): What happens belies initial Saudi claims his death was a grave mistake. CNN's source says it's clear from his reading of the transcript, Khashoggi's murder was no botched rendition attempt but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.

But it is what happens next that is really horrific. The transcript records many voices and noises. Then says, scream from Jamal. Again, scream. Then, gasping. Noises are identified as saw an cutting.

Then a voice Turkish authorities identify as Dr. Salah Muhammad Tubaigy (ph), the head of forensic medicine of Saudi Arabia's interior ministry. He says, if you don't like the noise, put your ear phones in or listen to music like me.

ROBERTSON (on camera): According to the source, Mutrab, the apparent leader of the team, makes at least three phone calls during the murder to a number Turkish officials identify as being in the Saudi royal court. Only Mutrab's side of the conversation can be heard, but there is no sense of panic or of an operation gone wrong.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Mutrab tells the person in Riyadh, tell yours, that the source takes to mean your boss or your senior, the thing is done. It's done.

ROBERTSON (on camera): CNN reached out to Saudi officials to get a response from those named in this report and we're told Saudi security officials have reviewed the transcript and tape and nowhere in them is there any reference or indication of a call being made. A Saudi source close to the Saudi investigation says both Mutrab and Tubaigy deny making phone calls.

And while the transcript provides no smoking gun directly tying Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the killing, it seems to echo Senator Lindsey Graham's sentiments after hearing the CIA's assessment of Khashoggi's killing, there's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


SCIUTTO: A smoking saw.

CNN shared our sources detailed description with the office of a senator who was briefed by the CIA early this week and we are told that the CNN report of the transcript was consistent with the briefing that that senator received.

So far, no matter what political headwinds have hit this president, the president has been able to count on his base and a core group of supporters in Congress to back him up. But could that soon change?


[09:43:34] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

The White House is facing a significant trade war. Of course the Russia investigation and soon a Congress controlled by Democrats crucially with subpoena power. But as the political storm keeps growing, President Trump's allies tell "The Washington Post" that the White House is not building a war room to respond or hiring a team of top fight lawyers, instead they are following the president's lead and winging it. They're defending -- depending, rather, on his core supporters to believe whatever he tells them on the Russian investigation and other issues.

Joining us now is outgoing Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

Thanks, congressman, for taking the time.

REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Yes, good to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you this because you're a Republican congressman. Of course you're leaving office now, but you're in touch with a lot of Republican voters, many of whom I imagine we could say are in Trump's base.


SCIUTTO: So you talk to them about what they care about, what would change their mind. Is it a misimpression to say that that base will never leave Trump, regardless of what Mueller finds or what the economy does, et cetera?

COSTELLO: I think there's a big chunk that would never leave. And I think our politics at this moment in time is as much about what we're against. And I think a lot of Republican voters know that they're against Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. And a lot of Democratic voters know that they're against Trump.

And there is a group in the middle, whether it's 10 percent or 30 percent of the electorate, that is a little bit confused and may not necessarily have a home, but shifts back and forth. And I think we saw that in November. Most of those voters shifted to Democrats.

[09:45:00] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because I often remind folks that this dynamic was not very different from where you were in Watergate. In Watergate, most Republicans stayed with Nixon until there were the tapes. And the tapes were -- that took those votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee, that made the difference and shoed that he had to resign.

What would that evidence look like this time? If there are no equivalent of Oval Office tapes like you had with Nixon? I mean, for instance, here you have the Southern District of New York, which is run by a Trump appointee, by the way.


SCIUTTO: Appearing to substantiate a federal crime that Michael Cohen was directed by this president to commit, which, by the way, was pay off two women to hide their stories of affairs with the president during a campaign. I mean does something like that rise to the level?

COSTELLO: Fair yes.

I think that the answer is -- I'll -- you'd know it when you see it.


COSTELLO: And by that I mean, I don't think -- to Senator Rand Paul's point over the weekend, you know, looking at getting a hotel in Russia isn't -- doesn't rise to an impeachable offense. And I would even say, and I am not condoning the behavior, but paying off two women who allegedly had affairs with the president, I think a large majority of the American public says, he probably did it, he probably was trying to cover it up. Should he be impeached over that? I think the --

SCIUTTO: He's breaking the law. He's breaking the law.

COSTELLO: And I think even House incoming Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said it, yes, it could be impeachable, but whether or not the -- becomes it becomes a political question. I'm not sure the American public looks at the president, however distasteful a tweet or things that he says may be, and says, that's what he should be impeached for. I think there's some Democrats who want to -- who have wanted to impeach him since he was sworn in. And I think that, frankly, there are some Republicans that even if Trump has crossed the line on some things, will never want to see him impeached because they feel he's a man of his word and he's fighting for them.


