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Target of President Trump's Body Slam Comment Speaks Out; President Trump: No Regrets" After Praising Assault on Reporter; Tense Standoff as Migrants Pack Bridge on Mexico's Southern Border; ; Saudis Confirm Death Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Top Military Official Dismissed, 18 Saudis Detained; N.Y. Times: Pres. Trump Believes He's Entitled To His Own Facts; Russian National Charged With Attempting To Interfere In 2018 Midterms. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 19, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We're following two fast moving stories tonight.

Saudi Arabia admitting that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, giving their account finally of how it happened, which may raise yet more questions of a cover-up. I'll talk to Clarissa Ward in Turkey about that.

Also, a crisis unfolding on Mexico's southern border and its impacts on the American midterms. Thousands of migrants fleeing in some cases violence and poverty in Honduras, are trying to enter, some to settle, other trying to then make their way north to the United States. These so-called caravan you've been hearing about, today, there was chaos at the border crossing, a stampede, tear gas.

And with things at a flashpoint, President Trump was out on the campaign trail making these migrants part of the GOP's closing argument for the midterms. We're following this closely. We're going to bring you a live report from that border crossing in just a few moments.

We begin, though, with keeping them honest, with something else the president is saying on the stump. And like many things this president says, despite the blowback, he has no regrets. This is what he said last night, talking about Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte who last year physically assaulted a reporter who was asking him a policy question during his campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, by the way, never wrestle him. Do you understand that? Never.

Any guy who can do a body slam, he's my kind of -- he's my guy. I shouldn't say -- there's nothing to be embarrassed about.

So I was in Rome with a lot of the leaders from other countries talking about all sorts of things. And I heard about it. And we endorsed Greg very early. But I had heard that he body slammed a reporter.


COOPER: So that's what he said last night and the crowd ate it up. And just to remind you, here is audio of the assault that they were cheering and that the president was admiring.


BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIAN: -- the CBO score. As you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about health care and until we saw the bill and it just came out.

GREG GIANFORTE (R), THEN-CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We'll talk to you about that later.

JACOBS: Yeah, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious --

GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane please.


GIANFORTE: I'm tired of you guys, the last time you came here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: Jesus.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with "The Guardian"?

JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.


COOPER: Congressman Gianforte and his spokesman both initially gave misleading accounts of the incident. However, in the end, the congressman pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. He also apologized to reporter he attacked. Ben Jacobs is going to join me shortly.

In other words, Congressman Gianforte expressed at least some degree of regret for what he did, whether he felt it or not is impossible to get into his head, but he expressed it.

President Trump on the other hand had no regrets when asked late today for using the physical assault on another human being as a stump speech applause line.


TRUMP: No, no, no. Not at all. That was a different world. That was a different league, a different world. No, he's just a great guy. He's -- you know Greg very well, right?

That was a tremendous success last night in Montana and Greg is a tremendous person. And he's a tough cookie. And I'll stay with that. You're talking about a different world.


COOPER: Now, it's not exactly clear what the president of the United States meant by "a different world" or "a different league." On the other hand, he was perfectly clear about having no regrets.

Keeping him honest, though, even as the president was endorsing an act of violence by a Republican candidate for Congress, he was also at the very same rally saying this.


TRUMP: The Democrats have truly turned into an angry mob bent on destroying anything or anyone in their path.


COOPER: That kind of sounds like the president believes that violence on the campaign trail or the threat of it is a bad thing.

And at least one staunch conservative seemed to notice. Former Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh tweeting, quote: The president encourages and applauds physical violence against a journalist. Hey, Republicans, don't ever complain again about violence coming from the left.

So there's that. There's also the sad and simple fact that the president of the United States is yakking it up about an assault on one reporter, while he himself is embroiled in the Khashoggi crisis, the killing, the murder, the dismemberment of a journalist. It's not like it could have slipped his mind or anything.

Just a few hours before that rally, the president spoke about it on camera, conceding that Jamal Khashoggi was probably dead, possibly in the hands of a strategic ally. Dead, the Saudis now says, after a quarrel and physical altercation. Turkish officials say otherwise, citing audio and his murder and dismemberment.

[20:05:01] Now, clearly, whatever it turns out to be, it is a world away in every sense from what appears to have been an act of spontaneous violence by a hot-headed candidate and clearly, the president's love of tough cookies, as he calls them, is matched only by his antipathy for the press.

The question is, at a time like this, when dozens of journalists have been killed this year, with one at the center of a strategic crisis, why didn't any of that seem to factor into the president's thinking or speaking last night and why when this president is ramping up the rhetoric against Democrats for what he says is mob-like behavior is he applauding violence, actual violence by the man he's campaigning for? Joining us now, the reporter who you heard a moment ago being

assaulted by then-candidate Gianforte, Ben Jacobs of "The Guardian". This is his first time talking about the president's mention of it.

