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Missing Saudi Journalist; U.S. Pastor Freed; Trump Reluctant to Give Up Saudi Arms Deal; Saudi Crown Prince Faces Fallout over Khashoggi's Murder; Searching for Hurricane Michael Survivors; Trump's Wild Week. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired October 13, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


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BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A disturbing new report not only says Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul but he may even have recorded his final moments. Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Becky Anderson live for you in Istanbul in Turkey.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center. Also we are following the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Hundreds of thousands are still without power and some people still don't know where they will live and where they will go. They lost everything. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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ANDERSON: A very good morning from Istanbul. A pro government Turkish newspaper has published a shocking report about missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to the article, Khashoggi activated his Apple Watch upon entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd. It then recorded what happened next, including his alleged torture and killing inside the building.

CNN can't verify this report and the Saudis strenuously deny any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance but the Turks claim to have audio and video recordings that prove he was murdered.

CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, a former CIA operative, tells our Anderson Cooper that he is skeptical of the details of this latest Turkish report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Bob, the reporting about this Apple watch, I mean its fascinating -- it does come really the only source on it is this pro-government newspaper in Turkey. Does it make sense technologically that that's possible?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: No, that's too far for a Bluetooth connection. And, you know, his anticipation of transmitting that, I think that was beyond Khashoggi. I think what's happened clearly is the Turks have the Saudi consulate wire, they have transmitters.

The Turks don't trust any diplomats. And they've been in most embassies and most consulates in Turkey and they listen to what's going on. And if indeed there are tapes, you know, proving that he was murdered, I think that's probably how they know, but the Turks are very reluctant to admit that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: With billions of dollars' worth of U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia on the line, U.S. president Donald Trump has had very little to say about the disturbing allegations. But he did say he would bring it up soon with the Saudi king.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll find out what happened with respect to the terrible situation in Turkey having to do with Saudi Arabia and the reporter. And nobody knows quite yet, nobody has been able to put it all together. People are starting to form ideas. And as they are formed, we'll let you know. But it certainly is a terrible thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you talked to the king of Saudi Arabia?

TRUMP: I have not. I will be calling at some point the king at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: CNN's Jomana Karadsheh outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Sam Kiley is in the Saudi capital.

I want to start with Jomana. New leaked lines that sent this investigation into Jamal's disappearance, what do we believe to be the very latest at this point?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a week since Turkey launched that criminal investigation into the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. And so far the official lines, what Turkey has said officially and publicly are very few. They say he walked into that building behind me, into the consulate.

He disappeared after that. The other thing they say on the record is that 15 Saudis, including officials that we know, are persons of interest because they were in the country, inside the consulate. They left that evening.

All this at the time of his disappearance. We know from a source familiar with the investigation that told CNN that Turkey does have audio evidence and visual evidence that he was tortured and killed inside the consulate.

Overnight, after all these questions about how Turkey may have obtained these recordings and this evidence, the pro government newspaper reporting that Jamal Khashoggi may have recorded that using -- [05:05:00]

KARADSHEH: -- his Apple Watch. Now it's very hard to tell right now. We can't verify this information. CNN's looking into even if this is technologically feasible.

And as you heard from Bob Baer earlier, a lot of security experts are really skeptical that this was the case. And the feeling is that it might be the pro-government newspaper, Turkey coming out with these lines after questions were raised about how the Turkish government would have obtained these recordings from inside a diplomatic mission here.

ANDERSON: Jomana's outside the consulate in Istanbul, about 20 minutes or so from where we are here.

Sam, important to reiterate that the Saudis strenuously deny any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance.

What's the latest there?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is coming from the interior minister, Prince Faisal bin Saud. He's the first and most senior official part of the government here to make a statement on this. And his statement is very consistent with the line that Mr. Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate safely.

And any talk of his disappearance or death as a result of Saudi influences is propaganda largely. I'll read you a statement issued on his behalf through the official news agency.

It says, "The minister of interior affirmed the kingdom of Saudi Arabia's condemnation and denunciation of the false accusations circulated in some media on the Saudi government and people against the background of the disappearance of the Saudi citizen, Jamal Khashoggi.

