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President George H.W. Bush Has Died At Age 94; Trump Declares December 5th National Day Of Mourning For Bush; Colin Powell Remembers George H.W. Bush; A Look Back At George H.W. Bush's Legacy; Cohen Thought Trump Would Offer Pardon For Loyalty; Trump To Meet Angela Merkel And Xi Jinping At G20 Today. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 1, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


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GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips. No new taxes. I, George Herbert Walker Bush do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States. That I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States. Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated. Our military objectives are metre. Just because you run against someone does not mean you have to be enemies. Politics does not have to be mean and ugly.

I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. Just because you're an old guy, you don't have to sit around drooling in a corner. No regrets about anything. No regrets about one single thing in my life that I can think of.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is CNN special coverage of the passing of President George H.W. Bush. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Buenos Aires and we just learned in the last hour that President Trump and the first lady will be attending the funeral services. In fact, we just received a statement from the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders. Let me read that statement to you.

Quote, "The President and First Lady were notified late last night of President George H.W. Bush's passing. President Trump is scheduled to speak with President George W. Bush this morning and offer his condolences on behalf of himself, the first lady and the entire country. A state funeral is being arranged with all of the accompanying support and honors. The President will designate Wednesday, December 5th as a national day of mourning. He and the first lady will attend the funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.." That statement from Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary.

President Bush, he was born into privilege, but he worked tirelessly for the American people as a Navy pilot during World War II, then as a U.S. congressman, a diplomat and as head of the CIA. He was 94 years old. His death comes months after his wife Barbara Bush passed. She passed away this past April at the age of 92. They were married for 73 years.

Joining us now, General Colin Powell. He was President Bush's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Powell, thanks so much for joining us. Give us your thoughts on this moment right now when we're all reflecting on this great American.

COLIN POWELL, AMERICAN STATESMEN AND RETIRED UNITED STATES ARMY GENERAL: Well, thank you very much, Wolf. We knew it would happen one day, but when I heard the news this morning, it was still a shock and it made me sit down. He was a great president and he was a perfect American. It was my pleasure and my honor to work for him for four years as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during some very, very trying and historic times, but I also served for him two years before that when I was National Security Adviser and Deputy National Security Adviser and he was the vice president.

So I got to know him extremely well and have nothing, but the greatest respect for him. He will be missed, the country will miss him. And you said something about, you know, he -- a quote that he gave that you used a few moments ago, "Politics need not be mean and nasty," and he lived by that and I wish we could get some of that back into our system now.

BLITZER: Remind our viewers, General Powell, what he was like as commander-in-chief. You were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait back in 1990, led up to Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. What was he like during those very trying moments?

POWELL: He was -- he was a superb commander-in-chief and part of that is because he came from such an experienced background as CIA Director, as our envoy to Chin, his time in Congress. He did so many things and especially being vice president for eight years. So he was very, very deliberate in his thinking and knowing that we were sending young men and women to war and some lives would be lost, he was very cautious and he was very, very careful.

And he allowed us, in the Pentagon, myself and Secretary Cheney and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to come up with plans for both the invasion of Panama and for Desert Shield and Desert Storm. And he would always listen carefully to what we thought we needed and he gave us everything we thought we would need.

[09:05:01] And he cared about every single soldier, sailor, airman and marine we sent over there and he wanted us to finish the war quickly and to get out of Iraq and out of -- back home and away from Kuwait quickly. He had a specific mission and it was not open-ended in any way, kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. And we were able to do that with minimum losses, although every loss is tragic, but he was just a great commander-in-chief.

And I remember so often we would sit in the Oval Office with this gang of eight, myself and Dick Cheney and Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft, Sununu, Vice President Quayle, and we'd go over these issues and he would sit there listening to us argue and he enjoyed listening to us argue because we got everything out on the table. And then when we were all through, he would either excuse himself and give us a decision later or if he was ready to give us a decision right then, as he often was, he would simply say, "I got it. I understand," He'd ask a few questions and then the reply would be to go do it.

And so I think he was a great commander-in-chief and his military experience, of course, had a lot to do with that as well. He knew what combat was all about. He knew that this was not a game, it was a war and we had to do it well and we had to do it right.

