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Report: Final Words of McCain Are Issued; Week of Tribute Planned for Senator John McCain; Trump Ignores Repeated Questions About John McCain; Canada Welcomes Trade Agreement Between the United States and Mexico; Canada's Foreign Minister to Negotiate in Washington DC With Trump. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired August 27, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A final note on Senator McCain. I interviewed him on many occasions over the past 30 years. I can testify that he didn't always like the tough questions, occasionally he would jump on me. But he was very, very generous with his time. And usually very nice. Still, as our viewers know he never minced any words with those he totally disagreed with on some substantive national security issues such as the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria for example. Senator McCain always appreciated the critical role that a free press plays in a democracy and for that and for so much more I will always be grateful. John McCain was a genuine American hero a great American. My deepest condolences to his loving family and his friends. May he rest in peace.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN. Thank you for being with me on this Monday afternoon here as the nation pauses to remember and to pay tribute to Senator John McCain, who died Saturday after a long battle with brain cancer. Just moments ago, his former campaign manager read aloud a letter from the political dynamo known as statesman, patriot, and maverick. I just want to play this for you. You listen to this. This is the final public words of Senator John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK DAVIS, JOHN MCCAIN'S FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: These are John's final words. Fellow Americans, that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens the world's greatest Republic a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do. Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you. And god bless America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Wow. His final words. With me now Paul Kane columnist from the "Washington Post." My goodness, Rick Davis struggling to get through that, paul. I jotted down the note from the late Senator. We have so much more in common with one another -- it is a resonant sentiment that really rings true today.
PAUL KANE, COLUMNIST, THE "WASHINGTON POST": Yes. That was the thing about McCain. He would always say that a fight not joined was a fight not enjoyed. He loved the spirit of the battle. But he really, really tried to focus on finding common ground. And at least having real friendships and bonds. You know, some of his best friends were Republicans. And a lot of his best friends were Democrats, from people like John Kerry, who he originally had a bitter, bitter fight with over the Vietnam War, to former Vice President Joe Biden who he served in the Senate with, and the late Ted Kennedy, who my gosh they died on the same day nine years apart. McCain always wanted to find that common thread to keep the place running to keep the Senate functioning.
BALDWIN: He was of course you know, a father and a husband, and a prisoner of war. But as a Senator, you are right, paul, that McCain first fell in love with congress when he was in the Navy back in the late '70s. Tell me about what he saw, just even as a young officer.
KANE: Sure. You know, after he was freed from Vietnam, he came back. He did a couple of different jobs. Finally, they put him in the liaison office for the Navy where he worked essentially in the Capitol interacting with Senators. That's where he met these legends, the Joe Bidens, and Ted Kennedys, Pat Moynihan, and Phil Graham eventually. That's where he really caught the political bug. He saw the power that these folks had and the way they could impact policy and he was enthralled by it. In 1981 he left the Navy which was a pretty rebellious thing to do for the son and grandson of Navy admirals. But he really decided that that was where he was going to cut his teeth. And that was the moment that really sort of changed his life and changed his arc away from at that life long sailor to a maverick Senator/patriot/hero.
[14:05:00] BALDWIN: You mentioned the former vice president, Joe Biden, tell me the last time you saw Senator McCain and anything that was exchanged there.
KANE: Yes, there was an event in Philadelphia at the Constitution Center where Joe Biden presented McCain on a cold Monday night the liberty medal that's given out up there every year. And McCain became emotional after Biden introduced him. Two days later I saw hmm just off the Senate floor and I had this exchange where I said gosh you looked like you were getting emotional up there on stage. And McCain spent a minute or two just telling the story of how he met young Beau Biden, the future vice president's son, after Biden had come to the Senate in the worst possible way, his wife and daughter dying in a crash, and then trying to raise these two young sons by himself.
KANE: And Beau would go on to serve honorably in the military and go to Iraq and McCain would see him in Iraq and then McCain just starting growing emotional thinking about it all. And there is Beau Biden and McCain, who both died of the same brain cancer. He grew emotional, stopped talking, got in the elevator and left.
BALDWIN: Just hearing all of these stories -- what a way to honor him. Paul Kane thank you so much for being with me today.
You know, the nation will spend this entire week paying tribute to Senator John McCain, a survivor of torture. McCain couldn't actually raise his arms because of the wounds he suffered as a prisoner of war. But for decades he excelled at reaching across the aisle even in these times the most difficult period in modern political history. And the White House stands glaringly out of line with a nation in mourning. Today look at this, the White House flag is flying at full staff when it was at half staff just yesterday. It's the capitol building flag today also flies at half staff. Plus, just a short time ago at his first appearance before cameras today the president of the United States failed to mention anything about the passing of John Sydney McCain.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any thoughts on John McCain.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any thoughts on John McCain, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: We have more tape. This was moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is John McCain a hero?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. Keep moving. Let's g. We are finished. People, let's go. We are finished.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Nothing. Nothing. CNN White House correspondent Abbey Philip is with me now. I almost -- I don't have words. Obviously, the president doesn't either.