"He also stressed that what has been circulating about orders to kill him are lies baseless allegations against the kingdom -- against the government of the kingdom."

So there you have an unequivocal statement now from pretty much one of the highest officials in the land saying that not only was Saudi Arabia not involve but these allegations -- and I stress, we've been stressing, these are unproven allegations that they leaked into the Turkish press, baseless.

And in the wider context, as you know, because Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular are at loggerheads somewhat with Turkey because of Turkey's support of Qatar, which they have got an embargo against, this is now among Saudi commentators being portrayed as some kind of nefarious plot to besmirch the Saudi reputation organized, they say -- the government hasn't said but commentators and government newspapers here have said -- inspired by Qatar.

ANDERSON: Sam's in Riyadh, Jomana is outside the consulate. I've got journalist Andrew Finkel with me here in Istanbul. Thank you to both of you.

So Riyadh reiterating, they categorically deny any involvement in Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance. Local press here suggesting the investigation leading to a conclusion that Jamal was killed inside the embassy.

And there's audio and video recordings of this. Let's be absolutely clear, the government here very slow to be prepared to get involved in any sort of statement or response to what's going on. Much of what we're hearing here is being leaked to press, which sits very much aligned with the government.

What's the strategy here?

ANDREW FINKEL, JOURNALIST: Well, I think there is, as you say, a great deal of ambivalence in Turkey about what happened. Here's a person who, it seems was very well connected to the government. Had friends in the government media, had friends within the government itself and he was, if we're to believe the leaks, brutally murdered on Turkish soil.

This is a great embarrassment to Turkey and they're clearly out to get some sort of satisfaction.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is a big and wealthy country and do you really want to shake the lion by the tail?

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ANDERSON: Let's have a look at this. Let's triangulate on this. Ankara, Riyadh, Washington. Unpick that, if you will, so far as relations are concerned.

FINKEL: Thanks a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Good luck.

FINKEL: Basically Turkey has different aims. It's competing with Saudi Arabia for influence. The region has gotten really light Saudi Arabia's ideological stance. It's closer to Qatar. I think Saudi Arabia is really too close to America. When you talk about moderate Islam, that rings warning bells in Turkey's ear.

They think that's a fudge, a pro-American stance. So they're out to compete with Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, Turkey's on the brink of an economic crisis. It needs financial support from the outside world. Saudi Arabia's a rich --

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FINKEL: -- country. It doesn't want to antagonize it. The relationship with America is far more complex because on the one hand, in order to get out of its financial difficulties, Turkey has to end its isolation. We say yesterday the release of this pastor, Brunson, as a first step to repairing the U.S. relationship. There's two possibilities here; by making a fuss about Khashoggi's, they're actually forcing America to take a stand. They're embarrassing America or are they actually doing "The Washington Post" in America's bidding and making a moral stand on behalf of Western values?

So that, too, is ambivalent.

ANDERSON: Andrew, Brunson's released. We have a report from Ben Wedeman coming up. So far as this investigation is concerned, a huge dose of skepticism, I think, needs be taken when consider much of what we are hearing because, as I point out, it's been leaked to pro- government press.

But if indeed there is audio and video recordings of an incident that happened within that embassy -- there are a Saudi delegation now helping with the investigation.

What happens next?

FINKEL: Whether someone will actually go on trial or be punished for this deed, I think that's a really long way off. I think as far as the Turks are concerned, what they would be happy would be for their side of the story to get out and to be promulgated.

So again, it's this ambivalence. Yes, they want to be seen as being in the right here but they don't want to be so in the right that they actually have to do something about it.

ANDERSON: And the disappearance of journalists, not unfamiliar. Certainly the incarceration of journalists not unfamiliar. Let's remember, the atmosphere here isn't, as many of our viewers who may be watching from elsewhere, as clean as they might expect in their own capital city.

FINKEL: As you say, we calculate there's 175 media workers in jail, many of them on trumped-up charges and having yet to hear an indictment and are just there being punished for the same sort of dissent that Jamal Khashoggi was being punished for. (INAUDIBLE) cut them up into little bits (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: Which is an allegation that's being around here. Thank you, always a pleasure. Thank you.

