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U.S. President Trump in Japan on First Stop of Asia Trip; Saudi Anti-Corruption Crackdown; Saudi Arabia Intercept Missile Targeting Airport; Lebanon's Prime Minister Resigns. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired November 5, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:09] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. president in Japan this hour, the first stop of a long trip to Asia. Top of his agenda, the nuclear threat from North Korea.

A power move in the Saudi royal family. A number of ministers detained or sacked on anti-corruption crackdowns led by the crown prince.

And a political vacuum in Lebanon. The prime minister of that nation resigns, saying he fears for his life.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Four a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. Good day to you.

The U.S. president is in Japan today, the first leg of several stops during his trip throughout Asia. Mr. Trump met with that nation's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, the two went to a country club near Tokyo to have lunch, then played a round of golf.

Before that, though, the president spoke to American troops at Yokota Air Base. He didn't mention North Korea by name, nor the nuclear threat that it poses, but his remarks were clear.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one, no dictator, no regime, and no nation, should underestimate ever American resolve. Every once in a while in the past, they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them, was it? It was not pleasant.

We will never yield, never waver and never falter in defense of our people, our freedom and our great American flag.


HOWELL: Let's go live to Tokyo for the latest.

Alexandra Field following the story.

Alexandra, good to have you with us this hour. What more can you tell us about the president's message?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, George, from the moment the president touched down on the first leg of this tour through Asia, it was important for him clearly to get out the purpose of this trip, which will be to exact further cooperation from key partners in the region when it comes to countering that mounting threat from North Korea.

And, no, he did not need to say North Korea to the assembled troops whom he addressed to make his message clear, in order to send another warning to the regime. He said, no regime, no dictator should underestimate the resolve of the United States.

This will be a trip that is about trade, according to President Trump, but it is certainly about how to deal with North Korea and working with those key partners. Look, this administration has at times been disparaging of China, saying they have not fully used their economic leverage over North Korea in order to reign in that rogue regime. They have also heaped some praise on China recently for going further in upholding the latest rounds of sanctions against North Korea.

This is also the administration that has shown its solidarity with the people of South Korea, reaffirm the importance of that alliance, but also criticized the leadership there for what the president once termed as appeasement.

So, his closest ally in the region, especially when it comes to countering this threat from North Korea is the one that he finds right here in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Trump administration continues to say that the policy is to enact and exact diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea, but we know that this is a president who also likes to remind the world that the United States has a military option that it could use, should it need to use that option. He has a close ally in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was recently re- elected with a strong show of support from the people here in Japan.

These are two leaders who believe that Japan must continue to be able to expand its military's ability to protect and defend the people of Japan. And the threat from North Korea has literally hit close to home in recent weeks and months. It was this year, of course, that North Korea sent two missiles flying over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

So, look, this was a well choreographed decision to start this trip here in Japan, where the president will have these talks over the next few days, with his ally, Prime Minister Abe. They'll be talking about how to counter the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, nuclear threat from North Korea, the cyber threats that we are increasingly seeing from North Korea and developing the strategy for how to do that. This political partnership that is forged between these two leaders, of course, is the underpinnings of what's really developed as a close personal friendship. These are two men who had some 16 phone calls since President Trump took office. You saw the prime minister travel to the United States to visit

President Trump twice, and now, of course, significant the President Trump is making first stop in his Asia tour right here in Japan. He kicked it off with a round of golf with Prime Minister Abe -- George.

[04:05:01] HOWELL: Alexandra Field reporting live for us in Tokyo -- thank you so much for that.

Now, let's get some context on the significant of this trip with Mike Chinoy. Mike, a senior fellow with U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California, also the author of "Meltdown: The Inside Story of North Korean Nuclear Crisis". And we also add that Mike spent many years as an international correspondent for CNN.

Always a pleasure to have you here on this network, Mike.

Let's talk a bit about this. We just heard from Alexandra a moment ago in the reporting, Shinzo Abe, won another term clearly, a close ally of President Trump. So, the question, how is President Trump perceived there in Japan?

