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Sen. Graham Pays Emotional Tribute to Friend John McCain; Author: Pence Thinks God's Calling Him to be President; Vince Paul Remembers Aretha Franklin. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 28, 2018 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Love, not a word often associated with Senator McCain. But it should be. Because if you were loved by him you knew it. You were loved with all your faults. And I was lucky to have been loved by him.

So, how would I characterize Operation Maverick? Wildly successful. It made the world a better place. It gave the nation something to talk about at a time when we can't agree on anything. Not universal acceptance of the life of Senator John McCain but pretty damn close. The only time MSNBC, CNN, and FOX are saying the same thing. And the only way that happened is because those of us who had the pleasure of being in his presence and those who covered him in your business want to tell the story.

I want to tell the story. I have been approached since his death by cab drivers, waiters, cops, and they said, sorry for your loss. My name is Graham. Not McCain. But I feel like a McCain. I don't know if I've earned that honor but I feel like it. The average man and woman in this country got John McCain.

And what it will mean for the future? It means there will be generations of politicians coming along who will be influenced by him. The McCain Institute is alive and well, and its goal is to get young leaders throughout the developing world, expose them to democracy, teach them the art of compromise, the rule of law. And what a legacy. John will inspire courage. He'll reinforce the idea nothing is inevitable. As long as a few people are willing to fight for what they believe is right.

It is going to be a lonely journey for me for a while. I am going to need your help. And the void to be filled by John's passing is more than I can do. Don't look to me to replace this man. Look to me to remember what he was all about and try to follow in his footsteps. If you want to help me, join the march. If you want to help the country, be more like John McCain. I believe there's a little John McCain in all of us. And the little John McCain practiced by a lot of people can make this a really great nation.

So, my friend, you did good. You lived in the shadow of a four-star father and grandfather. You always worried would you disappoint. You did not.

To Cindy and the children, thank you for making me part of the clan.

To Team McCain, you taught me what loyalty's all about.

To my colleagues, thank you for your kindness.

I yield the floor.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We just wanted to hang on every word there. That was incredibly powerful and heartfelt from Senator McCain's dear friend, Republican Senator of South Carolina Lindsey Graham. Struggling to get through an emotional moment honoring his good friend. Those white roses there for the late Senator. These two had been friends for two decades. And the way he spoke about what his friend, John McCain, taught him about loss, about fighting but also losing gracefully, mentioning that concession speech when John McCain lost to President Obama in 2008, just so much there.

Sunlen Serfaty is in Washington.

Just to speak about -- just listening to these members of Congress, you know, speaking, it's so refreshing and beautiful to hear them speaking from the heart from their good friend.

[14:34:57] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It was such an emotional moment from Senator Graham there and I think especially poignant giving the speech on the Senate floor just about one foot from the desk of the late Senator McCain. A reminder to Senator Graham of one of his closest friends. And when we heard the news, of course, of Senator John McCain's passing, think of his family first and second a lot of people in this building would agree you think of Senator Lindsey Graham. They were so linked together. Best friends here in the Senate. Always together. Working on things together. And their closeness, their friendship was one that really defied politics. It was outside of this chamber here in the Senate, outside of Washington Beltway politics. It really defied politics and they genuinely had a love and respect for each other. And I think we saw that reflected in Senator Graham's comments just now on the Senate floor.

He, of course, tried -- he opened up I thought was interesting. He said I have been talking about this, I've been thinking about this, I have been dreading this, of course, acknowledgment that after McCain was diagnosed last summer with brain cancer. This was the moment that Senator Graham knew, some point, he would have to do. He would have to take to the Senate floor and memorialize his friend. He tried to inject some humor. He said admittedly painstakingly, talking about anecdotes of Senator McCain. and someone. the more he humiliated you, the more affection he had for you. But certainly, Graham really trying to draw some lessons learned from Senator McCain. And I think that moment at the end was especially poignant when he said this is going to be a lonely journey for me. Of course, an acknowledgment that Graham is losing his side kick up here, his best friend. And he said to his fellow Senator who are listening, some of whom were on the Senate floor, to fill the void with John passing, it's more than I can do. Calling on them to step up, as well -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: I don't think I can replace him. But let's remember him.

Sunlen, thank you so much.

Quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:41:37] BALDWIN: Vice President Mike Pence gets the in-depth treatment in a new book out today called "The Shadow President: The Truth about Mike Pence." And the co-authors claim Pence believes God his calling him to function as a president in waiting and that Pence believes he can save Donald Trump's soul.

CNN contributor, Michael D'Antonio, is one of those coauthors and he also a Donald Trump biographer and the author of "The Truth about Trump."

A pleasure to have you back on, Michael. Thank you for coming through.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Got the book. Congratulations.

Sounds like by the time Pence left high school, he was on this path.

D'ANTONIO: Yes.

BALDWIN: He wanted to be president. And so, how successful, though, has he been in that or is he hoping for a promotion?

D'ANTONIO: Well, he is hoping for a promotion but he is now one step away from the Oval Office. And he told people he went to high school with that he had this ambition, and then when he went to college he said, God intends this to happen to me. And this has been the animating ambition of his life. And it's a combination of fund raising skill. He's mad good at raising money.

BALDWIN: Yes.

D'ANTONIO: Very conservative, pro-business politics. And then this Christian right base. He says I'm a Christian first, a conservative second, and a Republican last.

And the thing that bothered us as we investigate in him is the idea of America as a pluralistic society, as a country where we're not supposed to be as tribal as he seems to be, isn't very present in his heart and mind. He is really about this special interest group.

BALDWIN: So why is he in the shadows?

D'ANTONIO: Oh, well, he is in the shadows waiting. You know? And we think of him as a president in waiting. The people around him say Mike will be ready. And by that, they mean he'll be ready to govern should President Trump --

BALDWIN: Stumble. D'ANTONIO: -- stumble. You know, he entered office, Mike Pence, as

the vice president most likely to become president in 100 years. You know, Gerald Ford didn't think he was going to be president when he was in Congress and Richard Nixon got into trouble. I think Mike Pence imagines this will happen for him. If not soon, later.

BALDWIN: So, when you watch Mike Pence, when you watch the vice president standing behind the president at events and you think -- you can't help but think of the ways they would split, right? You have pointed out that Mike Pence would not want to separate kids from parents on the border.

D'ANTONIO: I don't think so.

BALDWIN: You don't think so. You know, the alleged child molester, Roy Moore, in Alabama, and the president supported him. We don't think that Mike Pence would? And, yet, he stands almost -- I don't know if stoic is the word. Expressionless.

D'ANTONIO: Right.

BALDWIN: He stands by the president. You don't know what he is thinking.

D'ANTONIO: He does. Although, we did know what he was thinking at the cabinet meeting last December when everyone went around the table and praised the president. Mike Pence spoke for three minutes and there was a praise for him every 14 seconds and eventually he said it's great honor of my life to serve you. It is not so much about serving the American people right now as keeping Donald Trump satisfied. You know, I often think of Mike Pence as like the kid who's in the strict family, and his family was very strict. The kids were not to speak unless spoken to. If anyone entered the room they were to rise. He learned how to stay out of trouble. And with Donald Trump, Mike Pence is one of the few people who never gets in trouble. He's always got this calibrated just perfectly.

[14:45:22] BALDWIN: The quote you -- the quote is this that I wanted to ask you about. "The vice president believed he could bring Trump to Jesus, and like Jesus, he was willing to do whatever was necessary to help save Trump's soul."

I mean, Trump says he's been saved, is a Christian. From what you're writing, do you think Pence sees it that way?

D'ANTONIO: I imagine that Mike Pence thinks it's a work in progress.

BALDWIN: A work in progress? OK.

D'ANTONIO: So his -- his -- the conception for Mike Pence in the world of the Christian right is that he is serving a pagan king. So this is a king who may do God's work, may serve God's purpose but he needs Mike Pence to look after him, to keep him on the straight and narrow. And the ultimate is the goal of a Pence presidency. And you know if Donald Trump were to get into real trouble and resign, we could have a President Pence for 10 years. He could serve for two years, fulfilling the president's term and then he could run once and then run again. And the goal here is not for us to really pick on Mike Pence's belief system. But he's made his particular kind of Christianity the centerpiece of his political personality and I think we have to talk about it. You know, he is very much anti-gay. He's anti-marriage equality. He wants to roll back Roe v. Wade. All of the things are religiously inspired. He has a right to those positions, but we should all be aware of them.

