Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Focus on Loyalty; Trump Attack on Attorney General Escalates; Ex-Doorman Now Free to Tell His Trump Story; AP: National Enquirer Kept Damaging Trump Stories in a Safe; Comparing Trump's Mindset to Nixon in his Last Days; Sen. McCain Discontinues Brain Cancer Treatment. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 25, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Hello on a Saturday, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We start this hour with President Trump again taking down his attorney general, saying Jeff Sessions doesn't understand what's going on.

Here is the tweet.

"Jeff Sessions said he wouldn't allow politics to influence him only because he doesn't understand what is happening underneath his command position."

It's just the latest slam from a president who continues to publicly chastise his attorney general, especially now that the president's deals -- as he's dealing with what was a very tough week.

Former campaign chief Paul Manafort was found guilty of tax and bank fraud. Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen implicated the president in fact in campaign finance violations. Cohen pleaded guilty over his role in the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. That was on Tuesday. And then we learned later in the week that two people close to the president were given immunity for their testimony in the Cohen investigation.

David Pecker, a longtime friend and chairman of the "National Enquirer" parent company and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump organization's longtime chief financial officer.

With us now, a former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Anthony, thank you for taking the time after such a crazy week. Great that we have you on the show. When is the last time you spoke with the president?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I would say early August. It was probably right after the -- the aftermath of the Juncker meeting. After he met with President Juncker, we had a conversation related to trade.

And it looks like, you know -- I know there is a lot of bad news out there, but there is some good news, too. It looks like the NAFTA deal will likely get signed. I don't want to make a prediction, but it seems like in the next two weeks that will get done and that will be very positive for North America.

CABRERA: Now, the president would be happy to hear you talking about the economy and to try to take away from some of the negative headlines this week. Some people would argue this has been Trump's worst week in office.


CABRERA: I mean, how do you think behind the scenes he is handling what he likely sees as betrayal with Cohen's plea, with Pecker, with Weisselberg getting immunity?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, no, I'm not -- actually, I'm not really even trying to take away from any of that. I do think it was a very bad week. There is a three or four dominos that fell this week. I sort of agree with my former law school professor Alan Dershowitz that the president, at least as the facts have been relayed and the facts that had been opened up so far, he hasn't done anything illegal. But I do think it's going to -- it's an emotionally tolling week for the president because these are very close friends, or in the case of his CFO, had also worked for his dad.

And the notion that these guys have been given immunity, and the notion that there is things that they are going to be talking about that are probably 10 to 40 years old, I think that's got to be emotionally taxing for the president. But I don't -- I don't see at this point as we unpeel the fact onion, even though the onion smells, and it's uncomfortable, we haven't gotten to the illegality as it relates to the president yet. So let's see what happens. But I'm not shirking this. I'm trying to look at it very objectively. It was a very bad week.

CABRERA: Who does the president turn to at his absolute lowest moments?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I mean, you know, I mean, I think the people that I saw that he turned to when I was working for him on the campaign during the transition and the short time I was in the White House are family members like Jared and Ivanka, Melania, I'm sure he has a very good relationship with -- with Bill Shine.

My guess is -- is that there is three or four of his friends that have been with him for many years, whether it's Howard Lorber or Richie LeFrak in the real estate area.

And so, yes, he has a very open network of friends that are close to him, that like him personally. And so I'm sure, I'm sure he is talking to them. My guess is he is frustrated about the situation. I think you saw some of that frustration in the "Fox News" interview when he was talking about the flipping situation.


SCARAMUCCI: I don't really think he wants to outlaw flipping as much as he is just upset. He feels he hasn't done anything wrong. And he feels that people are going to be pressured to say that he did something wrong in an effort to lower their sentences and things like that. So that's where I think all of that is coming from.

CABRERA: I mean, we know how much this president values loyalty, almost to a fault. The thing is, though, Trump doesn't give the same loyalty in return when Papadopoulos went down, for example, Trump said he was a coffee boy. When Manafort went down, Trump said, barely worked on the campaign. When Cohen pleaded guilty this week, Trump attacked him.

Is this why so many people are starting to turn because they see the president isn't going to have their backs?

[16:05:00] SCARAMUCCI: Well, you know, I think that there's been a lot of symmetrical loyalty and I think when things transition from business into the political arena the contact -- it's more -- you're going into a very different arena. Obviously, I learned that the hard way, Ana. But what ends up happening is is that people get sliced and diced more quickly.

