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Senator John McCain laid to rest; Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearing; Bruce Ohr is the new target of Trump's criticism; Oligarch's money funneled to Trump inauguration; Homeless vet sue couple over GoFundMe project. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 2, 2018 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRES)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Fred. It is 5:00 eastern, 2:00 in the afternoon out west. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York and you are live in the "CNN Newsroom."

Now today is the day that Senator John McCain is laid to rest in his beloved Annapolis, and all around the senator's public and private events, we have seen a bump in bipartisanship. It was happening all weekend. Political players of every stripe in Washington, some of them very bitter rivals, putting their differences aside to support the McCain family and to honor the senator's long service.

The question, will that political goodwill stick around. An enormous test comes in just two days. That's when this man, Brett Kavanaugh, begins his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate. His success or failure in those hearings could very well be decided right down party lines.

And Democrats are already pushing back hard about a White House decision to keep a large number of documents about Kavanaugh out of the confirmation hearings. Let's go to our White House correspondent Boris Sanchez. Boris, what about these papers and why Democrats are so upset they don't get to see that?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Yes, that spirit of bipartisanship that we saw this weekend over the funeral of Senator John McCain clearly not extending to these 100,000 or so pages that White House attorneys have determined should not be release to the public.

Now, these pages and documents are related to Brett Kavanaugh's time serving in the Bush administration. And it's not just 100,000 pages that can't be released to lawmakers. There are another 100,000 or so documents that are being released to lawmakers, but not to the general public, and that lawmakers actually can not discuss publicly.

That is something that the Democrats are frustrated over, not only Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, but also Amy Klobuchar who was on one of the Sunday morning talk shows saying that this process of releasing these documents has not been normal. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: I'm going to make is that this is not normal. You have a nominee with excellent credentials with his family behind him. You have the cameras there, you have the senators questioning, but this isn't normal. It's not normal because we are not able to see 100,000 documents that the archivist has just -- because the administration has said we can't see them.

They have exerted their executive power, 148,000 documents that I have seen that you cannot see because they won't allow us to make them public, so I can't even tell you about them right now on the show.


SANCHEZ: Ana, the White House is pushing back on this. Deputy press secretary Raj Shah this weekend tweeting out that the number of executive branch documents that have been released about Kavanaugh, some 400,000 or so, eclipse the number of pages released based on previous Supreme Court nominees, eclipsing the five previous nominees combined.

An attorney for the White House that was charged with in determining whether to release these documents or not has cited constitutional privilege as the reason that they cannot be made public.

CABRERA: All right Boris, and the president, he plans to hit the road we know in the coming days, what can you tell us about that?

SANCHEZ: Yes, President Trump making good on his promise to campaign on the road more and more as we get closer to the midterm elections. He is headed to Billings, Montana on Thursday. In Montana, there is going to be a heated senate race so he is heading there. Thursday and Friday, our source indicates he plans to go to North and South Dakota that day.

This as sources told CNN last week that President Trump has been warned of the problems his administration could face if the Democrats take over the House in the midterm election, not only because of the potential for impeachment, but also the number of investigations that could be opened by Democrats if they take over several prominent committees. Ana?

CABRERA: All right, Boris Sanchez at the White House. Thanks for laying the table for us. Meanwhile, hanging over Washington and likely to also come up Kavanaugh's hearings, the special counsel investigation. You may have noticed President Trump is now attacking a new character in the story, Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr. But we may finally have an idea why.

Ohr testified during a close door meeting this past week that he actually met with Christopher Steele in July of 2016. You will recall Steel compiled that dossier containing salacious claims about Trump. Well, during the meeting between Ohr and Steele, Steele reportedly revealed that Russian intelligence believe they have then candidate Trump, quote, "over a barrel."

