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Trump Announces W.H. Counsel Don McGahn Is Departing W.H., Sources: Trump Unnerved By McGahn's Cooperation With Mueller; Sources: Second Trump Org Employee Discussed Immunity Deal; Trump-Backed Nominee Florida Governor Accused Of Racist Remark. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 29, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- Obama and George W. Bush. We will, of course, have special coverage honoring Senator McCain. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, White House shake-up. Trump reveals that White House Counsel Don McGahn is on his way out, a central witness in Bob Mueller's investigation. What the President is saying about his departure tonight.

Plus, why Trump's ex-fixer turned. New details as to why the President's long-time Attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty and whether he expects a presidential pardon.

And honoring John McCain. NFL star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald joins me to talk about how he will be paying tribute to his close friend. Let's go out front.

And good evening, I'm Jim Sciutto in again tonight for Erin Burnett. And out front tonight, a significant White House shakeup. In a surprise announcement on Twitter, of course, President Trump revealing that White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall. Now McGahn may know better than anyone else whether the President obstructed justice.

In fact, it was just 11 days ago that we learned McGahn had been cooperating extensively with the Special Counsel. Three voluntary interviews lasting all told some 30 hours. Yet today Trump telling reporters that he is not concerned.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very good man. Don, excellent guy. Yes, Don McGahn is a really good guy. Been with me for a long time, privately before this he represented me. He's been here now it will be almost two years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any concern about what he said to the Mueller team?

TRUMP: No, not at all. Not at all.


TRUMP: I knew he was going also. Yes, I did know. I had to approve it. So, we didn't claim executive -- no, I don't have to be aware. We have -- we do everything straight. We do everything by the book. And Don is an excellent guy.


SCIUTTO: Only when we learned about McGahn's interview, sources told CNN that Trump was in fact unnerved and rattled that McGahn never provided a full readout of what he had told the Special Counsel. This is key, because McGahn is at the center of several incidents that Mueller is looking into, including Trump's attempt to fire the Special Counsel last year. According to The New York Times, Trump tried to force McGahn to fire Mueller, but ultimately backed down when McGahn refused to carry out the President's order.

Abby Phillip is out front live at the White House tonight. Abby, McGahn appears to have been just as surprised as the rest of us by this tweet from the President today announcing his departure. And we also know they have had a strained relationship.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Don McGahn had been planning, according to our sources, to depart at some point after the Kavanaugh nomination was wrapped up, but he certainly was not expecting President Trump to make that announcement on Twitter this morning. That tweet really caught him by surprise, but also his allies by surprise. You heard from Senate Republicans really raising some alarm about the impending departure of someone who they saw as an ally. But Don McGahn's relationship with the President hasn't been so good.

Our sources tell us that for over a year now, they have had a little bit of a strained relationship. Don McGahn came in with this President at the very beginning, helped shepherd him through some thorny issues at the beginning, as you pointed out, helped him when he tried to get Sessions to not recuse himself in that case. But as this has happened, as this estrangement has happened, Don McGahn has also become a central witness in the Mueller probe. Those 30 hours of interviews were one that the President did authorize, but he did not know the scope of them. And his lawyers only recently got a full accounting of what McGahn had to say.

Now meanwhile, the attention is turning now to who might replace him. And our sources are pointing us to Emmet Flood, who was a lawyer here at the White House who was brought in to deal with some of these issues related to the Russia probe. Flood has an interesting background. He was actually a lawyer for President Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Extremely interesting. Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks very much.

Out front tonight, Shan Wu, he's a former Federal Prosecutor, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Mark Preston, my colleague and CNN Senior Political Analyst. Analyst, if could begin with you. You saw the President there saying, he's saying he's always been a big fan of Don McGahn's. The facts, is that true?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he was a big fan back during the campaign. Don McGahn played a very important role for Donald Trump when he watching his campaign, played a very important role quite frankly over the past couple of years. But he didn't a play a role that Donald Trump wanted him to play.

He wanted -- Donald Trump wanted him to be his personal lawyer to look out for him, and not necessarily look out for the country. Now, what we saw from Don McGahn now is that many ways, he has withdrawn for Donald Trump. He has 26 judges who have been confirmed to the appeals court. That's unbelievable, Jim. That's an amazing number.

[19:05:10] You have to one, very likely two within the next few weeks or certainly within the few months. We will see two pics (ph) of the Supreme Court. Don McGahn had a major role on that.

