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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Lobbyist Pleads Guilty To Failing To Register As Foreign Agent, Admits He Helped Funnel Foreign Money To Trump Inaugural Committee; Giuliani Working On Report To Rebut Potential Mueller Findings; DOJ Official Says He Was Told Russia Had Trump "Over A Barrel;" Trump Hits All-Time High For Disapproval In New Poll; John McCain Lies in State At U.S. Capitol; Music Icons, Civil Rights Leader and President Bill Clinton Remember the Queen of Soul. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 31, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, a U.S. lobbyist with ties with a key Russian admitting that he helped funnel money to Trump's inauguration. And tonight, he's now cooperating with Robert Mueller.
Plus, a top Justice Department official told Russia had, quote, Trump, over a barrel. And the calls to impeach President Trump growing louder. Will Democrats listen? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Jim Sciutto in again for Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, for the first time, an American admits to helping foreigners funnel money to President Trump's inauguration. Long-time lobbyist Samuel Patten in court pleading guilty today for failing to register as a foreign agent and revealing that he helped Russian and the Ukrainian illegally, purchased tickets to the January 2017 swearing in.
Patten, who has ties to a Russian associate of President Trump's former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, also agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller. But today, President's attorney called the indictment irrelevant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: What does this have to do with President Trump? Not a single thing. It has nothing to do with collusion. Some guy who donated to the inauguration? My goodness, there about 500,000 people who donated to President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, Patten joins a growing list of people from Trump's orbit that have reached a deal with prosecutors. These are real investigations resulting in real charges. Yet Trump's legal team is working overtime to try to discredit Robert Mueller's investigation.
CNN learning tonight that Rudy Giuliani is now crafting a report which will attempt to rebut Mueller's potential findings. An investigation that the President already calls illegal as well as this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I say it, I say it again, that whole situation is a rigged witch hunt. It's a totally rigged deal.
A Democrat-inspired witch hunt. It is a witch-hunt and it's a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: But those repeated attacks and threats by this President do not appear to be working with most Americans. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans now support Mueller's investigation. Just 29 percent, about 2 to 1 ration there oppose the poll.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT live from Washington tonight. Evan, what more are we learning about this plea deal from Patten, what he pled guilty to, but also his cooperation?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. He is actually as part of his plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office here in Washington, he's agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. And so that includes not only any investigation that may still be ongoing here at the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, but also potentially anything that Robert Mueller's office, the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is still working on.
And keep in mind this was a case that began with Mueller and was referred over to the U.S. attorney's office. What Samuel Patten pleaded guilty to today was simply that he failed to register as a foreign agent. But really, the importance of this case is that this is the first time we're seeing that someone is admitting to helping Russians and Ukrainians, essentially, funnel money into the Trump inauguration.
We know from our previous reporting, Jim, that prosecutors and the FBI have been -- have talked to Russian oligarchs when they entered the United States. They questioned them about any donations they made to the Trump campaign, any donations they made to the inauguration, but this is the first time we're seeing this in a court document, in a guilty plea that Samuel Patten agreed to today.
SCIUTTO: Just a quick clarification here. Is a donation to the inauguration, is that the equivalent of the donation to a campaign from a foreigner?
PEREZ: It is illegal for a foreigner to donate to the inauguration. And that is what he admitted to doing today.
SCIUTTO: OK. So now Rudy Giuliani planning to do, apparently, a counter report on a report from Mueller that, of course, we haven't seen yet. PEREZ: Right, exactly. We call this a prebuttal, perhaps. Rudy Giuliani told Dana Bash today that he is -- here in Washington, as a matter of fact, working on their report. And, look, this is a report that's going to cover the field, everything from collusion to the firing of Michael Flynn to the obstruction of justice allegations that we know Special Counsel Robert Mueller is working on.
As you know, the Special Counsel is still working on his investigation, there are still witnesses that are coming in for interviews, for grand jury testimony, as a matter of fact, in the next couple of weeks. But the President's legal team is not waiting to see the report. They are preparing their rebuttal and they say whatever Mueller produces his report, they don't know when it's going to be, but they want to make sure that they are ready with their side of the story whatever happens from the Robert Mueller investigation.
