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Hundreds of Immigrant Children Remain Seperated From Their Parents; McCain's Service Honoring and Celebrating His Extraordinary Life; President Trump Criticizes Department of Justice and FBI; Senator John McCain's Remains Moved to Washington D.C. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds like close of business on the day of the election Jeff Sessions will be looking for a new job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's much prefer that the attorney general do his bidding in terms of who to investigate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country has fallen in love with John McCain this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain's impact in America is not over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He served his country with honor. Now, my friend, sleep in heavenly peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota on John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, the last day of August, the 31st, 8:00 in the east in the east.

So President Trump has given a new interview to the press, the very same press that he claims not to like, and in it he replays his favorite topics, made some false statements, and some big headlines. The president told "Bloomberg News" that Jeff Sessions will keep his job as attorney general until the midterm elections, but beyond that the president would not say. Then hours later during a rally in Indiana, President Trump went after his Justice Department, threatening to, quote, get involved if they don't comply with his demands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: So the president says people are angry, and there's this new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll just out that says that 63 percent of the public support the Mueller investigation, 29 percent oppose it, 62 percent support Attorney General Jeff Sessions, allowing Mueller's investigation to continue, 23 percent only take the president's side.

BERMAN: A plurality, 49 percent support Congress taking up impeachment proceedings. That is interesting.

For the first time, the president addressed his handling of Senator John McCain's death as the fallen Senator's body was brought to Washington, D.C. for a memorial service today. Asked if he made a mistake missing an opportunity to unite the country, the president told "Bloomberg" no and added he has done everything requested of him in the wake of McCain's passing.

Joining us now by phone from an undisclosed location, White House correspondent for the "New York Times" and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. Maggie, thanks so much for being with us. Can you hear us?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): I can hear you, thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Good news already. Thanks so much for that.

HABERMAN: Listen, Maggie, based on what we heard from the president at his even last night, and we heard a little bit of it there, taking on the Justice Department, based on what he told "Bloomberg" where he thinks it's an illegal investigation, based on the number of tweets that he's made in the last few day, which take on even a more, I'd say, harsh tone than we have heard or seen in the past, you know that aides are telling you the president's acting as if he is cornered. What do you mean by that?

HABERMAN: Well, what I mean by that -- and what they mean by that -- is he is lashing out. You are seeing it in the tweets. I think there were nine tweets before 7:30 a.m. yesterday, and these are really all designed for the media. He's quieter today, but when he feels cornered he tends to lash out. This is what he's doing. They don't necessarily claim to know why he's doing it, but they do think that he is doing it, and he is -- but rather he wasn't.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, and everybody has communication with the audio because you are in transit, but is part of the reason that he's feeling cornered, or that they say at least that he's feeling cornered, is because the concentric circles that we've heard about that Robert Mueller uses in terms of beginning at the outside of an investigation and moving in starting with the George Papadopouloss of the world and moving to Allen Weisselberg, who is as close to the Trump Organization and the president for decades as possible, is that what is making the president more nervous, they say?

HABERMAN: I think it's a combination of that, Alisyn, plus the real possibility that he seems more accepting of now that Democrats could take over the House. If that happens, his aides have warned him this is going to mean one investigation after another that is going to be accompanied by subpoenas and potentially grind his government to a halt. So I think it is some combination therein.

Again, we shouldn't interpret that it means that some other show is about to drop around him, but we do -- he is very anxious about what he's seeing. Obviously the Michael Cohen guilty plea is the biggest one.

BERMAN: And there's this new poll number I think which may contribute to that anxiety or sense of being cornered. The "Washington Post" and ABC News ask people do you think Congress should or should not begin impeachment proceedings? And as I noted before, 49 percent, 49 percent in this poll said that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, 46 percent say no. That's a plurality. Now, I don't mean to suggest this is what's going to happen, but it does show a national attitude somewhat permissive to this notion. And we have for the first time over the last ten days or so, Maggie, the president beginning addressing this.

[08:05:00] HABERMAN: That's exactly right. And remember, what Rudy Giuliani has been doing, the president's main lawyer over the course of the last four months, has been essentially throwing himself like a battering ran at the investigation, trying to discredit it, trying to undermine it, and he's been very clear that that is because they believe the president can't be indicted under DOJ guidelines. Again, they believe this. I don't know the DOJ agrees, but certainly they have not said one way or the other.