And let's don't forget. What Abby just said is extremely important. Don McGahn refused to fire Robert Mueller. Could you imagine if he had went through and had done that, what kind of Constitution of crisis we could be in. And also, he also protected Jeff Sessions. And because of all that, because there's one history here in Washington D.C., he is going to be, I mean, specifically by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: April, but how about for the President here, because the President didn't want him to fire Mueller, he didn't do that. As Mark mentioned, he provided some cover for the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with the President has repeatedly threatened to fire him. I mean, the bottom line here, would we, with his departure, be losing a check on the President in effect?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes, you're losing a check but you also have to wondering what kind of check Mueller is receiving with these. Does this check off this President is obstructing justice by firing someone because he was angry or allowing him to leave whatever the case is because he went and testify to Mueller. This President believes in loyalty. And this President has a hard time dealing with those who do not stand with him on certain issues. He cannot stand Jeff Sessions. He cannot stand Mueller.

And the President allowed his White House Special Counsel to stay. But enough is enough in this President says we've seen this play out over and over again. And the question is, what does Mueller think of this. It's not about what we think or the optics of it, it's about what Mueller is looking at these ads. I mean, 30 hours of testimony, the President clearly did not like it. And now he's gone. What did that said?

SCIUTTO: Shan, I mean, inline to that, inline to the President's role in this, his treatment of any of the senior advisers, how hard will it be for someone to fill this role, fill McGahn's shoes? SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it's hard anytime that lawyers are in transition. I mean, when we transition on to the Rick Gate's case, I mean, there's a huge running catch up we had to play because we've been in another law firm involved. And similarly I can't speak for as President Counsel but, you know, there's a lot to do. It's not just the paper work or documents, I mean, you have to develop a rapport with your client, you have to develop a rapport with the prosecutors.

So, to the extent that they're talking about Emmet Flood doing it, that's helpful because he's already well versed in the situation. But I think from a bigger picture perspective, it really shows that the entire White House legal strategy is now directed at the Russian probe. There's a lot more that the White House Counsel does than just defend the President in the criminal investigation and that's completely being dropped when they turn to Flood who is specially has been the Russian case.

SCIUTTO: Mark, I want to play what the President said when he was asked specifically today whether he was concerned at all about what McGahn said to Mueller's team in those three interviews, have a listen.


TRUMP: No, not at all. Not at all.


TRUMP: I knew he was going also. Yes, I did know. I had to approve it. So, we didn't claim executive -- no, I don't have to be aware. We have -- we do everything straight. We do everything by the book. And Don is an excellent guy.


SCIUTTO: Mark Preston, everything by the book.

PRESTON: Well, that might be a bridge too far, right? I mean, look, there's a level of authenticity honestly, all kidding aside, that President Trump seems to lack. Clearly he knew that -- or eventually knew that Don McGahn had spoke to Robert Mueller, but what we have learned from our own reporting, Jim, as you know is that he didn't know that it was for that long. He didn't know -- President Trump didn't know it was for 30 hours in the White House, in the White House Counsel. Even Rudy Giuliani came out himself and said that they didn't really know what Don McGahn told President Trump -- excuse me, told Robert Mueller about President Trump. Nor do we.

So, we've got to be very careful. What we do know, though, that that's a pretty sticky situation to be in if you're Don McGahn as the White House Counsel that has to go and provide 30 hours of testimony to a special prosecutor.

SCIUTTO: April, of course, you're in the White House and have been covering this administration for some time. It is a long list of people very close to this President who we know have spoken to both federal prosecutors in New York but also to Robert Mueller here. What is the President's level of concern about this truthfully, despite his happy sanguine comments today?

RYAN: One thing we know for sure is the President feels that when people come to talk to him that they'll turn on him, he knows that. But it's another level when they go to speak to Robert Mueller because he calls this Russia probe a witch hunt and he believes that there are people who are trying to get him and it's not true.

[19:10:08] I mean, whether it's true or not, the President does not like for people to go and talk against him, be it in the White House or especially when it comes to this serious, serious investigation of Russia and possible obstruction of justice, conspiracy, fraud, what have you. And even collusion, that is not a crime. So this President doesn't like it at all and he will go to the nth degree to let you know that, that he doesn't like it.

SCIUTTO: Shan, a number of Republicans, they seem to be worried about the departure of Don McGahn. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, he tweeted the following. "I hope it's not true, you can't let that happen." The Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, he called it, quote, sad news for our country. Is this purely about judges?

McGahn, of course, has been central to the many, many appointments that Trump has made to the federal bench. Is that it? Or are they concerned about what follows?

