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Trump Finally Issues Statements Mentioning McCain's Service; Interview with Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:18] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: I'm glad we got to the right place.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

Those are the words of a Trump supporter and Republican strategist today after flags at the White House were lowered back to half-staff in honor of the late Senator John McCain. The question tonight, what took so long, and why was the president still in the wrong place two full days after the senator died?

What was so hard about offering a kind word to, praise for the Arizona Republican as praise poured in from around the globe, friend and foe alike, paying tribute to man, because keeping them honest, them of this should have been hard.

When a significant national figure dies, White House procedure is more or less automatic. It was followed recently after the passing of Barbara Bush just a few months ago.

The president issued a proclamation reading in part: As a mark of respect for the memory of Barbara Bush, I hereby order by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America the flag of the United States shall will flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations and all naval vessels of the federal government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its territories and possessions until sunset on the day of internment.

Until sunset on the day of internment. Senator McCain will be buried this coming Sunday. Yet this morning and for most of the day, White House flags flew normally, as if nothing had happened. As if a man who spent 5 1/2 years in Vietnamese captivity, survived brutal torture, declined the chance to be freed before his buddies, returned home to a life of public service and ran twice for president as if he were still alive.

The flags flew normally today because unlike the one for Barbara Bush, no proclamation went out from the president on Saturday or yesterday or most of today. Nor did a kind word for Senator McCain escape the senator's lips at first or his Twitter fingers when he posted this, my deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you. Nothing about the man. Just about his family. He also tweeted about Tiger Woods's comeback and poll numbers. He

boasted about the economy. But as for Senator McCain, that lone tweet was it. And as you saw, there was nothing in it about the man himself which did not go unnoticed.

And the uproar only grew when "The Washington Post" reported that the president had also nixed a formal statement that staffers had prepared praising Senator McCain's life and heroism. But as scathing as the reaction was, it might have died down had the White House simply done what has traditionally been done at moment likes this, when institutions around Washington and across the country have done, as this picture clearly shows. Passions might have cooled had the president offered more than just stony silence, the five times he was asked about it today.


REPORTER: Mr. President, any thoughts on John McCain?


REPORTER: Mr. President, do you have anything to say about John McCain?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.

REPORTER: Mr. President, do you have any thoughts on John McCain? Do you have any thoughts at all about John McCain? Do you believe John McCain is a hero?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. Keep moving.

TRUMP: Thank you.

REPORTER: Nothing at all about John McCain?

TRUMP: Thank you.

REOPRTER: The American Legion has asked you to lower the flag to half-staff. Any reaction to the American Legion? Any reaction to the American Legion asking you to do proclamation about John McCain? Why won't you say --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let's go, make your way out. Press, let's go. We're finished. Let's go.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

REPORTER: Mr. President, any comment on John McCain, sir? Mr. President, why won't you call John McCain a hero, sir?


BERMAN: So, shortly after his final non-answer, the president did offer a statement, reading in part, quote: Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect senator John McCain's service to our country and in his honor have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his internment.

Now to be clear, the president's statement is hardly effusive in its praise, but it is something. And had it been his first and last word on the subject, chances are we wouldn't even be talking about it. The president, after all, did not like Senator McCain, famously so, nor did the senator have many good things to say about the president.

That said, just as there is a tradition of lowering the flag at times like these, there was also a tradition of presidents sucking it up and saying kind words, even the passing of people they famously despise, such as Lyndon Johnson did when his nemesis Robert Kennedy was murdered.

[20:05:13] Quote, a noble and compassionate leader, the proclamation reads, a good and faithful servant of the people and the full vigor of his promise lies dead from an assassin's bullet. Now, maybe you see that as a prophecy. Maybe you see what the president has been doing is just being honest about someone he's never really liked. Perhaps that's the case.

But if so, why won't he just say so and own it? He didn't. He said nothing. Or maybe someone at the White House just screwed up and didn't remind him that a proclamation was needed to keep the flags at half-staff. But if that were the case, why wasn't the mistake, if you want to call it at that, corrected this morning when Washington first started freaking out?

