Return to Transcripts main page


Explosive Response from Brennan after Trump Revokes Security Clearance; Aretha Franklin Sings at Couple's Wedding; Remembering Aretha Franklin, Her Talent and Legacy. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:47] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR; Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Moments ago, President Trump declined to answer questions on why he revoked the security clearance of former CIA Chief John Brennan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go! Let's go! Make your way out! We're finished! We're finished! Let's go.


BALDWIN: Well, a new report reveals it had to do with the Russia investigation. This coming from the president himself. The "Wall Street Journal" asked him about his move against Brennan and these nine others, whose clearances are now under review, and the president said this, quoting him: "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham and these people led it, so I think it's something that had to be done."

Brennan has fired back in this column in the "New York Times" today, accusing the president of silencing anyone who dares to challenge him. And Brennan says the president's assertions that there was no collusion with Russia are, his word, "hogwash."

With me now, Peter Nicholas, the "Wall Street Journal" reporter who interviewed President Trump.

Peter, good to see you.


BALDWIN: So on this real headline out of this whole interview you had, the president is connecting that he's revoking Brennan's security clearance with the special counsel/Russia investigation. So if I'm understanding this correctly, it is Trump who feels that Brennan is also part of the blame here for this investigation in the first place?

NICHOLAS: Well, yes, he mentioned Brennan and also mentioned Peter Strzok, the former FBI agent, and also Andrew McCabe, of the FBI. And he basically said they, and others, led this investigation. He believes it's a witch hunt and a sham. He discussed that with us. And he said, made clear that when he was, is revoking or evaluating his security clearances, he has had the Russia investigation in mind. So he did draw that connection. And to say that one -- you know, these are -- he's thinking about these in the same context.

BALDWIN: Doesn't this strike you as similar to that Lester Holt/NBC/President Trump interview when they were talking about his firing of James Comey and he was blaming that Russia thing, insert name Brennan here?

NICHOLAS: It does have echoes of that moment, too, where the staff is saying one thing about these security clearances, saying these people really can't be trusted or these people have forfeited the right to have these valuable security clearances. And then the president does say that the Russia investigation is in the back of his mind, too, or is driving this decision, as well. So it did remind me of the Lester Holt thing. And it's another example, I think, of a possible disconnect between the message that the staff is putting out and what the president is saying and thinking.

BALDWIN: John Brennan, just reminding everyone, the CIA chief under President Obama. And as you point out in your piece, he was one of the ones just before President Trump's inauguration, he brought this issue of Russia interference to incoming President Donald Trump.

Let me play some sound, Peter. This is a clip of a leading Republican on Trump revoking Brennan's clearance.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R), TEXAS: I don't know why former government employees continue to carry their security clearance with them, anyway. As al uniform policy. I don't see Mr. Brennan attempting to help the Trump administration. And I think the president's concern is that people are monetizing these security clearances and using them to combat the administration.

BALDWIN: So that was Senator Cornyn. Obviously, he's not protesting this.

But you point to, and we've talked to folks in the intel world who are saying, there's an issue here in terms of the impact on the Intelligence Community, which is what?

NICHOLAS: Well, one other question here is, are you silencing critics? Are you targeting people in Democratic administrations? So there's appearance that this is a political reprisal, and not a legitimate national security concern or question.

BALDWIN: Which these gentlemen are saying, we will not be silenced, we will not be muzzled, we will continue to speak up and speak out.

But in terms of the I.C. impact, what is that?

[14:35:04] NICHOLAS: Members of the I.C. community want to have their security clearances so even after they leave government so they're available to discuss sensitive issues with people who are in government. And that expertise is needed and often relied on from one administration to the next. If you're going to start revoking those privileges, a White House deprives itself of a potentially valuable source of information from proceeding administrations from whom you can presumably learn things from.

BALDWIN: Peter Nicholas, with the "Wall Street Journal," with the interview with the president.

Peter, thank you.

NICHOLAS: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, imagine this. Imagine attending a wedding and out walks the queen of soul. One person who was there tells us the energy was so high, it felt like the chandeliers could come down. We'll talk to the couple who got married that night, who had Aretha Franklin singing at their wedding.

We'll be right back.






[14:40:14] (SINGING)

ARETHA FRANKLIN, SINGER: We should have been a duo.

