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Remembering The Life And Legacy Of Aretha Franklin; Authorities Find Bodies Of Missing Colorado Mom And Daughters; Pentagon Postpones Trump's Military Parade Until Next Year; Maryland Investigating Football Program After Player's Death. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 17, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: As the world remembers the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin's hometown is celebrating her life. They're taking comfort at the New Bethel Baptist Church, the church where Aretha sang as a child, where her father was once the pastor.

CNN's Ryan Young joins us now live from Detroit with more. Ryan, good morning.


A little church this morning -- hearing that voice is just unbelievable. I think that's the thing that was repeated over and over yesterday as fans started coming out here. They were playing their music at one point before it started raining really hard.

There was an impromptu party here on the streets. People giving their heart to Aretha Franklin, saying how much they loved her.

We went with one man who showed us he had every single record that's ever been produced with Aretha Franklin on it because he loved her so much.

This city of Detroit has so much pride when it comes to Aretha Franklin. And you think about her career as it spanned almost six decades and the idea she did so much, and this is what so many people talked about.

She never turned her back on the community. She was always here. She was always feeding the homeless, she was always speaking up for black people.

And they thought about that song "Respect" and how much it meant when it came out in the 60s.

And the fact that her father -- look, the church is sitting right behind me. This street is named for her father, so they have given so much to Detroit. In fact, listen to the passion in this man's voice as he talks about Aretha Franklin.


YOUNG: What's it like now knowing that she's gone? I mean, because obviously, people who love Detroit love Aretha. But sum it up for people at home -- that connection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, people will always love Aretha. Aretha never left us. She always stayed with us.

And she's like somebody's sister, somebody's mother. She was a grandmother. She's the mother of Detroit.


YOUNG: And I heard some stories myself for the first time that I had never heard.

Jesse Jackson, as we talked about -- how Aretha was going to perform for a civil rights convention and someone put tear gas into the room. They had to leave the room. But she decided she wanted to go back in there and sing anyway, so you see how strong she was.

And she always made sure people were fed. That's what they said that they would always make sure there was soul food around so people could enjoy it.

You see that all over the place here in Detroit. People want to come out. There's a small memorial behind me.

We are being told by the "Detroit Free Press" that apparently, next week is when we find out when the burial arrangements will be made.

HILL: Ryan, great to have you there. Appreciate the reporting.

And we were speaking to the pastor of that church, of course, yesterday, who told us very sweetly he was hoping that maybe she could reschedule before she -- before she left.

But he talked, too, about how she was so tied to that church, that community, and how she was so involved in making sure there was food and bringing soul food to events that would -- you know, the food would be there from 4:00 p.m. until midnight -- and just what a fixture she was.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: She would cook for everybody.

And as you say, Detroit was her home. Throughout her career she would leave. She would go for a time to record down south or move to New York -- back and forth between Los Angeles. But always drawn back to Detroit because that was her home.

We're just listening to some amazing music all morning. What a life. HILL: And we will continue to speak more about her throughout these next couple of hours. We will be joined in our next hour by Jennifer Holliday and Smokey Robinson. They knew each other since the time they were children.

All that just ahead.

BERMAN: All right.

The Vatican finally breaking its silence on the disturbing revelations that more than 1,000 Pennsylvania children were sexually abused by hundreds of Catholic priests over decades. The Vatican press office calls the abuses criminal and morally reprehensible while condemning unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors.

Pope Francis under intense pressure to address a widening priest sex abuse scandal spanning several continents from Australia to Latin America.

HILL: A gruesome end to the search for a missing pregnant mother and her two daughters in Colorado.

Authorities discovered the body of Shanann Watts on property owned by her husband's former employer. The remains of her 3- and 4-year old daughters found nearby.

Shanann's husband, Chris, is under arrest facing charges for the murders of all three.

CNN's Martin Savidge has more for us now. Martin, good morning.


Yes, the bodies, according to authorities, of the two young girls -- that's Celeste and Bella -- were recovered overnight.

And as you say, the mother's body had been found earlier on property belonging to an oil and gas company which Chris Watts, the husband now accused of their murders -- where he used to work.

This all began on Monday when Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant, returned home late from a business trip. Now, according to her husband, they had words and then he went to work. And then, she vanished along with the two children.

[07:35:09] Now, he wasn't so concerned when she didn't respond to messages, but when friends called him and said that she wasn't responding he told police he was concerned.

He thought that she had gone off, according to authorities, to be with a friend with the two children. And he made this very strange and now, really creepy plea. Take a listen.