MIKE CHINOY, SENIOR FELLOW, U.S.-CHINA INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: I think the Japanese government and Prime Minister Abe made a conscious decision after President Trump took office that they were going to do everything they could to cultivate as warm a relationship with the new president as possible. That being said, the things that have raised questions about President Trump in many parts of the world, I think, still resonate and still generate some concern among the Japanese, his proclivity for fiery rhetoric, the policy flips and all the other controversies.

But Abe has gone out of his way to try to forge a personal relationship because I think this is a very conscious calculation. It's not just warm and fuzzy vibes here, that the Japanese can see their own interests better advanced if Abe has a really warm relationship with the American president, rather than a more standoffish one.

HOWELL: Let's talk a bit more about that relationship between these two leaders. What is it that connects them really, beyond the obvious alliance against North Korea, what is the net positive for Japan with close relationship, connection to President Trump?

CHINOY: Well, there are very important economic ties and also, the U.S. has a formal treaty alliance to support Japan, American military bases in Japan. Abe has been a strong proponent of strengthening the Japanese military. And so, he has been to some degree pleased to see President Trump taking such a harsh line on North Korea because this -- with tensions rising in the region and concern about North Korea growing, it gives him an excuse or more justification to try and push forward the policies to strengthen Japan's own military position.

Also, the Japanese are in this complicated relationship with China because they're both very close economic partners, but to some degree strategic rivals. And in that setting, it's important for Japan to maintain and strengthen the alliance with the U.S. and Abe has clearly calculated that a close personal relationship with President Trump is one way to do that.

HOWELL: From President Trump's frustration regarding trade issues throughout the region to his desire to obviously garner deeper support on the front of North Korea, there have been a mixed messages to say the least. How are regional leaders looking to get clarity given this trip?

CHINOY: I think there is a tremendous desire in the region for some clarity on the part of the United States. The message is from the Trump administration on North Korea in particular have been very, very mixed. You have the president's very tough rhetoric, the belittling, the personal insults, targeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, calling him rocket man, the threats to destroy North Korea made in his speech at the United Nations.

And you also have the national security adviser McMaster talking about how deterrence doesn't work with North Korea, and implying therefore that there's no real room for negotiations.

The same time, you have Secretary of State Tillerson repeatedly indicating an interest in trying to find a diplomatic way out, and that's a view that's been echoed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

So, I think in the region, leaders are going to be very eager to try and get from this trip some better sense of what where Trump is trying to go, whether all the threats mean that there really is a serious risk the U.S. may take preemptive military action, whether that's just bluster designed to exert pressure and if so, where if at all is there any room for diplomacy to try and find an exit ramp to the North Korean nuclear issue.

HOWELL: One last question, so Japan certainly friendly territory for President Trump, but moving forward to South Korea, moving on to China, do you expect this president to see a bit more scrutiny with regards to getting clarity on these issues?

CHINOY: Well, there is no question that with Prime Minister Abe, the personal vibes and overall relationship are particularly warm. It won't be the same in South Korea, the U.S. South Korea alliance is absolutely crucial, but the South Korean President Moon Jae-in has long been a proponent of engagement, dialogue, negotiations with North Korea. He's been visibly uncomfortable having been pushed by the circumstances into taking a tougher line, partly in response to North Korean behavior and partly also because he doesn't want to have an open breach with President Trump.

[04:10:11] The South Koreans are very sensitive comparing their own relationship with the U.S. with the U.S. relationship with Japan and it will not have gone unnoticed in Seoul that President Trump is spending 48 hours in Japan, but only 24 hours in South Korea, and that there isn't the same kind of personal warmth. I think the South Korean president is going to try while reaffirming the importance of the alliance to make clear to President Trump that South Korea will want and insist upon a say in any American decision to take military action because the South Koreans know that they will be in the front line if any kind of armed conflict erupts. HOWELL: Mike Chinoy, live for us in Hong Kong, thank you so much for

the perspective this day.

The U.S. president and the Japanese prime minister shared a moment that they showcased a bromance, you could call it, their close ties together. Take a look, when Mr. Trump landed, Mr. Abe surprised him with a customized baseball hat. How about that?