Ben, thanks for being with us.

I guess the first question is just, what went through your mind when you heard those comments from President Trump last night?

BEN JACOBS, REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: It was sort of shock and dismay, that I always, you know, knew that was a possibility, but then there is the process of how you deal with it and then how you actually call up and tell your family that the president is mocking when you've been a victim of a crime.

COOPER: I mean -- and today, the president said he had no regrets about what he said. I guess that doesn't surprise you.

JACOBS: No, it doesn't. As someone who actually covered this president on the campaign trail for 18 months, I'm very familiar with his M.O. You know, I've interviewed him a couple of times. And that didn't surprise me.

I wish -- I wish he had surprised me in that. But it was -- it was what it was.

COOPER: For all the president's talk about Gianforte being a tough guy and a tough cookie, I mean, he was such a tough cookie that he was misleading initially about what he actually did to you.

JACOBS: Yes, no, he lied about me until he realized there's audio and eyewitnesses, that -- you know, that it was not the actions of a tough cookie. A tough cookie doesn't attack someone out of nowhere without provocation for asking a question about health care policy. The police asked me afterwards was there anything about the Congressional Budget Office that might have set him off and then lie about it, that that's not the action of a tough cookie. That's the action of a coward.

COOPER: Yes, and the coward lies about it, which is what he did and his campaign people did as well. So, I mean, I just really find it amazing that the president is praising him as a tough cookie when this is a guy who assaulted you out of nowhere and then lies about it. It's just incredible to me.

Your publication, "The Guardian," said in a statement that the president should apologize for these comments. Do you want an apology?

JACOBS: I mean, it would be great if there was one. I'm not holding my breath. I mean, my concern is not about my situation as much as it is with Jamal Khashoggi and everything going on in the world, that the signal this sends about how the United States and how the president of the United States views journalists, when 44 journalists have been killed this year is what's really concerning. You know, what I'm going through, it's not fun, I'll get over it, but

there are people reporting all across the world right now who are actually, you know, in fear of their lives. And what this does is, you know, a blank check for governments who want to crack down on a free press in places that don't have the First Amendment.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's entirely possible. I mean, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the president might, you know, at one point say, wow, MBS had a really strong reaction to Jamal Khashoggi, you know, it was a really powerful reaction. I mean, you have no idea -- there's no telling what this president actually thinks about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.

Steve Scalise, a Republican congressman, said the president was clearly joking at this rally. He said, quote, it's obvious he was not encouraging his supporters to engage in attacks.

Is that clear to you? Because it's certainly not clear to me.

JACOBS: Yes, I've -- certainly, Steve Scalise has been through a lot and I certainly -- my heart goes out to him and what he's been through. But, you know, I -- maybe he has a better sense of humor to me because I didn't hear a punch line there. I didn't hear a joke there.

COOPER: He's also pointing to reporters in the back when talking about who to body slam. I don't know. I just keep going back to the fact that you were just doing your job, you were asking a question, you know, you asked it more than once, because you knew you were not going to get an answer and you knew he was going to blow you off, and all you did is ask a question, and you got body slammed, and the president of the United States celebrated that last night, celebrated a guy convicted of assaulting you.

JACOBS: Yes, it's still -- it's mind-boggling, still a little tough to wrap my head around. But this is the world we live in today. And having been through, you know, been through this for the past year and a half and how it's sort of -- you know, the initial shock and then this, it's -- it's unfortunately what may be hopefully it is (ph) only in the short term the new normal.

COOPER: All right.

[20:10:00] Ben Jacobs, I appreciate your time. Thank you, Ben.

JACOBS: Thank you.

COOPER: I want to get perspective from "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, also former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes.

Steve, is it appropriate under any circumstance for the president of the United States to praise anyone, much less a congressman, for assaulting a reporter and then who also lied about it?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, Anderson, no, listen, I don't like it, it's not what I would have done. But I also do think it's important, there's an important distinction here which is that he said I like the kind of guy who can do that. He didn't say specifically -- and I think this is important, again, I don't like it, I wish he hadn't gone there, but he said I like the kind of guy who fights back.

So, to me, I think it's a metaphor. Those of us in the Trump movement, if there's one trait that I think marks the 2016 election, it was fighting back against the crony political class, against media elites. He's saying that he likes that pugnacious character and that part I understand. But agreed, I wish he hadn't gone there in terms of somebody who actually pled guilty to actually assaulting a reporter.