CHRIS WATTS, HUSBAND OF SHANANN WATTS: Just come back. Like, if somebody has her just please bring her back.

I need to see everybody. I need to see everybody again. This house is not complete without anybody here.

Please come back.


SAVIDGE: Of course, authorities now believe at the very time he made that emotional plea, his wife and two young children were already murdered.

Authorities believe they were killed inside the home. What they have not revealed is what was the cause of death, and they also have not revealed a motive. We may learn more on that early next week after court hearings.

But, Chris Watts now is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a body.

A just horrific story -- John.

BERMAN: Martin, that is horrible. Martin Savidge, thanks so much for being with us.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

BERMAN: New York University is taking one large concern off the shoulders of future doctors.

Its School of Medicine will offer a scholarship that offers free tuition to every new, current, and future medical student. All students enrolled in the program are eligible regardless of financial need or academic performance.

Tuition currently costs about $55,000 a year -- amazing.

HILL: It is.

Dramatic new video reveals the power and fury of a car fire in Northern California which claimed the lives of at least three firefighters.

Cal Fire releasing this new video. It was shot last month but in it you can see what it looked like from the air. This is what those crews were facing, encountering a tornado of fire. Look at that.

This is what firefighters saw as they pulled up to the scene. That rotating plume was roughly a thousand feet in diameter at its base.

The fire, itself, burned through more than 200,000 acres and it's still going. Keep in mind, today it is 71 percent contained.

BERMAN: The pictures are enough -- a firenado.

HILL: Yes. BERMAN: I don't even know if they call it that --

HILL: They do now.

BERMAN: -- but it's terrifying.

HILL: It is.

BERMAN: They can use it if they want to.

All right. The Pentagon has postponed President Trump's military parade. The big price tag that has Washington putting on the brakes, that's next.


[07:41:09] HILL: Time now for a CNN "Reality Check".

More than four million people have security clearances in the United States. How often is that privilege taken away?

BERMAN: CNN senior political analyst John Avlon has the answer in our "Reality Check". Hey, John.


OK, so President Trump's unprecedented decision to revoke John Brennan's security clearance has sparked some serious blowback.

And according to a White House official, Trump may just be getting his security clearance purge party started. On the potential chopping block, nine of his perceived opponents from the Justice and Intel communities.

Now, the word unprecedented gets used a lot with President Trump so let's take a closer look at why this is so unusual.

Brennan served Presidents Bush and Obama, but he has been an outspoken critic of President Trump, and that seems to be his cardinal sin, at least according to the White House. Take a listen.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation's most closely-held secrets.


AVLON: Let's put aside the irony of those accusations to focus on the facts. The official guidelines for revoking security clearances are specific.

They include foreign influence, personality disorders, and misuse of information systems. But none of them mention dissent, tweets or talk shows.

If, in fact, outspoken dissent were disqualifying it could have led to Michael Flynn having his clearance revoked by the Obama administration. Remember this?


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Lock her up, that's right. Yes, that's right. Lock her up.


AVLON: But, Gen. Flynn kept his clearance during the heated 2016 campaign.

Now, at this point, you may have a reasonable question that was also on Texas Sen. John Cornyn's mind. Why do former officials still have security clearances? The short answer, national security.

It is a good idea to have some continuity between administrations. After all, someone in a high post today might want to get perspective from a predecessor. And it's not like folks who keep their clearances are constantly receiving classified briefings.

But to be fair, in the past, former intel officials have lost their security clearances, not for criticizing the president but for breaking the rules.

For example, former CIA director John Deutch lost his clearance in 1999 after classified documents were found on his unsecured home computer.

In 2005, former security adviser Sandy Berger lost his clearance after pleading guilty to unauthorized removal of classified documents.

And, Gen. Flynn finally had his clearance suspended during the investigation into his foreign contacts. Flynn later pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

It's notable he has not lost his clearance. It's simply been suspended to date.

Now, every year, dozens of people lose their security clearances for various reasons, but there is a process. Investigations occur, wrongdoing is proven. Never before has a president asserted the authority to personally control security clearances.

And overnight, 12 former intel leaders released a letter supporting Brennan, slamming the president's decision as a quote "attempt to stifle free speech."

Look, it's reasonable to ask why over four million people have access to our nation's secrets, especially when many are private contractors like Edward Snowden, who released millions of surveillance documents.

But targeting John Brennan and other dissenting career intelligence officials is not just unreasonable, it's petty and it's political, it's unwise, and it's unprecedented.

And that's your "Reality Check".

BERMAN: And all we have to listen to is listen to the president's own words about why he's doing it to learn that it doesn't go by the guidelines that are already set.