WU: I think they're concerned about both. Certainly the work he's done with the judiciary as has been pointed out has been a remarkable track record. And the point is, the White House Counsel does a lot more than just defend on this one case. And I think they're concerned that other balls are going to drop at this point, you know.

And to the earlier points, you know, that 30 hours of interviewing, it's just impossible for the Trump legal team to know what was covered in that. No amount of debriefing could do that unless you were there taking notes or having it transcribed. So he also leaves them really completely in the dark about what happened there.

SCIUTTO: Shan, April and Mark, thanks very much.

RYAN: Thank you.

WU: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Out front next, Cohen's strategy. New details tonight about Michael Cohen's thinking as prosecutors zero in on another Trump organization employee.

Plus, Florida's Republican nominee for Governor Ron DeSantis, coming under attack after making what many are calling a racist dog whistle.


REP. RON DESANTIS (R), GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE FOR FLORIDA: The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up.


SCIUTTO: And as mourners pay their respects to the late Senator John McCain, I'm going to speak to NFL star Larry Fitzgerald about how he's remembering a very close friend.


[19:15:52] SCIUTTO: New tonight, President Trump's former Lawyer, Michael Cohen, is resigned to going to prison to protect his family. That according to a source familiar with Cohen's sinking -- his thinking, rather. This just one week after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including violating campaign finance laws, which he says Trump directed him to do.

Evan Perez is out front tonight. Evan, what else do we know about Cohen's mindset right now as he faces these legal challenges?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, as you've seen Michael Cohen over the last few weeks and a couple of months, you've seen an evolution in Michael Cohen. The fact is at first he was trying to fight these charges, but we're told that behind the scenes as he and his lawyers were meeting with prosecutors from the southern district of New York, it sort of dawned on him that not only was he in peril with regard to these charges that the prosecutors were trying to build up against him, but also his own wife could have also been implicated in some of these alleged crimes. And so that is what helped change his mind.

We talked to one of his friends, and one of his friends told us the following. He said, "He's very resigned to doing the time. He's resigned to the fact that he's going to go to jail for some time", as a result of pleading guilty, Jim, to these charges. We know that -- we expect that he is likely to face some jail time. But he seems to be at peace with his decision to turn on the President and essentially help prosecutors conclude this chapter.

SCIUTTO: Understood. He's married and he has children. We're also learning that a second Trump organization employee discussed a potential immunity deal with federal prosecutors, the same prosecutors, of course, who charged Cohen. There have been a number of people close to the President and in his company who have done this. Is this significant?

PEREZ: Well, look, I think one of the things that a lot of people were surprised when Allen Weisselberg who was, you know, essentially the keeper of the books at the Trump organization decided that he was going to provide testimony to the grand jury in the Michael Cohen investigation under an immunity deal. And we've learned that there was a second employee who had a discussion with prosecutors there in Manhattan and who they were proposing doing -- having a similar immunity agreement.

We're told that in the end they did not offer the immunity to this employee, they did not bring that person in for testimony to the grand jury. We don't know exactly why that is. We also don't know the identity at this point of that employee, but it really goes to show you how the pressure -- the amount of pressure that prosecutors were trying to put on people as they tried to bring these charges against Michael Cohen in this very serious investigation, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, thanks very much.

PEREZ: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Out front now, Democratic Congressman from Washington, Denny Heck, he sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for taking the time to join us tonight.


SCIUTTO: So when you hear this news about a second Trump organization employee tried to get an immunity deal, which of course would involve cooperation, is this a sign of further legal trouble for the President?

HECK: Sure, but I think the walls have been closing in for quite some time now. I do think, Jim, it helps to explain the President's behavior when you add all of these factors up. Mr. Weisselberg having an immunity deal, Mr. Cohen striking the plea bargain deal and turning over evidence to the prosecutor. Now, the possibility of a second Trump organization employee.

These accounts, I think, for the President and his decision to have Mr. McGahn depart and completely reorganizing the White House for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to defend himself personally against the Mueller investigation. I think he forgets that the job that Don McGahn held, the title for which was White House Counsel, not Donald J. Trump personal attorney.

SCIUTTO: As you mentioned, President Trump announcing today that Don McGahn will be leaving sometime in the fall. As you remember, it was McGahn who reportedly refused to follow Trump's order to fire Mueller. In your view, is the Special Counsel in greater danger of being followed -- following McGahn's departure?

