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Trump Implores World Leaders to Drive Out Terrorists; Donald Trump Speaks at Middle East Forum. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 21, 2017 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: 8:00 p.m. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where President Trump is right. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington, D.C. We want to welcome our viewers in the U.S. and around the world.

President Trump on the world stage, condemning terrorists, challenging Muslim nations to drive them out.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a choice between two futures. And it is a choice America cannot make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.


WHITFIELD: The president also pledging today a partnership between the U.S. and Muslim nations is battling extremist ideology. And at any moment, Trump will deliver another message directed at millennials and teens at a forum on Twitter where he is expected to discuss how social media can counter violent extremist ideology online.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joining me now from Riyadh where he is traveling with the president.

So, Jim, what should we expect from President Trump in this Twitter forum that will kick off at any moment?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, we're expecting the president to kick off this Twitter forum in just a little while from now. He's going to be joined by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He's going to be joined by our own counterterrorism analyst Peter Bergen as well as others. He's going to be talking to young people who are on social media about their use of Twitter and so on.

No word yet, Fredricka, whether we're going to get into Trump's own controversial Twitter habits from time to time. And -- but the main thrust of this event is to really focus in on how Twitter and social media can be used to really foster extremism and terrorism in all parts of the world including in the United States. And so you'll hear the president get into some of that and talk about some of that at this forum.

But really the main event of the day was the speech he just gave to the Muslim world here in Riyadh. Dozens of countries had their leaders listening in as the president really did sort of an Etch-A- Sketch really on his own rhetoric, his own divisive rhetoric that you've heard from the president as a candidate in the past, when he's talked about Muslims whether it was his call for a travel ban on Muslims coming into the United States during the campaign, or some of the other divisive -- his comments and rhetoric that you've heard from him throughout the campaign trail.

During this speech today, you heard the president described Islam as one of the world's great faiths but at the same time he was also calling on Muslim and Arab countries to stiffen their spine in the fight against terrorism. Here's more of what he had to say.


TRUMP: There is still much work to be done. That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds. We must stop what they're doing to inspire because they do nothing to inspire but kill.

Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.


ACOSTA: Now there's another part of this speech, Fredricka, where obviously you heard the president avoid using that term, radical Islamic terrorism. That was something that we were anticipating going into the speech in terms of what he was going to say. Was he going to say it, was he not going to say it. In the end he did not say it but he sort of tiptoed around that language and used terms like Islamic terror, so he danced right up to the edge of using that phrase without using a phrase that obviously incites a lot of criticism and outrage in this part of the world and obviously with the Muslim American community back in the United States.

But what we'll hear from the president here in just a few short moments, we're going to see him actually tour a global center for countering terrorism here in Riyadh that the Saudi government has set up and then after that he'll go back to his hotel where this Twitter forum will be taking place, and at that point obviously we'll be watching and waiting to see exactly what is said and if applicable here what is tweeted by the president during that forum -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. And, Jim, you know, from Riyadh, it's off to Israel and the president in this speech talked about visiting all the capitals, the religious capitals, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, after, you know, Riyadh for the Muslim capital and then eventually the Vatican.

[13:05:06] What is his expected message when he does gets to Israel?

ACOSTA: Well, again, he's going to have to dance around some pretty complicated diplomatic issues. He mentioned in that speech to the Muslim world earlier today that he's going to be meeting with both the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as well as the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. That was sort of an intentional add to that speech to let this part of the world know that he is a strong supporter of the state of Israel.

Now we should point out that there is some controversy awaiting the president when he arrives in Israel, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that his government, that he expects all of the governors, all of the ministers to greet the president when he arrives in Israel. That'll be later on tomorrow.

And at the same time, there is an Israeli Interior minister who has made some remarks questioning whether the president should have executed this deal for some $110 billion in weapons and military assistance to the Saudi government. That is a development that is not playing well in Israel, so as the president generated some headlines here that he liked very much in Saudi Arabia, and in the Muslim world, when he gets to Israel, he may have to deal with some other headlines where there are folks who aren't exactly happy with how everything played out here in Saudi Arabia.

So again, this just goes to how complicated this foreign trip is for this president. You know, he is going to the center of these three massive world faiths with all the complicated diplomatic issues that go with them and he's going to have to navigate that every step of the way -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you so much traveling with the president there from Riyadh.