John Avlon, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

So, the Pentagon has postponed President Trump's military parade initially scheduled for Veterans Day until next year. So is the hefty price tag a deal breaker?

CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more -- Barbara.


Well, postponed until next year. Not clear at all that it's really going to happen. And this was apparently a decision by the Pentagon and the White House.

[07:45:02] The price tag had reached $92 million. Actually, Defense Sec. James Mattis had said no, there was no final price tag even though administration officials had said it.

Listen to what Mattis had to say about all of this.


JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that's legal in my state but not in most states, OK? I'm not dignifying that number with any reply. I would discount that.

And anybody who said that, I can almost guarantee you one thing. They probably said I need to stay anonymous -- no kidding, because you'll look like an idiot.


STARR: Well, the thing is about four hours later, the Pentagon, late last night, put a statement out saying indeed, that the White House and the Defense Department had decided to relook at it all for next year.

Ninety-two million was an estimate of what it would cost to meet President Trump's desire to have a parade, something like he saw in France last year when he attended the Bastille Day parade.

After seeing that parade with the French leader Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Trump said he wanted a parade, too, to honor U.S. veterans and U.S. troops, something that's pretty unusual to happen in the United States. It's happened before but we don't often see military parades here.

The full tag, racing stripes, floor mats -- $92 million -- Erica.

HILL: That is not a small price tag.

Barbara Starr, appreciate it -- thank you.

A college football player dies during practice. Are the school's coaches to blame? His family is with us, next.


[07:50:43] HILL: Maryland's Board of Regents is holding a special meeting today to discuss how the University of Maryland handled the death of 19-year-old Jordan McNair. The offensive lineman suffered a heat stroke during football practice in May and died two weeks later.

Now, the head coach is on leave, the football program is under investigation, and the president of the university is apologizing.

I'm joined now by Jordan's parents, Tonya Wilson and Martin McNair, along with their attorney Billy Wilson (sic). We appreciate you coming in today.

Before we get into all of that, how are you two doing today? It's a lot that you've had to process, not only with the death of your son but with everything that's come after.

TONYA WILSON, MOTHER OF JORDAN MCNAIR: It's a lot to process. We just take it day-by-day.

A big part of us is gone -- it's gone. A hole that we can only fill through his foundation. So, it's a day-to-day process.

HILL: Yes. And I do want to -- we will talk more about that foundation because it's so important, later this morning.

I know that the president of the university met with you Tuesday morning, as I understand it, before we heard from him publicly. Mr. McNair, what did he say to you in those moments?

MARTIN MCNAIR, FATHER OF JORDAN MCNAIR: Well, he apologized, which was -- which was what we felt the right thing to do and accept the responsibility for what happened to Jordan.

HILL: We've learned a lot about the program since then. There's some reporting from ESPN where they call this a toxic culture.

"Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. The players are routinely the targets of obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity when they are unable to complete a workout or weight lift, for example. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill."

Did Jordan ever talk to you about any concerns he had about the way practices were run -- the way things were being done at Maryland?

WILSON: No. Jordan was -- he was a very quiet person and I would ask him -- Jordan, how was your day? I would text him every morning, how's your day. I'm OK. Thursday or Friday I was -- Jordan, how's your week going? It's good.

So, no, he never said anything, never complained. He wasn't a complainer. He was just do what you have to do and be done with it.

HILL: The ultimate team player. Always showed up --

WILSON: Always.

HILL: -- always there. Gave 110 percent.

WILSON: Yes, yes, all the time.

HILL: When you first got that call, I know initially, they didn't tell you everything that we know now. There's been a lot that's come out since then about what was and wasn't done.


HILL: When you learned those details what was that like for you to learn about what did and did not happen in those moments?

MCNAIR: Well, Erica, very -- extremely disheartening and extremely disappointing regarding we entrusted someone to do and the whole -- you know, with Coach Durkin. He sat at our table and we basically gave our child -- our child's welfare over him doing something that he loved to do.

And he promised, as I'm sure he's promised many parents -- or any coach promises parents that they'll take care of your children. Anything -- but that was done.

HILL: And that's what he promised you, as you said, sitting at your table in your home.

MCNAIR: Any child, -- any parent as soon as they get away -- their child away to school as a student athlete -- when you make a decision you'll tell the parent -- you'll tell the coach I'm turning my child over to you. Keep them safe.

HILL: I'm told you got the call that Jordan was in the hospital. Did you feel that he was safe?

