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Trump Finally Issues Statement To "Honor" McCain's U.S. Service After Ignoring Questions Five Times Today About McCain's Legacy. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Out front next, bowing to pressure. The President orders the White House flag lowered to half staff in honor of Senator John McCain, but why did it take so long for Trump to praise him?

Plus, McCain's farewell statement. Senator taking one final swipe at the President.

And breaking news, Paul Manafort reportedly sought a plea deal in his upcoming second trial even while his first trial was still under way. Why now? Let's go out front.

And good evening, I'm Jim Sciutto in tonight for Erin Burnett. And out front tonight, it is about time. The President after two days of silence finally addressing Senator John McCain's legacy.

A Vietnam War hero, a prisoner of war, a six-term Senator who died Saturday after a long battle with brain cancer. Late today, the President releasing a statement saying that he respects McCain for his service to the country. The written statement coming after Trump refused not once, not twice, but five times today to speak about McCain.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any thoughts on John McCain?






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why won't you say anything on John McCain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let's go. Make your way out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, we're finished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any comment on John McCain, sir?


SCIUTTO: The deafening silence, President Trump refusing not only to honor McCain in person but also symbolically on top of the White House. The flag there raised back to its normal position overnight. This after flying at half staff over the weekend, this while the flags at federal buildings and sites nearby the White House remained at half staff throughout the day. But after criticism from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and from several veterans groups, the White House finally lowered the flag once again this afternoon.

The President said in his statement, "Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country and in his honor have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half staff until the day of his interment". There's no secret that the President and McCain had a rocky relationship, but is that reason to refuse to honor a war hero? Someone the President's own daughter recognized before her father did.


IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF THE PRESIDENT: I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Senator John McCain, an American patriot who served our country with distinction for more than six decades. The nation is united in its grief and the world mourns the loss of a true hero and a great statesman.


SCIUTTO: A true hero, a great statesman. Words that ring to -- true certainly as we now hear Rick Davis, McCain's former Campaign Manager, read the Arizona senator's final words to the nation.


RICK DAVIS, FMR. CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR JOHN MCCAIN: We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. 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.


SCIUTTO: Stronger than before. Abby Phillip is out front live tonight at the White House. Abby, what more are you learning about the President's statement tonight on McCain and how it came about after two days? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Well, after a day of silence, the President as you just played was asked five times today to weigh in on John McCain and refused to do so, but finally after enormous pressure issued that statement, a very brief statement recognizing John McCain's service. Ironically, something that the President himself has called into question.

But now, just moments ago, Jim, the President at the White House is having a dinner with evangelical leaders and made his first comments on John McCain with his own words. He said this. Our hearts and prayers are going out to the family of John McCain. We very much appreciate everything Senator McCain has done for our country.

So for the first time now, Jim, we are hearing President Trump actually saying it with his own words after issuing a two-sentence tweet over the weekend, then a paper statement this afternoon. Finally he's saying it himself now.

[19:05:00] The question is what took so long? I think no one really quite knows the answer to that question. It is in some ways a self- inflicted wound for the White House who could simply have just followed the basic protocol that most every White House before them has followed upon the death of a sitting senator, lowering the flags, issuing a statement, and allowing that -- the country to grieve in that moment.

But we did ask Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, what caused the change? Why did President Trump go from not really wanting to say anything at all to issuing that statement this afternoon? She didn't say much. She said that it was the President's idea to issue the statement and that the statement speaks for itself. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, certainly welcome words now. Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks very much.

Out front now, Grant Woods, he was Senator John McCain's first Congressional Chief of Staff. He was also Arizona's Attorney General. Thanks so much, Grant, for taking the time. And I just want to say I know you worked very closely together with the Senator and us at CNN we'd like to share our thoughts with you and give you an opportunity now. Let's set aside the politics. What story, what qualities do you remember most about him?

