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THE SITUATION ROOM

The Funeral of Aretha Franklin; Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; Trump Legal Team Preparing Separate Russia ReportDOJ Official Ohr Testified Christopher Steele Told Him Russian Intel Thought They Had Candidate Trump Over a Barrel; McCain Lying in State at U.S. Capitol After Emotional Service. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Compromised? Russian intelligence officials believed they had Donald Trump over a barrel, according to a top Justice Department official. We're going to tell you what we're learning right now about Bruce Ohr's testimony to Congress about that infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Cooperation deal. A Russian lobbyist with ties -- with Russian ties strikes a plea agreement and admits to arranging an illegal foreign donation to the Trump inauguration. What else is he telling prosecutors as they investigate a potential money trail from Moscow?

Mueller's support. Two-thirds of Americans say they back the special counsel's probe in the first poll taken since the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen convictions, this as the president's approval rating takes a new turn for the worse.

And tribute to McCain. A rare honor tonight for the late senator as he lies in state in the U.S. Capitol. McCain's 106-year-old mother joining with top officials here in Washington for an emotional goodbye.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news that cuts to the heart of questions about what the Russians might be holding over President Trump and what they have done to help him.

In a new guilty plea, a D.C. lobbyist with ties to Russia and Ukraine has admitted to arranging an illegal foreign donation to the president's inauguration. This is the first time the U.S. government has filed formal criminal charges accusing foreigners of funneling money into Trump election-related events.

We're also learning right now about sworn testimony by Justice Department official Bruce Ohr that he was told by a British spy that the Russians believed they had Mr. Trump -- quote -- "over a barrel."

I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our political correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, as the Russia probe moves forward, the president's lawyers are now preparing to rebut whatever Robert Mueller's eventual report shows.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Rudy Giuliani doesn't have any idea what Mueller is going to do next or when he's going to do it, but he's preparing for any possible scenario, penning his own report about the Russia investigation in a strategy that seems to be as much a political and a P.R. move as a legal one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): With little sign the Russia probe is wrapping up, Rudy Giuliani is hatching a backup plan.

The president's lawyer telling CNN's Dana Bash the legal team is already halfway through preparing a report to rebut a number of possible findings from special counsel Robert Mueller. It's slated to include sections on everything from collusion with Russia in the 2016 election to fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to obstruction of justice.

The report all part of Giuliani's strategy to dull the blow of whatever Mueller makes public.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will be here with my version of the report, and they will have their version of the report. And the American people in that sense are going to decide it.

MURRAY: Once adamant that Mueller must wrap up his investigation well before the 2018 midterms:

GIULIANI: If it isn't over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules that you shouldn't be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period.

MURRAY: Giuliani now admitting to CNN he has no idea what Mueller's timeline is. It's customary for the Justice Department prosecutors to go quiet for 60 days before an election. But it's up to U.S. attorneys to ensure they don't take overt investigative steps that could impact an election.

As the investigation stretches on, Trump continues to rail against the Justice Department.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are angry. People are angry.

MURRAY: Especially one of his favorite new targets.

TRUMP: I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace.

MURRAY: Bruce Ohr is the career Justice Department official who met with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the now infamous dossier.

Ohr testifying to a congressional committee this week that Steele told him at a July 2016 breakfast that Russian intelligence believed they had then candidate Trump "over a barrel," according to a source familiar with the testimony, a claim that's in line with allegations Steele included in his dossier.

But its broad assertion that Russia aimed to interfere in the 2016 election has been accepted as fact by the U.S. intelligence community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, back to that report Rudy Giuliani is working on, he told some of our CNN colleagues on the Hill this afternoon that it may never see the light of day, but he wants to be prepared no matter what -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara, tell us a little bit more about this American lobbyist who pleaded guilty today to cooperating with Russian and Ukrainian elements illegally.

MURRAY: Sure.

So, this is Samuel Patten. And he was right here in Washington, D.C. He was a lobbyist, and he pleaded guilty essentially to acting as an unregistered foreign lobbyist. He also lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

[18:05:10]

And one of the other things that he admitted to was that he used a third party to essentially funnel money from a Ukrainian oligarch and used that money to buy tickets to Donald Trump's presidential inauguration.

Now, foreigners are not supposed to be allowed to use money and pour that into inaugural committees, but this man, Samuel Patten, helped this Russian -- or this Ukrainian oligarch do so as part of his work.

