Return to Transcripts main page
Senator McCain's Memorial Service to Begin Saturday at National Cathedral; Trump Rejected White House Statement Praising McCain's Heroism; The Life and Legacy of Senator John McCain; Gunman Kills Two People at a Florida Gaming Tournament. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 27, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And emotional time for the players about the tournament because, of course, as they were playing, Hurricane Lane was approaching their home state. They said they were able to focus, though, and shut out the South Korean team for their third world series crown since 2005. Congratulations.
Good Monday morning. I'm Erica Hill in today for Poppy Harlow.
Formal tributes await the late U.S. Senator John McCain this week in three states as the nation salutes the Vietnam War hero who went on to command the political stage for decades.
President Trump, whose open hostility toward McCain, has allowed him so far just a couple of social media posts directed at McCain's family. There's not been a mention of McCain's lifetime of service to his country.
The senator will be laid to rest on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy. The farewells, though, will begin in Phoenix. And that is where we find CNN's Stephanie Elam this morning.
Steph, good morning.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. We are looking at several days where the country will be able to remember the senator. And we've learned that he is very instrumental in planning how he wanted these days to progress and proceed. He had a year, just over a year, where he found out he had brain cancer to when he passed away on Saturday afternoon here in Arizona to plan it.
So just to give you an idea what's going to happen, it's going to start here in Arizona's capital here in Phoenix where he will lay in state here in the capital building on Wednesday, which would have been his 82nd birthday. And then on Thursday, there will be a memorial service for him at the North Phoenix Baptist Church where, according to the "Washington Post," we understand that former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak.
And then after that, it will be the last time that this senator will leave the state of Arizona and he will travel to Washington, D.C. where he'll lie in state at the U.S. capitol. And then on Friday -- that will happen on Friday. On Saturday, he will then have a memorial service, a funeral service at the National Cathedral where we understand former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are expected to eulogize him.
And as we know, this was a man who believed in reaching across the aisle. And we see that playing out in how he has asked people to speak for him and his memorial. And then on Sunday, there'll be a private memorial as he's laid to rest at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
When you take a look at -- this man, he loved to read. And he loved to write. And he's a beautiful writer. He's written several books and two different speeches. In 2008 and 2016, he talked about his love affair with the United States. And whether or not folks agree with what he had to say all the time, it is clear that this man acted out of what he thought was best for the republic. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency, for its faith and the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. And I've been repaid 1,000 times over with adventures, with good company, with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America. And I am so grateful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ELAM: You could argue that any one of the chapters of his life was enough to look back on and be proud of. But he had so many things that he accomplished in his life. And being a prisoner of war for over five years. He could have had the right to have been bitter, Erica. But that was not the case. At the end, all the way through, he loved the United States and always saw it as the best place that it could be and always saw the best in the country as well.
HILL: Stephanie Athena Jones is at the White House. And we're also Elam with the latest for us from Phoenix. Stephanie, thank you.
McCain made it known months ago, he did not want President Trump at his funeral. And from every indication, that wish will be honored. CNN is also learning the first lady is not expected to attend any of McCain's memorial events this week.
learning more about this tribute, this statement about John McCain that had been drafted by the White House but never released. What more do we know this morning, Athena?
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erica. That's right. A person familiar says that White House aides drafted what's being described as a fulsome statement for President Trump on the death of Senator John McCain, that this statement went through the White House internal review process and that several staffers thought it would be released Saturday when McCain passed away. But that is not what happened. Now the "Washington Post" reports that White House Chief of Staff John
Kelly, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and others urged the president to release the statement calling McCain a hero, praising him for his service. The president instead said he wanted to issue a brief tweet.
Let's put that tweet up on the screen. Also issued a similar statement -- the same statement on his Instagram account. That tweet, saying, "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you."
[10:05:09] So offering condolences to the family in that brief tweet but saying nothing of Senator McCain's decades of service in the military and on Capitol Hill. I should note that others in the administration or part of the White House put out fuller statements. Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, all praising Senator McCain's service. But that is not what the president chose to put out.