White caps gold lettering that say "Donald and Shinzo make alliance even greater". It is an obvious nod to Mr. Trump's campaign slogan, make America great again. The two leaders signed a few hats before hitting the greens for a round of golf.

Looking now beyond Japan, here are some of the other stops on what will be the longest trip in Asia for a U.S. president since 1992. Up next, Mr. Trump heads to South Korea. He is expected to have bilateral and expanded meetings there. Then, it's off to China and Beijing. Mr. Trump will tour the Forbidden City with Xi Jinping, with meetings scheduled for the next day.

He then heads to Vietnam for the APEC Summit events and makes his final stop in Manila for ASEAN meetings in the East Asia summit.

Mr. Trump told reporters that he believes that he will also meet with the leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, during his trip. The White House says North Korea will be the primary topic of that conversation. That meeting likely to happen at the APEC Summit in Vietnam. This, of course, comes as the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election heats up back here in the United States.

CNN's Jim Acosta has more now on the potential impact of a meeting between these two world leaders.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When you finally see President Trump and Vladimir Putin come face to face, that image is going to reverberate around the world because obviously these are two men who, you know, you don't hear president Trump talking about Vladimir Putin a great deal. One of the things that -- one of the criticisms of President Trump that's come up time and again is that he just doesn't criticize Vladimir Putin very much and that's always been treated as somewhat of a curiosity ever since Donald Trump was a candidate for president and now that he's been in office.

And because of the Russian investigation that is really ramping up back in Washington, this issue of Russia is going to be hanging over this president throughout this foreign trip and just to see those two leaders together I think is going to make a great deal of news and just be fascinating to watch because of that undercurrent that is really just a part of this administration day in and day out.


HOWELL: Jim Acosta in Tokyo. And, of course, we will continue to follow the president's trip throughout Asia. Still ahead, it could be another step in a reformation of Saudi

Arabia. The king has begun a crackdown on corruption starting at the very top. Details coming up.

Plus, the relative stability of Lebanon is at risk after its prime minister surprisingly calls it quits. Ahead, why experts are pointing to the -- pointing the finger at Iran and Saudi Arabia.


[04:17:40] HOWELL: In Yemen, security officials say a suicide bomber attacked a government's security headquarters. This happened in Aden and the attack sparked clashes between security forces and suspected terrorists. Officials say the attacker ran the vehicle rigged with explosives into the entrance gate of the headquarters. It's still unclear how many people died as a result of the blast.

Since that attack happened, less than a day after, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Saudi Arabia's capital city. The Saudi defense system intercepted the missile near the airport in Riyadh. No one was injured, but it did prompt a Saudi air strike on Sana'a in Yemen.

A lot to talk about here. And with us this hour, John Defterios on the story. John is our emerging markets editor and has covered Saudi Arabia for many years, live for us in Abu Dhabi.

John, good to have you with us. In this conflict, this ongoing conflict, is there a sense now that Saudi Arabia could be targeted more? Are the Houthis gaining sophistication and abilities here to strike Saudi Arabia?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN MONEY EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: I think less on sophistication, although there is some dispute, George, about the backing from Tehran and whether they're providing the missile technology that we saw launched against Riyadh. It was an audacious attempt, of course, to go after the Saudi capital. So, yes, indeed, it takes this conflict into a new realm.

That missile attack was intercepted by a patriot missile. This was a disputed by Yemeni officials overnight, but there was no casualties, and no real damage, although debris was spread east of the King Khalid International Airport. It did indeed raise some alarm.

I think we have to put it in the broader context of what's taking place in this proxy war with Yemen, with backing of Tehran. We have Saudi Arabia leading a coalition which has the UAE involved. The crown prince, since he took over in that position last spring, doubled down on the effort here to mark a line in the sand and also restrict the movements of Iran. That's the goal here, whether it's in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

We see the resignation of Saad Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon, overnight. They are directly related. He's worried about his life and because the influence of Iran on Lebanese affairs as well.

And the bigger context of the crown prince, of course, he's 32 years old.

