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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Family, Friends To Celebrate McCain's Life Today; Ex-Trump Campaign Adviser Contradicts Sessions Testimony; Trump: Bloomberg Violated Off-The-Record Statement; McCain Procession To Stop At Vietnam Vets Memorial; Former Presidents Obama, G. W. Bush To Eulogize McCain. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired September 1, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[07:00:00] REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We gather here today to honor an American patriot, served a cause greater than himself. This is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain, I think, really represented the best in our country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Didn't always agree with him politically, but I respect the man. There was nobody who was as heroic as he was.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNEL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: He would fight tooth and nail for his vision of the common good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need people to step up and to follow that model that he set.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you want to help the country, be more like John McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It's been an emotional couple of days, and that's continuing today, as we say good-bye officially to Senator John McCain. Good morning. So glad to have you with us here. I'm Christi Paul in Atlanta.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell live from Washington National Cathedral, where the nation now prepares to honor Senator John McCain in a memorial service. Now, today, politicians from both sides of the aisle, family, friends, former colleagues will gather behind me here at the cathedral to say good-bye to the senator.
Today's service caps off three days of public tributes to the war hero turned political maverick. Every detail of today's service was planned by the senator, choreographed as his final message to the country that he loved so much. Suzanne Malveaux joins us now from the capitol. And Suzanne, again, he mapped this entire thing out. Tell us what is going to happen today.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just in a few hours, these are his final hours here at the U.S. Capitol. This is a place where he loved so much, where he dedicated so much of his life and his time to his country and to his state of Arizona for 35 years, both in the House and the Senate. So, it will be in just a few hours that what we'll see here is the hearse that will pull up here with the family vehicles, the family members, here on the east side.
The body has been guarded by the U.S. capitol police honor guard. Every 20 minutes, a changing of the guard to watch over Senator John McCain. That casket will come down these stairs behind me, step by step by step, and then into the hearse. And then there'll be a brief ceremony here before about 8:30, 9:00, when they will leave, that motorcade, first stopping off at the Vietnam memorial, the veterans' memorial there, that is where his wife, Cindy McCain, will go ahead and lay a wreath. And then, they will head to the National Cathedral. And it is going to be an extraordinary event here.
We are going to see people, as the senator wanted, a message of bipartisanship, of love and commitment and service to country, greater than yourself. Two former presidents, George W. Bush as well as Barack Obama, the two men who he fought with fiercely over the presidency and wanting to acknowledge, personally acknowledge them, his respect for those individuals.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Senator Kelly Ayotte as well as Senator Joseph Lieberman and current Senator Lindsey Graham, a longtime friend of his, obviously, someone who will be very emotional. And we will also hear from his grown children as well, including Meghan McCain.
It is notable, too, to also recognize the pallbearers, a really kind of a who's who among many Americans who will be taking the body to the cathedral. Friend and Actor, Warren Beatty, Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke so eloquently yesterday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Defense Secretary as well, William Cohen, among many of those other notable dignitaries that will be there. This is an ongoing celebration of his life and truly a who's who of people who want to pay tribute.
And finally, Victor, if I can tell you this morning, just watching people pass by here -- there was a young woman who was jogging, and she just went right by and she put a thumbs up, a thumbs up as she passed by the east steps here, knowing that Senator John McCain lies in state here at the rotunda.
BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Suzanne Malveaux for us there from the capitol. Suzanne, thank you so much. Our next guest now is Mark Salter. He worked for Senator McCain for nearly 20 years, he was his chief of staff, speechwriter. They worked together on seven books. Mark, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We talked a little bit before the show started here that you met him 30 years ago.
[07:05:00] MARK SALTER, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AND SPEECHWRITER OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I did. BLACKWELL: And on this day, how are you remembering him?
SALTER: Oh, you know, I'm remembering him as my friend, first and foremost. He was an awful lot of fun to be with. He was a great guy to work for. He was involved in a lot of issues all at the same time, so it was kind of a fascinating experience. And I just remember his innate decency to people he knew intimately and to strangers. That's how I remember him.
