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North Korea State Media Accuses U.S. of Plotting a War; Funeral Arrangements for McCain Announced; Missouri A.G. Investigating Clergy Sex Abuse Allegations in St. Louis Area; Sen. Bill Nelson Reflects on McCain's Legacy; Sen. Nelson Calls for Comprehensive Background Checks Following Shooting by Gamer. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] MAX BAUCUS, (D), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA & FORMER SENATOR: I think it's internal consumption. I think President Kim -- every once in a while he does this, stirs up the people in his country with some outrageous charge against the United States. I think that's basically it. He also might be a little bit piqued that President Trump withdrew Pompeo's visit over to the region, but this is standard North Korean operation.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Does it complicate the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea?

BAUCUS: No question the relationship is much more complicated, in part, though, because the United States is losing its stature. I think we're in a worse position now compared to where we were before Singapore. That is Singapore, nothing has happened. China and Russia are starting to amp up a little more of their help to North Korea. Trump looks even more inconsistent. I think because the United States is perceived as losing a little bit of mojo that that's giving a little more impetus to Kim to be a little stronger than he has been in the past. I just -- we've got a real problem ahead of us, the United States does, in dealing with North Korea and we're not doing a good job.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a serious issue. The stakes are clearly enormous.

While I have you, Senator, I want to switch gears. I know you and Senator John McCain were very close friends, former colleagues for many, many years in the U.S. Senate. You worked for him for nearly 30 years. Give us a thought or two about this extraordinary man.

BAUCUS: John McCain had a very strong code of conduct, military code of conduct in his DNA. That enabled him to stand up to the military, that is say when he thought the military was doing wrong. John McCain had the credibility. Second, he's a real patriot. People knew that he was standing up for America, didn't have an ulterior motive. Add to that because of his strong code of conduct, he was trusted, no guile, not a deceptive bone in his body. Now, he had strong views and sometimes they were not totally accurate and sometimes he'd lose his temper and blow up, but he always came back when he realized he made a mistake and wanted to do the right thing. There's nobody like him. It's going to be very hard to find somebody to replace John McCain. A great example is what he did on Obamacare. He stood up, he did what he thought was right and that was not repeal Obamacare because he felt that was the right thing to do. In part, maybe because he knew his health was a little bit shaky, but he says what he thinks, and, man, oh man, do we need more of that.

BLITZER: We certainly do.

Senator, Ambassador, thank you so much. Used to be a Senator, used to be an ambassador. Appreciate it very much.

BAUCUS: You bet. Thanks, Wolf. Good luck.

BLITZER: Rick Davis, who served as John McCain's campaign manager and long-time aide, is speaking out about funeral arrangements for the Senator right now. I briefly wanting to listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Cindy McCain is under consideration to fill the Senate seat. Can you talk about that at all?

RICK DAVIS, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER & AIDE TO JOHN MCCAIN: No, I'm not going to address that at all.

Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIIED REPORTER: I'm with the local ABC station.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Along with vein, let me ask you this. Has the Senator talked about what kind of person he hopes comes after him in serving Arizona in the U.S. Senate?

DAVIS: You know, I think throughout the years he would -- he would contemplate what a succession would look like. I think he had a different plan in mind in those days. I think he was looking forward to retiring after this last term of office and enjoying that back porch in Sedona. But it's hard to say. You know, he's always been someone who has encouraged participation in politics, especially in the Republican Party with minorities, women. I think a Hispanic woman probably would have been his pick for a successor if he had lived long enough to do the opportunity. But it's just too sad to say what that would have looked like because he never got that far.

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

DAVIS: Hey, Brian.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He welcomed Joe Biden into the family.

DAVIS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did his relationship with Senator McCain start and continue over the years?

DAVIS: They have known each other for a very long time. At one point, in time, in the Navy, he was the Navy liaison to the United States Senate and one of the people he befriended was Joe Biden. Long before John had any political ambition, he was exposed to people like Senator Cohen, Senator Biden, some of the great luminaries as the chairman of committees that he worked with. So he's always had an incredibly close and personal relationship with Joe Biden. It has been tested over the years on issue after issue. And yet, they remain steadfast in their personal relationship. If there's any better exemplification of what you can accomplish in politics to debating vociferously and then at the end of the day maintaining a relationship with the people you do battle with is the model of governance that John McCain so much adhered to. And that relationship with Joe Biden was clearly in that category. I would say bar none, Joe Biden has been an incredible comfort to the family, a source of wonderful amount of information about the disease when John McCain was first diagnosed with glioblastoma. And I know Cindy and Meghan and the whole family have been comforted by his prayers and counsel, and for that reason they have asked him to be here at the first stop along the way.

Yes, ma'am?

[13:36:38] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

DAVIS: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How is the family holding up?

