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Senator John McCain of Arizona Passes Away; Reports Indicate President Trump Refused to Release Prepared Statement from White House Praising John McCain. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 8:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- no one else would go, to stand up for America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he joins, sticks to the bitter end.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He taught me so much about national security, even when we didn't always agree.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were his friend, he would stand up for you. He didn't like the personal attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House drafted a statement of praise but President Trump didn't want it released.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't meet many great men as you go through life. John McCain was one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very happy with what I've been able to do. I'm able to celebrate a wonderful life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota on John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It's very nice to hear his words of gratitude, even when he was delivered with such bad news about his disease, but he still was so grateful for his life and the challenges in it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He was an author and co-author of so many books, and one of the things he did was he put those books on tape, audio tape, and I've listened to a whole bunch of them. And it's so great to hear him speak those words because you hear the meaning in his voice. You hear his depth of gratitude to the country in his voice.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone, welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, August 27, 8:00 in the east. And he was a Navy pilot and war hero, he was a six-term senator and a presidential nominee, the life and legacy of Senator John McCain will be officially honored for the next five days. Memorials will be held in his home state of Arizona. And later this week he will lie in state at the U.S. capital before being laid to rest at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. CNN's Jake Tapper asked Senator McCain about how he saw his own legacy last year as he battled brain cancer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: How do you want the American people to remember you?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: He served his country, and not ought right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors, but served his country, and I hope we could add honorably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: As we mourn the loss of Senator John McCain, CNN has learned that the White House drafted a statement for President Trump that specifically praised Senator McCain but it was never sent out. The "Washington Post" says the release called McCain a hero, talked about his service to the country in the Senate and the military. Chief of Staff John Kelly wanted it sent out. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders wanted it sent out, other aides wanted it sent out, but the president did not. He rejected it, the "Post" says. Instead he sent a short tweet that never mentioned the senator's four-decade career in Washington nor his service and sacrifice in Vietnam. That's what the president chose to do. We are choosing to handle things much differently.

Joining us now on the phone, former Arizona governor Jan Brewer. She had known John McCain for decades, I think had the honor to getting to nominate him for the Republican nomination at the Republican Convention in 2008. Governor, thanks so much for being with us. We send our condolences to you and entire state of Arizona.

JAN BREWER, FORMER ARIZONA GOVERNOR: Thank you so much. It's great to be with you this morning.

BERMAN: One of the things that is striking is Senator McCain, wasn't born in Arizona. He was born in the Panama Canal zone. before he moved to Arizona he never resided there quite at all. Yet, he became devoted to it with a passion of a convert. How would you describe Senator McCain's relationship with your state?

BREWER: Well, John loved Arizona. He loved every piece and place that he traveled here in our state. He was an Arizonan through and through. He loved the people, he loved the landscape. He embodied what Arizona was all about. He was a maverick, and I am telling you today that Arizona, of course America, the world is weeping in sorrow for John McCain and his family.

BERMAN: Weeping in sorrow, no question, but also smiling with respect and gratitude and joy for everything that he gave this country and gave your state. You both entered politics essentially the same year, running for office I think at the same time for the first time in 1982. Just reflect on your time together with Senator McCain.

BREWER: Well, he was a very charismatic. He was young and good looking, and he was running for United States Congress. I had heard of him. I knew who he was. I followed his career being a young mother and him being in Vietnam. And so of course he came with some credibility. And I decided I was going to run for the House of Representatives. So he ran for Congress, I ran for the House of Representatives. He then ran for the United States Senate, and then I ran for the Arizona State Senate. And our careers paralleled each other. And, of course, then we campaigned moving forward throughout the state together. We traveled in cars and jeeps and SUVs and buses and planes and just got to know each other.

[08:05:07] And he was a wonderful, wonderful man. And I truly loved him and respected him. He was such a patriot, and made such a huge sacrifice for our country. And he loved -- he loved his country and he was willing to fight for it for his whole life.

BERMAN: He was also willing to make a deal. He was also willing to reach across the aisle and speak with Democrats. He was also willing to stand up to a president of any party, whether it be a Democrat or a Republican. Do you think there is anyone who will fill that void? It seems there is an absence of that in American politics right now.

BREWER: John was a problem solver. He delved into issues and he knew usually every "i" and "t" in a subject matter, and he knew you had to compromise to get something moving. And he was willing to do that. That's what most politicians should do. And some people, and certainly now it's not being seen very much, but he was a problem solver, and John proved that he could do it and did it well, and was loved from both sides of the party.

Some people thought maybe he ought not to do that. They wanted him to be more partisan. But he didn't think that America was partisan. We were all Americans. He really truly believed that. And he fought for what he thought was right, always.