And if they just didn't know that this is what you do when a significant national figure dies, why were procedures correctly followed back in April when Barbara Bush died?

These are all questions which we don't have answers for tonight, questions for which we might never get answers.

So, as Washington mourns and stews over the whole sad affair, we want to honor Senator McCain the way that he wanted to be remembered in a letter written to be read when he passed. And so, it was today by his dear friend and former campaign manager Rick Davis.


RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN'S FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I've often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I've loved my life, all of it. I've had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful.

Like most people, I have regrets, but I would not trade a day of my life in good or bad times for the best day of anybody else's. Fellow Americans, that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American.

We are citizens of the world's greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We're blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening, I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties. We believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.


BERMAN: That was Rick Davis earlier today.

Late this evening, the president did speak briefly about Senator McCain.

Joining us now from the White House, CNN's Jim Acosta.

And, Jim, the president just made his first public out loud comments about the passing of Senator McCain. What did he say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. It turns out the sixth time was the charm, and this was unprompted. Reporters tried all day long. I was one of those reporters. I tried to ask a question at that fifth photo opportunity when the president did not respond.

But later this evening, as you pointed out just a few moments ago, he was having dinner with some evangelical leaders here at the White House, and the White House pool as we call it, they were in the room and the president going through his remarks for the evening did make a passing reference of respect to John McCain. Here's what he had to say.


TRUMP: Also, our hearts and players are going to the family of Senator John McCain. There'd be a lot of activity over the next number of days. And we have very much appreciated everything that Senator McCain has done for our country. So, thank you very much.



ACOSTA: And so, John, you could hear the applause there in the room. It sounded like a lot of people in the room wanted to hear the president do that. I reached out to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary earlier today and asked why it took so long, why it is that they issued this proclamation after they decided on Saturday to put out that tweet. She said that this was the president's doing, and the statement put out speaks for itself.

[20:10:04] But, John, a lot of other things spoke for themselves including the other opportunities when the president had a chance to say something kind about John McCain and he simply passed up that chance, John.

BERMAN: Clearly, ultimately, he felt the pressure, including from the American Legion.

Jim Acosta, thanks so much for being with us. I do appreciate it.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BERMAN: Someone who worked in Congress alongside John McCain and followed in a way his campaign footsteps, running for president in 2016 as the kind of conservative maverick John McCain tried to be in 2000 and 2008, Ohio Governor John Kasich. We spoke earlier today.


BERMAN: Governor Kasich, when you think about Senator McCain, in your own interactions with him, what will you remember most?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Wow, I mean, he -- he liked to laugh. He had a great sense of humor. He had incredible passion. He had strong faith in the Lord. And he is just like a regular guy.

I mean, it's all those things put together. You know, he is inspiring to me. In some ways, even though we were -- we were peers, at one point we were both in the House of Representatives together, I kind of felt like he was almost like a coach. I wanted to get attaboys from him, you know? He was kind of a guy you wanted him to give you some praise.

And when you think about his life, I mean, my goodness, what that guy had been through and what he represented was just absolutely amazing. I remember being in his office not too long ago when he was showing me the picture that the Vietnamese had taken when they fished him out of the ocean. He was really proud of that.

I mean, the guy just did it all. He did it all.

BERMAN: So, if you always thought of a coach, you're going love this next question, because way back in 1998, we dug this up. "The New York Times" asked Senator McCain about you for a profile "The Times" was writing on you and your political ambitions.


BERMAN: Right? OK, get this -- Senator McCain said you were, quote, a fine, fine young man, one of the best we have, but that, quote, he has a hair trigger temper. So, that, of course, coming from a man who himself was known for his quick temper.

So, now, 20 years later what do you make of his cheeky description you have?

KASICH: Aw, that's -- here's the thing about Washington that's really interesting. Sometimes you have to get people's attention. And I'd say that John McCain and I in many respects were young men in a hurry, in a hurry to change the world, in a hurry to get things done.

And when obstacles got in our way that we were certain, certain in our own way were vital to the spirit of our country or what we were trying to get accomplished, you know, we moved fast, and we were very vocal about things. Now, that was '98. I've gotten a little more calm. But I still have the same burning passion just like John did.

