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Friends and Colleagues Say Final Farewell to Senator McCain; Lobbyists Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Mueller. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 1, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:06] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: To see more of how Paul gives his pawsengers first class treatment or to nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, log onto

Thank you for being with us on this Saturday. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And John McCain would be the first to admit he wasn't a perfect man. But what flaws he did have paled in comparison to the virtues he stood for -- honor, integrity, courage. And those virtues among others were celebrated today at his funeral.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.

The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At various points throughout his long career, John confronted policies and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority John McCain would insist we are better than this.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For all of our differences we shared a fidelity to the ideals for which generations of Americans have marched and fought and sacrificed and given their lives. We considered our political battles a privilege. An opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals here at home and to be our best to advance them around the world.


CABRERA: McCain we are told played an active role in planning the service from asking his former rivals President Obama and George W. Bush to eulogize him. To having his favorite poem, one he recited on his own father's funeral rite. The key verse from Robert Louis Stevenson, "Here he lies where he longed to be. Home is the sailor from the sea and the hunter home from the hill." CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us now.

Jeff, what stood out to you?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, I believe the eulogy from Meghan McCain as we saw there, the senator's daughter, was both poignant and personal. It was really searing and emotional. A farewell to her father. But also with an implicit message for the man who was not at the National Cathedral today -- President Trump, of course.

But on this day, Republicans and Democrats alike, along with the military and world leaders came together to remember John McCain's life in scripture and in song.


ZELENY (voice-over): Washington paid tribute and bade farewell to John McCain, an American patriot and politician. At the Washington National Cathedral, a living tableau of history, a who's who of leaders from all stripes, assembling to say goodbye to a war hero and veteran Republican senator.

McCain's daughter, Meghan, overcome with grief and emotion throughout the week spoke passionately about her father with a poignant and pointed message.

MEGHAN MCCAIN: We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege.

ZELENY: Inside the soaring cathedral, it was the first of several references to President Trump and his own brand of politics her father reviled.

MEGHAN MCCAIN: The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.

ZELENY: The funeral unfolded as a parting lesson in civility from McCain himself. To eulogize him, he invited two men who extinguished his own dreams for the White House. George W. Bush who won a bitter primary fight in 2000 and Barack Obama who prevailed in 2008.

Amid moments of humor.

BUSH: From trouble making plea, presidential candidate.

ZELENY: Praise from McCain's core beliefs.

BUSH: At various points throughout his long career, John confronted policies and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist we are better than this. America is better than this.

ZELENY: But the personal tributes came with a sharp critique of today's tribal politics.

[16:05:00] OBAMA: Trafficking and bombast and insult and phoney controversies, and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear.

John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

ZELENY: Despite deep differences over politics and policy, and Obama said there were many with McCain, he still fostered a sense of American unity.

OBAMA: Throughout my presidency, John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up, which by his calculation was about once a day. When all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.

ZELENY: While President Trump's name was never spoken, his absence was an unmistakable undercurrent. McCain made clear he didn't want him there. The two men's strained relationship goes back to the 2016 campaign when Trump insulted McCain's military service saying real American heroes aren't shutdown.

Yet several of the president's advisers were on hand including his daughter, Ivanka; son-in-law Jared Kushner; chief-of-staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The senator was sent off in scripture and song with opera star Renee Fleming's gripping rendition of "Danny Boy."

He'll be laid to rest Sunday in a private ceremony at his alma mater, the U.S. Navy Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.


ZELENY: The senator will have a final resting place there on a grassy hill at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland next to a long-time friend of his, Chuck Larson, where he'll be within the shadow of Naval midshipmen like he once was, choosing that out of the way spot rather than a spot at Arlington National Cemetery where his father was buried.

Now, Ana, this certainly was a day of remembering John McCain with a lesson for today's politics as well.

CABRERA: No doubt about it. Jeff Zeleny, a beautiful service. A powerful message. Thank you for that report.

I want to bring in former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia, who serve alongside Senator McCain on the Armed Services Committee.

Senator Chambliss, our condolences to you and your colleagues, former colleagues. Thank you for being with us.

SAXBY CHAMBLISS, FORMER UNITES STATES SENATOR: Glad to be with you, Ana, as we celebrate the life of a Great American.