At the same time, we are also learning more about Bruce Ohr's work at the DOJ and just how involved he has been at the Russia investigation. CNN national security analyst Matthew Rosenberg is joining us. Now, he has a new piece in the "New York Times." And Matthew, in your piece you say Ohr was involved specifically in an effort to flip Russian oligarchs. Tell us about this?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, I think one thing we have to understand about Bruce Ohr and Chris Steele, they are part of a group of people who have specialized in tracking Russian organized crime and Russian intelligence for many years.

[17:05:06] So Bruce Ohr first met Chris Steele in 2007 when Chris Steele was still a British spy. And, you know, they have been involved in a number of initiatives. In 2014, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI set out to target about a half dozen Russian oligarchs they thought they might be able to turn into sources of information. They turned to Chris Steele as an intermediary for some of these approached.

Bruce Ohr was one of the Justice Department officials running the program, so, you know, there were a lot of contacts between Ohr and Steele in 2014, in 2015, and 2016. Now, a number of records, e-mails, hand-written notes from Ohr were handed over by the Justice Department to Congress earlier this year, republicans in Congress.

Some of the material was leaked in the last few weeks and that has now become the basis for a theory that's being spread, that, you know, there was this kind of the plot of a deep state. It's another piece of evidence in the theories of a deep state plot to undermine Trump.

But we now know that the reason Ohr and Steele were talking and you can see that in the notes and e-mails that were leaked is because they were working on a secret program to try and turn a number of Russian oligarchs into sources.

CABRERA: And what came of the effort?

ROSENBERG: Not much. The one we know about is Oleg Deripaska who is seen as very close to Putin. He's kind of (inaudible) Putin's oligarch, but our understanding is that every time he dealt with the U.S., dealt with the FBI or DOJ, he reported it straight back to the Kremlin. So, I don't think they had any real success here, but that is partly what kind of (inaudible) law enforcement does, you know. These are often low percentage shots they are taking.

CABRERA: I mean, looking at your reporting, it sounded like they believed they had some leverage to use, that he had wanted to get a visa to come to the U.S. im order to expand his businesses. So why was it so hard and why is it so hard to flip these oligarchs?

ROSENBERG: I mean, yes. He owns an apartment in New York. He has business interests here. He clearly would like to be here, but he also has a vast fortune, and right now, that vast fortune depends on the good graces of Vladimir Putin.

So it is awfully hard to flip somebody who's kind of entire livelihood and very lavish lifestyle they lead depends on not turning on the person you want them to turn on.

CABRERA: So confirm for me, it does not sound like the FBI got information it needed.

ROSENBERG: I don't believe it did. Now look, I think it's also important to understand, when this initiative began it was about tracking Russian organized crime and trying to understand the relationship between various oligarchs, kind of the Russian mob, Vladimir Putin and his intelligence services.

Over time, and by kind of the summer of 2016, fall of 2016, that had changed. And so we know there was a last meeting at which FBI agents showed up Oleg Deripaska's apartment in New York where he was at the time he had been allowed to come to the U.S. And they questioned him about Paul Manafort and whether Manafort was the tie between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

Now, Deripaska, the guy they are questioning knew Manafort well. He was a former business partner of Manafort. They had a acrimonious play cup (ph) and he accused Manafort of talking money from him so the FBI thought well, maybe he'll give up Manafort, buy we don't believe he did.

CABRERA: There is always concern of course about whether putting this information out there will now give adversaries insight into how American intelligence works. Did that come up in your reporting?

ROSENBERG: It did. You know, a number of our sources here, current and former officials were deeply uncomfortable talking about this, and they expressed it. You know the firs (inaudible) I don't talk about this with you. And then we kind of pushed and the reason was that exactly that, you know, this is going to reveal what we're doing. It's going to tighten Putin's grip on those around him.

But, they also said they were willing to talk about it because they feared that the kind of witch hunt theories and the theories of a deep state that this initiative is being turned into by the president and his allies, and that could ultimately undermine the Mueller investigation and that too would represent a grave threat to U.S. national security.

CABRERA: And so they revealed this information in the name of transparency. Do you think Ohr's work trying to flip these oligarchs could be why the president has been targeting Ohr?