So as an example, if you're going to put Omarosa in the situation room for two hours, you're going to lock the door and then you're going to coldly fired her after she's worked alongside of you for 14 years, whether you like her or you don't like her, you have to ask yourself if that's the right way to treat her in the way -- in terms of exiting, you know.

As it relates to Michael, I thought the president was very close to Michael. You know, he sat pretty close to him. So it's pretty hard to 100 percent disassociate yourself from Michael. And I find it, there is a bit of sadness for me, because I like both of these people. I certainly have been very loyal to President Trump. And I want to help and support him. And Michael Cohen is somebody I have known for at least a decade. And I wish him and his family well. And I don't like seeing the interest in fight between everybody.

But I think what ends up happening is if you get on the wrong side of the president, he will light you up on Twitter. He will light you up to his friends. And he may want to rethink that because I don't know if that's necessarily helping him.

You know, I look at -- you take away this personal stuff, you take away the intrigue of this week and you look at the employment data that we were talking about earlier, and you look at all the good things that are going on in the world and in the economy, with the right strategy and the right delivery and messaging, he could have a way higher approval rating than he does right now. So that's sort of --

CABRERA: Well, that's the thing. I mean, why isn't he talking about the economy.


SCARAMUCCI: Attack, attack politics is probably not working. (CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: He is continuing yet to go after his attorney general today, Jeff Sessions. He clearly sees him as not loyal enough. During your 11 days in the White House, you clean out unapologetically. Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus gone.

Does the president need someone like you to pull the rip cord on Sessions?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, he -- well, he had somebody like me and it turned out they didn't want somebody like me. But, you know, as it relates to Jeff Sessions, you know, I had a good very close relationship with Jeff.

A little bit of trivia. We sort of joined the campaign at the same time. And so he was the first sitting senator to endorse President Trump.

So you have to remember that he was very close to the president during the campaign and into the transition. I think what happened here is after James Comey got fired, the decision to recuse -- and we can debate that decision and we'll let historians debate that, I think the president really didn't want him to recuse. The president feels...


CABRERA: Right. He said as much over and over again.

SCARAMUCCI: ...strongly that he didn't do anything wrong. He didn't see that there was a -- well, of course. He didn't see -- he didn't see a need for a special prosecutor. But, again, you are not going to change the president's operating style. He is 72 years old now.

I could sit here on your network and 15 other networks and I can call him tonight. And if I get through on the switchboard, I can say, please, don't be tweeting this stuff and don't be saying this story and stuff, it's not helping you. But he is on missile lock as it relates to these sort of things, because, you know, he feels like Jeff needed to step -- Attorney General Sessions needed to step it up for him and he doesn't feel like that's happened.

So we can again debate all these things --


CABRERA: So why doesn't he fire them?


SCARAMUCCI: Well, it's Washington, you know. If you were in a business setting, he clearly would have been fired. In fact, one of the mistakes I made and I made a whole phone book of mistakes in 11 days.

But one of the mistakes I made is I looked at it like an entrepreneur and I looked at it as a business setting. So I said, OK, these guys are leaking. They don't have the right culture for the president. They're not serving him properly. So I was taking the approach in business, started firing everybody.


CABRERA: So would you, if you were still there? Would you try to help him with that? With firing Jeff Sessions.


SCARAMUCCI: No, because he would have a nightmare on his hands in politics. It's very, very different in politics, Ana, than it is in business.

If Jeff Sessions was the general counsel for the Trump organization it's a totally different set of personnel decisions than if Jeff Sessions is his cabinet member, attorney general, has a ton of friends in the Senate.

So my point is, is that we talk about having business leaders enter politics. But we do have to recognize that there are very different skill sets and very different norms of behavior.


SCARAMUCCI: Between those two groups of people, business and politics. So I think the president --

CABRERA: Well, not to mention the attorney general --


SCARAMUCCI: So I think the president has to make that adjustment.


CABRERA: Sorry. I keep on stepping on you. I don't mean to, Anthony. There is a slight transmission delay.

SCARAMUCCI: No, that's OK. I'm sorry.

