The Briefing Room: Trump reluctant to break Saudi ties over missing journalist

President Trump says he's "not giving cover" to Saudi Arabia over handling of missing journalist; Congressional candidate responds to attack ad calling him a "security risk."
25:48 | 10/17/18

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Transcript for The Briefing Room: Trump reluctant to break Saudi ties over missing journalist
Oh yeah. Either and welcome to the briefing here on ABC news political director recline along with that people director. Mary Alice parks we have a lot to get to now twenty days away from the mid term elections the big story though. Is with it the continuing war of words and tensions between. The United States and Saudi Arabia the president looking to dial that back a little bit gave a pretty unusual interview to the Associated Press yesterday Mary Alice where. He seemed to suggest that it's out just just like. They Kavanagh situation guilty until proven innocent seems to be going out of his way to give something of a benefit of the doubt to the saudis here's the latest with a president had to say today. Giving up at all. With that being said Saudi Arabia's. Avery important ally about errors in the Middle East if you look at Saudi Arabia there an ally and there's tremendous purchaser. Of not only military equipment but other things when I went there. They committed to purchase 450 billion dollars worth. A 110 billion dollars worth of military. Those are the biggest orders in the history of this country. Probably the history of the world our league has ever been any order for 450 billion dollars you remember that day. In Saudi Arabia without commitment was made so there are an important ally but I want to find out what happened. Where is the fault and we will probably know that by the end of the week but like pop is coming back to level off. And asked to that question of what happened some details are continuing to emerge from on the ground in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Oh with Mike Pompeo making the trip as well we want to bring in Molly hunter who joins us now ABC news's. Correspondents out right now in Istanbul what is the latest view from the ground and is there any evidence anything that's emerged at all. Other than what the president is saying that backs up. The possibility. That the Saudi royal family wasn't directly behind them the murder of Jamal could show me. Hey Rick good afternoon my cancer the second part pretty quickly the answer is no but there's also no hard evidence the ABC news had. We haven't seen idea we haven't seen video we haven't seen forensic evidence that also backs up the Turkish claim in the Turks have just been a lot more vocal in the last 1415 days. But as far as I can tell that there are two investigations going on there's the Turkish investigations I've seen evidence that. We're in front of the console residents' right now I've seen friends sixteens going and we side Turkish police drug. Fly overhead. And then there's the Saudi investigation insect prey upon payout says he was comments that would be timely and thorough. And the president Chun says he's waiting for as far as the Turkish investigation that. And they've been leaking a very consistent version of events of the last fifteen days and all of that they said there's audio others have been video is that his forensic evidence. Everything leads up to their very early conclusion did you makah showed he was killed inside the consulate on October 2. Honestly think Richard pond pants. And gaining a lot of pushed back for that trip. Did he go all the way marriage not return with much by way of this investigation. Why did he get on a plane and fly around the world why didn't someone come to him and help explain what happened to this American resident. How sister being perceived in the air and around the world. I mean the optics are bad Mary Alice battalions to do is look at his smiles yesterday and every item. And to know that at least they're providing a little bit of cover it was not miles he was joking with king some mind he talked with. Crown prince Mohammed's that Mohammed than some mind. You know about their longstanding relationship. Mohammed than some mindset you know we are old allies we stand together today tomorrow and in the future. And Pompeo said absolutely some even today in Saudi Arabia Healy spent about three hours on the ground here in Turkey he was in Ankara this morning. Where he met with president airline and the foreign minister. Had and the questions in those meetings will be really interesting he would obviously have questions for the Turks what is Elvis intelligence. That you have been leaking what he lashing out. And William share with us but the terps with big questions for him Q what are the saudis saying what in fact he's possibly saying is the reason why they haven't provided any public. BI and giving them the benefit of the doughnut. And yet he says we've got to wait for the Saudi investigation and again let that investigation is or where it's happening or what's happening there today. I don't out. Some the president continues to do a more aggressive job and the saudis are of explaining what the Saudi point of view could possibly be the Molly I'm hoping you can. Explain for us a little bit how how Turkey fits into this it's not just that is stumble was the site. Of this apparent murder this have a lot to do with the relationships of Turkey and the United States and Saudi Arabia these are complicated things that all kind of tie together that makes you want to be skeptical about anyone's motivations. And we should say rank right up at bat that now