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Vietnam Pays Tribute to McCain; Letter from North Korea; DNC Chairman Remembers McCain; Democrats Change Rules; Serena Williams Back at U.S. Open; Remembering McCain's Lighter Side. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 28, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:06] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tributes to the late Senator John McCain span the world, including the city of Hanoi, in Vietnam, where John McCain was held captive and tortured as a prisoner of war for more than five years.

CNN's Ivan Watson is there in Hanoi with more.

And, Ivan, I find the affection and respect for John McCain from that country to be fascinating.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is remarkable. I'm coming to you on a soggy evening, John, from Truc Bach Lake, it's in the heart of Hanoi, and this is where John McCain splashed down on October 26, 1967. It's when a surface to air missile hit his plane when he was on a combat bombing mission over this city.

Now, more than a half century later, there's still this small monument here that's got his name on it because this was viewed as a North Vietnamese military victory, shooting down McCain and other U.S. pilots who were bombing North Vietnam.

But look at this now. After the senator's passing, you've got these shows of respect, flowers, incense, money, cigarettes. We've got a bouquet here from the U.S. embassy here in Hanoi. I just saw a South African couple who told me they were taking photos here. They said, we're not Americans, but we respect the man.

The U.S. embassy here in Hanoi has opened its annex to the public to let people sign a book of condolences. And I met Vietnamese there who were coming in to sign saying they thanked John McCain for helping establish friendly relations between Vietnam and the U.S., two countries that fought this bitter, bitter war against each other for so many years. And McCain himself, who was imprisoned here for some five and a half years, he says he suffered torture, solitary confinement, was forced to sign a confession during that long captivity, that ordeal, he became such a prominent voice for peace between the two countries, that is part of why people here love and respect him.

John and Alisyn. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Ivan, it is remarkable. I mean what a few

short decades can do to turn around history. It's just -- thank you very much for the live shot. That's really illustrative of what we're talking about.

So we're also following some breaking news for you because sources tell CNN that a top North Korean official has sent a secret letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning him that the denuclearization effort is in jeopardy of falling apart.

CNN's Will Ripley has been to North Korea more than a dozen times. He is live in Hong Kong with what he has learned.

What's the latest, Will?


We're getting some insight as to why Secretary Pompeo and President Trump apparently believed that this trip that was supposed to happen this week by Pompeo to Pyongyang would have potentially done more harm than good. And this is really a fragile relationship between the United States and North Korea. Sources telling me overnight, essentially breaking down the essence of the message that was delivered to the Trump administration. I'll bullet point it for you.

The U.S. is still not yet ready to meet North Korean expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty. Denuclearization is again at stake and may fall apart. And Pyongyang could resume nuclear and missile activities if that happens because, keep in mind, this has always been a pause promised by the North Koreans. They haven't said yet that they're going to give up their nuclear weapons or stop testing all together, but they said they wouldn't do the testing as the diplomatic process with the United States was ongoing.

Now that process is very precarious, perhaps in danger of falling apart if the two sides can't come to terms on this peace treaty. The North Koreans want the peace treaty up front because they say it will guarantee the security of Kim Jong-un. The United States has said that the peace treaty is a concession that should only come after North Korea has given up its nuclear weapons. And this is why talks have really ground to a halt as of late.

And if they do fall apart, you have a North Korea that now has a much better relationship with China, a better relationship with South Korea because South Korea's President Moon Jae-in is still going to be traveling to Pyongyang next month. Could the United States actually end up sidelined when it was at the center of this process, John? That is the real concern this morning.

[06:35:14] BERMAN: This is a big story with a lot of developments. Alisyn was talking about this all morning as something we cannot sleep on.

Will Ripley, glad we have you there following it for us. Thanks so much. Big changes coming to the Democratic National Committee. How the

party's 2020 primary will be different than four years ago. Is a brokered convention really a possibility? Political reporters around the country rejoicing.


BERMAN: Senator John McCain's colleagues honoring his memory on the Senate floor. His desk draped in black with white roses placed on top. A beautiful yet sad image there.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle remembering McCain as a hero and a statesman.

Joining me now is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, former secretary of labor.

Secretary, it's so interesting when you have the chair of the other party basically, you know, asking to come on to talk about how much you admire a Republican senator, but you think, to an extent, you owe the fact that you ever got into the Obama cabinet to John McCain.

[06:40:12] TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Absolutely. You'll never be able to convince me, John, that the passing of Senator McCain, on the same day that Senator Kennedy died nine years earlier of the same illness, is a coincidence. You'll never be able to convince me of that.

And when I was nominated for labor secretary, I needed six votes to get to 60. That was back in the day when you had to get 60 votes. We had, I think, 54 senators on the Democratic side. We needed six.

