Return to Transcripts main page


Former POW Remembers John McCain; Former Vatican Official Calls on Pope Francis to Resign over Sex Abuse Scandal; Authorities Look for Motive in Jacksonville Shooting. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 14:30   ET




[14:30:29] JOHN MCCAIN, FORMER SENATOR: I've had the good fortune to spend 60 years in service to this wondrous land. It's not been perfect service, to be sure, but I've tried to deserve the privilege as best I can. And I have been repaid a thousand times over, with adventures, with good company, with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Senator John McCain reflecting on the great honor of serving this country.

But before he became political maverick and a presidential hopeful, he was a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, serving in Vietnam. It was October of 1967 when McCain was flying a bombing mission when his plane was shot down. And he then spent the next five and a half years as a prisoner of war, enduring torture and solitary confinement at the hands of his captors.

A French journalist videotaped these first moments of his imprisonment which were recently feature in the Ken Burns' documentary, "The Vietnam War."


MCCAIN: I was on a flight over the city of Hanoi. And I was bombing. And I was hit by either a missile or anti-aircraft fire. I'm not sure which. And the plane continued straight down. I ejected and broke my leg and both arms and went into a lake, parachuted into a lake. And I was picked up by some North Vietnamese and taken to the hospital, where I almost died.


BALDWIN: My next guest served and lived through that horror alongside John McCain. He is retired Navy fighter pilot, Captain Charlie Plumb.

Captain Plumb, an honor sir. Thank you for your service to this great country.

I'm so sorry about the loss of your friend, your brother.

But if I may just begin with, can you take me back to Hanoi and that prison camp and when you saw McCain rolled in on that stretcher. When did you realize that it was your old flight instructor?

CAPT. CHARLIE PLUMB, RETIRED NAVY FIGHT PILOT & FORMER PRISONER OF WAR: You know, I was in a cell in a camp we call The Plantation. I could barely peek flew a crack in my door. And I could see the gate, the personnel gate in that prison camp. So I could see prisoners coming and going. This time a guy came in on a stretcher.

Two guards carrying a stretcher into the gate. All I could see was bloody rags on top of the stretcher. I had no idea who it was. They put this fellow in a cell two doors down from me in this prison camp, and still no idea who he was. Every day I could see more bloody rags coming out of his cell. But no identity was known. Everybody tried to get ahold of the guy because it was really -- it was vital that we communicate with each prisoner of war just to keep the guys' spirits up.

The next day, I saw a pair of shears, hand clippers coming through the gate. And they took the clippers into cell three. That was always bad news. The clippers meant somebody was going to be cleaned up to see a delegation. Frequently, the guy had to be tortured to say that the treatment was good. This was the days of Jane Fonda and Ramsey Clark and the anti-war element here in the states, they would do this. So they took the clippers in to the new guy.

The next day, outside this cell, I see the biggest pile of white hair. Almost fluorescent looking hair. And we were all in our 20s and early 30s and very few prematurely gray guys. I thought to myself there's only one guy in the Navy I know of that's got hair like that. If it's true, my old flight instructor has been shot down, John McCain.

BALDWIN: That is how you knew, from his white hair.

PLUMB: Indeed, it was.

BALDWIN: At his request, he will be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery in Annapolis right next to a lifelong friend. And one of his more well-known speeches came when he was there in Annapolis delivering the commencement for the class of '93. Let me play a portion of that, captain.


[14:34:59] MCCAIN: Soon after I became an involuntary guest of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam my hosts tried to persuade me to make a tape recording in which I would denounce my country's cause. When I resisted, they entreated me to do so by promising that no one would know of my disloyalty. I responded, I would know, I would know. Virtually all of my comrades who shared my situation responded in the same way.

There may be times in your life when the consequences of your devotion to duty are so dire that you will be tempted to abandon it. There may be times when truly only you will know. But you will resist. I know you will.


BALDWIN: Captain, John McCain could be buried anywhere in the world. He chose Annapolis. I know you are a U.S. Naval Academy graduate. Can you tell me, why is Annapolis home to him, a place where I hear he didn't originally want to go?