CABRERA: No doubt about it. You attended John McCain's funeral. You two, I know, chalked up many miles together on numerous trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world.

You say you didn't see eye to eye on everything, but you call your disagreements always professional. Sentiments we heard echoed by those who eulogized McCain today. Tell us more about that.

CHAMBLISS: Well, nobody would ever agree with John on everything or have John agree with you, but that's why John was such a great member of the United States Senate. It's supposed to be the world's most deliberative body. And we, for the most part, have to act in bipartisan ways, and John epitomized that.

My travels with John were to Iraq and Afghanistan, in theater (ph), in the heat of battle where John was so well-respected because he loved those men and women that represent the United States in times of conflict like this.

And for, John, to be able to go in to theater (ph) and look those men and women in the eye and say thanks for what you are doing was pure joy to him. So i enjoyed my visits with him in theater (ph). But also I traveled the world with him, many number of times. And John McCain was just so well recognized number one as a true United States statesman and a great symbol of America.

And he was so well respected by leaders all around the world. Didn't make any difference what their politics were or what their thoughts were on some issues where, John, might disagree and may have made some comments about it. But, John, was just so well thought of and well respected in every corner of the world.

CABRERA: And that was made even more clear when you look at the guest list for his services, where you have leaders and representatives of administrations from countries all around the world who wanted to come and pay tribute to this man, this -- this lion of a man.

You are quick to point out John McCain was hugely respected in the U.S. military circles. And the reasons are obvious. Obviously his own personal story is so amazing. You call it inspirational when you saw people interact with him.

Tell us more about a time, if you have a memory where you saw that respected and you were inspired by it.

[16:10:00] CHAMBLISS: Well, any time, John, hit the ground in a theater (ph) where we were in a conflict, John, was immediately surrounded by young men and women who were wearing uniform, who were putting their life in harm's way exactly like John did. He knew the sacrifice they were making. They knew the sacrifices that John McCain had made. So there was just a natural bond between John McCain and the military personnel that were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John used to make a habit of going on particular and special times of the year, like Thanksgiving. I spent several Thanksgivings with John in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And he delighted in being able to have three or four different Thanksgiving dinners with troops in different parts of those respective countries.

One time we even went to -- we had dinner with one of his sons who was stationed there. So it was a very special moment for him. But it was also a very special moment for those of us that were with him to see that bond and see them have the opportunity to share a holiday together, which in the military oftentimes is just not going to happen.

CABRERA: Senator McCain often reached across the aisle. He also sometimes a foe to his own party or a friend and a foe to either party you could say. He worked with Democrats on issues he felt strongly about.

Listen to what President Obama said about McCain's political values.


OBAMA: Now, in fact, John, was a pretty conservative guy. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of some of those votes. But he did understand that some principles transcend politics and some values transcend party.


CABRERA: You don't see a whole lot of that bipartisanship today. Senator Saxby what needs to happen to get back to that?

CHAMBLISS: Well, if you were at that service today, and 67 current or former United States senators were there by the way, or you happened to watch it on TV, if you don't feel better about your country by being there then something is wrong.

The recognition of John today by Republicans and Democrats, reaching across the aisle to say very poignant, very specific things about the way that John worked with them should give everybody in America hope that maybe John's death is going to inspire some more bipartisan activity.

John set a very high bar when it came to working across the aisle. I worked on many an issue with him with folks from the other side. And -- and he went out of his way to try to make sure that he was being all inclusive when he was leading the debate on immigration, for example, that he included ideas from Democrats.

Neither party has a patent or controls all the good ideas in Congress. And John was just so good about taking everybody's good idea and then incorporating them into legislation.

CABRERA: That reminds me of one of the reasons he gave that thumbs down in July, that now infamous moment on the Obamacare repeal bill that was up for a vote in the Senate. And it had to do in large part because of the way that piece of legislation moved through that body. And the exclusivity, the lack of inclusivity that had come with it.

Former Senator Saxby Chambliss, thank you for channelling John McCain for us and helping us remember that man.

CHAMBLISS: Sure. Good to be with you.

CABRERA: Good to have you with us.

As we go to break now, a poignant moment from today's service. A rendition of "America the Beautiful."