Other news from here which also very much informs U.S.-Turkish relations. U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson is now in Germany after two years in Turkish custody. He'll soon be on his way home. This is a picture of Brunson's emotional arrival at the U.S. military airbase force in Germany. He stopped before he flies to Washington. On Friday, Turkish court released Brunson from house arrest. President Trump claimed the victory to a group of supporters before a rally in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: So we have good news. Pastor Andrew Brunson is in the air from Turkey. He's I think in good shape. He'll be stopping most likely in Germany for a full check up and then he's going to be come thing to Oval Office most likely on Saturday but we're very honored to have him back with us. He suffered greatly but we're very appreciative to a lot of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What caused the release, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Well, we spoke to Turkey and he went through a system and we got him out. They've been trying to get him out for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: It's Donald Trump.

Ben Wedeman tells us now about the story of Brunson's ordeal.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A convoy of cars rushes away from a Turkish court, one a passenger, American pastor Andrew Brunson, free after two years of detention.

He'd been charged with involvement in the failed July 2016 attempted coup. Charges he always denied. The Dutch gave him more than a three year sentence for aiding and abetting terrorism but freed him because of good behavior and the two years already spent in detention.

One of Brunson's supporters, Pastor William Devlin (ph), was delighted with the ruling.

WILLIAM DEVLIN (PH), PASTOR: We're just thankful today that he can go home and be reunited with his three kids, his wife. He can walk his daughter down the aisle as he was not able to do when she was married. So we're just thankful today and we're thankful that he's going home.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Also delighted was President Donald Trump. He tweeted, "Pastor Brunson just released. Will be home soon."

Brunson had spent 23 years in predominantly Muslim Turkey, doing missionary work. The Trump administration agitated --

[]

WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- for Brunson's release, freezing the assets of Turkey's interior and justice ministers and hiking tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum while Congress blocked the sale of U.S.- made F-35 jet fighters, squeezing an already faltering Turkish economy and bringing relations between the two NATO allies to a new low.

The sanctions may be eased now that Brunson's free. After his release the Turkish presidency put out a statement, saying, "Like the Turkish courts, the Republic of Turkey does not receive instructions from anybody, authority, office or person.

"We make our own rules and make our own decisions that reflect our will."

WEDEMAN: Despite the defiant words, in the end, Turkey blinked -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Izmir, Turkey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, Andrew Brunson expected to be back in the United States by around noon local time there. Natalie will have a lot more from here in about 10 minutes' time.

ALLEN: We'll see you then.

Brunson's freedom capped off a busy week for President Trump. We'll tell you more about what he's telling his supporters about the pastor's release -- in a moment.

Also ahead here, Hurricane Michael. The latest on the devastation left behind in Florida and the desperate of those who lost everything.

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ALLEN: And welcome back. U.S. president Donald Trump back in Washington after a busy week with so much going on in the Middle East. His focus shifted to Lebanon. Not the country but the town of Lebanon. He held a rally there Friday. Mr. Trump told reporters he would speak to Saudi crown prince about the missing Saudi journalist.

At the rally he boasted about the pastor being held by Turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm really proud to report that earlier today we secured the release of pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: The journalist's disappearance front and country in what is a convoluted and polarized narrative here and around the region. On Brunson's return to the U.S. from detention, also informing the chaotic diplomatic dance we see being --

[05:20:00]

ALLEN: -- played out around the region and in Washington. Let's talk more about this. I'm joined from London by Richard Johnson. He's a lecturer in U.S. politics and international relations at Lancaster University.

Richard, we appreciate your time on this. Much to discuss here. Well, President Trump does have serious bragging rights this week, from the Supreme Court justice to now the release of the American pastor from Turkey, which he's been working on much. And then there's Kanye West, however you characterize that one, singing the president's praises in the Oval Office.

If this is a reality show, this is a pretty good one for the president this week, do you think?

RICHARD JOHNSON, LANCASTER UNIVERSITY: I think particularly the Brunson release was a big victory for Trump. Trump's made it a bit of a priority in this presidency to secure the release of prisoners and hostages. He's done it in Egypt, Afghanistan and North Korea.