[19:20:10] HECK: Well as I've said all along if that were to happen that it was precipitate a constitutional crisis, but I'm not roll it out of the realm of possibility. We are, after all, dealing with an occupant of the White House who is probably and arguably the most thin-skinned occupant of that office in our history and that would date back and include President Nixon. He simply cannot tolerate anyone around him who isn't a sycophant, frankly. They have to agree with him all the time enthusiastically and gleefully.

And frankly, if somebody has had the privilege to be a part of large organizations and to lead large organizations, there's no way to run a railroad. The key to success as the leader of a large organization is to surround yourself with people who complement you, who hire to your weakness as it were. I think we got a great recent example in history. When President Obama without a lot of experience in the United States Senate tapped Joe Biden to be his Vice President. Why? Because among other things, Joe Biden was a foreign relations expert without peer. You hire to your weakness, and you hire people that are willing to look you in the eye and tell you the truth. Donald Trump does not.

SCIUTTO: To your point, The New York Times is reporting tonight that Trump asked that at one time his former Staff Secretary, Rob Porter, asked him several times last year if he would be willing to replace McGahn. Apparently, Porter himself said that he was not qualified for that job. Does it worry you that this President, particularly now he has to find a replacement for Don McGahn, that he would consider Rob Porter for that very important position?

HECK: What worries me is that he's only got one criterion for it, and that is will this person do the President's personal bidding at all times and in every regard, seemingly irrespective of the law or matters of ethics or matters of propriety, that's what concerns me.

SCIUTTO: On another topic, President Trump's former Lawyer, John Dowd, he said today that he believes there is no need at all for the President to ever sit down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Have a listen to how he said it.


JOHN DOWD, FMR. ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: There's no reason for the President to answer questions from Mueller. Mueller has all the answers. We gave him all the answers.


SCIUTTO: We heard a similar smoke signal from Rudy Giuliani earlier in the week. Do you believe the President was ever serious about sitting down with the Special Counsel?

HECK: So neither John Dowd nor Rudy Giuliani have actually literally been hired for their legal expertise so much as their public relations expertise. This is all a part of the spin machine, it's not a part of a legal defense. And, no, I think it's highly doubtful that the people around the President would ever allow him to sit down with Director Mueller, although it's important to note that an awful lot of what's going on could be brought to closure if the President would agree to do that, as he has indicated in the past he would be willing to do, but has not been thus far.

So I'm not at all optimistic that the President will sit down with him. In fact, I think his lawyers would maybe even be guilty of malpractice if they allowed it because of the peril that it would put the President at. But that would be the appropriate thing to do.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Denny Heck, thank you for taking the time tonight.

HECK: You bet, Jim, thank you, sir.

SCIUTTO: And out front next tonight, the Republican Nominee for Governor of Florida accused of making a racist comment.


DESANTIS: The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up.


SCIUTTO: What President Trump is saying about that controversy tonight.

Plus, history in the making as two women battle it out to become Arizona's first female senator. But are the campaign attacks already going too far?


[19:27:50] SCIUTTO: New tonight, President Trump is praising Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis following his primary win. Mr. Trump's good words come despite a comment that DeSantis made about his Democratic opponent for Governor, Andrew Gillum, who is black. Comments that many find truly offensive.


DESANTIS: Let's build off the success we've had on Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work. That's not going to be good for Florida.


SCIUTTO: Monkey this up. This afternoon, Trump claimed he was not aware at all of the comments and showered praise on a candidate who has fully embraced him.


TRUMP: No, I didn't hear it honestly. I'll tell you what, I know Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis is extraordinary, he's an extreme talent, and he will make a fantastic governor of Florida. So, I think Ron is -- he's extraordinary in so many different ways.


SCIUTTO: Out front now, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner and former Senior Communications Advisor for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller. He was also a consultant on DeSantis' abandoned campaign for the Senate in 2016. Welcome to both of you.

Nina, if I could begin with us. The DeSantis campaign is saying it's absurd to believe that him saying monkey this up has anything to do with race. In your view, is that credible?

NINA TURNER (D), FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: Not at all, Jim. And, of course, they are, because they have the luxury to do so. I have a message for my white sisters and brothers in America. Don't ever use the word monkey or ape or anything like that. Don't even go down that street when it comes to African-americans. There's a painful history in this country of using that stereotype.

