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McCain's Casket Transported to D.C. For Funeral; Endless Investigations of Trump Administration Following Midterms?. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are 300 Arizona Air National Guard giving John McCain a fitting send-off from this state, he, of course, a military man, a military hero from a military family that's fought in pretty much every war since you all threw out the British.

And, of course, this is a flight that he took many times himself, 35 years serving as a congressman and senator for this state. Now, getting aboard that plane with him will be some friends and also 18 members of his family, obviously, including Cindy, his widow, his wife of 38 years, his seven children, Doug, Andy, Sidney, Jack, Jimmy, Meghan, and Bridget, and at least four grandkids as well, Caroline, Shep, Margaret and Andrew Wolf, talk to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We will see all of this unfold in the coming minutes.

Dana, it's going to be a very, very emotional few days here in Washington, D.C., once the plane arrives, once the casket is up at the Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it.

Look, the senator has not physically been in Washington this whole year, all of 2018. He's been here in Arizona, trying to get better, hoping that he would be able to make it back to his to his beloved Senate.

But that was not to be. And so this will be the first time that McCain will -- his presence will -- his presence was there before in terms of his statements and so forth. But this is the first time that McCain will be going back to the U.S. Capitol, obviously, in a very, very, very different sensibility.

And it really is remarkable that this isn't just words from a Democrat like Joe Biden or other Democratic senators who were here in Arizona or who will be paying tribute to him tomorrow in the U.S. Capitol. It is real. They feel it. They feel a sense of humanity and of bipartisan respect for the process and for each other as people to get things done. And that is certainly something that is going to be hanging over the

Capitol. It already is now, but it's going to be quite different when he goes back to Washington.

Stephanie Elam is here with us, with Maeve Reston as well.

And, Stephanie, you have been here in Arizona. You were reporting on Saturday night as he passed away. You were in this service. Talk about what it was like to be in the building, in the room.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Throughout the time that I have been here, I have spoken to people who said that Senator McCain really wanted to have these ceremonies open to people of the public.

And that was the same that you saw inside the church today. They had just over 1,000 seats that were reserved for people of the public to come and pay their respects. And I sat and watched the people coming in, and you saw people from all walks of life. You saw -- it was mainly a mature crowd, but you did see people of different colors, different -- coming from different parts of life, of society, of the United States.

And I think that was part of the legacy of what Senator McCain wanted to have happen there. And I have to tell you, when the casket made its way in, the silence of several thousand people, a couple thousand people in there was, you could feel it, it was palpable.

And then everyone who spoke had something witty to say. And everyone laughed, and everyone responded to that. But I have to say, when former Vice President Biden was speaking about grief, a man who knows too intimately about the pain of loss, having lost his wife and his daughter in a car accident and having lost his son to the same cancer that took the senator, he was speaking so quietly.

And you could feel it. And he said in that moment when you feel you will -- six months from now, and something will happen, you will smell a fragrance, you will see something you will be transported right back to the day you have got the news, don't worry, you will get through this. Time is a balm. I promise you, you will get through this.

And he was speaking directly to the McCain family, and you could feel it. He was speaking from a place that only someone who has been there could. And you could see that he did it with such care for the family. It was the most moving moment of the entire ceremony.

BASH: It sure.

And, Maeve, as we're watching now the live pictures of the hearse and the motorcade arriving at the airport here in Arizona going to take him on his final journey back to Washington, D.C., what are your thoughts as you see this?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just -- to Stephanie's point and what David Axelrod was saying earlier, the civics lesson is already unfolding for us. And that was so striking as you spoke to the people came to view the casket yesterday. Going all through that line, there were so many Democrats in that line and people of all different races, ages.

One of McCain's friends, Steve Duprey, spoke to a woman who had brought a 1-month-old baby out. And she said, "I wanted to be able to tell my child someday that they had been in the presence of John McCain."

[15:05:10]

And everyone in that line talked about that commitment that he had to bipartisanship and a coming together as a country. And that's clearly the legacy that McCain has left behind.

ELAM: I think -- I think it's also noteworthy when you talk to his friends, and his friends, some of whom are staunch party Republicans, that this is who he was.

I mean, you heard it when the vice president was speaking as well about how they used to be able to...

BASH: I might just say, as your talking, we see Cindy McCain, John McCain's widow, and his children who we have seen throughout this now 24-48 hour period, coming out, as the ceremony will begin shortly.

And it will be a ceremony, that members of the Arizona Air National Guard are going to be there to help load the casket onto the plane.

RESTON: And such a poignant moment, particularly for Cindy McCain, who brought John McCain here to Arizona, to make it his adopted home, and folded him in her family.

And this will be -- she never took to the Washington life. She always wanted to be here, raise her children here. And that is such a special moment for her as they depart for Washington.