BLACKWELL: You co-authored, as I've said, seven books with the senator, the most recent "The Restless Wave." Let's listen to a portion of the senator reading a passage from the book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I've been given more years than many and had enough narrow escapes along the way to make me appreciate them, not just in memory, but while I lived them. Many like me reaches his last year wishing he had lived more in the moment, had savored his days as they happened. Not me, my friends. Not me. I have loved my life, all of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: What were your last conversations with him like?
SALTER: Oh, you know, we talked politics, like we always did. We talked about each other's families. We talked about how lucky he felt always, right to the end -- I'm the luckiest guy you'll ever meet. We talked about the country, we talked about issues, sometimes we talked about ball games we were watching. We watched some old movies when I was going out there. We watched a couple of old "Hitchcock" movies and a couple of westerns. So, just like any conversation I had with him all these years.
BLACKWELL: You are a pallbearer here today.
SALTER: I am, yes, an honor.
BLACKWELL: Let me ask you something, and if it's too intimate, I'll move on. What was that conversation like when your friend of so many decades turned to you and ask you to be a pallbearer at his funeral?
SALTER: It sounds odd, but very matter of fact. It's just, I want you to be a pallbearer, and then he asked me to do a reading at the Annapolis service, too, and I said, of course, of course. All right, thanks, pal. Just --
BLACKWELL: Thanks, pal.
SALTER: And you know, I was there when he called some of the people who are speaking at the services and asked them to give a eulogy. And you know, a very stoic guy, you know, getting sentimental this last year often enough, but he's pretty stoic right up until the end. When not long after he was first diagnosed, we were sitting in his office here in Washington, and we were sort of, you know, getting a little sentimental. And he goes, nobody cheated me. I've had a hell of a life. He kept that attitude to the end.
BLACKWELL: You said that part of the conversations you had were about politics. What was his prognosis for the country? What did he think was coming, hope was coming?
SALTER: He thinks we're going through, obviously, a bad patch now and there are some disagreements he has with some of the direction of the country, but he was very hopeful we'll get through it, you know, that we've just got to stay true to our values, and nothing lasts forever. As he put it, nothing is inevitable here.
BLACKWELL: One more from "The Restless Wave." This is Senator John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I had the great good fortune to spend 60 years in the employ of our country, defending our country's security, advancing our country's ideals, supporting our country's indispensable contribution to the progress of humanity. It's not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help, but I've tried to deserve the privilege, and I've been repaid a thousand times over with adventure and discoveries, with good company and with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the story of America and the history we made, and I am so very grateful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: He spoke, and you wrote about and he wrote about in the book, which I just finished, about not only the privilege of being an American, but the responsibility of the country, of the role of America in the world.
SALTER: Yes. The international -- the liberal international order that was organized and led by the United States after World War II has liberated more people in the world from tyranny and poverty and made the United States incomparably powerful and wealthy as well. Despite all the problems in the world, all the examples still of human cruelty and corruption, these is a golden age. It's worked better than expected.
He thought it important that it continue for as long as, much longer than his life span. So, he hopes the book he wrote -- for a couple of reasons -- one to express how grateful he was to have served the country; two and how much America meant to him but also to explain what America meant to the world and how important it is that it continue to mean that to the world after he's gone.
[07:10:15] BLACKWELL: Let's talk about what's going to happen today. Presidents, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will eulogize the senator as he requested. It doesn't seem that Senator McCain and President Obama were especially close, so why did he request him?
SALTER: Well, he specifically wanted the two men who defeated him for the president to speak because the message, the senator would argue his positions passionately, sometimes acerbically, very vociferous, very energetic. He loved to fight. He thought if something was worth fighting about, he gave it everything he had. But at the same time, he's always -- he stressed over and over again, there's so much more we have in common than apart. And he always says this line, we've got common problems and we've got common responsibilities to solve those problems, and that's the message he hopes. There's so much more that unites us than divides us in this country. That's why he asked him to come.
BLACKWELL: There's one more element here. The final letter to the country that you helped him with, there's a phrase that jumped off the page at me, and I have to read it hear. I didn't want to get it wrong. He said about these 2008 race that he had the privilege to concede defeat.
