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Trump Announces Don McGahn to Leave White House in the Fall; Memorial Service for John McCain at Phoenix Church Today; Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN ANCHOR: The president's legal team reportedly looking for help to handle possible impeachment proceedings. The chief White House counsel out the door as soon as next month.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The subway system --

CYNTHIA NIXON (D), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The MTA has been controlled by the state since 1965.

CUOMO: Can you -- can you stop interrupting?


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Insults go flying as Democrats square off for the first time on stage in the New York governor's race.

HARTUNG: A case of road rage. An Uber driver with a gun and a case of mistaken identity. How a man ended up dead and why police say it was justified.

Good morning. I'm Kaylee Hartung in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good to have you here, Kaylee. Good morning, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, August 30th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

We start with politics this morning. "The Washington Post" reporting President Trump and his legal team for the first time said to be focused on the dreaded I word. Impeachment. The president's advisers and allies are increasingly worried he has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself if Democrats take over the House. That could lead to subpoenas or even impeachment charges.

The president's team has reportedly discussed recruiting experienced legal fire power to the Office of White House Counsel which is losing its lead lawyer, Don McGahn.

HARTUNG: President Trump announcing on Twitter Wednesday McGahn will be leaving the job in the fall after the expected confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Hearings begin next week. McGahn's departure was not unexpected, but it appears he was

blindsided by the Trump tweet. Having not announced his own timetable to leave.

We get more now from CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Kaylee, President Trump's announcement that Don McGahn might be leaving in the near future came as a surprise to a lot of people here. Now even Republican senators expressed some surprise that President Trump had made this decision.

But McGahn was rumored to be expecting to leave the White House shortly after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, the president's nominee for the Supreme Court. McGahn had been at the White House since the very beginning of the Trump administration. But our sources tell us he's had an estranged relationship with President Trump for over a year now. In that period of time, McGahn has also become a witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Now President Trump responding to this news that he broke himself over Twitter had nothing but praise for McGahn when we spoke to him at the White House on Wednesday. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don? Excellent guy. Yes. Don McGahn is a really good guy. Been with me for a long time. Privately before this. He represented me. Has been here now, it'll be almost two years. And a lot of affection for Don. And he'll be moving on probably the private sector. Maybe the private sector. And he'll do very well. But he's done an excellent job.


PHILLIP: And President Trump also said that he was not at all concerned about what Don McGahn might have told the special counsel in those interviews. But meanwhile we are also looking to see who the president names as McGahn's replacement. A top contender according to our sources is Emmet Flood, a White House lawyer who was brought in, in part, to deal with a lot of the Russia-related inquiries coming into this White House.

Flood does have an interesting background. He was a former lawyer for President Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings -- Dave and Kaylee.

BRIGGS: All right, Abby. Thanks.

According to Politico, President Trump is personally lobbying Republican lawmakers to flip on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president for the past 10 days has reportedly been venting his anger at Sessions to any senator who will listen. He spent a year and a half ripping into the attorney general for recusing himself in the Russia probe. Mr. Trump's frustration is apparently wearing on some GOP senators

including Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham. Both now suggest a move to replace Sessions could be made after the midterms.

HARTUNG: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering a plan to bolster the rights of college students accused of sexual assault, harassment or rape. That's according to the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post." New rules could have significant repercussions for how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual abuse.

The changes, they would narrow the definition of sexual harassment from, quote, "unwelcomed conduct of sexual nature" to "unwelcomed conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive."

BRIGGS: The regulations would also reduce the school's liability but encourage schools to provide victims with more support. An Education spokeswoman calls the reports premature and speculative, and says the department is still deliberating.

HARTUNG: And later today, the late Senator John McCain will make the flight from Arizona to Washington one last time.

[04:05:04] But first a memorial service will be held at a church in Phoenix. Former Vice President Joe Biden will be among those paying tribute. One person who won't be there, McCain's 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin. A source says Palin was not invited to the McCain memorials.

BRIGGS: Yesterday, hordes of people lined up in triple digit heat to pay their respects on what would have been John McCain's 82nd birthday.

More from CNN's Nick Watt in Phoenix.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Kaylee, Arizonans have waited for hours in 102-degree heat to file past that flag draped casket and pay their last respects to the man who represented them in Washington for 35 years, first, as a congressman and then as a senator.

There was, earlier in the day, an intimate ceremony inside the capital for friends, colleagues and family, at which Governor Ducey spoke and he called John McCain Arizona's favorite adopted son. He also said that when he traveled overseas, the only thing these people know about Arizona are the Grand Canyon and John McCain.


GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R), ARIZONA: Imagining Arizona without John McCain is like picturing an Arizona without the Grand Canyon. It's just not natural.


WATT: Cindy McCain, his widow, his wife of 38 years, was there, dabbing away a tear at one point. And when her husband was described as a fighter from the podium, she nodded. On her way out, touching the casket and touching her cheek to the casket.