I'm extremely skeptical about the Turkish event. As that I am about the Saudi version of events which is partly a version of events really but we should be very skeptical because not only has it all than anonymous leaks. No one's going on the record president airline hasn't owned as he hasn't come out. And that all these things at his Turkish officials are saying anonymously to the New York Times and the Washington has been essentially right I think what's happening. Is that airlines anonymous check as officials are going out to the press that right vineyard times the Washington Post and they're going to Turkish outlet. And they're giving the same version of events what's happening then is. Yeah that's keeping the story on the world headlines facing US politicians. Packet quite fired up about it hoping. The Turks and hoping that the US politicians are gonna put some pressure on the White House because they are dying for the saudis to fess up and they think the only way that the saudis will fess up. It's of the little pressure. From the White House we sell haven't seen that pressure. To the other part of your question. It hurts the need this Saudi experts don't want to totally lose faith in those early days to weeks ago I think it hurts fervently hoping. That there would be some kind of face saving agreement feel that they could have come out together and say that this saudis didn't feel that opening when they were given the opportunity. All of the saudis said read that first day with that he walked out on is on for well it an even try to offer an explanation. The Saudi investment in Turkey is massive it's not only through them but it's also serious investment from the Saudi government Saudi tourists make up a huge portion. This city Arab terrorists in general but specifically Saudi tourists. So everyone can afford to completely pets picking them. But he's also pretty frustrated the saudis have it. Offered anything to fill that void. And is it the views it that the president's reaction to this and I'll pails reaction to this sane he doesn't wanna talk about the facts until. There's a full investigation the president saying this is guilty. Until proven innocent. Is there a sense of broad that that the United States is just taking the Saudi line because of economic self interest or are they giving maybe the president admitted to benefit out that he's serious about wanting to know. All the facts before rendering a judgment. I think that former red honestly and I think a lot of people over a sea is in this region and beyond. Can point to other specific incidents as in the trump presidency. Where president Chon. Hasn't held the saudis to account whether it with. Rounding up all of us businessman of heading in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh whether it was jailing phenom activist. Well there it why is watching as Saudi Arabia arrested in kidnapped is sitting prime minister the prime minister of Lebanon and brought him back to Saudi Arabia. Trump continued. To sell the Saudi billions of dollars worth of arms and those arms as we know. Are going into. The Saudi defense. Using those arms to bond Yamon. And president trump hasn't supported sanctions we've heard him this week he doesn't support cutting those arms sales even as some GOP leaders of course are being very vocal about it. All right volley hundred from her missed Wimbledon Ellison. Thank you Molly and I think that last plane is really important it get to the politics of this story beginning a lot of questions about whether voters. Might react to this it's hard to imagine someone I'm here in the states might vote one way or the other on the story. Except that we know voters are so frustrated with what they view as corruption in Washington they're tired of the swamp and so as much as this story starts to look like. I'm friendship or they don't understand a relationship that looks yucky I could see voters responding against in the west. And before he moved to politics and a lot to cover with a mid terms we just got on the line Tom fostered a former. Homeland Security advisor to president trump now and ABC news contributor and and Tom are hoping you can give us some context here on on how this fits in with what the president saying when he goes out and says. This is like Brett Cavanaugh is guilty until proven innocent and we know Greg Kavanagh he says what else ended up being innocent. What is he trying to accomplish how would you interpret what the president is saying do you think he's actually. Opens information that might implicate the saudis. But I ya think that the president is trying to stress the first point about innocent until proven guilty and not the drug equivalent between that they're out its work. Unfortunately I understand why it's taken that way you know the president difficult spot here the saudis represent it's pretty significant. Interest the United States not only that they put the world and stability. You know the one a Russian to a decision Erika Miller Russian to a conclusion. Do you view it has having ruled out maybe the most. Most dramatic meeting most influential things that the United States could do halting investments. Halting ending arms sales. Indeed hasn't ruled those things out in your mind when he goes and talks as he has about how he doesn't want to hurt US companies or. Is the potential is a potentially in his will house the bring us things back into the table with anyone in the investigation shows. Yeah I think the latter in other words what we thought what an unfolding of the president's preferences spent some time with an era there. It's I think what he says there's a very bitter or tough