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Aretha Franklin Dies at 76; Verdine White Remembers Aretha Franklin; Omarosa Releases New Recording. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:17] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jim Sciutto, in again for Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us today.

Sad news today. Aretha Franklin, a titan of music, the undisputed queen of soul, is gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARETHA FRANKLIN, MUSICIAN (singing): What you want, baby I got it. What you need, you know I've got it. All I'm asking, is for a little respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: What a voice. What a legacy. What an inspiration, an influence on our country.

Aretha Franklin dead at the age of 76. This after a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer.

She leaves behind a sprawling catalog of classic, inspiring songs, including, of course, "Respect," "Think," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman." Her performances, just powerful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARETHA FRANKLIN, MUSICIAN (singing): Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain, America, America, God shed his grace on thee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: You saw some tears there. She inspired tears from so many who listened to her.

During her 50-year career, she earned every accolade imaginable. An astounding 18 Grammy awards, 112 charted singles. Also the honor of being the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Of course, she was more than that too. She was a voice for civil

rights and feminism. Her song "Respect" became an anthem for people seeking respect and rights and recognition. She once said, being a singer is a natural gift. It means I'm using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I'm happy with that.

Here's more of that incredible gift she shared with the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARETHA FRANKLIN, MUSICIAN (singing): Baby, baby, sweet baby, there's something I just got to say. Baby baby, sweet baby, you left me hurting in a real cold way. Speak your name.

(INAUDIBLE) I tell you I ain't never. I ain't never (INAUDIBLE).

R-e-s-p-e-c-t that is what means to me. R-e-s-p-e-c-t (INAUDIBLE).

Oh, (INAUDIBLE).

For five long years, I thought you were my man. But I found out --

We going riding on the freeway of love wind's against our backs. We're going riding on the freeway of love in my pink Cadillac.

(INAUDIBLE)

I feel like, I feel like a special woman. You make me feel. -- you make me feel --

[13:05:02] Amazing, amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: All you want to do is listen, isn't it. Well, the responses, the reactions have been coming in.

Former President Barack Obama, who Aretha Franklin performed for at his inauguration, he just released a statement saying in part, quote, for more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine. Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it, and in every shade our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human, and sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.

Franklin, she passed away at her home in Detroit, Michigan, surrounded, thankfully, by friends and family.

CNN's Ryan Young is live outside the church where Franklin got her start singing gospel. Her father, of course, had been a minister. Both her parents gospel singers.

Ryan, tell us about the outpouring there. I know she was born in Memphis, but Detroit was really her home.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Detroit really is her home. And I can tell you, the outpouring of support for this family, for the church behind me has just been amazing.

Look, a lot of people feel like Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul, was family. And I certainly can understand that as well.

When you look at the church behind me, it stands as a large symbol, not only to Aretha Franklin, but the family as well. Look, the street is named after her father. He did so much for the civil rights movement.

Just think about this. And I hadn't even know this. Sometime when Dr. King would run out of money, he would call to the church here and ask her father or ask Aretha to help send money for the movement.

And Jesse Jackson was just over here a few minutes ago and he was talking to us and he told us that this one time they traveled down and they were doing -- in Houston, and someone tried to pump tear gas into the ducts so they could not have the performance. And they left and they came back just immediately. And she was there as well. She never gave up on the city.

So the last few days, look, it's been bright and sunny around here. Today is a damp, dark day here. A lot of people coming up to us as they drive up and down this street here playing Aretha Franklin music, talking about the fact of how much the impact of her never leaving Detroit, despite its ups and downs, never wanting to give up on the people.

Something that also stood out that she wouldn't talk about very often is, apparently there was a lot of times she would do work behind the scenes that no one knew about. Especially in August, she would feed the people in this city, especially the disadvantaged people, out of this church. The reverend saying there was such an outpouring from her heart to make sure she always stayed connected.

