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WH: U.S. Re-Evaluating Relationship With Saudis After OPEC Cuts; Prosecutors Drop All Charges Against Adnan Syed; Uvalde Schools Chief To Retire Amid Massacre Fallout. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 11, 2022 - 11:30   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, there needed to be more oil given what was happening in Ukraine and the soaring gas prices. Given the decision by OPEC, the roller coaster is now on a very sharp descent. I think that was underscored by John Kirby this morning. Take a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: I think the president's been very clear that this is a relationship that we need to continue to reevaluate, that we need to be willing to revisit. And certainly in light of the OPEC decision, I think that's where he is.


MATTINGLY: And, Kate, just to contextualize, you know this well, this is a seven decades strategic partnership. It is critical for regional security purposes. It is critical on the economic side as well. What you're hearing from officials is Congress is going to take the lead on this. Democrats have been very clear of their views the administration will work with them on this. But no question about it, at least rhetorically, this is in a sharply different place than it was just a few months ago.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: It's a good point, a great way of saying it. It's good to see you, Phil, thank you so much. Joining me now for more on this is Democratic Congressman Adam Smith. He's the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Mr. Chairman, it's good to see you again.

Do -- I wanted to ask. Do you agree with Senator Menendez? Should the U.S. freeze the relationship with Saudi Arabia until they reassess the OPEC decision including blocking future weapons sales to Saudi?

REP. ADAM SMITH, (D-WA): Well, certainly, I agree that we have a problematic relationship with Saudi Arabia. I will confess. I don't know exactly what that means to "freeze the relationship" and where that goes. So there's going to have to be some specifics around that.

It's a very difficult relationship, but I mean the bottom line is we are trying to put pressure on Saudi Arabia on a number of issues, certainly on helping us with oil, that I think one of the main focuses of the conflict, obviously, was the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but also the big issue was the war in Yemen. I mean, that's where we really got sideways with Saudi when they engaged in the conflict in Yemen, in ways that we did not support. And that created a divide. But you also have to understand that the way Saudi Arabia looks at it, that they have been attacked, there have been missile attacks that have come out of Yemen, and -- you know, and they feel like we did not help them when it came to that when they were being attacked.

Now look at the war in Yemen, as did -- what Saudi Arabia did in Yemen created far more problems than were there in the first place.


SMITH: But that's the way they look at it. And then the final point to keep in mind, so if we freeze the relationship with Saudi Arabia, again, we don't know exactly what that means, but I think what Senator Menendez most referred to as cutting off arms sales, you will see Saudi Arabia turn more and more to Russia and China, and how does that play out in terms of meeting our interests. So it's a lot more complicated than just saying, you know, we don't like Saudi Arabia, therefore, we're cutting it off, and everything will be fine from there. It is a very, very fraught, complicated relationship.

BOLDUAN: And you -- and you put it really well. And again, yes, what does freeze exactly mean? I think that's an interesting question that should -- that does need to be ironed out. If it also -- if it includes freezing arms sales, that is one thing. What do you think an immediate freeze in this relationship, knowing that we don't have a clear definition of freeze at the moment? What do you think it could mean, to the war in Ukraine because that's also the context around which this is all being laid out now?

SMITH: Sure. Well, look, I want to make it perfectly clear, I think we need to try to put pressure on Saudi Arabia on all those issues that I mentioned, and human rights in general. But what it would mean, in the short term is, you know, Saudi Arabia, you know, they would be in a position where, you know, they would be closer to Russia and closer to China and further away from us. I mean, at the end of the day, that's what it would mean.

You know, I guess you could say the leverage we have over Saudi Arabia is that we could stop selling them weapons, but we are not the only people in the world to sell weapons. There would certainly be an awkward transition for Saudi Arabia. Weapon systems are not interchangeable. But they would move in that direction.

I think Putin would potentially have a closer ally in the fight against Ukraine. China would have greater entree to the Middle East. And there would be significant challenges there. And after all of that, would Saudi Arabia be a better global actor?

And again, I am very much aware of the things that Saudi Arabia has done that are indefensible. I mean no question about it. But where does that go in terms of how we either change that behavior or better improve our position in the world? You know it's going to take a lot of deep thought. BOLDUAN: Yes. When you pull -- when you pull one thread, what really does start to unravel? Which direction does it go? It's a key question, especially when it comes to Saudi Arabia. I spoke to John Kirby last night, Mr. Chairman, about Ukraine's call now for more advanced air defense systems to help defend themselves. I'm going to play for you what Kirby told me.


JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We're going to continue to work to provide air defense capabilities to the Ukrainians. I would add -- I mean, we've been doing that since almost the beginning. 1400 Stingers, surveillance, and the air defense radar systems as well as going to work to procure some national advanced surface-to-air missile systems for them. That work, that effort, that coordination with the Ukrainian will continue.



BOLDUAN: Do you think the White House needs to be giving Ukrainians more at this point than they already are? They're really talking about these long-range munitions that the White House has some hesitation about giving them. What do you think? Is -- are we in a moment that it needs to step up in a real way?

SMITH: Well, three quick points. First of all, we have stepped up in a real way, OK? And I think a lot of people lose track of that when the focus is on a system here, a system there that hasn't been provided. You know the amount of support in the last eight or nine months that the Biden administration has been able to coordinate and deliver to Ukraine is significant, extremely significant.

And you see the difference on the battlefield. The Ukrainians began to push back and retake territory against Russia, a country let roughly I do a little quick math in my head, four-five times the size of them with a much bigger military. So, let's remember what the Biden administration has done in pulling together this international coalition to get Ukraine's air defense systems, to get them behind MARS system. I think that's -- that is the first point.

The second point is yes, we will always want to try to do more. I was just in Europe meeting with NATO countries, you know, talking about the Germans getting tanks into the Ukrainians. The Norwegians can have a long-range anti-ship missile. And we need to keep working on that to deliver them more capability without question. But let's remember all that the Biden administration has done.

Third point, yes, we need to give them longer-range munitions. I've been very clear about that. We also need to give them as much air defense systems as we possibly can. But the longer-range munitions are what is going to enable Ukraine to move forward.

Final point, another big thing we need to get them is secure communications. That's what has been reported the Starlink system has been faltering. There are other secure communication systems that we could give them that could really help the Ukrainians. But let us not forget that the leadership that the Biden administration has shown in pulling this coalition together in helping Ukrainians into the strong position that they're in right now.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for coming in and taking the questions. I appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: A new -- a big development in the legal saga involving Adnan Syed, the man whose case was featured you'll remember in that hit podcast, Serial, after 23 years in prison, prosecutors just now deciding to drop the charges against him. That's next.



BOLDUAN: A major move in the murder case that gripped the nation. Prosecutors in Baltimore Maryland telling CNN they are dropping all charges against Adnan Syed, whose case you remember was the subject of the hit podcast, Serial. Let's go to CNN's Jason Carroll. He's got all the details of what's really just unfolding here.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the incredible scene when he was walking there out of court. This could finally be the final chapter in this case. Adnan Syed will stay a free man, this, after prosecutors say they are officially dropping the charges for the murder of his ex-girlfriend after releasing him from prison last month. Syed whose case gained national attention on the Serial podcast, he was serving a life sentence for the murder of his ex -- then-ex-girlfriend back in 1999. But new evidence came to light much of that shown in that podcast. The state's attorney then confirmed the previous prosecutors on that case had failed to tell Syed's defense attorney about evidence that would have allowed him to defend himself including there were two other possible suspects in that case.

Again, Syed was released from prison just last month after serving 23 years behind bars. But the state had a 30-day period to decide whether or not to refile the case. Baltimore City State's Attorney said last month her office was awaiting DNA testing after the conviction was vacated. Those DNA tests apparently exclude him.

His attorney releasing the following statement just a short while ago saying finally, Adnan Syed is able to live as a free man. The DNA test results confirm what we have already known and what underlies all of the current proceedings that Adnan is innocent and lost 23 years of his life serving time for a crime he did not commit.

Adnan who is now 41 has always maintained his innocence. Prosecutors are expected to hold a press conference on this later today. But you know that podcast that captured the attention of the entire country is clearly the reason he is a free man today.

BOLDUAN: 23 years (INAUDIBLE) CARROLL: 23 years.

BOLDUAN: Thanks. It's good to see you, Jason. Thanks for bringing it to us.

So, the superintendent of Uvalde schools in Texas is stepping down, but some of the community say it's not enough.


VELMA LISA DURAN, SISTER OF UVALDE SHOOTING VICTIM IRMA GARCIA: How is it that you all are entitled to get a pass in the most violent massacre in Texas? You should have been fired or arrested for gross negligence.



BOLDUAN: The uncle of one of the students killed in that shooting massacre joins us next.



BOLDUAN: The Uvalde school district is announcing it will now be hiring a new superintendent. This happened during an emotionally charged school board meeting last night. The current superintendent is retiring as big questions still remain, of course, about the law enforcement response to the shooting and also the school -- the school district's role in keeping kids safe then and now.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in Texas with more on this. Shimon, I know you were there last night. What happened during that school board meeting last night and what happens now?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Just the continued raw emotion that we see from family members, their anger at the school district. One of the things that was different about last night was that Hal Harrell, the superintendent after announcing his retirement, many of his supporters from the community showed up.


