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Paying Respects to Aretha Franklin; Letter Prompts Trip Cancellation; Shaheen Remembers McCain; Vatican Knew of Cover-Up; Ginsburg Argued Before Supreme Court. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 28, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thursday and then -- and then on the funeral on Friday. So you have all those things sort of wrapped together. Not only Stevie Wonder but Bill Clinton, all those folks expected to be here. So you can tell there's a lot of love, a lot of passion for Aretha Franklin.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: That there is.

Ryan Young, I love that, to understand Aretha is to understand your soul. Thank you, my friend.

A warning, denuclearization talks could fall apart. What we're learning about the secret letter North Korea sent to Secretary Mike Pompeo.


HILL: New this morning, sources telling CNN top North Korean officials sent a letter with a warning to the Trump administration saying talks of denuclearization are again at stake and may fall apart. The letter was delivered to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose trip, of course, to Pyongyang was canceled last Friday by President Trump, we're told after he read the letter.

Joining me now, CNN's Will Ripley, who has the very latest for us.



The sense that I'm getting from sources is that this was an attempt by the North Koreans to prevent the kind of disappointing trip that Secretary Pompeo had in early July when he traveled to Pyongyang and left not only empty-handed but also widely perceived to have been snubbed by North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, who did not meet with him. The North Koreas are making it very clear to the United States that what they expect at the beginning of the denuclearization process is a peace treaty. A peace treaty that would formally end the Korean War, which has been in a technical state of cease-fire since 1953. The North Koreans want the peace treaty up front to provide security guarantees for Kim Jong-un and his government before they take steps toward denuclearization. They also want economic incentives along the way of what they would consider a step by step process. But the U.S. has made it pretty clear that the peace treaty is something that they would consider grand at the end of the process, after Kim Jong-un has given up a large share of his nuclear weapons. So that is the real sticking point here. That is what has really created this gridlock that has gone on for weeks. This back and forth. An increasingly tense relationship between the U.S. and North Korea and this letter from the North Koreans to the Trump administration that caused President Trump to cancel Pompeo's trip for now as they try to figure out what the next steps could be to salvage this because North Korean sources are also telling me, Erica, that they're not ruling out if diplomacy were to fall apart with the U.S., going back to their old routine of testing missiles and nuclear weapons.

HILL: Will Ripley with the very latest for us. Will, thank you.

Also with us this hour, Democratic Senator Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire, who is, of course, a member of the foreign relations committee.

Senator, good to have you with us this morning.


HILL: Based on -- good morning.

Based on what we just heard from Will there and our reporting, this letter, do you believe that the president was right to cancel Secretary Pompeo's trip?

SHAHEEN: Well, I haven't seen the letter, but I certainly think it speaks to a pattern of behavior that we've seen from the North Koreans in the past where we negotiate with them, they make promises and then they renege on those promises. But it also speaks to the lack of preparation before the president's meeting with Kim Jong-un where we didn't do the kind of traditional diplomacy that is usually done before those kinds of negotiations begin.

So expectations were raised that the North Koreans were going to denuclearize. There was never an understanding of what that meant to us and what that meant to the North Koreans. So I think this is an opportunity for us to take a step back, to do the ground work that we really need to do if we're going to move negotiations forward.

HILL: And is it your sense that there's an appetite for that?

SHAHEEN: Well, I don't think anybody wants to go back to the rhetoric that suggests we're going to have nuclear war with North Korea. I don't think that's in North Korea's interest. It's certainly not in our interests. And it also points out the challenge of getting China on board. And so China was helpful early on, but now we're in this trade war with China, which raises questions about whether they're going to be willing to help us as we look at trying to put pressure on North Korea.

HILL: The other things we're learning too, "The Washington Post" reporting that it's not clear how the secret letter actually got to Secretary Pompeo but that it was really an attempt to avoid this, you know, disappointments, as Will pointed out, for Pompeo in terms of the last trip. Is there -- is there anything concerning about that too that we don't know how the letter got there or is that something that's just being overplayed?

SHAHEEN: Well, I think what's more concerning is that we don't know what's in the letter exactly and that we don't know what our position is going to be with respect to the North Koreans going forward.

You know, one of the concerns that many of us had when -- as part of that agreement, the president said, we're not going to continue military exercises with South Korea. We raised expectations among the North Koreans that we're going to give in to all of their requests without expecting something in return. And that is a very bad mistake.

HILL: We'll be watching for further developments here.

I do want to shift gears here, though, because I do want to get your take on Senator John McCain. Of course you worked close with him on the Armed Services Committee. Even in your time as governor. What does John McCain mean to you as a friend but also as a colleague, as a lawmaker?