SALTER: Yes, yes.
BLACKWELL: In this era of self-aggrandizement, to see defeat as a privilege is striking.
SALTER: Yes. Well, he thought that kind of humility was an important virtue. He had the honor to be considered for the highest office in the land and the most powerful position on Earth. That was a great honor. The American people made their decision. He bows to their decision and pledges to help the incumbent president. He also has a line in his concession speech where the man who was my opponent and now is my president. That's the kind of guy he was, and I think that's why people have responded so to his passing, you know. They saw that in him, a guy that came to Washington to actually work on problems, to get stuff done, not to just posture, not to just fight over the next election, but to make progress on our problems.
BLACKWELL: Mark Salter, thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us, and our condolences on the loss of your friend.
SALTER: Thank you very much.
BLACKWELL: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: CNN's special coverage "REMEMBERING AN AMERICAN HERO: THE FUNERAL OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN" starts at 8:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN with Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash.
PAUL: Victor, thank you so much. Great interview there. Learned so much, didn't we? All right, listen, there's a late-night court filing that could potentially cause more trouble for the U.S. attorney general this morning. A convicted ex-Trump campaign adviser is contradicting what Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, yes, said under oath about a proposed meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Also, another funeral that we had watched yesterday. It was fit for a queen, wasn't it? Family, lifelong friends, paying tribute to Aretha Franklin. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[07:17:21] PAUL: We have new developments regarding yesterday's knife attack in Amsterdam. The U.S. embassy now saying both victims that were injured in that attack at the central station are U.S. citizens -- they were just there visiting the city. Police did shoot the suspect. They did not kill him. He's been identified as a 19-year- old Afghan man who lives in Germany. We understand those two U.S. citizens are recovering in a hospital this morning.
And a late-night court filing shows convicted former Trump Campaign Adviser, George Papadopoulos, has directly contradicted sworn testimony by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. CNN White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez with us now, so, what are we learning about this specifically, Boris?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Christi. Yes, George Papadopoulos' legal team in a legal filing last night directly contradicting Senate testimony given by current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Effectively, what Papadopoulos' lawyers are saying is that during a meeting in the 2016 campaign, he suggested that President Trump should take a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to his attorneys, the president approved of that and then apparently delegated it to Jeff Sessions. Here's the exact portion of that legal filing we're referring to.
George Papadopoulos' lawyers writing: "While some in the room rebuffed George's offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions, who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it. George's giddiness over Mr. Trump's recognition was prominent during the days that followed." As you noted, Christi, that contradicts what we heard from Jeff Sessions in the confirmation process to become the A.G. Listen to this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. After reading his account and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government, for that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, the White House has dismissed George Papadopoulos as a coffee boy, someone who is not to be taken seriously, but it is clear that they are preparing for damage control in light of possible damning testimony still to come from the Mueller probe. Rudy Giuliani acknowledged to CNN that he is preparing a rebuttal, a report that would cover a broad array of accusations or testimony still to come from the special counsel.
One source indicating that that report is already halfway done, though it's unclear that the Mueller probe is any closer to finishing as a result. We should point out: The president's legal team has not closed the door on a possible one-on-one meeting between President Trump and Robert Mueller. However, the legal team indicates that they have not heard from Robert Mueller specifically on the ground rules of a possible interview for several weeks now, Christi.
PAUL: All righty. Boris Sanchez, we appreciate the update. Thank you so much. Margaret Talev, CNN Political Analyst and Senior White House Correspondent for Bloomberg News, with us now. Margaret, good to see you this morning. Let me ask you about what Boris was just talking about. Does the Papadopoulos claim give President Trump on the surface the ammunition to go after Jeff Sessions now? How much does it hurt his credibility? Let's put it that way.
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR BLOOMBERG NEWS: I mean, I think that's an interesting question, but I don't think that the president needs that at all. I think the president has made clear over a period of months, not only that he is frustrated with Jeff Sessions but that he has the power to decide who the attorney general would be.