GRANT WOODS, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN FIRST CONGRESSIONAL CHIEF OF STAFF: Oh, man, there's so many things. I think of things personally because, you know, he was such a close friend, really all of my life that I'm going to miss. I mean, that's -- his sense of humor. We don't hear -- We hear little bit about that. I think you guys all got to witness that a lot. I certainly did pretty much every day. He had an amazing sense of humor and I miss that.

He's a tremendous sports fan. He loved all of our teams here in Arizona, and we talked endlessly about that. And he used to call me -- I mean, this happen a bunch of times, Jim, I'd say 20 times, it'd be like 3:30 in the morning and my phone would ring. And I've got a bunch of kids so you're panicked immediately. You know, I pick up the phone and he say, hey, hey, boy, what happened to those diamondbacks. I said, oh, my god, you know it's 3:00 in the morning, you know? But that's how it was.

We'd talk about it or it could be the coyotes or the cardinals or any of the suns, anybody else. I'm going to miss all of that. But I think, you know, I have been in office myself. He inspired me to run for office. I never thought I would.

And I think what I'm going to miss the most is his voice. His voice was rock solid and it was always there. And it was a voice, as you've said, for bipartisanship, for putting your country first and remembering that we're all Americans. It doesn't really matter whether you're Republican or Democrat when it's all said and done. We want to try to do things as Americans to move our country forward.

And then lastly, I'd say the real voice I worry about the most is his voice for human rights around the world. It was so important to him. And if you talk to people, and I bet you have, some of these refugees, some of these rebel leaders in countries around the world, the one American voice they always counted on was John McCain. I've had them tell me, you know, just the last couple of years, we view him as our leader, we view him as our President.

One guy told me from Syria, a rebel leader. Because he's there for us and he was there actually there beside them when he could and he was always there. He had their back on the issues.

So I hope America takes a step backwards here and says, wow, let's look at the life of John McCain and all he stood for. Country first, duty, honor, country. And we all have an obligation to do that. And so hopefully people will take something from this and make our country better.

SCIUTTO: You make a good point there. And as much of that reflected in his final farewell address read today, that idea of country, principle values first and that we all love our country, regardless of party or policy disagreement. I wonder if you saw in those final words, that farewell address read by Rick Davis today from Senator McCain, did you see that those words in that sentiment was directed at President Trump?

WOODS: Well, look, one thing I can tell you for sure, OK, and I talked to John, you know, all the time frequently, daily sometimes, certainly weekly for a long time, for decades. He really didn't care less what Trump was saying about him. It didn't bother him a bit.

And you want to know the difference between the two men? One, it got under his skin nonstop, John McCain didn't care. And because -- Look at the life he lived.

And so, you know, I think his point was, hey, I got this. I know where I stand. I know the kind of man I am. I know what my values are. And you can say whatever you might, you can do whatever you want, I'm going to do what I think is right.

So I think the reason some of them seem to be directed at the President is because the President ought to read that and I think he would do well to read it and to maybe change. And, you know, hope springs eternal.

[19:10:05] So I don't think it was necessarily directed at the President, but the President could do well for the country by reading it and taking heed.

SCIUTTO: To Trump finally, as you know, and we said earlier, spoke about McCain. Earlier he released a statement this, of course, after being pushed a number of times by Democrats and Republicans and reporters asking questions and veterans groups asking him to honor Senator McCain, as others have been honored. What's your reaction to that delay in honoring Senator McCain?

WOODS: Well, I guess -- you know, I think we should try to be positive. So I'm going to say I thought it was a really beautiful, perfect statement that Trump made, although it was Ivanka Trump and not Donald Trump. But -- So I'm going to focus on that Trump statement. That was really well done, OK? And I'll just say not specifically but just generally, one of the things I've learned in life is you don't want to put a small man in a big job. It doesn't usually work out.

So, you know, let's try to regroup and we have one President at a time. So I think we should do what John McCain did and that is we'll support the guy when we can and we'll get behind him. But when we can't, then we'll have an honest disagreement on the issues.