ELAM: And it's noteworthy too, throughout this -- throughout the proceedings inside the church, there were several times where you could see that Meghan McCain was overcome. And people sitting behind were reaching out to...

BASH: And you see Meghan McCain right now with her arm around her younger sister, Bridget.

RESTON: And then about Cindy McCain earlier, so stoic and comforting Bridget, rubbing her back as they watch the casket be loaded here into the hearse at the church, always in that mothering, comforting role.

BASH: Of her children, both ones she gave birth to, and Bridget, who she adopted, but also her husband's children.

I mean, we saw her here and you will probably see there Doug, Andy, Sidney rubbing their backs, making sure that they're OK. And it is -- as you said before, this is a modern family and it is an unusual plan.

But it is one that has come together certainly in a very poignant way now.

ELAM: And so many times they're dealing with this, but with such grace.

[15:10:45]

BLITZER: John McCain's casket being -- having been escorted to this vehicle, it will be placed aboard this U.S. Air Force C-32 military aircraft for the four- or five-hour flight to Washington.

You see the family, some very close friends. As soon as the casket is aboard this aircraft, they will board the aircraft and make this journey to Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C., where the ceremonies and the services will continue tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday, winding up Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for the burial of John McCain, died at 81.

Yesterday would have been have his 82nd birthday.

This is a fitting tribute, David Axelrod, to a truly great man.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, without question.

And, again, I think we got the essence of him. I was -- earlier, I began to say, when I sat down with him some time back for a show, we talked about Morris Udall, who was an icon of the Arizona Democratic Party, former presidential candidate.

You guys remember him, and really sort of an iconic liberal who was also a good friend of Senator McCain's. And he said -- he said he was everything that I wanted to be, and, frankly, I have not been. I have not lived up to his standard, because he was good and kind of generous to everyone.

But in his later years, Morris Udall had Parkinson's disease. John McCain would go over every week and read the Arizona papers to his friend, who could no longer do it himself. And so I think he under -- he undersold himself, because that's what good and kind and generous people do.

But it also speaks to this spirit of transcendence, that it wasn't about party. Joe Biden said earlier politics is all personal. I trust him with my life.

John McCain practiced that kind of politics.

BLITZER: There, you see the family, the friends. They have gathered on the tarmac at the Goldwater Air National Guard Base, Phoenix International Airport. They will be boarding this aircraft for the flight to Washington, D.C.

Cindy McCain, the widow, she will be boarding this aircraft.

And for the family, S.E. Cupp, they thought about this. They had 13 months to think about it after he was diagnosed with a severe brain cancer. And John McCain himself was very much involved in planning and organizing and arranging a lot of this.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think certainly the senator, as well as the family, had a sense of how important this was going to be.

BLITZER: And you see Cindy and Jimmy and Jack and Meghan, your good friend.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Yes. And they're boarding this aircraft as we speak.

Go ahead.

CUPP: This is a momentous -- this particular moment, as Dana alluded earlier, Senator McCain is leaving now his beloved Arizona, as you see as they stood on the tarmac, Camelback Mountain behind them, a very special place for the McCains.

He's leaving for the last -- for the last time. And as the McCain family knows, their roots will still be in Arizona, in Hidden Valley, that must be an incredibly emotional thing to confront, that, to visit their father, they will need to do it at the Naval Academy.

And yet John McCain will be in the essence of all of Arizona for as long as Arizona is around, because his legacy will be inescapable. He filled not only Barry Goldwater's seat, but his shoes. The long list of rugged individualists carved out of the Arizona mountains, from Barry Goldwater, to Mo Udall, now to John McCain, is a long one.

It's a proud one. Arizona is deeply, deeply proud of John McCain. And he is leaving right now, but he will never truly be gone from Arizona.

BLITZER: Jamie, can't help but think, if John McCain were still around, what he'd be saying about all of this.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He would think it went right according to plan.

[15:15:00]

And I just want to come back to this notion, this theme of bipartisanship. Three are sentences that I will never forget from today. And those were: "I'm Joe Biden, I'm a Democrat, and I love John McCain."

And that message is going to go forward. As we were talking before about sending a message to those senators who are sitting there and what comes next, hopefully, John McCain set this up. There was a lot of bipartisanship, a lot of Democrats.

So that message goes forward.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But don't you also hope that the message goes to voters in the midterm elections about looking for people of these kind of values and what they believe in and getting the -- if we're ever going to break out of this, we're going to need people with fresh ideas and a fresh generation who are really committed to these -- his ideals.

I thought that was a powerful part of what was going on today.

BLITZER: Certainly, a message that the former vice president wanted to deliver in his eulogy for his close and very old friend, John McCain. They were friends for decades. They had a terrific relationship.

To our viewers, you have been watching some remarkable events in Arizona, a moving celebration of John McCain's life.