And in very recent weeks, Congressional Republicans have increasingly let the president know that they are comfortable with him exercising his authority as long as it is after the midterm election. And the president, in his interview with us the other day, indicated that Jeff Sessions will remain the attorney general through the midterm elections. So, to me, Mr. Papadopoulos' sentencing memorandum is really interesting, not just because of Jeff Sessions, but for a couple of the other points.
For example, in it, they say that he was the first domino to fall. It's an interesting way to position what has happened since. They also talked about how he had a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master. And when they say that, they're talking about his perception of his loyalty to President Trump. That's an interesting piece of this puzzle. They also talk about their belief -- his belief now, Mr. Papadopoulos' belief that he was in over his head.
So when you look at this as a piece of a larger picture, you see some of these threads that we've looked at throughout the campaign, the transition, about who some of the people were who were advising the president and whether, you know, what their political experience was, not just in the energy sector but in terms of politics and how that affected both the guidance the president was getting and who he was surrounding himself with.
PAUL: OK, but Margaret, I have to ask you now, and I have to do this really quickly, there's a new Washington Post/ABC poll that says 64 percent of people polled do not think Sessions should be fired. Notably, 47 percent of those are Republicans.
TALEV: Well, and I think that is why you see Congressional Republicans having urged the president so consistently in recent weeks. Look, we know you have the power to do this, please don't do this until after the elections. Republicans don't want this to shake the confidence of voters who might vote to put them back in office. It could affect control of either chamber of congress. [07:22:56] PAUL: OK, good point. I need to ask you about something
with Bloomberg. The news printed something that the president says he said off the record. Let's listen to the president here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I gave a totally off- the-record -- you saw it -- it said "off the record," and I said something strong, but it's my belief, and they violated it. And they said they were violating it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: So, how did it get published?
TALEV: I have no idea. Bloomberg has not published any off-the- record information. And when Bloomberg enters into an agreement with anyone, if Bloomberg agrees, if I agree as a reporter to have an off- the-record conversation with someone, off-the-record is off-the-record and we honor that. And as you can tell from Bloomberg's reporting, Bloomberg has released the transcript from our on-the-record interview with President Trump, and Bloomberg has only reported on on-the-record comments that the president has made.
PAUL: All right. I got you. Margaret Talev, I'm sorry we've run out of time. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. Good to talk with you. Victor?
BLACWELL: Senator John McCain's funeral is scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m. Eastern this morning, but before his body arrives here at the National Cathedral in Washington, his motorcade will make its way to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We'll tell you what his family plans to do there in his honor.
[07:29:35] BLACKWELL: You are looking at Washington National Cathedral, our nation's spiritual home. And today, this will be the site of the funeral for the late Senator John Sidney McCain. Our special coverage will start at the top of the hour with Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer. And the funeral will start at 10:00 a.m. Eastern right here.
Now, the family is expected to leave the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and travel to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for a wreath-laying, and then head to Washington National Cathedral for the service. CNN's Correspondent Tom Foreman is outside of the Vietnam Memorial this morning. What can you tell us about what will happen there today?
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And the family is expected to leave the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and travel to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for a wreath-laying. And then, head to Washington National Cathedral for the service.
CNN's correspondent Tom Foreman is outside of the Vietnam Memorial this morning. What can you tell us about what will happen there today?
[07:30:17] TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, the family is going to come here with Cindy McCain, placing a wreath in front of this wall which honors the 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam conflict.
John McCain, of course, was a tireless advocate for Vietnam veterans after his service in the war and his five and a half years in captivity. He came to this wall in his time. And, of course, many of the veterans have come here in the past few days have been coming so and bringing his memory with them.
Yesterday, outside the Capitol as people waited to go past his casket and pay their respects, I spoke to one woman who had special memories of John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN MOORE, WORE MCCAIN'S POW BRACELET: I wore this Senator's bracelet, his POW bracelet while he was imprisoned. And I just felt like I knew him. I had a -- I had a signed copy of his book, Faith of My Fathers. My son-in-law were --
FOREMAN: Did you ever meet him?
