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The Life and Legacy of Senator John McCain; U.S. Forces: "Not Aware" of Any Drills Condemned in North Korea; Ex-Vatican Official Calls for Pope to Resign. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 10:30   ET



ERICA HILL, , CNN ANCHOR: A source telling CNN, the U.S. and Mexico are reaching a preliminary agreement on key issues. 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, reactions on Capitol Hill on the possibility of the president firing Sessions range from, he's got the right to do it to it would amount to political suicide. So would it be a mistake to fire his hand-picked AG? Not to mention of course, Jeff Sessions was one of the president's first supporters.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN legal commentator, James Schultz. You know, out of the gate as we're seeing all of this from the president, the president even tweeting out over the weekend, "Big story out that the FBI ignored tens of thousands of Crooked Hillary e-mails, many of which are really bad." He goes on to talk about all of this. "We will soon getting to the bottom of all of this corruption." And ends by saying, "At some point I may have to get involved."

A, how do you read that as him getting involved? And B, what could be the implications of this president getting involved?

JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I have no idea what was going through the president's head when he made that statement. I don't know what him, getting involved might mean. As it relates to Attorney General Sessions, clearly Senator Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham this weekend seemed open to the idea of moving him.

The president has a good story to tell right now as it relates to trade. They're going to make an announcement today as it relates to jobs, the economy. I think every time he dips his toe into these discussions about firing Jeff Sessions, it just sends the Democrats going wild and other folks that support Jeff Sessions in the Senate going wild. And you know I think in July when Grassley said it would be - you know he would not support that, you know it was clear, everyone's heels were dug in. Remember Jeff Sessions was - Attorney General Sessions was a United States senator, certainly, he has a lot of support in that body. It's going to be tough to do.

HILL: It's also we see the public lashing in, we know it's not new, the president lashing out at Jeff Sessions on Twitter. But yet in person, we're told the relationship is different, even as recently as this past week - at the end of the week when they were together at the White House, that these thing were not said in person to Jeff Sessions. There was a time when this was looked at as well, maybe the president is trying to force him to quit instead of the president having to fire him. Where does it stand now? I mean, why is it such a public lashing and yet privately it's a little different relationship?

SCHULTZ: I don't really understand that. I don't understand the tweets either as it relates to Sessions. Like I said, you know with all the other good things that are going on at this point. And I don't know what their relationship is privately at this point. But I have to say, I mean the attorney general has been doing a good job in running that agency. And look, that agency has a lot of challenges and it's tough and it's very difficult because Congress is getting frustrated with him for not turning over documents. But these are issues that Jeff Sessions can't stick his hand into and can't effectuate because of his recusal.

HILL: In what we're hearing from the president, even you mentioned Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham of course tweeting out last week reminding people that the attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president. If the president were to fire Jeff session Sessions, and he's talked repeatedly about how unhappy he is with him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Could an obstruction of justice case be made in terms of the Russia investigation?

SCHULTZ: Relative to -- no. It's well within the discretion of this president to remove an appointee. Certainly that cannot be co construed as obstruction of justice. He'd be essentially carrying out his constitutional duties and that's something that he cannot be charged with obstruction for, absolutely not.

HILL: If he were to get rid of Jeff Sessions of course we have Rod Rosenstein, who the president we know is not happy with either. So it would seem sort of an interesting choice to get rid of Sessions to be left with Rod Rosenstein even in the interim. Do you think that that has been discussed?

SCHULTZ: Yes. I don't see that slippery slope of where if Sessions goes and Rosenstein goes, then Mueller goes. I just don't see that scenario playing out. I think that would be political suicide at this point in time. But again, I think this is more about the two principles meeting Attorney General Sessions and the president.

HILL: Jim Schultz, appreciate it. Thank you.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

HILL: Still to come, what will the halls of Capitol Hill feel like now without the presence of Senator John McCain? We will ask one of McCain's Republican colleagues about the future of the party and the future of bipartisanship in the Senate.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn't the most inspiring work. There's greater satisfaction in respecting our differences but not letting them prevent agreements that don't require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.