CABRERA: But let me ask you because you talk about the difference between business and politics. It's not just the difference between business and politics, but it's also the difference between being the owner of a company, the boss of a company versus the head of the government. And when you have different parts of government that are supposed to operate independently, when the president talks about hiring or appointing Jeff Sessions to the attorney general position because he is loyal -- and let me just read the reasoning.

[16:10:02] He said, "The only reason I gave him the job, I felt loyalty."

I mean, this feud makes me wonder, is the president really just saying he wants somebody who is going to be in that office, who is going to make sure that he himself is never in any kind of legal trouble?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, let's apply a little bit of historical context, though. You know, Jack Kennedy had Bobby Kennedy. Barack Obama -- President Obama had Eric Holder. And I think that there was probably a much closer relationship in those two scenarios that I'm describing than the Attorney General Sessions and President Trump.

And so if you're making the point that he wanted somebody loyal like a general counsel inside the Trump organization, and you don't get that as president, what you get is somebody who is the avatar and the leader of the Justice Department for the United States that's overseeing the FBI and U.S. Marshal and et cetera. That point is well taken.

But I think what he is basically saying is, hey, I'm innocent. I think that's President Trump's best defense. In his heart he believes he is innocent. He doesn't think he has done anything wrong. And so he would want Attorney General Sessions to acknowledge that, after 17 or 18 months of fact finding, he would sort of like to have this thing put behind him so he can focus on other things that are going to be more productive to the American people.

But I get the point that you're making. And that's where the tension is when you put a business leader into the -- into the government. You have to understand that there is a lot more checks and balances. And you have to understand that there is individual and siloed accountability. It's not like he is just reporting to the president.


SCARAMUCCI: He has an ethical responsibility to the constitution and to the other members of the government and to the American people.

CABRERA: I mean, the president has been praising Paul Manafort, a now convicted criminal this week for not breaking like Cohen. And then suggested on "Fox News" that flipping should be outlawed, which you referenced earlier.

But let me play the sound bite for our viewers.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It's called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal. You get ten years in jail, about if you say bad things about somebody, in other words make up stories if you don't know, make up stories. They just make up lies.


CABRERA: Anthony, President Trump calls himself the law and order president. He says he wants to eradicate MS-13. He wants to get opiates off the streets yet he is condemning people who flip to help prosecutors.

So why is someone who says he has nothing to hide, not guilty of any crimes, so obsessed with flipping and calling people rats?

SCARAMUCCI: OK. Again, just so you understand me, I -- this is my personal opinion, I'm not speaking on behalf of the president, but just observing him and knowing him as well as I do, he is ventilating there and he is expressing some level of anger. He's not going to outlaw flipping. That's a time honored tradition. Even virtually on, he said that the other night.

But specifically what he is getting at is he thinks there is a process where people are forced to lie. They are forced to say things to the government or to the prosecutors in order to get their own sentences reduced even if it hurts somebody else that may or may not have done anything wrong. So that's what the president is getting at there.


CABRERA: But are innocent people worried about flippers?


SCARAMUCCI: Well, well, they would be if the flippers are going to lie about them. Right? That's the point the president is making. So here I am, an innocent person, but this other person facing 20 years in jail. He can get two years in jail if he lies about me and says I did something nefarious.

And so his point is is that there is an incentive to not tell the truth in the process of flipping. But, again, I just think he is ventilating there. That is a time-honored, historical position in the Justice Department. I don't think it's getting repealed. I think one of the issues is --


CABRERA: Sure. I don't think anybody thinks that's going to happen, either, Anthony. But, I mean, there is irony you got to admit given that the president's own attorney, Rudy Giuliani, used to run the center district of New York and at the time, the office was called the house of pancakes. That is its nickname for how many people Rudy Giuliani got to flip and all that was in cases trying the mob.

So, I mean, the president talking about flipper is isn't exactly outside the realm of his world. And I go back to if he has absolutely nothing to hide, is completely innocent, why does he care?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, again, I just tried to explain that to you, Ana. He is afraid that somebody would lie and say that he did something wrong when in fact he didn't. So that's why he cares.


CABRERA: But the evidence would have to be there in order to actually -- accept that.

SCARAMUCCI: The evidence would have to be there, but there is also circumstantial stuff that can get put together that could put the heat on somebody.

[16:15:00] You know you were mentioning some of the mob cases. Under the RICO Act, in terms of the way the racketeering act works, it's very loose in terms of being able to expand the net of prosecution.