COOPER: Right. But actually what he said is "any guy who can do a body slam is my kind of guy." first of all, I don't know if the president is capable on doing a body slam on somebody physically, I'm not sure he could. But the idea that he's praising somebody who not only could do a body slam but did assault a reporter -- I mean, I understand he likes to punch back or punch down, but this is literally punching.

CORTES: Right. Well, Anderson, as I just said, it's not something -- it's not where I would go. And I think it was unfortunate that he went there.

But again, I do think it's also a distinction, he didn't say, I'm glad he assaulted a reporter, I like that. What he said is, I like the kind of guy who can fight back.

And when he says fight back too, I think this is important, too. When he's at rallies, I think it's important to take the president seriously but not literally always. Look, Donald Trump in many ways broke the mold in politics, right, in many, many ways. One of them is he doesn't speak in a scripted and lawyerly and overly careful manner.

Now, at times, it gets him into trouble. I think it got him in a tiny bit of trouble in Montana. I don't think it's a big deal at all. But it got him in a little bit of trouble there.

But the flip side of that is, the authenticity is really refreshing and it's the reason that he's the president of the United States today, is because he spoke with an authenticity that the people really appreciated and which they rallied toward.

COOPER: Kirsten, these comments come obviously at a time when the world is watching and waiting to see how the U.S. is going to respond to the dismemberment and murder of a "Washington Post" journalist in an embassy, in a consulate of a U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia. You know, I don't know if the timing could be any worse.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the timing is particularly bad. And I just -- I don't understand this idea, Steve, that you're putting forward, that this is something that's authentic, that this somehow makes him authentic. It's really unusual behavior for any person to be clapping for somebody who has assaulted anybody, let alone a reporter. I mean, this is not -- it's not in dispute what happened.

And so, he was making it very clear that he supported what happened to this reporter, when in fact he should be condemning it. Let's just start there, he should have condemned it. But rather than condemning it, he is -- I guess you're making he's making jokes about it, ha ha, it's so funny. I don't get it, what's funny about this?


COOPER: Does it encourage violence do you believe? I mean, does it encourage the idea, yeah, it's great to body slam a reporter, reporters can be annoying, asking you pesky questions so body slam them?

CORTES: I'm against any form of political violence, any form of unneeded violence, period. But we're talking politics here.

Political violence is always wrong. Whether it comes from the right, whether it's neo-Nazis in Charlottesville or whether it's Antifa coming from the left as we've seen lately in Portland and demonstration in Washington, D.C. Political violence is always wrong.

In America we should solve our political differences through words, that's tantamount. But let me also say this, if we're going to go down the road of taking the president this seriously, even when he's clearly being funny and clever, are we then supposed to say, for example, people on the left call the president a racist and his supporters, by the way.

POWERS: What people?

CORTES: Every single day --

POWERS: No, no. You have to -- no, no, but you have to make it a person. You can't just say "people." we're actually talking about the president of the United States. So is it --

CORTES: Fine, let's personalize it. I watched Jake Tapper show today. Jen Psaki said that he said that white men were under assault, which he never said, OK? So, when you say things like that that are not true --

POWERS: You put that on the same level as talking about assaulting somebody?

CORTES: But when you say that, you create -- you demonize the president and his supporters and you create the conditions by which people feel it's then OK to be violent or at the least to be incredibly intimidating toward them, run them out of restaurants, say they're not welcome in public life.

[20:15:10] So, that's my point.

Again, I'm not defending the president going there in Montana, I think that was a mistake.

COOPER: Steve, I would just --

CORTES: We better be just as harsh on the left.

COOPER: I agree with you, Steve, it's abhorrent that any protester would scream at some politician and their family when they're trying to eat in a restaurant in their off hours because they're so filled with self righteous indignation that they feel that's appropriate. I think that's the beginnings of a mob. I think it's completely inappropriate.


COOPER: If the president of the United States or a politician on the left was saying, you know what, I think it's great that these people are going into restaurants and screaming at Kirstjen Nielsen, I would say, why is this politician promoting this kind of behavior, and that's the question we're asking about the president right now, about somebody who didn't just yell at somebody in a restaurant, who actually did body slam a reporter.

CORTES: Right. Listen, I think the president should stick to metaphor, I do. I think he should stick to that.

We do need to fight back with our words, with persuasion, with motivation. We need -- and again, the reason he's the president is because he's an amazing counterpuncher. But that should never be literal, that should always be figurative. And he should be clear about that and I think he will be.

COOPER: Right. I mean, the irony is he's never actually punched somebody, it seems, in his life, he just likes to talk about it and pretend that he has, and that he's a tough guy and that's it.

CORTES: He went to military school, he was probably fairly physical there, I would guess.

COOPER: Well, we'll see. I don't know.