[19:05:06] SCIUTTO: Perhaps equal parts P.R. document as legal document.
SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, in Washington, thanks very much.
OUTFRONT tonight, Frank Bruni, "New York Times" Columnist, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, she's a New York Times White House Reporter and Shan Wu, he's a former Federal Prosecutor. Julie, if I can start with you. Rudy Giuliani on CNN today as we were just saying, they are working on this report, this prebuttal, as it were, even though we don't know what Mueller's conclusions are going to be right now. I mean, as we were saying, this is a P.R. document which appears to be Trump's strategy here, continuing strategy, but this poll we see today with most Americans continuing to support the investigation, it seems that strategy is not working for most Americans.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well I think that's true right now, but it is also the case that other than the President's tweets and some of his offhanded comments and what Rudy Giuliani has been saying on the news, we don't know the full extent of what they are going to say to rebut what Mueller may or may not have.
But as you mentioned earlier, this is obviously as much a P.R. effort as it is a strictly legal or substantive effort, because they don't know what Mueller is going to say, they don't know the extent of what he has. That is a big worry here is that they don't know what is coming from the Special Counsel's office. And they are obviously looking for the potential of an impeachment proceeding, and not just hoping to persuade the public but hoping to persuade members of Congress that there is nothing here.
SCIUTTO: Frank, among the series of, if not stunning numbers, bad numbers for the President in this poll, 53 percent to 35 percent. 53 percent believe Trump has tried to interfere with Mueller's investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice. Notable there. And let me just remind folks of something that the President said last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now. Because people are angry. People are angry. What's happening is a disgrace. And at some point, I wanted to stay out, but at some point if it doesn't straighten out properly, I want them to do their job. I will get involved and I'll get in there if I have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: 53 percent of Americans believe he's obstructing justice. That certainly doesn't help his case.
FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No. Maybe they're seeing clips like that and maybe they're reading his Twitter feed. You know, I mean, at a certain point, this has been an endless study drumbeat, and I think his theory is if I keep saying it over and over again, is eventually drill in and Americans will begin to repeat almost like a mantra what I'm saying.
I think maybe some Americans are picking up on the fact that that drumbeat itself is a sort of attempt to obstruct justice. That, you know, to keep it new and to keep adding things, he talks about firing Jeff Sessions, he talks about this, he talks about that. All of those things add up to an attempt to make something stop, that clearly from this poll, the majority of Americans still needs to go on and it does need to go on. Because the -- not a Russian interference and a possibility that here was Russian cooperation with the Presidential candidate. That's something we have to get a final and definitive answer to. And I do think a majority of Americans understand that's what Robert Mueller's probe is all about.
SCIUTTO: And that's been issued because Mueller's support has actually been growing in recent polls after having calm down for a bit. Shan, you have a lot of experience with cases like this, but this Giuliani document, is this a good use of the lawyer's time in terms of a legal defense, or do you see this purely as a public relations defense?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Ultimately, it's a good legal defense because they would have a chance to counter whatever is in the report. When I worked on an independent council investigation, it took months and months to prepare that report. And then people took a long time to review it and putting their comments and objections.
From a P.R. standpoint, he said it's half done, it's more like it's half baked. I mean, you know, as Julie pointed out, he's responding to -- he had no idea what he's responding to. And if they really are putting in, you know, hundreds of man hours, rebutting every possible allegation against them, I mean, they're sort of making the government's case for them. They're setting up the, you know, straw man and trying to knock it down. So it's really not going to the place legally at this point really.
SCIUTTO: Julia, Giuliani, the President's lawyer of course he called the Patten plea irrelevant indictment. And I imagine for folks at home, it's hard to follow these events because it comes out in dribs and drabs, they're not necessarily names or even crimes that people at home are aware of. But this does get to foreign money coming into the Trump inauguration, which is the equivalent of a campaign contribution from abroad.