But Rudy Giuliani believes this is going to play out in the court of public opinion as an impeachment battle potentially, so that is what he is trying to influence. He had made progress, other polls had showed, and then you have the Cohen guilty plea. That is the only thing I can point to that has changed in the last two weeks, some combination of that and how the president handled John McCain's death. But I have to imagine this is the first poll we're seeing that has really allowed it to sink in, the information to sink in since Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty, and you're seeing a change.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, I haven't talked to you since you and I think it was Jim Rutenberg broke the story about all of the dirt that Donald Trump, then candidate, and Michael Cohen were trying to buy back from the "National Enquirer," that helps us understand why the "National Enquirer" needed a safe reportedly to keep some of this under lock and key. It's so interesting, though, to hear about this, because, look, you were obviously around in the '80s as I was in New York. This dirt was played out on the front pages of the tabloids. It's hard to imagine what else there is that we don't know about. Do you have a sense?

HABERMAN: No. Look, as we wrote in the story, this involves some tips about alleged affairs and mostly stuff about his golf games which I can't really understand why that's under lock and key. News articles, a hodge-podge.

(LAUGHTER) CAMEROTA: I didn't know that was secret.

HABERMAN: I'm not even sure he knew exactly what was there, but he wanted this dealt with. Michael Cohen is the person who he always turned to for this kind of a thing. Cohen had his own relationship with Pecker, but this was Donald Trump's effort to get hold of this.

And, look, we were talking about what had been put on the shelf essentially for 17 years by a publication that is owned by a hedge fund, and there was an effort to bring it in house. I think the prosecutors in New York where Cohen pleaded guilty argued this related to the campaign and Cohen seemed to indicate that in his guilty plea. I think the president if he'd pushed on it would argue this is just a lifetime of this kind of a thing, and therefore it wasn't about the election. But it's not something you typically see a candidate do, or at least that we hear about a candidate doing.

BERMAN: And it helps illustrate what clearly President Trump and Michael Cohen were talking about on the tape that we have heard, they're talking about all the stuff, all the stuff. And it's unclear, Maggie, and you noted this in your article, what the exact legal implications are of all this stuff as opposed to the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal payment. Probably it's in the same legal continuum, but it does perhaps shed some light on what Michael Cohen said in court, where he said he was directed by, he did this at the direction of a candidate for federal office, meaning the president of the United States.

HABERMAN: That's exactly right. I think he made very clear he was told to do this.

CAMEROTA: Is Maggie in a spaceship?

HABERMAN: Hello?

CAMEROTA: Keep going.

HABERMAN: I wasn't sure you could hear me. It was not clear in the documents that Michael Cohen was going to go as far as he did in court. In court he made clear that this was at the behest of a candidate, and that candidate was the president. I think that Michael Cohen, I'm guessing, wanted to make clear this was not of his volition. And yes, John, to your point, things that were said on the tape which initially when the "Times" first broke the news of the tape's existence was described by everyone who was familiar with it as very narrow cast, just about this one woman, Karen McDougal.

CAMEROTA: As we mentioned, Maggie is in transit on her way to the space station.

BERMAN: When she gets there, send us a text so we know you made it safely.

(LAUGHTER)

HABERMAN: That's where I'll do my next live hit, from Mars. CAMEROTA: It wouldn't surprise us. It wouldn't surprise us, Maggie.

Thanks for sharing all of your reporting. Have a great weekend.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys. You, too.

CAMEROTA: So late senator and war hero John McCain has returned to Washington for the final time. He will lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda today ahead of a memorial and his burial this weekend. Former vice president Joe Biden honored his friend yesterday, and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live in our nation's capital. That was, as always -- as often with Joe Biden, quite emotional.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. What you've been watching here is really these amazing tributes to Senator John McCain. Having covered him 18 years ago back in 2000, there is really a sense of course of loss, but also his presence still being here.

[08:10:01] The power of John McCain in this building. This is the place where he spend 35 years committed to public service, representing Arizona. This is where he will lay in state, the U.S. Capitol Hill Rotunda. Starting at 11:00, that is when they'll be a private memorial ceremony for him. We will see his immediate family, his extended family, his wife Cindy, of course, his 106-year-old mother Roberta McCain will be here as well as his grown children, governors, senators, house lawmakers, the joint chiefs, many distinguishes guests, as well as just aides and staffers who have been with him for many, many decades.

Speaking later today will be vice president, Mike Pence, will deliver remarks. Notably absence will be the president. He was not invited. We will hear from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan who will talk about their own tributes, if you will, and experiences with him. And all of this follows a very impactful, very powerful memorial that we saw yesterday out of his home state of Arizona. It was very bipartisan, very diverse. And one of the people who paid tribute to his longtime friend was former vice president Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: It was always about basic values, John, fairness, honesty, dignity, respect, giving hate no safe harbor, leaving no one behind, and understanding as Americans we're part of something much bigger than ourselves. With John it was a value set that was neither selfish nor self-serving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And the doors will open for the public at 1:00 and they will be able to -- the viewing will take place from 2:00 until 8:00 this evening. If there's any indication of what happened in Arizona, 15,000 people there passing through to see the casket, there will be a lot of interest from the public later today. John?