[16:18:30] CABRERA: For the first time, an American admits he helped foreigners funnel money to President Trump's inauguration. Longtime lobbyist Samuel Patten in court pleading guilty yesterday to failing to register as a foreign agent.

Patten revealed he helped a Russian and a Ukrainian illegally purchase tickets to the January 2017 inauguration. Patten has ties to a Russian associate of President Trump's former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. And he has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. The president's attorney calls the indictment irrelevant.


RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: 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 500,000 people that donated to President Trump.


CABRERA: Joining us now prosecutor turned defense attorney Randy Zelin.

Randy you are kind of laughing as you listen to Giuliani. Is this guilty plea irrelevant?

RANDY ZELIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nothing is irrelevant. And the fact that the former mayor and counsel to the president is saying that it's irrelevant reminds me of the old maxim doth protest too much.

I wonder of those 500,000 people who donated how many of them were Russian?

[16:20:00] CABRERA: That's the question we want to know, too. And this is obviously one person now who we have learned, which is why this is a big deal because this is the first time we actually see Russian money or in foreign influence, he also worked with Ukrainians, going directly to President Trump.

ZELIN: We have a lot of firsts. And what happens over time, those firsts, they build, and they build, and they build, and they build like building blocks. And suddenly you get to the top of the first.

CABRERA: Well, we have George Papadopoulos, who is also part of the president's team revealing more in a recent court filing, this is according to some documents just last night.

According to George Papadopoulos's defense team, "Papadopoulos told investigators that when he pitched the idea during the campaign of a meeting between President Trump or then candidate Trump and Putin, Trump nodded in approval. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed to like the idea."

Now, if there was never a meeting, Randy, does it matter, this conversation, and how it exactly went down? What do investigators do with this?

ZELIN: Nothing in a vacuum seems to matter. But remember something put it in context. As I understand the swirl of evidence out there, Attorney General Sessions has gone before Congress and denied exactly what Mr. Papadopoulos said just took place. So it puts Attorney General Sessions in some potential jeopardy.

It's yet another story that rings hollow. It's yet another piece of the puzzle that, again, you look piece in a vacuum, what the hell does it mean?

But when you have it all kind of laid out there on the table and you start clicking them together, this is yet something else where we left -- we are left as citizens saying, my God, is it really possible.

CABRERA: In the mean, we have the president continuing to attack the investigation. This week he called it illegal in an interview with Bloomberg. He also went to rally. He threatened to get involved.

In the meantime, let's take a look at the bigger picture. We have the special counsel investigation securing more than 191 criminal charges against 35 people and entities.

Six of those people have now pleaded guilty. One, Paul Manafort was found guilty. On top of that, four separate federal judges have upheld Mueller's appointment and constitutional authority.

Randy, do innocent people try to shut down probe that are securing convictions and guilty pleas if in the end they will not be convicted because they are completely innocent?

ZELIN: That is an extraordinary question, because the flipside of that question that you hear most of the time is -- the opposite, which is, don't innocent people speak up? Don't innocent people protest?

The accusations? And of course as a defense attorney, I remind everyone, the smartest thing you can do as an innocent person is keep your mouth shut. And what's happening here is that the president is teaching us that I'm right.

Imagine, if you will -- and your viewers -- imagine for a moment if the president never tweeted, if the president never spoke and simply carried on the business of being the president, let the investigation do its thing, let White House counsel and everybody else surrounding him, his experts, do their thing and simply focused in on running the country and maybe saying a kind word about Senator McCain.

Imagine how different all of this would feel. So I would respectfully submit to you, it's really the opposite. You almost can't win when you are innocent.

Do you open your mouth and run the risk of getting jammed up because you are always one word away from saying the wrong thing? Or do you keep your mouth shut in which case people say, well, wait a minute, if you didn't do anything wrong, why not say so. I will always opt for the latter.

CABRERA: There is always the question about whether or not the president ends up being implicated in a crime, whether Robert Mueller would be able to act on that. Instead, the typical route would be to go to Congress and they could impeach.

The president talking about impeachment this week. Saying he thinks it would be impossible to impeach a popular president. And it's not the first time he mentioned the "I" word. Reportedly he refers to it behind closed doors often.

Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor because without this thinking, you would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe. In reverse.


CABRERA: Does his making such a case indicate he fears this is getting closer?