[04:20:01] He wants to take a very tough line against Iran. He's choosing the battlefield of Yemen, which has become a humanitarian crisis. But instead of backing down, he's pushing ahead.

We had an off the record briefing with him 10 days ago at a major investment summit in Riyadh and he made it very clear in that meeting and with other officials that I'm talking to in Riyadh that they don't intend to back off the pedal, but in fact push ahead with this proxy war just becoming quite nasty and something that escalated overnight with no fewer than 20 attacks, rocket attacks on Sana'a as a result of that attempt in Riyadh.

HOWELL: John, I'll ask you to stand by for a moment. There is another story we'd like your input on that we're following out of Saudi Arabia, regarding the anti-corruption committee that King Solomon has created. This committee, it's already cost several top ministers their jobs. CNN has learned multiple princes, ministers and former ministers have been detained.

So, John, this committee created to target corruption, but does it in effect go beyond that? Could this be a means to consolidate power as well?

DEFTERIOS: I think that's part of the equation, George. Many eyebrows were raised because the anti-corruption committee that he formulated over the weekend came down like a hammer overnight. You mention the outlines of it, we're looking at the least 11 princes, the most prominent is Prince Miteb, who is the head of the National Guard and had a ministerial ranking. We had four sitting ministers overall. Better than a dozen former ministers and extremely prominent business men, which I'll get to in a moment.

But I think we should roll back the clock when the crown prince took that position, moving from deputy crown prince into crown prince's position. He signaled this back in May, that he wanted to tackle it, and it is six months into the job and he's doing so. Let's take a listen.


CROWN PRINCE MOHAMMAD BIN SALMAN, SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): I assure you no one involved in a corruption case will be spared, no matter if he is a prince or a minister, with enough evidence anyone will be held accountable.


DEFTERIOS: Muhammad Bin Salman, the crown prince.

Now to the list here, George, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is a name being circulated widely. He's the chairman of Kingdom Holdings. We probably know him internationally as a man worth better than $20 billion. An investor in Apple, investor in Twitter, an investor of News Corp, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, Citigroup, scores of others. His stock is down in trading on Sunday in Riyadh by better than 10 percent.

Bakr bin Laden, this is the older brother of Osama bin Laden, running a huge construction group in Saudi Group. Together with Prince Alwaleed, they're building the Kingdom Tower, to be the tallest in the world, better than one kilometer high. Some question marks, of course, raised about financing in the future.

Another prominent name for the international business community, al Assaf, is a former minister of finance, and minister of state, somebody who took Sunday area in the G20 a few years back and respected within the IMF World Bank community, the former minister of investment, another big trading family in Saudi Arabia. Even an elderly billionaire, Salih al Kamel (ph) that people don't know outside the Middle East, but very prominent into Saudi Arabia.

So, I will break this down into four categories which I think sums up to your point here, George. First and first foremost, the vision of 2030 to overhaul the economy and move beyond oil, perhaps, root out construction, modernize economy, getting women to drive is a big move in June 2018, but also a different interpretation of Islam, the corruption probe, but to the last point that you were making, an ability to consolidate power.

And I think underlining this is targeting those related to either directly by blood but also in the business community to King Abdullah who passed in 2015. This is a tribal society. And consolidating power is all part of the bill when we see a change at the top. King Salman and his crown prince son, 32-year-old Muhammad Bin Salman, taking bold moves over the weekend.

HOWELL: And as he said in that clip you played a moment ago, no one will be spared from this.

John Defterios live for us in Abu Dhabi, thank you so much for the reporting today.

Back here in the United States, the New York marathon is set to start in the coming hours and the city is already boosting its security in order to be ready. Police are sending out helicopter patrols, they're sending out snipers, and bomb sniffing dogs. They'll also line the streets with blocking trucks. This to protect against vehicle attacks.

The marathon is set to go ahead just days after a terrorist plowed a truck into pedestrians in Manhattan. That attack killing eight people, injuring dozens of others. The governor of the state says they are not taking any chances.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: There will be two or three times as many people deployed as you heard from the commissioner. You'll have thousands of officers on duty this weekend. But I want to stress this is just a precautionary measure.