So this was part of that approach. Obviously in terms of the midterm elections, the Kavanaugh appointment has been a reminder to Republicans as to why they voted for Trump, perhaps in spite of all the various antics they might be uncomfortable with.

And speaking of the antics, I think the Kanye Oval Office speech, as it ended up being, was really a case of, I think, two celebrities, who like the media glare. And I think Kanye was being as tactical in getting some attention as Trump was in getting attention from Kanye.

ALLEN: It definitely shows the wide ranging appeal this president has over certain people in the country, runs the gambit. Let's get back to the story we've really been focusing on in our program. There is universal outrage at Saudi Arabia over the alleged murder, reportedly, at their hands, of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the president hasn't sounded the alarm over it that we've heard from others.

For example, Republican senator Lindsey Graham said there will be hell to pay if Saudi Arabia did this. Let's listen to the president.

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TRUMP: I will tell you up front, right now they're spending $110 billion purchasing military equipment. And if we don't sell to them, they'll say thank you very much, we'll buy it from Russia or China. That doesn't help. But there are other things we can do. Let's find out what the problem is first, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: The question is, is he working hard enough to find out what the problem is?

Some leaders in Washington question the president putting money -- of course, he relates it to jobs -- before American values and finding the truth?

JOHNSON: First of all, Trump is a deeply transactional politician, he's a deeply transactional person. So I think in some ways it's no surprise he's putting the dollar values first. I think the Trump president, one of the ways it's been such a disruption from American politics of the past is that Trump really has abandoned the tradition of at least paying lip service to human rights in the United States, to the protection of human rights. I think it's interesting, every U.S. president since George Bush

Senior made their first presidential visit to Canada. Trump's first was to Saudi Arabia. I think in part because he wanted to get more deals in terms of arms from Saudi Arabia. I think maybe the Trump people would say maybe the president is being less hypocritical than his predecessors. U.S. presidents haven't challenged Saudi Arabia over executions and women's rights and so on in the past in any serious way.

But this is obviously a particularly distressing situation because it's a U.S. resident who has, we believe, has been killed and the president has taken a very nonchalant attitude because, at the end oof the day, it's the dollars that come first in terms of his approach to public policy.

ALLEN: And on that nonchalant attitude, some have questioned whether it also has something to do with the close ties between Saudi Arabia and Mr. Trump's business interests and the Kushners' business interests.

JOHNSON: I mean that's always looming in the background and the president, although he took some steps to distance himself from his businesses, because they're family owned enterprises, at the end of the day, he's really not that distant. And of course that pales in comparison to how -- for example, Jimmy Carter, who's the eternal opposite of the United States president, the current one, on human rights, sold his peanut farm because he didn't --

[05:25:00]

JOHNSON: -- want to have a conflict of interest as president. So we don't know if there are direct payoffs. I think that would be too far to say at this point. But it certainly is in the background and it casts a pall over the United States' relationship with some of these key countries in the region.

ALLEN: We'll be watching closely to see the next steps by the White House on this story. We appreciate your insights, Richard Johnson, thanks so much for joining us.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

ALLEN: Coming up we will have the latest on the disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and how he fell out of favor with the Saudi royal family.

What did he write about that they didn't like?

Also hundreds have been rescued in the wake of Hurricane Michael but authorities put the death toll could still rise. And so many people are still desperate with nowhere to go. We'll have the latest for you coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM.

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ANDERSON: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Becky Anderson in Istanbul.

ALLEN: Now in Atlanta, Georgia, here are top stories this hour.

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[05:30:00]

ANDERSON: Well, the Trump White House has had very little to say about Khashoggi's disappearance. Even though he was a U.S. resident who wrote for a prominent U.S. newspaper, it should be noted that Khashoggi was a vocal critic of the Saudi government.

Last year President Trump signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia that could be worth billions of dollars in U.S. military sales. Mr. Trump says he doesn't want to give that up but he did say he would speak soon with the Saudi king about Khashoggi's disappearance.

