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Trump to Make Announcement on Trade with Mexico; Lawmakers & World Leaders Praises McCain; Backlash over Trump Tweet on McCain Passing; Former Vatican Official Calls on Pope Francis to Resign over Sex Abuse Scandal Remembering McCain's Influence on U.S. World View. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:06] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Ryan Nobles, in today for Kate Bolduan.

We begin with breaking news. At any moment, President Trump set to make an announcement from the Oval Office. We are told it will focus on trade with Mexico. A source familiar with the negotiations telling CNN, the U.S. and Mexico have reached a preliminary agreement resolving key bilateral trade issues. The president tweeting just a short time ago, quote, "A big deal looking good with Mexico."

Let's get straight to CNN's Athena Jones live at the White House for the latest developments.

Athena, what are we expecting from the president in the next few minutes?

ATHENA JONES, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ryan. We expect him to announce this preliminary agreement the U.S. reached with Mexico, part of this effort to renegotiate NAFTA. Efforts to renegotiate NAFTA have been going on for over a year now in some form or fashion. This is about bilateral agreements between the U.S. and Mexico. There have been talks over the last several weeks. We understand, according to one U.S. official, the two countries have resolved a major stumbling block that has to do with automobiles and steels. A new agreement would increase the requirement on using North American steel and increase how much of an automobile must be produced locally to qualify for zero tariffs. NAFTA is a deal -- is a treaty between three countries, not just two. The idea here is that Canada might rejoin the talks. These talks have been contentious at times. One official expressed optimism that Canada would rejoin the talks. But there's skepticism that there's going to be any final deal in the near future -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Athena Jones lives from the White House. Thank you for that.

Of course, we will bring you that announcement as soon as we get it.

Athena, thank you.

Also happening this morning, tributes pouring in for Senator John McCain who lost his battle to brain cancer over the weekend. He is being remembered for his service and sacrifice, but above all, a devotion to his country and the best of its ideals. He endured nearly six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, then served six terms as a U.S. Senator.

His congressional colleagues and even his war-time captor remember him as someone unwilling to compromise on his belief. This week, McCain journeys across a nation he so deeply loved.

World leaders are praising the self-proclaimed maverick along with those who worked alongside him in Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: I have admired him my entire life. It's tough to imagine a Senate without him.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: He had a joy about politics and a love for his country that was unmatched.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: We will really be missing such an important voice for national unity.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John's a man of significant intellect, deep conviction and unmatched character.


NOBLES: Let's go live now to CNN's Stephanie Elam in Phoenix

Stephanie, what else do with e know about the plans to honor John McCain?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, it's important to note that, first of all, since he found out he had brain cancer a year ago, he spent that time being very much involved in the planning of how he wanted to be memorialized, how he wanted to be remembered. It will begin here in his beloved state of Arizona in the capital of Phoenix, where he will lay in state here in the capital on Wednesday, which would have been his 82nd birthday. On Thursday, there will be a memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church, where former Vice President Joe Biden will speak and remember the statesman here in the state. Then McCain's body will make the last trip out of the state and travel to D.C. where he will lay in state at the U.S. capitol on Friday. Then on Saturday, there will be a funeral at the National Cathedral where former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are expected to eulogize the statesman here. That's also really worth noting how much he believed in reaching across the aisle. You can see that playing out in who he asked to speak, to give their memories about him coming up. Then on Sunday, it will be less about the country and more about his close friends and family, with a private service happening there in Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy.

But he had that time to reflect on what his life was, what he wanted to do towards the end. Take a listen to him in his own words talking about what he wanted at the end of his days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN MCCAIN, FORMER SENATOR (voice-over): I would like to go back to our valley and see the creek run after the rain and hear the cottonwoods whisper in the wind. I want to smell rose-scented breeze and feel the sun on my shoulders. I want to watch the hawks hunt from the sycamore and then take my leave down to a place near my old friend, Chuck Larson, in the cemetery back where it began.


[11:05:00] ELAM: Chuck Larson, his longtime friend, Admiral Chuck Larson, who --they were classmates together at the Naval Academy.

And where he did pass away was up at that cabin that he loved so much, Ryan, just a beautiful part of the state and of the country.