[04:25:04] We have no information that points to any issues. This is just a precautionary measure given the recent events.


HOWELL: ISIS has claimed the suspect in the New York City attack is a soldier of the caliphate. We're learning much more about the 29-year- old Uzbek national who authorities say drove a pickup truck on a mile long killing spree.

CNN's Brian Todd explains how the lone wolf terror suspect might have become radicalized.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before he slaughtered eight people and got out of his rented truck yelling "Allahu Akbar", Sayfullo Saipov was not on any terror watch list, officials say and now the direct subject of any New York police of FBI investigations. But they say Saipov was likely connected to individuals who were the subjects of investigations. And they offer another clue.

CUOMO: He was associated with ISIS and he was radicalized domestically.

TODD: Officials say Saipov lived in Ohio, Florida, and Paterson, New Jersey. They aren't yet saying how or when Saipov was radicalized in the U.S.

(on camera): What's your best take on how he was radicalized?

LORENZO VIDINO, PROGRAM ON EXTREMISM, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: In many cases, it's a combination of online and offline. People start hanging out with like minded individuals, people who embrace ISIS ideology, and maybe go online to reinforce their nascent jihadist views. Many cases, people radicalize because they have some personal issues, whether it could be family problems or job problems.

TODD (voice-over): Expert Lorenzo Vidino says the process of becoming radicalized means spending a lot of time online.

VIDINO: Now it is apps like Telegram, like others, very easy to download on your phone. They're mostly encrypted and you can get all sorts of information, you can interact with other people, you can reinforce your ideological commitment to ISIS, you can get operational instructions.

TODD: And officials believe Saipov had close familiarity with operational instructions.

JOHN MILLER, DEPUTY NEW YHORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: He appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.

TODD: One of the most popular instruction manuals Saipov might have read online, this one, in the ISIS magazine "Rumiyah" last year. It discusses how to use rental trucks to attack crowds and inflict maximum casualties. Quote: Vehicles are like knives, it says. And it urges attackers to announce their allegiance to the terror group.

Quote: An example of such would be simply writing on dozens of sheets of paper, the Islamic State will remain.

Very similar to a note officials say Saipov left in his vehicle.

MILLER: The gist of the note was, the Islamic state would endure forever.

TODD: For ISIS, experts say lone wolves offer an easier way to strike at soft targets without the extensive planning and skill used in attacks like Paris.

NADA BARKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: It doesn't have multiple pieces. You're not dealing with multiple cells or multiple people that you have to coordinate with. You just have to make sure your target is one that is penetrable.

TODD (on camera): A key question now, how can authorities stop people from becoming radicalized? Terrorism experts say that's incredibly difficult. It requires police and intelligence services to get into communities, to establish networks of families and neighborhood leaders to watch for signs of young people becoming radicalized and get to them before they are.

But most law enforcement agencies, experts say, simply don't have the resources to move that far into communities.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Brian Todd, thanks for the reporting.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, uncertainty in Lebanon. That nation's prime minister has quit. Next, why his surprise move could fuel sectarian tensions there?

CNN live from Atlanta, Georgia, this hour, broadcasting on CNN USA here in the states and CNN International worldwide. Stay with us.


[04:32:24] HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us.

I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The U.S. President Donald Trump is now in Japan, the first stop on a nearly two week long tour of Asia. Soon after his arrival, Mr. Trump went to a country club near Tokyo. He had lunch and played golf with the Japanese prime minister. The president next travels to South Korea. King Salman has created an anti-corruption committee. It's already

cost several top ministers their jobs. CNN also learning multiple princes, ministers and former ministers have been detained.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a missile aimed at the airport in Riyadh. The Saudi Defense Ministry blames Houthi rebels in Yemen for the attack on Saturday, which it says did not injure anyone. In response, Saudi Arabia launched an airstrike on Sana'a, which is Yemen's capital.

Lebanon is a symbol of relative stability in the Middle East, but now, that country is facing a political vacuum which could fuel sectarian tensions. The prime minister has resigned, saying he now fears for his life. He's Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician.

CNN's Gul Tuysuz has more now from Turkey.