ZELIN: I don't think so. I think our president is one of the more difficult people to read. And I guess he likes it that way. It is interesting to note, though, what he focuses in on in terms of almost justifying why it would be ludicrous to go after him. Saying the markets would crash is really not responsive to the question of, what do we do with you?

[16:25:15] The real response to the question is what do you do with me? I haven't done anything wrong. What do you do with me? Let me do my job. What do you do with me? Nothing, because all I'm trying to do is run the office of the presidency the best way I can. And I haven't done anything wrong.

And to answer the president's question or the statement of the investigation is illegal, I simply put two questions out there. And I would hope that someone would answer it. If the Mueller investigation is illegal, please tell us two things. How? And why? CABRERA: And again I go back to it's been asked. That question has been asked and it's been answered by four separate judges. Two of them appointed by Republicans.


ZELIN: One of the things we do as a lawyer, objection. Asked and answered.

CABRERA: Exactly. Randy Zelin, always good to have you with us. Thank you.

ZELIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Now the president tests out a tactic in the Russia probe, insisting that what he said on camera about the firing of James Comey isn't real. We've got the tape for you next. Live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



[16:31:20] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.

What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Remember that? Just over a month after telling the American people not to trust your own eyes and ears, the president of the United States now wants us to believe some of what he says on camera isn't real either.

Here is the tweet. "When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly."

Fudging his tape on Russia? What the president is referring to is his May 2017 interview with Lester Holt. An interview where he contradicted his own White House on the reason for firing former FBI Director James Comey.

His administration claimed Comey was fired due to a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, criticizing Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But that is not what President Trump told Lester Holt two days after removing Comey.

Here is the clip from the extended interview which NBC released.


TRUMP: He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.


CABRERA: The president isn't offering any evidence to back up his claim about that tape being fudged. We have no evidence that NBC altered that tape.

Now keep this in mind, he is also raising this issue now 15 months after that interview aired.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein.

Ron, the president can't possibly believe that NBC doctored that tape.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: All right. I mean, who would have thought we would live long enough to see Donald Trump channeling Richard Pryor, right? Who are you going to believe -- me or your lying eyes?

Look, I think you see two different things converging here. I mean, the first is this consistent pattern of the president of trying to delegitimize any institution that he believes could ultimately threaten him.

Whether it is the media, whether it's the independent judiciary, whether it's law enforcement. And that has been a pattern really from day one and even before he took office.

And the other is a series of arguments that are made not really to persuade the broad American public, but really to provide talking points and ammunition to kind of the conservative transmission belt of communications, whether Fox or Talk Radio in an effort to further mobilizes base and to in the process intimidate Republicans in Congress, I think from taking any kind of independent stand against him.

And I think, you know, I was at the memorial today for John McCain. And the reason I think you see such -- part of the reason why you see such a reaction this week is John McCain and his incredible life. But part of it also is I think a recoiling from the inherently divisive, polarizing and truth challenged politics to put it mildly that Donald Trump represents.

CABRERA: One thing the president loves to talk about is his poll numbers. And here he was in Indiana this week talking about it.


TRUMP: I actually asked them -- I said, did they do polling when honest Abe Lincoln was around? You know what? Nobody has been able to give me that answer, but I'm assuming they did, OK. So we can say we are beating honest Abe.

(END VIDEO CLIP) OK, here is the reality check. The latest "Washington Post-ABC News" poll finds only 36 percent of the country approve of his job performance, 60 percent disapprove. That is a new high in disapproval, Ron.

Should he be shaken by those numbers?

[16:35:08] BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, that is at the lower end of what we have seen. Although, there was a second poll to confirm it today. But the basic -- even if you say that Donald Trump is somewhere around 40 percent, or 41, 42, he is in the low 40s at a time when unemployment is 4 percent or lower.

I mean, that's just an unprecedented divergence between approval for the president and the state of the economy. And it is entirely rooted in unease about the personal qualities that he brings to the president.

And whether he's at 36 or at 42, whether his disapproval is 52 or 58 or 60, the one thing that I think is very constant is the intensity of disapproval. The people who strongly disapproving significantly outnumber at this point the share who strongly approve.

And what that means was that historically it has translated into more intensity on who votes and also a higher percentage of the people disapprove voting against the president's party. That I think is the real issue for Republicans in Congress.