I remember meeting with Senator McCain in his office. He voted for me on cloture. Didn't vote on final passage. But if he hadn't voted for me on cloture, I wouldn't be there. And I remember our meeting. He had a few suggestions for me, shall we say.

And Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain had such a friendship that transcended party. They put country over party all the time. They came together on immigration reform, on climate, on so many issues. And his passing for me is a sad day. And I can't help but reflect on what he meant and what Senator Kennedy meant together, working together, understanding the principle compromise is not a dirty word in American politics.

BERMAN: A lot of people around the world reflecting on what Senator John McCain meant to them personally and meant to the world.

If I can ask you about pure partisan politics for a moment here. You are the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And the committee announced huge changes yesterday to the Democratic nominating process for 2020. Superdelegates will not get a vote on the first ballot at the convention.

That's a big deal. That's a big departure from the way that you, as a party, have run elections since the late '80s. Why -- what does this mean? And, and, for political reporters out there who've been chomping at the bit for this, does this increase the possibility of a brokered convention?

PEREZ: Well, first of all, this is all about growing the party. It's about increasing the trust in the party. It's -- when you -- when people trust the party, people want to become Democrats. And that was all about -- it's about winning elections. And what I've seen and the reason I think the answer to your question is, no, is superdelegates have been in place since 1984. They've never decided who won the nomination.

Hillary Clinton won the nomination in 2016 because she got more votes than her opponents. Same thing with Barack Obama in 2008.

But the fact of the matter is, while superdelegates haven't decided the -- who won the nomination, they've affected people's sense of the fairness of the process. You know, we may have double digit candidates in 2020. And all but one are going to be disappointed. And what our goal is, is to make sure the process is fair to everyone, fair in fact and fair in perception. And when people feel like their candidate got a fair shake and the process was fair, then they're excited at the end of the process. We come out of the primary with wind at our back and we bring that wind into victory in November.

BERMAN: That's 2020. Let's talk about 2018 and the aftermath, if we can, because one of the things you're starting to hear from Republicans is, if Democrats take over the House, they'll move to impeach President Trump. If Democrats take over the House, there will be hearing after hearing on every agency on every issue having to do with the Trump administration.

It's fascinating to me that Republicans are saying this out loud as something to warn people away from voting for Democrats. Do you embrace the notion that if Democrats take over the House, you are going to see many hearings, many investigations into the Trump administration?

PEREZ: Well, listen, when Democrats take over the House and the Senate, we're going to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions will still have access to health insurance. We're going to reign in pharmaceutical companies. We're going to make sure that unions have the right to organize. We're going to make sure that voter purges, which are unlawful, don't occur. We're going to make sure that we're fighting for our democracy.

BERMAN: But will this be -- will this be -- will this be an investigation fest? Will it just be investigation after investigation, hearing after hearing?

PEREZ: Well, listen, this is the most dangerous president of our lifetime. And the culture of corruption in Washington, D.C., is overwhelming. It's -- I don't think I've ever seen more scandal in a shorter period of time than we've seen in this White House.

But, again, as I've said before, what people want to make sure and what people are going to go to the polls for in November in 70 days, the most important election of our lifetime is, they want leaders to preserve their health care. They want leaders to make sure that they're fighting for them, not fighting for a few at the top. They want people in Washington who are going to fight for shared prosperity for all, not just prosperity for a few.

And, yes, we need to hold this president accountable. There are no guardrails in Washington. The Supreme Court is not a guardrail. The Republican Congress has a sock in their mouth. And so we need accountability here.

[06:45:10] BERMAN: Secretary Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, thanks for joining us this morning. Appreciate the conversation.

PEREZ: A pleasure to be with you.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, Serena Williams is back on the court for the U.S. Open. And it's not just her game that is turning heads.


BERMAN: Serena Williams makes a triumphant return to the U.S. Open in style.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report" in style.


It has been two years since we've seen Serena on the court at the U.S. Open. Last year her first child was born during the tournament.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

The six-time champ styling under the lights last night. The black tutu. She says she actually had a broken spirit going into the match because she wasn't able to say bye to her baby girl Olympia, who was napping at the hotel when she left. Added motivation, perhaps, to end this one quickly.

It took just over an hour for her to beat Magda Linette in straight sets. She's the 17 seed, but still the favorite to win her 24th grand slam singles title. That would tie Margaret Court's all-time record set 45 years ago. And the path to history is looking a bit easier. The number one seed Simona Halep was upset in the first round. Check this out.

[06:50:18] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ODELL BECKHAM JR., NEW YORK GIANTS: Oh, my, money, money, money, money.