All right. Let's talk more about all of this. Joining me right now, Mubin Sheikh, a former extremist and counterterrorism operative, Mike Allen, former director of the National Security Preparedness Group, and Bob Baer, a former CIA operative and CNN intelligence and security analyst.

Good to see all of you.

All right. So, Bob, let me begin with you because just as Jim was underscoring, it's going to be difficult to make everyone happy on this eight-slash-nine day, five nations. These religious capital. In the president's speech today, was it your feeling that this was an attempt to kind of retrofit some of these campaign rhetoric to this audience, delicate nuances of international politics here or was it setting foot on new guidance, now policies?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, I don't think there's anything new, but it wasn't a bad speech considering it's Donald Trump. Considering the campaign rhetoric essentially attacking Islam itself. Talking about driving the radicals out of the mosques.

He's right, 15 of the hijackers of 9/11 came out of those same mosques, came out of those same tribes in Saudi Arabia. He didn't mention that Saudi Arabia has done a much better job cleaning itself up.

Receptive? No, because Saudis have other grievances, they're probably not too happen that essentially they passed us, you know, a half trillion in contracts, if you add them all up. I don't know how many are going to come through. And it almost looks like a bribe to the United States, you know, we'll give you these contracts if you protect their security, protect the security of the royal family. But there was never any way that he was going to arrive in Riyadh and please everybody -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And so, Mubin, you also heard President Trump talk about driving them out. He says drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your community, drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this earth.

Did these leaders hear that and say they need to look within their countries to really get to the root of why terrorists even exist. Why the recruitment is successful in some of their countries, you know, and why some of the conditions are in place to help produce extremism?

MUBIN SHEIKH, FORMER EXTREMIST: Yes, I mean, I think that there's definitely a huge disconnect when it comes to, especially in Saudi Arabia, where what we know as Wahabism predominates. You know, ISIS right now uses, you know, Saudi textbooks to teach their people. So at the ideological level, that kind of reform that needs to be done. I hope that the Saudi establishment takes that as a lesson that maybe we need to start looking into our curriculum. So that's one avenue of correction.

But I think, look, at the end of the day, President Trump is a businessman, right? That's his whole thing. And it's about showing support for the Saudis against Iran, hence the gazillion-dollar arms deal. And, I mean, you know, the speech sounds very nice, the wording is very nice, and everything is said in there. I mean, you know, the fact that, yes, the Muslim world does need to do more, this is something that is the responsibility of the Muslim world to fight these --

[13:10:07] WHITFIELD: But did you hear challenge or did these leaders hear a challenge of what's next?

SHEIKH: I think they did. I think, you know, at this level when a speech is made, it's a very basic generic message and then the details will begin to get ironed out. So visiting this counter extremism center, Saudi Arabia, doing de-radicalization programs, I mean, with mixed success, but it is working toward that direction and I hope, I really do pray that it is a message that they're hearing loud and clear.

WHITFIELD: And, Mike, we know the speech was at least in part written by Stephen Miller, and he is, you know, been the architecture or gotten credit or blamed for some of the language that President Trump used on the campaign trail. Also responsible in large part for the sentiment of the Muslim ban. So I want to play a moment of this speech right now where the president talked about refugees, the responsibilities of the countries and the refugees coming from this region. Let's listen in.


TRUMP: I also applaud Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees. The surge of migrants and refugees and -- just living so poorly, that they're forced to leave the Middle East, depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies. Instead of depriving this region of so much human potential, Middle Eastern countries can give young people hope for a brighter future in their home nations and regions.


WHITFIELD: What was the interpretation about what he was saying? Was he laying the responsibility of the countries from the origins of these refugees?

MICHAEL ALLEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BEACON GLOBAL STRATEGIES: I think very clearly he was trying to say, in very Donald Trumpian fashion, hey, listen, we may be America first but we're not America alone, and we expect you to play a substantial role. That was one of the themes up front in the speech, which was majority Muslim countries must take the lead in countering extremism.

However, in sort of a surprising fashion, Trump was also hopeful in the sense that he talked about advantaged generations. He complimented the Muslims for their culture and their history, harkened back to Cairo as a center of learning. So I think he was trying to inspire the audience there, talk about a new renaissance, but at the same time saying listen, we'll be there for you, but you've got to take the lead to inspire your public not to go down an Islamic extremist path.