Senator McCain's family, as you can see, boarding this aircraft, a U.S. Air Force aircraft. They will be heading to Washington, where his remains will lie in state tomorrow at the U.S. Capitol.

Then, on Saturday, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama with both eulogize their fallen comrade at his funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral.

CNN, of course, will have special live coverage of both events.

That's it for me here in Washington and for Dana Bash in Phoenix.

Our special coverage continues with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We will take it from here.

To all the crew there in Arizona and Washington, thank you so much.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. You're watching CNN.

And, of course, we will have much more coverage of the late Senator John McCain coming up, as he is now leaving Arizona for his final time and heading to Washington, D.C.

We begin back with the news today, growing anxiety at the White House about what the November midterms could bring, not just talk of impeachment, but congressional investigation after congressional investigation if the Democrats win the majority in the House two months from now.

One source tells our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta -- quote -- "Every news story is going to instigate a subpoena. It would be really miserable. I think people inside the White House understand that as best as they can."

So let's go straight to Jim Acosta at the White House with us today.

And so, Jim, just reading some your reporting, there was a quote in there talking about a perfect storm scenario against the president based on the midterm outcome. What do they say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke.

A lot of angst inside the White House today, the president displaying a lot of angst today. He's been tweeting a lot about his outgoing White House counsel, Don McGahn.

But one thread that we have been following today, Brooke, is there is some concern about what is going to happen up on Capitol Hill should the Democrats take control of Congress in these upcoming midterm elections.

And one of the things that we're picking up on among a couple of advisers, several advisers talking to the White House and other GOP sources who are familiar with all of this, they are saying that they're becoming less concerned about impeachment proceedings taking place up on Capitol Hill if the Democrats take control the House.

They're becoming more concerned about the Democrats taking control of various committees over in the House of Representatives, because they can issue subpoenas, they can hold hearings, they can do all of the things that the Republican-led House have not been doing up until this point when it comes to the Russia investigation.

And when you talk about this perfect storm, Brooke, one of the things that is out there is obviously the Robert Mueller investigation has not wrapped up yet. They have not issued that so-called report, as Rudy Giuliani has been talking about and that the president wants to see.

And so one thing that this Republican congressional aide was saying to me earlier today is, what happens if Mueller's team issues this report close to the midterm election, it comes out in the weeks right before the midterm election, and then the Democrats take control of the House?

They have this wealth of information that they could use to start holding hearings come January, issuing subpoenas and so on. And that is a sort of doomsday scenario, a perfect storm scenario, that Republican sources we're talking to close to the White House advising the president and so on, that they're talking about.

And, Brooke, one thing we should tell you is, one of the president's political advisers, an outside adviser who has talked to the president, told my colleague Elizabeth Landers that the president has been personally advised of this.

He's been advised of what could happen if the Democrats could take control in terms of impeachment proceedings, but he's also been advised of the possibility of Democrats taking control of these various committees and having the power to subpoena and so on.

[15:20:08]

And so that is something that they're going to have to deal with very shortly here. According to one of Republican congressional aide who I was talking with earlier today, if they're not dealing with this now, they better do it soon. And so this is one of those things. As we all know, Brooke, the Labor

Day holiday is typically, traditionally the kickoff to the midterm elections, to the election cycle in a big election year. And so a lot of this is going to be part of the conversation in the coming weeks.

The other thing we should point out, Brooke, is that the president leaves for a rally in Indiana in about an hour from now, and one of the things we're going to be looking for is whether or not the president wants to talk about some of this stuff.

Yesterday, when I asked the president about Don McGahn, his outgoing White House counsel, he was very talkative. I don't know if you saw this, Brooke, but...

BALDWIN: Sure did.

ACOSTA: ... he was in a very talkative mood, took a lot of questions from reporters.

And so we're sort of wondering here, maybe the president wants to talk again, answer some of these questions as he heads out to this rally in Indiana.

Of course, with the services for John McCain up right now, Brooke, one of the questions for the president obviously will be, does he have anything more to say about John McCain? Because he hasn't said very much up until this point, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you. We're going to come back on a lot of points you just made.

You mentioned John McCain.

I want to take everyone back to Arizona, to the airport, to our correspondent Nick Watts, who is standing by there live.

And we saw every single one of those family members standing by and watching his casket leave his sort of adopted state of Arizona for that final time.

WATT: Absolutely, 18 members of his family, Brooke, will be on that plane.

Of course, his wife of 38 years, Cindy, his seven children and four of his grandchildren, along with other friends taking this trip that John McCain obviously took so many times in life as he flew to Washington, D.C., to serve his state, his adopted state of Arizona.

The send-off here includes 300 Arizona Air National Guardsmen standing in formation to bid farewell from Arizona, and next it will be the turn of the country at large to mourn John McCain. He is expected to land at about 7:30 p.m. tonight at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington.