DAVIS: Well it absolutely does. And it also fills out a little bit although we certainly don't have the whole picture. But it fills out the picture of people around President Trump or then candidate Trump in the Trump campaign or there was President elect Trump at that time of the inauguration obviously, that they had these connections, these deep connections to Russian oligarchs, to prominent Russians.
[19:10:14] One of the people whom Patten had a very close connection to was a Russian-American lobbyist who was at the Trump Tower meeting. You start to see some of these ties becoming more apparent. And while we can't know what the connections maybe, it certainly does raise a lot more questions and it shows that the Mueller probe is going in a lot of different directions, and again, how much he and his investigators know that the President and his team may not be aware that they know.
SCIUTTO: And we've got important, Frank, where you have half a dozen folks who are cooperating with this investigation and folks who were involved, I mean, from very close individuals, Rick Gates, who was of course the Deputy Campaign Chairman to someone like Patten who was at least involved it seemed in some money moving back and forth. You've covered this administration for some time. How worried is the President and are his advisers about that cooperation? Because, of course, they don't know what kind of goods they're given on him.
BRUNI: I think they're very worried and I think the answer is tough, we saw earlier in this segment. I mean, the way Donald Trump is speaking at the microphone, his claims are getting (INAUDIBLE). We've gone from witch hunt to rigged witch hunt. You know, we've gone through a conspiracy between the Justice Department and the media.
The fact that Giuliani and his folks are preparing this, you know, all of these are signs of how worried to the point of panic they are and they should be. Because the news today I think is that Robert Mueller's investigation, every time there's new development, we see this, is as thorough as they come. And it's reaching as many directions. Ad if there is something there to be found, it's going to be found, and that's what has really settled into this White House and that's what they're reacting to.
SCIUTTO: If there's anybody who is tuning out all the noise, it's Robert Mueller. That's the way he does business.
Shan, in the midst of all of these, you have a lawyer change for the President. Of course, Don McGahn is leaving. We have a second name as a potential successor to McGahn. A source telling CNN today that Pat Cipollone, a season litigator former Justice Department official during President George H.W. Bush's administration is now under consideration by this President. A tough job for someone who come into at this stage. We know that McGahn, it wasn't always a sunny relationship to the President. Does anybody want that job?
WU: Well, I'm sure someone wants the job, but you're right, let's say a very tough job to come into. And really he has turned things around. I mean, the big problem for team Trump's legal strategy is that they can't execute anything. You know, some of the early leanings made sense. Cobb and Dowd wanting to cooperate, but they didn't take the final step and execute that which would have been to have Trump sit down early.
With Giuliani's more P.R. confrontational strategy, he's just creating more and more problems for the President as he gets out. They are tweeting these things more and more wildly in consistent estimates. They need somebody who can take charge, sit everybody down and say, this is what we're doing. And it's not an excuse to say, it's a tough client to handle and a lot of different. They got to do it that way, do it the right way.
SCIUTTO: If you can find someone who could tell the President that successfully, that will be interesting. Shan, Julie, Frank, thanks so much.
OUTFRONT next, a Justice Department official was told Russia had candidate Trump, quote, a over a barrel. That official is Bruce Ohr. Is that why he's one of the President's favorite targets?
Plus, the President's disapproval rating, hitting a record high. There's Mueller's investigation to play. And live pictures as the nation says goodbye to an American hero. I'll speak to one of John McCain's closest friends, then with the families throughout this, about the outpouring of love and supports and respect.
[19:17:21] SCIUTTO: New tonight, Russian intelligence believed they had then candidate Donald Trump, quote, over a barrel during the 2016 campaign. That's what long-time Justice Department employee Bruce Ohr testified this week saying that he learned that from former British spy Christopher Steele, the Author of the so called Trump dossier or of course the target of a growing number of attacks by President Trump and Republican lawmakers.
OUTFRONT now, former CIA and NSA Director under President George W. Bush, General Michael Hayden. General, thanks for taking the time tonight.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR UNDER PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks, Jim.