Kristen Powers, thanks very much. Steve Cortes, as well, thanks.

I wouldn't hold my breath on that.

It's a busy Friday night. Right now, a huge crowd of migrants is gathered on a bridge between Guatemala and Mexico. It's been chaotic there all day. And the entire crisis now part of the American election campaign.

Later, more on tonight's other breaking news. The Saudi account of Jamal Khashoggi's killing, a shake-up back in the kingdom, drawing questions about whether it's just another piece of a royal cover-up.


[20:21:23] COOPER: Right now, a whole lot of people are caught literally between countries many believe they cannot go back to and a country that says it does not want them. They're on a bridge. This is new video on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, trying

to make their way into Mexico or, for some, the United States.

And President Trump has made keeping them out a mission of his. He's also made them rhetorically at least into a threat to this country and, he believes, a powerful campaign issue.

Now, whatever you think of this so-called caravan, whether you see them as refugees or invaders, one thing is clear tonight, they're in a standoff right now with an army of Mexican federales and tensions are running high.

More now from our Bill Weir who is at the border.


BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High noon, the bridge over the border was empty. But then for some reason, Guatemalan police threw open the gates.


WEIR (on camera): No, it's closed. It's closed.

(voice-over): The first tried to form an orderly line but that lasted only seconds as thousands surged behind them, with a mixture of exuberance and frustration, and determination.

After a fraught half an hour, the crowd calmed itself the, even turning on the few troublemakers. Some couldn't take the heat, though, and jumped into the river.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our message is we're not criminals. We're coming here because we want to work. We need a job. We need better -- you know, a better life. That's why we're here.

WEIR (on camera): Do you understand that President Trump is going to use the pictures of thousands of people surging to the gates against you? He's going to point to people and say, this is scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's his politics. You know, we respect -- you know, he's the president. He's the president of the United States. And with all due respect, you know, we don't -- we are not criminals.

WEIR (voice-over): Donald Trump is an antichrist, this man says. If he doesn't repent, he's going to hell. We are not criminals. We are workers and fighters.

Eventually, Mexico opens to the caravan but only a trickle are let through. Women and children first, including Marta Torres, who tells me her husband was murdered by Honduran drug gangs and her three other kids are still across the river.

(on camera): Do you want to go to the United States? Have you heard that President Trump doesn't want more people coming and he's even separated families who try to come? (voice-over): What should we do now, then, she says. I don't want my

kids in the middle of crime. I don't want to have the lives of my children further destroyed.


COOPER: Bill Weir joins us now from the Mexican side of the border.

So, what's going to happen to these people? What's the situation right now?

WEIR: That's a good question, Anderson. They did, as I said, open up a trickle there. They were moving them three busloads at a time to a refugee camp here on the Mexican side. But at the rate we're seeing, it will take days to get everybody off of that bridge.

As you saw there, like Martha, she's seeking asylum from a dangerous place. Others are trying to find a better life for themselves and their kids. But all of them, I've never seen anything like it, like people running from a burning building, and to try and convince them, turn around and go back. It just wasn't happening.

We had to crash that piece together, so what you missed there was there was tear gas, they had literally forced the gates open at one point but the federales forced them back, four officers according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were injured.

[20:25:04] But then, in a surreal sense, the crowd completely calmed down and realized this is just one step on this journey.

They walked across Guatemala from Honduras. They're prepared to walk the length of Mexico to find a better life. So, this seems like one more bump in the road.

But the new president of Mexico ran on a policy of being more humane towards Central Americans. They've brought in -- they've asked for help from the United Nations, that's a first step, to help with a process to determine who deserves to move north and who doesn't. A lot of people say they want to work in Mexico, not all of them are coming to the United States.

But just a little taste of why this is such a relentless political knot for the United States, how to make this stop.

COOPER: Bill Weir, I appreciate you being there, Bill. Thanks very much. Be careful too.

Two views now on the domestic politics of this. Joining us is Van Jones, host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW" here on CNN. He's a former special adviser to President Obama. Also, Paul Babeu, he's the former sheriff of Pinal County, and former Republican candidate for Congress.

Thanks to both of you being with us.

Van, President Trump is saying this caravan of migrants is somehow being organized by Democrats to impact or tilt the midterms. VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: I don't think that makes a

lot of sense. First of all, Democrats are having a hard enough time organizing inside the United States to do an election. This probably if anything hurts, because it raises this whole question, this whole specter of, you know, do we need a wall and are immigrants bad?

I do want to say that these images are an ink blot test. Some people like myself look at those images and see people first of all who are scared, who are desperate, and who need some help and assistance, whether they get it inside the U.S. border or outside the U.S. border.