I expect it'll be a little bit later than that, as the funeral service this morning went a little bit long, largely, I think due to Vice President Joe Biden's eulogy, which was full of personal stories, full of passion, talking to the family, telling them that their grief will pass, that time will be a balm, and also making some political statements about what John McCain believed in, about what Joe Biden believed in, and, without mentioning the president, taking a few swipes at him as well.

So right now, as you say, Brooke, we are just waiting for the final preparations of this flight that will take John McCain to Washington for one final time -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Before we look ahead to him being in Washington and, of course, on to his final resting place at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy there in Annapolis, being buried next to his best friend, let's just talk a little bit more about what we saw and experienced today.

And it was such -- it was such the symbolism of the ceremony, Nick, not just in word, but in the Democrats, the Republicans, hearing from his dear old friend from the Senate the former Vice President Joe Biden.

You hit on how Biden spoke about grief and how he knows it so profoundly because of wife, daughter, son, but also, of course, now John McCain. And that -- it just seemed to me it was just a civics lesson unfolding.

WATT: Absolutely.

I mean, Joe Biden -- the first words out of Joe Biden's mouth were, "I am Joe Biden, I am a Democrat, and I love John McCain."

There was -- there was laughter after that, and that was one of the themes of Joe Biden's message, was bipartisanship and the ideal of America, which he said that John McCain believed in and he says that he believed in.

Also, we heard from Larry Fitzgerald, who is a player with the Arizona Cardinals. And he said: Listen, we might be unlikely friends. I'm black. He is white. I have got long hair. He didn't have much hair. And he said, but that's the kind of person that Joe Biden (sic) was. He made friends with people like me, with everybody. He crossed the aisle.

Joe Biden talked about a lot. Joe Biden talked about the two of them sitting together in the Senate. Some people didn't think it was a great idea. But they were friends. They were personal friends. And they were of course, united also not just in their political -- not their political beliefs, but their kind of underlying political ideals, but also united in grief.

Of course, Joe Biden lost his own son Beau to the same cancer that took John McCain. And that was really the root of Joe Biden's softly spoken message to the family itself, which was probably the most emotional part of that service this morning.

And also the people of Arizona had been given the chance to say goodbye to this man who took this state as his own, moved here in his 40s.

[15:25:03]

And when he first got here, some people said, oh, you're a carpetbagger, you're just coming down to take an easy seat. And he said: Listen, I was a Navy brat. I wish I was lucky enough to grow up in the state of Arizona. I'm here now. I'm going to stay.

And then one final little flourish from him was: You know what? The longest I have ever lived in a place was in Hanoi.

Of course, he was a prisoner there for five-and-a-half years. He took this state to his heart. The state took him to heart. Yesterday, people were in line for three hours waiting in the state capitol here to file past his casket and pay their last respects.

In fact, 21 people had to be treated for heat-related issues. It was very, very hot here today and yesterday. But people in Arizona wanted to say goodbye.

I thought that was the engines of his plane, but it's another plane.

But, very shortly, John McCain will be taking off for Andrews Joint Base and the celebrations of his life in Washington this coming weekend -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Nick, thank you.

I mean, just imagine being someone on a flight going elsewhere, happened to be in Phoenix right now, and is honored to see precisely what you're looking at and realizing just the gravity of this moment and this hero taking off from Arizona for his final, final trip.

Maeve Reston, I have been listening to you all morning long there sitting with Dana at the church in Arizona. And I just want to -- Nick mentioned Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals player.

And I just wanted to read the quote. This is what he said: "Many people might wonder what a young African-American kid from Minnesota and a highly decorated Vietnam War hero turned United States senator might have in common. Well, I have thought of a few. I'm black. He's white. I'm young. He wasn't so young. He lived with physical limitations brought on by war. I'm a professional athlete. He ran for president. I run out of bounds."

And he ended with this: "He didn't -- he, the late senator, didn't judge individuals based on the color of their skin, their gender, their backgrounds, their political affiliations, or their bank accounts. He evaluated them on the merits of their character and the content of their hearts."

Maeve, beautiful sentiment.

RESTON: That is so moving, so moving, Brooke, and spoke so much about who McCain was, that he would want to have that kind of speech here at his funeral. And we have seen all through the last couple of days the mourners who showed up yesterday, as Nick mentioned. As you went through the line, it was Democrats, people of all political stripes. There were people from the tribes all over Arizona who just felt that John McCain had served to them well.

And in these services here, you also saw the deeply personal McCain. His friends talked about some of his flaws and the things that drove them crazy about him.

And I think that so much of this is the lesson he wants to leave for everyone here about bipartisanship and acceptance and loving my neighbor.

BALDWIN: Maeve Reston, stand by. Everyone, stand by.

We want to see this plane take off. We're going to take a quick break.

Our special coverage continues their, live pictures, Phoenix, Arizona.

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