This morning, there will a funeral service at a church here in Phoenix before the Senator's body is flown to Washington, D.C., where he will lie in state at the Capital, then on Saturday there will be a ceremony at the National Cathedral.

John McCain will be buried Sunday in Annapolis, Maryland, at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. And then next week, Governor Ducey says he may announce who is going to fill Senator McCain's seat.

Back to you.

HARTUNG: Thank you, Nick Watt.

It didn't take long for the Florida governor's race to get ugly. Just hours after progressive Democrat Andrew Gillum became the state's first black candidate for governor his Republican opponent, Trump- backed candidate Ron DeSantis said this on FOX.


REP. RON DESANTIS (R), NOMINEE FOR FLORIDA GOVERNOR: And let's build off the success we've had on Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda.


BRIGGS: The DeSantis campaign quickly explained he was referring to Florida not making the wrong decision and to characterize it as anything else is absurd. DeSantis then went back on FOX trying to clean up the mess.


DESANTIS: It has zero to do with race. I believe people should be judged based on their ability and character regardless of race. But it's because of that that I know that socialism won't work in Florida. It's not good for any race, color or creed.


BRIGGS: Gillum for his part responded to his rival's remarks with this.


ANDREW GILLUM (D), NOMINE FOR FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Donald Trump. This is a page from his playbook. I think he was clear about what he meant and he understood the dog whistle that he was blowing. And I understand that he intends to speak to a particular part of the base to incite them. But the truth is, is I think there are a majority of us who disagree with that brand of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Earlier Gillum told FOX News' Shepard Smith that he is not going to get down the gutter with DeSantis and Trump.

HARTUNG: Well, two weeks ahead of their own primary, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and rival Cynthia Nixon facing off in a contentious debate.


CUOMO: My opponent -- my opponent lives in the world of fiction. I live in the world of facts. The subway system --

NIXON: The MTA has been controlled by the state since 1965.

CUOMO: Excuse me. Can you -- can you stop interrupting? Can you stop interrupting?

NIXON: Can you stop lying?

CUOMO: Yes. As soon as you do.


HARTUNG: The two sparring over their visions for the state from how to fix New York City's failing subways to health care. When asked about greater aspirations amid whispers of a possible run for the White House, Cuomo said this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you promise to serve four more years as governor if reelected?

CUOMO: The only caveat is the --


CUOMO: Is if God strikes me dead. Otherwise I will serve four years as governor of New York.


BRIGGS: Nixon immediately fired back reminding viewers of Cuomo's recent gaffe when he said America was never that great.


NIXON: Donald Trump did tweet at you about whether or not America was great. And you backed down pretty quickly. You stood up to him about as well as he stands up to Putin. When it comes to opposing Donald Trump in New York state, we already have a corrupt corporate Republican in the White House. We don't need a corrupt Democrat in Albany as his main opposition.


BRIGGS: The winner of the primary faces Republican Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro.

HARTUNG: President Trump stands by his administration's response to Hurricane Maria a day after the official death toll in Puerto Rico was raised by the thousands. On Tuesday, the island's governor formally raised the death toll from 64 to nearly 3,000.

[04:10:04] The storm left much of Puerto Rico without power for weeks. And despite all of that, here's what the president had to say.


TRUMP: I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico. We're still helping Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico are great people. They work very hard. But Puerto Rico I would say was by far the most difficult of the group. And you know, right now FEMA and all of the people that work so hard there, they were very brave and they have done some big job. But Puerto Rico hard a lot of difficulties before it got hit.


HARTUNG: The mayor of San Juan Said told CNN Wednesday the administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up incompetent prosecutors, a New Mexico judge says that's why he had to let alleged child abusers from a filthy New Mexico compound go free.


BRIGGS: All right. 4:14 Eastern Time.

[04:15:00] The U.S. and Canada racing to rework NAFTA by Friday. But both are optimistic they'll meet that tight deadline.


TRUMP: I think Canada very much wants to make the deal. And I think it's going to be obviously very good for Canada if they do, and I think it's probably not going to be good at all if they don't. They want to be a part of the deal. And we gave until Friday and I think we're probably on track.


BRIGGS: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also thinks it's possible, but with one caveat.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We recognize that there is a possibility of getting there by Friday. But it is only a possibility because it will hinge on whether or not there is ultimately a good deal for Canada, a good deal for Canadians.

I said from the very beginning. No NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal.


BRIGGS: Canada rejoined NAFTA talks after months on the sidelines and that allowed the U.S. and Mexico time to work out their own issues mainly over auto manufacturing. U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement on Monday. Now all three countries have until Friday to rewrite NAFTA. There are sticking still a few sticking points between the U.S. and Canada. Like NAFTA's existing system for resolving disputes. Canada wants to preserve it, the U.S. wants to eliminate it for Canada's dairy market. The Trump administration wants more access. Canada wants to protect its domestic industry.