WIRE: Odell Beckham Jr. dancing in the Giant's locker room after finding out he just became the highest paid receiver in NFL history. A reported five-year $95 million deal. That's about 52 grand a day, every day, for five years. $65 million is guaranteed. Beckham hasn't played this preseason yet, but he's expected to be ready to go for the season opener against Jacksonville. Must be nice.

How about it, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Well, yes, I mean it's not Berman money, but, yes.

BERMAN: If you're going to -- dancing like that is fine, but if he pulls something, like a muscle or a hamstring from the dancing, he's got to be careful with that salary.

And I do want to pose this last question. You know what Serena Williams should wear when she plays tennis?


BERMAN: Whatever the hell she wants to.

WIRE: Damn right.


BERMAN: Whatever the hell she wants to.

CAMEROTA: Ba, boom.

OK, thank you very much, Coy.

All right, so John McCain, remembered for his heroism and his humor. We take a look back at the moments the senator made us laugh.


[06:55:37] CAMEROTA: Authorities are officially identifying the two men killed at that video game championship in Jacksonville, Florida. Elijah Clayton and Taylor Robertson were murdered by gunfire.

Meanwhile, CNN has learned the suspect underwent treatment for psychological and emotional issues and one time -- at one time was placed on anti-psychotic medicine used to treat schizophrenia. Howard County Police Department records also show that it received 26 calls from the family's home between 1993 and 2009, but none indicate any physical altercation or violence. Officials say the shooter bought the gun used in the shooting legally, despite everything that I just told you.

EA Sports, which set up the tournament, has canceled three similar events to review safety protocols.

BERMAN: It's primary day. Voters head to the polls in three states. In Arizona, three Republicans and vocal Trump supporters are competing to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake, a Trump critic. Florida's primary features close races in both parties in the governor's race and in Oklahoma voters will choose between Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt as the Republican nominee for governor in a runoff election. CAMEROTA: The late Senator John McCain is being remembered for his service and sacrifice, of course.

BERMAN: He's also being remembered for his sense of humor, including a very disturbing -- deserving, I should say, live -- line.

CAMEROTA: And disturbing.

BERMAN: Well, he is. Manu Raju is disturbing, in many ways. We'll just leave it there.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has the funny moments.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He called his campaign bus the Straight Talk Express.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Why are we handing this out?

MOOS: But a lot of what he expressed was humor, whether it was poking fun at his opponent, then presidential candidate Obama.

MCCAIN: Maverick, I can do, but messiah is above my pay grade.

MOOS: Or getting nabbed on camera playing poker on his phone during a Senate debate.

MCCAIN: Occasionally I get a little bored.

MOOS (on camera): Just a year and a half ago, Senator McCain was horsing around like a teenager, making devil ears --


MOOS (voice over): Behind CNN reporter Manu Raju, McCain then tweeted out the moment, after all these years, revenge.

More devil horns behind his fellow senator from Colorado.


MOOS: And then there were all those "SNL" appearances, never funnier than when --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCain sings Streisand.

MCCAIN: People, memories.

MOOS: He said Streisand had tried to do his job talking politics, so he decided to try hers.

MCCAIN: Papa can you see me. Pretty annoying, huh?

MOOS: Barbara wasn't annoyed. After his death, she referenced the "SNL" act in a tweet and called him a good man, a good senator.

He even let "SNL" joke about his then running mate going rogue --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Available now, we've got a bunch of these --

MOOS (on camera): Senator McCain's attempts at humor sometimes blew up on him. Remember this?

BEACH BOYS, (singing): Ba, ba, ba, ba, Barbara Ann.

MOOS (voice over): Senator McCain did when someone asked him about punishing Iran.

MCCAIN: That old Beach Boys song bomb Iran, you know, bomb, bomb, bomb --

MOOS: He made movie and TV cameos playing himself.

MCCAIN: Excuse me. I just need to get my coat here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you give me a minute here, please.

MOOS: He made fun of himself.

MCCAIN: I wish the guy would shut up.

MOOS: No wonder he laughed so easily. He considered himself to be one of --

MCCAIN: (singing): Are the luckiest people --

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

MCCAIN (singing): In the world.

MOOS: New York.


BERMAN: Love that smile.

CAMEROTA: I mean he had really great comedic timing. You know, as I've said, covering him in 1999 and 2000, he would say some of the same jokes over and over again on the stump in New Hampshire, but they never got old because his comedic timing was so great that the audience was eat it up.

BERMAN: And someone finally got to Manu Raju, gave Manu Raju what he deserved there.

CAMEROTA: That's right. He is quite disturbing.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any thoughts on John McCain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump cares about one thing, and that's the thing that looks back at him in the mirror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't think it does anything to the memory of John McCain to use him as a cajole (ph) to beat up the president.

[07:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our hearts and prayers are going to the family of Senator John McCain.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: He fought the good fight, he kept the pace, and he never gave up the ship.