SCIUTTO: General, it's a quite a remarkable assessment there to claim today candidate for U.S. President that the Russians have him over a barrel. What do you make of that comment?
HAYDEN: So we need to step back a little bit, Jim, and follow the bouncing ball here. This is a multiple Carrom shot. So Bruce Ohr reports this. He was told that by Chris Steele. It looks as if Chris Steele was told that by sources he had who believe they had information on what Russian intelligence had or believed.
So you've got a multi Carrom (ph) here, which, you know, doesn't make it unbelievable but it is a talking data point. You know, the whole Steele dossier, if an American document, Jim, we would have labeled it. This is raw information, not finely evaluated intelligence, so we would have used a statement like that as a departure point for our investigation, not the end point.
SCIUTTO: Right. And that's the evidence here, right, because as we know, the Russian investigation began before the Steele dossier despite what President, many of the supporters have said. But big picture here. The dossier's central claim, right, was in effect this, that the Russians had Trump over a barrel because of years of financial support, et cetera.
And the fact is, in the nearly two years since we learned about this, there's been evidence, at least, of contacts, there's been evidence of meetings, some of which were lied about, et cetera, including the Trump tower meeting. Based on what you've seen, and again, I know you're not in the CIA today so you're not seeing the actual intelligence, but as an intelligence professional, based on what you've seen, have you seen evidence that makes that a credible allegation?
HAYDEN: Credible, yes, in terms of working hypothesis, not something you would dismiss, something that deserves the kind of thorough investigation that Frank Bruni said we're getting with Director Mueller.
HAYDEN: And so, it just goes on. Jim, instinctively now, again, not data based. Instinctively, it looks as if there's a bit more there, there than I originally assumed when Director Mueller launched this investigation. This is proceeding on a very broad front with multiple threats.
[19:20:13] SCIUTTO: Right. And we won't know until he comes up with his final report. On Bruce Ohr, so here's a Justice Department official, who happens to be an expert on Russian organized crime.
SCIUTTO: Now, one pattern that the President follows with his attacks is often going after people who might be witnesses against him in this investigation, the Mueller investigation. James Comey may be one of them. He was in the room when the President asked him to go lightly on Michael Flynn, for instance. With Bruce Ohr, do you see him as potentially being in this pattern, the motivation for Trump attacking him is to undermine his credibility?
HAYDEN: Absolutely. And I don't know Mr. Ohr, that anticipation of our conversation tonight, I kind of sent a note out to folks I know who might know him. And the description I got back of him was competent, thorough and honest, which frankly is about everybody I've ever met in the Department of Justice. And what you've got is the President, in essence, attacking anyone who is affiliated with the investigation either under Director Mueller or the intelligence investigation with regard to Russian meddling.
Look, Jim, the way I look at it, for the President's narrative to be correct with Bruce Ohr and everyone else, we have to have everyone affiliated with this investigation, to be hopelessly corrupt, to be actually clever over a very long period of time and actually to have begun this episode even prior to the American election. And, in addition to the men and women in government doing this, they had to have the cooperation of CNN, "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." That's kind of hard to believe.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this finally before I let you go. Of course, we're talking about interference of the 2016 election. There had been a lot of signs and direct warnings from folks, very senior in U.S. intelligence and law enforcement that Russia is attempting the same again in 2018 and maybe in 2020 as well. From your seat, is this President, is this administration doing enough to prevent it from happening all over again?
HAYDEN: No. And that doesn't mean that Dan Coats and Gina Haspel and Paul Nakasone are intelligence leaders and the head of the FBI, aren't doing everything they can. But fundamentally, Jim, we got attacked in a scene in 2016. The Russians succeeded because everyone was just playing traditional position. And in order to stop the Russians from doing this again, we've got to change how does we do these things and these big organizations don't change that pattern unless they have presidential authorization and actually pressure from the President and we don't have that from President Trump.