My heart breaks, to imagine being stuck on a bridge for hours with my kid. Other people look at that and say, we're scared of those people, we don't want them here. And just -- we are trying to sort out as a country, are we welcoming, are we empathetic, do we care about people, or are we going to say we're closed for business as America and we're scared of folks. I don't know how this is going to play in the midterms.

COOPER: Paul, do you believe, as the president apparently does, that the Democrats have somehow engineered this caravan of thousands, that it somehow plays well for Democrats?

PAUL BABEU, FORMER SHERIFF, PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA: Clearly, I think this is real, that there's serious issues with gang violence and drug lords, cartels, all kinds of issues down in Central America.

I just want to keep this in perspective. There's 45 million people in Central America. And so, what is the limit?

Van, you bring up a good point. Is America open or closed? Clearly, America is open. When you look globally, that America, we take 1 million legal immigrants each and every year. So, what's the capacity, what's the limit? Is it these 4,000 migrants who are trying to rush the Guatemala border into Mexico to come into the United States?

Clearly, our refugee asylum laws are being exploited, because never have we had this amount of individuals that are claiming asylum. And we have lawyers from different groups in the U.S. being sent down to Mexico and other places throughout this past year to coach these individuals of exactly what to say to exploit our laws.

So the point I make is, this is real. This -- how do we help these individuals? I submit that we help them there in their country so they can stay there. We already have a third of all Salvadorians here in the United States of their total population. So, what do we -- just empty their whole countries?

JONES: Well, I don't think anybody is saying that. Actually some of those El Salvadorians are doing the best work and raising great families and doing well in our country.

That said, you know, I got a little bit confused by what you were saying, because on the one hand you said it's real, on the other hand this whole myth of lawyers going down there and coaching people, and that's really what's happening. I see it somewhat differently. We are not doing enough on either side of the border when it comes to the amount of violence, of fear, of crime, of hunger.

And as a result, when you don't deal well with your neighbors, sometimes your neighbors' problems spill over. I would love to see what you said happen. If we had a real commitment to help the countries down there do better and to figure out what's going on and really were engaging, I think you're right, I think you would have less of these problems.

Here's reality. I don't think the people who are supporting Donald Trump want us to help them at all. I don't think they think those folks are worthy of help there or here. I think they see them as some kind of other.

BABEU: I disagree.

JONES: That's my fear. I'm not saying that's correct. But my fear is they're being portrayed as sometimes scary other that deserve no help, and that scares me in America.

BABEU: Well, here's what I would say in response, respectfully back, where is the limit to our generosity?

[20:30:03] We're the most generous. What about our own people? What about putting Americans first?

If you look at just Chicago, many cities across America, in one weekend, 80 people that are shot, a dozen plus that are killed in black neighborhoods. Where do they seek asylum? What are we doing to prioritize the needs of homeless, the veterans, our senior citizens?

And we're talking about literally borrowing because we're in such debt, borrowing hundreds you of millions of dollars while we already have 22 million illegal that here in the United States. There's got to be a limit to our generosity.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that I agree with you that, you know, we can't do everything for everybody and that there has to be, you know, certain limits, that kind of thing.

Here is what I would take exception to. You know, the idea that we should throw up a Chicago or throw up homeless people or throw up veterans, often when I hear people doing that, they don't actually then turn around and go to Chicago. They don't turn around and then go to those funerals in Chicago and help those.

I mean, it becomes almost like a talking point or something where you're pointing to other people's pain and other people's funerals but not being involved in helping. So ultimately it becomes more of a talking point to otherwise, for lack of a better term --


BABEU: That's not me. I'm talking about real problems in the United States throughout our country --. JONES: Listen, I don't see --

BABEU: -- but I'm submitting that we put Americans in our citizens, in our country, in our concerns first above Hondurans.

JONES: I made -- I mean, just give me one second here. That sounds great. But what I hear is, whenever we -- something happens with the immigrant community, we say, "Hey, we're not going to help you, we should help people in Chicago." But then we don't help the people in Chicago either.

And so I -- it begins to seem like maybe this is just a talking point for the conservatives and not something we're going to be actionable about. I think we can do better in Chicago, better at the border, and better beyond the border. But right we're not doing better with any of those folks --


BABEU: So what's the limit, Van? What's the limit?

JONES: You know, I don't know.

BABEU: How many Hondurans do we let it?

JONES: Yes. Listen, I honestly --

BABEU: If we're already taking 1 million legal immigrants every year, what's the capacity of our generosity for all the taxpayers who's listening?

JONES: Listen, we are a country of 320 million people and for the -- for our own population, we are not reproducing at a replacement rate. So we're going to continue to have to bring people in and that's going to make our country better. Now, should it be 1 million, half a million, 2 million, or 4 million, I'm not good at that stuff, you might be better than I am. But what I will say, it's a false choice.