BERMAN: You were a supporter of John McCain through the years. You've also been a supporter of President Trump. Are you disappointed that the "Washington Post" is reporting this morning that the president rejected a White House statement that would have thanked John McCain for his years of service to this country in the Senate and Vietnam?

BREWER: I don't quite understand that. I don't know the reason behind it. I know that they did release a statement in regards to their sympathy. I don't know what's going on in regards to the White House and that statement, but it certainly doesn't reflect my feelings because I believe that John McCain indeed was a American hero, well loved and respected and I would defend him and have defended him against a lot of odds throughout our careers together. I didn't always agree with John McCain on some things, but I always respected him as a man and as a hero, and I always knew that he loved his country. He loved his country.

BERMAN: Oh, he did. He absolutely loved his country. And he is grateful for the chance to have served this country. I hope you were near a TV for this discussion so you could to see all of the great photos we had of you alongside Senator McCain through all of the years. Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, thanks so much for being with us. BREWER: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel. Dana, you heard there we're trying to figure out thank you very much why -- what would it hurt the White House to put out a laudatory statement of appreciation for John McCain's status as a war hero and for his decades of public service? What would that have hurt? You just heard Marc Short say the media would have been all over it and dissected it. And so we know from our reporting that President Trump rejected an idea of putting out that very customary statement that recognized all of what John McCain represented.

DAN BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Marc is speaking from just climbing out of the bunker of the Trump White House. So I understand where he's coming from to an extent. But, look, it wouldn't have hurt anything. And John, you said it exactly right to him. No, we wouldn't have. And anybody who would have dissected it looking for the wrong would ignore because it is customary for a White House, for any White House, with the president of any party, to put out a statement when somebody of John McCain's stature, of his heroism, a patriot like John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee currently, passes away.

So yes, would it have hurt? Of course not. Would it have helped? Of course, because what it ended up doing in not releasing the statement is contrasting what we're seeing in the White House -- you use the word "small" all morning, and I think that's an appropriate word, versus the legacy and the man and the decency that we are honoring and remembering in John McCain.

[08:10:02] BERMAN: If you listen to the words Marc Short was saying, he more or less said this directly, the reason the president didn't say those words or put out the statement is because that's not the way he feels. I don't think that is the way that the president feels. I'm not sure he's grateful to Senator McCain for his years of service in the senator, or we've heard the president say how he feels about John McCain's military service. We feel differently. America feels differently. So we'll leave that there. Jamie Gangel, the family I suppose didn't leave it there completely, not when it planned --

CAMEROTA: John McCain didn't.

BERMAN: Or John McCain didn't when they planned this upcoming week of national and collective memory over his life. What are we going to see and who are we not going to see be part of it?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is going to be a long week for Donald Trump who likes to be the center of attention. This is really going to be a state funeral, and John McCain made his wishes very, very clear. And his two opponents for the White House, former president Barack Obama, former president George W. Bush, one Democrat, one Republican, will give eulogies.

But guess who is not invited? Donald Trump. One, just to go back to the question about the statement at the White House, a Republican lawmaker said to me, I wish I could be surprised but I'm not. It's really evidence, big picture, that John McCain got under Donald Trump's skin even to the end.

CAMEROTA: Jamie, I just want to stick with you for one more minute because you have reporting about what bothered John McCain, and it wasn't the most when President Trump, then candidate Trump said, yes, well I prefer people who weren't captured, which everyone sort of -- that was a breathtaking statement he would denigrate John McCain's status as a POW. But you say it was another moment, and it was the moment that President Trump went after that Gold star family.

GANGEL: Right. I think it's fascinating. Here was something so personal, something that we all think about, about John McCain. He's a hero. That did not -- I'm sure he didn't like it, but that was not the turning point for him. When President Trump went after the Khan family, a gold star family, I'm told by people around McCain that he said that's it, enough, that that was the turning point. We know John McCain up until the end, he was tweeting respect and wishes for veterans. This was something he cared about, and that was the line in the sand for him.

BERMAN: Dana, you said something last hour that I want to pick up on, if you can, which is there was a time you were ripped directly by Senator McCain.

BASH: Times.

BERMAN: One of many, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: And I do think that is so important to remember, because it's not all rainbows and unicorns with John McCain, and Barack Obama and George W. Bush who will both eulogize him, they both have scars all over from their years battling John McCain. He was tough. There were people who would say things about him behind his back, and they meant it and were not nice. But at the end, almost all of those people up until the point we're in now, I think did so with a sense of respect.