ROSENBERG: You know, it is hard to say. I think, you know, Ohr's wife did work for the firm that kind of created the dossier. There were connections there, and it is very easy to see when you see a kind of group of experts, people who have been working together and have known each other professionally for years to kind of create a conspiracy theory out of it.

I think that is some of what has happened here, is that, you know, Ohr on his own knew Steele. As far as we understand it, him and Steele were having a friendly breakfast in July 2016. Ohr asked him what he was working on, so he told him. And that was, you know, the comments about Russian intelligence putting Trump over a barrel.

[17:10:00] Ohr of course reports this back to his bosses because it's relevant to the work they do. It was very easy to look at that and take that and see well, this is a big conspiracy against me. So they've got might be why he's going after Ohr because the name that keeps coming up.

CABRERA: Well, we're so glad you're able to provide more context and information for us. Matthew Rosenberg, always good to have you with us. Really interesting reporting. Thank you.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

CABRERA: In just a moment, I will be joined by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia and what he thinks about news this week that a U.S. lobbyist with ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs funnels foreign money straight to Trump's inauguration, and he is visiting the U.S. to say his final goodbyes to a man he has he known for many years. How Saakashvili will remember his friend John McCain. You're live here in the "CNN Newsroom."


CABRERA: Welcome back. A stunning development in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. An American lobbyist pleads guilty, admitting he helped to funnel foreign money to the Trump political event.

[17:15:01] We have learned that Samuel Patten sought tickets to Trump's inauguration on behalf of a prominent Ukrainian oligarch and secretly funneled $50,000 of foreign money to Trump's inaugural committee through a bank account in Cyprus.

I want to bring in Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia. Now, thank you for being with us.


CABRERA: Timing is everything because this guilty plea just happened this week. I know Patten personally worked for you so you know him going back to 2008. What do you make of his involvement in the Russian probe?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, he worked for us very, very briefly, and we had to basically refuse his services, but then what had happened that in 2012, in 2011 actually, he came back as part of a Russian-led operation to help oligarch that corrupted power in Georgia, oligarch with Gazprom (ph) ties.

He was he biggest private shareholder of Russian Gazprom, Mr. Ivanishvili. And indeed, Paul Manafort, as far as I know, came a couple of times to Georgia. And this guy, Patten, was very much involved in spreading pro-Russian propaganda, in spreading all kinds of dirt and using manipulations. And they basically damaged the U.S. interests in the region.

Not only they allow the Russians to have a power grab in Georgia, but of course, it went against the U.S. National security interest. But having said that, when I heard that the guy had been indicted and, you know, I met several statements about that because I remembered how, you know, bitterly they fought against -- how dirty methods they used exactly the same tactics which we are used to, and which we saw later in different countries, including here in the United States. And so actually, today, he wrote my for former chief of staff --

CABRERA: Samuel Patten is writing to your former chief of staff.

SAAKASHVILI: Samuel Patten. Yes, and he just, you know, readdressed his text to me. And it says call off the trolls now, or I will start releasing things about Misha -- that's me. He'd prefer I didn't like now and have them go back and erase their comments so that we don't say a word that they were working against us. Misha knows what I am talking about, but frankly, I have bigger problems these days. Maybe you two are no longer as tight as you used to be. Actually, it's a direct blackmail. You see with what --

CABRERA: You feel like he's blackmailing you right now just because you're talking about it?

SAAKASHVILI: This is a typical Russian type of blackmail. These people are closely tied to the Russians. By the way, I mean, this was prior to -- I don't want to get it politicized because it was prior to Donald Trump election campaign. These people are on their own. By the way, (inaudible) himself is anti-Trump. He is Republican, but anti- Trump, so I don't want to speculate on -- this is something else.

These guys are for hire. They are ready to do just any dirty tricks. They are ready to cheat, to go against American interests, to do all kinds of things, including the blackmail. Blackmailing, you know, former president or his chief of staff, blackmailing important regional leader like this really shows what they are up to.