And I think when we finally launched Desert Storm, I and Mr. Cheney were able to tell him we guarantee the success of this operation. You gave us everything we needed. We're trained, we're ready and this volunteer army is going into battle for the first time seriously since we left Vietnam and it was now a volunteer army. and the American people were enormously proud of what our troops did and they were enormously proud of what the President had accomplished.

BLITZER: I'm going to put up on the screen, General Powell, a picture of you and President Bush that's on your Facebook page and I want you to talk a little bit about that picture, what it symbolizes to you, your reflections.

POWELL: Yes, I know the photo well and I -- we were in the command center of the Pentagon and everybody thinks it's a great big Dr. Strangelove room, but really was a rather small place. And he had come over to visit with us during one of our operations, either Panama or Desert Storm. I'm not sure I remember which was which. But he was talking on the phone to one of the commanders, General Thurman or General Schwarzkopf, and he was always interested in what we were doing, but he also had respect for the chain of command.

So one morning, he called me on that phone, that red phone, and it was early in the morning, 6 o'clock. I was in the office early and he almost apologized for calling. I said, Mr. President, what's -- he said, "Well, you know, Secretary Cheney isn't in yet and I really want to get a report," and I know I'm supposed to call him first. And so I just smiled to myself. I said, "No, Mr. President, that's fine. I will report to Mr. Cheney whatever we talk about."

But he understood the chain of command. He understood how government worked. He understood how you have to do things if you want to get them right and that was a little example of it. He came over to the command center one time and I just enjoy that picture because it just shows the President at work with that red phone.

And I think he was a terrific commander in chief and the troops -- the troops respected him and they respected the fact that he gave us what we said we needed and we had a mission that was defined in time and space. And he said to me, "I want them all home by July 4th," and we were able to do it.

And then when we came home, Wolf, you may remember this, we had a major parade in New York City, a ticker tape parade. And General Schwarzkopf was there, I was there, Secretary Cheney was there, President Bush was not. And we've thought about that and hiw simple answer was that I don't need to be there. This is for the troops. I'll see them when they come to Washington. We have the Washington parade, but right now, this is a ceremony for the troops.

I don't know many presidents who would miss an opportunity like that, but he did because that was the humility and the humbleness with which he came to the job. And so I was privileged to work for him as National Security Adviser and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and we stayed in touch for the -- for the rest of his life. We did a lot of things together afterwards, America's Promise Alliance, married up (ph) with the Points of Light foundation. We did things together. We went on vacation together a couple of times.

And a moment I'll never forget is a day after he lost in 1992, I waited a day or two since I was an active duty officer, but I finally called him and expressed my sorrow that he had lost, but you know, just to -- just to let him know that I was thinking of him. And we -- he thanked me, we hung up.

And an hour later, my wife called me and said Barbara just called. They want us up at Camp David this weekend. I said, "What? They want the family?" "No, they want us and bring the kids." And so that Friday, we went up to Camp David and spent part of the weekend with the president and Mrs. Bush.

[09:10:03] And we walked through the woods that evening, you know, I'll never forget. As we took a walk, I remained silent walking next to him. He was just being, you know, very quite and reflective. And then he just turned to me toward the end of the walk and he says, "You know, it hurts. It really hurts." He hated losing. He's a -- he's a -- he's a very competitive individual. But he lost and he knew why he lost and he was already moving on, but he just had to share with me that it hurts. It did hurt.

So I thought it was a terrific person. I think that the service he gave to America will not be matched anytime soon and the experience he brought to the office will not be matched anytime soon and never has been since he left office. So America mourns for a great president, America mourns for an American who gave it his very, very all. And the beauty of his family, what he did for us, what he did for his family, what he did for the world.

He didn't gloat after the fall of the Berlin Wall or after the fall of the Soviet Union. He knew that they had to be hurting, hurting for losing everything they had believed in for all those years and he was not going to rub it in. That's what made him so interesting and, I think, so great.

BLITZER: The greatest generation, a veteran from World War II and he went on to do all the things he did do. One quick thought before I let you go, General Powell, and you've spoken so beautifully about this amazing, amazing man. He was there with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War. Walk us through your reflections on how he operated during those days.

POWELL: During those days, he watched as a lot of things were going on in the Soviet Union. And I'll never forget, he became very uneasy when there was that coup. You remember, Wolf? There was some Russians that conducted a coup trying to take over the country and we were standing in the Oval Office watching ...

BLITZER: August of 1991.