So, listen, you're not really getting a lot of disagreement from me. I don't think the flipping thing should end. I think what the president is expressing there is ventilation. He is upset.

And just to be very candid he is the leader of the free world and he controls the bully pulpit. And so, you know, the recommendation I would be giving to him is be a little bit more measured about saying stuff like that. I get that you're upset and I get the fact that you think the people could potentially say a mistruth about you and that's what's got you frustrated. But saying that to "Fox" or on the national airwaves sends out an alarm signal to people and I don't think he needs to be doing that.

CABRERA: Anthony Scaramucci, thank you so much for the time, sir.

SCARAMUCCI: Nice -- nice to be here. Happy -- happy Saturday.

CABRERA: Happy Saturday. Enjoy the weekend. And now there is a CNN exclusive I want to tell you about.

A former doorman at Trump World Tower now free from a contract that prevented him from speaking about an alleged affair that Donald Trump had. An affair that he says resulted in a child.

And live pictures from Dublin where Pope Francis is speaking right now to a crowd of 70,000 people at the festival of families.

Let's listen in for just a moment.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): And radiates peace. Such a family can be a support for other families that do not live in peace. Following the death of Father Ganni, Enass, Sarmaad and their family chose forgiveness and reconciliation over hatred and resentment. They saw in the light of the cross.



[16:21:40] CABRERA: Now a CNN exclusive. A former doorman at Trump World Tower now free to tell a story about the president's past after his release from a catch and kill contract with the parent company of the "National Enquirer."

Now, the doorman claims he has knowledge of an alleged secret relationship years ago between Trump and a former housekeeper that he says resulted in a child.

Let's get right to CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood standing by outside the White House.

Sarah, CNN obtained a copy of the contract. What are you learning?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Ana, this represents another legal complication for a president who has endured several of them this week.

We're learning that the doorman was paid $30,000 in exchange for his silence about what he claimed to know of an affair Trump had with his former housekeeper years ago. The doorman claiming this relationship produced a child.

Now while the existence of this allegation has been known since April, the details of this agreement the doorman struck with American Media, INC, AMI, the parent company of the "National Enquirer" are only just now coming to light because the doorman would have been forced to pay $1 million if he had spoken out about this allegation of the alleged affair and the alleged child that Trump had during the 2015 election.

Now obviously this all comes against the backdrop of the fallout from the guilty plea Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, entered on a number of charges, including that Cohen and Trump facilitated an illegal campaign contribution when AMI paid several women not to tell their stories of alleged affairs with Trump during the presidential race.

And because this raises questions about how many other people were paid during the 2016 election, there are broader implications of this doorman's story.


CABRERA: Any response from the president or the White House regarding this contract release?

WESTWOOD: So far, Ana, the White House is not responding to anything related to these transactions. They're not speaking out about the doorman or the veracity of the allegation that the doorman has brought up. And they are certainly keeping it tight lipped when it comes to all of the legal matters, trying to push it outside the White House, push it on outside counsel. That's in their strategy regarding most of these issues.


CABRERA: Sarah Westwood at the White House. Thank you.

Inquiring minds want to know what's in the safe. A new report that that the "National Enquirer" kept a safe of secrets with damaging documents pertaining to Trump as the head of the paper is granted immunity by federal prosecutors. Stay right there.


[16:28:40] CABRERA: President Trump learning the taste of betrayal in a dizzying week that saw his former attorney, his chief money man and his longtime friend in publishing turn on him.

Let's start with the last. The "Wall Street Journal" reporting David Pecker, the publisher of the "National Enquirer" has been granted immunity for giving federal prosecutors information about the hush money payments that led Michael Cohen to plead guilty this week.

Cohen testified under oath that he, Donald Trump and the tabloid were involved in buying the silence of women who say they had affairs with the president. President Trump complaining to "Fox New" this week about people flipping on him.


TRUMP: I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It's called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal. You get ten years in jail, about if you say bad things about somebody, in other words make up stories if you don't know, make up stories. They just make up lies.


CABRERA: According to Cohen's plea deal, Pecker helped handle negative stories about trump by buying them and burying them. And now "The Associated Press" is reporting the "Enquirer" kept a safe of secrets with damaging documents pertaining to Trump. And in fact somebody who used to work for the "National Enquirer" in their L.A. bureau confirmed that to CNN as well.