And so, it was interesting he said that, you know. Good. Good, John. He and I would have a big chuckle over it if he were here today.

One thing I do want to tell you, I do want you to hear that when I found out he was ill, and I did track him down in Arizona, and I did ask him if he was OK with the Lord, with the big guy. And he said, Johnny, don't have to worry. I got that all taken care of. And that was important to me.

I also called him when he voted no on getting rid of that health care for Americans. And when I talked to him, I said, John, sometimes he was hard to get, I said John, you've always been my hero, and never more than right now. And so, you know, it's great that he goes down with a ten strike as far as I'm concerned on a hole in one. Something -- I just loved the guy.

BERMAN: So let me read you something that gets to what his role is in Washington and in the country. This is something Dan Balz from "The Washington Post" wrote. He said his death is reminder of new time with new challenges for generation that now must follow his footsteps.

Will anyone pick up the legacy he leaves behind? So what about that? Will anyone pick up the legacy that John McCain leaves behind or does his style, his way of doing things die along with it?

KASICH: I don't -- you're never going have another John McCain. He's the real McCoy.

But do I think his life will inspire other people? We certainly hope so. We hope that people will forget about so much about partisanship and party and all that kind of business, because what McCain loved most is he loved his country.

And if you always -- when you're in a position of authority, you love your country above all else, you end up doing better. But I think there is one other thing that could be very helpful and inspiring to people, and that is wherever you live, whatever you do, that you can make a difference in the way the world turns.

And that kind of inspiration we need, because we need people where they live to begin to take matters into their own hands to be constructive with other people, regardless of their philosophies or their political party and that other stuff, and let's make our world better.

[20:15:12] And I think John is an inspiration for that as well. As to the major big shots, let's think about the people who drive our country which are the real folks who he loved when he would go to those baseball games.

BERMAN: Governor, I want to ask you about how the White House has handled its response to this. It took two days, two full days to put out a statement praising Senator McCain's service to the country, not to mention the fact that the president was asked five times about it today if he had anything to say out loud about Senator McCain, and he refused to offer one word of praise on camera.

What does that tell you about the president?

KASICH: Well, look, they've moved the flags back down again. They're now at half-staff. The president, President Trump put out some kind words.

This is not the time. This is the time to think -- look, what's happening with John McCain's death is all over the globe. People are saying we have a breath where we can be together. We don't have to be on the left. We don't have to be on the right.

This is a time for us to be together and to have some peace, and sort of call a truce to all the things that have been happening here, the John McCain opposed.

So I don't want to -- all I can say is they're getting it right now. And thank goodness that they are.

BERMAN: So you're relieved that finally they got to where you think they should be on that?

KASICH: Yes, I think so.

BERMAN: Governor John Kasich of Ohio, thanks so much for being with us. Thank you for sharing your memories.

KASICH: Thank you. God bless.


BERMAN: And the president finally did speak out loud about Senator McCain tonight. We have much more ahead, including how the president has handled John McCain's passion, perspective from three of the best political minds in the business.

And later, a Senate colleague remembers a fellow maverick and independent spirit. Stay with us.


[20:21:15] BERMAN: There that's White House tonight, the rooftop flag flying, as you can see, at half-staff. All that's been said about Senator John McCain, it's hard to find anything that speaks more eloquently than the action of a Vietnam veteran.

His name is David Carrasco. He went to the funeral home in Phoenix where so many people have been paying respects. He did not think he would run into Cindy McCain, but when he did, take a look at what he did. The video comes via "The Washington Post."


DAVID CARRASCO, VIETNAM VETERAN: This was given to me at ne of the ceremonies for Vietnam veterans. It would be my honor to present this to you on our behalf.


CARRASCO: I have the honor of finally meeting Cindy McCain. I gave her a medallion that was presented to me over two years ago during the Operation Freedom. I had the honor of going to Arlington with 39 other Vietnam veterans. And when she came out, that was the first thought that came to me. I wanted to give her something that related to her husband's service.


BERMAN: He wanted to give her something because her husband gave him and the country so much.