CABRERA: I mean, you say he is anti-Trump, and yet we learned about his involvement in funneling this money to Trump's inaugural committee. In fact, according to the court documents that he we got, he went to the inauguration with this Russian oligarch. Does that surprise you?

SAAKASHVILI: Look, these kind of unsavory characters are always around. I am very encouraged that this guy is now get he is indicted, are very encouraged, even if it is not directly a part of Mueller probe it's something else. But the fact is that this guy is finally held accountable.

There had been for too long too much of dirty money around. Actually, we, you know, I am really, right have very strong interest in pursuing this case so we can see how far they go, and you know, from here from studio, I am going to a screening of a movie. It is called "Active Measures." This is a movie with John McCain, me and some other people, about Russians -- what kind of methods Russians used and finally this message come to the surface.

CABRERA: Well, let me ask you because according again to this indictment, this guilty plea and the documentation that we have, Patten was taking action on behest of this oligarch who has connections to both Ukraine as well as Russia, and I mean, you seem to believe that it could extend beyond this personal or private person and go to perhaps even the government. Do you think even Putin himself will have been involved?

SAAKASHVILI: Absolutely. Vladimir Putin was directing (inaudible) Georgia's elections. He said it publicly. These are not my speculations. He said I involved in Georgia's election. Actually when finally the Russian oligarch won in Georgia, this Mr. Ivanishvili, he said that this was the best special operations Russia has ever conducted.

And so actually -- and Mr. Deripaska who also was mentioned in your broadcast, he was the gy who financed some of the activities against us starting from -- immediately after the (inaudible) revolution against my government, against democratic reforms and pro-Western course we took.

[17:20:00] The course for NATO integration, the course for fast economic and democratic nation building, and they were really -- in Russia (inaudible) by doing that. We were quite successful and they resulted to all kinds of dirty tricks and Putin never made a big secret of that, you know.

Even in the case of the U.S., he denies it. In our case, he actually went and took credit for it. So, you see these guy, I mean the guys is indicted. He is in major trouble.

CABRERA: He has pleaded guilty.

SAAKASHVILI: As far as I can judge from this thing, my chief of staff said, if this is genuine, he still continues to blackmail leaders in the region, and I'm the leader of the reform movement in turning Georgia but Ukraine and other places. He is still manages to do that. That means that really feels like they have strong connections behind him. There is big money behind him, and obviously, I am more than sure that it is connected to the Russian interests.

CABRERA: Well, let me put that aside for a moment because we will learn more about him and perhaps his connection within the bigger scheme of Mueller's investigation because he is working under a cooperation agreement now, but I want to pivot because you are here in the U.S. this weekend to honor your friend senator, the late senator John McCain.

He had an impact all around the world as we have been seeing this weekend and the outpouring of love and support, all the statements that have been made, all of the people like yourself who have come from different countries to honor him. What did he mean to you?

SAAKASHVILI: I have been blessed by 24 hours of friendship with John McCain. I came to establish a bond with him when I was a law student here in New York at Columbia University and he had somehow -- he was already a famous senator, but he liked me and there are a lot of stories connected with him and me. You know, I was president when for instance Feingold/McCain, the law

has just been voted on the floor and he came out to see me. He was chased by a huge number of journalists, you know, and was very famous at that moment -- it was a star moment -- but he found time to sit down with a young parliamentarian, I was just a beginner in politics.

And at that moment, his mother Roberta called him and she was very unhappy with the bill, because she is more kind of a traditional and old fashioned Republican, and he was like, you know, it will fine, mom. I know what I am doing, mom. It's not that bad, mom. And then he hung up, and said, wow, that was a tough one.

This was the guy which was very different from today's shrewd politicians because, you know, when we came under vicious attack from Russia in 2008, you know, tried to depose my government and get me killed or to change Georgia's course, he abandoned his election campaign, he had a presidential campaign and he only spoke about Georgia for a long time. That was damaging him here, but he did it because he believed in it.