SCIUTTO: General Hayden, thanks very much.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, new poll numbers tonight show why calls for impeachment could get louder and perhaps more real. Plus, I'll speak to one of John McCain's closest friend as Washington remembers the maverick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:27:19] SCIUTTO: New tonight, President Trump hitting an all-time high for disapproval. The new ABC News-Washington Post poll revealing that 60 percent of Americans today disapprove of the job he's doing as President. That is four points up since their last poll in April. Nearly half of all Americans are in favor of impeachment proceedings, though a much thinner margin there, 49 percent to 46 percent opposed.
OUTFRONT now, former Republican Senator and Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum as well as former White House Communications Director for President Obama, Jen Psaki.
Senator, if I could begin with you. Trump told Bloomberg News yesterday, "I don't think they can impeach someone that's doing a great job". The fact is you look at the polls there, most Americans do not believe he's doing a great job. But that point aside, they also support, or at least a plurality supports impeachment and a greater number supports the work of Robert Mueller.
RICK SANTORUM (R), 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first off, I mean, yes, that's a high number, but the same day there was another poll out that had this disapproval at 50. So, I mean, these polls are range in anywhere in somewhere in the mid-50s and somewhere in the mid-40s of job approval. But the bottom line is --
SCIUTTO: The average to be fair is about 42 percent across the board.
SANTORUM: OK. 42 percent, 43 percent, whatever it is. But the bottom line is the vast majority of Republicans still support the President. And, you know, obviously the vast majority of Democrats don't, and that just shows a very divided country. And when it comes to impeachment, impeachment doesn't happen unless there's a consensus.
You know, Richard Nixon wasn't forced out in the office until there was a consensus among Republicans that he had to go, and we're not anywhere near that at this point.
SCIUTTO: Jen? What's your answer?
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT. OBAMA: Look, I think that's true at this point in time, but the Mueller investigation is not concluded. When that is concluded, and if there is a finding about obstruction of justice or collusion with Russia, we're in an entirely different universe. Look at what happened just in reaction at least with some of the public perceptions to the recent Manafort ruling just a few weeks ago.
So, we don't know what the tipping point will be, but people are starting to pay more attention. In that same poll, it also showed that almost 50 percent of respondents thought that corruption had increased. Only 13 percent thought it had decreased. So people are paying attention to the corruption and what's happening in Washington and government right now, and that's not good news for Donald Trump or many Republicans around the ballot.
SANTORUM: I don't think it's good news for anybody, Jen, that's the problem. I mean, I think everybody feels like corruption and all of this rancor that we see here in Washington, D.C. is poison well for both. I mean, we have competing narratives now going on as to what the investigation really should be about.
Again, if you look back in the Clinton days or in the Nixon days when this was, you know, impeachment was being talked about, I mean, you didn't have this kind of really big bunker mentality that you see here where, you know, that the other side of the folks who are -- you know, the president is under attack, has really an has really an alternative narrative about really what the corruption is and what's being investigated.
[19:30:20] So, there is a lot of distrust on both sides about this process.
SCIUTTO: Jen, on the issue of impeachment, the irony, of course, the GOP-led impeachment of Bill Clinton backfired, in effect, politically on them, made Bill Clinton more popular, arguably. Do the Democrats risk the same if -- let's say they do win back the House going forward. Do they risk the same leading into 20?
PSAKI: Right now, they certainly risk an awakening in getting the Trump base out if they continue talking about impeachment. It's only being talked about by a certain wing of the party. Pelosi, Schumer and others are trying to tamp that down.
I think it very much depends on what we're looking at as it relates to the Mueller investigation and what -- how that concludes. If they have Mueller, somebody who we saw in that "Washington Post" poll had the confidence of two-third of the public coming out and saying the president obstructed justice, the president colluded with Russia, then I think we're in a different ball game. And I think it will not just be just Democrats but probably Republicans who think the president is not fit for office.
It does have to be people from both sides. But at that point, I think there will be a lot of Republicans under pressure to move forward with impeachment.
SANTORUM: I just don't agree with that. I think Mueller has discredited himself simply by the team he put together. The fact he has such a partisan team in place of folks who -- I mean, you don't see any Republicans in his team that are showing any kind of --
PSAKI: Except Robert Mueller.