ABBEY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Apparently, Brooke. For the third time, just today alone, President Trump has declined three opportunities, three separate times, declined to answer questions from reporters about John McCain. He declined to give any statements at all. So far, Brooke, it's really important to note that President Trump has actually not said anything positive about McCain himself. He offered sympathy to McCain's family in that tweet a two- sentence tweet sent over the weekend from his Twitter account but no words of praise about McCain himself, no words about his decades of service in the United States Senate, about his service to the country in the military. The president has as you pointed out remained silent. It's not clear why that is but except for the fact that President Trump has held onto what appears to be a long-standing grudge against McCain that dates back many years including at the campaign when he claimed that McCain wasn't a war hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War. Given the opportunity to put that aside the White House still hasn't.
The White House refused to answer questions why the flags at the White House remain at full staff despite what we know to be a letter sent from Democrats and Republicans in congress asking for the flags to be lowered until McCain is laid to rest. That request hasn't been answered. No requests about the explanation has been answered by Sarah Sanders or any of the officials behind me. So far, we are hear from our sources that the first lady, Melania Trump is not expected to attend the funeral services.
[14:10:00] She did attend on president's behalf when Barbara Bush died earlier this year. No plans on her plan whether or not to attend. It's not clear how the White House is dealing with this. This is clearly a moment when the country is mourning someone who is widely regarded to be an American hero, and the president refuses to say one positive word, Brooke. Earlier this year. No plans on her plan whether or not to attend. It's not clear how the White House is dealing with this. This is clearly a moment when the country is mourning someone who is widely regarded to be an American hero, and the president refuses to say one positive word, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Abbey, thank you. Let's stay on this. Because this is important to talk about. With me now, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel. And Chris Cillizza. To the both of you, just -- I saw the flag pictures this morning from the White House but to watch the president with the president of Kenya twice, you know, not saying anything about this hero, this lion of a man -- it's despicable. It's despicable. Chris? Jamie.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I just -- it's clear that John McCain gets under Donald Trump's skin. But this is going to be a very long week for Donald Trump. He is going to hear us talk about John McCain's legacy, his heroism. It's unimaginable that at this point, as a Republican lawmaker said to me yesterday, I'm not surprised, but couldn't he say something?
GANGEL: Something. And he just won't. The other thing that I am sure he is stewing about is that two other presidents are invited to the funeral. Not just invited but --
GANGEL: Giving eulogies. Right? Former president bush. Former president Obama. The two people who beat John McCain to get to the White House have been asked to give eulogies, and Donald Trump not only not going, he was not invited. John McCain made it very clear he did not want him there. This is Donald Trump's response.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: To quote Chris Cuomo This is the classic example of putting the me before the we. Donald Trump has shown on a number of occasions -- Jamie is right, it's sort of a I'm not surprised and yet he has shown on a number of occasions he does not view the presidency as a perch by which to show moral leadership in any meaningful way, by which to take the high road. He takes the low road. On many occasions. This is just one of them. That's a change and a break from the presidents in the past. The people who have held that office before, broadly speaking, they didn't do this 100 percent of the time. They weren't always successful in it but they viewed themselves as an exemplar of what America could be, what we should be. Donald Trump doesn't do that.
The both "sidism" in Charlottesville, the picking of fights with the NFL, the playing at racism and racialized language for his own political benefit. This, the inability to get beyond a grudge. And I will note beyond a grudge that Donald Trump is the one who made the vast majority of the barbs here. John McCain largely held off, not wanting to make this about John McCain versus Donald Trump. He responded broadly speaking saying I think he discredits people I've served when he talks like this. This is Donald Trump making it about Donald Trump, which, again, isn't surprising, because that's what he does. Yet it is shocking in its way.
BALDWIN: Like Jamie said it's going to be a mighty long week for the president because we are not going to be talking about him. And to close the conversation on the first lady. We talked before on the Barbara Bush funeral and the first Melania Trump did attend. Her husband wasn't there. This is different obviously because we remember John McCain disinvited Trump from any of these memorial opportunities. Do you think -- apparently, Jamie, she is not expected to attend any of them.
BALDWIN: Does that leave wiggle room?
[15:15:00] GANGEL: I don't think she's going to go but the White House has not confirmed this on the record. We have been told, my colleague Kate Bennett, that she is not expected to attend. I don't think that that's going to change. I think what's interesting here to think about is perhaps she knows this -- she breaks with her husband. She we her break with her husband. Her tweet about John McCain was very different from her husband's tweet about John McCain. She saluted the man and thanked him for his service.
GANGEL: But she also knows when she breaks with her husband it makes headlines.
GANGEL: I'm speculating here, she may have simply decided this was not one that she wanted to make headlines about.
BALDWIN: OK. Jamie and Chris, thank you both very much as we continue to honor the life of Senator John McCain we will talk to someone who trained under him in the Navy, ended up in the same prisoner of war camp with the late Senator in Vietnam. And we will talk about how he chooses to remember the late Senator.