HARTUNG: Former Texas police officer Roy Oliver sentenced to 15 years in prison for the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager. It comes a day after he was convicted of murder for fatally shooting 15- year-old Jordan Edwards as he left a house party last year. The family of Jordan Edwards said they'd like to see a greater sentence but they respect the guilty verdict. Oliver's defense plans to appeal the verdict and the sentence.

BRIGGS: In a stunning move, child abuse charges were dismissed against three of five adults who lived at the decrepit New Mexico compound with 11 kids and where a child was found dead. The reason? The judge said the suspects did not have a preliminary hearing in the 10-day timeframe required by New Mexico. The Taos County District Court judge Jeff McElroy called out prosecutors for being incompetent. He said he finds it disturbing the district attorney would put the court in that kind of a situation. No comment from the prosecutors. Two other defendants were arraigned on felony charges in connection with the death of a 3-year-old boy.

HARTUNG: The drinking water at all Detroit public school buildings has been turned off. A series of water tests revealed water quality issues in 34 school buildings. Results for 50 school buildings are pending. Elevated copper and lead have found in some school water dating back to 2016. Bottled water and coolers will be used in the meantime when students return to class next week.

And men at the U.S. Open change their shirts all the time. I saw it yesterday.

BRIGGS: Yes. It happens.

HARTUNG: But a female player does it and she gets a penalty. What officials at the tournament say next.


[04:22:18] BRIGGS: Florida police say an Uber driver was justified to shoot and kill a man who stormed toward his car. In this dashcam video you can see a pickup truck cut off the Uber driver. A man identified as Jason Boek thought his girlfriend was in the Uber heading home after the two got into a fight over text. Then this happened.



JASON BOEK, UBER ATTACKER: You know I got a pistol. Want me to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) shoot you?


WESTLAKE: Oh my god.

BOEK: I'm going to shoot you.


HARTUNG: Boek did say he had a pistol, but was holding what authorities say was just a cell phone. The Uber driver, Robert Westlake, is a licensed security guard who holds a concealed weapons permit.


GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY SHERIFF: And at the end of the day, the message is clear. Don't mess with the Uber driver. You have the right to protect yourself. This is a classic Stand Your Ground case.


HARTUNG: Well, the sheriff's office says Westlake is cooperating. As it turns out Boek's girlfriend was not in the Uber. She called the car for a friend.

BRIGGS: A mother in Pennsylvania being charged with homicide in the death of her 11-week-old baby. Prosecutors allege that drugs in the breast milk 30-year-old Samantha Jones was feeding her son RJ killed him. An autopsy found traces of methadone, amphetamine and methamphetamine in the infant's blood.

Jones told investigators she had been prescribed methadone to help manage her addiction to opioid painkillers. The criminal complaint makes no mention of other drugs. The mother's attorney says Jones loved the child and never intended to harm him.

HARTUNG: A remarkable rescue in Wisconsin after an 11-year-old boy was sucked into a flooded storm sewer. It happened Tuesday night when police say the boy was playing with friends in a flooded drainage ditch. He disappeared under the water. Somehow an eagle-eyed firefighter saw the boy's fingers pop through an opening in a manhole cover.


AMOS MIKKELSON, HARRISON FIRE RESCUE: We had people in wetsuits and water rescue suits walking the ponds, walking the ditches. We do believe that there was air trapped in that manhole cover area. I'm not exactly sure by what miracle he was able to find that.


HARTUNG: The boy was lifted to safety and is now back home with his family.

BRIGGS: Aretha Franklin's long good-bye continues tonight with the tribute concert in Detroit. Nearly 40 artists will perform a variety of jazz, gospel and R&B. Before that, there will be a final public viewing for the Queen of Soul at the New Bethel Baptist Church where her father was once the pastor. Over the last two days, thousands have paid final respects to Aretha Franklin. Her funeral will be held tomorrow in Detroit.

HARTUNG: U.S. Open officials are feeling the heat and it's not because of the sweltering temperatures at Flushing Meadows.

[04:25:01] French tennis player Alize Cornet briefly took her top off after realizing she'd put it on the wrong way during a heat break. She was then issued a code violation by the chair umpire. That decision triggered a storm of criticism on social media with charges of sexism and a double standard. The Women's Tour officials say Alize did nothing wrong and the U.S. Tennis Association now says it regrets what happened adding they have clarified the policy to make sure this does not happen again.

BRIGGS: Yes, that's plainly sexist. Surprising that they would not have seen that coming and then change that rule long ago. But good to see they've woken up.

All right. If you know an experienced lawyer to defend the president if he is impeached, the White House may want to hear from you. A new report says the president's allies are worried he won't be ready to protect himself.