PLUMB: He comes from great naval traditions. His father and grandfather graduated from Annapolis. I was in school with his younger brother Joe. The transition and the ambiance and the tradition of the naval academy is the perfect place.

BALDWIN: What was he like as a flight instructor? Was he pretty tough?

PLUMB: He was tough. A guy did not want to have his final check ride with John McCain. I remember, the way we were flying these jets, the student was this the front seat. The instructor was in the back. John McCain in the back seat could not reach the student. His arms around long enough. So he would take off his knee pad, a metal heavy knee pad and he would bang on your helmet. It was sort of a badge of honor to have a few nicks from John McCain.


But it was all -- it was all for our own good. He was intent on making us good fighter pilots. And I'm sure that a lot of guys survived because he was so tough on us. So we respected John McCain.


Last question, Captain. We know look ahead to this weekend, former Presidents George W. Bush and President Obama will be eulogizing the late Senator. As for the current president, he tweeted once. And those flags at the White House they are not at half-staff. And I want to play one clip from the White House. This was the president again not responding to questions about Senator McCain. Roll it.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any reaction to the American Legion? Anything to the American legion and the proclamation about John McCain.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let's go. Make your way out.


TRUMP: Thank you very much.




BALDWIN: Nothing, Captain Plumb. Nothing. What do you think John McCain would say about that?

PLUMB: Just irony. Here's the irony of the whole thing. John McCain and Donald Trump are a lot alike. They are both outliers, both mavericks, they both buck the system. But they both love the country. I can guarantee that both of them love the country. The difference between John McCain and President Trump is John was a humble man. They got into fights. But I so hoped for a long time that they could ever agree on their love for their country that I'm convinced they both do.

BALDWIN: Captain Charlie Plumb, thank you, sir, so much.

PLUMB: Thanks Brooke.

BALDWIN: He may be gone but his legacy will live on forever. Here is John McCain in his own words reflecting on how he hopes to be remembered.


[14:40:01] MCCAIN: I hope those who mourn my passing and even those who don't will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals whose continued success is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.



BALDWIN: Pope Francis is under mounting pressure to take accountability for the sex abuse scandal dogging the Catholic Church but he is refusing to respond to a former Vatican official's call for him to resign. Carlo Maria Vigano, a former archbishop and Vatican ambassador to the U.S., is demanding the pope step down. Vigano said in a statement that it is because he told the pope five years ago about alleged misconduct involving a former Washington, D.C., cardinal. Vigano goes on to say that the pope did nothing about it.

When asked about the allegation and call to resign, this is what Pope Francis did say, quote, "I will not say a single word about this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the efficient journalistic ability to make your conclusions. It is an act of trust."

The pope also said he may speak on the issue at a later date.

Polo Sandoval has been following this.

Polo, talk the me about the history between the pope and the former archbishop.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. There's certainly a history here, Brooke, between this diplomat and the pope. Two years ago, the pope replaced this archbishop because he allegedly arranged a secret meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis. You remember her. She was the clerk who refused to sign same-sex marriage certificates a few years back. Vigano is also a leader of a conservative anti-Francis faction within the Catholic Church. Many have said that politics are certainly at play here, that they are at the base the claims made in the very lengthy statement.

However, there's certainly increased pressure here on the Catholic Church, Brooke. In this statement, Vigano claims there are dozens of Vatican officials, all the way up to the pope, who ignored it and knew about the sex abuse allegations against cardinal Theodore McCarrick. If you remember, he was removed from the ministry last month and forced to resign. In a statement, the archbishop insists that he told the pontiff personally about the behavior of Cardinal McCarrick.

[14:45:26] I want to read you a letter I've been pouring through this morning. He writes, "The pope learned about it on June 23rd, 2013, and continued to cover for him. Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick's abuses and resign along with all of them."

You read a portion of the statement and response from Pope Francis here in which he says he will not say a single word. But there are other people who are in this report who certainly have plenty of words to share with the world. Not long ago, the archbishop of Washington, D.C.s are releasing a statement saying he categorically denies any allegations.