WHITFIELD: Is there a way in which the read the audience? You know, we saw so many close shots of these leaders of more than 15 Muslim -- mostly Muslim nations, most of them very placid, but is there a way in which to assess, you know, what kinds of messages were received from Mr. Trump's dialogue?

ALLEN: I think it's really hard to assess just by looking at the audience. It's sort of a staid forum. I've been to the Saudi palace, it's not the place for sort of, you know, wild cheering and the rest. You don't get a lot of out of these foreign leaders and the rest. They're in Saudi Arabia. But look, I think it's going to be viewed through the prism of listen, we had bad relations with the United States in the last administration. President Trump is here for his first visit, he comes bearing gifts, he's coming offering a hand of friendship.

He may not be saying everything we want to hear in terms of human rights and rights for other people, in terms of moving towards democracy in the region. But Trump did sort of announce what his new doctrine is. He said it was principled realism. I mean, for a lot of us who've been trying to figure out how to make sense of all this, that was a little bit of a hint. WHITFIELD: And, you know, Bob, President Trump also, you know, talked

about the declaration, a signed agreement that these country will commit to not to funnel money to terrorists. Is that new? Is that realistic? Or is this more of the same just in a different jargon?

BAER: It's not realistic. I mean, he had to say it. He had to go there and it is a problem, there are private Saudis, private Arabs in the Gulf who look at these conflicts in Syria and Iran as existential conflicts. And if the Islamic State is the one doing the fighting they're going to continue to send money. Keeping track of Gulf banking is virtually impossible. You've got the hawala system, and if you want to send $100 to a charity connected to ISIS, it's easy to do, you do it in cash and asking the Saudis to completely close it down and deplete with those aids to the Sunnis in Syria and Iraq, it is impossible. But they're doing better than they did and I think that's important. The Saudis recognize that extremists in their sect are causing them problems.

[13:15:01] And -- but, you know, Fred, I keep on going back, it's Iran, and that's the message that Trump arrived with. We are going to contain Iran, we are going to go for regime change, and that was music to everybody's ears because they look at Iran has the main threat in that part of the world, not terrorists.

WHITFIELD: And so, Mubin, you know, was that kind of a trigger word, you know, to bring, to coalesce a sentiment there among the leadership. And, you know, while Trump said it wasn't a lecture, was it interpreted as such?

SHEIKH: I don't think it would be interpreted as a lecture, per se, but as Bob said, I mean, the Sunni Arab world, definitely the Gulf states see Iran has their existential threat. They're the state's adversary that has the capabilities to really bring down the Saudi regime. And I think there was some back and forth there between the Saudis and the Iranians. And the Iranians basically said, look, if we were to hit Saudi, the only thing left would be Mecca and Medina, which are the two of only (INAUDIBLE) states. And so, you know, that kind of tough talk between the two countries, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, are very, very happy to see Trump, to hear from Trump, and to do business with Trump. That's really what it's about.

WHITFIELD: And business was a strong sentiment coming from President Trump, no surprise there, and the "Wall Street Journal" is also now reporting that the World Bank will announce that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will donate $100 million towards the Women's Entrepreneurs Fund which was proposed by Ivanka Trump. We understand that she spoke to a group of women there.

But during the campaign the president condemned the Clinton Foundation for accepting money from Saudi Arabia. So how is this different?

ALLEN: I'm sure it is different. Listen, I think that Ivanka Trump has been looking for a way to, you know, increase the White House's emphasis on human rights and women's rights in particular. I think this is something that was hard fought and something that will be, you know, a big plus coming out of this particular trip. There were feint references, I think, not as much as we would want, in

terms of women's empowerment, economic development and tolerance and respect. It definitely wasn't the centerpiece, it wasn't like the Bush's second inaugural address. But, you know, we still -- he still paid some homage to these ideas that we hold important.

WHITFIELD: Did you also see or hear any parallel from President Obama's address to students in Cairo when his, you know, presidency began?