It is used to dehumanize African-Americans and the representative knew exactly what he was doing when he said that. And it wasn't a dog whistle, it was a bullhorn to certain folks in this country who still see and believe that African-Americans are less than. During the Antebellum South, during Jim Crow, you know, and even in the 21st century, you know, there have been caricatures and even President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Jackie Robinson, an athlete, had to face that too, throwing bananas and showing images of them as apes. So not only did the representative use that deliberately, my message to my white sisters and brothers in this country, don't even go down that street ever when referring to an African-American.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Jason Miller, your response.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, where I would agree with Senator Turner is that a candidate running for office, you have to be very careful in the words that you choose, particularly in this hypercharged, hyperpartisan environment where literally every single phrase and every single expression is going to be analyzed and looked at and picked apart.

But what I will say about Ron DeSantis, and I had the opportunity to work with Ron in 2015 and 2016 and got to know both he and his wife, Casey, is that I never heard Ron DeSantis make a single disparaging remark.

Don't just take it from me, if you look back at his record in the Navy, at Harvard Law, at Yale, all the way going back to when he took his team to the Little League World Series and came up from pretty humble beginnings, he has a very impeccable record. I know his character and can speak to the way that he has conducted himself and how he interacts with people. But this is a little bit of a -- I think a wake-up moment I think for him as a candidate going for statewide office that literally folks are going to look at every single detail.

Now, there -- when you went back and you saw the entire point, I think it was pretty clear that Ron DeSantis was talking about the economic progress that Florida has made under Governor Rick Scott and I do think that as this general election moves along, I do think that Andrew Gillum is going to have to answer for some of these liberal economic policies. And I think that's going to be very problematic for him. The fact of the matter is Florida and the U.S. can't afford this Medicare for all or 40 percent increase in the corporate tax --


SCIUTTO: That's a conversation -- I appreciate that point, it's an important point but conversation for another time.

I do want to get to Andrew Gillum's response earlier today. He said the following. He said DeSantis is, quote, taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump. To be clear here, let's remind our viewers of some examples of what

he's talking about. You'll remember Donald Trump called his former aide, Omarosa, a dog on Twitter. He mocked LeBron James, my colleague Don Lemon's intelligence, tweeting, quote, LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, talking about Don Lemon.

And as you know, he regularly questions the intelligence of Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She is a low IQ individual, Maxine Waters. I said it the other day. I mean, honestly, she's somewhere in the mid-60s, I believe.

Crazy Maxine. Low IQ person. Low IQ.

Maxine, she's a real beauty. Maxine. A seriously low IQ person.


SCIUTTO: Now, Nina and Jason, you cannot say that the president did not intend -- that those were slip-ups. Those were very intentional and using words that many take and see as truly intentionally offensive.

Nina, I wonder if you could make a point and let's give Jason a chance to respond.

TURNER: No, Jim, that's it. And I'm glad -- look, I've got lots of respect for Jason and maybe his relationship with the representative is what it is.

But the point is this. He used the word "monkey" deliberately. All of the sound that we just heard coming out of the president's mouth was deliberate. In this country, in the 21st century, African- Americans are still trying to overcome the vestiges and the stereotypes in this country that paint us as less than.

Monkey was used deliberately by the representative, and what he should have done instead of trying to hide under the cloak of politics, he should have apologized and said that he would never, ever let it happen again instead of making it seem like it's just a political issue. This is an issue about the value of black lives in this country all the way across the board and his white privilege allows him the capacity and the audacity to refer to an African-American candidate in that way.

He didn't say giraffe, he didn't say bird, he said monkey. So, again my message to my white sisters and brothers in this country, whether you're Representative DeSantis or you're just the average person in this country, do not use the word monkey or ape or chimpanzee. Don't even march down that street when it comes to African-Americans.

And to dehumanize African-Americans and to treat us as less than and refer to us as less than human, that is why the word "monkey" was used. So, I don't buy it that he didn't understand what he was saying. This is not about Mayor Gillum's policy. Let's debate the policies, but don't use the word "monkey".

SCIUTTO: Jason, since the president has often, let's be frank, used words like that, apparently, seemingly with political intention, to send a message to audiences who welcome that kind of language, is it plausible that this is what DeSantis was doing here?

[19:35:04] MILLER: I don't think -- well, a couple of things. That was kind of a loaded question. I think there's -- let me unpack this a little bit. First of all, I don't think that there was anything intentional respectfully speaking, Senator Turner. I don't think there was anything intentional with what Ron DeSantis said today.

TURNER: We disagree, Jason.

MILLER: Well, respectfully we'll disagree.