SCIUTTO: That's a good crystallization of the way McCain ran his political career. I want to ask you just one final question. Your name is one of several that's under consideration to fill McCain's Senate seat, and I know you and the other candidates certainly don't want to go there now. But we know that many of McCain's supporters want someone to fill his seat who represented the values and the outlook for the party that he represented. I just want to ask you, if you were asked by the governor of Arizona, would you accept that role?

WOODS: Yes. And, well, you got the first part right, you know, that we don't want to talk about it because we want to talk about John and this week is about John. So, I think I'm going to leave it at that. I think it's an amazing seat, Jim, when you think about it. And Arizona has given our country some fantastic leaders. And just that seat, we went from Barry Goldwater to John McCain.

And, you know, when Barry retired, we all thought, boy, you could never fill those shoes, could you? And John filled those shoes. We've given this country a lot of great leaders, Mo Udall and Carl Hayden and John Rhodes and Bruce Babbitt and the list goes on and on. So, our governor is very levelheaded, he's a solid leader. He's going to make his choice. And it's his choice to make and then we'll all get behind it.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this then just more generally. Would you like to see a man or woman who represents what McCain represented to fill that seat? WOODS: Yes, absolutely. And I think all of the McCain world feels that way. I mean, John won the seat. He won it, what, six times and he won it going away every time. So I think the people in Arizona made it very clear as far as that seat for this time they want that kind of leader there. And so, yes, I think that's -- that would be our preference for all of us. And then where it goes beyond that is, I guess, you know, would be up to the voters.

But, yes, I think obviously we're very biased. We think we had one of the great leaders of our time right here from our state, John McCain. And I think we've seen by the reaction most of the world agrees. So, yes, the more John McCain's we have in the United States Senate, the better.

SCIUTTO: Grant Woods thanks so much for taking the time and sharing your thoughts.

WOODS: OK. Thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Good luck to you.

Out front next, Senator McCain taking a dig at President Trump in his final public statement. Did McCain get the last word?

Plus, breaking news. The President's former Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, was reportedly looking to strike a deal with Robert Mueller. What happened?

And remembering John McCain with a smile.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They tell me I'm the first sitting Senator ever to host this show. They asked President Bush to do it but apparently he doesn't like to work on weekends.



[19:17:59] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, President Trump speaking publicly on Senator John McCain's death just moments ago saying, quote, we very much appreciate everything Senator McCain has done for our country. He earlier ignored questions five different times today about McCain's death. This as McCain takes one last subtle shot at President Trump. The criticism coming in McCain's farewell statement read earlier today by his long-time aide, Rick Davis.


DAVIS: We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Out front now, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan, New York Times Columnist Frank Bruni, and White House Correspondent for Politico, Eliana Johnson. Frank, if I could begin with you just listening to Rick Davis there read what was really an emotional address from Senator McCain and emotional by the man delivering in his long-time aide, Rick Davis. Do you have any doubt in your mind that McCain had President Trump in mind with those words, that message to the country?

FRANK BURNI, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: No. There is no doubt. There's no doubt at all. And that's because those words are so consistent with John McCain's public remarks in the last year and a half of his life, like a speech he gave in Philadelphia last October. Those words sound very much like his writing in the last book that he wrote which came out only months ago, "The Restless Wave". He's definitely directing those words at President Trump in far, but he's also directing them at all the things that President Trump has stirred and stoked in this country, at the nationalism, at the tribal rivalries as he said. So he is thinking about the wages of Trumpism and he's warning us all, you know, to be careful about that and to try to move on in a more positive direction. No doubt.

SCIUTTO: Powerful words there about values over blood and soil. Eliana, you've covered this administration for some time. It took the President quite some time to honor Senator McCain directly, but now just in the last couple of hours we have this statement from the White House and just moments ago we had the President speaking, as Abby Phillip reported just a short time ago, to evangelical voters making another personal comment about him.

[19:20:13] What in your view and your view in your reporting lead to that change?