WILSON: Yes, yes, yes. Like I say, he never told us anything different so --

MCNAIR: Well, I feel that they didn't -- if a child doesn't know -- or a young person doesn't know what systemic abuse looks like how would they know? They'd think this was the norm. And I think in my heart that's what it was.

This is the norm, you know. Coaches talk to us like this. This is the just the norm of what we do because I don't know anything different.

HILL: Yes. Some of his teammates have really spoken up, though, and started talking a little bit more about what the culture was like.

When you first started to learn about that what was your reaction to these stories that you were hearing from these kids?

[07:55:04] WILSON: I was blown away. I was blown away -- unbelievable, unbelievable.

I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe that something like that was going on. My heart broke, yes.

HILL: The coach was just put on leave recently -- the strength and conditioning coach affected by this as well, obviously.

Does that go far enough? What else does the University of Maryland need to do?

MCNAIR: Well obviously, I think initially, we need to get rid of head coach Durkin. He needs to go. He needs to resign. He needs to be terminated.

There's no way that as a parent you send your child knowingly into an environment where your child will get bullied -- knowingly. If we had any idea that that would be the case we would have made another decision.

HILL: Well, understandably.

After we heard from the president on Tuesday when he said publicly "The University accepts the moral and legal responsibility for the mistakes."

But in that press conference he said he came to your home in the morning and he apologized. He spoke with you.

It wasn't until that press conference, as I understand it though, that you actually learned more about the circumstances of that day. That your son's temperature wasn't taken. That they, in fact, didn't follow the normal protocol.

But that, you learned in that news conference?

WILSON: Actually, the audible (ph) that came out prior to us having that conference, that's where I learned that they didn't check his vitals -- any of that. And that could have been a big part of him --

HILL: Yes.

WILSON: -- being alive now.

HILL: There was -- there were some surprises when President Loh and said we accept this responsibility. There are obviously a lot of questions about what that could mean legally.

What does this mean legally?

BILLY MURPHY, ATTORNEY FOR JORDAN MCNAIR'S FAMILY: That's a great question and to us, it means that under any law, state or federal, the University of Maryland accepts full responsibility for what happened.

What is remaining is whether and to what extent the University is willing to compensate the family for this grievous harm. And the answer to that is yes, they are. And the question is, when will that be, and that's going to be a process.

So complete legal and moral responsibility means exactly that. There's not going to be a fight over whether the University of Maryland is at fault. They have admitted that they were at fault.

HILL: It is so important not to lose sight of your son, so I would love for you to tell us more about Jordan. We see these pictures of this beautiful young man who was such a great dedicated team player, such an incredible person.

Tell us about your son and also about the foundation that you started in his name.

MCNAIR: Jordan was great. I mean, he was -- he was -- he was everybody's son, like literally. He was a guy of very few words, however he had a smile that lit up the room and changed everybody's mood whenever he walked in -- a gapped-tooth smile.

The whole purpose of the foundation was to really turn -- America, let me say this. We can be frustrated, we can be extremely angry. However, that's not going to bring Jordan back.

No amount of money, settlement-wise, is going to bring my son -- that's just a loss or a void that will never get filled.

So the whole purpose of us right now is -- the purpose to start the actual foundation was to turn some passion and -- I mean, some pain into purpose. How we can make folks -- I mean, make people -- everyone -- we can educate and make people aware and preventive information about the dangers of heat-related injuries because these are 1,000 percent preventable.

HILL: Yes.

MCNAIR: And if that's practices and protocols -- emergency protocols are put into place on college campuses -- as a parent now, I feel safe. So it was a lot of things that we didn't know.

So, is what we encourage everyone to go to and reach out and at least make contact with us to the point because we can do more.

And, Jordan wasn't the only person that died as a heat stroke -- as a heat stroke victim. That happens all the time -- an average of three deaths per year in the preseason of football practice.

HILL: Yes.

MCNAIR: So the thing is we want people -- we encourage everyone to come to Contact us because, again, we can do more from a unified perspective as opposed to individually being stopped at various states where this happens at.

HILL: We appreciate you taking the time. I know it's not always easy to talk about but it is important, obviously, to keep your son's memory out there -- to keep him in people's minds.

So, Tonya Wilson, Martin McNair, Billy Murphy, appreciate all of you joining us.

WILSON: Thank you.

MCNAIR: Thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you.

HILL: And again, our sincere condolences.

WILSON: Thank you, thank you.

HILL: We are following a lot of news on this Friday morning. Let's get to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is still actively seeking to strip clearances from officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Add my voice. If this what the president is going to do, take mine too.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Brennan has gone way over the line. Pulling his clearance makes sense to me.