You think about a woman who had an immense talent, who was connected to the world, but she always had a common touch. And she loves soul food. Jesse Jackson also remarking about the idea that when they traveled, she would figure out the largest restaurant, have them come in, and give everybody some soul food and make sure that they had that connection, that fellowship.

So today you feel the outpouring of support as people's hearts are breaking that the queen of soul is no longer here.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Ryan Young there in Detroit. Thanks very much.

Joining us on the phone now is Verdine White. He's one of the founding members of another legend, the group Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Verdine, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today. VERDINE WHITE, FOUNDING MEMBER, EARTH, WIND AND FIRE (via telephone):

Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I know you met Aretha a number of times. Tell us a story -- tell us a story about her.

WHITE: Well, you know, first of all, she was an icon. She was a legend. She was a humanitarian.

And we had the opportunity to perform with at the Tribeca Film Festival last year for Clive Davis. And, of course, we've -- we've all crossed paths at the Trumpet (ph) Awards with her, Philip Bailey, myself, Ralph Johnson, the other members of the (INAUDIBLE). So it's been -- you know, we've always crossed paths with her. And of course my late brother Maurice was actually a big fan of hers as well.

SCIUTTO: She was, of course, a musician, a legendary voice, started performing when she was 10 years old in her father's gospel chapel.

WHITE: Right.

SCIUTTO: Tell us about, as a musician, what was so special about her voice?

WHITE: Well, you know, of course, you know, she had the voice of the gods. And coming from gospel music and -- which is the root and the foundation of the African-American community, she stood tall, a great legacy out of Detroit. And it won't be forgotten. And the work that they did, her father, C.L. Franklin, and, of course, she comes from a great line of singers. Clara Ward and all those wonderful people.

[13:10:20] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this as well because beyond being such a legendary musician, she also provided voice to the civil rights movement, to the feminists movement and the --

WHITE: Right.

SCIUTTO: "Respect" was a song about getting respect for not just individuals but for whole groups of people.

WHITE: That's right. As we do (ph) today. And, of course, the great inspiration to five generations, for young women today, to all types of peoples, all ages, all genders, all races.

SCIUTTO: Will you ever forget her, Verdine?

WHITE: Not -- not at all. And I -- and we're going to be performing in Detroit on Saturday night at Shane (ph) Park. And we're going to give it our all.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, thanks for sharing those memories of her. We appreciate it.

WHITE: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We'll keep talking. Coming up next, we're going to hear from Oprah and I'm going to speak

live with Aretha Franklin's long-time bassist. Spent so much time with her. Please stay with us.

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[13:16:15] SCIUTTO: To politics now and another secret tape from the fired White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. She says this audio recording shows how the White House tried to buy her silence. The tape, a conversation with Eric Trump's wife, Lara Trump, in which she appears to offer Omarosa a job. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARA TRUMP: But obviously with like the near time (ph) protocol and stuff. You know, it's -- it's --

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: What's "The New York Times" article?

TRUMP: The one that -- the one that -- it was (INAUDIBLE) they wrote about you. (INAUDIBLE) sound a little like, obviously, that there is something (INAUDIBLE). Clearly if you call (INAUDIBLE) the campaign like we can't have (ph), you know, the (INAUDIBLE) --

NEWMAN: Oh, God, no.

TRUMP: Everybody (INAUDIBLE).

And so the only thing that we have to consider when we're talking about salary (ph) as far as the campaign is concerned is that, as you know, everything is (INAUDIBLE). And that all the money that we raise and that pays salaries is directly from donors. Small dollar donors for the most part.

So I know you have -- were making 179 at the White House and I think we can work something out where we keep you right along those lines, specifically (INAUDIBLE) added up the numbers, but we were talking about like 15k a month. Let me see what that adds up to. Times 12. Yes, so that's 180,000. Does that sound like a fair deal for you.