DAVIS: Well, they have been steeled by fire. This is a family that's been in the public for as long as they can remember. And it's almost as if the Senator prepared them for this moment. They are tough. But even talking about it makes you a little weak-kneed. They're doing great. They appreciate so much the reporting that you all are doing about John's life and the prayers and the well wishes that they see every day. On the street, the memorials at the funeral home, there's a memorial at his office. People have just poured out their sympathies to the McCains and they greatly appreciate it.

Over here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Do we know if the Web site is still up? We tried to this morning and weren't able to get tickets.

DAVIS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Also will Mr. McCain's mother attend any of these ceremonies?

DAVIS: Good question. Keep trying on that Web site. It probably got more traffic than even we had anticipated. So the best I can tell you is just keep pounding away on it. It's getting more information on it updated a lot, so they take it down sometimes or freeze it in order to be able to fill that information in, so you might be just experiencing some of those things. But just keep trying. It's really the best single opportunity to get credentialed and that kind of thing. If at all, you continue to have problems, we have a lot of the team here to help you with what you need. BLITZER: Rick Davis, Senator McCain's long-time very close aide, the

former campaign manager for his presidential campaign, outlining some of the details of the upcoming funeral arrangements. And here they are. Let me put them up on the screen. You can see, on Wednesday, Senator McCain's body will lie in state at the Arizona state capitol. Thursday morning, there will be a memorial service at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. We understand that former Vice President Biden will be speaking there. And then Senator McCain's casket will be flown to Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C. On Friday, Senator McCain will lie in state at the U.S. capitol rotunda. There will be a formal memorial service at the National Cathedral here in Washington Saturday. Former President Obama, former President George W. Bush, they will both be speaking there, along with family members. On Sunday, Senator McCain will be laid to rest at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

[13:39:29] We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Live pictures coming in from the South Lawn of the White House. The president getting ready to receive the visiting president of the Republic of Kenya, Mr. Kenyatta, and Mrs. Kenyatta over at the White House. The president will then escort them inside the White House and they will have a meeting in the Oval Office. We do anticipate a photo opportunity in the Oval Office. They'll be making statements. We'll see if the president answers reporters' questions on Senator McCain. We'll have coverage of all of that coming up.

In the meantime, there's other important news we're watching right now. During his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis spoke about his shame over the appalling crimes of historic child abuse, saying the outrage was justified, but he did not specifically address the current scandal raging over a Pennsylvania grand jury report documenting at least 1,000 cases of clerical abuse.

Now another state is taking action. Missouri's attorney general announcing that his office will launch a separate investigation into clergy sex abuse allegations in the St. Louis area.

The attorney general of Missouri, Joshua Hawley, is joining us right now.

Attorney General, thanks so much for joining us.

Tell us about what your state is about to do. Missouri, the first state to publicly announce an investigation after Pennsylvania.

[13:45:34] JOSHUA HAWLEY, MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks for having me, Wolf. We're going to investigate all over the state. It will be a statewide investigation. We hope it will be comprehensive. We are sure it will be thorough in scope. We've asked each. Four dioceses, we have four in the state of Missouri, we've asked each of the four to open all of their books to us, all of their records. We want to see everything they have related to clerical abuse. We'll interview victims' families, speaking to members of the public, and do everything it takes to get a full, fair and thorough accounting of the facts. They'll we'll write a report, lay that bare to the public, including making recommendations for prosecution if necessary.

BLITZER: You initially, Attorney General,, resisted the calls for an investigation saying it was up to local prosecutors. What changed your mind?

HAWLEY: Well, we don't have subpoena power. My office doesn't have subpoena power for these kinds of crimes, Wolf. The local prosecutors do. But when the archbishop of St. Louis indicated that the church would be willing to open its books on a voluntary basis, we leapt at that and challenged the other three dioceses in the state to do the same. We understand they have all three agreed to do so now. And we'll hold them to their word and we'll ask for everything, every piece of information we would ask for if he did have subpoena power. We'll conduct a vigorous, thorough investigation, speaking to everybody who's relevant.

I want to encourage members of the public, if you have information relevant to the situation in Missouri, potential abuse, anything that is potentially relevant, please contact my office, the attorney general's office in the state of Missouri.

BLITZER: As you know, the power of attorneys general varies from state to state around the country. Your office, as you point out, does not have jurisdiction to prosecute any criminal acts of clergy sex abuse or issue subpoenas to investigate it. So walk us through the inquiry process, how this is all going to unfold in the event you do find some major abuse.

HAWLEY: Well, what we will do is we will go to each of the diocese and the process has already begun, Wolf. We started last week. I appointed a long-time sex crimes prosecutor who will head up the investigation in my office. We're putting our best prosecutors and investigators on it. We'll go to each of the four dioceses and ask for total access to their files for every piece of information that we think is relevant. We will speak to victims' families. We will speak to potential victims. Anybody who has information that is relevant, we want to speak to them. And we will do this, we'll treat this like we would any other full-scale criminal investigation. We'll write a report at the end of the day that lays bare all of the facts. If there need to be charging recommendations made, Wolf, for prosecutions to be brought, we will make those recommendations and we will challenge the prosecutors to follow through.