And one more thing I should note that's sort of raising eyebrows and questions this morning at the White House, the flag here is at full staff. It was raised a couple of minutes after midnight to full staff. This even though the flag at the U.S. capitol is still at half staff. We have asked the White House why that is and are still waiting for an answer -- Erica.
HILL: All right. Well, when you do get that, let us know. I know you will, Athena.
Athena Jones at the White House for us this morning. Thank you.
Also joining us this morning, Rick Santorum, CNN senior political commentator, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and Kurt Volker, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, the executive director of the McCain Institute at Arizona State University.
Gentlemen, good to have both of you with us.
Ambassador, let me start with you. When it comes to the legacy of Senator McCain, specifically as we look at foreign policy, this is a man who traveled extensively. We didn't always hear about all those trips but he was certainly on a plane a lot internationally. What does his death mean now in terms of foreign policy for this country and representatives of the United States abroad?
KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, he leaves a huge gap. First off, because so many people around the world felt touched by him. They felt that he supported their cause of freedom, democracy, security, and many of them felt that they had some kind of personal experience that had benefited from his work. And so it leaves a huge gap because there isn't anyone else like that right now.
The second thing is that he represented the best tradition of combining support for American values and support for American's national interests and national security. That's a hard thing to bridge as well. And I hope that we find new leaders emerging in the Senate who carry that tradition forward.
HILL: And as a senator, of course, you had a somewhat contentious but professional relationship, we know, Rick Santorum, with John McCain. Clashing a bit on policy. What do you remember, though, about John McCain, your colleague John McCain, the man?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we did clash on several issues. But on a lot of issues, we really saw, you know, eye to eye. National security being one of them. Look, I learned a lot from John McCain on national security. And, you know, I served with him on the Armed Services Committee for eight years. I will never forget, my first markup of a national security bill. And I was there brand new, really had very little national security experience when I started in the United States Senate. And I'll never forget, an amendment was offered by John Glenn. And so John Glenn explained his amendment and I thought he was very compelling.
John McCain was against it. And he -- so the two of them were back and forth, and I'm thinking, I'm just sitting there thinking, wow, John Glenn and John McCain, this is pretty amazing. And I thought Glenn had the better of the arguments. And so while the Republicans voted, I was the last Republican and I voted with -- all of the Republicans voted with McCain. I voted with Glenn. And then all the Democrats voted, they voted with Glenn except for Joe Lieberman who voted for McCain.
And I'll never forget a few minutes after that vote, I got a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there's John McCain. And he gets right in my face and says, the next time you do something like that and you don't tell me what you're going to do, and he just let me have it. I thought, OK, now I know -- now I know, don't cross John McCain unless you give him a heads up what you are doing. So that's the kind of guy he was.
I mean, and after that, we were fine. I mean, no problem. But he was very passionate about everything that he got involved with.
HILL: Yes. A lot of talk about his passion this morning understandably. There's this proposal from Senator Schumer to rename the Russell Office Building after John McCain. Would you agree with that proposal? Would you like to see that happen?
SANTORUM: I think that would be great. I mean, look, John McCain was a larger than life figure in the United States Senate and, you know, just as an American. I mean, as was said previously, almost any aspect of life, if you look at those aspects, they were larger than life. And he was someone who represented the values of the United States Senate as someone who was his own man. I mean, that's the one thing about the United States Senate. I mean, it was always said in the Senate, you have 100 senators who think they should be president.
And that's pretty much the case. Every senator goes out and tries to do what -- sort of cut their own swath. And John McCain represented that. And I think that would be a great, great tribute to him and an appropriate one.
HILL: In his book, "The Restless Wave," he lamented where we are as a country politically. Take a listen to some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Before I leave, I'd like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations.
[10:10:09] I'd like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Ambassador, is there a chance we can come back to that? Are we past the point of no return? I mean, there have been some folks I've listened to this morning who have said, sadly, this era of John McCain ended before his passing.
VOLKER: Well, I don't believe that. I think John McCain had a lot of faith in the American and a lot of belief in the country, and I share that faith and that belief. I think that as a people we are still there. We do need to demand more from our leaders to work together, to stand up for values, to try to do what's best for a larger cause, serving a cause greater than one's self as John McCain did. But I'm fundamentally optimistic about that.