Joining us now, three people who knew the senator well, political consultant and writer Stuart Stevens, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

And, David, I had a chance earlier today to speak to former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. I was talking to him about the relationship between Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain. Listen to this.


FORMER REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: And my father genuinely loved and respected John McCain. It's an example of what we need today, again, and that is even though they disagreed, they were always searching for ways to put their country ahead of their party. And it sounds so trite, but no, not at all. These days that we're living in, we really need people to have that as their goal.


BERMAN: So, Patrick Kennedy says that's the goal, David, finding a way to reach across the aisle, at least on a few things. Is it an achievable goal at this point? Or does it drift ever off into the distance with the passing of Senator McCain?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: Well, I've certainly lost one of the heroes of the bipartisanship and he will be missed. There's no question about that. But, John, I have to say that the outpouring of grief and paying of

respects by so many Americans across the aisle has been heartwarming. I think one of the things we've learned in the last 48 hours is there is millions of Americans out there who continue to respect leaders of courage, of candor and of character. John McCain was certainly that. And people are rallying to that that belief.

And that gives me hope that we can actually with a new generation coming into power, I think that you're going find a lot of people coming into power, especially veterans who come back from Afghanistan and Iraq will try to follow in the footsteps of John McCain.

BERMAN: Let's hope.

Dana, it's interesting. The president finally did speak words out loud. The flag finally was lowered to half-staff there. Do you think it was this pressure and this outpouring of emotion that David Gergen was just talking about there that ultimately made it just impossible for the president not to step up?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Who knows? You know, the American Legion was putting pressure on him and veterans groups are very important politically to the president. I know from talking to people who have, you know, have an affection for both men and those people do exist, that they were really urging the president to cut it out and act like a president and do the basic they think he should have done, which he ended up doing at the end of the day.

[20:25:15] And it's unfortunate. It's a distraction. It's a distraction from the things that David was just talking about from that incredible moment that you played with the veteran and Cindy McCain. And unfortunately, it's also a contrast that puts the way that John McCain approached things. Not that he was perfect, and not that he didn't have his flaws, and not that he didn't get into spats with people. The president is one of them.

But when it came to moments like this, he put things aside, and the contrast is even more evident. But it is unfortunate.

BERMAN: Stuart, were you surprised at all about what happened today, or does this play out exactly how you thought it would?

STUART STEVENS, POLITICAL CONSULTANT AND WRITER: Well, I'm sort of beyond being surprised here. I think it's unfortunate that we have to have an argument about whether or not we're going to honor a great man like John McCain. What it really makes you realize is not just that we've lost that man, but what else have we lost in this country at this moment? If anything should be just an outpouring from the White House of respect. I mean, here is someone who is known across the globe, not just America, as a great American who embodies so many characteristics that we like to think are the best of America -- courage and independence, his maverick streak.

And it just -- it's sort of inconceivable that there could be anything other than just support for him. And when you're forced to do the gracious thing, it's never gracious. BERMAN: Stuart, can I ask you, because you worked on George W. Bush's

campaign in 2000. You also worked for Mitt Romney in 2008 after briefly working for John McCain there. But you ran against John McCain basically.

What was that like? Was it hard to run against him? What kind of challenge did he pose?

STEVENS: Well, sure. I mean, John McCain is the comeback guy. I mean, he -- the way he came from nowhere in New Hampshire. I mean, the Bush campaign, it is no exaggeration to say that we were 66 points ahead and lost by 19.

Now, that's hard to do.


STEVENS: And we also outspent him. But that was a magical moment that he had in New Hampshire.

I mean, a couple of us, we used to sneak away and go to these McCain town halls up in New Hampshire because they were just having so much fun. And it was something magical that happened. He didn't end up winning the nomination, but he ran a tremendously courageous race in 2008. He was completely counted out, and came back, as you all know and recovered to win the nomination and did it with dignity and with that unique style.

A great -- a great man who had a special, unique feel for the political world.

BERMAN: So, David Gergen, there is an interesting short-term fork in the road in Arizona right now. The governor there, the Republican Governor Doug Ducey has to choose who to fill John McCain's seat. And whoever he chooses will fill the seat into 2020.