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Look Jim, this President has resisted conforming to the norms of his office since he was campaigning for president. And it took him 48 hours to do what we expect the Presidents which was to issue a proclamation ordering the flag, lowered to half mast, regardless of whether the deceased person is a political friend or political foe. I think his aides have prevailed upon him for now, but I would point out, there are five days until John McCain's memorial service at the National Cathedral on Saturday. And I wonder whether the President will be able to stay on message now that he's actually gotten on it between today, Monday, and Saturday, that big memorial service. I'm skeptical.

SCIUTTO: April, as we mentioned previously, President Trump ignored questions about Senator McCain five different occasions today, multiple opportunities. I just want to play these moments again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any thoughts on John McCain?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have anything to say about John McCain,




TRUMP: Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why won't you say anything on John McCain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let's go. Make your way out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, we're finished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any comment on John McCain, sir?


SCIUTTO: We just have new tape into CNN which is the President just moments ago speaking at the White House with some kind words about Senator John McCain. Let's have a listen.


TRUMP: Also our hearts and prayers are going to the family of Senator John McCain. There will be a lot of activity over the next number of days. And we very much appreciate everything that Senator McCain has done for our country. So thank you very much.


SCIUTTO: April, quite a change there in the span of a couple of hours. Why did it take so long in your view?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: His silence was deafening. You know what, social media, those inside the White House and outside the White House put pressure on this President. That's what my sources are telling me. You know, Republican sources are saying it was an embarrassment and all of this in the midst of an election coming up too in a couple of days for Arizona.

Now, this is the problem for the President. He had to put his personal behind and finally deal with the party and put the party first. The question is, you know, Eliana was right, can he sustain? Can he sustain between now and the funeral? But you also have to remember that he's getting a lot of pressure. And one of those, I'm understanding, that's giving him pressure is the first lady of the United States, Melania Trump. And there are discussions apparently from my sources that she could possibly, this is not firm or final, but there are discussions that she could possibly go to the funeral. SCIUTTO: Melania would or Ivanka?

RYAN: Melania.

SCIUTTO: Melania.

RYAN: Melania, the first lady. There are discussions about that. It's not final, but they are trying to figure this out.

SCIUTTO: That would be, Frank Bruni, that would be quite a moment because it's CNN's reporting that McCain, Senator McCain himself did not want the President, President Trump, to come to his funeral, as sadly in these final weeks was making plans for those events. How do you think that would be received to how the first lady go?

BRUNI: Well I think she would be received because this is also part of a very interesting evolving role that the first lady has been playing, especially over recent weeks. We have seen her contradicts the President. We've seen her even seem to taunt him. This would be yet another chapter in one of the most kind of fascinating and unexpected narratives of this White House.

I think the McCain family would welcome her. I think they would see it as a gesture of respect. She is not the one who has made such awful public comments about John McCain. She is not the one who has been so resistant to pay him the proper respect. And as I said, it would be something to see.

SCIUTTO: Eliana, credit where credit is due. Yes, it took time but the President in a written statement in lowering the flag again to half staff, in sending his Chief of Staff, the Defense Secretary, they're going to participate in funeral services as well. This is not the kind of reversal that we see often from this President. Do you connect it as April does, to the uproar really over it? Do you connect it to the troubles that the President is going through now legally and politically?

JOHNSON: I certainly connect it to the negative media coverage.

[19:25:01] There was really a backlash when the flag that was lowered upon the news of McCain's death Saturday evening went back up at midnight yesterday, as U.S. flag code dictates without a proclamation from the President. I think that's why his aides were so eager for him to sign it but when no proclamation came, the flag was lowered again.

Media firestorm erupted. The President does not like negative press coverage. You know, one other thing I would point out that's so interesting to me about this is that both John McCain and Donald Trump really are political brawlers. They both wear their feelings on their sleeves. And I think in all of this back and forth, both of them are making clear, John McCain did not like Donald Trump and Donald Trump did not like John McCain. And I think that lack of phoniness is what Trump's fans like about him and what McCain's like about him.

SCIUTTO: April, if I could just give you the final word. You've heard the defense Senator Jim Inhofe said that McCain was partly to blame for this because he criticized the President. I heard that from a Trump surrogate earlier on the air today. Any truth to that?