POWELL: Yes. We were watching the Soviet tanks or now about to be no Soviet tanks, the Russian tanks, but we watched the tanks come into the -- into the city. The coup plotters called them in and the president was worried. And I said, "Mr. President, I'm looking at this as an infantryman and what I see are tanks rolling down the streets with crews standing out on top of the tanks and the people are putting flowers in their gun barrels. These troops are not going to shoot their fellow citizens. These coup plotters will be out shortly."

And they were, but he was -- he was deeply concerned that we might have lost the gains that we were about to achieve at the end of the Cold War. But other than that, he took it very much in style. He wanted to make sure that these Russians now, not Soviets any longer, but the Russians knew that we were there to help integrate them into a broader world, a world where we can solve problems peacefully and not through war, the end of the threat of nuclear Armageddon.

And so he approached it as he did with everything, in a businesslike manner, getting all the information, making sure that he was on top of the situation. And we all celebrated when the -- when the Cold War ended and the Russians -- the Soviet Union disappeared on Christmas Day. And there was no -- there was no cheering on his part. It was just satisfaction that our policies and our strategy in the Cold War period had prevailed and he gave much of that credit, of course, to President Reagan, but it happened on his watch, Bush's watch.

BLITZER: It certainly did. It certainly did and I remember. I was in Moscow during that failed coup by the KGB and I remember the new Soviet defense minister at the time, Air Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, saying to me how deeply appreciative he was of President Bush's leadership. And later, I went back to Moscow when the Soviet Union actually collapsed, Christmas 1991, and Gorbachev and so many other former Soviet leaders, now Russian leaders, were praising him ...

POWELL: Yes.

BLITZER: ... for the way he operated and the way America was behaving. Any final thoughts, General Powell, before I let you go?

POWELL: The only final thought is I'm going to miss him being around. I'm going to miss, as I do miss, Barbara Bush. Alma and I became very, very close to both of them and my final little story is the first time I met Barbara. I had just been pulled out of my core command in Germany, a great command, and put into the White House in the post Iran-Contra period. And shortly after I got there, I went to a lunch at the French Embassy and Mrs. Bush was sitting next to me and I introduced myself.

[09:15:01] She said, "I know who you are." And then she said, "Call me Barbara." I said, "No, ma'am. I can't do that." "Why can't you do that?" " It's not -- it's not proper." She said, "Call me Barbara." I said, "Ma'am, I'd prefer to call you Mrs. Bush. "Call me Barbara." I said, "Ma'am, if I called you Barbara, my mother would kill me. And she just looked at me and said, "If you don't call me Barbara, I will kill you." "Yes, Barbara." And that's the way it was for the rest of her life.

BLITZER: Barbara Bush, George H.W. Bush. General Colin Powell, we really appreciate your words. So well said. Brings back a lot of memories for all of us. Thanks so much for joining us.

POWELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And our special coverage will continue right after this.

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DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to our special coverage commemorating, celebrating the life well-lived of the late President, George H.W. Bush. I'm Dana Bash coming to you from the late President's hometown of Houston, Texas.

[09:20:03] I want to show you a couple of things that we've been getting in from some other famous Bushs. First, 43, as he is known, President George We. Bush said the following about his father. "George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter can ask for." And then from another one of his sons, Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, said the following, "I already miss the greatest human being that I will ever know. Love you, dad."

And now I want to bring in someone who got to know President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara very well. Let's bring in Kristan King Nevins, the former Chief of Staff for First Lady Barbara Bush. Thank you so much for coming in this morning and we've been hearing incredible stories from people who helped him make history on a global stage. Colin Powell, for example, we just heard a great interview with Wolf in the last segment.

You have that perspective, but also some personal perspectives of him as a man on a more granular level, like how he was in restaurants. Tell us about that.

KRISTAN KING NEVINS, CHIEF OF STAFF: Good morning, Dana. Thank you for having me. Yes, one of the most incredible aspects of former President Bush was not necessarily the monumental and historical achievements that he experienced during his tenure in various leadership positions, but it was more of his day-to-day how he lived his life and the example that he set for others.