ALLEN: I did, I saw essentially a few parallels in that both are saying that Islam is historically a peaceful religion that, for lack of a better word, has been hijacked by extremists that have subverted, that have perverted the ideology of peace. And so I think there is that strain, I think we're probably a little surprised to hear it coming from Trump's mouth. It certainly wasn't I think maybe as empathetic as you heard from Bush or President Obama, but nonetheless, he said it, which makes me think more or less that over time we'll see all these speeches in some degree of commonality.

WHITFIELD: All right. Mike, thanks so much.

Mike Allen, Mubin Sheikh, Bob Baer, thanks. See you all soon.

All right. At any moment now, President Trump will field questions over social media and how it can be used to counter violent extremism around the world, in this place right here in Riyadh, the next stop for the president after his speech to Muslim country leaders. We'll take you there live.


[13:22:44] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

At any moment now there in Riyadh, President Trump is taking part in a Twitter forum there. The focus, as you live images right now of his arrival, another red carpet arrival there.

The focus during this forum is how social media can be used to counter violent extremist ideology. Of course when the president speaks after his arrival there with the first lady, we'll take you there live for his remarks.

So for this Trump White House, it's been a controversy-free trip overseas so far, as the president arrives there at that new location there in Riyadh, and this comes after a week that saw an onslaught of damaging headlines involving this White House where questions around the Trump administration's alleged ties to Russia and the firing of James Comey left the White House in quite the tailspin.

"GPS" host Fareed Zakaria spoke with a group of conservative for their take on this controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: It was quite a week in the world of White House related investigations. People that were likely dreading the 5:00 hour by the end of the week, as it seemed each day another blockbuster story would come out around that time.

There's so much to talk about where things stand now and where they're headed. Joining me to discuss is an all Republican panel. All conservatives. Bret Stephens is the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist now with the "New York Times." David Frum, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, now a senior editor at the "Atlantic." Ron Kessler, a longtime investigative journalist, is now an author and opinion writer.

David, let me start with you because you are a lawyer by training. Where does this -- where do we stand in the investigation? How should we think about this?

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: You should be prepared to accept that even if the most heinous version of the facts proves to be true, there may not be any crimes committed or any laws broken.

It is illegal for an American obviously to participate in any kind of hack. It is illegal for an American to entice a foreigner to spend money or substantial resources on a federal political campaign.

[13:25:02] If those two things haven't happened, anything else that Donald Trump is thought to have done will probably turn out to be legally permissible. Whether you think it's American or democratic, ethical or loyal is a different question. But it would not -- for example, it is not actually a crime for an American to collude with a hostile foreign intelligence service to pervert an American election. It is -- it would not be a violation of the espionage laws, it would not be a violation of federal election laws, even if the worst turns out to be true, it's a political, probably not a legal problem.

ZAKARIA: And Bret, the president does have extraordinary leeway in these areas, you know, partly because of the separation of powers. The idea has always been that the laws don't entirely apply to the president. So for example, conflict of interest laws don't really apply to him. Congress is meant to police him. Right? And the question becomes, what will a Republican House and a Republican Senate do if these things are, as David says, violations of political morality or -- or ethics but not illegal?

BRET STEPHENS, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, I think David put his finger on it and where you have two, which is that the laws may not apply to the president the way they do to ordinary citizens, a point, as you noted, Richard Nixon made 40 years ago. But politics applies to him much more than it does to anyone else.

And look, what we have now is a crippled presidency. We are, what, 100, 120 days into this administration? And you have, with the exception of the passage of the health care bill in the House, dubious feature in the Senate, no political accomplishments to speak of and a perception of an administration that truly can't walk and chew gum at the same time. I think that perception is filtering down into the rank-and-file of

the Republican base, even if they are adamant not to concede points to Democrats. And I think that's going to percolate into an impression that will have effects in November 2018. If you have a Democratic Congress, a Democratic Senate, then the president's legal jeopardies increase dramatically.

ZAKARIA: Ron, how does this look to you and how do you think it looks to Donald Trump, a man you know well?

RONALD KESSLER, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST: Well, as you can tell from his appearance in Saudi Arabia, he is above it all. And very glad to be there with his lovely wife Melania. And as David said, there's no violation of law whatsoever involved here, in Watergate, you had Richard Nixon, the president being a target, Donald Trump is not a target, there's no indication of any cover-up, there's no indication of any obstruction of justice. In fact Trump did not even order the FBI to stop the investigation, and it did continue. And then as he indicated there is no --


ZAKARIA: There is some argument that there was, Ron, an obstruction of justice when Trump seems to have told Comey to ease up on the Flynn investigation.