In terms of your position specifically, I really feel like your position would require, you know, you to be able to be flexible in terms of where you are. Sometimes, you know, come to New York for an occasional meeting, but I would love if you could, you know, occasionally go do speaking engagements and that sort of thing for us. I think you'd be awesome doing that. And so it doesn't really matter where you are. If you're comfortable staying in D.C. then, you know, you're -- we're more than happy to have you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us now live.

Just to reiterate, what you heard on that tape, reportedly, is Omarosa speaking with the president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump, where, after she was fired, Jeff Zeleny, Lara Trump offering her a job in Trump's 2020 campaign. Offering the woman he called a dog and a low life. Do I have that right from listening to that tape?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You have that right. Of course, at the time, he had not referred to her -- the president, that is -- had not referred to her as a dog or a low life. That just came this week with the release of the book. But at that time, it was a job offer that was certainly happening.

And I think the suggestion here from the release of that tape -- and we don't know necessarily, like all these tapes, the full context or what came after or before those recordings, but the suggestion by Omarosa is that the Trump re-election campaign was indeed trying to secure her silence, was indeed trying to get her to say only positive things. But it also could sound like a simple job offer.

Several former White House employees, some including who have been fired for a variety of things, are, in fact, still working on the Trump re-election campaign. So in this Trump orbit, that's not necessarily unusual. In most campaigns, most presidencies, certainly highly unusual.

So, Jim, the suggestion from Omarosa is that she was being offered this job, you know, with the potential to buy her silence.

But just by the reading of that right there, I'm not sure we can make that leap. It did sound like a job offer certainly at an extraordinarily high salary for a re-election campaign. Don't forget how these campaigns are funded. They are through small-dollar donations from individuals across the country. And it didn't sound like she would have had that big of a portfolio there had she come on.

[13:20:06] But had she come on, she would have, of course, had to sign another nondisclosure agreement. That is the rules of the Trump campaign. So certainly Omarosa trying to get the story, perhaps, back in the news when there's so much else going on here. The White House not commenting so far, at least, Jim, on that recording.

And the president today at the cabinet meeting that ended a short time ago not answering any questions about any of this.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: But to be clear, Jeff, there does appear to be a quid pro quo offered on that tape because Lara Trump references -- she says something like, there's word that you have something in your back pocket, perhaps a reference to audiotapes. And then Lara Trump saying explicitly, you take this job, and we would not expect -- I forget her exact language -- but --

ZELENY: Something positive. Positive coverage is (INAUDIBLE) words, right.

SCIUTTO: Something positive and that that would not come out.

ZELENY: Sure. SCIUTTO: Right.

ZELENY: I mean I think it's a quid pro quo. Or anyone signing up to work on a campaign, of course, would generally, you know, be saying only positive things. So certainly that is the suggestion there, that if you come on board, you would only say positive things.

But, again, without knowing the full context of all of that, it's impossible to say directly that they were offering her a job to silence her. You know, she is certainly making that suggestion. But, again, there are several fired White House officials, Johnny Macinte (ph) for example, the president's former body man, on the campaign right now, he was fired from this White House as well under different circumstances, of course.

So, Jim, it's just one more unusual bit of information. But it seems to me that Omarosa is still trying to sell her book. The White House clearly trying to move on. We'll see if that happens.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

ZELENY: Sure.

SCIUTTO: Let's get some insight from our guests. CNN contributor Garrett Graff, "GQ" magazine correspondent Julia Ioffe, CNN political commentator Charlie Dent, and our national security analyst Samantha Vinograd.

Charlie, if I could go to you first, former Republican lawmaker there, have you ever offered a campaign job immediately following firing someone from their position?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I've never done that. And I wouldn't do that. Obviously this was done simply to shut her up. But it's hard to shut up a villainous. This is what happens when you bring people into the White House who are not serious. They -- you know, he who sews the wind shall reap the whirlwind. They're reaping the whirlwind. Omarosa is not credible, but that doesn't mean everything she says is untruthful. So --

SCIUTTO: On that point it's interesting, Garrett Graff, because she had said, she had claimed that she was offered a $15,000 a month job. Do the math, 12 times 15,000 is $180,000 a year. Lara Trump just offered her a job for $180,000 a year. So, on that detail, one, the job offer and the salary, the tape seems to prove that.