Now, where I will agree with you I think this a candidate running for office needs to be very careful with the words that they pick and I will agree that especially if you're a white candidate running against an African-American candidate, there are certain phrases or certain expressions that just don't work if you're running against an African- American candidate, because even if it's completely unintentional, it's going to become a racial issue. So I completely agree with you. I think you make a very valid point.

But knowing Ron DeSantis and having spent a lot of time around him, he would -- he would not go and make a comment like this intentionally. So -- to that point. But also, you know, to the point about president Trump and using -- insulting people on the trail -- I mean, look, he insulted basically every candidate that he ran up against in 2016, whether it be John Kasich or Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz.

TURNER: But this is not the same, Jason. This is not the same.

MILLER: There are people all the way across the same. And so, look, that's not -- you know, I wish he wouldn't insult folks the level that he does, but that's just the way it is.

TURNER: This is what I don't like. I'm sorry, Jason. Jim, this is what I don't like. For folks to sit up here and have this cavalier attitude when it comes to racism in this country and not the dog whistle, but the bullhorn that has been used by this president and other racists. And there have been plenty of fine people in this country who have held judgeships, have been in law enforcement, have been politicians in this country. They're fine folks, but they wallow in racism and bigotry.

So, I'm not going to let that. I cannot just let that slide here because we're not dealing with he insults everybody. There is a historic precedence in this country of dehumanizing African-Americans and using the images of monkeys and apes and low intelligence to do so.

And this is the same candidate, by the way, who did a commercial teaching Trump lessons to his children, i.e., build the wall. Who was he talking to then? This candidate has embraced President Trump and obviously has embraced his ideology about African-Americans, and his truth slipped up today. It's far time has passed for people who are wearing white sheet, wearing blue suits over white sheets.

MILLER: Senator, come on, you can't -- Senator --

SCIUTTO: Please respond, but we'll have to leave it.

MILLER: Senator, you make some very valid points and I agree with a lot of the things you're saying and I even said just as much. But when you start going to Klan imagery and saying Ron DeSantis' campaign commercial that he ran is somehow racist, then I think that really discredits some very valuable insight --

TURNER: It doesn't discredit anything. You as a white man don't get to tell me as a black woman what is racist and what is offensive. I am telling you and I've got history to back me up that those images and remarks -- he needs to live with the remarks that he made.


MILLER: Ron DeSantis reading "Art of the Deal" is somehow racist? Ron DeSantis reading "Art of the Deal" is somehow --

TURNER: His comments were racist. So, if he's not a racist, he needs to apologize.


MILLER: You attacked Ron DeSantis --

SCIUTTO: One at a time.

TURNER: I attacked him? OK. I attacked him.


MILLER: You attacked -- you attacked the campaign commercial and said that it was racist.

TURNER: Build the wall? We know who he's talking about keeping out. Black and brown folks, right? Brown folks on the southern border of this country.

SCIUTTO: Folks, we're going to have to leave it there and I want to thank you both because this is a really difficult issue, and it's -- you both have taken the hard questions including from each other.

Thank you for taking the time, thank you for doing it on the up and up and we'll keep this conversation going.

Coming up tonight, OUTFRONT next, two women running to be the first female senator from Arizona, and the attacks are getting truly personal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is the truth. She's in a pink tutu, I'm in my uniform. You guys get to decide.


SCIUTTO: Plus, a family and the nation pay their respects to the late Senator John McCain. I'll speak to NFL star Larry Fitzgerald who will be paying tribute to his friend at McCain's memorial service.


[19:43:23] SCIUTTO: Tonight, President Trump is endorsing Martha McSally after she won last night's Republican Senate primary in Arizona. The president tweeting in part: Martha McSally is an extraordinary woman. She was a very talented fighter jet pilot and is now a highly respected member of Congress, has my total and complete endorsement!

McSally will face Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in a battle for outgoing GOP Senator Jeff Flake's seat. Whoever wins will be Arizona's very first female senator.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT tonight with the latest in our series "Born to Run."



KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment Republican Martha McSally launched her Senate run --

MCSALLY: I will give my all.

LAH: -- her history as America's first female fighter pilot cut central to her campaign.



LAH: To her primary victory.

MCSALLY: We have 70 days to win this seat.

LAH: Now, an all-out attack against her Democratic opponent, Representative Kyrsten Sinema.

MCSALLY: Everyone remembers where there were on 9/11.

LAH: This is McSally's opening onslaught.

MCSALLY: While we were in harm's way in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service. LAH (on camera): Some women are looking at that as a bit of a cheap

shot. That you put her in a tutu and are playing on these gender issues.