But people are looking at this for signals, if he will pick a Trump- like Republican or a McCain-like Republican. And as we look at this and see where the party is going, particularly in a place like Arizona, is there any reason to think that the party isn't with President Trump, and that's where the governor will go?

GERGEN: That's a hard question, John. Arizona, I would assume before this that Arizona would appoint a McCain-like figure. But given what is occurring among activists in the country and the candidate who is there who has been speaking out in sort of unbelievable ways against McCain, you know, I think it's a toss-up.

I do think -- I would imagine that the person who is appointed will vote to approve Judge Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. That's one of the most important things that person has to do in the next few months.

BERMAN: You know, but it is interesting here to look at this as a literal fork in the road, a literal private point for the Republican Party. Dana, go ahead.

BASH: Yes, because what's going on, it's not -- it's not a theory. It's actually practical there is a Republican primary there for the other Senate seat that Jeff Flake is leaving tomorrow. And the Republican candidates are hugging Donald Trump as tightly as they can, not John McCain.

And so, that tells you everything you need to know about where the Republican Party is in Arizona, and it is, you know, just an anecdote about the shift away from the McCain Republican Party that we've seen in part really since 2007, like Stuart was saying in 2008, when John McCain almost lost the Republican nomination because of his very deep differences with that base.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- we've seen in part, you know, really since 2007, like Stuart was saying in 2008, when John McCain almost lost the Republican nomination because of his very deep differences with that base.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, Stuart, you know, you have worked in Republican politics for your whole life. Where is this going? Are you optimistic? Do you feel as if the party is headed where you want to? Is it going in that McCain direction or have you been very critical of Donald Trump? Do you realistically think this is cooked right snow?

STUART STEVENS, POLITICAL CONSULTANT AND WRITER: Well, I'm not particularly optimistic. Which is unusual for me, because I normally am, in that I just see that the -- but getting any specific issues, the sort of underpinnings of what it was that so many of us were drawn to the Republican Party for. It was character counts, a personal responsibility, strong on Russia, having a realistic view of the Soviet Union and Russia, even the national debt.

I mean these are all things that have been turned to their head in this moment. And I think that they transcend any particular vote on taxes or vote on tariffs. It's sort of who are you? You have to ask yourself. And are we in a world where character doesn't count?

I don't think that the rest of the world in that place. I think that the rest of the world believes character does counted, and I think that ultimately that will come back to haunt the Republican Party. And I hope that it comes home to what is its true, best self.

BERMAN: David Gergen?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, listen, I think the Republican Party today, Stuart certainly right. It's unrecognizable for anyone who has been around and understood what the values were. I just want to make a point, though, that when you have this outpouring coming from both sides across the political spectrum of respect for what John McCain represented, it does suggest that there are counterpressures in this country to bring the Republican Party back --

BASH: I agree.

GERGEN: -- to its senses. And right now, Republican Party is embracing Donald Trump, you know, completely. And if he goes down, it's going go down with him. But I -- please, Dana, please, go ahead.

BASH: No, no, I don't mean to interrupt. I'm sorry. I thought you were done. I just -- I agree with you and I do have optimism, but not necessarily for a particular party. Just about basic humanity and the desire among American voters too as you said, David, earlier so eloquently have leaders with character who believe in the basic institutions that are so under attack right now from, you know, the government institutions to institutions like the media, you know, basic tenets of democracy. And I think that it has nothing to do with the Republican or Democratic Party. It's just that kind of person that people clearly are yearning for.

BERMAN: Dana Bash, David Gergen, Stuart Stevens, thanks so much for joining us tonight, sharing your thought, sharing your memories. Really appreciate it.

So Senator McCain was a man of many talents, and one of them was a terrific, biting sense of humor. Just ahead we'll examine that as part of his legacy.


[20:36:27] BERMAN: He had a twinkle in his eye. That's what most people said after spending time with Senator McCain. Sure, he was human and he had a caustic side. Boy, did he ever? But along with that came wit and a finely tuned sense of humor. Here is "360's" Randi Kaye.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Good evening, my fellow Americans. I ask you what should we be looking for in our next president? Certainly someone who is very, very, very old.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator John McCain two months after winning the 2008 Republican Party nomination cracking jokes on "Saturday Night Live." One of countless opportunities the senator took to poke fun at himself.