And it is interesting because as part of, you know, his statement of defense and part of this plea agreement he signed, he agreed to cooperate, including with special counsel Mueller's team.

Now, Mueller's team is not who struck this deal. These was other prosecutors. But as you have pointed out, all of these prosecutors do tend to work together.

Now, Rudy Giuliani was asked about this plea deal today. He took a pretty dim view of it, saying, there's really nothing to see here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: It turned out to be this irrelevant indictment, where I think Mueller has turned it to a private prosecutor. 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 are about 500,000 people who donated to President Trump's -- every time they got a speeding ticket, the special prosecutor is going to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, Rudy Giuliani says this has nothing to do with Donald Trump, it was just a little money that went into the inaugural committee.

But the reality, Wolf, is we have long heard that Mueller was investigating whether there was any foreign money that flowed into Donald Trump's campaign or into his inauguration. We now have this first person who admitted he helped a foreigner put money into the inaugural committee and we don't know if there could be more to come down the line.

BLITZER: Yes, it wasn't just a Ukrainian oligarch. It was a pro- Russian Ukrainian oligarch, which potentially is very significant.

Good reporting, Sara. Thank you very much.

As the president's lawyers work on a rebuttal to Robert Mueller, Mr. Trump continues to seethe over the entire Russian probe. He's threatening now to -- quote -- "get involved" with the Justice Department after declaring that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, only has job security until the midterm elections in November.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, the president is clearly leaving the door open to firing Sessions after November 6.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he's leaving the door open. In fact, he's hinting strongly that that's a possibility.

When he was asked directly in Jeff Sessions would be safe after the midterm elections, he said, "I'm not going to get into it." But we do know that the president believes the Justice Department has been unfair in all of this.

But, Wolf, it's striking, as we're nearing at least the unofficial end of the summer here, the Friday going into Labor Day, there was a sense of apprehension here. Would something happen? Would there be a shoe to fall?

Nothing has happened, but that just means there's still more questions. This investigation is ongoing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) QUESTION: Why not commit to Jeff Sessions past November, sir?

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump flashing a thumbs-up, but giving no answer today as to why he's offering his favorite punching bag, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a bit of a reprieve.

Consumed with anger over the Russia investigation, the president has berated, badgered and all but blacklisted his attorney general. But in an interview with Bloomberg News, he says Sessions' job is safe, at least through the midterm elections.

After that, he wouldn't say.

TRUMP: I would just like to have Jeff Sessions do his job, and, if he did, I would be very happy. But the job entails two sides, not one side.

ZELENY: Yet that didn't stop the president from railing against the Justice Department at a rally last night in Indiana for what he perceives as unfair treatment.

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.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZELENY: Once again, he suggested he could intervene in an investigation, which would be highly unorthodox and politically explosive for a sitting president.

TRUMP: 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 will get in there if I have to.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZELENY: It's unclear whether he's blowing off steam...

TRUMP: Disgraceful.

ZELENY: ... or seriously threatening to stop the Russia probe that's hanging over the White House.

He told Bloomberg, "I view it as an illegal investigation."

Yet that's not how a majority of Americans see it. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finds 63 percent of Americans support special counsel Mueller's investigation of Trump and his associates, while 29 percent oppose it.

Beyond his loyal base of supporters, the president's standing is taking a hit, with 60 percent saying they disapprove of the job he's doing, while only 36 percent say they approve. The country is far more split on the question of impeachment, with 49 percent saying proceedings should begin and 46 percent saying they should not. It's one of the reasons the president and Republicans are bracing for

the midterm elections.

TRUMP: Very, very big vote. It's very close. People say we have the majority. By how much? Like, by almost nothing. Somebody has a cold, we no longer have the majority.

[18:10:08]

ZELENY: All this as the president is searching for a replacement for top White House lawyer Don McGahn, who is soon to leave the West Wing.

The president has been in talks with Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone, CNN has learned, a veteran of the George H.W. Bush administration, who has been informally advising team Trump on the Mueller probe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So the president, of course, has to figure out who the next White House counsel will be. He's talking to other people, we are told, as well.

But it is the position of attorney general, the fact that Jeff Sessions recused himself from this Russia investigation more than a year ago, almost a year-and-a-half ago. The president has never gotten over that. He believes the Justice Department has been unfair.

But Rudy Giuliani, speaking to our team on Capitol Hill just a short time ago, he said he's glad the president has said that his job is safe until the midterm elections. Republicans were worried about the political fallout potentially from all this.

