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Remembering the Life and Legacy of President H.W. Bush; Trump Has "Informal Conversation" with Putin at G-20; Pompeo talks Recollections of George H.W. Bush; Pompeo: "No Direct Evidence" Linking Saudi Prince to Khashoggi Murder; Pompeo Says Trump Cancelling Putin Meeting Not due to Russia Investigation & Cohen; U.S. Breaks with World Leaders on Climate at G-20; President H.W. Bush's Advice on Life for His Sons. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 1, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer, live here in Buenos Aires where the G20 summit of world leaders continues. We'll have more on that. That's coming up.

But today we're also honoring the life of the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. He died late last night at the age of 94, just months after his wife's death. Right now, flags are at half-staff in the United States. A national day of mourning will be held in the U.S. on Wednesday. The stock market will be closed that day as well.

The former president is being remembered as a humble man with a young heart, a war hero-turned oilman, an accomplished politician on many levels, from U.S. congressmen to vice president to president. The Bush political legacy passed on to his son, President George W. Bush.


LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Do you think about history much?


KING: For you?

BUSH: No, not for me. (INAUDIBLE)


I just think about how to get home and go to bed.

No, but I don't think about history. And I don't keep up with events like I used to. And so it's different now, very, very different. But history will be kind to George.


BLITZER: To those close to him, his most important role was a family man. He was a father to six children and 17 grandchildren. And more great-grandchildren. His love story with his wife, Barbara Bush, is one for the ages. You may remember this very touching cartoon of Barbara Bush reuniting with her young daughter, Robin, in heaven after her death. The cartoonist, Marshall Ramsey, now has a new drawing with George H.W. Bush joining him both. His plane sitting on top of the clouds with the words, "We waited for you."

Joining us now, CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel.

Jamie, you spent a lot of time with the Bush family over the years. What are you hearing today? What's been the reaction?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, obviously, while he had health issues and the family knew this day was coming, it's a very hard day for them. Everyone in the family and friends' group has been sharing that cartoon that you just showed of his joining Barbara and Robin. I think it says exactly how everyone is feeling today.

I think the one thing that is important to all talk about though, Wolf, is this is a celebration of his life. He was 94 years old. We've talked about how active he was and we talked about the end of the Cold War and Desert Storm. I think it's also important to talk about his sense of humor. Not every politic loves the way they are portrayed on "Saturday Night Live." But George Herbert Walker Bush did. And he had a great self-deprecating sense of humor. In our documentary later tonight, one of the people we speak to is Dana Carvey, the comedian who took him on at that time on "Saturday Night Live." here's a little part of the interview.


GANGEL (voice-over): And Bush had a great sense of humor.

DANA CARVEY, COMEDIAN: He loved to laugh.

GANGEL: Especially at his pal, comedian, Dana Carvey, from "Saturday Night Live," who did Bush almost better than the president himself.

CARVEY: They'll beat you bad. Bad, bad, they're bad, bad.


First you take John Wayne, let's go over the ridge, uh-huh. And then Mr. Rogers, beautiful day in the neighborhood, that thing, going up there in that whole area. That quadrant right there's what hooked it.

GANGEL: Bush, always a great sport, went on SNL poking fun at himself.

BUSH: "Saturday Night Live" made fun of me on a fairly regular basis.


Do I have any hard feelings about that? Yes, I do.


And I'll have my revenge when the time is right. Not now. Wouldn't be prudent at this juncture.



GANGEL: And, Wolf, we'll have more of that tonight.

But one last point on that, when Bush lost to Bill Clinton and he was in so much pain, he wasn't thinking about himself. He actually very quietly got Dana Carvey to come to the White House as a surprise and entertain everybody else on the staff because, as he said, he wanted to lift them up. Classic George Bush -- Wolf?

BLITZER: So cute, so nice.

Thanks very much, Jamie. We're looking forward to your documentary later tonight.

The tributes continue to pour in for the former President George H.W. Bush. His loss and his legacy hitting home for those who knew him best.

Joining us, the former governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu. He's also the former chief of staff for President George H.W. Bush, and author of "The Quiet Man, The Indefensible Presidency of George H.W. Bush."

Governor, thank you for joining us.

How are you remembering President Bush?

[13:05:24] JOHN SUNUNU, FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR & FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Obviously, there's sadness. On top of that, as we see all the tributes, a real appreciation for having had the privilege to work with him in the White House. As your preceding bit showed, this was a man who loved to have fun and he made working in the White House not just a privilege but a lot of fun.

BLITZER: You wrote a farewell piece to President Bush in the "Washington Post" today. In it, you talked about how he overcame a House and Senate dominated by Democrats to pass major legislation. Let me read a line or two from your article: "His achievements brought forth a new era of global opportunity dramatically different from the one he and Reagan inherited in 1981. But it was that quiet Bush style that helped make such a dramatic transformation possible."