BERMAN: Suzanne Malveaux for us in Washington D.C. Suzanne, thanks you very much. Next, we're going to talk about the private side but also the

political side of Senator John McCain from someone who has known him for decades, one of his political advisers and a pallbearer. He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Services honoring and celebrating the extraordinary life of Senator John McCain continue today as McCains will lie in state at the U.S. Capital just steps from the senate. And institution he helped shape for more than 30 years, an institution he truly adored. Joining us now is long time friend former advisor to McCains 2008 Presidential Campaign, Charlie Black. Charlie thanks so much for being with us.

CHARLIE BLACK, CHAIRMAN PRIME POLICY GROUP: Pleasure John.

BERMAN: I know you were a pallbearer yesterday in Arizona. You're back in Washington today. How's everyone holding up.

BLACK: Well amazingly well. In fact Cindy McCain is showing tremendous strength as well a courage and grace going through this whole process. And most to the family is also very strong and resolute. And we're trying to make this a celebration of Johns life, his accomplishments and all the values for which he stood.

BERMAN: I was excited to get a chance to talk to you today. Because ironically a little bit lost in all this week as we've remembered the extraordinary career and contribution of John McCain. First as a war hero, and then as a leader, he was a politician a really, really good politician. A really, really good candidate and he really enjoyed it all.

So is it - just talk to me about his love for politics.

BLACK: Well he did love politics. And he was good at it. And he would tell you that because he stood on principal that he might not be the best candidate. But that wasn't so. His favorite sport was a town hall meeting, Whether it was in New Hampshire or Arizona that included a line of hostile people who wanted to ask him negative questions.

And he would go into a town hall meeting and he would call on the ones who looked like they were against him first, because he loved to debate. But John was a natural. The authenticity that he brought to a campaign was unmatched by any of this other competitors.

BERMAN: And he is lying in state at the Capitol today. Just steps away from the U.S. senate. And while the military may have been in his DNA literally, I think his heart was in the U.S. senate. I think in some ways the senate was where he found some of the greatest joy in his life. BLACK: That's well said John. He not only loved the senate and loved

its institutions but he was able to get a lot of things done through the United States senate. You know John was the architect of our bigger, stronger, more efficient military that you're seeing. That's now necessary in the world.

And he did that through his Senate Armed Services Committee, on a bipartisan basis. Just as Vice President Biden said yesterday it is still possible to work civilly and to work in a bipartisan way to get things done in the U.S. senate. And McCain's proof of that.

BERMAN: You knew him for some 40 years. That's a long time to know someone.

BLACK: Yes.

BERMAN: How did he change over those decades?

BLACK: He never changed. He got more experienced and maybe wiser. The basic personality didn't change. But he did take advantage of having bigger forums when he was Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman or republican nominee for president. He felt like he was able to then give a message to millions of people about the necessity for championing freedom around the world, strength at home.

He believed in the American people. And he believed they could do anything and that our country would succeed that that did give him great joy.

BERMAN: You've advised many politicians. 100's probably over the course of your career. Did he always take your advice?

BLACK: Of course not, no John. John was his own man. And he would listen. He would always listen. He would give your advice consideration. But in the end he wouldn't necessarily take it. He would say things, if you talked to him about maybe adding something or saying something a little different than he wanted.

But he wouldn't change his position on an issue or a principle. And none of us would have asked him to. But I was his debate coach and believe me that was a tough job.

BERMAN: Talk to me about that.

BLACK: Well John knew is position on dozens of issues, scores of issues. And he could express it, but not in 30 seconds. In a debate you have rules, 30 second byte, 60 second byte or responses. And getting him to craft 30 second answers was hard. Because he did know what he was talking about and usually it took him a lot longer than 30 or 60 seconds to say it.

BERMAN: Every political advisor has at least one thing they would like to or wish they could have changed about their candidate, most often in an endearing way. I'm just wondering if there was any one frustrating thing that you had over the course of your career and his career where you would have said, "if you could just do it my way,"? BLACK: Well, you know, not really with John because having known him for 40 years, I knew he was, what he stood for, and knew you could not change him. You could not change his honesty and authenticity.

But, you know, the thing with McCain is he got a couple of bad breaks along the way. He had a good chance to be president in 2008 if the financial crisis had not hit right after Labor Day in 2008. So I don't think anything under our control, his control, or my control would have been done differently.