Many in the West hailed Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as a game changer, capable of transforming the region and its relationships by softening its hardline stance. But this case with Khashoggi could threaten the relationship between the Saudi crown prince and the west and great reformer's grand vision for his own country may be unraveling. John Defterios has more.

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JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mohammed bin Salman emerged as a young and ambitious reformer who promised the world. Under the brand of Saudi Vision 2030, he aimed to rebuild the status of the kingdom by harnessing the support of those in his generation, Saudi youth.

His plan was bold, cutting what he called "an addiction to oil," reducing the role of conservative Islam by opening up entertainment and tourism and by developing the world's largest state investment fund to become a major player on Wall Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is why many of the Western powers sort of embraced him or thought, you know, "he's the answer to this", because he does really want to the country, you know, Saudi Arabia, from A to B. And he wants to do it at breakneck speed.

DEFTERIOS: To catapult his ambitions, he forged a tight bond with U.S. president Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

TRUMP: The relationship is probably the strongest it's ever been. We understand each other.

DEFTERIOS: It resulted in the president's first overseas trip to Riyadh, producing $110 billion of U.S. military contracts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're tying together two very important and influential people and that's absolutely key.

DEFTERIOS: The relationship emboldened the crown prince; he flex his muscle in the Middle East, leading a nasty ongoing war in Yemen, putting an economic embargo on neighboring Qatar and prodding the U.S. to pull out of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they've gone directly to the top and they feel that that's - you know, that's where the green light is coming from. "We can be as adventurous as we like and we're not going to pay for it."

DEFTERIOS: Back at home, an alarming show of force and what Western business leaders suggest was a key turning point. After hosting a large international investment conference, he used the same venue, The Ritz-Carlton, to arrest more than 300 Saudi business and seize assets of $100 billion.

And some say the suspected killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi will only make matters worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there will be less and less trust in the prospect of Saudi to be moving ahead.

DEFTERIOS: The numbers support that view - foreign investment at a 14 year low last year and an estimated $80 billion of money fled the country, with another $65 billion expected this year. MBS appeared as an agent of change but is now being viewed as "too impulsive for his own good."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This image of a reformer, young, vibrant prince has been somehow reordered (ph).

DEFTERIOS: In a region that, as a result of his actions, is riskier than ever -- John Defterios, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, speaking of unfolding economic crises, times more than tough here for Turkey. For analysis on all of what we're seeing and hearing, I'm joined by Matthew Bryza, formally White House staff and a key point man for the State Department, who understands the Turkish file as well as anyone. He also served as ambassador to Azerbaijan.

As we continue to dig to uncover the details of Jamal's disappearance, let's talk strategy. With regard to the disappearance of Jamal and the kind of wideness with --

[05:35:00]

ANDERSON: -- chaotic diplomatic dance. I want to go to Riyadh and Washington after that.

What's Ankara's strategy here?

MATTHEW BRYZA, FORMER SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL COVERING TURKEY: I think Ankara's strategy now is to do anything it get back on track with the United States. The leadership here knows how fragile the Turkish economy is. They just did a dramatic increase in interest rates to try to stem the collapse of the Turkish lira, the currency, which has lost about 40 percent in value this year. It lost about 25 percent just in one month in August when this spat with Washington and President Trump heated up.

So Ankara knows it's got to normalize relationships with Washington. And perhaps it's coincidental but these two issues right now, the freeing of Pastor Brunson and then Turkey seeming to take an aggressive stance toward exposing what really happened to Mr. Khashoggi, those are two steps that can really help get the relationship back on track.

ANDERSON: I just want to take something that's going to pass me this. We've got a statement from Turkish officials. And we've had very little official word on either the Khashoggi case or the release of Andrew Brunson. I think this speaks to some of what we're discussing here.

This is from the Turkish president's office and it says, with regard to the American pastor, Andrew Brunson's homecoming, from here, today's court ruling on Andrew Brunson reaffirmed that Turkey is a democratic country with a rule of law and establishes the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

Now there will be some eyebrows raised on hearing that, won't there?