RYAN: Well, you know, we heard loudly when President Trump -- when candidate Trump was talking about what it took to be a military person and a hero and that doesn't sit well with a lot of veterans. It doesn't sit well with the person who was bloodied, bruised and broken and in captivity for years for their country. That was a resounding blow and then John McCain shot back in very politically elegant ways. This was a brawl that went down to the end. And it will continue because you have a lot of veterans who are very upset. But especially when you have a president who had an issue with bone spurs that prevented him from going into the military.

SCIUTTO: To all of you, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

Coming up on "OutFront" next, Paul Manafort's lawyers reportedly tried to cut a deal with prosecutors over charges he face in his next trial but that deal fell apart. Why?

And Roger Stone says that he is on Bob Mueller's hit list. Could he be right?


[19:30:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Breaking news: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was reportedly seeking a deal in his upcoming trial. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting tonight that while jurors in Virginia were deliberating tax and bank fraud charges, Manafort's defense team is trying to work out an agreement with prosecutors in his second trial that is slated to begin here in Washington, D.C., next month.

"The Journal" reports the talks stalled after the special counsel, Robert Mueller, raised issues with the potential deal.

OUTFRONT now, John Dean, a former Nixon White House counsel and Shan Wu, who's former lawyer for Rick Gates and a former federal prosecutor.

John, if I could begin with you, what does it tell you that Manafort's defense team was trying to cut a deal in Washington while the jurors in his first trial were still deliberating his fate. Is that significant in your view?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think the timing tells us something. At the time they were discussing this, they had a little more swagger in their step. They felt strongly about their case in Virginia, and they -- I'm sure that the defendant feels the pressure of the expense of these trials. It's probably a seven-figure trial that he just went through in Virginia and that's what he's facing in the District of Columbia.

So, doing a deal would have been a very intelligent and cost-saving move. But I think probably the prosecutors said he want some cooperation and couldn't get any. And that's when the discussions broke off.

SCIUTTO: Would that, Shan Wu, be the likely reason, and again this is reading tea leaves here, I'll admit that, but if it was the special counsel, as "The Wall Street Journal" reported, that raised issues about a deal or in effect blocked the deal, would that be because a lack of cooperation?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It could be. And it may be that as John was saying in those moments while the jury was still out, it's kind of like the moment before the roulette wheel stops spinning, everyone feels like they have leverage at that point. And it could be the special counsel was reacting to the Manafort team not wanting to give too much or wanting certain sort of advantages that they weren't going to give.

Usually, they need to have some serious discussions and proffers to see if the defendant can give them something of value. They'd be in a little bit of a time crunch there, so I'm not sure they would have had time to really ascertain how valuable Manafort's cooperation could be if that was the sticking point.

SCIUTTO: Now, John, of course we should note or remind the trial -- both these trials deal with campaign issues, financial fraud issues, tax issues that predate Manafort's work for the Trump campaign. Would we presume that Robert Mueller, if he was seeking cooperation, would want cooperation on the other Russia-related issues that he is investigating, or would it be simply cooperation or a guilty plea on those financial crimes?

DEAN: Well, it's hard to know. Of course, we are just trying to glean what we can from the ethers. And I would think they probably would have wanted a little cooperation on Russia, to at least crack that door if they could, to see if they could get an opening at all. So far Manafort, as we know, has been refusing to give any cooperation.

So, we don't know if he's afraid of some oligarch or if he's holding out for a pardon or what his thinking is. But he's certainly taking a torturous route.

SCIUTTO: Shan, as you know, President Trump praised Manafort. This remarkably even after he was convicted. A reminder as to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Manafort is a good man. He was with Ronald Reagan. He was with a lot of different people over the years. I feel very sad about that, because it involved me, but it's still a very sad thing that happened. I feel very badly for Paul Manafort.

One of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Do you hear, Shan Wu, in the president's public comments in support of Manafort, in addition to his many public comments criticizing the special counsel, Robert Mueller, do you hear the president there possibly laying the groundwork for a pardon?