One of the -- one of the most memorable takeaways I had from working for President and Mrs. Bush is, indeed, when we would go to a restaurant and the first thing that President Bush would do would introduce himself to the waiter or the waitress, but then he would ask them for their first name. And the reason why he did that is that he really wanted to, one, put them at ease and make them feel comfortable, given the fact that they were serving a former president and first lady. But more importantly, he referred to them by their first name for the rest of his time at their restaurant because it showed them a -- it was a sign of respect and it was a sign of appreciation for not only the job that they were doing, but also for taking care of him. And he certainly had the viewpoint of it didn't matter where you fell in the pecking order, as he called it. Everybody was important and everybody had a role and he certainly always wanted to show that human side and the compassion that he did for everybody that he met.

BASH: And you talk about how he was in private in a room where he would pick up on the fact that maybe there was somebody who didn't feel all that comfortable and he went out of his way to make that person comfortable. Can you talk about that, maybe give a story to explain that?

KING NEVINS: Sure. So he was keenly aware of the -- of his surroundings and even if he was hosting, say, a room of donors, you know, late in life -- he and Mrs. Bush loved to fundraise for important organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson and Points of Light and Barbara Bush's Foundation For Family Literacy.

But what he would do is, you know, you would often have very big name CEOs of companies or celebrities or famous athletes there in attendance and instead, he would go and find an individual who, perhaps, was just there because they believed in the cause and wanted to be supportive. And he would seek them out and speak to them and make them feel as though they were just as important and deserved his attention as, say, some of those larger figures that were there.

One personal occasion, you know, I had some of my friends up to visit Kennebunkport and he was -- he invited us to lunch up at the big house, as we called it. And he was going around the table and getting to know everyone and he figured out that there was -- everybody there in attendance was -- they were Republicans and there was one Democrat and he nicknamed her Lead the Dem for the -- for the rest of the trip. And he always made sure that she had a seat next to him and that she felt comfortable there because that was just one of the -- one of the most incredible characteristics that he had.

BASH: Yes. Well, and you had a unique perspective of his relationship with his wife, with the love of his life, because you worked for them and you were around them so much behind the curtain, if you will. Tell us about that.

[09:25:04] KING NEVINS: They certainly had a very special, special marriage and it was more than just a marriage. It was a true partnership. It was, first and foremost, love. It was adoration, but it was also a great deal of respect, as he always called her The Enforcer. When The Enforcer spoke, he didn't cross her.

And one of the -- one of the first things I thought about last night when I heard the news, obviously, was the family. I know that this is going to be so hard for them and they've already had a very long year, first with Mrs. Bush's loss in April and, of course, now their beloved father and Gampy. But one of the first thoughts I had was it's amazing that these two were married for 73 years and the timing of both of their passing means that neither one is going to be here on earth without the other one for a wedding anniversary, which will be coming up in January.

BASH: Wow.

KING NEVINS: And to me, that just -- it just struck me last night and I just -- I laid in bed thinking about it for a while because I think it just goes to show the deep level of intimacy between the two of them and he was -- he was ready to go home and see his beloved wife, but also his daughter Robin.

BASH: That's right. His daughter Robin. Kristan King Nevins, thank you for those beautiful remembrances and giving us so much more insight into the late President as the human that he was, not just the politician and the -- and the global leader. I appreciate that.

KING NEVINS: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And -- thank you. And still ahead, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush will share her personal memories of the late 41st president. Stay with us.

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[09:31:30]

BLITZER: Welcome back.

We continue to follow the breaking news this morning. The 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush has died at the age of 94. He passed away overnight in Houston after several months of declining health and a little more than seven months after his wife Barbara's passing at the age of 92.

Joining us now Mary Kate Cary, a former Bush speechwriter, serve in the White House with the president from 1989 to 1992. Thanks so much for joining us, Mary Kate.

Tell us a little bit about what it was like working with this amazing man?

MARY KATE CARY, PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH'S FORMER SPEECHWRITER: It was just a joy. It's the greatest job I'll ever have.

Mrs. Bush she used to say that every time she walked past the Oval Office, Wolf, she would hear uproarious laughter. And I -- I can personally attest to that. There was a lot of laughter in the Bush White House and that's what made so many of us so loyal to him.

You know, to him loyalty went up as well as down. And he treated everyone the same whether they were the queen of England or the lowliest speech writer so it was just a great, great time in my life.

I can tell you some great stories. He -- one time, for example, I got assigned to write one of the sets of remarks for the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. And you may remember that President Bush was Andover Academy when he first heard the word that our troops have been attacked in Pearl Harbor but he was only 17 at the time.