SCIUTTO: Senator, he was welcome to cross the board by Republicans when he was assigned. He was appointed by multiple Republican --
SCIUTTO: You were in the minority.
SANTORUM: I understand that, but I'm just saying wait he has conducted this investigation, the people he has aligned himself with, if Mueller wanted to get Republican support out of this, he would have had a much more balanced inquiry. I think that we are not going to see, even if Mueller comes out with some sort of report saying the president did something wrong, I just don't think you're going to be see Republicans jump ship from the president. SCIUTTO: Really? Mueller has put a lot of people in jail, as you
know, very thorough. You're saying if Mueller finds evidence or says he has evidence of crimes committed -- by the way, the president's personal lawyer just pleaded guilty to campaign-related crimes that he says he did in the direction of the president. You're saying that if Mueller documents these in the way that he has in other cases and gotten convictions and plea agreements, et cetera, you're saying that Republicans will not accept that judgment?
SANTORUM: It all depends on what the crime is. If he uncovered some grand scheme of colluding with the Russians and money being -- sure, that's one thing. But if it's, you know, he paid someone to silence a porn star not to go out before the election, no, I'm sorry. A campaign finance violation of that nature, it's not going to get Republicans to turn against the president.
SCIUTTO: Jen, final word.
PSAKI: Just listen to what you just said. Silencing -- pay someone to silence a porn star isn't something that would concern a lot of Republicans.
SANTORUM: Again, because there's other reasons to do that than for an election. There just isn't a smoking gun so far that I've seen that says that Donald Trump did something illegal to -- you know, in cooperation with the Russians or anybody else to influence the election.
SCIUTTO: Go ahead. Sorry, Jen.
PSAKI: Ultimately, Republicans, when this is concluded, are going to have to decide, are they scared of losing Trump's base or do they want to stand up and, you know, put country before party. We're going to have to see what happens at the end of the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.
SANTORUM: I think it all depends on the weight of the charge, and right now I don't see anything that would turn Republicans.
SCIUTTO: Well, let's wait for that report.
SCIUTTO: Senator, Jen, thanks very much.
OUTFRONT next, live pictures as the late Senator John McCain lies in state at the U.S. Capitol. One close friend who has been by the family side throughout will be my guest.
Plus, Queen of Soul's star-studded farewell.
SCIUTTO: You're looking at live pictures now of the U.S. Capitol where mourners are still paying their respects to Senator John McCain. This is a very rare honor. He's only the 31st American to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.
Earlier family friends and colleagues gathered to honor the senator in ceremony under the rotunda there. Among them, House Speaker Paul Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: John McCain deserves to be remembered as he wished to be remembered. A patriot who served his country. A man, yes, of the Senate, but also a man of the House. A navy man, a family man. A man who made an enormous difference in the lives of countless people. A man of conviction. A man of state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now is Grant Woods. He was Senator McCain's first congressional chief of staff. He spoke at yesterday's service. He's been with the family for much of the week, knows them well.
Grant, thanks very much for taking the time.
And let me share myself and my colleagues' condolences for the loss of your good friend.
GRANT WOODS, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S FIRST CONGRESSIONAL CHIEF OF STAFF: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: We saw Cindy McCain come up to you yesterday and give you a big hug. She's shown incredible strength through this, the long illness and now his passing.
[19:40:05] I wonder, how is she -- how is the family holding up?
WOODS: I think they're holding up really well, Jim. This is -- this is a tremendous family, outstanding people, great character, and I have to say Cindy and I are exactly the same age, you know, within one day of each other. We've been through this from day one of John's political career.
And I've never been prouder of her than this last year. The way she has just been such the perfect provider, the perfect person to make sure everything that John needed he got. She was by his side 24 hours a day the entire time. She's been fantastic, and right now, as tough as this is, she's pretty strong. She's pretty strong.
SCIUTTO: I don't know that a lot of our viewers know that Senator McCain's mother, Roberta, is still alive, 106 years old and one of the most emotional moments today was seeing her by her son's casket. The senator, his mother, they had a very special relationship.