SMOKEY ROBINSON, SINGER: I'm telling you, it's not too late.



BALDWIN: That's the queen of soul with Smoky Robinson singing his classic, "Oh, Baby, Baby." The two appearing on the iconic show "Soul Train."

And we are remembering one of the most prolific musical voices in history, Aretha Franklin. She passed away today in her Detroit home at the age of 76.

Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame covered with flowers. And Harlem's famed Apollo Theater tweeting out a vintage marquee photo that reads, "Rest in peace to our queen of soul, Apollo legend, Aretha Franklin." My next guests had a very special connection to Miss Franklin. When

they got married, she performed at their wedding. And word is, when Aretha got going, the chandeliers almost fell off the ceiling. Watch.




BALDWIN: That fortunate couple, Bill White and Bryan Eure.

Gentlemen, welcome.

And first of all, may I just say, whatever you are doing so right in right to have Aretha Franklin singing at your wedding, I would like a little dose of that.

Nice to have both of you on. Welcome.

BILL WHITE, ARETHA FRANKLIN SANG AT HIS WEDDING: Hi, Brooke, how are you? Hello from Mykonos.

BALDWIN: Hello to Mykonos. Thank you for taking a minute from your vacation to talk to me.

Can you take me back to that night? First, it's the best night of your lives, and then the icing on top to have Aretha Franklin basically serenading you, what was that like?

WHITE: Well, if I could just say, I know Bryan wants to talk about that, but I would like to offer our condolences and our prayers to the Franklin family, to her closest loved ones and to her friends, to our friend, Clive Davis, who really was like a brother, a father, a partner, and a mentor to Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul. So we extend our heartfelt condolences, our prayers, and our thoughts and there are no words. It's unfathomable, this loss.

But it was an incredible, amazing night for the two of us. You know, the right to marry in New York state was given. We had been illegally married, you know, for nine years before that and that night was a great night for us to stand up with marriage equality. And Bryan will tell you the story of how it happened. And then we can take it from there.

BRYAN EURE, ARETHA FRANLIN SANG AT HIS WEDDING: Well, so Billy was very excited. Seven years ago, the law passed, and he had invited 700 people to our wedding. And I was like, 700 people want to come and see more than just us exchange our vows. We need a serious talent. And thanks to Clive Davis, he arranged for Aretha to sing at our wedding. And it was pretty amazing how, you know, I'm a huge fan of hers, but I didn't realize how instrumental her music was in the civil rights movement back with African-Americans and she looked at the gay rights movement as the next civil rights thing and she wanted to sing "Chain of Fools" and "Respect" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." It was unbelievable. She sang for over an hour and closed with a cover by Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You." And this is a woman who is, by far, the most beautiful voice in the world. And she also has a fear of flying. She lives in Detroit.


EURE: So she drove all the way down from Detroit to be in New York for the wedding. It was one of the most amazing nights of our life. But I really feel like she was excited and she had the full band.

BALDWIN: Well, if I can just -- you mentioned civil rights and gay rights. I mean, what does it say -- this was -- your wedding was 2011. So what does it say about Aretha Franklin in 2011, this was before the Supreme Court ruled on same-sex marriage, that she wanted to perform at a wedding for two men.

WHITE: Yes, she -- she was a pioneer every step of the way. And we were actually very -- just very humbled. Our hearts sang, the idea of having somebody of her stature and her entrepreneurial and creative spirit come and, you know, she was -- she was just better than we've ever heard her before. I mean, everything was thinking, wow, Aretha Franklin, she's in her '70s. And I can tell you one thing, I'm getting a little emotional, because having such a great person be part of such a great life's memory is something you can't even describe. It's just indescribable. Folks had to take their jackets off and their shawls off at the Four Seasons restaurant because when she sings, the room has to be a certain temperature, and the temperature actually is close to 80 degrees. And that keeps that great vocal cords in shape. And we didn't really understand it. And everybody could have cared less, sweating up a storm in the poolroom there. All 700 of them, singing every single song, word for word with her. They told us she was going to perform for 20 minutes. She stayed for an hour.

[14:46:03] BALDWIN: Oh, my gosh.

WHITE: Barbara Walters was there and she said, oh, this thing is, you know, going to be 700 people. She was the last person to walk out of the restaurant!