NOBLES: Stephanie Elam, so far, planning out exactly how Senator McCain wanted it, too. We appreciate that report.

Meanwhile, President Trump is facing backlash for his tweet on Senator McCain, which made no mention of the Senator's four-decade career in Washington, nor his sacrifice in Vietnam. The president wrote, quote, "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you."

CNN learned the White House did draft a statement for President Trump specifically praising Senator McCain. It was never released to the public.

Let's get back to CNN's Athena Jones. She's at the White House.

Athena, covering a lot of topics for us today. We appreciate it.

What else do we know about the president's response to McCain's death?

JONES: Ryan, as you mentioned, a person familiar says that White House aides drafted what's being described as a full statement for President Trump on Senator John McCain. That statement went through the White House's internal review process. Several staffers thought that it would be released on Saturday after Senator McCain's death. That's not what happened. The "Washington Post" says that White House chief of staff, John Kelly, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and others had urged the president to release the statement calling McCain a hero, praising his extensive service. The president said he instead wanted to issue that brief tweet, which you just read, offering condolences to Senator McCain's family but saying nothing of his service. It's important to note that others in the administration, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the first lady, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Mike Pence, the vice president, also issued tweets or statements praising McCain for his service, for his decades of service in the military and on Capitol Hill. But that is not what the president chose to put out. It's interesting that people are getting -- they are paying attention to the fact that the president only issued that brief statement -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Another sort of weird controversy happening in Washington. I was at the White House, where you are, yesterday, the flag above the White House at half-staff. For some reason, it's not today. What do we know about that?

JONES: That's exactly right, Ryan. We have been asking the White House early this morning for an answer to that question. We know and we have video to show that that flag was raised a couple of minutes after midnight. Very early this morning that flag went from half- staff to full-staff. We should note that the flag at the U.S. capitol is still at half-staff. Earlier today, the flags around the Washington Monument were at half-staff. They have since been raised. We're not clear why this is, why the flag was lowered only for a little over a day -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Something we need to iron out.

Athena Jones, appreciate your reporting. Thank you for that.

Joining me now, Becky Tallent, a former chief of staff for Senator McCain and was also a policy adviser on his presidential campaign, and Doug Heye, a CNN political commentator and former communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Doug, I want to start with you.

President Trump and John McCain had a contentious relationship. There have been examples of President Trump thawing with some of the feuds. He had a feud with Mitt Romney, they ironed things out. Ted Cruz is an example of someone he was highly critical of and now has a good relationship with. There was never a thaw of the relationship with John McCain, even now, after his passing. What do you attribute that to?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I attribute it to Trump being Trump. This has been one of his biggest feuds he has had ongoing. He still blames John McCain on the Obamacare vote. Ultimately, it's one of those things, you talk to so many people, Republican or Democrat, they would tell you they are disappointed but not surprised.

With the flag, my understanding is, it's lowered for a day and a half typically, and would require a proclamation, which would come from the president, to be lowered in an extended period. What we're seeing with the statement that the White House is leaking against itself, yet again, shows the difficulty that this president has.

And, ultimately, there's never a price for taking the high road. That's why people were looking for the president this time to actually take the high road, which he so often fails to do.

NOBLES: He did not.

Becky, Senator Robert Dole this weekend spoke to CNN and said this about how Senator McCain felt about his staff. Take a listen.


BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATOR (voice-over): You are no better than your staff. He had a great staff. And he loved his staff. There was never any doubt about John McCain's honesty or integrity. You didn't have to agree with him, but you would listen to him, because he made a lot of sense.


NOBLES: Becky, Senator Dole is talking about you and many of your colleagues that worked with Senator McCain. As a staffer, what is your response to his loss? How important was Senator McCain's staff to him?

[11:10:02] BECKY TALLENT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF & POLICY ADVISOR TO JOHN MCCAIN: I mean, it's hard to actually put into words. He inspired such loyalty and closeness and such a family atmosphere. If you look at the average tenure on Capitol Hill for congressional staffers, they tend to turn over not infrequently. Senator McCain inspired some of the most loyal long-serving staff members, I believe, in probably the history of the U.S. Senate. People that served him 10, 15, 20 years, because we believed in what he was standing for. He gave us the opportunity to really stand right next to hip and fight with him on the most important battles of our time in some cases. He respected our opinion. He treated us like equals. He challenges us every single day to be better and to do better. It's hard to find that in politics today period. We were all just so, so lucky to be able to have that opportunity.