And so he went to enlist and was turned away and told to come back on his 18th birthday. So he graduated from high school at about a month later, he enlisted and came -- I shouldn't say enlisted but, you know, became an officer, went into Officer (ph) Kennett (ph) School (ph) and joined the Navy and became the youngest naval aviator.

So I sat down with him and said, "Can you tell me some stories about what it was like when you were in the Navy?" And he said, well, I'll tell you this thing and this guy who died and all these different stories.

And I said, "This is great. Can I put this in the speech, sir? And he said, oh, no, you can't use any of this. He said, I can't talk about this.

He says, first of all I will -- I will get very emotional. And second of all, I'm not the war hero here. The war heroes are the guys who didn't come home. He says, I was lucky enough to come home. I can't sit there and brag about my war service.

And I think that's very typical of the greatest generation is they didn't want to talk about their own service because they thought it was bragging. And he was certainly brought up not to brag as Jamie has been saying many times and I think that was a moment

where I could sort of see into his mind of how he viewed his World War II service and got him to talk about it but in a way that would ever be public.

And so his remarks were all about America's role in the world and that it was time to forgive the Japanese even though they were the ones who had shot him down. He wanted to lead the way in saying, it was time to bury the hatchet with the Japanese in front of the other veterans and that's what he did. And I think only he could have given that speech because he had served and been shot down by the Japanese so he had great moral credibility with the other veterans.

BLITZER: Yes, there's no doubt that so many -- so many of those -- the greatest generation has served during World War II. They were reluctant to brag. They were reluctant to speak about what they went through.

CARY: Yes.

BLITZER: Seared in their minds but they really didn't want to talk about it publically and he was among that.

And you make an important point. He said that if he would have he would have gotten very emotional.

CARY: Yes.

BLITZER: And so many of that greatest generation were like that. Tell us a little bit more about that.

[09:35:02]

CARY: So he -- he was very emotional when he was talking about sending troops into battle. And I remember during the first Persian Gulf War we had some remarks where you might remember Thanksgiving of 1990, I believe it was, he decided to surprise the troops and go on to the front lines right at Kuwait there to visit our troops and some of the troops from the other NATO allied countries.

And he started out, I think, on one of the aircraft carriers off the coast and then worked his way through a series of events and then ended up on the front lines. And as he was going over the speeches on the plane over, David Demarest, the White House communications director at the time was going through the speeches with him and the president brought him in and showed him the speeches and said something like, what are you trying to do, kill me?

(LAUGHTER)

And David said, what are you talking about, sir? And he said -- he said, I can't -- I can't give speeches this emotional. This would be very, very difficult for me. And I think it was because he had been sent into battle himself and was extremely careful about sending other young Americans into battle because he had been there.

And I think that's what motivated him in trying to keep the casualties so low in that war. You might not remember this but he's the last American president to have started, finished and won a war. And that's a remarkable statement these days and he kept the casualties in that war to less than 150 American soldiers killed.

It was -- you were can covering it at the time I think, Wolf, and you probably remember how short that war was and a lot of it had to do with his own personal experience as a naval aviator and as an officer who had to inform families of those who had been lost. He was the one who often wrote the letters for his own crew to tell the families.

When he lost his two wing men in World War II it changed his life and I think it really colored the way he behaved as commander and chief and it motivated his dedication to keeping the casualties low and to keeping the war in a manageable way. Not having mission creep, not going beyond the U.N. proclamation and saying -- you know, keeping the war to a manageable thing that could be won.

BLITZER: I remember it very vividly, I was CNN's Pentagon correspondent.

I remember that trip he made to the Persian Gulf during that Thanksgiving leading up to Operation Desert Storm. And a lot of people don't remember that he ordered the deployment of more than half a million -- more than 500,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf to liberate Kuwait as a result of Saddam Hussein's invasion and it was so difficult for him because he knew he was endangering, he was putting the lives of those troops in danger having served himself in World War II. But overwhelming force, that was the strategy, he got the job done. He was the commander in chief.

All right. We've got to continue our special coverage. Mary Kate Cary, thank you so much for sharing some memories with our viewers. We real a appreciate it.

Let's go back to Dana. She's in Houston.

Dana, this is a really sad time for a lot of us who remember what President George H.W. Bush accomplished.

BASH: Absolutely. And that interview, Wolf, and the one you did earlier this hour with Colin Powell was -- they were chalk full of really remarkable stories, emotional and really personal. And we're going to get more memories about President Bush.