BASH: That's exactly right. There are many sides of passion, and one of the sides of John McCain's passion was flashes of anger. And you know, what I was told early on and even to this day is that if you were not on the receiving end of a flash of anger from John McCain, it means that you didn't do it a lot. You weren't in his orbit, because that is -- that is part of it.

He calmed down, he forgave, sometimes quicker than other times, depending on what the issue was. But that is certainly how he acted. And remember, back in 2000, especially, and more so than 2008, his temper was something that was used against him, and a lot of voters actually saw it on the other side. I want somebody with passion. I want somebody who is going to stand up for what he believes in. But the thing that -- and Alisyn, you mentioned this as well all morning, the thing that tempered the temper was his sense of humor. He was so funny. Again, if again, if you don't get yelled out by John McCain, you're

not doing enough to report on him. If you're not called a little jerk by John McCain, you're also not -- I remember I was called a little jerk in 2008 at a live press conference and people were saying, how could he say that? And I said, no, it's actually a term of endearment, it means he likes you.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: That's really funny. One of the things about John McCain that was so endearing is that he was very self-deprecating.

[08:15:00] BASH: So funny. You know one of the things about John McCain that was so endearing is that he was very self-deprecating. And, so, Jamie, you heard even when Jake Tapper asks him how do you want to be remembered he says, well, I certainly made a lot of mistakes. And he was public about some of his biggest mistakes - what he felt. And, so, yes, you have memory?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR NEWSROOM: No, no, it's just so funny because John - if you ever hear John McCain talk about his military service he doesn't think he was a good pilot, for instance. He always made jokes about getting shot down. You know, he was fifth in the bottom of his class at the Navy.

GANGEL: Yes, yes.

BLACKWELL: It's always interesting.

BASH: He definitely talked about all of that. And, so, on the serious note he says that he made the mistake when he was running for president of who nominated for vice president.

GANGEL: Right. Perhaps the biggest decision that candidates for the White House can make he, afterwards, said he made a mistake in taking Sarah Palin. That he should have picked his old friend Joe Lieberman. And just the fact that he would say that, that he wouldn't gloss it over speaks to exactly who John McCain was.

But I think there's - it's also interesting because the same base that Donald Trump has tapped into may have very well started with Sarah Palin. And, so, that connection is there to his Republican Party. The old Republican Party, that McCain was part of, simply is gone.

BASH: And, Jamie, that's part of the theme that, I think we have sort of gone through over the past three days as we've been talking so extensively about John McCain. When he went with his gut he was happy and he generally ended up doing the right thing, because sometimes doing the right thing was doing the wrong thing politically.

GANGEL: Right.

BASH: When he didn't go with his gut he ended up having regrets. And that, you know, certainly was the case in not picking Joe Lieberman. It wasn't the case - it was the case in not denouncing the Confederate flag when he was running in the primary in South Carolina in 2000. And there are a few other examples, various dark examples of kind of how freely trusted his compass. And when he didn't he got himself in trouble.

GANGEL: But then he owned up to it.

BASH: Exactly. Exactly.

BLACKWELL: Admitting mistakes.

GANGEL: Right.

BLACKWELL: Mail: It's a wonderful thing to see. Dana Bash, Jamie Gangel great to have you with us this morning sharing your memories.

Senator John McCain took younger colleagues from both parties under his wing. One of them Democrat Chris Coons joined us next.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-DE.: He kept working, he kept fighting, and he kept serving literally to his last day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[8:20] MCCAIN: Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We have been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.

BLACKWELL: Senator McCain did reach across the aisle sharing bipartisan bonds with Democrats including Senator Ted Kennedy, former VP Joe Biden, and my next guest Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware who served in the Senate with McCain for nearly eight years. The to travel to dozens of countries together. Most recently cosponsoring immigration reform legislation.

Senator Coons, thank you so much for being with us. I have to ask. You come from a different generation than Senator McCain. What's it like to walk - or what was it like to walk on to the Senate floor that first time, you know, look across the aisle and see, hey, that's a John McCain and I am here with him?

COONS: Initially I found it hugely intimidating, frankly, to try and spend time talking with Senator McCain and explaining my views, defending my views about foreign policy. Here is someone who was the Armed Services Chairman, a six term Senator, and I already knew, obviously, his story of service and sacrifice in Vietnam.

So, literally, from the day I was sworn in I found it somewhat challenging to see myself as belonging on the same floor in the same stage as someone like Senator McCain. But he was incredibly kind personally. I will never forget when my twin boys came on a class trip I had just been a senator a few months. And they recognized him. And he took 10 minutes and stopped and was kind and funny and engaging with this whole group of kids from a school here in Delaware.

