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Five Days Of National Mourning Ending With A Final Farewell To The Senator And The War Hero, John McCain; More Than A Hundred Thousand Pages Of Documents Related To Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Are Actually Being Held Back. Aired: 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 3, 2018 - 07:00   ET

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


ALISYN CAMEROTA, HOST, NEW DAY: Hey good morning, everyone. Welcome to a special holiday edition of "New Day." It is Labor Day. John Berman is off enjoying the holiday and John Avlon joins me. Great to have you here.

JOHN AVLON, ANCHOR, CNN: Hey, it's great to be here. JB deserves some time off.

CAMEROTA: He does. Thank goodness that you are here because you have some special insight into what we're going to talk about today with John McCain and saying goodbye to him. So five days of national mourning ending with a final farewell to the senator and the war hero, John McCain. He was laid to rest yesterday, next to his best friend at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The McCain family released this touching photo of Cindy McCain weeping over her husband's casket just before his burial.

So on Saturday, former presidents, family, friends, and political leaders came together to honor John McCain's lifetime of service in a memorial at Washington's National Cathedral.

AVLON: McCain's daughter, Meghan remembering her father as a hero in a touching eulogy while rebuking President Trump for his quote, "cheap rhetoric" insisting that quote, "America was always great." Following McCain's death, there has been a lot of talk about bipartisan spirit and calls for more civility in politics.

But what, if anything, will change in Washington? One big test will come this week when confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh begin tomorrow; and as we inch closer to the midterm elections now just two months away. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House. Abby, tell us what's going on.

ABBY PHILLIP, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, good morning, John. After five days of tributes and ceremony here in Washington and also in Arizona, John McCain has finally been laid to rest. He chose to be buried in Annapolis, Maryland at the US Naval Academy because of the role that that place played in forging his identity. He said in his latest book that he wanted to be buried where it all began.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) PHILLIP: The family of Senator John McCain bidding an emotional

farewell to the American hero. Before he was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Cemetery next to his long-time friend, Admiral Charles Larson.

The military honoring McCain with a missing man flyover. McCain's burial coming after a private funeral. This poignant image showing the late Senator's 106-year-old mother seated next to her son's cassette. About 500 mid shipman lined the route from the chapel as a horse-drawn caisson then brought McCain to his final resting place.

Earlier in the day, groups of people gathered to pay tribute as McCain's body was brought to Annapolis from DC where the public memorial was held Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama calling for a return to civility among the nation's leaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 this country.

To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist we are better than this. America is better than this.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small, and mean, and petty. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Meghan McCain, honoring her father with a powerful eulogy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: My father was a great man. He was a great lawyer. He was a great American. I admired him for all of these things, but I loved him because he was a great father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: And delivering a pointed rebuke of President Trump without mentioning his name. Trump was not invited, instead he went golfing during the memorial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. MCCAIN: We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men that 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.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

[07:05:09]

PHILLIP: And the flags at the US capital and here at the White House have now been raised to full staff. The ceremony may be over, but a lot of people are wondering how much of John McCain's legacy of bipartisanship and civility will last beyond this moment? And meanwhile, there is also some practicality that needs to be dealt with now. Arizona's Governor Doug Ducey will have to choose someone to fill John McCain's seat for the rest of his term. That decision could come any moment now, John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Okay, please keep us posted, Abby, thank you very much for that reporting. So joining us now, we have Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan, and former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent. He is now a CNN political commentator.

So let's just talk about that scene that we saw play out at John McCain's funeral at the National Cathedral because it was so interesting to watch everybody filtering in, to watch everybody greeting each other. To see Lindsey Graham sort of acting as one of the family members, which of course he basically is for the McCain family, to see President George Bush, to see Barack Obama next to each other. To see the First Ladies, to see Dick Cheney. I mean, John Avlon, you were there in the room, and it was - I mean, frankly whether you support President Trump or don't, it was hard imagine him actually mixing in within this group of folks, and it was impossible to imagine him eulogizing John McCain.

AVLON: That was the clear contrast. Margaret and I came down to pay our respects to someone that we've admired for years and to see President Obama next to President Bush next to President Clinton, Secretary Clinton and Vice President Cheney and Vice President Gore, it reminded you that there is a main stream in American politics. They were literally singing from the same hymnal for all the interesting differences and that we're living through a departure of that.

And in that, this was not only a civic communion as David Axelrod called it, but a real rebuke implicitly to the administration. As Susan Glasswood said, a meeting of the resistance to some extent.

CAMEROTA: So, Charlie, what are we supposed to take away from all of that?