MCCAIN: I've also opposed federal water projects, even when they benefited my state. That's why thanks to me, 15% of Arizona citizens must get their drinking water from cactus.

KAYE: He was the first sitting senator to host "Saturday Night Live" and returned to the show many times. His comic timing always impressive. McCain played everything from a creepy husband --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're so lovely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, oh. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could watch you for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god, David, how did you get in here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The door was open, angel. Shall I loofah your back?

KAYE: -- to a character he called bad grandpa.

MCCAIN: That's where I get on TV and go come on, Obama is going to have plenty of chances to be president. It's my turn.

KAYE: McCain's humor wasn't always self deprecating. He could be cutting too, like when someone asked him back in 2007 if he's too old to be president.

MCCAIN: And thanks for the question, you little jerk. You're drafted.

KAYE: And at times, his jokes were spur of the moment, like when he did this to a CNN reporter while he was on live TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The department laying out a series --

KAYE: McCain got such a kick out of himself, he tweeted about it later, calling it revenge. He liked to joke with the media, even our own Anderson Cooper during this interview in Washington, D.C.

MCCAIN: It's always good to see you here and trying to do the lord's work in the city of Satan.

KAYE: While not everyone appreciated his sarcasm, those who did often enjoyed being part of the joke, like Senator Chris Coons who fondly remembers McCain teasing him when he was junior senator.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: And he spots me, and he says Coons, you get off my plane. And I sort of what? And Lindsey comes over and grabs my arm and says that's how you know he likes you.

KAYE: Whatever inspired his sense of humor, Senator John McCain left us all laughing and smiling in his memory.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Florida.


BERMAN: So Maine Senator Angus King did not know John McCain personally until he arrived on Capitol Hill, but became not just colleagues, but friends, especially so on overseas trips together. And Senator King joins me now.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us. It was really fun.

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE: John, great to be with you. Oh, yeah, fantastic. That's the John McCain I knew. BERMAN: Well, exactly. Tell us about that because obviously he took policy very seriously. But it is so obvious that he loved to crack jokes about himself, make fun of himself and frankly, make fun of others too.

KING: Oh yes. He would get after us. One of the great things about traveling with John McCain, I told somebody the other day, it was like a long march with Paul McCartney.

[20:40:00] You never stopped moving, you never stopped going, there was always another meeting, but also, everyone knew him. Everywhere in the world people would recognize him. And, you know, it's pretty -- it's a good thing for a U.S. senator to have a tourist hand you their phone and say could you take my picture with Senator McCain? I mean that happened all the time all over the world.

And, you know, he was always very gracious, but he also always liked to ding you. One day he had a wonderful forum in Sedona, Arizona, which I hope will continue on foreign policy. And for two or three years, he invited me out and I spoke and participated in the forum. And then last year I went over to him and said gee, I have a conflict. I can't make it this year. And he looked at me and sort of squinted and said, you're dead to me. That was it. And that's the kind of wit that he had. He loved to try to cut you down.

BERMAN: There was this one moment, we have a clip of it from Stephen Colbert. Let me play this and then we'll talk about it.

KING: Sure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the 2008 Republican candidate for president of these United States.

MCCAIN: Thanks for bringing that up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's one of the things --

MCCAIN: After I left, I slept like a -- after I lost, I slept like a baby.


MCCAIN: Sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours, wake up and cry.


BERMAN: So the funny thing is I heard him tell that joke for years after the 2000 nomination fight with George Bush, but he kept it in the repertoire and would recycle it over time. There really an incredible sense of humor.

KING: He was wonderful. And by the way, John, I hope at some time tonight you will play his concession speech in 2008. BERMAN: Yes.

KING: It is a classic of graciousness and healing and urging the country to come together. I mean, it's exactly what we need. And, you know, he was just the classiest of guy.

BERMAN: You know, Rick Davis actually quoted directly from it in the specific letter that John McCain wanted read out loud after his passing. So we did hear some of that. Senator King, I want to ask you specifically, again you didn't know him before you got to the Senate.