HILL: And just curious your thoughts on the statement from the president tweeting out his condolences as we know. But this reporting that there was a broader statement that was prepared, Rick, that was not released. The president decided not to release it. Some supporters of the president saying listen, if he had it, it would have just been torn apart. It's disingenuous, so it was a catch 22. What would you like to see from this president?
SANTORUM: You know, look, the tweet was a gracious tweet. Could it and should it have been more? Probably. I agree, it's a difficult situation. There is certainly a lot of contention between the two men. And frankly, it was very clear that John McCain didn't have a whole lot of respect for President Trump. And that's a hard thing for this president to get over.
In my mind, at this moment, he should have. And he should have been a little bit more gracious in how he commented on his death.
HILL: Ambassador Volker, as we hear some people talk about how they look up to John McCain, a lot of those folks are in fact his contemporaries. You know, you say you're still hopeful for politics in this country. Do you see a next generation looking up to John McCain and seeing him as the example that his contemporaries do?
VOLKER: Honestly, I do. You know, I look at some of the newer members of the Senate from both parties and John McCain took them under his wing. He brought them on congressional delegation visits to different countries, different trips, different conferences, such as the Munich Security Conference. And there is a new generation of senators that I think is taking up that mantle of concern about national security and foreign affairs, taking some of the guidance from the legacy of Senator McCain.
SANTORUM: Can I make one quick comment on this? Because I think this is really important. John McCain -- look, John McCain and I battled a lot, you know, on issues. But John McCain had the courage of his convictions. And the reason he is applauded a lot in the media today is because he was willing to buck his own party and including the Republican base. I didn't agree with him when did he it, but he had the courage do it. And I do not see that on the other side of the aisle. And I don't see it as much even on our side of the aisle.
So I agree that I'm hopeful in the future but don't underestimate the amount of courage it took to take the grief that he took to do what he did. And I just don't see that in American politics today.
HILL: Rick Santorum, Ambassador Kurt Volker, really appreciate both of you joining us this morning. Thank you.
SANTORUM: Thank you.
HILL: Still to come, the search for a motive. Two people are dead, nine others injured after a person opens fire at a video game competition in Jacksonville. We are live with the latest.
Plus lawmakers warning President Jump against firing his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. One Republican senator even saying this would be the first domino to fall. We will discuss.
[10:18:16] HILL: Police have searched the Baltimore home of a 24- year-old man trying to determine why he opened fire at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, this weekend. The gunman killing two people, wounding nine more before taking his own life. The tournament was live streaming at the time. And this is what viewers saw and heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be hard to get --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not even a lot. It's not a tough -- excuse me, not an easy out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: CNN's Rosa Flores is live this morning in Jacksonville. What more do we know at this point, Rosa? There's so many questions this morning.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right. There are so many questions. And we know very little from authorities, Erica. We do know that the alleged shooter is David Katz, 24 years of age, from Baltimore. He is a known gamer. He was a champion in 2017. And we know that ATF and FBI have been scrubbing his home, looking for clues. In those situations normally they'd be looking for computers, cell phones, any evidence that would allow law enforcement to connect the dots, to figure out a motive.
Now what we know about the time of the shooting is that shots started ringing out at about 1:30 yesterday. At that point in time, as you might imagine, very intense moments. We do know that firefighters were doing a drill in this building that's right in front of me behind this camera. And they immediately responded, we're told, by the firefighters association, they treated people out here and also there is three firefighters who ran inside and started triage.
Now we're also hearing from witnesses about those intense moments. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[10:20:02] TONY MONTAGNINO, VIDEO GAMER WOUNDED IN SHOOTING: I turned around and actually, you know, saw the flashes from the gun. And at that point, it just went into, you know, survival mode. And I just wanted to make sure I was out of there. It really -- it breaks my heart to see guys that I care about as much as I do, you know, hurting and see their families grieving. It's just -- it's really something that I don't want anybody to ever have to deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: And two lives cut short yesterday. The names, 27-year-old Taylor Robertson of West Virginia and 22-year-old Eli Clayton from California. Our prayers are with them -- Erica.