Let's bring in Defense Attorney Randy Zelin here with me in NEW YORK.

So, Randy, federal prosecutors, they, I assumed, don't just handout immunity to anyone.

What would somebody like Pecker have to have in order for them to get an immunity?

[16:30:03] RANDY ZELIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What I have to offer you is worth it to you to give me something back. And it's so worth it to you that you're actually willing to give me a pass as opposed to what we have all been hearing lately, this notion of a cooperation agreement where the government says, you -- and i'll be fair -- tell me the truth as opposed to as a defense attorney I would say tell me what I want to hear.

And in exchange, I will go to the judge. And I will say to the judge, you know what, cut him a break on sentencing, because he has helped us prosecute other people. So this is not a cooperation agreement. This is a pass. Immunity is you're cool.


ZELIN: You don't have to worry about being prosecuted. Tell us the truth.

CABRERA: But, again, the credibility of who they are trying to give immunity to, I'm sure, is crucial because they're not just going to give immunity to somebody who could potentially be implicated in a crime unless they have evidence of what they're saying could be useful.

ZELIN: Well, it's more than just that. Of course it's -- is what I have to say worth giving away the farm? But also where do I fall on the totem pole?

Typically, people who get a full pass immunity, they are not all the way up at the top. Sammy Gravano did not get a pass for giving up John Gotti. He got a better deal.

So for example with Mr. Pecker or the CFO of the Trump organization, the government made an assessment and said, you know what, you're not really that bad. And what you have to give us, we're OK with and we're not worried about a jury looking at us and saying, how dare you make a deal with the devil like that, because that's what you are always concerned about when you're the government.

CABRERA: Let's talk a little bit more about what we are learning about the "National Enquirer." How it works.

So, apparently, they are catching and killing stories. They are burying the issues that could be potentially damaging to President Trump. At the same time, here is what they are putting out.

I mean, these are just some of the examples of their covers. Hillary's full medical file. Six months to live. Ted Cruz's father linked to JFK's assassination. You get the point.

Is there any legal line being crossed and how they are operating?

ZELIN: Well, I think it would be a stretch to implicate them as a co- conspirator in obstruction of justice or a campaign finance violation. Though you could probably make that argument which is probably why Mr. Pecker got immunity.

Because I think an argument could be made that you are -- you've entered into an agreement with a bad person to do a crime, because that's what conspiracy is all about. It's not the actual crime. It's the agreement and doing something to help the crime happen.

The crime doesn't actually have to happen. So an assessment was made. Mr. Pecker, it could be an issue, but you know, what he could give us is so much better. But as you just said, the ultimate irony is the "Enquirer" is catch and release into the public. They're all about let's get the dirt, throw it out there. That's how we sell magazines. Not get the dirt and sweep it under the rug.


ZELIN: Boy, it must have been worth it.

CABRERA: That's why everybody, obviously, is curious what do they know? What potential crimes could there be...

(CROSSTALK) ZELIN: We can all find out.

CABRERA: far as the skeletons in the closet. Now the other immunity deal we learned about this week, a source telling CNN the federal prosecutors have interviewed this man. This is Allen Weisselberg, the long-time chief financial officer for the Trump organization. Someone who has been with the company for decades on matters related to Cohen and the hush money payments. They gave him immunity. How significant is that do you think?

ZELIN: Well, think about it. Who better to know about the money than the guy handling the money?

CABRERA: In fact, we are told that he is the only non-family member who is allowed to write checks from the Trump organization.

ZELIN: Yes. No, it's -- look, in government investigations, in financial crimes, where does the government typically start? What is the low-hanging fruit?

Well, for an example, an accountant, because believe it or not, there is no privilege between an accountant and the accountant's client, except they think in Massachusetts is one of those states. But, for example, in New York.

My accountant, anyone's accountant, there's no privilege. If I have a conversation, you're my accountant and I say, listen, I'm going to be burying a few million dollars offshore. That's not privileged. Or I have, I should say, not going to, because that would never be privileged. But I have buried money offshore. That's not privileged.

So here the chief financial officer, talk about somebody who knows where all of the bodies are buried, if there are bodies buried --


CABRERA: But, but if there is like an immunity deal that's supposed to be about the Cohen case, would they be able to gather information from him beyond the Cohen investigation?