They have lashed themselves to President Trump. And, look, there are parts in the country, you know, some of these red state Senate seats that are up where that is fine. But in the places where the House will be decided, districts that are either in suburbia or extend from suburbia out into the ex-surbs, the president is in a much more equivocal position than that. And these Republicans have bound themselves to him by basically signaling as long as they (INAUDIBLE) this week that -- as long as they hold the majority, they are not going to perform oversight or try to constrain him in any meaningful way.

CABRERA: You mentioned John McCain earlier. It seems the country is just yearning for civility. A lot of the coverage has been leading up to this funeral on the president's handling of McCain's death.

Asked if he had missed an opportunity to unite the country, the president responded with this, quote, "No, I don't think I did at all. I've done everything that they requested. And no, I don't think I have at all."

Ron, you attended today's funeral for McCain. What is your reaction to that?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, I was struck on it by the tone of today's funeral. It was less a eulogy than it was a call to arms. I mean, really, every speaker with the partial exception of Henry Kissinger, you know, either directly like Meghan McCain or more indirectly like George W. Bush, and President Obama was somewhere -- President Obama was somewhere in the middle, made a very affirmative case for a different kind of politics.

Even as former President Obama did acknowledging how often he disagreed with John McCain, but nonetheless that powerful line where he said, you know, what we recognized we are all on the same time.

And I think it was a bipartisan rejection of this kind of politics that is inherently grounded in division. I mean, every couple days President Trump has to find a new target on Twitter or in his public comments. Something new to kind of stir up. You know, what he believes that the key to consolidating his side is to essentially have them constantly at war against other Americans.

And I think you saw today this kind of yearning among a portion of the leadership -- certainly a majority of the leadership class and a portion of the country over the past week for something different.

You know, very few -- Ana, very few non-presidents in American history have had the kind of week of remembrance that John -- that John McCain did today.

Probably the last one was Bobby Kennedy in 1968. You have to go back to Daniel Webster in the 19th century to find another example of someone who wasn't a president and has struck such a chord. And obviously it's largely because of his life, but it also because of the times and the inherent contrast he provides to the kind of politics that we are living through, which is essentially based above all on division.

CABRERA: It's so interesting. Ron Brownstein, good to have you with us. Thank you for your take.

BROWNSTEIN: Good to be here.

CABRERA: Friends say he was a man with a twinkle in his eye. Coming up, remembering the funny side of the late John McCain.


[16:43:20] CABRERA: He was a serious man who seriously knew how to laugh. Tonight "Saturday Night Live" will re-air a 2002 episode hosted by the late Senator John McCain.

CNN's Randi Kaye helps us look back at a man known for both his wisdom and wit.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Good evening, my fellow Americans. I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president? Certainly someone who is very, very, very old.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator John McCain two months after winning the 2008 Republican Party nomination cracking jokes on "Saturday Night Live." One of countless opportunities the senator took to poke fun at himself. MCCAIN: I've also opposed federal water projects, even when they benefited my state. That's why thanks to me, 15 percent of Arizona citizens must get their drinking water from cactus.

KAYE: He was the first sitting senator to host "Saturday Night Live" and returned to the show many times. His comic timing always impressive. McCain played everything from a creepy husband --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're so lovely.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could watch you for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god, David, how did you get in here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The door was open, angel. Shall I loofah your back?

KAYE: -- to a character he called bad grandpa.

MCCAIN: That's where I get on TV and go come on, Obama is going to have plenty of chances to be president. It's my turn.

KAYE: McCain's humor wasn't always self deprecating. He could be cutting too, like when someone asked him back in 2007 if he's too old to be president.

[16:45:00] MCCAIN: And thanks for the question, you little jerk. You're drafted.

KAYE: But humor suited him and seem to come naturally. KAYE: But humor suited him and seemed to come naturally. In 2008, he relished putting his opponent, then-Senator Barack Obama, on the spot at the Al Smith dinner.

MCCAIN: Let's not add to the mounting pressure he must be feeling. Just prepare yourself for nonstop hilarity.

KAYE: At times his jokes were spur of the moment, like when he did this to a CNN reporter while he was on live TV.