GUL TUYSUZ, CNN PRODUCER: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announcing his resignation in a forceful speech that he issued from Saudi Arabia. And in that speech, he laid the blame for disunity, not just in his country of Lebanon, but across the region, on Iran, and Iranian backed forces, specifically Hezbollah, saying that they have been having a detrimental effect on Lebanon, as well as other countries in the Middle East, particularly Arab countries.

Take a listen to what he said.

SAAD HARRIRI, FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I want to say to Iran and its followers that they're losing in their interference in the affairs of the Arab world. Our nation will rise up as it did in the past and cut the hands that wickedly extend into it.

TUYSUZ: Hariri coming out and saying that Iran will pay a price for its meddling in Arab affairs and internal affairs of Lebanon as well. Iranian officials coming out just a couple of hours later saying that the allegations put forth by Hariri are unfounded and baseless.

All of this just goes to show you how volatile the region is politically as Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to engage in power plays across the region.

Gul Tuysuz, CNN, Istanbul.


HOWELL: Certainly, a lot happening in the region that we'll continue to follow.

Still ahead here, two former U.S. presidents with some choice words about the current commander in chief.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:38:15] HOWELL: A lot of stories following out of the Middle East. The prime minister of Lebanon resigning, leaving a political vacuum in that nation, also Saudi Arabia shooting down a missile attack from Yemen.

Let's now bring in Fawaz Gerges, the chair of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics, also the author of "ISIS: A History" live in our London newsroom this hour.

It's good to have you with us, Fawaz.

The former prime minister pointing to Iran and Hezbollah as its proxy in Lebanon, fueling greater instability, he says, to the point where he could no longer lead. What do you make of this?

FAWAZ GERGES, CHAIR, MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, I mean, I think, George, now Lebanon is in the eye of the storm. The resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri is a political earthquake. Keep in mind, that Saad Hariri played a pivotal role in the formation of government at the end of '16, 2016.

Lebanon was not without -- was without a government for two years, before Saad Hariri came to Lebanon and reached basically kind of reconciliation with the other political rivals in Lebanon. He is a moderate political nationalist. He basically, my take on it is that he has reached the end of his patience. The political costs for Saad Hariri outweighed any benefits from staying in the government and that's why he resigned. The political situation and the social situation in Lebanon now is extremely, extremely serious.

HOWELL: With Yemen launching a missile into Saudi Arabia, is there a concern now that Saudi Arabia could be targeted with greater precision now?

[04:40:03] GERGES: You know, what we have -- what we have witnessed, George, in the past few weeks is that the Houthi movement that controls the government in Sana'a in Yemen has been firing more and more missiles on Saudi Arabia. This is the first ballistic missiles that almost reached the capital of Saudi Arabia, almost 600 kilometers.

So, yes, there is a major escalation. And this will have tremendous implications on the situation in Yemen itself because Saudi Arabia now feels extremely the urge to retaliate against the Houthi movement that controls the government in Sana'a.

HOWELL: And what we're seeing again is that proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to heat up essentially.

GERGES: I think you're absolutely correct. We are seeing now the reverberations of geostrategic rivalries throughout the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Lebanon.

What Saudi Arabia is trying to do, George, is to counterbalance the spread of Iranian influence in the region. Saudi Arabia has become more muscular. It has become more active. It's leading from the front as opposed from the behind.

Whether you talk about Lebanon or Iraq or Yemen, my take on it is that the next few months are going to be extremely dangerous throughout the region because the geostrategic rivalry is intensifying and what has happened in Lebanon and the past 48 hours tells me that we're going to see more tensions, not only in Syria and Iraq, but even in Lebanon and other places as well.

I mean, I think the end of ISIS, the so-called Islamic State does not really mean the end of geostrategic struggles on the contrary. The dismantling of the physical caliphate will intensify the struggles between the pro-Iranian camp led by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and, of course, Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region including the United States.

HOWELL: Fawaz, I also want to ask you about the situation in Saudi Arabia, the anti-corruption committee that King Salman has created. As we reported a moment ago, several princes, ministers, former ministers have been detained.