BABEU: OK, here's how we do it.


BABEU: -- let's do this legally.

JONES: It's a false choice to either help Chicago or help people at the border when we're doing that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's -- look, we've got to wrap it up.

BABEU: OK. Well, what I'm saying --

COOPER: You're saying do it legally, Paul.

BABEU: Do it legally, follow the process. We got people waiting five, 10 years to become citizens, spending all this money. And now we're rewarding hundreds of thousands of people who are literally breaking into the country, taking advantage of all these benefits.


BABEU: OK, I get that. But I'm saying there's 22 million illegal immigrants that are here in the United States today.

COOPER: Yes, we --

BABEU: They cut the line in front of everybody and undermine the rule of law in America. That's what I'm saying.

COOPER: I got to leave it here. But we should also point out that they have changed the rules on asylum seeking to make it much more difficult --


COOPER: -- for things like domestic violence or escaping gang violence. Paul Babeu, thank you. Van Jones, as well.

Quick reminder, this weekend Van talks to veterans who are running for office in the midterms about why they are answering the call to service again. Also, former Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett, joins him. That's "The Van Jones Show," tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern on CNN.

Up next, our other breaking news story, Saudi Arabia officially breaking its silence on the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. They now say, "Oh, yeah, he is dead," and it is, "expresses deep regret" about what took place. All the new details on what they're claiming now, ahead.


[20:37:45] COOPER: There's more breaking news now. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia tonight broke its long silence about what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A statement read on Saudi State Television acknowledged that he did die inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and it said the kingdom will launch an official investigation.

CNN's Clarissa Ward joins now from Turkish capital of Ankara. What else have you learned, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, essentially there are three components to this news bulletin on Saudi State Television. The first one, they give us -- they gave us, rather, a better sense of what they say happened to Jamal Khashoggi. And essentially they're sticking with the narrative that we have been expecting that this was an interrogation gone wrong.

They said Khashoggi arrived at the consulate, he was taken for interrogation, there was some kind of an argument that turned into a physical altercation and he was killed. One source very close to the palace saying that they are going to issue a clarification saying that he was somehow killed in a chokehold or was strangled somehow, so that's the first component.

The second component is that the Saudis announced that they have detained 18 Saudi nationals in conjunction with Khashoggi's murder. More interestingly, Anderson, they have also dismissed two senior Saudi officials. They have been relieved of their duties.

One of them, General Ahmed al-Assiri, who is believed to have been the sort of spearhead or the one overseeing this mission, we've been reporting on him for days. We haven't been giving his name, but he's former military, high up in intelligence services.

The second, though, is the really interesting one. He's a man called Saud Al-Qahtani. He is extremely close, Anderson, to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, one of his top three most senior closest advisers. He is also the man who spearheaded a very ugly at times, media campaign on Twitter against people who are critical of the kingdom and one source, very well-placed, telling us that he actually called Jamal Khashoggi over a year ago to threaten him and warn him about being so outspoken.

The third and final component, Anderson, to this announcement on Saudi State T.V., an announcement essentially that they will do a revamp or an investigation into what went wrong with intelligence services and kind of looking at reforming the intelligence services.

[20:40:03] What's interesting about that, guess who's in charge of leading this inquest into the intelligence services, none other than the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, himself. This I think giving you a very strong sense, Anderson, that the buck does not stop with Mohammed bin Salman, that the Saudis have no intention of fingering him as being the sort of mastermind of this operation or really for having any responsibility for it, whatsoever, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And the idea that a fight just happened to break out and there was a guy with a bone saw there just seems somewhat odd, a guy with a bone saw who had flown in especially for this alleged interrogation. Clarissa Ward, appreciate the update.

Meantime, there's been a low rumble coming from some conservative media and in at least one case, a Republican candidate for Senate raising suspicions and suggesting conspiracy theories about Jamal Khashoggi's background.

One of those theories, "The Washington Post" reports, casts him as suspicious because of his former membership in the Muslim Brotherhood when he was very young. Back then, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood was mostly political group based in Egypt. There is zero evidence that Khashoggi did anything inappropriate.

Hard line conservatives, the "Post" says also have tried to link him with Osama bin Laden. Back then, he was a Saudi reporter following bin Laden as he fought the soviets in Afghanistan, many of those mujahadin, by the way, supported by the United States.

That Senate candidate is Corey Stewart, a Republican in Virginia who's challenging Tim Kaine. Stewart told the local radio show yesterday that, "Khashoggi was not a good guy himself." I spoke with Mr. Stewart just before the broadcast


COOPER: Mr. Stewart, when you say that Jamal Khashoggi was not a good guy himself, what does that mean exactly, not a good guy himself?