But, Wolf, Rudy Giuliani also said something else. He said, hopefully, after all this is over, the president will look at this differently.

It's unclear exactly what that means, if they're trying to urge him to leave Jeff Sessions in his position. But, clearly, no lawyers here, Wolf, want the president to fire the attorney general -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. That would be a significant, significant development.

Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks very much.

Joining us now, Congressman John Garamendi. He's a Democrat. He serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Certainly.

BLITZER: Lots to go through.

Bruce Ohr, this career Justice Department official, we're now told he testified behind closed doors that, back in July of 2016, the author of that so-called Russian dossier told him that Russian intelligence believed they had then candidate Donald Trump -- quote -- "over a barrel."

Over a barrel. How concerning is that to you?

GARAMENDI: Well, this has been a concern for more than two years now.

Throughout the election and then after the election, the first year of the president, and now into this year, we have always been concerned. Why is the president so kowtowing to Putin? Why is he always saying Putin is the best or saying something positive and refusing to say anything negative?

The only conclusion that most everybody has come to is that there's something there, that the Russians have the president over a barrel. And maybe it has to do with money. Maybe it has to do with other things. We don't know.

That's what the investigation will help us understand. And in understanding it, we may be able to get some insight into how this country deals with both the president and with Putin.

BLITZER: Congressman, I want you to stand by. We're going to continue this conversation, but I want to go to Detroit right now.

GARAMENDI: Sure.

BLITZER: The Aretha Franklin funeral is continuing.

Stevie Wonder is about to perform. He's being introduced, we're told, right now. I want all of our viewers to listen and to watch and to appreciate this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brothers and sisters, put your hands together for Ms. Gladys Knight.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GLADYS KNIGHT, MUSICIAN: Good evening, my brothers and sisters.

She's doing it again. We're all up in here. And it's been a great journey. And he knows our every need, everywhere we are, and he gives us the remedies to everything, one way or the other, because he loves us like that.

Even in our music, he sends us messages. And the little pain that we feel right now, we can put it toward this.

(MUSIC)

[18:20:42]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one and only Gladys Knight. Come on and put your hands together for her.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time -- at this time, we bring to you the musical voice of Mr. Stevie Wonder.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(MUSIC)

[18:26:10]

STEVIE WONDER, MUSICIAN: Giving all praise to God, for the truth is, were it not for God's goodness, greatness, we would have never known the Queen of Soul.

We would have never known the joy that she brought to us. We would have never known someone who could express in song the pain that we felt.

And, yes, the reason that we are here today is because of love, because of how much we love this woman. The blessing from God was given to us.

As we talk about all the things that those have talked about today, please remember the greatest gift that we have been given in life itself is love.

(APPLAUSE)

WONDER: Yes, we can talk about all the things that are wrong, and there are many. But the only thing that can deliver us is love.

(APPLAUSE)

WONDER: So, what needs to happen today, not only in this nation, but throughout the world, is that we need to make love great again.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WONDER: Because black lives do matter.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WONDER: Because all lives do matter.

And if we love God, then we know, truly, it is our love that will make all things matter, when we make love great again.

That is what Aretha has said throughout her life. Through the pain, she gave us the joy and said, let's make love great again.

I never imagined that, when I wrote this song at the age of 15, Aretha Franklin would be singing "Until You Come Back to Me," but she did, and better than I could have ever.

And I thanked her every time we talked about that. And we talked about doing another song together on the next album we were going to do.

But you know what? I look forward to that time, if I'm so blessed, to be with her again, to write the song that God wants me to write. It will be the best ever.

Until then, I want everyone to join me, and I want to sing a song to Aretha that I know we all feel, and I know we all want to express.

So, that's what I want us to do now. Amen.

Thank you.

[18:30:11] So if everyone would join me, I'd appreciate it. If you don't, I'll see you later.

(MUSIC: "AS")

[18:35:46] WONDER: God bless you. God bless Aretha.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): Always.

WONDER: Queen of Soul. Queen of our souls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): God bless Aretha.

WONDER: God bless your family, Aretha.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): God bless Aretha. God bless you.

WONDER: The joy is -- is in knowing that she will have an eternal life of bliss with the most high. God bless you, amen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): Always, always, always.

(MUSIC: STEVIE WONDER, "AS")

BISHOP CHARLES H. ELLIS, PRESIDED OVER FUNERAL: Let us proceed to the Swanson (ph) Funeral Home. Please hold. Please hold your voice. Respect the family. We've come this far.