We're joined now by someone who worked in his administration and who is normally anchoring CNN right now and that is CNN's Michael Smerconish who worked as an intern and then advance man for Mr. Bush, and then in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

So, Michael, what words come most to mind when you reflect on his legacy and the man that you knew personally?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: Humility, grace, and credentials. Because, Dana, I remember meeting him for the first time. It was the spring of 1980. He was running for president. Pennsylvania was still a competitive state which was unusual because we were late in the process. He was running against Ronald Reagan and his slogan was a president we won't have to -- well, a president we won't have to train.

And that was in view of the fact that by then he was already a war hero, a business success, a congressman. He had been our envoy to China. He had been our U.N. ambassador. He had been the head of the CIA, he had also been head of the RNC. Still to come was vice president and president.

He was a deeply credentialed individual. He was also as you've heard from other guests so humble, so full of grace. And the best evidence of that for me is this book. When he left office and he decided that he was going to memorialize his own life in public service he did it in a very unique way.

[09:40:01]

He was a letter writer. He was old school. He would write letters. He would receive letters and rather than go back and try and re-create the events of his life he assembled all the letters in chronological order that had been a large part of his upbringing and life and times.

And, of course, none more significant, I guess, in the letter that he penned in 1944 after he was shot down and had to inform his parents exactly how that had come to pass. Always so humble. Never a hint of braggadocio. And I guess the line that comes back from the book that I most remember is, don't go bragging on yourself, which was the way in which he led his life.

BASH: Yes. And, you know, maybe for a politician, too much because, you know, perhaps if he would have had it in his DNA to do more of that it would have turned out differently in 1992.

We have to take a quick break but before we do, Michael, I have to show our viewers a photo of you with the last president from back in the day in the 80's I believe it is. Yes, viewers, of Smerconish, that is Michael Smerconish with hair.

SMERCONISH: With hair, with hair.

BASH: You look great. With hair, beautiful hair, beautiful without -- that you tweeted this morning.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Michael, thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

BASH: And this programming note -- thank you -- tune in tonight for a CNN special report "Remembering 41" that's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

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[09:46:04]

BLITZER: We will continue our special coverage of the death of President George H.W. Bush in just a moment.

But right now we have some new details immerging in the Russia investigation. According to discussions with federal prosecutors President Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen thought President Trump would protect him if he face any charges related to paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Cohen believed President Trump would pardon him in exchange for staying on message in support of the president but after the FBI raided Cohen's office and his home, he noticed things changed and he acted to protect his family and himself.

There's some other news we're also following this hour.

President Trump is here at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He'll be meeting with the German chancellor Angela Merkel just in a couple of hours and President Xi Jinping later this evening. They're scheduled to have a dinner.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is here. He's following all of these developments for us.

Jeff, all eyes are on these meetings, especially the meeting with the Chinese leader. Talk a little bit about that. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is no question. That is the center piece of this G20 Summit. This ongoing escalation of a war, essentially. An economic trade war between the U.S. and China. Really has been at an impasse.

It's been more than a year since President Trump has met face to face with President Xi Jinping. They will be having dinner this evening here in Buenos Aires and it really is a question of, is President Trump coming here to try and make a deal of some sort? Is he going to back off a bit of these tariffs or is he going to double down and impose more of them?

And it's unclear at this hour what the outcome will be. And that's unusual. Usually in these summits is you know there is an agreed upon outcome and then it's announced.

That is absolutely unclear. And there are no meetings with their officials from either side until this dinner tonight. So going into this summit that is something the president -- he has doubled down on his China policy, cracking down on China. But China holds a lot of leverage here as well.

So that is something that we'll be watching this afternoon. The president also, as you said meeting with Angela Merkel, even as so many Russian headlines have been hanging over this, we are still watching to see what type of conversations the president will have with Vladimir Putin if any on the sidelines of these meetings here.

Wolf, all of this is unfolding as the world and U.S., of course, remembering the alliances that George H.W. Bush created and prefer to do as president and it is striking the differences today both in the world and certainly in U.S. foreign policy.

BLITZER: Yes. He was supposed to be meeting this morning -- a two- hour meeting with President Putin of Russia but he cancelled it he says because of Russian aggression against Ukraine. So we'll see if he does have this private little informal meeting on the sidelines of this G20 Summit.