At times, his jokes were spur of the moment, like when he did this to a CNN reporter while he was on live TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The department laying out a series --

KAYE: McCain got such a kick out of himself, he tweeted about it later, calling it revenge. He liked to joke with the media, even our own Anderson Cooper during this interview in Washington, D.C.

MCCAIN: It's always good to see you here and trying to do the lord's work in the city of Satan.

KAYE: While not everyone appreciated his sarcasm, those who did often enjoyed being part of the joke, like Senator Chris Coons who fondly remembers McCain teasing him when he was junior senator.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: And he spots me, and he says Coons, you get off my plane. And I sort of what? And Lindsey comes over and grabs my arm and says that's how you know he likes you.

KAYE: Whatever inspired his sense of humor, Senator John McCain left us all laughing and smiling in his memory.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Florida.


CABRERA: Hero, icon, dissenter. At 85 years young, she loves being notorious. A preview of the CNN film, "RBG," on the life and career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- next.


CABRERA: Professor, litigator, role model, dissenter, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has earned countless titles and accolades during her ground breaking career on both sides of the bench.

And now the new CNN original film "RBG" takes an intimate look at the personal and professional life of Justice Ginsburg, who has developed a breath taking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon.

Here's a preview.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proud to nominate this path-breaking attorney, advocate, and judge to be the 107th Justice to the United States Supreme Court.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: They may be in trying times, but think how it was in those days. The judges didn't think sex discrimination existed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruth knew what she was doing in laying the foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She put women on the same plane as men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The goal was equality and civil rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ruth Bader Ginsburg quite literally changed the way the world is for American women.

GINSBURG: What has become me could happen only in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has become such a rock star.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is really the closest thing to a superhero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is known to the world over as the notorious RBG.

GINSBURG: All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.


CABRERA: Joining us now Emily Bazelon. She is a staff writer at the "New York Times" magazine. And the Truman Capote fellow for writing -- creative writing and law at Yale Law School.

Emily, thanks for being with us.

You've covered Justice Ginsburg for years. You have seen her become now this pop culture phenomenon. Why do you think she is having such a moment right now?

EMILY BAZELON, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: You know, there is something about her kind of sparkly, shy, combination that I think really appeals to young people. And the idea that you could have a Supreme Court justice that is also letting us kind of peek behind the scenes and watch her workout, who is talking about what it was like to be a young woman at a time when becoming a lawyer and a judge was, you know, practically unthinkable in our culture.

I think the mix of the professional and the personal and her very down to earth presence is what we are seeing kind of take off right now.

CABRERA: I mean, talk about just female empowerment, what she represents. Of all the work she has done, how has she had the biggest impact do you think? What will be her most lasting legacy perhaps?

BAZELON: I think there are two things. When she was a litigator, she really came up with the theory for sex equality that changed American law and made judges sit up and pay attention and think about what it meant, for example, when a woman could be fired for being pregnant, or had to, you know, have her husband co-sign a loan. Those kinds of inequities Ginsburg was incredibly skillful at getting in front of the courts in a way that male judges paid attention to.

And then I think the second thing is -- sorry.

CABRERA: Go ahead, please.

BAZELON: As a justice, she has really stood up for equal rights for all kinds of people. So, for example, you know, in a case about voting rights mostly affecting African-Americans and Hispanics, she has a very strong dissent talking about the history of race discrimination in the country. And I think that's another thing we will remember her for.

CABRERA: I also want to ask you about the nomination hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh starting this next week and how you see Justice Ginsburg's role now on the court evolving as we move further into the Trump era.

[16:55:00] BAZELON: You know, we are looking at a court that is going to be divided 5-4. And we are used to that in big cases in this country. But if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, we may be consistently seeing five Republican conservatives versus four Democratic appointees who are more liberal.

And there is no question that Justice Ginsburg will be leading the liberal wing of the court. All four justices on that side are strong personalities and strong writers. But she will be a force to be reckoned with, but I think in a lot of cases it will be in dissent.

CABRERA: Emily, thank you very much for being with us. You all can discover the inspiring life and career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Watch "RBG," a CNN film Labor Day at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.

We'll be right back.


CABRERA: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We continue to honor an American great, an American hero at the nation's capital today. The life, the selfless service and the American impact of one man was celebrated and honored. That man is the late U.S. Senator John McCain.