And crisis in the Catholic Church. The pope refusing to answer calls for his resignation after accusations surface that Pope Francis was aware of sexual abuse by a prominent cardinal and did nothing.
And today a breakthrough on trade. President Trump announcing a new deal with Mexico that leaves Canada out of the deal so far, but certainly not without some awkward moments on the phone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I believe the president is on the phone. Enrique? You can hook him up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming in.
TRUMP: Tell me when. Are we in?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin. The U.S. and Mexico reached a at the present tentative agreement on trade in this free-wheeling news conference at the oval office, President Trump had the Mexican president on speaker phone to announce the deal that would change parts of NAFTA. He also by the way wants to get totally rid of the name NAFTA. name NAFTA. Here he was.
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TRUMP: We are going to call to United States Mexico Trade Agreement, and we will get rid of name NAFTA -- the existing deal and going into this deal. We will start negotiating with Canada relatively soon. They want to start -- they want to negotiate very badly. But one way or the other we will have a deal with Canada.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The president has long called the '94 NAFTA deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada a rip off and quote, "the worst trade pact in history." Let's discuss with these two ladies to my right with Paula Newton with us here at CNN and Yahoo finance senior writer Melody Hahm. Ladies, to you first, what's in the deal? Is it just the U.S. and Mexico?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is just U.S. and Mexico. Keep in mind a couple of things. One is the auto pact. For months and months and months, the United States and Mexico couldn't find a solution around what Donald Trump wanted. He wants more auto jobs in the United States. That means Canadian workers have to make more money. That seems to be in this deal. In terms of the North American content the actual parts of a vehicle that actually come to North America, that's come up to 75 percent now.
All good. There is a sunset clause, which was a deal breaker for both Mexico and Canada. Mexico at least has agreed to say look, OK, we have moved the -- they say we have moved the United States on this. They don't have to have -- the Trump administration says no sunset clause, we will agree to review it every few years but it won't automatically die. These are major issues that have been settled and it is significant step forward but it is not a three-way deal.
BALDWIN: Canada is not part of this picture. Now Enrique Pena Nieto who is outgoing was on the phone with Trudeau. And she would always say maybe depending on --
MELODY HAHM, YAHOO FINANCE SENIOR WRITER: And Trudeau's spokesperson and for the people in Canada. And Pena Nieto makes it seem like he is not going to be officially on board unless Canada is involved as well.
BALDWIN: Before we jump into Canada just really quickly, it also seems to me just watching the president earlier, he seems obsessed with renaming it to the United States/Mexico Trade Agreement which sounds more elegant than NAFTA. Like he wanted to put a stamp on it, it seems. Is any of this do you think about the wall?
HAHM: I think the wall is a big factor here. Obviously, Pena Nieto and President Trump have had acrimonious relationships up until this point, so it's really fascinating to hear during the conference call. We have loved each other. We should hug each other. And that rhetoric is very much a departure from what you long-standing talk has been. And it is important to remember that there needs to be legislative approval of this deal. Congress would need to sign off on that.
BALDWIN: Say that again.
HAHM: Congress needs to sign off on this, on the new NAFTA whether we want to call it USMTA, the new acronym or NAFTA. But ultimately Nieto is the outgoing president let's keep in mind, Obrador, the President- elect is taking office December 1.
[14:25:00] If Congress does not approve it before then, then it could be back to square one.
BALDWIN: Paula, to come back to you on Canada, where as Canada and all of this. Remember, Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister said she is encouraged by some of the conversations being had. It wasn't long ago that she said this after Trump called Canada a national security threat.
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CHRYSTIA FREELAND, CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: What you are saying to us, and to all of our NATO allies is that we somehow represent a national security threat to the United States and I would say to all of Canada's American friends, and there are so many, seriously?
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BALDWIN: Seriously, she says, do you think? That was June. It seems like forever ago. NEWTON: It's not forever.
BALDWIN: It's not forever.
NEWTON: It has been acrimonious ever since. And to boot I can tell you speaking to Canadian officials this morning, they are saying, look. we know that these are the president's negotiating tactics. Everyone was caught off guard by him saying this isn't going to be NAFTA anymore. The Canadian officials had not just been speaking to Mexican officials about what was in this trade deal. In saying, yes, it sounds good.
Also, to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who is at the forefront of these negotiations. They were very close contact. It came to a surprise to everyone the way the Oval Office press conference I guess you would call it went forward. The bottom line is that Chrystia Freeland is on her way to Washington. She will be at talks tomorrow morning. They are going to try to get this going as a three-way deal. But not only does the U.S. and Canada have issues. But of course, that means Mexico and Canada still have to work out their issues as well. I'm not saying it is not possible. Donald Trump is saying this is the way you get negotiations done. He is saying the chaos theory works.
HAHM: Well, I guess so.
BALDWIN: We'll see how tomorrow goes then. And I'm sure we will chat again. Melody and Paula, thank you very much, ladies very much for that.
Coming up here as we continued on the life and legacy of Senator John McCain, you will hear from someone who trained under him in in the Navy --
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