NOBLES: Doug, at Senator McCain's request, the president's not going to be invited to his funeral on Saturday. But Barack Obama and George W. Bush, they kept McCain from the presidency at different points in his career, they are invited. They are giving the eulogy. What does it mean the sitting president of the United States will not be in attendance?

HEYE: He was told in advance he wouldn't be invited might have influenced how his statement came out. It speaks to the divided politics that we experience right now where, if you are crossing the partisan divide, you may be doing so within your own party, depending on which side of the Republican Party you are on or which side of the Democratic Party you are on. It speaks to the fact that given Obama and George W. Bush will be there, Joe Biden as well, speaks to what came from the "Washington Post" yesterday about John McCain being one of the last great legislators in the U.S. Senate, somebody willing to fight to get big things done. I can tell you, having worked in Republican leadership, there were times where John McCain would drive his own party's leadership crazy. That's because he was fighting for what he believed in. He was working hard to enact what he was elected to do. It's one of the reasons that, even in disagreement, so many of his fellow Republicans and so many Democrats are so sad today because they knew that he fought for what he believed in every day of his life.

NOBLES: Leads me perfectly to this question I'm going to ask Becky. It's about the political risks that Senator McCain took in his career. One example is immigration. This was a topic you worked with him so closely on. Pull back the curtain and tell me what it was like to deliberate over those difficult positions, particularly the ones that Doug is talking about, that bucked his own party.

TALLENT: The one thing you can say about John McCain is that he knew in his heart what was right. He would continue to fight for that. It didn't matter if he was agreeing with the other party or disagrees with his own party, he had a very clear sense of right and wrong. What was good for this country and what was good for the party moving forward. He would go ahead and push everybody in that direction.

So, yes, I got to engage in the immigration fights with him over several years. He continued, even when I wasn't working with him anymore, he continued that fight into 2013. I think probably one of the biggest issues and biggest disappointments for him is he didn't end up finishing that fight. But he laid down the marker that will really define the immigration debate moving forward. Of course, everybody has been talking a lot about the close relationship that he had with Senator Kennedy, and both of them joined hands and tried to do what was best for the country.

I remember after the 2007 debate and the bill had fallen apart and we had been spending hours and hours behind closed doors to get to a deal with the Democrats and with the Bush administration. I walked into his office. He said, Becky, I know you are disappointed, but we're on the side of right, and right eventually always wins. We just need to keep the fight up. That's how I will remember John McCain.

NOBLES: There's talk -- I want both of you to answer this question for me if we have time. It's been presented by the Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer. He called for the Russell Senate Office Building to be renamed for John McCain.

Becky, from your perspective working on Capitol Hill, do you think this is something Republicans will go along with?

TALLENT: It's hard to tell. I know it's an idea that Senator Schumer has put out there. I think does he it in -- sincerely to honor his good friend. I worked for Senator McCain in that building for 10 years. Every time I walk into it, I'm going to think of him. I think we will have to see kind of how this shakes out. I know that -- I believe he would be tremendously honored that Senator Schumer proposed this. Personally, I hope it happens. There are a lot of moving parts on this. So we'll have to see.

NOBLES: Logistically, Doug, it's probably more difficult than we are making it out to be. Do you think Republicans should make the push to change the Russell Senate Office Building to the McCain Senate office building?

[11:15:06] HEYE: No question about it, there's not a single thing I would disagree with Becky on this. I would say, as we know with moving parts in Washington, my sense is this would happen rather quickly or it would slowly go away and we would stop talking about it in a few weeks as we get distracted by whatever tweets may come next.

NOBLES: Right.

Doug and Becky, thank you for your perspective on Senator McCain. We appreciate you being with us today.

TALLENT: Thank you. HEYE: Thank you.

NOBLES: Any moment now, President Trump set to make an announcement on trade with Mexico. We are monitoring the situation at the White House. When this announcement is made, we will bring it to you.

Stay here. You are watching CNN.