BRYZA: Indeed. Many people who observed and read the indictment against Pastor Brunson in the States and Europe thought it was an outrageous set of charges. I think what happened, based on my contacts here, I think that the top leadership here genuinely believed that there were problematic people from their perspective that we're associating with Pastor Brunson. People who may have ties to the PKK terrorist organization. Perhaps people that were involved in the coup attempt planning.

And Pastor Brunson, he allegedly tweeted something about supporting the coup attempt. None of that's a crime. But having a sentiment that may be hoping for a change of government is not crime.

ANDERSON: It certainly should not be a crime in a country that, as I quote, strongly Turkish president's office, is a democratic country with a rule of law and establishes the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

Also what I was getting to here is as continue to follow and try to uncover the details of shocking details it seems of the disappearance of Jamal, so we do know that there are so many journalists and others, incarcerated in this country, under this current administration.

BRYZA: Yes, 170 or so and that is, I think, the top leadership here realizes that's a huge sore point on its reputation.

Again, at a moment of such economic fragility, they need to prove their -- (CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: Reputational -- the reputations of these countries around the world is very much at play. Let's just briefly and finally talk about where Riyadh stands at present, how it views the U.S., what's going on in Washington and where you think that relationship goes from here.

BRYZA: Riyadh's reputation in Washington, outside of the Oval Office, seems to be falling apart and not only in Washington but throughout the international business community, with people like Richard Branson pulling his board seats on some tourism projects and future investment initiative, big conference --

(CROSSTALK)

BRYZA: Davos in the desert. The president of the World Bank has pulled out, as have many other corporate leaders. So I think there's a tidal wave of opposition to the regime in Riyadh right now.

The question is, will there be a critical mass achieved that overcomes President Trump's evident reluctance to call it like everybody else is calling it --

ANDERSON: This is a wider story than the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi at this point.

BRYZA: Yes, it sure is. This is calling into question the entire plan of Mohammed bin Salman to reform the Saudi economy, to attract investment, to get away from overdependence on hydrocarbons. So this could be a huge point of inflection in the history of Saudi Arabia.

ANDERSON: Pleasure to have you on, sir. Thank you.

Well, I'm here. It's fascinating times, interesting times. There's two big stories here. But as we continue to get to try to the bottom of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, continuing to leak information which informs but doesn't give us conclusive evidence as to exactly what has happened to him.

ALLEN: Thank you, Becky. So much else to discover and --

[05:40:00]

ALLEN: -- report on in this story.

Also ahead survivors of Hurricane Michael struggling to comprehend all they have lost.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a disaster. It's -- I was really shocked to see what it looked like.

ALLEN (voice-over): When we come back more reaction from Florida storm survivors as they try pick up their shattered lives. (MUSIC PLAYING)

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ALLEN: Welcome back.

The death toll from Hurricane Michael has increased to 17. Authorities fear it could go up as they continue to make sure all are accounted for.

Michael made landfall near Florida's Mexico Beach Wednesday, wiping thousands of homes right off the map. It then swept across several southeast states before moving into the Atlantic Ocean as a post tropical cyclone on Friday.

The devastation left by the storm is still coming into focus. Its trail of destruction of course, as you see right there, it will take weeks to fully assess. Many remain without power. Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses, 300,000 in Florida, are still without electricity.

And emergency officials have little or no access to some towns. Some people who rode out the storm can't get out. Our Miguel Marquez has been in Mexico Beach, Florida. He spoke with several survivors struggling to process all that they have lost.

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MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An entire town almost gone. Those who rode it out...

MARQUEZ: You were up to your neck --

[05:45:00]

MARQUEZ: -- in water?

BOB PUGH, HURRICANE MICHAEL SURVIVOR: With a 96-year-old lady next door to and my mother and two dogs.

MARQUEZ: And you made it.

PUGH: We're here, baby.

MARQUEZ: Would you do it again?

PUGH: No.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): They barely survived. Search and rescue now searching for survivors and possibly the dead. Emergency officials expect the death toll to climb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do expect that we're going to find that kind of bad news and there's a process that we go through for that and then we -- you know, our priority obviously is the living. And we're looking for people that are trapped.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Several people we spoke to say they haven't yet heard from neighbors and friends who rode it out.