KING: Right.

BERMAN: But then you did get to know him. And he developed an affection for you. And from what I can tell, it's because you were willing to work. I mean, yes, you're a nice charming guy. But at the hearings that you would sit at, you would be one of the few senators to be in there for the whole hearing. And the reason that struck me is because Senator McCain, for all his heroism, for everything else was man of the Senate, and he wanted to get work done there.

KING: Well, and every now and then, once he sent me a note saying thanks for being here until the end. I like Senate hearings. They're one of my favorite parts of the job and I like to sit right through him. So often at the end of the hearing it would be he and Jim Inhofe and me, and we'd be asking final questions. And I don't know whether that's what made him sort of pick me out and take me on the trip and out to Sedona, but whatever it was.

Now there was a funny moment in the Senate hearing. Bill Cohen, a former senator from Maine who was then Secretary of Defense was testifying. And at the end of his testimony, he looked up at McCain and said, Now, Mr. Chairman, I would like to recognize my former governor and current senator from Maine, Senator King. McCain said no. Cut him right off. You know, that was -- he always reminded you who was the chairman.

But -- and, you know, we disagreed. I disagreed with him on issues from time to time. And in one memorable case, I beat him on a vote in the Armed Services Committee on a bill. I lobbied some of his Republican colleagues. He was pretty surprised by that. But he took it graciously. It was a big deal for me.

And, you know, that was the relationship that we had. I think it was mutual respect. And I also had a very poignant moment on the floor with him. I think it was some time in the winter where he knew what was coming. And it sort of took me aback, but he said, you know, Angus, I've had a hell of a life. I've had a hell of a life. It couldn't have been any better. It's OK to go.

BERMAN: Senator Angus King, we'll leave there it with those poignant words. Thank you so much for being with us tonight and sharing your memories. And I'll give you a little promotion. We'll see you tomorrow morning on "NEW DAY".

KING: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: As we noted, it has been an up-and-down day at the White House, especially where the American flag is concerned.

Coming up, it's an inside news about exactly what went on and when during the inside deliberations revolving around how to remember Arizona Senator John McCain.


[20:48:35] BERMAN: More now on the push and pull of the White House over paying respects to John McCain. "The Washington Post" reports that President Trump have blocked efforts over weekend to call the senator a "hero." More on that now with "Post" reporter Josh Dawsey, who shares a byline on that story.

So, Josh, you broke the story about what was going on within the White House over what kind of statement, if any, they should release about the death of John McCain. Walk us through again what you learned.

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Right. So White House aides crafted a statement that cast John McCain as a hero and praised his service as a Vietnam prisoner of war for five half years and for his service in the Senate. It was an official statement from the White House.

On Saturday the president was given that statement, final edited version, and chose not to release it, instead of a tweet where he expressed condolences to John McCain's family but not giving him any sort of adjuration or compliments himself.

BERMAN: Not any direct praise to the service of John McCain in the military or in the Senate.

DAWSEY: Right.

BERMAN: And just to be clear what you just said there, it was the president who nixed releasing that kind of statement?

DAWSEY: Correct.

BERMAN: Directly?

DAWSEY: Yes. It was John Kelly, Sarah Sanders and others crafted the statement. There was widespread agreement in the White House that something needed to be put out through official channels and the president did not want to do it.

[20:50:00] Now we've seen a bit of a change of heart in the past 24 hours. You know, there was a statement this afternoon where the president said he did respect John McCain's service, even though he disagreed with him. That was the best compliment he gave. But it was more than we've seen previously. And then tonight at dinner with evangelical leaders President Trump just gave, you know, a little bit more praise, saying he respected his service and honor -- BERMAN: So, Josh, the question is, how did he get to this point? Do you have any reporting on how this evolved from the no that you reported over the weekend, to the now releasing the kind of statement that would have made this a non-story all along.

DAWSEY: Well, there's been widespread denunciations from even from some other president's supporters, I mean the American legion, probably the most prominent veterans group today, came out with a statement criticizing the president for moving the flag from -- back full math after a day. That was also stuff that's reversed in a pretty happen hazard way this afternoon with the new statement.