[10:39:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think this is a part of John McCain that a lot of people don't know about, is that he took younger senators under his wing. And in my case, he taught me so much about national security and foreign policy.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: He was a leader like no other. But I think the moment that people don't always realize about him was just this humor he had, this joy for his work. And that's anyone that worked with him.


[10:40:02] HILL: Senator John McCain being remembered by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a maverick and as a mentor. McCain found time to reach out to anyone willing to learn from his years of experience, one of those people a Republican senator from Indiana, Todd Young, who joins us now. Senator, good to have you with us this morning.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R), INDIANA: Good morning.

HILL: He was -- John McCain was out there campaigning with you in your Senate bid. What did you learn from him even in those moments?

YOUNG: Well, actually, my history with John McCain began even earlier as a fleet at the Naval Academy. Every fleet learns about other graduates. And John, he embodied what the Naval Academy is all about. "Non sibi sed patriae" is the motto of the United States Nany, "not self but country."

And so, early on in my life, I drew inspiration from John McCain. But back in that 2016 campaign, even at a point when it was unclear whether or not he was going to win re-election. He took an entire day out of his own campaign to fly in and support a fellow Naval Academy graduate and connected, not just with me, but this larger than live presence connected with so many Hoosiers. That was a very, very special day. And you hear about -- you pile up these special days and special moments. It really -- this is what built the reputation of John McCain as a great human being as well as a great leader.

HILL: Those moments that truly make the man and so many people can connect to, even those that never met him. You are seeing this outpouring of love and support for the family and also these remembrances of a man that many have never met. You talk about obviously your shared history at the Naval Academy. Senator McCain spoke at the graduation in 1993. I want to play a portion of what he had to say on that day.


MCCAIN: I will go to my grave in gratitude to my creator for allowing me to stand witness to such courage and honor and so will you. My time is slipping by. Yours is fast approaching. You will know where your duty lies. You will know. God bless you, Semper Fi, fair winds and following seas.


HILL: That, of course, back in 1993. I see you smiling just as you are listening to those comments.

YOUNG: Well, yes, so that's classic John McCain. It's why he is so special. It was all about duty for John. It was about, as per his presidential campaign, country first. He inspired so many young people to understand that they have not just a responsibility, not something that's been designated to them in some formal way, but we really have a duty to draw from our God given talents, and we all have them, and serve a cause as John used to say larger than our self, greater than our self.

He took that to heart. I think his entire professional career just is emblematic of someone who is dedicated to serving a cause greater than themselves and it's infectious. It inspires not just his colleagues but inspire people, I think, across the country. And more than anything else, I think it's how he will be remembered, as someone who did the right thing for the right reasons at the right times, even when it was difficult to do so.

HILL: There has been a fair amount made, of course, of the feud or perhaps the lack of relationship, we could call it that, between the president and Senator McCain. President Trump putting out a tweet on Saturday, but as we have since learned, he decided not to put out a more full statement which recognized the many accomplishments of Senator McCain. Would you like to hear more from the president?

YOUNG: We are here today to salute the service of John McCain. We will be doing so throughout this week. I certainly will be doing so. And so it's great to have an opportunity to be on this show and talk about some of my reflections on his service and why I think he was such a great man.

HILL: And as you talked and you talked about the example that he said as well. Sometimes doing things that may be tough. Do you think that was part of the reason we didn't hear more from the president, that it was tough for the president to go there?

YOUNG: I think it's wonderful that John McCain followed in his grandfather and his father's footsteps, both admirals, understanding that each of us can make this country a better place. That's given me inspiration as well. He endowed others with some of his spirit of service.

[10:45:00] I think that's what we should be focusing on right now. That's what I intend to focus on. So they keep to the question.