pill to swallow if he does have to give up those. Military don't remember those failed soldier instead to job and I don't just add to the bottom line the United States. They also come with them those military sales set of restrictions only use that those weapons. That we then enforce the lifetime of those weapons. So that that allows for those that are out there are very worried about Saudi human rights. To control to some degree how those weapons are used blowing into the future looked at the controls don't come with Russian or Chinese failed. All right talk Tom mosser rural bullets you go into your running between a bunch of events today we appreciate shaking and really quite. Thank you don't. There does seem to be a pattern that is disturbing though it's people that are watching as even disturbing to some Republican senators that. When the president is inclined or or has a political reason and still believes some lines. He he got his that he wants to believe denials whether it's allowed recoup in the armed Roy Moore there's this sense of the president will come out and say. Oh you don't know we don't know we have to wait and is that the proper level of skepticism with some of these players. We were moving on to the mid terms twenty days to go it of course as you pointed out in the note today reflection days actually election month a lot of folks are already voting including some critical states. They're also a series of really interesting debates that are starting to engage on your on the television screens including one last night between that's all Rourke. And Ted Cruz where that's a more TV liberal darling of the moment the superstar the left quoted none other than Donald Trump take a listen. Senator cruise is not going to be honest with you he's gonna make up positions and boats that I've never held or have ever taken. He's dishonest it's why the president called him blinds add up and it's why the nickname stuck because it's true. Techno lifting it was lion's head and another the G ever actually appeared in the president's telling but it is notable to meet is that aids that's with a with a little of that and at the end. Is notable that that's always picking up that personal attacks on tetris. And he's done is he having been dying at that people in the state house and there are billboards across the state of Texas that just tack. President trumps tweets about ten crews in black and white across the state. Democrats trying to remind Republicans that even president trump didn't like tankers and yet presidential we know is going to go campaign for him. But so is this race is a really different and the race is playing out across the rest the country gets here we have a Democrat on offense trying to win a seat. We're seeing a red state whereas in so many other races we have Democrats on defense really trying just to defend their seats and win reelection. That is the senate portrayed him with as we mentioned things are getting nasty out there they are the ads is as anyone that's in in a local television market knows they are flat they are flying fast. They are some of them are for particularly vicious is one that caught RI that we want to. Show you and talk about this one is in the San Diego area congressman Duncan Hunter. Has run this ad against his democratic opponents it'll take a look. I'm mark company John. His father said he deserved to die. Mexican millennial Democrat named I'm art camp and the jar doesn't get his support from the people of San Diego. I supported by care. This is. Orchestrated plan mom my company just a risk we can't ignore him on Duncan Hunter and I approve this message. And the man who was targeted that ad joins us now all mark companies are the democratic candidate. For congress in the fiftieth congressional district of cat of California and we appreciate you joining us and I just your first reaction when you saw sadness with what it. I'd love to hear what went through your mind as you saw this ad I'm sure it's gotten a lot of buzz in San Diego among friends and neighbors what did you think when you heard. This ad and then you've heard the end up in honor approves this message. You know the first other cancer might only be completely honest with you I've never sure the slavery before. Is that Republican John McCain would be rolling in his grave today if he saw this you'll remember and 08. He stood up fiercely and proudly and courageously and in a dignified fashion against somebody who is attacking his upon at the time Obama. On racial grounds calling him. Something that he wasn't so I Harken back the Republican Party McCain and even Ronald Reagan who was standing in front of statue of liberty when he became president announced. And he said the immigrants make America great. So I've been talking to Republicans independents Democrats in my district. They are ready for new leadership and a new day we have three poles have a statistically tied but more than any poll Rick that. Shows you that I'm not a threat to national security by sure as heck I'm a threat to Duncan undersea. You might have polls show you that clause that pulls that we see in still had Hannah had. What makes you think you can keep this out in the end. You're talking to people on the ground near the only poll that matters in the end is that if the Election Day poll people going out there voting. And we're mobilizing and organizing people there are people coming down the press is coming to our district and they literally cannot find. The voters who are saying they're gonna vote for Duncan country they hear people saying the wanna stay home. After the here the allegations about hunter being indicted for