BALDWIN: The book is "The Shadow President: The Truth about Mike Pence."

Michael D'Antonio, thank you so much.

D'ANTONIO: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Coming up here, as thousands of fans line up to pay their final respects to the queen of soul in her hometown of Detroit, we'll talk to the guy who brought her back to Detroit for one of her final performances there. How he will remember her, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:51:20] BALDWIN: People are coming by the thousands in from all over the country. Fans of Aretha Franklin lining up, waiting to pay final respects to the queen of soul. Today's the first day of the two-public viewing at the Detroit Charles Wright Museum of African- American History. We're told the line was wrapped around the museum before the doors even opened. Franklin's golden casket arrived in a classic white vintage hearse. Inside, people passed by her open casket. Franklin's star-studded funeral is Friday. And speakers include former President Bill Clinton and performances by Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson.

One of Aretha Franklin's last performances was in her beloved Detroit. She performed at the city's first music weekend last summer and, as always, she rocked the crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARETHA FRANKLIN, FORMER SINGER: Everybody put your hands together and let's have a party.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I have with me now the man that created that music festival and got the queen of soul to say yes. He is Vince Paul, artistic director for the Detroit Music Hall Center for Performing Arts.

Vince, thank you for swinging by the camera there.

I got to ask, because I know she was a tough woman to pin down but the fact you managed to book her, you know, she was so public, 29 backup musicians and singers and dancers. How did you pull that off? VINCE PAUL, PRESIDENT & ARTISTIC DIRCTOR, DETROIT MUSIC HALL CENTER

FOR THE PREFORMING ARTS: Well, we have a long history with Aretha Franklin at the music hall. You might remember that C.L. Franklin used to do his sermons there. Aretha grew up at the music hall. She's done dozens of concerts at the music hall. I have done half a dozen. And came time to launch this new idea of an all-encompassing festival in the streets of Detroit, she was the one we went to. And, you know, working with Aretha, you know, I say to my staff and my people, if she asks you for something, correct answer is yes.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PAUL: And this time -- yes, would be the right answer, Brooke. This time, we simply asked her to kick off this enormous festival, and little did we know that it would become her final full performance.

BALDWIN: I read that you say there was a lot of crying involved.

PAUL: Well, because that performance turned into a four-day festival. Because the city of Detroit gave her the key to the city. The city council renamed the street in front of music hall Aretha Franklin Way. It's there to this day. If you visit the music hall, you see Aretha's Jazz Cafe. We are going on honoring her further to make sure that her legacy is preserved, by renaming it Aretha's Jazz Cafe at the music hall center.

BALDWIN: It's great. It's great.

Last question for you. I know you will be at the funeral on Friday. You knew her very well personally. You give me a quick Aretha Franklin story?

[14:55:00] PAUL: Well, when I approached her, as I did throughout the years, she would very often answer with a, hmm. And then you kind of wring your hands and you spend two weeks trying to figure out is that a good hmm or was that a bad hmm. For Detroit music weekend, it turned out it was a good hmm because she called back. And, again, working with her, se either wants to do it or she doesn't want to do it. You know? She just sort of personified Detroit cool. And we hold cool in pretty high esteem here in Detroit.

BALDWIN: I know you do.

Vince Paul, thank you.

Coming up, a new study released today put it is estimate of deaths as a result of Hurricane Maria at nearly 3,000. That's far greater than the government's official death toll. We'll have reaction to that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. Breaking news right now. The governor of Puerto Rico expected to

speak any moment now on a study of storm-related deaths from Hurricane Maria. They study, commissioned by the government there, is now estimating the number of lives lost at nearly 3,000. We'll take that live momentarily.

Meantime, we want to get to the White House where the president is meeting with the president of FIFA. They're likely discussing the World Cup coming to North American in 2026. And the White House opening up the meeting to reporters. A late add to the schedule.

With me now is CNN White House reporter, Abby Phillip.

Abby, we saw the president time and time again avoiding questions about John McCain yesterday. What do you expect out of the president today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. That's exactly right, Brooke. Yesterday, the president, actually, we saw him so many times, but time after time, refused to take any questions. Today, yet again, they opened up this meeting, in some ways, unplanned, to reporters, so that the president can say a few words --