SHAHEEN: You know, John McCain, we've heard the accolades over the last couple of days since his death from people across the political spectrum about the kind of politics and principles that John McCain practiced. And there isn't anybody who is going to replace that any time soon who has that history. He is a true American hero. I remember when he first started running for president in 2000, when I was governor in New Hampshire, and they ran these amazing ads about what he had been through and there just isn't anyone who has that moral authority today. And we will miss that. And we will miss his attention to detail about issues and human rights that just -- he had the credibility to pursue.

HILL: You know, he -- we've talked a lot too over the last few days about this void that the senator leaves. You talk about morally. There's also, you know, the way he pushed for bipartisanship. That he was not afraid to buck his own party.

SHAHEEN: That's right.

[09:40:08] HILL: That he stood up for what he believed in. And, listen, there's been criticism of both sides here about how that isn't happening in a way that it has in the past. And when you are not the party in power, it's easy to part -- to point to the power -- the party with the majority and say, well, it's because they're not letting us get anything done. Do you feel that your own party is doing enough to reach across the aisle, to try to work more in the spirit of John McCain these days?

SHAHEEN: Well, I can tell you that it's something that I've tried to do and I think most of my colleagues have tried to do because really that's the only way you get lasting change to happen is if you compromise and work together. That's what the founders of this country did in our Constitution. Wherever I travel around New Hampshire, the one thing I hear more than any other is, why can't you all work together to get things done for this country? And we've got to do more of that. And we made a big step forward this year with the appropriations process. So I applaud the leadership in the Senate, Senator Shelby and Leahy for getting together an appropriations process and saying, we're going to move this budget for the country forward and people buying on to that. So hopefully that's a good sign for the future.

HILL: Before we let you go, is there a favorite story that you can share with us before I run out of time, a quick one, but about Senator McCain?

SHAHEEN: Well, one of the things that he and I worked most closely on was the special visa program to help Afghans who helped our military in the war. And one of my best days in the Senate was when John McCain and I welcomed one of those SIV recipients into our office and heard from the captain, the Army captain, who talked about how that Afghan had saved his life. And it said everything to me about what John McCain stands for and what we've got to continue to do as Americans.

HILL: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

SHAHEEN: Thank you.

HILL: The Pennsylvania attorney general, behind that bombshell report, the grand jury report released two weeks ago which found more than 300 predator priests had preyed on more than a thousandth children in that state over decades. Well, now he says he has evidence the Vatican had knowledge of the cover-up.


[09:46:50] HILL: The Pennsylvania attorney general this morning accusing the Vatican of covering up the sex abuse of children by priests. He says he's got the evidence to prove it.

Now, this comes after the grand jury report out of Pennsylvania which detailed the 300 so-called predator priests who preyed on more than 1,000 children. It also comes after former Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano called for Pope Francis to resign, accusing him of participating in the cover-up.

CNN's senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt joins me now.

So what more are we hearing from the attorney general this morning? Because this is going a little bit further.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And not only that, but explosive new comments from Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, who is saying not only was there a cover-up of this rampant sexual abuse, but that it went all the way to the Vatican.

Now, Shapiro is careful to note that it's not clear whether Pope Francis himself knew about it, but he's making very clear his accusation that the Vatican knew about this cover-up.

He has been discussing the extent of the abuse this morning and made that allegation. I think we have a clip. Let's take a listen.


JOSH SHAPIRO, PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Twenty-three grand jurors met for two years in Pennsylvania. They unearthed over 301 predator priests, more than 1,000 victims, children in Pennsylvania. They found that there was not only widespread sexual abuse, rape of children, but they found that there was a systematic cover-up that went all the way to the Vatican.


MARQUARDT: Now, Shapiro went on to say that not only were these predator priests, as he called them, shielded by law enforcement, but that they documented all of this. And he said they placed it in what he called the secret archives.

Just moments ago, as we've been sitting on set, we got a response from the Vatican from Spokesman Greg Burke, a very short statement saying, if the prosecutor, referring to Shapiro, is referring to something outside of the grand jury report, we'll wait to see that before commenting.

So, not much from the Vatican this morning.

Erica, a lot of this stems -- Shapiro's comments this morning are in response to the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Carlo Vigano, who, over the weekend, made his own explosive allegations that Pope Francis was aware of some abuse and called on him to resign. The pope, in response, said that he had read Vigano's statement carefully and he called on journalists to make your own judgement. I will not say a single word on this.

Now, we have to note that Vigano and the pope have a very contentious relationship.

HILL: Right.

MARQUARDT: In his tenure as the ambassador, the pope came to visit the U.S. Vigano had arranged a meeting with Kim Davis. You remember that name. She was the county clerk who refused to sign same-sex marriage certificates. So this was a time when the pope had tried to -- had wanted to stay above the fray here in the U.S. Vigano was removed shortly thereafter.