CHARLIE DENT, FORMER US CONGRESSMAN: Well, here is my big take away, Alisyn. John McCain embraced certain values or American virtues - individual liberty, justice, democracy. He was a vicar for such things. He believed in them passionately. He was a great patriot, yet, he was an internationalist, and I think when you look at our current administration with President Trump, you know, he really embraces the values more of protectionism, isolationism and I would argue, nativism. And so that funeral, in many respects, we are talking about the

values, the people were talking about the values and the virtues that John McCain believed in so passionately. And the contrast is just so sharp between what John McCain believed in on this international order versus what Donald Trump espouses. And so it is pretty hard to ignore this contrast.

AVLON: Debbie, John McCain won Michigan in that tightly fought 2000 primary against George W. Bush. What made him resonate with Michigan? And to what extent can that tradition be rekindled when so much of the energy as you've said is off to the extremes of both parties?

DINGELL: You know, I sort of reacted when you use the word main stream because I actually would use, and I went to Aretha Franklin's funeral on Friday, use the word respect. John McCain respected everybody. You could have a different viewpoint, John McCain was a maverick. That's another word that was used.

You didn't know what he was going to do because he fought for the working person. I watched John, my John and John McCain work together for decades, and the two of them, I can remember them practically ready to kill each other some days and some days, they got to the bottom line. They knew that their job was to be there for the working men and women. John McCain had time for everybody. He respected everybody.

I use the word respect, and I think the community that came together on Saturday was one that respects everybody. You can have different opinions, you can disagree, you can fight loudly, but in the end, you respect each other's opinion. You listen. We need to get back to those days where compromise is not a dirty word.

CAMEROTA: I heard some people talking about how they were surprised to see Jared and Ivanka Trump there since President Trump was not invited by the McCains. Do you have any reporting on what they were doing there.

AVLON: It has been reported that Lindsey Graham was the person who helped make that happen, that Ivanka called to offer her condolences, that he reached out to Cindy, but they were definitely both representatives of the administration, and out of step, I think, politically with many of the folks in the audience, which was otherwise a bipartisan audience.

CAMEROTA: And Charlie, I couldn't help but think how they were responding when Meghan McCain was giving her very strong worded eulogy to her father and contrasting him clearly with President Trump. Lindsey Graham who is obviously one of John McCain's best friends in the world said this on Sunday about that moment.

[07:10:12]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, US SENATOR, NORTH CAROLINA, REPUBLICAN: She is her father's daughter. If you say something bad about her dad, you will know it, whether you are the janitor or the President of the United States, she is grieving for the father she adored. I think most Americans understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: What did you think of her words?

DENT: Well, I will tell you what, if I were Meghan McCain, I can understand her anger with the current President. The President did in fact question the heroism of her father and his time in that prison camp and so I can imagine for Jared and Ivanka, this must have been very uncomfortable given what Ivanka's father said about Meghan's father.

And I was a little surprised they attended the funeral. I think it's good that they did, but I do think it was - it had to be very uncomfortable for all involved, but when you denigrate the war time services of somebody like John McCain, you can't imagine why the family wouldn't take that personally.

ALVON: Yes, I mean, there were so many moments that really resonated from the funeral. I'll say the performance of "Danny Boy" at the end just gutted the audience, but one thing the internet loved, Debbie, is this comparatively small moment, a human moment where President Bush passed a mint apparently to former First Lady Michelle Obama, but what's fascinating was, it wasn't just that it was human, but it underscores that these two have a very affectionate relationship. Maybe unexpected to some folks. They seem to share a sense of humor, a sort of wry or reverence ...

CAMEROTA: How do we know that was a mint?

AVLON: Well, what else might it be, Alisyn Camerota?

CAMEROTA: Well, maybe it was a personal note that he was passing ...

AVLON: Passing notes in funerals ...

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, I just don't know what was in that hand there.

DINGELL: Who cares?

CAMEROTA: I do. I do, Congresswoman.

AVLON: Inquiring minds.

DENT: Scandal.

DINGELL: You know what I want to say to you all? People forget that elected representatives are human. That they are human. You get in these campaigns and they can be awful, but when you come together, once you're serving, you are serving for this country that we all love and when you've been President of this United States, you have no idea of the difficult moments that - how alone and how isolated and how many lives are dependent upon you. These are human beings who both love their country, both served it, both went through incredible wonderful times, incredibly difficult times, and all of them - all four of them, the Bushes, the Obamas, all of the former presidents loved this country and they understand what they survived and they understand where they are and what we need to remember more in politic is we are human beings and that is who we are out there representing. We are human beings.

