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CNN NEWSROOM

Manafort Juror Who Supports Trump Warns Pardon Would Be A "Grave Mistake"; Senator John McCain Discontinues Treatment For Brain Cancer; Trump Urges Sessions To Go After His Political Foes. Aired 3:30-4pm ET

Aired August 24, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: -- is also a Trump supporter and the full interview, by the way, airs tonight. But listen to this part of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: How would you feel if the President pardoned Paul Manafort?

PAULA DUNCAN, TRUMP SUPPORTER AND MANAFORT JUROR: I feel it would be a grave mistake for President Trump to pardon Paul Manafort.

COOPER: Why?

DUNCAN: Justice was done. The evidence was there. And that's where it should stop.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Michael, would this be a grave mistake?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm not surprised at all to hear a juror say that particularly one who voted for conviction because if he should offer a pardon, her view is going to be, hey, what the hell, I sat in that courtroom for three weeks and you mean my time wasn't worth anything? I think that the President is setting the stage for a pardon of Paul Manafort and the argument that he'll one day make maybe is to say that Robert Mueller set off on this witch hunt looking for collusion, couldn't find it, and the best he could do was tax fraud, tax evasion of events that preceded the presidential election of 2016. That's I think the case he is getting ready to make.

CABRERA: We should note Rudy Giuliani saying that he and the President have talked about pardoning people including Manafort, but that they would not do it -- that the President would not move forward with any pardon of that nature during the pending investigation.

So Michael Smerconish, we'll chat with you, we'll see where these all goes. Thank you so much as always. Michael has his show tomorrow morning, it's Smerconish that airs at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN.

CABRERA: Up next in the newsroom, Senator John McCain, his family now announcing he has discontinued treatment for his brain cancer. His friend and former Campaign Official Ana Navarro is going to join us live with her reaction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:36:26] CABRERA: Senator John McCain who has been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer has decided to stop his medical treatment. His family just release a statement saying in part, since his diagnosis last year, "John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment."

Listen to part of John McCain's last interview on CNN with Jake Tapper shortly after he was diagnosed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Every life has to end one way or another. I think it was a playwright -- I'll think of his name in a minute -- he said I always knew that no one could live forever, but I thought there might be one exception. But you've got to have joy, joy.

Listen, those joyful memories of the campaign in 2000 are some of the most enjoyable times of my life. We were the underdogs. We were fighting our way up. We went to Sedona. I remember -- I mean, everything was so magic about that campaign. And I'm very grateful for having the opportunity. I'm very happy. I'm very happy with my life. I'm very happy with what I've been able to do. And there's two ways of looking at these things and one of them is to celebrate. I am able to celebrate a wonderful life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: And that is wonderful. Joining us now on the phone, CNN Political Commentator, Ana Navarro. Ana, I know you are very good friends with the Senator. How are you holding up?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, you know, I'm so glad you played that clip because it's such a reminder that John would not want us to be sad right now. John does not want us to be mourning. John does not want us to be sad for him.

You know, in all the years I've known John McCain, I've never heard him complain once. I've never heard him have a pity party. This is a guy who has always been about the future. And I think the best thing we can do for John McCain right now is be inspired by him. Live like he did.

What he was saying to Jake there is such the epitome of John McCain I know. I'm so happy to hear his voice, you know. I miss hearing his voice. It's been a long, long time since I've spoken to him and he hasn't been able to speak on the phone for a while.

And, you know, I think of his voice, but I can hear his voice in my head. And I can think about the lessons and the experiences and the joyful moments. John McCain is a guy who loves to laugh. He loves life. And I remember having spoken to him right after his diagnosis, and I called him to comfort him and give him words of strength. And I ended up bawling on the phone, crying so hard.

I could hardly get a word out. And it was him who comforted me and gave me strength. Talking about how fortunate he was, how full his life was, how long he had lived, how many times he had cheated death. He lived much longer than he ever expected. And so, you know, the last thing John would want is for us to be sad for him today.

CABRERA: We should all channel a little John McCain. I don't care what party you belong to, he is somebody we can all admire and appreciate for the way he has lived his life and the way he has shown his character and fought so hard for what he believes.