He was that kind of a man. He was capable of being gruff and demanding and difficult in public, but he was also capable of being funny and kind and thoughtful. He took time for members of our Armed Forces, for family members who came by, and he could be very gracious.

BLACKWELL: And you had a chance to work with him and you had a chance to travel with him. And I know you had the chance to go with him to Vietnam. And that must've been a powerful experience.

COONS: It was. We spent four days together in Hanoi. We went to the prison where he was a prisoner of war for five and a half years. And that was a very somber visit. He took a whole group of us through the prison and talked about his experiences in real detail.

We later had a whole series of meetings with the Vietnamese leaders and it was clear just the admiration, the near reverence the Vietnamese people and their leaders held him in because of how hard he had worked to bridge that gulf, to heal some of the wounds of war, and to reconcile the United States to Vietnam. That's one of the biggest lasting legacies of Senator McCain was that he never stopped trying to find ways to work with people, even if they had been opponents.

I will remind you that eulogies will be delivered by former Vice President Biden, by former President Bush, his opponent in the 2000 primaries, and former President Obama, his opponent in the 2008 campaign. That tireless work to bridge divides was one of the things that most impressed me about this great man.

BLACKWELL: Well, is he gone forever? I have to tell you, I have been sitting here this morning and I am skeptical that that kind of bipartisan force and presence can be replaced. I am skeptical that there is a will to replace it.

COONS: Well, I think that's his challenge to us. That we in the Senate need to work harder to find ways and times to put party [8:25] behind country, to put country first. That we need to travel in a bipartisan way. Every trip I have done since my first trip with Senator McCain has been bipartisan. That we need to put some of the tools down and be less interested in fundraising, and approval ratings, and, frankly, time on cable. And be more interested in getting to know each other as people.

When I heard Senator McCain give his liberty metal acceptance speech it was just after Vice President Biden had introduced him. It was here in Philadelphia. And the lesson I took from that is these two great men really knew each other. They knew each other's families, they visited each other states. And I have challenged a group of senators to start showing that we can do the same thing today.

BLACKWELL: You could really hear it in both their voices. Same with Ted Kennedy, same with Senator McCain - would it talk about Ted Kennedy. They liked each other. They genuinely like each other. It doesn't mean they like their ideas. They fought like cats and dogs over the issues for decades. But you can still like each other and you can still find areas to make progress.

One of the things that struck me about Senator McCain too - and we talk about his incredible sacrifice in the military. His legacy as the son of an admiral, the grandson of an admiral. To me where he felt most comfortable, where he was at his genuine happiness was in the Senate. It was working alongside people like you. He really seemed to love it there.

COONS: That's right. He was a Senate man. He deeply believed in the Senate and he kept reminding us over and over that we are the equal of the president of the executive branch. And that in our constitutional order it's our job to stand up to the president when he overreaches, to be independent, and to reach our own decisions and conclusions as the Senate as a body. Rather than just, you know, fighting endlessly in partisan gridlock.

One of the things that hasn't gotten a lot of attention this year is that for the first time in my eight years there our appropriations process is actually following a, so-called, regular order. It's moving in the way that John was challenging us two months ago. We will come close to, or actually finish a full appropriations process for the first time in a decade.

Look, there are tons of partisan sniping and pointless and was fighting in the Senate right now. It's depressing. But there are moments when we make progress. And I think Senator McCain will be sorely missed because he was one of the strongest voices for us to find ways to work together across the aisle.

BLACKWELL: Thank you for reminding us of the moments where there is that progress here. Because it should be noted. I assume you would vote yes on any move to rename the Russell Senate office building after Senator McCain?

COONS: Absolutely. I think it's a deserved honor. You know, he loved not just the Senate but actually the building that we have offices in. And he was someone who -

While he didn't seek that kind of visible recognition I think it is an appropriate way to remember him. I also think we should do more to make National Service possible. Whether civilian or military it's a great way for young people in this country to gain skills, to learn what it means to be American, to serve our country, and to gain the resources to go to college.

Senator McCain and I talked about this a number of times. How he thought we should make a post high school two year period of National Service and expectation for young Americans. And right now it's not possible. There is hundreds of thousands of young people who want to serve in the Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps, and Teach for America, you know, City Year, and there just aren't the spaces. The support for that that's something I intend to work on in John's honor in the months ahead.

BLACKWELL: Senator Chris Coons of Delaware thank you for being with us and sharing your memories. Appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Alisyn. CAMEROTA: OK, so, the Mavericks Senator from Arizona had a special bond with the people of New Hampshire. Former Governor John Sununu is going to join us with his memories next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)