We are going to hold folks accountable here and we're going to give the public confidence that a thorough, fair and comprehensive investigation has been performed and lay all the facts out there.

BLITZER: Josh Hawley is the attorney general of Missouri.

Attorney General, thanks so much for joining us.

HAWLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: You just saw live pictures of the president and first lady receiving the visiting president of Kenya and the first lady of Kenya, President Kenyatta just showing up at the White House. They have gone inside and will head over to the Oval Office. There will be another photo opportunity there. We'll have coverage of what the president has to say, including the president of Kenya. Then we'll see if the president answers any reporters' questions at that photo opportunity. There they are standing in front -- on the South Lawn of the White House.

[13:49:04] We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are paying tribute to Senator John McCain for his patriotism and his public service. The wartime hero and two-time presidential candidate will be honored throughout this week.

Among those reflecting on Senator McCain's legacy is Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, of Florida. He tweeted this, "John McCain was my friend and one of my heroes. He devoted his life to duty, honor, and country. He shall always be a role model for me."

I spoke with Senator Nelson just a little while ago and I asked him what he admired most about Senator McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BILL NELSON, (D), FLORIDA: John would wake up every day and he would just want to do the right thing. He believed that a public office is a public trust. And he would not break that trust. And that sense of duty, honor, country was what was paramount in John's mind. And that is so admirable. That's the gold standard that all of us in public office ought to try to achieve.

BLITZER: Senator McCain seemed to relish his reputation as a maverick, someone who was not afraid to go against his own party when necessary. How did that shape his work, from your perspective in the U.S. Senate?

NELSON: Well, because of that, he approached things more from a common sense what's in the best interests of America standpoint instead of what is too much the norm these days, what's in the partisan interest. And that's what the American people are so sick and tired of, Wolf. They want us to get back to where we are coming together in bipartisan agreement in order to get things done. If we would remember that, we would get a lot more done.

[13:55:28] BLITZER: Your Democratic colleague in the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, says he will introduce a resolution to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after John McCain. What are your thoughts on that? I wanted to point out Senator Russell was a segregationist and he fought against the Civil Rights Act.

NELSON: Well, it would be my honor to name that office building after John, just like the Armed Services Committee voted unanimously to name the bill that is now law after John. And it is the appropriate thing to do.

BLITZER: President Trump sent out a tweet offering his condolences to Senator McCain's family but there has been no official White House statement on Senator McCain's record of service. What does that say to you about the state of politics today? And Senator McCain's call for a return to civility and respect?

NELSON: Well, the president ought to be the role model for the country, and particularly at a time like this, losing a hero. You had at to be appreciative, you ought to be humble. You ought to be trying to bring the nation together instead of dividing us. And I think that it is very inappropriate that what the president has said and how he continues to act. And he said that a couple of years ago in the middle of the campaign, and I'm disappointed in the president and the White House, that they would let that stand.

BLITZER: Let me shift to another important topic, something very close to you right now, down in Jacksonville, Florida, two people are dead along with a gunman in a shooting at a video gaming tournament down there this weekend. Nine others were injured. You are on the scene. What more can you tell us?

NELSON: That's why I'm in Jacksonville along with Senator Rubio. And you will notice that it's two Senators from the same state of opposite parties that come together like we did in the aftermath of the hurricane. We traveled all over the state together. We were with the sheriff's department, the FBI, the ATF to get a complete rundown. He and I both were on the phone yesterday to make sure that the resources of the federal government, namely through the FBI and the ATF, were available to local law enforcement, which is the lead here. And that is being done. And we had that comprehensive meeting with them in the sheriff's office this morning.

BLITZER: This latest mass shooting in Florida comes on the heels of the 17 deaths in the shooting at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year, the massacre of 49 people at the Pulse Night club in Orlando in 2016. Governor Rick Scott told reporters, I'm quoting now, "We have got to change."

What change do you think is need?

NELSON: Well, at a time like this, of the deaths of several people, I'm not going to get into the politics. But I can tell you what I believe that we should do. At the very least, just common sense would tell you that we ought to have a law that is a comprehensive universal background check in the acquisition or purchase of a gun. That would have caught Omar Mateen, the killer in the Pulse Nightclub. A comprehensive background check may have caught some of the mental health problems of the killer in the high school in Parkland because he had not been adjudicated mentally incompetent. That did not come up on the comprehensive background check. So I'm hopeful that eventually Senators are going to come to their senses and that we can get a comprehensive background check law passed.

BLITZER: Senator Nelson, thanks so much for joining us.

NELSON: Thanks, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A final note on Senator McCain. I interviewed him on many occasions over the past 30 years. I can testify that he didn't always like the tough questions. Occasionally, he would jump on me. But he was very, very generous with his time. And usually, very nice.