What are you hearing?

ZELENY: Indeed. That is the question. I mean, these are pretty small affairs. All of the leaders were in a pretty small confined space. So it's very difficult for them not to run into each other.

One of the reasons that the presidents was not wanting to meet with Vladimir Putin -- he says it's because of Ukraine, of course. But he has met with Vladimir Putin under a variety of other circumstances when there have been bigger issues. And he has always said it's important to meet.

It's clear the optics were not ideal for this White House right now for president to be meeting with Vladimir Putin and even -- more than that remember that the Helsinki Summit that both of us were at, of course it was dissected so much. Was he tough enough with Putin? This will take all of that out of the equation. But I still think there's a high likelihood they will meet at some point on the sidelines before the meeting with the Chinese president.

BLITZER: And earlier today I had a chance to sit down and speak with the secretary of state Mike Pompeo. That interview -- we're going to be airing it. We speak about all of these issues in the coming hour. Our thanks very much --

ZELENY: Sure.

BLITZER: -- Jeff Zeleny. Dana, you'll be interested to see this interview with Secretary Pompeo as well.

BASH: Absolutely. Looking forward to that for so many of the reasons you were talking about and things that we have seen in a head spinning way over the past few days.

[09:50:05]

And, you know, I am here in Houston, Texas. This was and is George H.W. Bush's hometown. It is where he actually represented -- the town he represented in the United States Congress many, many decades ago, was one of the first jobs, the first elected job that he had in government.

And as I do here in Houston and around the world, people are remembering him in a very personal way. I want to show a cartoon, actually a couple of cartoons. First, the cartoon that "USA Today" showed and put up when Barbara Bush died in April earlier this year. You see her coming through the pearly Gates and greeted by the daughter that they lost as a little girl, three years old to leukemia.

Now let's look at what we see this morning. Really takes your breath away, the follow up. George H.W. Bush being delivered in heaven, the naval aviator being delivered by his plane to the love of his -- the love of his life, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin with that caption, "We waited for you." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:56:16]

BASH: Welcome back to our special coverage commemorating the life very well lived and the legacy of President George H.W. Bush. He excelled in foreign policy, especially with relations in China, he was a representative of America for President Ford, U.S. envoy there. He did so much more on the world stage.

We're going to talk about that in a minute. But first, I want to get to some statements and the remembrances that are pouring in from leaders around the world and in this country, including the person who has a job that George H.W. Bush once had, the vice president, Mike Pence, the current vice president, Mike Pence.

He and his, Karen, released a statement and it said the following, "President Bush loved his family, loved this country, and his legacy will be a lifetime of service to the United States of America." It goes on to say, "His years as the 41st president of the United States left America and the world more peaceful, prosperous and secure." That is the current vice president who lives in the house that George H.W. Bush lived in for 8 years.

And now he -- as I said he will be remembered for many things and one of the main issues is foreign policy. CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has more on Bush 41's push to end the Cold War.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The biggest thing that has happened in the world in my life, in our lives, is this. By the Grace of God America won the Cold War.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many Americans associate Ronald Reagan with the fall of communism.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

SCIUTTO: But when the Berlin wall came down, the nations of Eastern Europe renounced communism and the Soviet Union fell apart, George H.W. Bush was president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cold war didn't have to end peacefully, it could have ended with a bang instead of a whimper but he made sure that it ended peacefully and took a lot of heat in the process for not being willing to be -- to emote more about winning the Cold War.

SCIUTTO: Only months into President Bush's term, China's communist government brutally crushed a pro-democracy uprising in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The president who had been the top U.S. diplomat in China under President Ford condemned the bloody repression but refused to slam the door on the U.S.-Chinese relationship.

BUSH: The process of democratization of communist societies will not be a smooth one, and we must react to setbacks in a way which stimulates rather than stifles progress toward open and representative system.

SCIUTTO: Hoping to stimulate progress, Bush funneled U.S. support to nations where communist leaders chose to negotiate with reformers. He visited Poland and Hungary in July of 1989, receiving large and enthusiastic welcomes.

As reform in Eastern Europe sped up (INAUDIBLE) and deliberate. Reporters were astonished at his low key response when the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989.

BUSH: I am very pleased with this development.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't seem elated and I'm wondering if you're thinking of the problems.

BUSH: I'm just not an emotional kind of a guy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)