There was, you know, lots of criticism even from his own White House, a number of his aides, John Bolton, Pompeo, the vice president, Ivanka Trump his own daughter, Kellyanne Conway, all put out statements praising John McCain. The president too, he was basically on an island within his own White House. And it was clear about the condemnations and denunciations of how the president handled his death were not slowing down.

The president felt that he was unfairly besieged. He felt that everyone knew he didn't like John McCain, so any sort of statement would seem disingenuous. And he, you know, was renascent to seem like he was praising him lavishly. But after a while of two full days, essentially, or at least a day and a half of much of a story being about what the critics saw as a lackluster response to the death of an American senator and war hero, he changed course.

BERMAN: Josh Dawsey, it's been fascinating to watch. Thanks so much for you and your reporting.

DAWSEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Let's check in with Chris now to see what he is working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Well, John, we're all processing right now, right? That's what you do in times of loss. The simple part of the analysis is what's motivating Trump or what didn't motivate him, how he got stuck, you know, another bad political calculation. It's simple we know what that's about.

The subtle part is what parts do you take from John McCain? What's it like for his family? What's it like for the rest of us? What do we carry forward? We have guest we've got tonight. And we're also going to deal with a couple other types of loss, loss of credibility within the Catholic Church, loss of like down in Jacksonville. And also, let's be honest, a lack -- a loss of attention down there. Why? Why did we care about it at this time? What is it say about us? We're going to get into all of it deeply tonight.

BERMAN: All right. Looking forward to it. Chris Cuomo, thanks so much.

Next the latest on plans for remembering John McCain.


[20:57:03] BERMAN: Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will pay tribute to Senator John McCain at his memorial service at the National Cathedral this Saturday. The details are starting to come together what will happen in the days leading up to his burial. A week of honoring a true states -- an American hero. Miguel Marquez is in Phoenix and he joins us now with more.

Miguel, what details are we learning?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is so hard to say good-bye to John McCain, but this is the week, the beginning of a long good-bye to Senator John McCain. On Wednesday, he will lay in state here in the capital, in Phoenix, Arizona. On Thursday, there will be a service here in Phoenix, a procession up there. Well wishers are invited to line the route up there. I'm sure there will be many.

Thursday afternoon, he'll be transferred to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington D.C. by the Arizona National Guard. And on Friday, he will lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. capital. On Saturday, he will be moved from the U.S. capital to the National Cathedral by procession in Washington, D.C. And then on Sunday, he will be moved from Washington to his beloved Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland where there will be a private ceremony there and he will finally be interred Sunday afternoon at Annapolis. John?

BERMAN: Miguel, we know about former Presidents Bush and Obama, but who are some of the other notable speakers?

MARQUEZ: It is incredible to read the number of individuals, the number of people who this man touched, not only in the U.S. but around the world. And, look, there are processions, there are services, there are prayers, there are celebrations of his life along the way. To name a few, not just the former presidents, but Joe Biden and Mike Pence is sitting by his president, Henry Kissinger, actor Warren Beatty will take part in some of these events.

And then during his final remembrance at Annapolis, General David Petraeus, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and the sitting Secretary of Defense James Mattis will all take part. Some of these pole barriers. Some of these people speaking during these events. The one person in all of these events that is not on any of it, notably, is sitting president, Donald Trump.

BERMAN: I am sure for all of these people it will be hard for them, but an honor also to speak on behalf of their friend. I was also struck by the presence of Joe Biden and the McCain family has said that Joe Biden, they're almost treating him like a family member this week as he has dealt with a similar loss, a loss of son, Beau, the same cancer.

MARQUEZ: Yes. Absolutely. He is going to be speaking here at the service in Phoenix on Thursday. So a very special place reserved for Joe Biden. He'll then take part in other services down the road. It's incredible the number of not only politicians across the political divide that will be gathering this week.

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez, thank you very, very much.

Reminder, don't miss Full Circle, "360's" daily interact and newscast on Facebook, where you pick up some of the stories you get covered. You can also see it weeknights at 6:25 Eastern at

The news continues. I'll hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts now.