A two-part question here. Is this mainly about cracking down on corruption and secondly, is there a sense that this is a move to consolidate power?

GERGES: I think these two questions, George, are interrelated to each other. What we are seeing in Saudi Arabia, my own take, we are seeing the birth of a new order. The crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, is not only consolidating his power. But also laying out his vision for the kingdom and putting his vision into practice.

So, many people in the past two or three years really have underestimated the ability of the crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, not only to consolidate his power, but to structure state and the economy. And everything that's happening in the past, you know, year or so, in Saudi Arabia tells me that Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince, is really putting his basically ideas into practice and cracking down not only against opposition figures, oppositional figures in the kingdom, but basically trying to prevent as he said a few days ago the bleeding of the economy, and also the migration of resources from Saudi Arabia into other countries.

The question is now really Saudi Arabia is in transition, is undergoing a major, major transition. It will take a while for this new order to basically become very established and very clear.

HOWELL: Fawaz Gerges, we always appreciate your perspective, live for us in our London bureau. Thank you.

GERGES: Thank you.

HOWELL: For former presidents, it is a golden rule, maintaining a cold of silence when it comes to your successors. But in a brand-new book, both former Presidents Bush are letting loose about the U.S. president Donald Trump and the party that he now leads.

CNN's special correspondent Jamie Gangel sat down with the author of "The Last Republicans" for this exclusive interview.


JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Former President Bush 43 told you when Trump entered the race, he thought --

MARK UPDEGROVE, AUTHOR: He thought, interesting, won't last.

GANGEL: Won't last?

UPDEGROVE: Won't last.

But when Trump started to rise, I think he became concerned, because he saw this populism of Donald Trump getting in the way of America's position in the world.

GANGEL: He gave you rare insight though into his criticism of Donald Trump.

[04:45:00] What did he tell you?

UPDEGROVE: One of the things he said was that one of the hallmarks of great leadership is humility. So, when Donald Trump said, I am my own adviser, Bush thought, and this is a quote, wow, this guy doesn't know what it means to be president.

GANGEL: What was his tone when he talked to you about Trump?

UPDEGROVE: I think it was restrained. The Bushes are very restrained. And I also think that they realize, they have a role to play as former presidents. And they have to be restrained. They have to be dignified.

GANGEL: He weighed his words?

UPDEGROVE: I think he did, yes.

GANGEL: President Bush 41 was a bit blunter. He said that he thought Donald Trump had, quote, "a certain ego," and then he told you point blank?

UPDEGROVE: He's a blow hard.


UPDEGROVE: He's a blow hard. And he said, I don't like him. Plain and simple. And I'm not excited about him being a leader, was his quote.

And if you look at the Bush family, it makes perfect sense. Donald Trump is everything that the Bush family is not. George Bush grew up thinking about the greater good.

Donald Trump, I think, is manifestly narcissistic. It's part of his brand. And that brand is the antithesis of the Bush brand.

GANGEL: How do you think these two men feel that Donald Trump is now the standard bearer of the Republican Party?

UPDEGROVE: I think it's pretty clear if you look at their records and their views politically that -- I'm going to quote George H.W. Bush -- they're not excited about Donald Trump being our leader. That's not -- that's not a leap of faith. That's pretty clear.

I think the most clear demonstration we get of that recently is Charlottesville. The Bushes came out with a joint tweet which they had never done in the past, condemning bigotry and anti-Semitism and all the things on display in Charlottesville among the white supremacists. That was a clear betrayal of American values and the Bushes came out with that joint statement. I think that spoke resoundingly about the void of leadership they were seeing from the White House.

GANGEL: There are a lot of quotes from the Bushes that are going to make news in this book. Bush 43 talks about whether Vice President Dick Cheney had played an outsized role in his presidency, something that gets talked about all the time. Was Dick Cheney too powerful?

And Bush 43 told you?

UPDEGROVE: Well, he was talking about the neo conservatives in general and specifically about Cheney and Rumsfeld. And he said, and I quote, Cheney and Rumsfeld never made one (EXPLETIVE DELETED) decision.

GANGEL: That's the quote?