But -- so all of this is causing a lot of chaos and self-reflection inside the Catholic Church.

HILL: It is. And we're hearing -- I'm hearing just on e-mail from survivors that we've spoken with over the last couple of weeks who certainly have a lot to say as well. So, far from the end of this, that's for sure.

MARQUARDT: Absolutely.

HILL: Alex, appreciate it. Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Thank you.

[09:49:50] HILL: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a legal legend, a cultural icon. Up next, a behind the scenes account of one of her early landmark cases. In fact, the first time she argued a case before the Supreme Court. We'll speak with the plaintiff in that case.


HILL: Professor, litigator, role model, dissenter, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has earned countless titles and accolades during her groundbreaking career on both sides of the bench. The new CNN original film "RBG" takes a look at the life of Justice Ginsburg and how her legal legacy unfolded as she also became an unexpected pop culture icon. Here's a preview.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm proud to nominate this path- breaking attorney, advocate and judge to be the 107th justice to the United States Supreme Court.

JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT: We may be in trying times, but think how it was. In those days, the judges didn't think sex discrimination existed.

[09:55:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruth knew what she was doing in laying the foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It put women on the same plain as men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The goal was equality and civil rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ruth Bader Ginsburg quite literally changed the way the world is for American women.

GINSBURG: What has become of me could happen only in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's become such a rock star.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is really the closest thing to a super hero I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is known to fans the world over as the notorious RBG.

GINSBURG: All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.


HILL: The first case Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued in front of the Supreme Court as an attorney focused on equal housing benefits for female service members. Now, she won that large -- landmark case, Frontiero versus Richardson. Sharon Cohen, who was then Sharon Frontiero, was the plaintiff in that case. An Air Force lieutenant who sued the military after she was denied the same housing benefits as her male colleagues.

And Sharon Cohen is with us now.

Thanks for joining us today.


HILL: So, Sharon, this case, I mean it's -- it's almost crazy to think about. So, 45 years ago that this case was before the Supreme Court because it wasn't that long ago that there was this uphill battle. And you, as a lieutenant in the Air Force, found out pretty quickly that you were not being treated the same as your male counterparts.

COHEN: Right. The minute I got married, almost 48 years ago, I, you know, I asked for the benefit and started hearing -- you know, I thought it was just a mistake in paperwork. But I started hearing, you don't belong here. You're a woman. Your husband should be supporting you. And I went -- I went to a local law firm, Morris Dees and Joe Levin were doing a lot of civil rights work in Montgomery, Alabama, so I went to them. And it was Joe Levin who actually explained to me, you know, this isn't administrative. This is what the law is. And it came as a surprise to me. I was that naive when I was that young. I got a lot less naive through this process.

HILL: I imagine you must have. I'm sure it was quite an education for you moving through that process.

This was the first successful sex discrimination lawsuit brought against the federal government. Did you have a sense at that time of just how historic the ruling was?

COHEN: Yes. Yes. I mean, I -- I -- I knew because reporters talked to me and lawyers talked to me that it was important. I didn't know when I started that it would be important. And I'm kind of glad I didn't know that. I think that at 23, had I been told, well, do you want do this thing that's probably going to define your life, it's going to be in your obituary, you know, I'm not sure I would have had -- well, I don't know. I was pretty mad by the time I brought the suit. Maybe I would have had the courage to go on with it.

HILL: Right. Well, a lot of people are thankful -- are thankful that you did.

When it comes to Justice Ginsburg, I mean she really has become this pop culture icon, the notorious RBG, as we know from the book that was written. So she argued this case for the ACLU alongside your attorneys.


HILL: And I know that you have had -- you've spent some time with her in the years since. For people who don't know her, for people who've never met her, what is she like?

COHEN: Oh, well, I don't know her well. I can't -- I can't sort of speak to, you know, intimacy with her. But I've met her a couple of times. And she's the smartest woman in the room. She's startlingly smart, you know. And the -- the way I know she's smart is she goes silent, you know, when you ask her a question, she's one of the very few people I know who will stand there like -- almost like a deer in the woods and listen to every single word you say. Even if you go on and on and on and on, she'll listen to every single word. And then when you're through, there's sort of like a one, two, three, four count and then out of her mouth will come a well-constructed, you know, almost visibly punctuated, total answer. I mean it's an awesome -- an awesome mind to be in the same room with.

HILL: And clearly one that's made quite --

COHEN: She's also very gracious.

HILL: Right. And one who made quite the arguments in arguing that case before the Supreme Court.


[10:00:01] HILL: A lot of people -- I will count myself among them -- glad that you did decide to pursue legal action. Sharon Cohen, really a pleasure to speak with you today. Thank you.

COHEN: Thank you.

HILL: The CNN original film, "RBG," airs right here, Monday night,