Shhh.

Jennifer will be on RF-5, RF-5.

Everyone, please, if we can have quiet, silence, and stillness in respect to the queen. Let's just close all the doors so we won't hear the chatter in the hallways, quickly.

Thank you.

Lord, make me to know mine end, the measure of my days, that I might know how frail I am. For as much as it had pleased the almighty God in his wise providence and counsel to take out of this world the soul of our deceased sister and queen, Aretha Louise Franklin, we therefore commit her body to the ground. Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. And dust to dust.

Looking forward to the general resurrection when the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. The voice of the archangel and the trump of God. I heard John the revelator say, "Blessed are the dead that die in the

Lord. Yea, sayeth the spirit henceforth, that they be wrest from their labors and their works do follow them."

[18:40:10] Repeat after me. Lord have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lord have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord have mercy upon us.

ELLIS: Christ have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christ have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christ have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christ have mercy upon us.

ELLIS: Lord have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lord have mercy upon us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord have mercy upon us.

ELLIS: Our father --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our father --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our father --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our father --

ELLIS: -- who art in heaven --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- who art in heaven --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- who art in heaven --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- who art in heaven --

ELLIS: -- hallowed be thy name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- hallowed be thy name. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- hallowed be thy name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- hallowed be thy name.

ELLIS: Thy kingdom come --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thy kingdom come --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thy kingdom come -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thy kingdom come --

ELLIS: -- Thy will be done --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Thy will be done --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Thy will be done --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Thy will be done --

ELLIS: -- on earth --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- on earth --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- on earth --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- on earth --

ELLIS: -- as it is in heaven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- as it is in heaven.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- as it is in heaven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- as it is in heaven.

ELLIS: Give us this day --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us this day --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give us this day --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us this day --

ELLIS: -- our daily bread --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- our daily bread --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- our daily bread --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- our daily bread --

ELLIS: -- and forgive us our debts --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and forgive us our debts --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and forgive us our debts --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and forgive us our debts --

ELLIS: -- as we forgive our debtors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- as we forgive our debtors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- as we forgive our debtors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- as we forgive our debtors.

ELLIS: And lead us not --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And lead us not --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And lead us not --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And lead us not --

ELLIS: -- into temptation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- into temptation --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- into temptation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- into temptation --

ELLIS: -- but deliver us from evil --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- but deliver us from evil --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- but deliver us from evil --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- but deliver us from evil --

ELLIS: -- for thine is the kingdom --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for thine is the kingdom --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- for thine is the kingdom --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for thine is the kingdom --

ELLIS: -- and the power --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and the power --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and the power --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and the power --

ELLIS: -- and the glory --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and the glory --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and the glory --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and the glory --

ELLIS: -- forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- forever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- forever. ELLIS: In Jesus's name --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Jesus's name --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Jesus's name --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Jesus's name --

ELLIS: Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

ELLIS: Now may the grace of God and the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit, wrest (ph) ruler divine, henceforth now and forever, in Jesus's name we pray that all the people say, amen.

Thank you so very kindly. If would you be seated and allow the family to exit.

BLITZER: A beautiful service indeed for Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Stevie Wonder always amazing. We got the added benefit of hearing Gladys Knight, as well. Aretha Franklin, a wonderful, wonderful American woman.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:15] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news. We're learning more about the sworn testimony by Justice Department official Bruce Ohr that he was told by a British spy, Christopher Steele, back in July of 2016 that the Russians believed they had then-candidate Donald Trump, quote, over a barrel.

Let's resume our conversation with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. He serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, do you think American intelligence agencies have been able to figure out if, in fact, Russia does have indeed something on President Trump, or is that something that Robert Mueller will have to reach a conclusion on?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: I think Robert Mueller's going to ultimately figure it out, and he'll make his report to the nation, and we'll see where it's going. At the end of the day, Wolf, thank you very much for turning that over to the Aretha Franklin funeral. Those three things, Gladys Knight thing about walking through the storm, a bridge over troubled waters, and then Stevie Wonder's "Make Love Great Again," the American people are going to be patiently waiting for an answer to this question that is perplexing this nation.

Mueller will help us. But at the end of the day, I really believe the American people are going to find the truth, and they will act appropriately on it. And those of us in Congress will follow or lead as the case might be.