There was a case when Russia had decreed an embargo on Georgian wine. And actually this was the issue when he basically went -- there was this embargo and he came to Georgia and he stomped wine with his -- in front of, you know, the cameras. He drank this wine and he toasted and people lambasted him in America that look, he is having fun.

He was not having fun. He knew that it would have been political damaging for him here, but even for the sake of P.R., he would not betray his principles, because he was helping us (inaudible) wine, and that really shows his character. It's a true greatness. We lived next to a truly great American, and there will be no more John McCain.

Although our achievement would be until evil exists and persists. Until Putin is around, until these kind of guys -- unsavory characters are around, I will repeat every time what he used say to us, and tell us, we will never surrender. We will never give up, give in, and we will in the end, ultimately be victorious also for the sake of John McCain. I am totally sure about that.

CABRERA: Thank you so much for joining us.

SAAKASHVILI: Thank you for inviting me.

CABRERA: We appreciate you sharing your stories and providing some context for us.


CABRERA: No good deed goes unpunished, in this case, two good deeds. A homeless veteran helped a woman in need, and then she helped raise nearly half a million dollars for him, but now they are facing off in court. You are live in the "CNN Newsroom."


CABRERA: What started out as feel-good story that went viral, has become nasty dispute over money in a New Jersey court. A 35-year-old homeless Marine Corps vet, Johnny Bobbitt, gave his last $20 to a woman who ran out of gas. So Kate McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D'Amico started a GoFundMe page for Bobbitt.

They raised more than $400,000, but Bobbitt sued when the couple refused to hand it all over to him. Kaylee Hartung is joining us now. Kayle, the court ordered deadline has been passed now for this couple to hand over the cash. Are they saying anything at this point?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Johnny Bobbitt's attorney tell CNN today, that money is not yet in the account, and at this point, in this feel-good story turned feud, the couple is not talking. The last we heard from their side came from their attorney in court on Thursday in which he said that the couple has agreed to a forensic accountant. They have agreed to open up the books of their accounts where those fund-raising dollars were deposited to be inspected.

And remember, Johnny Bobbitt isn't just saying that this couple has refused to hand over the money to him, he is claiming fraud on their part. He is claiming that Mark D'Amico and Kate McClure committed fraud by using the money in this fund raising fund, "as their own personal piggy bank to fund a lifestyle that they could not otherwise afford."

[17:30:00] He claims they've gone on lavish vacations, shopping sprees and gambled away some of that money that people donated on his behalf. But the couple has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, denied these claims being made by Bobbitt. They say they are weary of giving Bobbitt large sums of money because they are afraid he will buy drugs with it.

They say in less than a two-week span he spent $25,000, much of it on drugs. And before the judge ruled that they turn over this money, D'Amico told the "Philadelphia Enquirer" that he would rather burn the money in front of Bobbitt rather than give it to him because he said giving an addict that money would be like giving him a loaded gun.

CABRERA: So do we know how much money has actually already been given to Bobbitt?

HARTUNG: We don't. This is another part of the he said said/she said version of the story, Ana, and that this fundraiser garnered approximatel $400,000 through the GoFundMe project. Well, GoFundMe takes out some fees. You are left with about $360,000. Now Bobbitt says he has only seen $75,000 of that pot. The couple's attorney though says they have spent about $200,000 on him.

So this is where that forensic accountant will get into these financial records, dig through them and try to make some sense of it. He has got until September 10th to do that, but until that analysis is done, we are likely not to have any more answers, and in the meantime, Johnny Bobbitt will continue living on the streets, Ana.

CABRERA: What a crazy twist to that story. Kaylee hartung, thank you. We are back in just a moment.


CABRERA: A big week ahead in Washington with the lawmakers heading back to Capitol Hill after a summer break. The Senate hearings for President Trump's Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh start on Tuesday. And a recent CNN poll shows only 37 percent of the country wants to see Kavanaugh confirmed, 40 percent of the country does not.