WOODS: Well, first, look at her right there. She's a beautiful woman, 106 years old. That's pretty incredible.
I'd say this. If you spent five minutes with her and then said, guess whose mother she is, you would guess it in a minute. You'd say John McCain, because they're very similar in so many ways.
She told me a long, long time ago when I was talking about something, she said, don't worry about that. We're Navy tough. And that's how she looked at it. She's Navy tough, and she always has been.
She's resolute and she's quite the character. Very independent. I don't know if you know the story that she was -- not that long ago, I think she was 100 years old, or something like that. She was traveling Europe by herself with a friend. Now, who does that by the way?
WOODS: And she tried to run a car and they wouldn't run it to her because she was too old. And so, she said, OK, I'll buy it. Now, who does that sound like?
SCIUTTO: So, another maverick, right?
WOODS: Yes, absolutely.
SCIUTTO: There was another moment a lot of us noticed. At the very moment the senator's casket was being carried up the steps there by the honor guard, as you can see, a downpour started. You were watching this. I have to wonder what went through your mind at that moment.
WOODS: Well, what went through my mind was a big pool of reporters was outside, and I think John, just for one last joke, said, let's just douse these guys. So, I think he might have had something to do with that, you know?
I don't know, it's -- I don't know that everything is a coincidence. Maybe it is, but then again, maybe it's not. That was a moment, wasn't it?
SCIUTTO: No question.
WOODS: Right at that second. Then it went away.
WOODS: So I don't know what it means. Someday I guess we'll know.
SCIUTTO: The senator was very involved in planning these ceremonies, the locations, speakers, the messages, and I just wonder what you think the message was that he wanted to get across through all this.
WOODS: Well, I think the message -- I think you're right, it's very purposeful. And a lot of people would think about doing it but they wouldn't do it. They would say, forget that, I'm not going that way. It might be nice, but no.
He did it. And what he did was, in Phoenix look who was on the stage. You know, one of the leaders of what had been a pretty liberal Hispanic organization, an African-American young athlete and Joe Biden, Democratic vice president of the United States. And here in Washington tomorrow, who are we going to see? We're going to see the two men who stopped him from being president.
Now, what's the message? The message is we're all Americans here. We're in the fight. And nobody fought harder than George W. Bush versus John McCain, or Barack Obama versus John McCain. They fought it out.
And someone won, someone didn't win. But the guy who didn't win, what he did is the next day, he picked himself up and he said, how can I help? Let's work together. Because at the end of the day, as we see, it doesn't matter -- look at that line there. Are those Republicans or are those Democrats?
WOODS: I don't know what they are. I tell you what I do know, they're Americans.
WOODS: And they're proud Americans because they knew a man such as John McCain.
SCIUTTO: It's a good point, it's an important point. Listen, it's the second time I got a chance to talk to you this week. Thanks very much for joining us and sharing your thoughts and your feelings.
WOODS: OK, thanks for having me, Jim.
SCIUTTO: CNN, we should remind you, will have live coverage tomorrow of Senator McCain's funeral. This will be at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and our special coverage begins at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
[19:45:02] And OUTFRONT next, an epic farewell to the Queen of Soul.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, America says goodbye to the Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin was remembered today in an hours' long star-studded service that included civil rights leaders, even a former president of the United States.
Ryan Young OUTFRONT in Detroit.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The casket of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin arriving on the red carpet planning to celebrate her incredible life. Music industry icons including Chaka Khan, Ron Isley, Smokey Robinson, civil rights leaders, and politicians all turning out to pay their respects. BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: So I start it off as a groupie. I
hope God will forgive me, but I was so glad when I got here, and I hope you will forgive me.
[19:50:04] When the casket was still open because I said I wonder what my friend's got on today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Celebrate Aretha.
YOUNG: And the city of Detroit turning out in force to pay their respects to outside the greater Grace Temple, hundreds waited overnight for a chance to get into the funeral. Inside the temple, a star stud celebration of her music.
YOUNG: Her family remembering the woman they lost.