[15:40:13] And I want to bring in CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Because Sanjay, Senator McCain chose you to break the story of his illness last July. What do you think prompted this decision by the Senator to end treatment?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm sure it was a very difficult decision. And, you know, you're sort of having these decisions all along when you are getting this sort of treatment. You may remember initially they thought he had this blood collection only, that was above his left eye, behind his eyebrow. And they found the tumor at that point when they were taking out this blood collection. That was July of last year.

After that, you know, it's the question of chemotherapy, radiation, and constantly sort of doing in some ways, you know, the analysis, is the risk of the therapy and the toll that that therapy takes on the body worth it, is it doing its job. And at some point you say, you know, did you get to the point where you say the risks are no longer worth it. And I think that that's what has happened now.

I think over the past couple weeks I've heard from people who are close to Senator McCain that he had a seizure last week, he's had some tee decline over the past several weeks. And I'm sure that all, you know, is part of this decision as well. But it's not an easy decision, it's usually one that's done with family and the doctors obviously.

CABRERA: Sanjay, just on a personal level, what's the best lesson he showed you during your time together?

GUPTA: You know, he's always been -- he's just a very generous, humble person, you know. And, you know, you heard all these incredible stories. I read his books. And how tough he was and what he'd endured, but you never -- the humility I think and how you could be strong still without having to remind people of all the amazing accomplishments and his credentials. He just acted a certain way as opposed to, you know, sort of telling people to respect him, he really earned that respect.

CABRERA: Sanjay Gupta, Ana Navarro, thank you both. Up next, Senator Lindsey Graham, he is doing an about-face on whether President Trump should fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We're live on Capitol Hill with details on why we're seeing this change of heart. But first, a reminder to watch the new CNN film "RBG" this labor day and discover the inspiring life and career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Conventional expectations of marriage were very different when Ruth Bader wed Marty Ginsburg in 1954. Back then, men supported families financially while women took care of the home. The law reflected that. Recognizing that gender bias has negative impacts for everyone, RBG used cases that impacted men to win rights for all genders.

In 1971, as a lawyer, she wrote the Supreme Court brief in a case that overturned the law that males must be preferred to females in the control of estates. Four years later, she won a widower the right to claim his deceased wife's social security benefits so he could stay home with their young child. When the landmark same-sex marriage case was argued on the Supreme Court in 2015, RBG pointed out that these ideas about marriage had evolved.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: What an enormous change has occurred in my lifetime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch "RBG" on Monday, September 3rd at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:47:59] CABRERA: For the second day in a row, President Trump is hammering Attorney General Jeff Sessions the day after Sessions hit back. The President is now counterpunching today in consecutive tweets. In his Twitter rant, the President demanding Sessions go after Trump's political opponents. President Trump's criticism of Sessions could be eroding Republican support for the nation's top law enforcement official.

Senator Lindsey Graham one of Sessions' strongest supporters and a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is suddenly signaling it may be time to replace Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the President, that's an important office in the country. And after the election I think there will be some serious discussions about a new attorney general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And that's a stunning reversal for Graham. Here is the South Carolina Republican one year ago predicting the President would pay a heavy price if he fired Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I know Jeff Sessions was the most loyal support of Donald Trump. He is a rock solid Conservative. But the reason I like him so much is I often disagree with him, but I've never believed that he was a man who lacks integrity or a sense of fair play. If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And that was then. For more on this split (ph), let's bring in CNN Congressional Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. Sunlen, what is behind this sudden change from Senator Graham?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, Ana, you had a lot of Republicans up here on Capitol Hill questioning that very thing. This certainly was a stunning reversal by Senator Graham and a reversal that carries significant weight. His voice carries a lot of weight among his Republican colleagues up here on Capitol Hill so this turned into something of an essence a green light signaling to President Trump that he would potentially be OK if President Trump wanted to fire Sessions notably after the midterm elections.

[15:50:00] Also, notably yesterday, we heard from another key Republican, Senator Grassley, his comments really telegraphing a bit of the same sentiment. Senator Grassley is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in charge of getting Trump's nominee Drew. He had previously said when asked about the potential of this that he just didn't have time to get another nominee through his committee, but yesterday he changed his tune a bit saying potentially there would be time if Trump wanted to fire Sessions if it led to another nominee, he would have time after Brett Kavanaugh the Supreme Court nominee, getting him through.