I want to bring George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley to discuss this. Now Jonathan, the polls for Neil Gorsuch in 2017 showed he had 49 percent support. When Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland in 2016, polls had him with 52 percent support. What do you think Kavanaugh's support at just 37 percent is so low?

JONATHAN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, the profile on this nomination is more of a straight muscle play. You know, Kavanaugh is a conventional nominee. He is someone who is a very reliable conservative vote.

He has deep roots in the Republican Party, and I think all of that is conveyed to the public that this is someone who is a deliverable for President Trump. And some of those deliverables are not very popular because they touch on things like Roe v. Wade, executive power and other issues that deeply divide this country.

CABRERA: Let's talk about some of those issues because if he is appointed, as you pointed out, this is going to be a much more conservative court, and of the big question mark is what happens to Roe v. Wade? He was in the interviews and the meetings with a lot of senators including Susan Collins who is expected to be sort of on the fence, sort of that swing vote as far as the GOP, and he told her he considers Roe v. Wade settled law of the land. But listen to what Lindsey Graham said about that.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I would not vote for anybody who said that no, every decision the Supreme Court cannot be revisited. They are revisited through a process. There is a process of overturning long precedent. He would be disqualified in my opinion if he would not listen to both sides of the story and decide accordingly.

This idea that Row v. Wade is going to be challenged at state level -- there are all kind of laws out there, some may work up their way up to the Supreme Court. He will give great deference I'm sure to Roe v. Wade, but it can be overturned like every other decision, but that will be up to the facts in the record.


CABRERA: So, Lindsey Graham basically threw that idea of subtle law under the bus there. Kavanaugh is obviously going to be grilled on this issue. How does he thread the needle, and should he?

TURLEY: Well, I have been a long critic of the modern confirmation hearings which I've always found to be one of the most thoroughly dishonest practices in Washington, and that is saying a lot. It is very choreographed. It is really not about how the nominee answers, but about how senators will explain those answers.

So it is really about the senators, senators like Collins. They want him to say it is settled law even though that does not mean a lot. It is like going to a lumber jack and saying, are you attending (ph) to cut this tree down? And the lumber jack saying, you know, that tree's roots go very deep. Well, OK, that certainly is an answer of one kind.

Most people expect that Kvanaugh will curtail Roe v. Wade, if not vote against it just from his judicial philosophy. I think that's a good faith of reading of his past writings. But senators are really looking for a nominee to give them something that they can later point to if Roe v. Wade is sharply curtailed.

It has always been more likely that Roe v. Wade would be narrowed than to have a outright decision basically throwing it out. Quite frankly, for advocates of choice, it might be better to have a frontal attack. Instead, they might have Roe v. Wade lingering on in the sort of half dead type of state where the states wouldn't have entirely the authority, but the federal government is offering little protection.

CABRERA: Robert Mueller's probe will also come up. You mentioned the issue of executive privilege, presidential subpoenas, indictments, both issues Kavanaugh has offered thoughts on in the past n. A 1995 memo, he argued the president would have to testify before a grand jury if subpoenaed quoting, "the president is not above the law."

[17:40:03] And yet on the issue of indictment in 1998 he said an indictment should not be pursued when the president is in office. Then in 2009, he even wrote in an article for the "Minnesota Law Review" that the indictment and trial of a sitting president moreover would cripple the federal government. Does he need to clarify where he stand?

TURLEY: Well, he should, but he is unlikely to do so. And in fairness to him, the Democrats were the ones that actually created the so- called Ginsberg rule. You know, they created a rule that a justice does not have to speak about issues that might come before her or him. I have been a critic of that rule as well, but the Democrats have enjoyed using that rule in the past and now the Republicans will do so.

I think what's clear about Kavanaugh is that his default position is in Article II where presidential powers lie. Some of us are default as in Article I. We tend to view Congress as the stabilizing influence in our government.