MOORE: Never met him, but I felt like I knew him. He was also an adoptive dad for adoptive parents. I just always felt the big connection. Didn't always agree with him politically. I'm not a Republican, I'm not a Democrat. I'm a New England Independent, but I respect the man.
FOREMAN: If you're young enough you may not know exactly what she's talking about. If you're old enough, you certainly do. POW bracelet were extremely common in this country. Many people wore them with the names of people who had been captured to remember them every minute until they were freed. And then, many people more than many years afterward.
In any event, what that woman said was very typical of what I've heard from so many people over the past few days. Whether they agree with John McCain's politics or not, they very much honored his service and all that he did for Vietnam veterans will no doubt be proud to see him here today. Victor.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: Tom Foreman, thank you. Elaine Povich is with us now. She's the author of John McCain, American Maverick. Elaine, thank you for being with us, and let's start with -- you know, this latest book is really about the pictures of John McCain from when he was a boy to more recent photographs.
And there's one that jumps out, and I think we can put it up on the screen. It's a black and white photo. Arms crossed there with a bit of a smirk and a header there that says, One Hell of a Ride. Was that your summation or was that his -- the way he looked at his life?
ELAINE POVICH, AUTHOR, JOHN MCCAIN, AMERICAN MAVERICK: That was the way that he looked at his life. He really felt like nothing had been missed in his life. He had done everything that he wanted to do, that it was a hell of a ride, and the rest of us just got to hang on and go with him.
BLACKWELL: And that ride took him all over the world. I know you called him an ambassador for democracy. Love of country and appreciation for democracy, they're not unique. But why did he believe that, that responsibility took him to some of the darkest corners of the world, why did he have to go?
POVICH: Because he believed American freedom and what we stood for in this country was important. And that people should know that and that they should bring American democracy and freedom to everywhere in the world.
He personally felt that being an ambassador for those American ideals was part of his duty as a Senator, as a fighting man, but also mostly as a Senator to bring these ideas to the rest of the world.
BLACKWELL: You know, there has been obviously some talk about those who will not be here today. The president and his former running mate in 2008, Sarah Palin. But I want to talk about who will be here today, and that's his 106-year-old mother, Roberta McCain.
BLACKWELL: And she was there at the service in the Rotunda yesterday. And should be at the National Cathedral today. And he wrote about the strength of his mother and their relationship.
POVICH: He did. He did. You know, he titled his first book, Faith of My Fathers. And it was about his famous fathers and grandfather, the Admirals. And yet, he said, I am my mother's son.
And if you look at the two of them together, you can see them they are alike in their faces. They're alike in their attitude, and they're feisty as hell, both of them. That's where he gets his fight from is from mom.
BLACKWELL: Expanding this conversation, he wrote this final letter that he attributes to -- his coming to the end of his life and being satisfied to having the love of his wife and his family. And we talked a lot about his service, but not so much about his relationship with Cindy McCain and all of his children.
POVICH: He is a family man, and despite the fact that he was away from home a lot, traveling back and forth to Arizona ongoing to Washington, coming back. And all of those trips abroad that I mentioned, he is a true family man, you can see it in their eyes.
The kids love him, they adore him and he always worked really hard when he was home. To make sure that they would take hikes in Phoenix and sometimes there was a long march they said, keeping up with him, even at his age.
He only did everything fast. He walked fast, he talked fast, he fought fast, very quick on his feet, and he brought all of that enthusiasm home to his family as often as he could. He was just fun to be around.
[07:35:15] BLACKWELL: Yes.
POVICH: He was fun for reporters, he was fun for his family, he was fun for his kids. People gravitated to him because he was so much fun to be around.
BLACKWELL: You know, we talked about this at the top of the last hour from a different perspective from a historian book. From covering him and writing you wrote a biography. And now, this book, we've seen a week of events that he planned, yes, but that are filled with genuine sorrow, genuine mourning. Stories that people actually have.
What do you make of, of what we're seeing this week as compared to -- you know, not every Senator gets this type of farewell.
BLACKWELL: Some of the U.S. presidents have not received this type of farewell.