VICTORIE FRANKLIN, ARETHA FRANKLIN'S GRANDDAUGHTER: Nothing sounded better to me than the way my grandma sings, her voice made you feel something.
YOUNG: Former President Bill Clinton sharing a moment from her last public performance when she was ill.
CLINTON: She's sitting there, obviously desperately ill, gaunt. She stood right up and said, how you doing, baby?
I said, well, I'm doing -- I'm doing better now. And she said -- she said, well, look at me. I finally got thin again. That took a lot of guts to say that.
YOUNG: Others hitting the high notes in her honor. Jennifer Hudson --
YOUNG: And civil rights leaders recalling her commitment to the movement.
REVEREND AL SHARPTON: She was a feminist before feminism was popular. She was a civil rights activist when it wasn't popular.
YOUNG: The celebration of Aretha Franklin's life thinly played out like another soul icon, Stevie Wonder.
YOUNG: Jim, just think the power of the spirit here in this city. She had one more gift for her fans. So many people getting to go inside to this funeral. People in tears at the chance of seeing and saying goodbye to someone they loved.
And you think about Jesse Jackson walking out, I talked to him afterwards. He said I'm going the miss my friend. I'm going to miss our late-night conversations. This has been an awe-inspiring day.
SCIUTTO: Yes, seeing it from afar was pretty inspiring. Being there must have been unforgettable. Thanks very much.
OUTFRONT next, how Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a pop culture icon.
[19:56:59] SCIUTTO: Next week, the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are set to begin. If confirmed, he will share the bench with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who 25 years ago this month became just the second woman sworn in as a justice on the Supreme Court.
On Monday, CNN will debut its new original film "RBG". The film explores Justice Ginsburg's life and legacy. It really is a remarkable film.
OUTFRONT now, attorney Brenda Feigen. She founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU with Justice Ginsburg back in 1972.
Brenda, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
BRENDA FEIGEN, CO-FOUNDER, ACLU WOMEN'S RIGHTS PROJECT WITH JUSTICE GINSBURG: Thank you for having me.
SCIUTTO: Now, you have known her for a long time. You worked with her for a long time. Just for the sake of our viewers who know her as a Supreme Court justice, back then, what was your first impression of her?
FEIGEN: Oh, she was a very kind-hearted, brilliant, deliberate, precise woman. I have a lot more observation, but that kind of sums it up. I worked with her for over two years when we started the ACLU Women's Right Project and had the pleasure of working very closely with her and becoming her friend.
SCIUTTO: One takeaway from me from watching the film was how many key cases she argued as a lawyer before the Supreme Court, key case for women's rights and you worked with her on the first case she argued before the Supreme Court. Tell us about that.
FEIGEN: OK. Well that case was called Frontiero against Richardson, and we represented Sharron Frontiero who was a lieutenant in the Air Force. Sharon had a husband and the husband was denied medical and housing benefits because he wasn't as dependent on her as he should be for the law to let a husband get benefits, whereas the wives of military men automatically got benefits. So we were in court saying that that distinction based on gender was unconstitutional.
SCIUTTO: And you won?
FEIGEN: We definitely won. All but Rehnquist, Justice Rehnquist agreed that was discrimination on the basis of sex. But we wanted to get a very high standard of review so that sexual discrimination would be scrutinized at the same level as race discrimination. We almost got that four of the justices ruled in our favor on that.
SCIUTTO: You remain close with her in Washington and beyond. Do you think she is close to being done?
FEIGEN: No. I think that she -- first of all, she said that she has at least another five years in her, and she has maintained her health beautifully. She works out, as you can see in the documentary, religiously, and I think that she really -- that's what she does. She is a justice of the court. She is not going to leave and retire and go to the beach. That's just not Ruth.
SCIUTTO: Brenda Feigen, thank you so much for walking us through.
FEIGEN: It's my pleasure.
SCIUTTO: Don't miss the CNN film "RBG". It's airing this Monday night at 9:00 Eastern Time, really, you don't want to miss it. Thank you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.