CAMEROTA: Okay, that is a news flash and we will try to work that into the program. The next thing, speaking of people that want to be President, Senator John Kerry was on "Face The Nation" this weekend and he did not respond - it wasn't a no when he was asked if he wants to get back into that race. So listen to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to run in 2020?

JOHN KERRY, FORMER US SENATOR: I'm really not thinking about it? Talking about it 2020 right now is a total distraction and a waste of time. What we need to do is focus on 2018.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm going to ask you that same question some time after November.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can catch me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Charlie, you can interpret political speak. What was that?

DENT: Well, I think he gave the right answer. The focus is 2018, not 2020. I would be surprised frankly if Senator Kerry or Secretary Kerry decided to run for President. I think Democrats are probably looking for the next generation of leadership, not the last generation, but there are going to be a lot more probable or possible candidates for President that there actually will be candidates for President, you can count on that.

AVLON: Yes, that was not a Sherman-esque denial, but Debbie, given that you are a Democrat and there seems to be and everybody in the pool momentum on the Democratic side, would you be happy to see John Kerry run for President again in 2020?

DINGELL: The more the merrier. We've got well over 20 candidates. You know what I'd would like to go back to, why do Iowa and New Hampshire get to decide this? They should be traveling the whole country and everybody should have the opportunity to look at all of these candidates, but we need to focus on November first because I remember two years ago, when everybody thought we had it in the bag, I go back to 2000 and remember when everybody thought we had it in the bag.

But we have more than, I guess, it's is great, it's a good opportunity, there are a lot of people that think they can win, and let's get to November and then we will start this - I can't even think of the word I want to use right now for how many people want to run for president. [07:15:08]

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, it is just funny when obviously, he is right that we should be focused on the midterms, the 2020 does seem like a long time off, but it's funny how rarely, Charlie, politicians can say absolutely not. No, under no circumstances would I do that, and then it starts the whole Washington parlor game.

DENT: Of course, that is one thing about being a politician. You never foreclose all of your options, you always have to keep a door open, you just never know. Circumstances can change and you might find yourself in a position where you may decide to do what you didn't think you were going to do. You never say what you will never do in this business because you may end up doing it someday. Just remember that, words to live by.

AVLON: A motto for Labor Day as well.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we will quote you on that, Charlie, Debbie, thank you very much. Great to talk to both of you.

DINGELL: Happy Labor Day.

AVLON: Happy Labor Day.

DENT: Happy Labor Day, everybody.

CAMEROTA: You too, thanks so much. Okay, so more than a hundred thousand pages of documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are actually being held back. Do lawmakers have all the information they think they need to decide on his nomination? We'll discuss.

[07:20:00]

CAMEROTA: All right, the Senate Judiciary Committee officially begins confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh tomorrow. This will come after the Trump administration has cited executive privilege and decided to hold back more than a hundred thousand pages of documents related to Kavanaugh's service. Let's bring in Ken Cuccinelli. He is the former Attorney General of Virginia and a CNN legal and political commentator, Bakari Sellers, former Democratic state lawmaker from South Carolina and a CNN political commentator.

Gentlemen, Happy Labor Day. Thanks so much for being with us.

KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA: Happy Labor Day.

BAKARI SELLERS, FORMER DEMOCRATIC STATE LAWMAKER, SOUTH CAROLINA: Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Okay, Ken, here are the documents that as far as we know have been released thus far - 270,000 pages have been released. That sounds like a lot, okay, however, only 3% of them contain e-mails written by Kavanaugh himself. So the very material that Democrats and presumably all lawmakers would want are only 3% of these.

The personal e-mails, any of them that have been released are frequently trivial or cryptic, so not relevant. Many documents - this is the best - that have been released are items from the mass circulation of schedules. You know, when you get in your e-mail, the schedule of what is going to be happening today or to see how that's relevant to this decision. Talking points from the time when he was in George W. Bush's administration, and random announcements and press clippings, okay, so just articles that the administration thought were interesting. So, look, I mean ...

CUCCINELLI: So basically a search on his name via the e-mail system, right?

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, that's the point, Ken, and so the Trump administration can say we've handed over hundreds of thousands of documents, but I don't know how lawmakers will be able to get what they want and glean what they need from all of this.

CUCCINELLI: Well, of course, what tells you most about how a judge is going to be a judge is what he has done as a judge, and this guy has got a long track record in that regard. And that's been heavily discussed.

And it's important to realize that a lot of the documents that they are talking about, he was a lawyer and he had a client and the client was the President and the presidency, you may say, and no president wants certain types of documents released ever or at least as long as they can avoid it.