So that a small but important shift coming from Grassley. He said publicly he had nothing to do with this back and forth whether Trump will fire Sessions or not. But certainly there's no love lost between Grassley and Sessions. They've been openly feuding over criminal justice reform, so that could have played into it. Graham, as well. So small, but significant shift to Republican. Cracks, if you will, in the Republican defense against Sessions, especially notable at the time where Trump is really escalating the feud with his Attorney General.

CABRERA: Talk to us a little bit more about the timing then. I mean, is it looking like the midterms is a factor in all of these?

SERFATY: Yes. And we've heard that from Republican leadership here yesterday after these very notable comments from Graham, these very notable comments from Grassley. Again, not connected specifically to Sessions but indicating some openness at the possibility of the firing and every context you hear Republicans say after the midterm elections. Of course, firing Sessions, that potential ramification of that would certainly not help Republicans heading into midterms, that the caveat they are important to -- they include in every step of the way.

CABRERA: All right, Sunlen Serfaty in Capitol Hill for us, thank you.

Up next, we'll stay on top of this breaking news. The CFO of the Trump organization granted immunity in the investigation of hush money payments. What this means for the President.

But first, we want to take just a moment to honor this week's CNN hero, Florence Phillips. She's helped more than 5,000 immigrants in Nevada learn English and other cultural skills to help them be successful in the United States, and more than 300 of her students have already become citizens.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FLORENCE PHILLIPS, FOUNDER, ESL IN HOME PROGRAM OF NORTHERN NEVADA: It's the immigrants that made the United States. It was the immigrants that came here to have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of doing whatever they wanted to do and they're the ones that made this country. We are giving them the key --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on in.

PHILLIPS: -- to unlock all doors. And that I see the pride when they say I am an American.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: To learn more about Florence's program, go to cnnheroes.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:57:25] CABRERA: When gruesome details of the death of 19-year old Penn State University sophomore Timothy Piazza became public college, Greek life in the country's fraternity system came under intense scrutiny. A wide ranging investigation examining hours of video, text messages between fraternity brothers and eyewitness testimony. Led to one of the largest criminal indictments against a fraternity and its members in history.

And now, more than two dozen young men face criminal charges. My colleague Alisyn Camerota has an in-depth look at what happened to Piazza inside the walls of the Beta Theta Pi house and the alleged cover up that ensued.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY (on camera): Can you just describe what the gauntlet is?

KORDEL DAVIS, FORMER BETA THETA PI BROTHER: You basically just run through the House and there was like stations of alcohol and you're supposed to drink it as fast as you can. And people are yelling at you --

CAMEROTA (on camera): Encouraging you to drink. DAVIS: Encouraging you to drink as fast as you can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It begins with a handle of vodka. The brothers are made to stand in a line and pass it between each other until it's empty.

CAMEROTA (voice-over): Next, the pledges run through stations manned by the brothers. Shotgun a beer, run upstairs, chug from a wine bag, then backdown stairs for beer pong.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the house is supposed to be alcohol-free. Tim Piazza goes from zero to 18 drinks in 82 minutes. His blood alcohol was nearly five times the legal limit to drive in Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: CNN's Alisyn Camerota joins us now. What happened to Timothy Piazza is stunning. But then what happened afterward, I mean, that is truly disturbing.

CAMEROTA: It is chilling. And it's unconscionable and it may be criminal. Because what happened was there were all of these brothers, Beta brothers, who saw him and saw him in real distress and they didn't do anything. In fact, they prevented him from getting help. They didn't call 911. They didn't get him medical help. The best that they did was try to keep his body turned over so that he wouldn't choke on his own vomit.

CABRERA: Moments ago, a Pennsylvania judge threw out the most serious charges against Piazza's fraternity brothers including involuntary manslaughter. Twenty-five men though are still facing lesser charges. And, again, don't miss "A Deadly Haze: Inside the Fraternity Crisis" tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

Thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Ana, thanks. He is the man who knows where the financial bodies are buried. "THE LEAD" starts right now.

Breaking news, the man who may know the details --