And this certainly upset the family members to have them outside the boardroom sort of showing this kind of cheerful support, hugging Hal Harrell out there, cheering him on as he prepares to retire. And the family members were upset because they certainly have not seen that kind of support from these folks since they -- since this happened. Take a look at one of the responses from one of the family members to that last night.


BRETT CROSS, GUARDIAN OF UVALDE SHOOTING VICTIM UZIYAH GARCIA: We do need your help bringing people together because that wasn't -- this shouldn't be happening. You got a standing ovation walked in and everything like that and we can't get people caring enough to come to the school board meetings, or to the city council meetings or anything. But I will say this, if there had been 17 white kids, all of those people out there would have been in here. All of our kids' matter. They all matter. Though sir I need your help, you know, reaching them because they don't -- they don't ever come in here.


PROKUPECZ: And so, what you saw last night, Kate, was this racial divide. You'd had the supporters outside, cheering, hugging, and then inside, it was the family members grieving, and to the sounds of cheers, and people clapping outside, Kate. And now -- so the search for the new superintendent now it goes on. They've hired a law firm that's going to do that, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Shimon, thank you for being there. Joining me now is Jesse Rizo. He is an uncle to Jackie Cazares, a nine-year-old -- one of the nine-year-olds killed in the attack on Robb Elementary. Jesse, thank you for coming on. Again, it is good to see you.


BOLDUAN: You called the superintendent's retirement a step that needed to take place. Why is that?

RIZO: It's a -- it's the beginning of the healing process. It's what I would consider in the category of accountability. The parents are also looking for answers, but it's a step in the right direction. He mismanaged as well as the administration. He mismanaged the whole ordeal from the beginning, couldn't get it right, a total failure. He couldn't seem to turn that around.

We provided them with ideas, feedback, things, you know, we just didn't come to the table with problems. We came up with solutions to the table. We reached out to leaders in the community. Some of them did make contact with them. They just he just seemed to didn't want to follow the advice that we were trying to give them to try to -- try to deal with this mess.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I hope you heard what Shimon was reporting and what he saw. And I know you were in the school board meeting last night too, and how Shimon says that it's really divided the community. Do you think this has divided the community?

RIZO: It has. You know, you get a different perspective with different things. I really wish that the community had -- especially the people that were out there, you know, basically acknowledging with Dr. Harrell. And we don't dispute what they say about Dr. Harrell. He's a very nice man, charismatic, understanding, things of that nature but one of the traits that he lacks is called leadership.

And so, we really wish that those people that were outside had joined us at the beginning so that they maybe could understand what we were trying to get the most basic things, the answers to the most basic fundamental things. Maybe they could have helped us relay that message to where Dr. Harrell and his administration could have comprehended that. But they come out a little too late, you know, and it's challenging. It's disheartening to see that.

But we have faith and we have hope. And I think within time -- we have to be patient on both sides. And I think within time, we'll begin to understand why things like this had to surface.

BOLDUAN: Your capacity to leave space for hope is truly admirable, Jesse. I mean, families have been demanding accountability. You've been demanding accountability for what is a very long time now. And it's not it's -- it appears it's not until the school system hired the former Trooper that's already under investigation for her response to the shooting, that things started to move and change. Do you see this as a tipping point in terms of accountability and keeping kids safe in Uvalde?

RIZO: I think it is a turning point. And you're absolutely right. The hiring of Elizondo really shed light on the inability to lead, the failures from the beginning not just on May 24 but before May 24. And when you couldn't get it right the second time it was inevitable that things were crumbling. We could see it. The writing was on the wall. We knew that this day would come. We knew that this day that Dr. Harrell was going to have to resign.

But I think it is a tipping point. We're not confident that there's enough leadership. Up on top, the school board lacks that. They lack of backbone.


I don't think that anyone was basically I'd say strong enough to actually give him feedback to tell him that he was headed in the wrong direction. It could have been him, it could have been others that are -- that are at the -- at the director level. But they should have been honest with Dr. Harrell.

But it is -- it is a turning point. I think there's more to come. I think probably more things are going to come out. The link to the chain has basically broken and with that, probably I would think more things will come out.

BOLDUAN: And you talk about the need for strength. That is definitely what is going to be needed on the very long road still ahead. Jesse Rizo, thank you for coming in and speaking to me again.

RIZO: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for watching. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts after this.