MCSALLY: That is not a cheap shot at all. This is high stakes for our country, high stakes for our state. That is the truth. She's in a pink tutu, I'm in my uniform.

[19:45:00] You guys get to decide.

LAH (voice-over): In 10 weeks, Arizona voters will decide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See if you will be supporting the Democrats.

LAH: Two formidable women. One will make history as Arizona's first woman senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to welcome back to our guest in studio, Kelli Ward.

LAH: McSally's challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need leaders, not liars.

LAH: Recovering from a bruising primary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to generate some heat.

LAH: Months of direct attacks from ultra conservative Kelli Ward, forcing McSally, once former Trump critic, to Trump embracer, moving hard to the right on immigration to win the GOP base. A swing pointed out in this new liberal super PAC's attack ad.

POLITICAL AD: Martha McSally said she's not ready to endorse Donald Trump.

MCSALLY: Look, I just applaud President Trump for his leadership.

LAH: McSally now needs moderates back. With the clock ticking to November in a state Trump won by less than 4 percent.

REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D), ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Today is a really exciting day. I know we can get 15,000 more Democratic voters.

LAH: Enter Kyrsten Sinema.

SINEMA: I guess I'm a little bit different.

We got it done.

LAH: Without a strong primary challenger, she's been pitching her moderate record, voting with Trump 60 percent of the time.

SINEMA: I work with the president whenever we can agree on something. But when the president is doing or saying something that's not right for Arizona, I'm going to stand up and say that too. LAH: As a child, she lived in this abandoned gas station with no

water or electricity, making her own way through law school to Washington. Congress' first openly bisexual woman, she refuses to engage in McSally's attack on her pre-public service protest.

(on camera): She is calling herself a patriot and you're a protester.

SINEMA: Our campaign is 100 percent focused on the work that we're doing. I'm glad that we've had an opportunity to listen to Arizonans.

LAH: She's also saying that you're a chameleon, that you're switching from your past?

SINEMA: We're 100 percent focused on the work we're doing to earn the votes of Arizonans.

LAH (voice-over): A Democrat taking a page from an Arizona Republican.

(on camera) Senator McCain's passing, many people are reflecting on it and looking at what he represented.

SINEMA: It's my hope to continue that strong legacy of working with literally anyone to solve problems and get things done.

LAH: And the discourse as well?

SINEMA: Absolutely.


LAH: Now, Democratic sources say that continues to be the plan of the Sinema campaign to not directly engage in McSally's attacks. There will be, though, plenty of return fire from outside Democratic groups. Both of these campaigns have plenty of cash, both in their war chest as well as with super PAC help.

Jim, this general election race between these two very powerful women expected to be anything but dainty -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And important for who controls the Senate.

Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

Tonight, mourners are paying their respects to the late Senator John McCain, who is lying in state at the Arizona state capitol. Today would have been his 82nd birthday.

Earlier, McCain's family and friends said good-bye to the senator in one of the many ceremonies that will honor his incredible life and service to his country. His family emotional as they viewed his casket.

OUTFRONT now is Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He will be paying tribute to his friend, John McCain, at a memorial service tomorrow. Larry, thanks so much for taking the time with us tonight.

LARRY FITZGERALD, ARIZONA CARDINALS WIDE RECEIVER: Well, I'm glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: I think for a lot of folks, it might seem surprising that you, a pro NFL player and the long-time senator had so much in common, such a tight bond. I wonder if you could tell us how your friendship came about?

FITZGERALD: I got a chance to meet him in 2006, a chance meeting. For some reason, Senator McCain just took a liking to me early. You know, the relationship kind of developed. I remember flying back on an airplane ride with him from D.C. and, you know, getting a chance to talk to him for four hours in the flight and then watching how he conducted himself once he got off the plane and how generous he was with his time, taking pictures, signing autographs, anybody that came up to him.

I'm thinking, you know, if he has time for this, then anybody should be able to make time. It was really, you know, a great learning experience for me and our relationship continued to develop from that point on.

SCIUTTO: He was, of course, a big sports fan but I suppose had thing about your friendship is it went much deeper than that. This past December, you wrote a Christmas tribute to the senator, and in it, you talk about a trip to Vietnam, where you visited the lake where his plane crashed during the war, the jail cell where he was held there.

[19:50:01] How did that trip change how you viewed your friend and built that friendship?