ZELIN: When you are granted immunity, or when you enter into a cooperation agreement -- and I'll take a step back -- if you want to know one of the -- probably the primary reason why you don't enter into a cooperation agreement is because the government is not limited to, OK, this piece of paper -- this is what you've done, that's all we can talk about. No.

[16:35:11] The government can ask whatever they want. And if you lie or if you say I'm not telling you about that, then your deal is done. So don't cooperate and don't worry about that. But in this particular instance, same thing, with immunity.

No, the immunity is not going to be contingent upon just tell us what you know on this piece of paper. There are no limitations. It's not like a search warrant that has limitations or a subpoena that has limitations. This is an agreement. It's a contract. And I can assure you that contract says you are telling us everything.

CABRERA: Randy Zelin, good to have you.

ZELIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: I'm sure the story is not over yet.

Well, it was the night before a new scandal when all through the house not a creature was stirring, except maybe President Trump.

Coming up, why a late night all-caps Twitter rant from the president is now drawing comparisons to the last days of President Nixon.

And back, live, now to Ireland. 70,000 people packing an arena in Dublin to see Pope Francis -- there he is -- at the World Festival of Families.


[16:41:30] CABRERA: We have an update on that crash involving a passenger train and a dump truck. This is in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Police say it appears the truck tried to cross the track even though the barrier was down and two people in the truck were killed. Approximately 13 passengers on the train were taken to local hospitals. Police say none of those passenger's injuries appear to be life threatening.

We will bring you more information on this as we get it.

It was Thursday, just after 1:00 in the morning, the White House was mostly dark except for a few lights still on. So what was happening?

It turns out the president was tweeting in all caps, "No collusion. Rigged witch hunt."

And that outburst set the Internet on fire.

Journalist Howard Fineman remarking, "It's 1:00 a.m. and the hemmed in president -- Donald Trump -- is talking to the walls via an all caps tweet scream."

Another person saw shades of Nixon tweeting, "This is the equivalent of Nixon walking through the White House talking to the portraits."

That last tweet a reference to the famous Woodward and Bernstein account of Nixon's mindset as Watergate demolished his presidency.

Joining us now CNN presidential historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library -- Tim Naftali.

Tim, always good to have you.

Is it fair, do you think, to compare President Trump's mood to that of Nixon in his last days?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it's very fair to compare President Trump's ranting to Richard Nixon's ranting.

What we just don't know yet is whether we are talking about a final day scenario.

Richard Nixon -- people forget this. Richard Nixon knew what was on his tapes. And when the Supreme Court decided that the special prosecutor would get access to Nixon's tapes, he knew that it was over. That the walls were coming in on him.

So a lot of his -- those final days, the ranting, the delusions of those final days were a product of Nixon knowing what would come next.

Donald Trump at the moment understandably is angry because Michael Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. Pecker are cooperating with the government.

What we don't know is whether he is angry just because his friends have betrayed him or because he knows what they know and that that will put him into even greater legal jeopardy. We just don't know that yet.

CABRERA: That's right. And even after this wild week, the Republicans continue to stand by President Trump. Here they are.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Naturally it makes you very concerned. But, you know, the president shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of people that he has trusted.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: What about a Michael Cohen? He is -- he has pled guilty and that's the way the constitution works. So what else -- so what else -- what is there about him to worry about?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I don't see a deeper meaning in this other than you have to pay your taxes and you can't lie on a loan application.


CABRERA: When you think back to Watergate, Republicans also hung in for Nixon until the very end when the tapes were released. And then he lost the public. Are quotes like the ones we just heard a sign of undying loyalty or a sign that we're just not at the end yet?

NAFTALI: No, I want to make a different point, Ana, about Republicans in the Watergate era.

I think if you want to see true patriotism expressed by elected members look at what some Republicans did during Watergate. They called on the president to resign well before the so-called smoking gun tape came out.

[16:45:00] Republicans also on the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Richard Nixon. And these were Republicans in districts that were pro-Nixon. And why did they do it? Because they understood they had an obligation to the constitution of the United States that was greater than their tribal loyalty to their party.

So I think that we should -- you know, I think that 1973-74 period is very useful to remind ourselves of the fact that we Americans can be more than just partisan.

So I wouldn't be surprised if some of the Republicans who were saying the things that they are today are going to rule this day later on should more material, more damaging material about the president come to light.