WU: I think he's certainly expressing his opinion that he approves of Manafort kind of holding tough in the president's view of the world. He has not seemed as though he needs any preparation to issue a pardon. He'd probably issue it by tweet in the middle of the night.

I think it's interesting that may be going through Manafort's mind at this point as he makes this transformation from someone who absolutely was going to fight to slowly considering the possibility of a guilty plea, it's a lot of pressure and it's a very painful transformation that has to go on for a person in that position.

SCIUTTO: No question. Shan Wu, John Dean, thanks for joining us tonight.

[19:35:00] WU: Good to be here.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, long-time Trump associate Roger Stone says that Robert Mueller is coming after me. Is he right?

And during a week of tributes to Senator McCain, Arizona is holding a Republican primary tomorrow for the Senate. There are three candidates vying to be the most like Donald Trump.


KELLI WARD (R), ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Are we going to elect another senator cut from the same cloth as Jeff Flake and John McCain?




SCIUTTO: New tonight, Roger Stone says he's next.

The long-time advisor to Donald Trump pleading for donations from supporters, claiming that he will be next on special counsel Robert Mueller's, quote, hit list. This as Stone denies an allegation that he told President Trump in October 2016 that WikiLeaks would release the e-mails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and exactly when that would happen.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: Someone is saying that they overheard a conversation in which I told Donald Trump in October of 2016 what exactly what about in the WikiLeaks disclosures and when they would be disclosed.

[19:40:03] This is categorically false. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now, Democratic congressman from Connecticut, Jim Himes. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us tonight.


SCIUTTO: Your committee, of course, interviewed Roger Stone last year. Did you ask him about being present for any conversations where the president was made aware of the hacked e-mails? Did he share any accounts along those lines?

HIMES: Yes. Well, Jim, I can't get into the specifics of what was said behind closed doors in the investigation, but you can assume that, yes, of course, we did. I mean one of the more interesting aspects of Roger Stone was that he seemed to predict on Twitter in that famous tweet that it would, as he put it, soon be John Podesta's time in the barrel.

We subsequently know that he was communicating with WikiLeaks. He chose not to -- chose not to tell the investigative committee how he was doing that. But, you know, it's very clear that he had lots of communication, so he may be one of the missing pieces here.

You know, we know the campaign was very interested in getting Russian help. They reached out for it, they welcomed it. The question is did they know the timing, did they know the kind of help, did they communicate that back to the president or the president's campaign.

Of course, Roger Stone, long known for his dirty tricks as a dirty trickster, his words, not mine, you know, would presumably get asked that under oath by the special counsel.

SCIUTTO: Would foreknowledge, advance knowledge of Russian hacked e- mails and their release via WikiLeaks, I should remind our viewers, it's the U.S. intelligence community's view that WikiLeaks was used by Russia to release those e-mails, would advance knowledge of that by te president or his senior advisors amount to collusion in your view?

HIMES: Well, remember, so that's a no-brainer to answer. Of course, it's collusion. If you know that the Russians are helping you and you've welcomed that and you've had meetings and as the president so memorably said, Russia, if you're listening, please get Hillary Clinton's e-mails and lo and behold, they go at it the next day.

Collusion really is not the issue here. The issue is a legal one, which is with foreknowledge of a Russian hacking effort be a crime and that's obviously something for special counsel Mueller to figure out. But, you know, hey, look, the definition of conspiracy, that is if you're helping, if you're participating, if you're assisting in any way, there's a good chance you'd be part of a conspiracy.

SCIUTTO: I should have used the word conspiracy rather than collusion because that's the one that would be a crime. There's news tonight "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that Paul Manafort's legal team held talks with prosecutors about a possible deal. This in his upcoming trial here in Washington, this just as he was convicted in his first trial last week in Virginia but those talks broke down according to "The Wall Street Journal."

As you know, President Trump has called Manafort brave, praised him for not breaking. Should President Trump be worried about this latest news that Manafort appeared for a moment, at least, more willing to cooperate with federal prosecutors?