POVICH: No. Look, he's a unique individual. He is like a moth to a flame. People are attracted to him. When we rode on the bus with him -- yes, in those campaigns the old straight talk expressed. He would come back to the bus and he would sit with us reporters, and he would talk, and he would talk, and he would talk, and we would take notes, and we would ask him for questions, and he would talk, and he just enjoyed the back-and-forth, and you could see it in his eye.
POVICH: It was fun. And that's what attracts people to him. Also, you know, he's scary smart.
POVICH: He was very scary smart.
BLACKWELL: Max Boot, who was his foreign policy adviser, said it was the easiest job you ever had because John McCain how to do whatever the advice was coming. I want you to listen to part of his 2008 concession speech in his loss to Barack Obama who will eulogize him today, and then, we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: In a contest, as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans, would once wrongly believe that they have little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Our Jeff Zeleny reports, the President Obama was surprised by the choice. The invitation to eulogize him. What does that invitation or how does it correspond I should say with what you know about Senator McCain?
POVICH: He has an amazing capacity to move on. Look at the two people who were eulogizing him today. They both beat him. George W. Bush in the primary and Barack Obama in the general. And he's felt very, very bad after those defeats. He doesn't take defeat lightly. But he has this capacity to move on, to think about what's next.
He was always asking his staff, "What do we do now? What's next? What's coming up? How do we get here? How do we get there? And he has moved from those raises to a place where he can have two former presidents eulogize him, today.
BLACKWELL: Yes. Elaine Povich, thanks so much for being with us this morning.
POVICH: Happy to be here.
BLACKWELL: All right. Senator McCain, requested a specific song for his service today here at the National Cathedral. We'll hear from the opera singer asked to perform it.
[07:42:57] BLACKWELL: As he fought for his life, Senator John McCain would sit in his favorite spot on the porch of his cabin in Arizona, and listen to the famous ancient Irish song, Danny Boy.
Well, Renee Fleming will sing the ballad and his service today. And she says, she is touched by the incredible invitation. She spoke with CNN's Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, John McCain's campaign manager and dear friend, Rick Davis, told me that the Senator was intent on having Danny Boy played at his memorial service.
And not just that, I'm not sure if you know this, they would listen to this while sitting on the porch in his home in Sedona. And one day, Rick Davis told me that he suggested to Senator McCain that you sing it and that the Senator got emotional. How did you hear about this?
RENEE FLEMING, OPERA SINGER AND SOPRANO: I saw Rick, some weeks ago. He came to New York and asked me if I could do this, and of course, you know, under these circumstances you always say, I hope so because we don't know exactly when it will be.
And I'm really gratified to know that I was able to be -- I am able to be there on Saturday morning.
BASH: And you are --
FLEMING: And I'm so incredibly touched that he asked for this and that he asked for me to sing it. I mean, that's -- I'm very moved by that. I only met the Senator one time at the Al Smith Dinner in New York when I sang in 2008 for him and Obama.
BASH: And specifically, the song that you're singing, Danny Boy, Senator McCain, of course, requested it. You have said that this is a really nostalgic piece for you associated with your childhood. Explain that.
FLEMING: Danny Boy is like other great folk songs, something universally loved. There are certain songs that affect everyone all over the world in a similar kind of a way. You know, a music is the international language. It's the language without words, and we speak it naturally, we don't have to be taught to appreciate music when we're infants and toddlers, et cetera.
So, Danny Boy is one of those universally loved folk songs, and it's powerful. The message is so powerful.
BASH: And actually, I would love to read for our viewers' part of the lyrics. "Oh Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you, so. But when you come and all the flowers are dying. If I am dead, as dead I well may be, you'll come and find the place where I am lying and kneel and say an Ave there for me." That is really powerful stuff.
[07:45:20] FLEMING: It's so beautiful. It's so -- and my dreams will warm and sweeter be. It's an incredibly beautiful lyric. And -- you know, there are a lot of people who say that it's a favorite song and it never fails to make them weep. There's something so immediate about it. And the melody is beautiful too.