Kavanaugh clearly views the president in that role, and what is a concern for people who are critical of presidential powers particularly extreme presidential powers, is that Kavanaugh appears to have gotten more sympathetic to claims of presidential privilege and prerogatives in the last, you know, 10 years. And the things that he has stated in for example the "Minnesota Law Review" indicates that he does not believe that a president should even be investigated, let alone indicted in office. CABRERA: Jonathan Turley, it will be an interesting few days as we

watch the questioning on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much for joining us.

TURLEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: We watched as much of Washington sat in a church yesterday and spoke of bipartisanship and unity, but will that message make it to Capitol Hill and to mainstream America? You are live in the "CNN Newsroom."


CABRERA: All weekend we have been honoring a man who recently lost his battle against brain cancer. As we remember John McCain this weekend, I want to also pay tribute to the many others battling cancer right now especially the little ones. September is "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month" and as I have shared, my brother is a brain cancer survivor. So I want to share with you the work of one organization that is helping families through what can be a very dark and painful journey.


AILEEN RICHERT, MIKEY'S MOTHER: I feel sad because I feel sometimes like his childhood was robbed.

CABRERA: Mikey, how old are you?


CABRERA: So you are a teenager already.


CABRERA: Mikey Richert has spent nearly a quarter of his childhood fighting brain cancer.

M. RICHERT: This the side won't grow because of radiation.

CABRERA: I like your mohawk. That looks good.

A. RICHERT: When Mikey was almost finished his second fight of his cytoblastoma (ph), my husband was diagnosed with diagnosed with stage IV lung and bone cancer. To have that person get sick in front of you and watch him deteriorate as your son starts to get better, it was really, really tough.

CABRERA: Nine months after his diagnosis, Michael Sr. died.

A. RICHERT: At that point you feel like you can't breathe. But you still try your best to take care of everyone and keep your little kids going.

CABRERA: Seeing Mikey immediately took me back to Colorado and it made me think of John, my brother. He was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was just 10 years old. Medulla blastoma, the same kind of cancer as Mikey.

JOHN CABRERA, ANA'S BROTHER: This doctor said that they didn't have a cure for brain cancer at that time, so I was taken back by that, and I was like oh, my, it looks kind of bleak for me.

CABRERA: I remember feeling as a sibling very helpless. What were you thinking about in this picture?

J. CABRERA: I don't know. I -- I was just happy that you were here.

CABRERA: I wanted to be able to do something for him as he was struggling and suffering, and yet there was very little I could do, and I think that that's what really led me to Candlelighters.

BARBARA ZOBIAN, FOUNDER, CANDLELIGHTERS NYC: The day that they found out their child had cancer is the darkest day of their life. Candlelighters helps bring them into the light.

You look so pretty. Hi. Where's the other one? Get over here. I need a double hug.

We needed that personal touch that we are their best friends.

Hi, John.

And they are ours, too. We become family.

CABRERA: Candlelighters is really a unique organization. It meets the family where they need it most. It may be a simple comfort or it might be a big wish.

ZOBIAN: If we can just make a tiny bit of difference. That's enough.

CABRERA: What did you see that Candlelighters could offer that wasn't there already?

ZOBIAN: There is still isn't nothing like Candlelighters New York City. We are a family.

These families come from all over. They sit on my couch. They play with my dog. They lie down on the bed if they are tired.

CABRERA: Do you want to open it yourself, or can I help open this one for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can open it.



CABRERA: Put your head up for one second so we can get the collar working. Oh, yes.

ZOBIAN: I'm very, very, happy.

CABRERA: What does it feel like to be able to help families in that way?

[17:50:02] ZOBIAN: Feels like a fairy godmother.

We are able to make little wishes come true every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are officially making them police officers in Central Park briefly. Please welcome Beckham Peterson.


ZOBIAN: New York City is so rich. We share with them. And we want all of New York City to feel the good feelings that we feel.

CABRERA: That's a very cool picture. Is that you at the Knicks game?


