MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: And breaking tonight, is Saudi Arabia about to flip the script and tell us what happened to this missing journalist who walked into the embassy in Turkey, and has not been seen since.
Good evening, everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum. This story is changing by the hour, and it is putting one of the United States most crucial relationships to the test. With grainy surveillance video fueling rumors that this hit squad entered the country carrying suitcases.
And then, at some point during the day according to reports, purchased additional luggage late in the day. Were those pieces used to remove the body of Jamal Khashoggi in hopes that no one would find out?
Regardless of what happened, today, the Saudi King was on the phone with President Trump. He said his family had nothing to do with it. Here's the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I can only tell you that his denial to me is just one very — you know, relatively best phone call, probably, lasted 20 minutes. His denial to me could not have been stronger that he had no knowledge —
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: But breaking tonight, this story is now evolving again in a way that quite simply strains credulity. With the Saudis floating a new narrative that appears to protect both sides perhaps, from a potentially catastrophic fallout.
Investigative journalist Judith Miller, and General Jack Keane join me in moments. But first, Kristin Fisher, with the backstory tonight from the White House. Hi, Kristin.
KRISTIN FISHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Martha. Well, tonight, the White House is monitoring these reports that Saudi Arabia may be preparing to admit that they accidentally killed Khashoggi. That it was some kind of interrogation gone wrong.
Now, President Trump was briefed about it, on board Air Force One and he gave us his first reaction to these emerging reports while on the ground in Georgia just about two hours ago. Watch this.
TRUMP: I heard that reporter but nobody knows if it's an official report. So far, it's just the rumor — the rumor of report coming yet.
FISHER: Now, earlier today President Trump said he spoke on the phone for about 20minutes with the Saudi King, and that his denial of any involvement in Khashoggi's death could not have been stronger. The president also floated an alternative explanation for what may have happened to the Saudi journalists. Watch this.
TRUMP: It sounded to me like maybe this could have been rogue killers, who knows? We're going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon.
FISHER: Now, if Saudi Arabia does turn out to be responsible for Khashoggi's death, President Trump promised a severe punishment on "60 Minutes" last night. That prompted a swift response from some Saudi officials who warned that oil could hit $200 a barrel if the U.S. takes action.
But, even if President Trump does not act, Congress almost certainly will. Here's Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If in fact, he was lured into a diplomatic facility, murdered, his body chopped up, and that they sent a group of people down there to carry this out, that would be an outrage, it would be an atrocity, and there would be a swift response certainly from Congress.
FISHER: President Trump is now dispatching his top diplomat to investigate. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to Saudi Arabia and possibly Turkey to find out firsthand what happened.
Now the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin may also be heading that way as well for a pre-planned investment Congress in Riyadh. But just today, several top American companies and CEOs have pulled out, and there are mounting calls for the Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin to pull out, as well.
But tonight, Martha, President Trump said they are just going to wait and see. They want to get a bit more information before they decide whether or not Steve Mnuchin is going to pull out of that conference as well. Martha.
MACCALLUM: We will watching that decision very closely. Kristin, thank you very much. So, on this show days ago, my next guest made this prediction about Khashoggi's disappearance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDITH MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: When a man says to his fiancée, "Here is my cell phone I'm going into an embassy, a consulate that may be problematic for me. If I don't come out, call the president of Turkey's office, because something bad has happened." At that point when he didn't emerge, I just had a very bad feeling and I figured that's what had happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: So, as all of this brand-new information comes out tonight, Judith Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, and Fox News contributor, joins me now. Judith, you know, we said in the intro that this strains credulity. And they have — they have denied this up and down. Saying, "Oh, that's not exactly — he left the back door, he went out, he escaped earlier in the day." I mean, how do they look in the mirror and with this new story?
MILLER: Well, I think they're waiting to see whether or not this story has legs. Whether or not anyone in Washington, or Riyadh, or any capital in the world believes this story. Because the United States and Saudi Arabia, officials concerned about the relationship are both trying to find a way out of what is undoubtedly a huge diplomatic embarrassment. A mess, and something that could lead to a severe strain in one of our most important allies.
So, yes, they are searching for any possible explanation, but this is impossible.
MACCALLUM: So, let's look at — so, is it — is it impossible? I mean, is it possible that the story that they're telling could be truthful?
MILLER: It could be a one percent, two percent chance. But it contradicts everything that they've said so far, as you pointed out, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who spoke to Bloomberg News and said, "No, no, we have — we have information that Jamal Khashoggi left the embassy — that he left the consulate. He wasn't there."
So, now they have to reverse that story. They have to retract that story and do this rogue killer story. What interests me is the fact that Donald Trump was the first one to kind of float the rogue killer idea right after he talked to King Salman. So, clearly, they are both trying to find some story that would possibly explain what happened to Jamal Khashoggi inside that consulate in Istanbul.
MACCALLUM: I mean — you know, in terms of the hit team theory, and the planes clearly arrived from Saudi Arabia to Istanbul, 15 people got off. We know that that's been documented in the reporting. They had suitcases, there's another report that says in the middle of all of this they went out and bought, and got more luggage, more bags.
Now, you know, if that turns out to be true, your mind goes to a lot of places about what they may have been trying to remove from this embassy. But if you're just interrogating someone with the intention of bringing them back to Saudi Arabia, why would you need 15 people?
MILLER: Well, that's a very good question. And why would you need a forensics expert to go along with the team at the beginning? I mean, usually, forensic people look at dead bodies, not living ones.
But, look it could be because the Saudis are not known for their supreme competence but this was an interrogation session that went south, that went bad. That somebody overdosed him, that he died, and the Saudis had to scramble. That is possible.
MACCALLUM: It could be. Yes. Give everybody a little bit bigger picture of who he is and why Mohammad bin Salman who is — you know, said to be a reformer, he has done some good things.
MILLER: Yes, he has.
MACCALLUM: Women can drive now in Saudi Arabia. There are new freedoms that he has promised. And he says, he's trying to clean up the corruption from the government there and move the country forward. Why would he want this guy out of the picture?
MILLER: Well, this man, Jamal Khashoggi was not just a journalist. He was a political activist, and he spoke to many, many Saudis. He had a million — over 1.7 million Twitter followers. He was someone who had decided that democracy was something he thought he ought to support.
Look, Jamal had long-standing ties to the Muslim Brotherhood was it — which is at odds with the Saudi Wahhabi regime. They are both Islamist, they are both very, very conservative, but they despise each other.
And perhaps, MBS as the crown prince is known, Mohammad bin Salman was threatened, felt threatened by this man with a platform in Washington and the Washington Post behind him. Maybe he decided the time had come to silence him.
And he has done other rash things that have sometimes led his friends and supporters in the CIA and the Pentagon to roll their eyebrows and say, "Boy, maybe we made a mistake. Maybe a 33-year-old young man who buys lots of expensive things himself and then arrests 200 wealthy Saudis to basically take their money away in the Ritz-Carlton.
Maybe this is not the guy who should be running Saudi Arabia, but it's too late for that because Donald Trump has really anchored his Middle Eastern policy and his Arab policy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So, it's a mess.
MACCALLUM: Yes, fascinating. Fascinating. Judith, thank you very much. Good to have you here tonight.
MILLER: Thank you, thank you.