CABRERA: I mean, one senior Republican aide explained it to CNN, the lack of speaking out, the relatively silence or kind of brushing things to the side, saying, quote, "Everyone will move on to the next huge cataclysmic thing in like three hours. Why burn down the relationship when the president is going to dramatically shift the topic in a matter of hours?"

Do you think Trump is better at changing the conversation than Nixon ever was? And what do you make of that explanation from Republicans currently, that, you know, just give it a few minutes. Give it another hour?

NAFTALI: Two excellent questions.

First answer, Donald Trump is much better than Richard Nixon at changing the subject. Richard Nixon reacted to the Saturday night massacre when he fired the special prosecutor by withdrawing. Some of his closest aides described him at incommunicado after late 1973.

Donald Trump is the opposite. We are getting more and more Trump, not less and less Trump. So in that sense, Mr. Trump is better at it. The other is an issue about what matters most.

These Republican leaders, by the way not all Republicans are acting this way. But these leaders that are saying, well, why should we bother because the public will forget. They should remember that their obligation is the constitution of the United States. Their obligation is not to any given president. So they have a much higher loyalty. And that loyalty requires, I believe that they stand up for the rule of law and that they talk about the importance of our institutions and of an independent judiciary.

Those are things that they should be doing anyway regardless of whether or not the American people remember a certain crisis or scandal.

CABRERA: Timothy Naftali, thanks so much for being with us.

Words of a true American hero, Senator John McCain is refusing further treatment in his battle with cancer. Dr. Sanjay Gupta who has spoken to senators and the doctors of Senator McCain brings us a report, next.


[16:52:13] CABRERA: Senator John McCain is surrounded by love from his family and really from people all over the country this weekend, after making the immense decision to stop seeking medical treatment for his brain cancer.

And though the McCains are facing this moment with courage, it is hitting a lot of people hard. McCain is not just a legendary lawmaker, he is a Vietnam War hero who taught the country a great deal about living with grace in the worst of situations. He showed us that grace again when he spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper last September shortly after he went public with his prognosis.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: But, Jake, you know, every life has to end one way or another. I think it was a playwright -- I think -- 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."


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That reminds me, that's a --


MCCAIN: You got to be -- you 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. Went to Sedona. You remember?

I mean, everything was so magic about that campaign. And i's very grateful for having the opportunity. Remember, I'm the guy that stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the naval academy.


TAPPER: And my last question for you, and I hope I don't run this clip for another 50 years. But how do you want the American people to remember you?

MCCAIN: He served his country, and not always right. Made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors, but served his country. And I hope we could add honorably.


CABRERA: Indeed. For more on the difficult decision made by McCain and his family, let's turn to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know this is probably one of the toughest decisions the patient and patient's family and doctors all collectively make, deciding to stop treatment. But it's a conversation that is probably happening almost since the time of diagnosis.

Senator McCain was diagnosed back in July of last year. So it's been now some 13 months since the diagnosis of his glioblastoma or GBM.

This is aggressive brain cancer. This is the type of brain cancer that starts in the brain as opposed to starting somewhere else in the body and spreading to the brain.

And I can tell you, I started my training in neurosurgery 25 years ago. And we really haven't made much progress overall in terms of being able to increase survival from this tumor. It's a very aggressive tumor.

[16:55:00] So almost from the beginning, the conversations are, what is the treatment options? And how likely are they to benefit me? And at some point, you sort of get to the point where you say, look, maybe the treatment options aren't actually working or maybe they are just too toxic for my body to be able to tolerate anymore and my tumor continues to grow. And that's a very, very tough difficult conversation to have.

We know that Senator McCain likely had a seizure last week. He may have been declining over this past week. And then with his family probably helping him make this decision now to forgo therapy.

We don't know what the next several days or weeks are likely to hold for Senator McCain. But this is likely what has happened over the past several days.

Back to you.

CABRERA: Dr. Gupta, thank you. And a quick programming note. Be sure to tune in Labor Day for the CNN film "RBG," on the inspiring life and career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It airs September 3rd at 9:00 p.m. here on CNN. We're back in a moment.


CABRERA: It's just about 5:00 eastern, 2:00 in the afternoon out west. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We start with a visibly aggravated president, dealing with negative stories, legal entanglements and friends getting immunity from prosecutors.

Today, he is lashing out at the head of the Justice Department. Again, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.