COREY STEWART (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE, VIRGINIA: Well, Anderson, I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there, things, sources that say that he's good, some sources that say that he's redeemed himself and he was a good guy. He's kind of a mystery man. I think the bigger question though is, you know, does the United States jeopardize the relationship with Saudi Arabia over this one single human rights violation. I think that would be a tremendous mistake to the United States.

COOPER: Is he really that much of a mystery man? I mean, he was seemed to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood back in his 20s. And -- but the idea that he's still sympathetic in any way to that, he did -- he worked as a reporter in Afghanistan covering Osama bin Laden. I know some people have sort of alleged that he was lined -- you know, aligned with terrorists but there's really no evidence of that.

STEWART: Well, I've heard all those things too. And it's possible. And, you know, the thing is that he's kind of a mystery guy. But I think the big question is this. I mean, we've got these regimes, not just the Saudis, but every regime in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, committing human rights violations on a regular basis.

And I just think that this overemphasis on this incident by Saudi Arabia. I think this is very, very dangerous. It is one of America's closest allies. They have a lot of human rights abuses. But I think it would be a tremendous mistake to undermine or to rattle the Saudi regime when it is one of the few absolutely pro-American regimes in the Middle East.

COOPER: You say it's one of the absolutely few pro-American regimes in the Middle East. I mean, most of the hijackers on 9/11 did come from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has funded extremist schools all throughout Pakistan and elsewhere, and funded terrorism in many different places.

So, I'd still -- I guess I'd still don't quite understand when you say that he's a mystery man. You know, he's written an awful lot in "The Washington Post." He's been very critical. Jamal Khashoggi has been very critical of conservative clerics in Saudi Arabia who have preached 9/11 conspiracy theories. I mean, his writings are out there. He's not really much of a mystery, is he?

STEWART: Well, I mean, look, if you wanted somebody who is an expert on who he was, you know, I'm not the right guy. What I can tell you, though, is --


COOPER: OK. But you said he was a bad guy, so I'm just wondering. STEWART: Yes. Well, look, I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there about him. I mean, he's a mystery guy. He's a mystery figure. There's a lot of things that say he was a bad guy. There's a lot of things like you just mentioned, that he, you know, he redeemed himself, you know, later on in life. That's all possible.

COOPER: So if Khashoggi was an American citizen writing for "The Washington Post" and he was lured into the embassy, the Saudi consulate, tortured, dismembered with a bone saw, would your opinion be different if he was an American citizen?

STEWART: Yes, it would be. But he -- you know, he wasn't. And it's a terrible thing. Nobody is going to deny that. I mean, the Saudis have a long history of a lot of human rights abuses. This is not the first one.


STEWART: This is one that -- one of the more grotesque and there's no question about that.

[20:45:02] COOPER: Just finally, this notion that he's a mystery man, again, I just want to come back to it because -- is there -- can you point to one thing that he's a mystery about? Because, I mean, his writings are extensive, as an adult. His history is pretty well- known. What makes him a mystery man to you?

STEWART: Well, I mean, you know, there's a lot of reports out there that he was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, reports that he was connected to Osama bin Laden and others. I don't know if they're true. But, you know, at the end of the day, what matters is, this is -- you know, this is a regime, it's got human rights abuses.

You know, we shouldn't start with this fake morality that all of a sudden we're going to get upset with the Saudis because of this incident when in fact we know this has been going on for a long time. They've been torturing, mutilating their citizens, as have other regimes, including the Turks, I might add in Middle East.

COOPER: Corey Stewart, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it

STEWART: All right, thanks a lot.


COOPER: Well, up next, President Trump's trouble with accepting certain truth in how he likes to create his own reality, his own facts. We'll talk it over with "The New York Times" Maggie Haberman who's written on this very topic.


COOPER: White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman, has written a piece that's getting a lot of attention. The headline, "A President Who Believes He's Entitled to His Own Facts." Maggie writes that we've seen it many, many times during this presidency.

[20:50:00] Just this week, we saw it when the President says that he believed that Saudi king when he told him the royal family had no ties to the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Report later emerge suggest otherwise, of course, and last weekend on "60 Minutes," the President repeated his claim that climate change is a matter of political opinion but offered no evidence.

Maggie Haberman joins us now for more on this. I mean, you lay out example after example of the President essentially just inventing his own facts, and it never seems like there's any repercussion for it.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. He's actually led a pretty consequence-free life, right? I mean, you know, given what happened in the 2016 campaign at various points, everything that was declared as going to be the end for him, it never was.