embezzling a quarter million dollars. Paying back 60000 dollars which is the proof you need to know he's actually guilty and then him blaming his wife blaming the DOJ and them blaming mean. Duncan Hunter. There's a dereliction of duty with him there and people array to put country over party not there wife under a bus and that's what we're hearing on the ground in this district do you. Consider the attack on your family lineage on on your grandfather's involvement in the Munich terror plot in which that is not disputed to my knowledge. Do you consider that to be a fair attack I know you. You were born after your grandfather. Passed away C a and actually know him but you could you think that's a fair thing for a candidate to point out to talk about family relationships like that. I don't know bus fare but when you run for office your subject to all the scrutiny in the world and that is what the the gig requires but I will tell your listeners and voters across the country. Because I'll be voting for them even if they Campbell for me it's a federal C. The FBI and the supply last so much talk about this cause I got twenty days to go get votes. But the FBI fully vetted mean and gave me clearance twice to work at the White House and the administration and 2016. And they fully vetted mean my Sally relationships and all my connections in the indeed me fit to serve they determined that I had a full allegiance to the United States of America. And where the security agent this secret security agents gave me this look help them. That has their signature this Simeon and he said to me know what sun. You're just as American as I am just as Petrie can as I am and no one could take that away from you you are American through and through. You've earned or security clearance now go serve in the White House I'm gonna earn everyone's vote Rick. I'm gonna serve in congress that's what's gonna happen 26 this this year November 6. The other attack as they've seen Republicans across the country lot of and deal with Nancy Pelosi whether you went some pork current you've got to congress and Democrats did take. The majority and also about health care of her the president continue to say and it Democrats are pushing. What he calls a sort of socialist agenda on the issue of Gary can you can respond to both would you Baghdad Nancy Pelosi and what are your thoughts on health. That all this that this political red mean I've been running for congress should point two months I will have served at the run as long as I've served in the first year the first term. Here's what I'm gonna say to you. Whoever wants to be speaker of the house passed a earned my vote like I'm trying to earn everybody else's vote whoever wants to be speaker house to present to mean. How they're going to not be the opposition right to trump I'm fed up with that I want somebody who's in the lead the opportunity party for the people in our district and yes. That means fighting for health care. Fighting to protect people trees a thing conditions fighting to lower the costs of health care. Helping people who are pinching their pennies and pinching their pills literally splitting their pills in my district because they capital a fort full prescription. That's an American. And the richest country on earth people should not have to languished and died because they're too port to live saw side of the political spectrum. I don't look at this race as a try answers verses resisters showdown. It's not about those left and the right you know what it's about you talked about it the swamp. Those on the inside of the Washington machine and those of us outside of the Washington machine who want to be the insiders now to change things up in Washington Duncan Hunter and his father. Have helped the seat for forty years Rick. And after half a century people want to see Barack that's what this raises about. Amare companies are the democratic candidate for the fiftieth congressional district fountain and San Diego Southern California thanks for being a really appreciate you dialing and good luck these next when he is. Thanks for having erect. And there before we move on from the mid terms there was another headline out of Associated Press interview Mary Alice maybe the least surprising headline you'll ever read but the president says. If the Democrats lose the house. He's not I think the white. He's I think what. If you Alan take the blame but he's getting addicted. I mean I. I I thought that was a sort of a silly comment actually I'm not really a serious one we don't know where the party's gonna Gao I don't think that. That Republicans have figured out how they might respond to. A Democrat majority in the house. Obviously we have no idea Democrats are in fact going to take a majority thought we know if they do it will be largely because voters respond to this White House. I'd look different Jordan Phelps on this over at the White House though the president has in saint rally after rally you've been a lot of them. It vote for me if you your vote for the Republican candidate fill in the blank and that's a vote for me he wants to be on the ballot he wants this to be a referendum. But he say if it doesn't go his way. Not so much. Yeah and don't blame me wreck that's at what the president has to say about if this doesn't go his way back. We have seen an extraordinary. Amount of access to the president in recent days. I had and one of the reasons for that may be at the president is trying to basically flood the zone here he wants to be out front fighting this out. I you know this president doesn't shy away from controversy and one line of thinking is that the president wants to be out