[11:20:00] NOBLES: Crisis in the Catholic Church. New reports of child sex abuse and coverups have taken the religious institution to its core. Now, a former Vatican official is calling on Pope Francis to resign. He claims the pontiff knew about allegations of sex abuse by a prominent U.S. cardinal for years but didn't do anything about it. On his return from a papal visit to Ireland, Pope Francis refused to say a single word about that accusation.

CNN's Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, was with the pope on the plane ride back from Rome.

Delia, what are the allegations being made about the pope? What do you make of the pope's non-response?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, the allegations made by his former envoy to the United States, so a high Vatican official, are that Pope Francis and a number of other Vatican officials knew about the allegations of abuse on the part of a cardinal and never did anything about it and, in particular, the archbishop, who is the envoy, said he spoke to the pope personally in 2013 Cardinal McCarrick. So the pope responding on the papal plane, Ryan, said essentially that he was not going to engage in it. He told journalists, you read it, study it carefully, and maybe I will speak about it at a future date. Essentially, the pope saying he doesn't want to engage in it. Some people will be happy with that, because they will say, consider the source, the archbishop, a conservative. He's the one that organized that 2015 meeting with Kim Davis and Pope Francis. Remember, Kim Davis, the Kentucky law clerk who refused to sign same-sex marriage certificates in Washington. So some people are saying it's politically motivated. He has an ax to grind with the pope. Others are saying there's detail that could be easily verified if Pope Francis and the Vatican wanted to do that. We have to wait and see, Ryan, it this gathers steam within the Catholic Church or if people are satisfied with the pope's response.

NOBLES: Delia, to a certain degree, this is the real controversy the pope has been forced to deal with related to him. To a certain extent, we saw that reaction to this controversy on his trip to Ireland that you were there for. That's a heavily Catholic country, but it seems as though the crowds, the energy around the pope was muted. What did you see from your perspective?

GALLGAHER: Yes, I describe it as a somber visit. People turned out. But the overriding theme that I kept hearing was they had been living for decades with the sexual abuse crisis there. They are very disenchanted with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They are angry at the Catholic Church. They didn't want to just hear words from Pope Francis. Pope Francis did speak a number of times. He met with sexual abuse survivors. He did what he has done on other trips and apologized and asked for forgiveness. But people on the ground in Ireland and in the United States and in Australia and various other countries like Chile want to see action from the Vatican. They talk about action. They don't want words. The Vatican is going to have to do more to prove to people that they really do have this under control, that they are holding bishops accountable. But people don't feel satisfied that they have had that yet -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Delia Gallagher, live from Rome with that report. Delia, thank you.

All eyes on the White House where, at any moment, President Trump set to make an announcement on trade with Mexico. Stay with us.



[11:28:20] MCCAIN: He served his country. And not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors but served his country. And I hope we could add honorably.


NOBLES: That, of course, John McCain telling CNN how he would like to be remembered. He is being recognized by colleagues and international leaders as a great statesman who was a friend to U.S. allies. McCain was known as a foreign policy hawk who helped shape American strategy during his more than three decades on the Hill. A headline in the "Wall Street Journal" says, quote, "John McCain's death leaves a foreign policy void."

Joining me now to discuss McCain's influence on the U.S. world view, two senior foreign policy advisers to his 2008 presidential campaign, Kori Schake and Max Boot.

Max, I want to start with you.

We have seen this outpouring of tributes for Senator McCain from all these foreign entities in particular. What does this say about the role that John McCain played in American foreign policy around the world?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFIARS ANALYST: What it says is that John McCain was hugely influential in policy and decades, more so than a lot of secretaries of state and some presidents. He was an outside presence who devoted most of his Senate career to advancing and defending freedom around the world. He believed in visiting U.S. allies, standing with them, making sure they knew that America stood behind them. Even when we had a president, as we have today, who doesn't actually stand behind them. He also believed not just in working with allies, but also in championing the cause of dissidents. John McCain was somebody who knew from his own personal experience what it was like to be denied freedom. It was a very visceral, personal thing for him to stand up for dissidents. Whether in Russia, or Burma, other countries around the world, he was always championing the people who were the victims of oppression. And that was -- that's the mark he wanted to make, and that is the legacy that he will leave --