How was he able to be so successful while also being so relatively quiet?

SUNUNU: Well, George Bush had a way of connecting with the people he had to deal with. He was empathetic. He put himself in the shoes of the person he had to negotiate with and he worked hard to create a win-win. That's why he ended up passing more domestic legislation than any president except Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt. Those were very significant achievements. It was always by virtue of sitting in the other fellow's shoes. He sat in Gorbachev's shoes and tried to make it a win-win for Gorbachev as he negotiated the collapse of the Soviet Union. He sat in Danny Rostenkowski's (ph) shoes when he negotiated with Rostenkowski (ph) while we were trying to put the budget together, the five-year budget package that created all the surpluses at the end of the five years. So it was empathy. It was understanding. And frankly, the fact is that people really liked George Herbert Walker Bush.

BLITZER: They certainly did.

What should his legacy be, Governor?

SUNUNU: Well, I think his legacy is recognition of the greatness of his presidency. He's the president that was not treated very well when he left office by the immediate historians of the press. But the more and more people look at it, they'll understand how significant it was, as I mentioned in my book. He managed the collapse of the Soviet Union without a shot being fired, almost so easily that people did not understand how complicated and hard it was. He had to deal with Gorbachev's problem of having hardliners who wanted to get rid of him. He had to deal with Margaret Thatcher and transform Mitterrand and convince them that the unification of Germany was a good thing, after Germany had savaged the two countries in two world wars not too much earlier. He had to deal with a Congress, as you pointed out, that was dramatically controlled by the Democrats. I think his legacy will be presidency of success, and people will remember him as somebody who figured out how to do it even against odds.

BLITZER: Did he ever look back at his time as president, those four years, eight years as vice president under Reagan, and say, at least to you or to others, that he should have done some things differently?

SUNUNU: Well, we all, you know, with hindsight can look at some things we'd like to do differently, but nothing significant. This was a man that was a smart man. A man that was a kind man. And a man that knew he had a mission. He was a man committed to missions accomplished, as we have seen in some of his writings. So he knew he was there to make the global transition that he led and he was very satisfied with it. He knew he had a responsibility when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and he took care of that. He knew he had a responsibility to deal with the financial woes of America at a time when the Europeans and others were threatening to stop buying U.S. treasuries if he didn't get a five-year budget. He bit the bullet, took the taxes the Democrats put in the package and really created fiscal reliability in America, and actually, as I said earlier, created surpluses. Surpluses that a lot of people like to take credit for but were really created by the Bush budget agreement of '91.

[13:10:04] BLITZER: Which I remember well.

Governor Sununu, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

SUNUNU: Thanks, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: What was it like being the 41st president of the United States? Here's George H.W. Bush in his own words as he spoke with us at CNN over the years. Listen to this.


KING: Are you happy out of office? Do you still miss it?

BUSH: I don't. I miss some aspects. It's been so long since we were there. But I don't miss it. I don't miss going to work every day in the White House. I miss the presidency, of course. And I loved being president, loved working at trying to help people and to perhaps solve problems. But it was great. But that's gone. That's history.

I did my job as president. I just didn't expose my inner feelings. And I think people like me. I think people were disappointed. I think people wanted change. I got a whole rationale of reasons why I did not get re-elected. But maybe if I'd have been a little more emotional or more revealing of the person, maybe it would have helped. But it never occurred to me then.

My view on legacy is let the historians figure out what I screwed up and figure out what I got right. And I'm confident, you know, we had a good administration, good people. And I think the same thing is true with our son, you know, he had tough times and all, but he's doing it right. I hope that we both have set examples for how you ought to conduct yourself when you've been president and then go out of office. Let the other guy do it. And support him when you can and be silent. Don't be out there criticizing all the time.

President Clinton beat me like a drum in 1992.


And then we became friends. And some of his friends look at him and say, have you lost it with this crazy guy? Some of mine look at it and say, just the same thing, what are you doing with Clinton? Just because you run against someone does not mean you have to be enemies. Politics does not have to be mean and ugly.

I've never liked really talking too much about my own service. It was just like everybody else in the country that was doing what he thought was right. But on a personal basis, the fact that I was flying in combat off a carrier makes the excitement of the naming of this new ship for me even greater than it would have been. I only thought they did that kind of thing for dead guys. Here I am and I want to be around -- hell, I'd even eat broccoli if I could make it for another five years.