friends teal. You know absorbed that controversy for for all these candidates who aren't about to remind people that. And the stake and that his presidency is at stake in this election and to get out and out our hand he keeps saying. With how the candidates he campaigned alongside about for this person is about port me I didn't very real terms rant I if the president doesn't lose the house there could be impeachment app proceedings. The day after the new congress is is sworn in Sao the threat is very real to this president and he wants people to remember that. Will have one area where the president isn't directly on the ballot but of course a lot of pieces of agenda are of these gubernatorial races and we want out we want to bring in our friends and partners over 538 Serra frost and since 538 politics editor. Just in the last couple hours UT viewed the race forecast for the gubernatorial races and looking at the map there's a whole lot more blue then we're seeing in most of the other forecast certainly the senate forecast doesn't look anything like this but. A lot of areas where the Democrats are are feeling pretty good about their chances once that that I was struck by was this idea that. Upward to 60% of the country. Could be living in democratic territory when it looks at that when you look at the state house. After this election I was sour what confinement with crunching these numbers and getting at these forecasts. Right so there 36. Gubernatorial elections this year and as you said 60% of the population could be represent it I democratic governor. And so that translates into roughly 24 states and for republic cans that means 40% of the population and 26 states so there is still open at the disadvantage when you look at. The sheer numbers of states. But arguably having a blue governor hand net George is a bigger deal than say governor. And Vermont. And in I'm struck by some of the regional discrepancies in some of the story lines that come out here particularly on interest did. Sorry in looking at the upper midwest it looks like there's a whole lot of states. From Minnesota and Wisconsin all the way east through Ohio. Pennsylvania even. Over on the east side of that balloon would those those bluish places or places with the Democrats favored Wisconsin right in the middle. On your screen is not what her state that is a tossup according to your numbers right now. It looks like the Democrats are are gonna have a chance that have a very strong showing in the ha. Part of trump country. You have walkers at the polls have not been good for him in Wisconsin right now our model shows that there is roughly six tossup states. That's also including a state like Florida that actually has a slight advantage right now for gill on verses Desantis. But we are surprised by that as well and the sense of how really the gubernatorial races might be a better measure the blue wave. Thus far. It's our process and from 538 we appreciate and check out all of that work at 530 attacked Thomas really TV you can throw these these maps interactive maps a lot of data out there. And terrific work from our partners thank you Saro. Want to move on to about content kind of a strange story from earlier today thankfully. When a happy ending for all involved but a bit of an air scare involving the first lady's plane a military plane. She's on her way for very short flight of the Philadelphia for an event and they they received some issues with our mechanics. Inside the plane they were forced to turn around make an emergency landing and Anders air force base Jordan Phelps what do we know about. What happens in and whether anyone on board was really in danger at the time. Yeah Rick we actually does not any statement from the air force bottom line no one was in real danger on this white. At what at smoking on the flight was all about Wednesday and miss functioning communications device. I'm but it didn't lead to some scary moments the reporters who were on the plane. At that time reported back that and they were brought some wet. Clients that they were told they could breathe freely if that snow the snow became too strong for then. And it but basically that this mouth was put out quickly based on this. You know had this malfunctioning communications device and just as a precautionary measure the air force as they decided to turn the plane around. I even now it seems it was other rights capable of at finishing that journey. I and the First Lady got back on another plane. And made her churning up to Philadelphia with just about and ninety minutes away south trip back to businesses as normal pretty quickly there. All right good news out of that Jordan fell to the White House thank you today. We want to close with just an unusual moment from yesterday the Chief Justice the United States John Roberts out and the van a Q&A session. I Annie started off with with a statement which I think has particular resonance of this moment of politics take a look. And before we go into the conference room to discuss the case. We pause for a moment and shake each others hand. It's a small thing perhaps but is it is they repeated reminders. That. As our newest colleague put it. We do not sit on opposite sides of an island. We do not caucus. In separate rooms we do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation. An extraordinary moment from the chief justice and we're gonna let that be the last word. Here twenty days out before a very contentious mid term elections Mary Alice parks I'm Rick Klein thanks for watching the refute the CNX.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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