HILL: Former Senator Rick Santorum, earlier today in talking about Senator McCain's courage to buck his party when needed, to stand up for his convictions, notes that he finds this lacking today in both parties in the Senate. He would like to see more of it. Real quickly before we let you go --

YOUNG: I agree.

HILL: Do you believe -- do you agree with him on that point. And also as we know, Senator Schumer, he said he would like to see the Russell Office Building renamed in John McCain's honor. Would you?

YOUNG: Well, I actually think that John McCain has earned the respect of Republicans, Democrats, even the politically non-engaged alike. So he is the sort of person we ought to be naming things after in this country to the extent that names are extended. I think John would also agree that it's often times the quiet heroes that deserve celebration. John made a real point of his service on the Armed Services Committee to travel around the world and personally connect with men and women in uniform, understanding the great sacrifices that they had made. So I think John would also recognize that we should give due consideration to those silent heroes and perhaps affix their names to major buildings as well.

HILL: Senator Todd Young, appreciate you taking the time to join us and share your memories this morning. Thank you.

YOUNG: Thank you.

HILL: North Korea accusing the United States of hatching a criminal plot to unleash a war. How the U.S. is responding. That's next.


[10:50:59] HILL: New this morning, the U.S. military says it's not aware of any military drills being conducted in Japan. This after "The Washington Post" reported that North Korea is accusing U.S. forces of performing military exercises aimed at invading its capital, Pyongyang. And this of course comes just days after President Trump canceled his secretary of state's diplomatic trip to North Korea. Let's get right to CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr who has the latest. Barbara, good morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. Well, North Korean media going back to the last year's heavy rhetoric against the U.S., suggesting that a criminal plot is being hatched to invade North Korea from military drills, as you said, that are being run in Japan. So, U.S. military spokesmen in Japan say, they're not aware of any such thing and in fact, saying the following. Let me read a quote. "In general, U.S. aircraft and ships operate from Japan every day in support of our commitments to our allies and partners in the region and in the interests of regional peace and security." So, the North Koreans getting very excitable in their language, a lot to read behind the scenes and what that rhetoric may really mean. Erica? HILL: Also, anything we could read into the timing here, of course, after President Trump -- we hear Secretary Pompeo is going to North Korea and then all of a sudden everything changes the next day.

STARR: Well, I think that's a very fair assessment of why the North Koreans may be reacting exactly this way. There is no invasion of Pyongyang planned. The world would see that coming. You can bet. So that's really just rhetoric. And they are obviously responding somewhat to the president's action to put Secretary Pompeo's announced trip to North Korea on the back burner.

The president delaying that he said because he felt China was not supportive enough of the effort to get North Korea to denuclearize. But really, the bottom line is North Korea on its own has done nothing to denuclearize and in fact, U.S. intelligence and international arms inspectors detailing a number of North Korean actions that indicate they are continuing much of their nuclear activity, especially in making and manufacturing nuclear fuel. So, all of that was very worrisome that they are building up their stockpile instead of taking it down. Erica?

HILL: Barbara Starr, always appreciate it. Thank you.

Moments from now, President Trump will make an announcement on trade, that announcement coming from the Oval Office. This as CNN learns the United States and Mexico are resolving some key trade issues. We're going to bring that to you live.


[10:59:02] HILL: Pope Francis is remaining silent as former archbishop calls on him to resign over the Pope's handling of sexual abuse allegations against a prominent cardinal in 2013. Carlo Maria Vigano says that he told the Pope about allegations of sexual abuse against a high profile Cardinal Theodore McCarrick five years ago. He says the pontiff did nothing.

In response, Pope Francis said, quote, "Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word on this." I believe the statement speaks for itself.

All of this of course comes amid child sex abuse scandals surfacing at Catholic churches around the world, including the grand jury report detailing 300 so-called predator priests who preyed on more than a thousand children in Pennsylvania, abuse documented over the course dating back more than 70 years. And that report also talked about the cover-up.

Thanks for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill in for Poppy Harlow. "At This Hour" starts right now.