But we're good people. We're fair. We're respectful, and we want to see this resolved because we know that right now this nation is in a world of hurt. And I just can't get over that performance. The message that gave to me and I hope to the rest of the folks that saw that that, yes, we're in a storm. Yes, we will be a bridge over these troubled waters. And at the end of the day, love will be great again.

BLITZER: Yes, we will -- let us all hope. We have no idea what Robert Mueller and his team have come up to.

GARAMENDI: Exactly.

BLITZER: But just two days ago the president tweeted this. I'll put it up on the screen. He tweeted, how the hell is Bruce Ohr still employed at the Justice Department? Disgraceful. Bruce Ohr, the career official of the Justice Department, the president going after him as you know.

Does this new reporting on Bruce Ohr's testimony before the House behind closed doors help explain why the president is now pretty aggressively going after Ohr?

GARAMENDI: Well, he's gone after everybody that has provided any testimony, any evidence, or taken a turn against him. He's done that repeatedly throughout his entire presidency beginning with Comey way back more than a year and a half ago now. So, yes, it follows on a pattern. But I really think that we need to let Mueller do his job. I know -- and we've got to protect Mueller from the president, from what appears to be a very vengeful effort to try to basically shut down the investigation.

When you take all of his comments and you begin to stack them one upon the other, it really leads to the inevitable conclusion that the president is trying to use his power of the podium, his power of the tweet, and his power of terminating people in their office and in their work to try to shut down the investigation. I think that's going to be a very, very serious problem for him.

The American people want to see this through. They know that the bridge over these troubled waters is patience. It's persistence to find the truth. And the truth will determine how this thing turns out and we'll judge that.

At the end of this process, we don't know. But clearly we do know this, and that is it is a very troublesome time for America, and we've got to push through and at the end of the day, remember this is America.

[18:50:07] We're good people. We're patient. We're respectful of each other, and we want at the end of the day to have fairness all the way through this process. That may mean that the we'll see where it leads.

BLITZER: What do you make of Rudy Giuliani's latest efforts to discredit Robert Mueller and come up with his own report?

GARAMENDI: I've given up on Giuliani some time ago. I try not to pay attention to him. He's constantly changing.

It's kind of like saying, throw it on the wall and see if it sticks. So, he's constantly throwing something up. Does it stick? Well, nothing has thus far, in part because he's constantly changing his direction, his message and his attack.

At the end of this process, I don't think Rudy Giuliani is going to count for much, although in some ways he's placing the president in greater jeopardy.

BLITZER: Counselor Garamendi, thanks so much for joining us.

GARAMENDI: It's a pleasure to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're joined now by former Nixon White House counsel John Dean. He's a CNN contributor. And former Obama senior adviser, David Axelrod. He's a CNN senior political commentator.

David Axelrod, how significant is this closed door testimony under oath, clearly, from Bruce Ohr, this career official from the Justice Department who said that Christopher Steele, the British spy, had learned from Russian intelligence -- had learned that Russian intelligence had then-candidate Donald Trump, quote, over a barrel?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Mr. Ohr, we know, is an expert on Russia, on particularly the Russian mafia. And you can see in this testimony why he was concerned enough to continue these discussions with Christopher Steele. But we don't know the answer as to whether they did, in fact, have, or do, in fact, have the president over a barrel, and that's why the Mueller investigation is so important.

You know, there was a poll this morning, wolf, in the "Washington Post," and a healthy majority of the American people, 61 percent, said they wanted to continue the probe. That testimony speaks to why it's important to get to the bottom of this.

BLITZER: John Dean, does it help explain why the president has been so aggressively attacking Bruce Ohr in recent days and weeks?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It could well be part of the explanation. He seems to be most troubled with the fact that Mr. Ohr is married to a woman who works for Fusion GPS, which was involved in the original research that resulted in the dossier surfacing. And he's really attacking a mid-level career attorney at the department of justice who has been invaluable in the area of organized crime in Russia and apparently other Eastern European countries. So it's just senseless what he's doing.

BLITZER: What do you think, David Axelrod, about the fact that now yet another Washington lobbyist has pleaded guilty to cooperating -- first of all, illegally not registering as a foreign agent in Washington, and also illegally cooperating with Russian-backed Ukrainian oligarchs, and he's pleaded guilty to felony counts today. What does this suggest to you where the whole Mueller probe is going?

Mueller referred this case to the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, but as you know, they're all part of the same Justice Department team.