The internal discussions on sensitive matters, like judicial nominations are one example and my understanding is that that is some of what the documents entail from the Bush administration and that Bush's own lawyer has gone through this and essentially made those calls as well, and of course the current President simply backed that up because ultimately, it is the presidency's decision whether to release something, but no president wants some future President releasing their discussions of judicial nominations so I don't think you're going to see that here either.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I understand, I mean - no, I understand and I understand sensitivity, but we do know that Elena Kagan and John Roberts, there was just much more material released. There was much more for lawmakers to be able to sift through and try to form impressions of. So Bakari, where are we with this starting this week?

SELLERS: Well, I think Ken does have some valid point especially when you go back and you look at Judge Kavanaugh's service on the bench, however from 2003 to 2006, Judge Kavanaugh was staff secretary, he wasn't a lawyer in the White House, he was staff secretary and there are some discussions, there are some issues for example, torture.

We know the Bush White House had a huge kerfuffle for lack of a better term, when it came to torture. And during this timeframe, Kavanaugh was actually a part of these discussions. I think that's pertinent. This is not new. In fact, Ted Kennedy went back and forth with John

Roberts over these very, very issue of releasing these documents. This isn't the Democrats just want these documents. I think the American public deserves these documents, Democrat or Republican alike because of the simple fact that Judge Kavanaugh will transform the Supreme Court for decades and I think it's essential that we get it all out there, so at least we know what we are getting.

CAMEROTA: And Ken, I mean, don't Republicans also want more information or is this just a rubber stamp?

CUCCINELLI: No, I think the 12 years of opinions are more than enough for most Republicans. And look, I'm someone who made complaints about certain of Judge Kavanaugh's positions like on the Fourth Amendment and yet, here he is as the nominee and you have people like Senator Rand Paul, there is nobody more sensitive on that issue than Senator Paul who said on balance, I think he is a good nominee.

So I think those opinions really, they are the road map. What everybody is looking for in the other documents is other things to try to hang him or hook him on. And I understand that from a political standpoint, but look, substantively, we can see how he is going to be a judge because we've seen it for 12 years on what's ...

[07:25:16]

CUCCINELLI: ... called the mini Supreme Court, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and he has seen a lot of important cases and he's opined, including on Constitutional matters, so you get a sense of how he is going to judge even those sorts of cases.

CAMEROTA: So Bakari, let's talk about the political side of this because Democrats can bring their hands all they want but with the 51- vote bar that has been set, what can Democrats do to solve this?

SELLERS: Well, I think the Democrats have to take a stand. I think that their base, I think, our base is clamoring for us to do something not just be stand by and hold pat. It's 50 to 49 in the United States Senate. It is very unlikely that we're going to stop this train. You have a lot of red state Democrats, the Manchins, the Donellis, the Heitkamps, who I am not sure where they will vote on this issue.

However, I hope that the Democrats continue to make a fuss, this is a huge vote. You cannot underscore the importance of this nomination, and they have to stand up for what they believe in. They have to stand up for principles because if they do not, if they do not, the base is going to be dampened. They won't have the same excitement and we have an election in November that actually is very, very, very important.

CAMEROTA: Do you understand Ken, after ...

CUCCINELLI: Can I comment on that?

CAMEROTA: But I also want you to comment on this. After the Merrick Garland where Mitch McConnell wouldn't even bring it to a vote or sit down and talk with him, how aggrieved Democrats feel?

CUCCINELLI: Yes, I get that political maneuver was from the Republican standpoint was the only thing helpful to conservative agenda that Mitch McConnell did in that entire two years. And when it is the Supreme Court, the bases pay particular attention to that. So I definitely understand that.

I would add one political comment to Bakari's, all of which I think is correct. I think this is going to offer the Manchin, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Testers, well McCaskill is going to vote against Kavanaugh, but they're going to vote for Kavanaugh. But this offers them an opportunity to stamp their feet and look like they're fighting for their base before they actually vote for this nominee out of fear of this November's election. That is going to be one political consequence of this to use Bakari's word, "kerfuffle."

CAMEROTA: All right, well, we shall see what happens this week. Ken Cuccinelli, Bakari Sellers. Thank you both very much.

SELLERS: Thank you. Happy labor day.

CUCCINELLI: Great to be with you both.

CAMEROTA: You, too. John.

AVLON: The US putting a new commander in charge of forces in Afghanistan. Will America's longest war end after 17 years? CNN is live in Afghanistan, next.

[07:30:00]