KESSLER: No. That's not obstruction. Obstruction was actually impeding the investigation by covering up, by phony evidence which happened during Watergate. Nixon actually got the FBI to stop the investigation based on some phony story he made up about the CIA. In addition there's no violation of law. If the campaign colluded with Russia, whatever that means, the only violation would be an individual who didn't register as a foreign agent, such as Michael Flynn perhaps.

And finally this "Washington Post" story claiming that an aide close to Trump is a person of interest is a total hoax because the FBI doesn't use that terminology whatsoever in any investigation except for violent crime and kidnapping. In counter intelligence investigation or any other -- most of the other investigations, they never use that term. So, you know, someone made up this story, gave it to a "Post" reporter, at the "Post," they apparently don't know enough about the FBI to recognize that there's no such term in the FBI lexicon.

STEPHENS: Well, but look, I think --


STEPHENS: I'm afraid we're talking past one another here. The issue here is the perception that the president of the United States engaged in practices which, whether legally permissible or not, violate the spirit of the way a president ought to behave toward subordinates, towards the federal bureaucracy and with respect to the American people. And we keep getting back to the fact that impeachment is fundamentally a political, not a legal procedure.


WHITFIELD: All right. We continue to watch images from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, right there. You're looking inside the room of the Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. The president and first lady are now in there. Soon the president will be addressing what we understand to be an audience of millennials about social media and counter-terrorism. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. In a major speech in Saudi Arabia, President Trump called on Middle Eastern leaders to help drive terrorists out of their communities. And at any moment now, he will send a similar message to the young people in the region at a Twitter forum, at this new building right here. This is an inaugural ceremony for the Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, right there in Riyadh.

Mr. Trump will also talk about ways social media can be used to counter violent extremist ideology. Let's bring back our panel now, Bill Carter, CNN media analyst and author of the book "The War For Late Night" and Mohammad Lila, CNN international correspondent, live for us from Istanbul.

Glad both of you could be with me.

So, Bill, you first. You know, the president, he likes to tweet; everyone knows that. But why is he the right messenger on the responsibility of Twitter and counter-terrorism?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, I -- you know, whether he's the right messenger or not, he's the president, so that makes him a key messenger. Obviously he's not always a shining example of the best quality of social media because he uses it to hurl insults and to question facts and use a lot of falsehoods.

But, clearly, there's positive aspects of social media that he can emphasize, and especially when social media is being used by terrorists, you know, to recruit young people. So I think there's a strategy to it. But it will be interesting to see what questions he's asked by these young people.

WHITFIELD, And, Mohammad, how great of a tool is Twitter when it comes to recruiting?

MOHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously it's a tool. We've seen ISIS go out and use Twitter and use social media very effectively, I should add, to promote their campaigns, to promote their recruitment. And it's also very interesting because there are a lot of young people in this region that are latching on to social media as a means for free expression or as a means to express things that perhaps previously they weren't able to.

And we saw the Arab Spring was really an extension of that. So there's a deep hunger in this region for social media, for Twitter, for following people, for knowing what's going on. And certainly that can be a tool for recruitment, and in this case it seems the intent is to use it as a tool to prevent that recruitment from taking place.

WHITFIELD: And, you know, Bill, sometimes the best way to convey a message is if you, kind of, inject your own personal experience. And you have to wonder whether the president will address his own use of Twitter. He's got, what, something like 17 million followers on his POTUS handle and then another 30 million on his, you know, own Donald Trump handle.

So do you see that he might make himself part of the discussion?

CARTER: Well, I think he probably will, because he's said many times that he goes around the media by using Twitter. And I suppose he could encourage young people to go around, you know, formal restrictions. You know, it would be nice if he, sort of, also suggested that it's a way for women to have more free expression in some of these countries.

But I also think it leaves him vulnerable to criticism, because he's used Twitter in ways that maybe the Saudis wouldn't like, for example once threatening, saying "We should take all their oil" -- that they should give us all their oil, 10 years free because, you know, we protect their plans.

I means, he's used them in pretty provocative ways in the past. That's why I don't expect -- I suspect the questions will be well filtered, the ones that are asked to him.