UPDEGROVE: That's the quote.

I understand his frustration because at the time, there was the perception that Dick Cheney was the acting president. But in fact, George W. Bush had had a lifetime of making bold decisions. He had this preternatural belief in himself as a leader.

And if you talk to those around him, they have confidence in his leadership. And so, this notion that Cheney was making the decisions is ludicrous.

GANGEL: When you started to write this book, let me guess, the title was not "The Last Republicans"?

UPDEGROVE: When I set out to write this in 2013, you know, it was a very different time. But "The Last Republicans" became the right title during what has become the Trump years.

GANGEL: Because?

UPDEGROVE: Well, you know, George W. Bush himself said in 2016 privately and to me, you know, I fear that I'll be last Republican president.

GANGEL: He confirmed that to you?

UPDEGROVE: He confirmed that to me. And it wasn't just about Hillary Clinton becoming president. It was because Donald Trump represented everything that the Bushes abhorred.


HOWELL: Our thanks to Jamie Gangel for that interview.

In response to the comments, a White House official told CNN the following: If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had. And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.

Still ahead, thousands of runners are getting ready for the New York marathon. But rain could dampen some of the enthusiasm. A live look at New York City, the forecast ahead.


[04:53:33] HOWELL: A live look at New York City. In the next few hours, obviously, people will wake up to a cloudy morning. And 50,000 runners, some 50,000 will take to the streets for the New York marathon.

Let's bring in meteorologist Ivan Cabrera to tell us what will it be like? Will they get wet out there? Or --

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, 50,000 and 2.5 million wanting to know exactly what's going to happen as well as they head out there and enjoy themselves.

It is raining right now, just a few showers, but I think during the race we'll be okay. Not going to be the wettest. It's not going to be the coldest. And not going to be the warmest here either with temperatures this morning in the 50s.

I think will remain there for a few hours before we begin to warm things up. I've gone through the annals of the New York City marathons, which began in the 1970s. So, this is the 47th year and the warmest temperature I could find, at 4:00, which is about when all the runners get to the finish line, not the elite runners, but the rest of us here, 79 degrees in 1979. And the coldest, you imagine that, and there was wind chill as well, 39 degrees at 4:00, another setback in 1995.

And then the wettest, half an inch of rainfall feel just one hour in the middle of the race. That was a deluge back in 1997. So, again, we're not going to get any of this, but we do have some showers and it has been moderately raining through the overnight hours. I just think we'll get rid of most of the rain here before the race starts.

So, we'll be in great shape, not going to be the sunniest of days. We got an east wind and that means the moisture is going to get pulled off the water, so it will be a murky day. But I think the kind of rain that would mess up the race or bother the runners or spectators for that matter will be out of here as you can see there on radar now as it continues pulling off to the north and east.

But again, it will be that cool day with temperatures in the 50s. We have been to the 70s the last couple of days, but at this point done.

Here is our future cast, hour by hour. The wheelchair races I believe get started a little after 8:00. And that it will be done with moderate rain at that point. In fact, showers continue to push in and the runners get going. After 9:00, the elite runners arriving sometime around 11:00 or they did last year anyway, about two, a little over two hours.

And you see the trend here as we warm things up a little bit. We'll begin to dry things out. Wall of water well to the west, that's not going to get there anytime through the day on Sunday. So, we'll be in great shape.

So, forecast as we head to 8:00, we'll have temperatures holding in the 50s, which is pretty much where we are now and then we'll get back to the upper 50s and so that by 4:00, we'll have temperatures at 60 degrees.

If you're curious about the routes, they're going to be taking, we head to Staten Island, make our way through Brooklyn, heading up through Queens and make a left over the East River, make our way through Manhattan and then we'll make a quick stop there across the north through the Bronx and right back down, right through Central Park, and that will be right around, again, 11:00 for the elite runners and around 4:00 for everybody else.

And if George and I were running, probably sometime on Monday, I think would be the deal here. But it should be a nice race just by a little rain through the early part.

HOWELL: That's good news. Ivan, thank you.


HOWELL: And thank you so much for being with us this hour. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The news continues here on CNN right after the break.