I think what we saw this week that was really striking was in addition to sort of painting a narrative that he finds convenient in any given moment. So for this moment it was convenient to accept at face value or at least give the benefit of the doubt to the Saudi government as to what had happened with Mr. Khashoggi. We have -- he won't take denials that are fact-based such as DNA evidence in the Central Park Five case.

COOPER: Right. He's never apologized for that. He never said he was --


HABERMAN: No. In fact, he has said they were guilty despite the DNA evidence saying otherwise. Barack Obama's birthplace, he insisted long after President Obama had released his long form birth certificate that there might be something there and he carried that out until it was not sustainable for him politically anymore.

And so we have seen him time and time again suggest essentially that facts are something to be disputed. That there is no shared data, shared facts, something that everybody agrees upon and that's the scary moment we're in right now.

COOPER: But it's so interesting because I know -- I just remember during the campaign all these, you know, reporters and others saying, "Look, its one thing when you're a real estate person and you're exaggerating how many square footage or how tall your building is." But when you get called out as President of the United States, it's a whole different thing. It hasn't really just turned out that way. I mean, it sort of redefined what's acceptable.

HABERMAN: Correct. What he -- he is expert at moving the goal post, right? One of the things we saw this week was Elizabeth Warren in releasing this DNA test related to whether she had a Native American heritage. I think that the expectation from some of her advisers and supporters was the President would somehow be embarrassed or shamed or say, "You're right, I was wrong." He's never going to do that unless he his absolutely forced to and we haven't really even seen him forced to, even during -- when the "Access Hollywood" tape came out 2016 he found some way to suggest that, you know, "If I offended anyone, it is always the last resort." There have been no repercussions.

What's scary now, though, to your point, he's now president. He is saying these things as the official representative of the United States, the top man in government, and there are people who say, "Look, this is coming from the government so, therefore, it must be true." And he has done a lot to discredit the media in that respect.

To be clear, the media has done a lot to discredit itself. It is not without his help over many decades. But this is something entirely different what he does.

COOPER: I mean, even, you know, he's out on the campaign trail saying that the Democrats are behind this caravan --

HABERMAN: It's not true. I mean, there's no evidence for it he's not saying it. If it is true, in his mind, he should offer the proof. He never does. He just says these things. He lays the marker here and then he leaves everyone fighting over it. But in the meantime, he's won because he's gotten his statement out there.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, thanks very much.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Fascinating. I want to check in with Chris and see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The device I like, Anderson, is when he says, "Hey, look, who knows, maybe the Democrats are behind this." Are they behind it? They could be behind it. I think they're behind it.

COOPER: A lot of people are talking about that. A lot of people are talking about that

CUOMO: I think they're behind it. A lot of people say they're behind it. Everybody says they're behind it, you know. It's a device that only works with a specific person, somebody who is super motivated to believe him. The more you move towards the skeptical, the more people move away from many of the rationales that the President offers up. That's part of the calculus as well.

Now, we're going to apply that same type of analysis tonight to what's coming out of Saudi Arabia. In the middle of the night, MBS, the crown prince, puts out this statement. But here our eyes are wide open, right? Not just by time, but also inclination. Flooding the zone with names of people they're going after to cover the name that isn't there, the crown prince. Why? And we'll be looking into the caravan and what's going on.

And tonight, we're doing our debate differently. I think the President's folks have so much to answer for, Anderson. I'm giving them both chairs. The debaters will both be Trump defenders and they'll just be facing off with little ole me.

COOPER: You're taking them on, two against one?

CUOMO: I'm channeling my inner coop.

COOPER: Wow. I don't even know what that means.

CUOMO: It's a daunting proposition. When I said coop, it popped my ISP right out of the ear just from the extra brain power I was getting.

COOPER: All right, Chris. Let's look forward to you. That's about five minutes away from now. All right, I'll see you then.

CUOMO: All right, folk.

COOPER: A Russian national has been indicted for her role in what federal prosecutors say was Russian interference in this year's midterm election. The details on that and who authorities say she was working for, next.


[20:59:13] COOPER: There's a new indictment tonight to tell you about. A 44-year-old Russian woman is accused of attempting to meddle in this year's midterm election. The Justice Department said she managed the financing of a social media troll operation that included a Russian based internet research agency that was charged earlier this year with interfering with the 2016 election.

Now, the indictment says the woman aided Russian efforts to "inflame passions online" related to immigration, gun control, as well as the Second Amendment. On the campaign trail in Arizona today, President Trump said the indictment had nothing to do with his campaign and said any hackers again, "Here, probably like Hillary Clinton better than me."

A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle." It's our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. You get to pick some of the stories we cover. You can see it week nights, every weekday night, 6:25 p.m. Eastern only on

The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now. Chris?