WHITFIELD: And then, Mohammad, we understand that there will be -- or the expectation is there would be a young audience. But is it your feeling that the younger audience that may not be in that room is listening to the president's address there, an address that is mostly being catered to leaders of these mostly Muslim nations?

LILA: Well, I think there's an interesting paradigm at play here. And if you look at Donald Trump and the speech that he gave, it was an ornate room; it was full of men, quite frankly, male leaders, many of them unelected in the Middle East, in the Muslim world. It's exactly the type of thing that young people rose up against when the Arab Spring broke out.

So I think there's a bit of an interesting paradigm there. While you'll have young people who are eager for free expression, eager for elections, eager for democracy, quite frankly, and they'll hear this speech from Donald Trump and also this Twitter forum from Donald Trump, but the imaging coming out of this forum may not necessarily match what young people in the region are hungry for, and that is the ability to express themselves on social media without having to worry about tweeting something that could land you in jail, which quite frankly is a reality in many Arab and Muslim countries around the world.

WHITFIELD: And the president, in his speech to the Muslim leaders, he said, when talking about this new global center -- and this is the inaugural event of that center there in Riyadh. He said, quote, "This is a clear declaration that Muslim countries have to take the lead in combating extremist ideology."

Bill, does this structure, the visit, this inaugural, you know, occasion, with the visit of the American president, really symbolize a significant or seismic change in the way in which Saudi Arabia, or perhaps even other Middle Eastern countries, plan to combat terrorism?

CARTER: I doubt you could call it seismic. I mean, every step is helpful. But, you know, that's a long-entrenched culture that you're going to have a hard time changing. So, I mean, any added aspect is good. And I do think social media can be good, that you're pointing out to the Arab spring. There is advantages to it.

But, obviously, with Mr. Trump, I think it's a double-edged sword. He has been, you know, useful; it's been useful to him, but he's also wielded it as a weapon.

WHITFIELD: Bill Carter, Mohammad Lila, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. And of course we're going to continue to watch the images coming out of the center there in Riyadh. Soon the president will be addressing people in the audience there and beyond. And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: While President Trump was giving his speech in Saudi Arabia, Vice President Mike Pence was giving the commencement address at Notre Dame University. But his reception wasn't entirely friendly...




WHITFIELD (voice over): ... or shall we say "welcoming," even.

Several students actually staged a walkout as Pence was introduced. Some of their fellow students booed as they did that.

Pence talked about religious freedom and made reference to President Trump's speech earlier in Riyadh.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Just a short while ago in Saudi Arabia, this president spoke out against religious persecution of all people of all faiths. And on the world stage, he condemned, in his words, "the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians."


WHITFIELD: All right. CNN's Rosa Flores was at that speech at Notre Dame.

So what is at the root of the protest?

CNN CORRESPONDENT ROSA FLORES: You know, Fred, the students who walked out probably put it best when they said that, on this campus, which is a Catholic university, they learned to stand up for the marginalized, for the poor, for the LGBTQ, for immigrants, and for religious freedom for everyone, for all, not just Christians but also their Muslim brothers and sisters, a message, they say, that comes straight from Pope Francis. And so these students who walked out say that they don't believe that Vice President Mike Pence embodies those teachings.

Take a listen.

(UNKNOWN): Either we are all Notre Dame or none of us area. And if you are trying to silence and not listen to the preferences of one group and their families, then you're not listening to any of us. And that was a speech -- or, I guess, that was what we wanted to say today to the administration, more to -- more so than anyone else, the administration -- you need to listen to our peers; you need to listen to our peers' families and concerns when you decide who to invite to our graduation.

FLORES: Now, some context is important. About 3,100 students received degrees today and, Fred, between 75 and 100 students stood up and exited their ceremony once Vice President Mike Pence began to speak. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Rosa Flores, thanks so much. And let us know if the vice president has any comments about that a little bit later on. Appreciate it.

All right. Next, the view from the ground in Mosul, Iraq. Civilians in the war-torn city are risking their lives to escape areas still under the grip of ISIS.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We continue to monitor the trip of President Trump in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Right now, he and the first lady are alongside the king there, Salman, where they are inside this new building. It's the Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. And you heard the president make reference to it when he was addressing mostly Muslim nations earlier today, and he talked about the opening of this new global center as, quote, "This is a clear declaration that Muslim countries have to take the lead in combating extremist ideology."