FITZGERALD: Well, I think him, after talking to him and hearing a little bit about it, I wanted to see it for myself. I wanted to experience and walk in his steps and see exactly the things that he had gone through and suffered through. And it just really made me appreciate him and his service and his commitment to his country after that long a time, you know, talking 60 years of service.

You know, that's just -- so impressive to think about, you know, somebody would do that for mostly people he doesn't even know, but just for the betterment of his country. So I was really kind of taken aback by that.

SCIUTTO: You have -- you will have a tremendous honor tomorrow. Cindy McCain asked you to speak at the memorial service tomorrow. Were you surprised they reached out to you?

FITZGERALD: Absolutely. You know, we had a strong relationship, but, you know, there are so many people he has come in touch with over the last 80 years. And anybody that he wanted would have been honored to do it. And for him to ask me, it means a great deal to me, one of the greatest honors of my life.

SCIUTTO: Now I know you of course had tremendous respect for him. He had tremendous respect for you. He would often communicate that by Twitter. You would tweet back and forth to each other a bit. And I'm just going to quote some of those, because he not only praised you as a great football player but as a role model.

He said you're one of the finest young men he has ever met, that you are amongst the most outstanding individuals and athletes he has ever known. Tell us from your perspective what he meant to you, because that's tremendously high praise coming from him.

FITZGERALD: Well, he's really inspirational. I was blown away by his wit and his humor, you know. When you see him up there speaking and addressing Congress and talking, you know, during his presidential elections, you see somebody who is really buttoned up and tight.

And then you get him in person, you see that personality and, you know, just the -- how much he knew. It didn't matter if it was about, you know, trade policies and countries in Asia or who the second baseman was for Florida Marlins, I mean, he knew everything there was to know. He was always in touch with what was happening around the world. And I really found that fascinating.

SCIUTTO: Now we know of course you have two young sons. What lessons have you learned from John McCain that you'd like to pass on to them?

FITZGERALD: Well, you know, there is a lot of lessons that I could talk about that I want to teach my sons. But just his compassion for his fellow man, the sacrifices he is willing to make. And it's bigger than one individual.

I think I really learned that from him, you know, the service that he provided. I know as a senator, obviously as a naval pilot, these are selfless acts. They're about people that you don't know serving people that you don't know. And I think that's one of the greatest things I've learned from him that I would hope to pass on.

SCIUTTO: There are lessons for all of us I suppose you could say. Larry Fitzgerald, thanks so much for taking the time.

FITZGERALD: I appreciate you having me. Have a great day.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on the very public feud over one of Trump's biggest promises.


[19:57:38] SCIUTTO: Someone is going to pay, according to Trump, it will be Mexico. Or will it?

Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mirror, mirror, on the border wall, what's the most famous Trump question of them all?

TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall? AUDIENCE: Mexico!

TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?


TRUMP: I don't hear you.

MOOS: We hadn't heard him talking about Mexico paying for ages. And then on Tuesday --

TRUMP: Yes, the wall will be paid for very easily, by Mexico.

MOOS: The return of a golden oldie, one of Trump's greatest hits during the campaign.

TRUMP: We will be build the wall.

A great, great wall.

A very powerful wall.

As beautiful as a wall can be.

MOOS: And Mexico?

TRUMP: They'll be happy to pay for the wall.

MOOS: Maybe not that happy.

VICENTE FOX, FORMER PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: Mexico will not pay for the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall. I'm not going to pay for that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall.

MOOS: President Trump is trying to get Congress to cough up $25 million. But so far, only $1.6 billion has come through. Mr. Trump calls Mexico's President Enrique, and they're acting buddy-buddy now that a preliminary trade agreement has been reached with Mexico's president sending an affectionate hug.

TRUMP: A hug from you would be very nice.

MOOS: But when president Trump said anew Mexico will pay for the wall, the foreign minister tweeted: We will never pay for a wall.

How about play with the wall? That's what the Republican candidate for governor of Florida showed his kid doing in a campaign ad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron loves playing with the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Build the wall.

MOOS: Forget building it. She may end up paying for it if future American taxpayers pick up the tab instead of Mexico.

There are jokes about Mexico agreeing to pay for Trump's impeachment. It all seemed so much easier when candidate Trump appeared on "SNL".


TRUMP: Enrique!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I brought you the check for the wall.

TRUMP: Oh, that's so wonderful.

MOOS: The president may get the hug but not the check.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: A hug from you would be very nice.

MOOS: -- New York.


SCIUTTO: Thanks so much for joining us again tonight.

Up next is "AC360." John Berman in for Anderson Cooper tonight.