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And I think that it seems very closely aligned, as you heard on the tape, to basically her White House salary, to keep her at that same income level going forward. And it seems hard to read that tape, to listen to that tape as anything other than an offer of some hush money.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Samantha, you worked in an administration.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And I --

SCIUTTO: I was just going to say, you ever witness something like this happen?

VINOGRAD: I didn't. I was going to comment on this $180,000 being paid to Omarosa at the White House. I worked there. And you're paid a salary based upon your rank, for sure. She -- if you're a special assistant to the president or a senior director, something of that nature. But also based upon how much work you actually do. Omarosa was reportedly doing very little work at the White House. And then her salary was being matched on the campaign.

And we know that the Trump campaign, the first time around, made a series of very poor personnel decisions that plagued them. There's legal issues now as we're seeing come out (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: Well, the chairman of the campaign, if I remember, is -- there's a jury deliberating on his legal fate right now.

VINOGRAD: Ongoing. Indeed.

GRAFF: On the first trial.

VINOGRAD: Exactly. And so --

JULIA IOFFE, CORRESPONDENT, "GQ" MAGAZINE: Barely knows him though. Barely knows him.

VINOGRAD: Right. And now we're seeing that happening the second time around with someone who had damaging information on the president. That's a differentiating factor.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And to be clear, White House salaries follow government scale, do they not? And isn't -- isn't 179, if I remember correctly, isn't that the top level? That you have these various raise (ph) which follow military rankings, frankly.

VINOGRAD: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: But I believe 179, is that not the top, other than the president?

VINOGRAD: It is. It is. And it's, again, based upon your rank and the amount of work that you actually do.

SCIUTTO: Right.

Julia, this -- tell me your reaction to this, first of all, as you listen to that tape there. Credibility is the issue here, right, because the classic White House tactic when a -- when anyone criticizes them is to attack them as a partisan or as just being a liar, right? Now here we have a tape that at least backs up some of the claims she made.

IOFFE: Right. Well, I think if -- just getting away from the substance of the tape because I, you know, I agree with Congressman Dent, but I also agree with Jeff Zeleny. I think there's a lot that's kind of left unsaid and that there are leaps that have to be made to get to the idea that this was hush money. I think what's interesting is that you have this former Trump

loyalist, who was, I mean, a savage, vicious defender of the president, now going savage and vicious against him the second he turns on her. In some ways, she is going full Trump on Trump.

SCIUTTO: Right.

[13:25:10] IOFFE: And I -- it's kind of an interesting dynamic to watch. You know, that you have a president and a former presidential adviser. One is leaking tapes and describing tapes. The other one is calling her a dog. I mean it's not something we're used to seeing maybe out of the commander in chief's office.

SCIUTTO: Not something we're used to seeing. That's an evergreen comment.

Charlie, final thought.

DENT: Well, as a former congressman, it's really painful for me to see that Omarosa was making $5,000 more per year than a member of Congress. Very painful. But bottom line is --

IOFFE: You should have recorded more conversations.

DENT: Well, yes, I just -- it's just inexplicable that you bring in people like this to the White House.

But I visited the White House a few times during the Trump administration. Every time I was there, I bumped into Omarosa. She was just wandering around there doing whatever she was doing. But it's just a -- it's just really a sad spectacle. And you're going to see more tapes. Let's face it, it's all about money.

SCIUTTO: Listen, thanks to all of you. It's a story we're going to continue to follow. Please, stand by.

Coming up, another story we're covering, remembering the queen of soul. Aretha Franklin's long-time bassist, he played with her for decades, he's going to share his memories.

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