AXELROD: Well, yes, what I think we've seen is a mosaic coming together piece by piece. Only bob Mueller and the people who are working on this probe know where all these pieces fit. But as more and more get filled in, you get the sense that this probe is moving forward and in a direction that is troubling.

I do want to say about the president and Ohr and just building on something John said, it is senseless, in a way, John, but it also is part of the strategy, as is a report from Rudy Giuliani, a sort of alternative facts report, they are building a conspiracy theory that has whipped up the base, and they view this as a public relations fight now. They don't view it as a legal fight, they believe it's going to -- that it may go to the House of Representatives, and Rudy Giuliani has been blunt about this.

They want to win the battle of public opinion and they've tried to muddy all of these lines. Ohr is a collateral victim of that, I think.

BLITZER: Do you want to weigh in on that, John? What do you think?

DEAN: Well, that could well be right. I don't disagree with David. It's senseless in the fact that with the overwhelming majority of Americans, it is not resonating. It is not playing out at all.

[18:55:01] Maybe with his base, yes, it will cause confusion, but in the greater scope of things, it certainly doesn't make any sense to me.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, John dean, I know you've been asked to testify during the confirmation hearings next week for the Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I take it you'll testify against this confirmation, and if that's the case, tell us why.

DEAN: Well, what I've been asked to address is the judge's positions on executive power. He has fairly extreme positions on executive power, and he's joining a court that is very executive power prone, if you will. So I'm going to talk about some of the implications of that and try to share my insights with the committee.

BLITZER: We'll be watching that very closely. We'll have extensive live coverage of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings next week.

Appreciate it, guys, very much for joining us.

So, finally, tonight, a final farewell to Senator John McCain here in the nation's capital. His body now lying in state in the capital rotunda after a very emotional service that brought politicians in both parties together.

I want to go to our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. She's up on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, there were so many moving moments during that ceremony earlier today.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, so many touching moments, indeed, Wolf, and many moments that also happened in private. One of the last scene of memories of Senator McCain, Cindy McCain, his wife, Senator Graham having a private moment after that ceremony. They visited together Senator McCain's desk on that Senate floor together for one last time, and Graham at one point took two large roses out of the larger vase that sat on McCain's desk and handed them to Cindy McCain to keep. That was such a simple, graceful acknowledgment that McCain did indeed spend so much time away from his family as he served up here on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): A poignant sound. The sky is opening up and rain pouring down, just as Senator John McCain's casket was brought step by step into the U.S. Capitol for the last time -- a somber end to the senator's 35-year career on Capitol Hill.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced.

SERFATY: The capitol rotunda filled with McCain's colleagues from the House and Senate.

RYAN: I remember thinking more than once, yeah, he really does talk like a sailor. But you see, with John, it was never feigned disagreement. The man didn't feign anything. He just relished the fight.

SERFATY: Paying tribute to McCain's legacy in Washington, oftentimes as the maverick, a thorn in the side of his own party.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Depending on the issue, you knew John would either be your staunchest ally or your most stubborn opponent.

SERFATY: In the absence of the president, which was McCain's wish --

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In every generation, there are those who put country first, who prize service ahead of self, who summon idealism from a cynical age. John McCain was such a man.

SERFATY: Vice President Mike Pence speaking on behalf of the White House.

PENCE: The president asked me to be here on behalf of a grateful nation.

SERFATY: And as was McCain's wish as well, to send a final message of bipartisanship. He wanted to break protocol and have the leaders of both parties, Republican and Democrat, in both chambers to lay wreath together at his casket. John McCain's grieving family, including his 106-year-old mother, Roberta McCain, tearfully continuing their goodbyes, as did Republican Congressman Sam Johnson, a POW for nearly seven years, who shared a prison cell with McCain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And McCain's body will lie in state tonight in the capitol rotunda with a ceremonial unit of the capitol police keeping watch over the casket until tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, his body will then be taken to the national cathedral for services there with one stop along the way, Wolf, a pause at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- Wolf.

WOLF: And, Sunlen, we want to show our viewers some live pictures coming in from the capitol rotunda right now, the public still paying their respects. They're walking through there, waiting in long lines just to get an opportunity to say goodbye to a great, great American.

And once again, stay with CNN as we bring you more of the official tributes to Senator McCain. I'll be back tomorrow morning 8:00 a.m. Eastern for our special coverage of the funeral service of John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral. That would include eulogies from former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.