CABRERA: For Mikey and his siblings, it was an unforgettable night courtside at a Knicks basketball game.

M. RICHERT: Everybody was smiling.

CABRERA: For his mom simply an hour of pampering.

A. RICHERT: It was such a nice treat to have a glass of champagne and get my hair washed and get it done for me. What Barbara did for me that day, that was just so nice to breathe again.

CABRERA: Barbara is a champion for these kids with cancer. Barbara is a champion for their families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you more than anything in the whole wide world.

ZOBIAN: I could spend all of my life just crying, but I would be under a blanket and not helping anyone.

CABRERA: So instead you are making something with that.

ZOBIAN: I'm turning crappy into happy.


CABRERA: Barbara will tell you, it is a gift just to know these children and their families who teach us so much about courage, strength, and resilience. Mikey was all of that and more, and he was finally able to beat cancer. But sadly, he developed a serious lung infection this past month as he was recovering from a bone marrow transplant and he didn't survive.

So, I want to pay tribute to Mikey Richert and to honor all those who continue their fight against cancer with support from organizations like Candlelighters NYC that are helping to make a difference. Be right back.

[17:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: Senator John McCain's death is capped what has been a summer from hell for President Trump. Take a look at everything that has happened in just the last few months. There was the North Korea summit and what hasn't happened since followed by the Helsinki summit with Russian president Putin.

Shortly after that, President Trump faced severe blow back over the family separation policy at the border. To this day, nearly 500 children remain in shelters away from their parents. After that, the president's long-time attorney, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt was ousted after a series of ethics scandals. Trump launched new tariffs, increasing fears of a trade war. There were talks of possible pardons and then this weekend the veiled references to Trump at Senator McCain's final farewell.

All of this in one summer. CNN political commentator Matt Lewis is joining us now. Matt is also a senior columnist at "The Daily Beast." And you have a new piece that touches a little bit on all of this. In it you write that McCain's death is a metaphor for the Republican Party. What do you mean by that?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. In this piece I talk about also Charles Krauthammer, the great conservative columnist who died in June, sort of at the beginning of the summer. And of course now we have John McCain at the end of this summer. And I do think it's sort of a turning of the page.

Krauthammer and John McCain both have been, you know, one of them as a statesman, one of them as an opinion leader, but they were very active in the conservative movement, in the Republican Party from the Vietnam era, through the Reagan era, through 9/11 and onward.

And it does seem like their brand of conservatism is out of vogue, at least for now, and that this is a turning of the page. And then I think it's somewhat symbolic as we head into the cold of winter right now. I think the Republican Party is no longer springtime for -- it's no longer Reagan -- for Reagan conservatives at least.

CABRERA: Do you think this is actually a moment of reckoning for the party, whether they want to be the party of John McCain or the party of Donald Trump?

LEWIS: I think that has been decided for now at least. I think the party clearly decided it is the party of Donald Trump. Now, there may be some buyer's remorse at some point. There may be some second- guessing, but for now, it is Donald Trump's party.

CABRERA: Does what we saw though in that Washington Cathedral translate at all to Capitol Hill this week?

LEWIS: I don't think that there are any long-term ramifications from an event as important as this event was, as uplifting and, you know, as it was to watch, I think at the end of the day you go back to the partisanship and the rancor and the bitterness and the polarization. The one thing that I think could happen from an event like this though is that seeds are planted.

I mean, there might be a young person out there watching who sees this life of sacrifice that John McCain led and then hears the speech from President Obama or President Bush and that they are inspired. So you never know what seeds are planted, but I'm not naive enough to think that things are going to look any different this week.

CABRERA: What do you see as the impacts on voters come November?

LEWIS: You know, I think that voters are -- it's going to be, I think, about energy. I don't think it's going to be about civility, per se. I think if you are a Democrat or a liberal, you are going to want to fight Donald Trump and fight fire with fire.

[18:0003] And if you're a Republican, you are going to be thinking about, you know, protecting your guy and maybe Supreme Court picks.