And we just got some interesting notes from the U.S. State Department on what's taking place here in this center. This is the inaugural occasion of this building. And you see many people have come out to not only to see the president of the United States but to be part of this center's opening.

And we understand that the king will essentially press a button. And this is a fairly interactive site. And on these big screens they'll be able to see imagery and words to monitor extremist messaging on these digital platforms. And these images are mostly images that are taking place throughout the region, of monitoring language and behaviors of -- and we know that the president is also scheduled to address millennials, a number of young people, a bit later, after this introduction to this center, to talk to them about the responsibility of Twitter and how it can be used in the global fight against terrorism.

Bob Baer is a security analyst. He's also watching this alongside us via satellite, getting a chance to see how this works and why this introduction is being made.

And so, Bob, your impressions on why Saudi Arabia has taken this stand by opening up this global center? Is it reaffirmation of its commitment in the battle of counter-terrorism?

BOB BAER, INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, I think -- I think the Saudis are committed to this, if for no other reason it's destabilizing to Saudi Arabia. Remember, these people -- the extremists are against the royal family. They would like to overthrow them and what they say is put in a proper Islamic government.

So you take this technology from the United States and Europe which monitors Twitter, the same thing the FBI does, and they're looking for key words; they're looking for statements; they're looking for particular quotes from the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet and so forth. And they identify these people and they, you know, if they're violently, you know, inclined, they arrest them. If they're being converted to extremism, they attempt to reeducate them.

I think the Saudis have certainly learned their lessons from the attacks in 2003, and it is encouraging. And the Crown Prince is very, very close to Washington. And he's done his best. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is sitting on something of a volcano. There's still violence there. Americans are still being targeted in the kingdom. And the Saudis are doing the best they can just to stabilize this.

But look at -- look at it this way. The problem, Fred, is all the violence around Saudi Arabia, which should worry us, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, of course. And so they're getting it from all sides. And, you know, I've been very critical of Saudi Arabia over the years, but I have to say that -- better off than we were on 9/11.

WHITFIELD: And when you look at this and you see the multiple screens -- the king apparently has already pressed the button -- you see on the multiple screens, you know, some imagery of key words, as you were describing, words that, you know, terrorists are using in recruitment, et cetera, on social media, what's the equivalency of this, say, in the United States? Would it be like the headquarters of CIA or something else?

BAER: Well, the FBI is, for instance, looking at sovereign nation, people that are American, home-grown radicals that reject the federal government. And they do the same thing, run through their -- their Internet searches and the rest of it. It's a real problem here, and you've got to get to these people early on. The National Security Agency does it, looking for key words; the CIA does. You're -- not only that, but you have other databases you're looking for phone numbers that these people could be calling. And these algorithms are quite amazing and predictive of who's going

to turn to violence and who's not. And Saudi Arabia has put an enormous amount of money into this technology, and I would say it's probably working.

WHITFIELD: And how do you see this commitment of this alliance and cooperation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia being a step up in global terrorism?

BAER: Well, it is a step up. You know, as they say, the Saudis are both the arsonists and the firemen. Their ideology, Wahhabism -- we've been talking this -- you know, supports the Islamic state. They use Wahhabi books. It is very radical and it uses the worst sources in Islam. I could go through the names, but it's very confusing. You know, and it's changing a whole society.

But remember that the Saudi royal family is in power because, a long time ago, a couple hundred years ago, it allied with the Wahhabis. And a lot of the people in the national guard, which is what keeps the royal family in power, are Wahhabis as well. And the Saudis will never forget the Mecca Mosque takeover in '79, which was very destabilizing to the country. And, frankly, they're walking on eggshells and they're trying to find their way between it. You know, so it's not going to be solved overnight. And it's not going to be solved by algorithms alone.

WHITFIELD: All right. Bob Baer, thanks so much. Again, the president and first lady, there, touring this new Center for Combating Extremist Ideology right there in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You're seeing how the screens work, how the technology is being used in the battle against terrorism. And of course, also today, we understand the president will be addressing a large room of young people about the responsibilities that come with Twitter and counter-terrorism. We're going to continue to monitor this and we'll be right back.