BASH: Absolutely. So, you are not of the political world, can you articulate why you think Senator McCain's death is causing such an outpouring of emotion well beyond politics?
FLEMING: It's because I think he stood so much for the American values that I certainly treasured growing up for being for independent thinking. For collaboration. You know, and he also -- you know, because you disagree with somebody, you're not their enemy.
There were so many things that he stood for I think that we many of us care about. BASH: Renee Fleming, thank you so much.
FLEMING: Thank you.
BASH: And we look forward to hearing you pay tribute to the Senator.
FLEMING: Thank you, Dana.
BLACKWELL: Tonight, former presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton will remember and pay tribute to Senator John McCain in a special documentary. John McCain, For Whom the Bell Tolls, tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Victor, thank you so much. Thank you so, so much for bringing us what's happening in D.C. And I don't know if you saw what happened yesterday but the Queen of Soul had a heck of a send-off. We're going to show you some of it.
Also, professor, litigator, role model, the center, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She's earned countless titles and accolades during a groundbreaking career on both sides of the bench.
Well, now, the new CNN original film, RBG, take an intimate look at the personal and professional life of Justice Ginsburg. Here's a -- here's a preview for you.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: VMI fought very hard to keep women out. I had an alumni, walk up to me, and he says I'm not going to shake your hand. I want to know why you're here, and why you decided to ruin my school.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that there were some people who did not react well to the change. And my response to this was wait and see, you will be proud of the women who become graduates of VMI.
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PAUL: Watch RBG a CNN film, Labor Day 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
[07:52:21] PAUL: It was pretty breathtaking in so many pieces. A funeral fit for a queen. Family and lifelong friends paying tribute to Aretha Franklin. This was at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple yesterday.
Epic eight-hour funeral service. People were crying, they were laughing, there were soulful songs. Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, Reverend Jesse Jackson, former President Bill Clinton, among to some of the high-profile names who either spoke or performed in honor of the Queen of Soul.
And you know whether in private or on SNL or even at an important political function, Senator John McCain loved to make people laugh.
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MCCAIN: I'm pretty sure that big rats are Republicans.
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PAUL: McCain, he was a jokester they say, and he made fun of himself more than anyone else. More on the Maverick sense of humor you might not know about after the break.
PAUL: This was "STAYING WELL", looks at how rock climbing provide stress relief.
CAROLINE WYNN, CLIMBING INSTRUCTOR, ATLANTA ROCKER: I need you to breathe.
J.C. WHITE, NURSE: OK.
WYNN: You're not going to get beat by this wall.
WHITE: I'm a nurse in an outpatient facility. I've been climbing for about two and a half years. When I come here, all my stress is released just gets out of my body.
My very first time getting to the top of the wall and looking down, I was scared to actually come down, just do not like Heights at all. I learned to overcome that fear because it's like you can't be scared of things in life.
[07:55:16] WYNN: I have students that are five years old. And I have students that are 65 years old, with a full body workout. So, not only are you working on core strength, you're working on your leg strength. I'm starting tone up more, the muscles, the shoulders, my legs.
PETE ROHLEDER, KINESIOLOGY, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: The irregular movements of rock climbing forced the body to adapt on a very frequent basis. The more varied these positions, the more the body has to adapt. What this does is creates neural pathways that can enhance our movement, enhance our cognitive function.
WHITE: The critical thinking that you do in nursing, saving someone's life is a critical thinking when you're climbing up that wall to get to the top. I've converted other people to rock climbing and I'm so happy about it.
PAUL: To the people who knew Senator John McCain, say one of his greatest qualities was a sense of humor.
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MCCAIN: This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with a heralded arrival, a man known to Oprah Winfrey, as the one. Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him, that one.
He -- friends, he doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me, George Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: That video from 2008 in charity functional. Though they were a fierce opponent, Senator McCain, and President Obama were always respectful of one another. In fact, President Obama and President Bush will eulogize the late Senator during a memorial service at the National Cathedral later this morning.
And with that, CNN special coverage of Senator John McCain's memorial service with Wolf Blitzer and Danna Bosch begins right now.