BERMAN: President Trump this week, it took him a few days to say out loud or even in paper that he respected the career of John McCain and the service that he gave to this nation.

He was asked last night in an interview with Bloomberg if he has any regrets, and he thought he handled this week in the past knew (ph) John McCain appropriately. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had our disagreements and they were very strong disagreements. I disagreed with many of the things that I assume he believed in. But with that being said, I respect his service to the country.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

BERMAN: He also said he's done everything that he's been asked to do by the family. What do you make of it?

BLACK: Well, you know, that's true. He's done everything that he's been asked to do, and listen. You remember about John McCain that, sure, he had strong views, so he had critics. He had some people go out to disparage him. That did not matter to John. It was like water off a duck's back. He didn't take the critics harshly, and he and President Trump didn't see eye-to-eye on everything.

Now, I happen to be a friend of President Trump, so I'm not going to criticize anything he's done. This is a week to celebrate the life and legacy of John McCain.

BERMAN: So two presidents - two former presidents will give addresses tomorrow at the service in the National Cathedral. What do you expect to hear from former President Bush and former President Obama?

BLACK: I think they'll talk about how they developed a strong, personal relationship with John McCain after having been his opponent about the ways in which he helped them, especially on military (inaudible) sending (inaudible) helped their presidencies. And I think mostly positive in their views of John McCain and his life.

BERMAN: He helped their presidencies because he saw it as helping America, which is what -

BLACK: Yes.

BERMAN: - John McCain, I think, truly wanted to do. Charlie Black, great to speak with you.

BLACK: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Thanks for sharing your memories and your insight.

BLACK: Thanks a lot.

CAMEROTA: OK John, now to this story. New numbers show that hundreds of immigrant children remain separated from their parents. The deadline for this - for them to be reunited has long since passed, so we have an update on what's happening next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: OK, now to an update on the effort at the border to reunite all the children who were separated from their parents by the Trump administration. According to a new court filing, almost 500 of them - 497 children are still separated this morning.

Now remember, the deadline that was set by a judge to reunify these family was July 26, so that was more than a month ago. Let's bring in Bekari Sellers, former Democratic state lawmaker from South Carolina and a CNN Commentator, and Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and a CNN Political Commentator. Great to have both of you.

Bekari, this deadline has long since past. How can 500 kids still not be with their families?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well first, this is why elections matter, and elections have consequences. This is Executive Branch gone unchecked using their powers and being unrestrained. And the fact is the Trump administration had no plan to reunite these children. It was haphazardly done.

This is one of Stephen Miller's babies - no pun intended - that has gone aray (ph), and I'm of the impression that these children won't be reunited. I think not only does DHS, Department of Homeland Security, not care, I don't think the Trump administration cares, and I think that lack of empathy is bearing out in its policy.

It's unfortunate that this is the black eye on the United States, on this administration. It's one that people will remember. This is now the immigration debate that people are having. It's children separated form their parents, and they never should have been.

CAMEROTA: And so, Scott, are there any legal consequences that the Trump administration should have to pay for the fact that they've missed this deadline?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I think that as Bakari point out, this is going to be remembered. I'm sure they regret making this decision in the first place. I do think it's important to remember, though, some people do come across the border and they aren't who they say they are. They come across with children and they're not actually the parents of the children that they claim to be -

CAMEROTA: Some, but I'm mean it's not - but that's a fraction -

JENNINGS: Some of these people come across and they do -

CAMEROTA: OK, that's a fraction. All of the people that have been interviewed along the border -

JENNEINGS: But yes, wouldn't you want to know who that fraction is? I mean, it is the meaning of the United States government to -

CAMEROTA: You have to figure out if the punishment fits the problem.

JENNINGS: - to vet (ph) every individual case.

CAMEROTA: I mean, listen, Scott -

JENNINGS: Look, look. I have been on this -

CAMEROTA: - separating every - hold on, Scott. Hold on. Separating every child from their parent, do you agree was overkill for the fraction of cases that you're talking about?

JENNINGS: Yes, I agree. I said at the outset of this interview that I thought this was a decision that the administration would regret. I said it on the first day that they made the decision and it became public. However, it is the duty of the United States government to vet (ph) every individual case to make sure people are who they say they are.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

JENNINGS: Some of these people are criminals, some of them have records, and some of them are not going to be reunited because of that. That's no excuse for missing a deadline.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

JENNINGS: It's no excuse for not putting families back together that need to be put back together. It is a tragic situation and most Republicans I know believe it is a tragic situation, but some of these cases are very, very complicated because of the individuals and what they have lied about when they came across -

CAMEROTA: Sure.