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Senate Condemns Saudi Arabia; Cohen Accusations; Shutdown over Wall; Girl Dies in U.S. Custody; Mom Vanishes on Thanksgiving Day. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 14, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:34:22] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A bipartisan direct rebuke of President Trump, and soon the president could be forced to either side with Congress or the man who Congress says ordered the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Senate passing a resolution to formerly condemn Saudi Arabia's prince -- crown prince for Khashoggi's murder. If the House passes it, too, lots of questions about that, though, the president will have to answer on this.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin. He's also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thank you for taking the time this morning.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Jim, it's good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you this question because senators have been briefed. House members have been briefed. They have been shown what appears to be convincing evidence that the crown prince ordered this murder. And yet the president and the secretary of state continue to say the evidence is -- the jury is still out in effect on this.

[09:35:14] Why do you believe the president chooses to ignore that intelligence finding and to standby, as you said in a statement yesterday, stand by as strong men and dictators commit heinous crimes. Why?

CARDIN: Well, Jim, this is not the first time that the president has decided not to acknowledge the information from his own intelligence agencies. It's clear to me that the president wants to maintain a relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince and does not want to have to respond to the clear evidence that the crown prince was behind the horrific murder of the journalist in Turkey. So that's unfortunate. And I think the president does not appreciate the fact that our foreign policy is based upon our values and America's strength is based upon our values and he's willing to allow that to go by the side and just ignore it. And that's not what a president should be doing.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because the Senate has spoken here, Democrats, and a larger number than expected of Republicans. But the House -- in fact, I reached out to the speaker's office this morning to ask for his position on this, was referred to Senator Mitch McConnell's statements on this. The House certainly shows no enthusiasm and may very well block action on this. Does that mean that the Senate's action on Saudi Arabia is purely symbolic?

CARDIN: No, not at all. I mean I think it's very clear the -- what the Senate has done represents what the facts are.

And I think the challenge is this, that we understand the importance of the relationship between the United States and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It's important to the United States. It's important to the Saudis. But it must be based upon our principals. And there must be accountability for this horrific murder.

And I think -- I hope the House understands that and agrees with that. I think it's clear that the majority of the American people agree with that. The global community is watching America. They depend upon our leadership. It's critically important that we demonstrate that there must be accountability for these actions so it does not happen again.

And then, look, we'll move forward with a relationship with the kingdom, but it's got to be altered as a result of this episode.

SCIUTTO: What does that mean, altered? Will you, for instance, you're on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will you and your colleagues refuse to engage with the Saudi crown prince?

CARDIN: I think that the crown prince has lost a great deal of credibility. I -- first, there's got to be accountability within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the actions of the crown prince, and we haven't seen that yet.

SCIUTTO: I want to move on to another topic.

Of course you're aware the president's former lawyer and fixer has now been convicted of a crime. He's going to jail. And today, this morning, he made a lot of comments about the president. But, most notably, that the president was aware of and involved in what New York prosecutors say was a violation of campaign finance law. If the president's involvement is proven, in your view, is that an impeachable offense?

CARDIN: Well, Jim, I'm going to wait until we get the full report from Mr. Mueller before making judgment on this. It looks like we're getting pretty close to the end of this investigation. I have been --

SCIUTTO: But that's the Mueller investigation. This, as you know, is coming out of the Southern District of New York. And they've already sent somebody to jail.

CARDIN: I understand that. But I think the major filings are going to be in the Mueller investigation. And I'm protecting these investigations. I want to make sure Mr. Mueller can complete his investigation without interference. He's already been interfered with by the president. But he can make his report to the Congress and he'll be able to do that. We will always consider all the information.

I listened to Mr. Cohen this morning in his interview. It was a powerful interview. And obviously that's going to have an impact.

SCIUTTO: As you know, on another topic, we have a shutdown deadline coming up. The president appears to be digging his heels in, in fact, saying he's willing to own a shutdown to get the money he wants for a wall. Are you willing to allow the government to shut down, to deny the president the $5 billion he wants? Is that a good outcome? Is that an outcome you would support?

CARDIN: Let's be clear about this, the Republicans in Congress have no game plan. They can't even pass this. So it's not -- it's not the Democrats. The wall makes no sense whatsoever. There is no support for it in the Congress of the United States. We want border security. But there's a smart way to do border security. And we've provided the funding for border security.

[09:40:02] This wall makes no sense and the only person that wants it is the president. And, quite frankly, he's not going to get it. So we hope there will be a way that the Republicans can work with us to send to the president something he can sign, keep government open. If there's a shutdown, government -- the president's claimed credit for it. It's on his shoulders. We don't want a -- we don't want a shutdown.

SCIUTTO: Senator Ben Cardin, thanks very much for joining us.

CARDIN: Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, ahead for us, a seven-year-old, a migrant girl, is dead this morning. She died just hours after being taken into custody by U.S. border patrol. Ahead, the latest on how she died and what DHS is saying in response to her death this morning, ahead.


HARLOW: Welcome back.

A seven-year-old Guatemalan girl has died just hours after being taken into custody by Border Patrol. She and her father were taken into custody in New Mexico after crossing illegally into the United States.