HILL: They certainly are. Rosa Flores with the latest in Jacksonville. Rosa, thank you.
Joining me now, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst James Gagliano.
James, as we take a look at everything that's happening here, understandably, as we hear from Rosa, there are not as many details being released right now because it's an active investigation. What would you be looking at first and foremost today?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure, Erica. Police right now are working very closely with the FBI in Maryland, obviously, where the shooter was from, trying to put together some type of template to understand the human behavior that ended up evolving or devolving into somebody being at a gaming event, a seemingly fun, jocular, frivolous event where, you know, you're playing video games against other people and what caused this individual to snap.
Look, this is more from a criminal justice issue, Erica, into a homeland security issue. And people always talked about, well, homeland security means threats from the outside in. No. These are threats on the inside. And we've got to look at what we need to do to either harden soft targets, which this place was. There was no screening or metal detectors because people thought there wouldn't be any need for them. And try to figure out a way to keep citizens safe, Erica, because we're not doing a great job of it right now.
HILL: Yes, and you and I talked about too many of these incidents in the days and the weeks afterwards. Governor Rick Scott also lamenting what is and is not happening. Here is part of what he had to say yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We have got to change. We've got to really stop and say to ourselves, there's something wrong. Why are young men willing to give up their life? Why don't they value somebody else's life? We've got to figure this out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: You know, you talk about the hardening of softer targets. We talk about security. But there is also this other part of it that is -- it's much harder to see, of course, on the outside, which is the mental health aspect of it. There's been a lot made about it. There's been a lot of talk. Have you seen any proposals that you think would make a difference?
GAGLIANO: Well, absolutely. I mean, hindsight for every endeavor or enterprise is always 20/20. We sit back now and we look. And I have talked to some police sources who said, this individual in particular, he had strange behavior. Part of it was over the two-day course of this event, he wore the same clothes, said some things that struck people again in hindsight as boy, that just doesn't sound right.
Erica, we talked about this in Florida, you and I. We have HIPAA and FERPA regulations to protect people and to protect people's privacies. But we really need to look at what we can do to bring all of these scientists together. Yes, we need to talk about guns. Yes, we need to talk about mental health. And unfortunately, yes, we need to talk about hardening soft targets. And we treasure and cherish the freedoms and the civil liberties we have here in the United States of America.
But we can't keep sending kids to school and sending folks to events where they think they're safe, they are seemingly safe, and then somebody is able to secrete a pistol in their waistband, come in and end up killing two people and themselves. It's a damn shame. And we've got to come together and coalesce around this issue.
HILL: Part of what they'll be looking at will obviously be this digital footprint. And here we could be talking about interaction with other gamers. How important will they be in this investigation?
GAGLIANO: Sure. And I have heard some people on social media talking about the violent video imagery and how that desensitizes youth. And as the governor's point, you know, these are generally speaking disaffected young white men. So what is causing that? The access to video games. Well, I understand this was a football tournament. This had nothing to do with, you know, "Call of Duty" or any of those other kind of violent war games.
But in many instances, the thing that kind of separates some of these young men from families, from co-workers, from friends is the ability to disappear into their basement, you know, lose themself in a game and kind of just morph out of reality. Now do some of these games desensitize youth? Absolutely. I'm not a sociologist or psychologist, but absolutely in these endeavors.
Again, as you say all the time, it's not a one-step problem. These are all a lot of things that we have to bring together outside of a vacuum and try to make sense of this and help keep America safer.
HILL: James Gagliano, always appreciate it, my friend. Thank you.
GAGLIANO: Thanks for having me, Erica.
HILL: Several lawmakers are warning the president once again not to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, while others say, you know what? Maybe it is time for the AG to go.
[10:25:06] This as the feud between the two men, it's heating up. So what could happen if the president were to give Sessions the boot? We'll discuss next.
HILL: Thirty minutes from now, we are learning the president is set to make an announcement on trade. A source telling CNN the U.S. and Mexico are reaching a preliminary agreement on key issues. And we're going to bring that to you live. So stay with us for that.
The president continuing his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the weekend.