HIMES: Well, I suppose so. You know, some of us remember back when the president was pardoning Joe Arpaio and just showing that he can without any of the procedures that presidents have traditionally followed issue pardons to people he just happens to like, a lot of us thought, my gosh, he's signaling people here. He's signaling Paul Manafort and he's signaling Papadopoulos and everybody else, clam up and maybe I'll have your back down the road.

Now, look, Manafort has some thinking to do, right? At the end of the day, he knows the president will do exactly what's in Donald Trump's interests. And, you know, pardoning Paul Manafort after he's been convicted by a jury of his peers on count after count after count, that would come with a political cost. So, if I were Paul Manafort, I'd be weighing my decision as to whether to cooperate and stand with the president or maybe try to cooperate and reduce the time I spent behind bars pretty carefully right now.

SCIUTTO: Congressman, before I let you, I do want to ask you about the passing of Senator John McCain. You may remember that Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, he had very strong words earlier tonight about anyone, including President Trump, of course, president from his own party, who did not give McCain the praise that he deserves. Have a listen.


SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: Anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping. I would say to the president or anybody in the world, it's time to pause and say, this was a great man. He gave everything for us.


SCIUTTO: Of course, Senator Isakson did not mention Trump by name, but Trump among those who have occasionally besmirched the reputation of Senator McCain.

As you know, your Republican colleagues have been criticized for not challenging Trump on statements like that.

Do you welcome the senator's comments?

[19:45:01] Are you surprised to see how many are willing to come out on the issue of Senator McCain?

HIMES: Well, I'll tell you, I'd much rather have my Republican colleagues come out in favor of defending the Department of Justice, of defending the FBI, of objecting to the president's charge that the media is the enemy of the people. So, on my list of things that I wish my Republican colleagues would show some backbone on, McCain is not in the top five.

But, of course, look, I didn't agree with John McCain on much at all, but I profoundly respect the man. You know, immense service, decades of service. You know, he's a guy who reached across the aisle, tried to work with everybody, and really had a good heart and a great sense of humor, which, by the way, as you know, is not necessarily something you often find in the Senate or the Congress generally.

So, a great, great man. The president just couldn't find it in him to do the right thing. It just makes the president look small. I don't know what he was thinking.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks for taking the time tonight.

HIMES: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And OUTFRONT next, voters about to go to the polls in a crucial primary. The stakes so high that one Republican candidate now forced to backtrack after slamming John McCain.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on Senator McCain's ability to laugh, especially at himself.


[19:50:09] SCIUTTO: Tonight, Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward backtracking after implying that McCain's announcement to halt cancer treatment was timed to hurt her campaign. She is apologizing to those who, quote, misconstrued my comments a insensitive. Ward seemed to double down this morning, tweeting, quote, political correctness is like a cancer, exclamation point.

Ward someone of the three Republicans vying to fill retiring Senator Jeff Flake's seat.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT tonight with a look at who the candidates are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Super exciting.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In here final pitch to Arizona Republicans, U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward pledging she is the anti-John McCain.

WARD: Are we going to elect another senator cut from the same cloth as Jeff Flake and John McCain?



LAH: This was hours before the senator died.

(on camera): Was it a thought to maybe not say something today?

WARD: There is Senator McCain the person, and I feel very bad for him and his family. But there is also Senator McCain the politician that has let down Arizona again and again and again.

LAH (voice-over): Riding with Ward, conservative provocateurs Tomi Lahren and Mike Cernovich.

(on camera): Do you welcome their view points?

WARD: I mean, I welcome viewpoints from everyone.

LAH (on camera): Even if they're completely false and dangerous?

WARD: And how does that pertain to me?

LAH: You have him on your bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As promised, we have Kelli Ward in the house.

LAH (voice-over): This is the battle for Arizona's Republican base.


WARD: I voted proudly for Donald J. Trump.

LAH: In lockstep with Trump, calling her opponent --

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: We support all services.

LAH: Establishment backed Congresswoman Martha McSally a GOP phony.