[09:45:01] And this morning, "The Washington Post" reports the young girl had no food and no water for several days before she was even taken into custody. She then died of dehydration and septic shock after going into cardiac arrest.

Let's go to our colleague Marty Savidge, who joins us now following this story.

A seven-year-old girl dead in custody. What can you tell us?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, this is -- it's a horrible story that heartbreakingly humanizes the whole contest of what is going down at the border there and the conflict that therein lies.

So, this is what we know. According to CBP, Customs and Border Protection.

It was December 6th. It was 10:00 at night. It was in a remote area of New Mexico when this seven-year-old girl and her dad and reportedly 160 others who were crossing over from Mexico, the father and daughter are from Guatemala, but, of course, they were crossing the border from Mexico, taken into custody. Eight hours later, she begins to go into convulsions. Medical help is sought. She's life flighted to a children's hospital. She dies about 24 hours later. And the questions are being asked.

Here is the head of DHS on Fox reacting.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: My heart goes out to the family, all of -- all of DHS.

You know, this is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally. What happened here was they were 90 -- about 90 miles away from where we could process them. They came in such a large crowd that it took our border patrol folks a couple times to get to them all. We gave immediate care. We'll continue to look into the situation. But again, I cannot stress how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally.


SAVIDGE: The question that is going to be looked at very carefully here is, did her -- this girl's apprehension or the detention in any way delay or aggravate the medical condition she was clearly suffering with. And that investigation is just beginning, Poppy.

HARLOW: Exactly. It is. And at the same time, Marty, this comes as the president is threatening a government shutdown, to own a government shutdown. He says, look, this is because, you know, everyone's supportive of border security. But that would mean funding for border protection.

SAVIDGE: Yes, the death of a little girl here is going to be seized upon, I think, by both sides on this issue. Democrats clearly want an investigation because they believe it only demonstrates the horrible circumstance of how families are treated as they come across. But you've already heard there, as the head of DHS is saying that, look, this is proof why these families should not be making this trek, children and others can die.

HARLOW: Yes. Marty Savidge, thank you for the reporting. Please let us know as you learn more. I know this is just developing.



SCIUTTO: A Colorado mom was seen on surveillance video with her baby on Thanksgiving Day. Then she vanished. Now police are hoping the final text she sent from her phone will provide important clues about her disappearance.


[09:52:20] HARLOW: All right, a very disturbing story this morning. A Colorado mother who vanished on Thanksgiving Day, now police are turning to her text messages for more clues.

SCIUTTO: Twenty-nine-year-old Kelsey Berreth last seen when she met her fiance to drop off their one-year-old daughter. Three days later, she allegedly sent texts to her fiance and to her employer saying she needed to miss an entire week of work. Police tracked her phone all the way to Idaho, but no trace of her since. Last night, dozens of people attending a vigil for Berreth, praying for her safe return.

CNN's Scott McLean, he's been following the story.

Are there any theories, Scott, as to what happened here?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it's really anyone's guess at this point. Police are saying very little. I spoke with the local police chief last night who's declined to talk about the case other than that there would be a reward set up for information leading to Berreth's whereabouts and he also said that the family is accepting donations.

There were a couple dozen people who braved these sub-freezing temperatures to show up at that vigil just to show their support. Most of them did not know Kelsey Berreth. Most of the people that I spoke to seemed really baffled here. Baffled by the lack of information in this case and baffled that someone could simply disappear in a community where people know each other, where people look out for one another.

They are still, of course, hoping that she will be found safe. One man said that when he drives around town, he still keeps his eyes peeled for her, just hoping that he might spot her by chance. Another woman said that she knows Berreth from the vet clinic where she works and where Berreth used to take her dog. She said that she's quiet but friendly. She also said, look, this is a small town. Things like this are not supposed to happen here.

And this case is really bizarre. You mentioned those text messages, one to the employer saying, hey, I needed more time off. And the other to her fiance. One of those text messages pinged off of that cell phone tower in Idaho, making a lot of people scratch their heads in this case.

And there's been a lot of focus on Berreth's fiance. He was absent from the initial police press conference. And he hasn't given any interviews. He actually put out a statement through a lawyer this week saying that he had short notice for that press conference. That's why he wasn't there. And he simply wanted to stay out of the way and let police do their jobs.

He's also turned over his phone, submitted to a DNA swab, and also has given interviews to police. So police say he's cooperating. He's not a suspect at this point. But police did promise more information today.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Let's hope she's found safe.

Scott McLean, thanks very much.

[09:54:51] Well, President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, says that he is not lying, the president is. We'll have more on really this stunning interview.


[09:59:26] HARLOW: Here is a really important number for you to consider and think about over the weekend. Gun deaths in the U.S. have reached a record high. A new report this morning from the CDC showed nearly 40,000 people in this country were killed last year by guns. It is the highest number since at least 1979. That is when firearm deaths were first recorded. The number of gun deaths has risen by more than 10,000 from just 1999.

On Wednesday, the National Rifle Association tweeted this, gun control laws are not the answer. If we prevent more horrific acts of violence, our leaders need to stop demonizing the men and women of the NRA and find solutions that will save lives.