Also the cardinal of Illinois releasing a statement of his own saying, "The factual errors, innuendo and fearful ideology of the, quote, testimony serve to strengthen our conviction to move ahead resolutely in protecting the young and vulnerable from any sort of abuse while guaranteeing a safe and respectful environment where all are welcome and breaking down the structures and cultures that enabled this abuse."

So, Brooke, there are some, again, who say what is in this lengthy report -- or this statement rather, should be taken with a grape of salt. But there are others who say there are legit questions being raised here, including the heads of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who says there are questions that need to be answered with facts.

BALDWIN: Stay on it because I know a lot of people are waiting for the pope to address this more.

Polo, thanks very much. Good to see you.

SANDOVAL: Appreciate it.

Coming this Labor Day, a CNN special event, the television premiere of "RBG." As we take a closer look at the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we're also examining how the experience of all American women has changed. Today, we will look at how the courtroom has become more inclusive for women.


NARRATOR (voice-over): The courtroom was a boy's club. Women had long been excluded from the jury pool. In 1961, the Supreme Court maintained this was done to protect them. In 1973, women were allowed to serve on juries in all states but it was voluntary. RBG successfully challenged the validity of voluntary jury duty in a case before an all-male Supreme Court in the late '70s.

Jury duty was an obligation of citizenship, she argued, and women, as citizens, owed the courts their time, too. As a lawyer, RBG was aware that the judges she needed to convince were men. Her language reflected this. She stopped saying sex discrimination and substituted gender discrimination. There were female judges before RBG joined the high court, but very few. RBG was once asked, when will there be enough women on the Supreme Court.

RUTH BADER GINSBERG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: You know the answer. When they are in nine, of course.




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


[14:52:41] BALDWIN: Investigators are still trying to figure out why a 24-year-old man carried out a mass shooting at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, killing two people, wounding nine more.

The horrifying moment happening while the tournament streamed live around the world. Those watching could hear the gunshots and the screams.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is going to be hard to get them on screen. This is a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not tough out today.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, (EXPLETIVE DELETED). What did he shoot me with? Oh!



BALDWIN: Police were on the scenes within minutes of the shooting. The suspect took his own life.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, how are those who are wounded? Do you know anything more about the motive?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, we are getting new accounts this afternoon about a possible motive and new accounts just from witnesses and victims who were there about the moments that the shooting occurred. This one witness, Alex Madunic (ph) and another one named Nick Withrow (ph) spoke to me a short time ago. Both of them described the shooter firing several rounds, reloading, and then firing several more.

Alex Madunic (ph) dove under a table to take cover but he still took a bullet in the foot. He spoke to a possible motive of the shooter, David Katz. Take a listen.


ALEX MADUNIC (ph), SHOOTING SURVIVOR: He played against somebody and he lost and he was kind of upset about that. I'm guessing that had something else to do with it, too.

He actually wore the same exact outfit he had on the day before, sunglasses and same exact thing on. And he came back, with that one look, kinds of just off, like something was going to happen eventually.


TODD: And the man who Alex Madunic (ph) says that shooter lost to was Eli Clayton, one of the deceased victims in this attack. That speaks to a possible motive for this, Brooke.

The other witness, Nick Withrow (ph), talked about how intense the games are, that the competitive fire does flow in these events, a lot of trash talking goes on.

Again, this shooter, David Katz, had lost recently, possibly to one of the deceased victims, Eli Clayton, and that could have been a motive. He apparently left the building, came back and started firing. Both of these witnesses tell CNN there was really no security, no armed guards or anyone checking for possible weapons. We have run that by E.A. Sports, one of the sponsors of this event and by one of the owners of the Jacksonville Landing. We have not heard back on those accounts -- Brooke?

[14:55:14] BALDWIN: Brian, thank you.

Coming up, he was more than a politician, an American hero. He was, above all, a family man. We'll hear from someone who worked alongside the late Senator John McCain for 25 years. What he will remember most about McCain, next.


[15:00:06] BALDWIN: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Two days after his death, Senator John McCain's final words have now been.