WARD: Pretending to be a supporter of Donald Trump. She is running as though she is Kelli Ward, and we don't need a cheap imitation. We've got the real thing.

MCSALLY: As we say at the beginning of a fighter engagement the air, fights on.

LAH: She should know. McSally is a retired Air Force combat pilot, a congresswoman who won in a moderate district. She's now shifting to the right.

MCSALLY: Mr. President --

LAH: Sitting at the table with Trump in Washington.

MCSALLY: Lower taxes, less regulations.

LAH: Echoing him on the trail.

MCSALLY: I think the Mueller investigation needs to wrap up there. Has been no collusion. So let's get over it. Let's move on. I have a 97 percent voting record with the president's agenda, more

than anyone else in the Arizona delegation. So those are just the facts.

LAH: But before Trump was president, McSally felt differently, calling his "Access Hollywood" tape disgusting and unacceptable, tweeting she was appalled, to this day not revealing if she voted for Trump.

WARD: She still can't say build the wall. Give me a break.

LAH: Opening herself up toe attacks not just from Ward.


LAH: But also Republican Senate candidate Joe Arpaio, long-time Maricopa County sheriff, convicted of criminal contempt for racially profiling Latinos.

ARPAIO: And here he is.

LAH: Then pardoned by President Trump.

ARPAIO: I'm the guy that's going win this.

LAH (on camera): You think you're the front-runner?

ARPAIO: Not according to the polls. Who cares about the Mickey Mouse polls? They're all stacked anyway.

LAH (voice-over): He is not expected to win. Ward thinks she has a fighting chance.


MCSALLY: We're going to win by a lot.

LAH: Already pivoting to the general.

MCSALLY: We look forward to having unity after we're the nominee in Tuesday night. We're in a strong, confident position. This is a high stakes election.


LAH: Now, Trump has not endorsed in this race. McSally has been spending her primary time talking to the Trump voters. In the general, she will have to reach out to moderates.

She will likely face Democrat Kyrsten Sinema who has been pitching herself for months as a moderate, Jim. This is expected to be an expensive, nasty fight in a state that Trump won by just 4 percent -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos remembering the funny side of the maverick of the Senate, John McCain.


[19:57:49] SCIUTTO: Senator John McCain was a serious man who seriously knew how to laugh.

Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He called his campaign bus the straight talk express.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Why are we handing this out?


MOOS: but a lot of what he expressed was humor, whether it was poking fun at his opponent, then presidential candidate Obama --

MCCAIN: Maverick I can do, but messiah is above my pay grade.


MOOS: Or getting nabbed on camera playing poker on his phone during a Senate debate.

MCCAIN: Occasionally I get a little bored.

MOOS: Just a year and a half ago, Senator McCain was horsing around like a teenager, making devil ears behind CNN reporter Manu Raju. McCain then tweeted out the moment, after all these years, revenge.

More devil horns behind his fellow senator from Colorado.


MOOS: And then there were all those "SNL" appearances. Never funnier than when --


MCCAIN: People -- memories --

MOOS: He said Streisand tried to do his job talking politics. So he decided to try hers.

MCCAIN: Papa can you see me -- pretty annoying, huh?

MOOS: Barbra wasn't annoyed. After his death, she referenced the "SNL" act in a tweet and called him a good man, a good senator.

He even let "SNL" joke about his then running mate going rogue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Available now, we got a bunch of these.

MOOS: Senator McCain's attempts at humor sometimes blew up on him. Remember this?

Senator McCain did when someone candidate him about punishing Iran.

MCCAIN: That old Beach Boy song bomb Iran, bomb, bomb, bomb.

MOOS: He made TV and movie cameos playing himself.

MCCAIN: I just need to get my coat here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you give me a minute here, please?

MOOS: He made fun of himself.

MCCAIN: I wish that guy would shut up.

MOOS: No wonder he laughed so easily. He considered himself to be one of --

MCCAIN: -- the luckiest people --

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

MCCAIN: -- in the world.

MOOS: -- New York.


SCIUTTO: One of a kind for sure.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" with John Berman in tonight starts right now.