MARQUEZ: What's happened to Mexico Beach?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a disaster. It's -- I was really shocked to see what it looked like.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): This CNN exclusive video of the moment the hurricane hit shows winds as high as 155 miles an hour, shredding this once tranquil beach town. Then an enormous storm surge, a dozen or more feet of water bulldozed large sections of Mexico Beach from the coast to the interior; 30 miles out from Mexico Beach, some roads no longer exist, entirely covered by downed trees for miles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brandi (ph), it's Dad.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): With power out, those who survived have no way to tell the world they're still here. When they do, the news, about as bad as it gets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not come down here. Do not. You can't get it. It's -- everything, it's devastating. We have a hole in our house but that's all that's wrong with it. Grandmother's house is completely gone. It looks like a bomb hit it.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The devastation here, jaw-dropping. The main drag, Highway 98, collapsed, in many places water eroding the sand beneath. Entire homes, their living rooms still intact, slammed into condos across the street. And the most popular bar here, Toucan's, reduced to a pile of rubble -- Miguel Marquez, CNN , Mexico Beach, Florida.

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ALLEN: It is hard to comprehend how widespread the destruction is. Besides the wind and rain, the storm surge caused considerable damage by itself.

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ALLEN: We'll turn back to Washington next for mornings with the favorite TV show to lunch with Kanye West. Why President Trump has kicked his reality show presidency into high gear.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) ALLEN: U.S. president Donald Trump is taking full advantage of the

skills he perfected as a TV reality host. He's using a barrage of rallies, news conferences and interviews to dominate the airwaves and push his agenda. It is the kind of media blitz we haven't seen since the 2016 campaign trail.

CNN's Nick Watt explains whether the strategy is working.

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NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember all those times he's walked on by these past 18 months or so?

Well, in recent days, Trump's been answering those pesky shouted questions.

TRUMP: I think it'll be very interesting. I assume most of you will be there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feel free to come in or call.

WATT (voice-over): Oh, this week he feels free. Trump's been on the phone a whopping 67 minutes with his friends at FOX.

TRUMP: We've done more in less than two years than any president in history of our country.

WATT (voice-over): Remember that the tweet every last year in June, this year there was not a single solo press conference then late last month, a free-wheeling affair that he relished.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This is let Trump be Trump in action.

WATT (voice-over): And when he's not suddenly talking again with reporters, those rallies roll on.

TRUMP: I'm not on the ticket but I am on the ticket.

WATT (voice-over): But:

STELTER: Trump is holding so many rallies right now and they're no longer being televised live, FOX has grown tired of them. So I wonder if President Trump's going to try to create new --

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STELTER: -- kinds of TV moments.

WATT (voice-over): -- and this week...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh-oh, I got the mike.

WATT (voice-over): Kid Rock at the White House, plays to the base, Kanye came as well.

KANYE WEST, RAPPER: When I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman.

WATT (voice-over): Heard from the demo Trump struggles to court wearing a MAGA hat with the much maligned and masterfully milked media snapping it up (INAUDIBLE).

In June, Trump hired Roger Ailes, erstwhile number two at FOX News, Bill Schein as his new coms chief.

Is this all Schein's idea?

STELTER: I think at the end of the day, these sorts of tactics are all Trump. Right now he's using the media to promote his accomplishments heading into the midterm election.

WATT (voice-over): And this was a good week to go big. Bruised Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court, NAFTA renegotiated, the unemployment rate as low as it's been since '69. Maybe Kanye got it right.

WEST: Trump is on his hero's journey right now and he might not have expected to have a crazy mother -- like Kanye West run up and support.

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ALLEN: That's language you usually hear in the Oval Office.

Last month Facebook revealed a cyber attack that exposed phone numbers and email addresses of almost 30 million users. Now the company is revealing just how bad the attack was.

Facebook says the breach was even worse for 14 million users. Cyber attackers got information on nearly everything these users shared on the site, from their user names, workplaces, religion, even relationship status. Facebook says the FBI is actively investigating the breach.

And that is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Thanks so much for watching. For U.S. viewers, "NEW DAY" is next. For everyone else, stay with us for "STATE OF AMERICA."