BALDWIN: You're like, Barbara Walters, we need to go, like, wedding over. I know Aretha was amazing.

Talk about an incredible pinch-me moment for a lifetime, Bill and Bryan, cherish that. We're just hanging on your every word.

Thank you so much and enjoy Greece. Thanks, gentlemen.

EURE: And our love to her family and condolences.

BALDWIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.


BALDWIN: Condolences from all of us.

Thanks, guys. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: We have much more as we are honoring the queen of soul, celebrating her today. And we'll share some of the pivotal moments in history that she has been a part of.






[14:51:29] (SINGING)


BALDWIN: Aretha Franklin, the legendary queen of soul, passing away today at the age of 76. Miss Franklin's brilliance came early on, a self-taught piano prodigy, recording her first album at age 14, winner of 18 Grammy Awards.

Let me bring in one of her longtime friends, Sidney Miller. He is the founder of "Black Radio Exclusive" magazine.

Mr. Miller, a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining me.

SIDNEY MILLER, FOUNDER, BLACK RADIO EXCLUSIVE MAGAZINE: I'm glad to be here for Aretha. I am celebrating the loss of Aretha, because it's -- it was time for her to go. And I just sorry that she and I did not get an opportunity to do what we had planned to do, and that was, she had agreed to fly again. And she and I were going to be on the same -- I was going to take her on the plane, sit by her, make her feel good. And then we were going to plan a tour of Europe.

BALDWIN: She did not like flying, did she, sir?

MILLER: Well, you know, we still have not figured that out, because the last flight she was on was flying into Atlanta to play Chastain Park. And when that -- when that show was over, Andrew Young came up on stage and announced that he was going to make Monday Aretha Franklin Day and ask her to come by his office and they were going to celebrate. And she and her band checked out early and went down to the office and just as he, as Andrew Young walked into the room, somebody called him, and he had to go away and she told us she would be right back. Well, he was gone for over an hour. And when he finally got back, he had to re-arrange her flight. And when she got off the plane in Detroit, she said she wasn't going to fly anymore.

BALDWIN: So, if the ambassador is listening, maybe that's part of the reason? Who knows? Nevertheless, she took buses all over the place.

But let's talk about you and Miss Franklin. I understand, you all knew -- your relationship, your friendship goes back half a century when you first met down in New Orleans at Jazzfest, where she was performing. Can you just take me back and what was your first impression and --

MILLER: Well, first of all, she was always someone that I admired, but I had never met her before. But a local jock, in fact, he was the number one jock in the city of New Orleans, Larry McKinley, Larry took me backstage to meet all the artists, you know, because he was running the show. And when we got to Aretha's, she says, oh, you're the one with that magazine. She says, you know, that's where I get all of my 411, from your magazine.



BALDWIN: And you said, that's good to hear.

MILLER: Yes, so we became friends. In fact, I followed her tour from there to mobile and from mobile to Pensacola where she went by my mother's house and my mother cooked for them. And then we went to Atlanta. And you know, she just -- she just kept putting it off. First, we were going to fly last July. Then she said, no, wait until September. And then September came, and she just wouldn't return my calls until I didn't talk to her anymore until March, when it was time for her birthday. And I went to her birthday party in New York at the Four Seasons Hotel. And it was really, really nice. She was expecting Hillary Clinton to come. She had -- I had got the all-star band to play for her. And she sent up this trellis behind her seat and she had another seat there for someone who was supposed to come, who didn't show up.

[14:56:03] BALDWIN: All kinds of --


MILLER: A candidate.

BALDWIN: Sure. The names I'm hearing of all of these people who would show up for, you know, her birthday parties, just to be a fly on the wall, it's incredible. And just -- what a special relationship, what a special woman. And perhaps she's flying now in another sense.

Sidney Miller, thank you so much for coming on --


BALDWIN: -- and sharing these stories. I appreciate you.

MILLER: Mm-hmm.

BALDWIN: We have much more of our coverage of Aretha Franklin, her life, her legacy, celebrating her, coming up for you here on CNN.

Also ahead, former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, releasing another secret recording of her the president and his inner circle. This time, it's the president's daughter-in-law who is also now responding to this.

We're back in just a momentum.


[15:00:12] BALDWIN: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.