COSTELLO: And I think there's some folks in the middle that say, just get the business of the American public done and I don't want to hear about the reality show circus that's going on.

SCIUTTO: Right. You make a good point, that clearly Democrats are struggling with the same point, they may believe it's impeachable criminal behavior, but is it -- is it enough for them to vote to impeach --

COSTELLO: And is it a political trap for them, right?

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

COSTELLO: Because they want to be viewed as a governing party.


Let me ask you this. The president -- just because it speaks to the functioning of this administration. Nick Ayers, who was the front- runner, and the president seemed to be -- have his heart set on him, to some degree, to be the new chief of staff. I mean a 36-year-old, you would think that's a plum assignment, turning it down.

A lot of the other candidates that get mentioned, they very quickly say, well, I'm happy where I am, et cetera. What does that say that this president can't very quickly find a chief of staff?

COSTELLO: So, a couple things. In the case of Nick Ayers, who I don't know but who does have a very excellent reputation, the fact that he's been there for so long and he has three young kids and he wanted to be home to Georgia, I kind of take that at face value.

The job itself is a --

SCIUTTO: He's chief of staff to a vice president.


SCIUTTO: IT's not like he's, you know, you know, taking six days a week off. So he already has a pretty busy job as it is, yes.

COSTELLO: Understood. I do think that it is a -- it's a brutal job no matter what the administration is.

Some of the other names that have been floated, Mick Mulvaney, Steve Mnuchin are extremely effectively, extremely -- I served with Mick in the House.

SCIUTTO: But Mick has said he -- I mean at least our reporting is that he's not interested.


SCIUTTO: So, I mean, the consistent message here is there aren't a lot of people raising their hands for this job.

COSTELLO: Or at least not publicly. But, again, if you -- I think the -- in Washington the story is always, if you want the job, make sure you're not out there saying that you want the job.

SCIUTTO: Fair enough.

COSTELLO: So, in fairness, having said all that, I mean I'm not going to sugar coat it. The president -- it's a unique presidency. And if you want to be unpopular, ultimately I think the way to do that with the president is to become the chief. He can be a very demanding boss.

SCIUTTO: A unique presidency. I'm going to write that one down. OK.

COSTELLO: Politically correct.

SCIUTTO: Ryan Costello, thanks very much for taking the time.

COSTELLO: Thanks for having me on, Jim.

We have breaking news coming out of the Supreme Court. An important decision. One we've been watching for closely. And we're going to have that breaking news right after this.


[09:53:30] SCIUTTO: Breaking news in the last few moments out of the Supreme Court. An important decision dealing with Planned Parenthood.

Jessica Schneider is standing by with more.

Jessica, tell us what the court decided. JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the Supreme

Court effectively handing Planned Parenthood a victory in this case. Really keeping in place two lower courts' opinions saying that states cannot terminate Medicaid funding for any Planned Parenthood affiliates that provide preventative care for low-income women. So definitely a win for Planned Parenthood.

You know, but this wasn't your typical opinion. This was the Supreme Court saying that they are not going to be taking up this case. Instead, leaving in place the two lower court opinions that said that states violate federal law when they do terminate this Medicaid funding.

Now, what's interesting here is that in order for a case to be granted, which it was not here, four justices have to agree to take up the case. Instead, five justices today decided not to take up this case.

And why is that significant? Well, it shows that Justices John Roberts and new Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the liberals in this case, deciding not to take up this case. And the three conservative justices, the solidly conservative justices of Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, as well as Neil Gorsuch, they all issued a dissent here saying that the Supreme Court should have taken up this case.

Justice Clarence Thomas issued somewhat of a stinging dissent, saying the only reason the Supreme Court decided not to take up this case was because it involved the phrase or the words of the organization Planned Parenthood here.

[09:55:09] So, Jim, in part, the Supreme Court giving a win to Planned Parenthood, but also we're beginning to see how this court is taking shape. Who's siding with whom? And, right now, today, we're seeing that the chief justice, John Roberts, and the new justice, Brett Kavanaugh, actually siding with the liberals here, deciding not to take the case.


SCIUTTO: An extremely interesting detail. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much. A story, of course, we're going to continue to follow.

Still to come this hour, President Trump is now linked to federal crimes for the first time since taking office. This in the sentencing memo of his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. We're going to speak to former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci about this and many other developments.

Stay with us.