And this one was December of '43. "My Darling Barb, this should be a very easy letter to write. Words should come easily and in short it should be simple for me to tell you how desperately happy I was to open the paper and see the announcement of our engagement. But somehow I can't possibly say all in a letter I should like to. I love you, Precious, with all my heart. And to know that you love me means my life. How often I thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.

KING: You think about dying?



BUSH: It doesn't scare me. It used to. When I was a little kid, think about dying, I was scared, terrible. When you get older, Larry, you don't think about it a lot. I got too much to do. Too much to live for. Too much happiness.

Just because you're old, that doesn't mean you can't do fun stuff. Don't want to sit around drooling in the corner.


BUSH: It's scary when you look out, even though you're hooked on it, get ready, get ready. You get out to the door and you look down, there's no feeling of support. And that is, you know, what the heck am I doing. Then off you go and it's just heaven.

KING: No regrets, then? No regrets?

BUSH: No regrets about anything. No regrets about one single thing in my life that I can think of. I mean, I've made mistakes but they don't measure up to regrets now.


BLITZER: Wow. Please join CNN later tonight as we honor the life and legacy of George H.W. Bush. We begin at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with a special report, "Remembering 41."

[13:14:33] Still ahead, just in to CNN, despite cancelling their planned meeting, President Trump did have an informational conversation with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader. We'll update you on that and more. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Welcome back to our special live coverage from Buenos Aires on the G-20 summit where President Donald Trump is meeting with world leaders.

There's breaking news. We've just received word, despite cancelling an initial two-hour meeting with Vladimir Putin that had been scheduled for this morning, President Trump did now just have what's being described as an informal conversation with Russia's president.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders releasing this statement, quoting her now, "As it is typical with multilateral events, President Trump and the first lady had a number of informal conversations with world leaders at the dinner last night, including President Putin."

Joining us now, our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. What have you learned about this so-called informal meeting, this

informal exchange? They didn't have the formal two-hour sit-down they were planning on doing but apparently they chatted.

[13:19:52] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It sounds like they had a brief encounter at the G-20 dinner last night. We expected that to happen despite the fact they cancelled this two-hour bilateral meeting. And, Wolf, all day long yesterday, the White House was really making a concerted effort to keep the president away from the press, answering questions about what was going on with him and Vladimir Putin. They were trying to insist all day long that the reason why they cancelled this meeting was because of the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine. Had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. But of course, today, we thought we had this opportunity to ask the president some questions at a news conference. They canceled because of the passing of President Bush.

But at the same time, I think, you know, while the president did not have any kind of formal bilateral meeting, he did have these informal conversations last night with Putin and other leaders. The question is exactly, Wolf, what did he say to President Putin, because that obviously would have given him the opportunity to say to the president of Russia, you know, stop messing around with Ukraine, and bring up some of the other issues he's had with Russia, that the U.S. has had with Russia for some time. We don't know the extent of those conversations at this point.

One thing we should point out, Wolf, and you know this from a lot of these summits, the Kremlin is often ahead of the U.S. when it comes to putting out these statements. It's sort of a diplomatic thing they do to sort of say, OK, we're getting our information before the U.S. and they've done that almost at every turn throughout this G-20 summit where we haven't been able to get information from the U.S. as fast as we're getting it from the Kremlin.

BLITZER: That's really interesting. And you're right, it's happened before.

The Kremlin said yesterday that the president's decision to cancel the meeting, and I'm quoting now from the Kremlin's statement, "leads to more tension." Is this informal little conversation they had over dinner, is that designed to ease that tension?

ACOSTA: It sounds like it, Wolf. It sounds like they're trying to break some of the ice a little bit. But really, you know, the president, and I think Secretary Pompeo alluded to this in the interview, I think they wanted to make a statement to the Russians, make a statement to President Putin, what they're doing right now with respect to Ukraine is not acceptable. That is a change in tone somewhat from what we've seen from the White House in the past where they sort of allow President Putin, allow the Russians to really do basically whatever they want with some exceptions. So I think this is an example of the U.S. trying to flex its muscles a little bit and show he can be tough on the Russians. But at the same time, as you know, Wolf, when you give up an opportunity to have a former bilateral meeting, you're also giving up the opportunity to go after an adversary and say these are all the things we have a problem with. It's hard to do that in an informal conversation at a dinner.

BLITZER: It certainly is. That news conference was supposed to be taking place this hour --

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: -- here in Buenos Aires. It's not taking place?

ACOSTA: No. A lot of questions unanswered.

BLITZER: Don't go too far away. There's a lot more news unfolding.

Also just ahead, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaking with U.S. Intelligence, saying he sees, quote, "no direct evidence" linking the Saudi crown prince to the murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. My exclusive interview with Secretary of State Pompeo, that's next.


[13:27:24] BLITZER: Welcome back to our special live coverage from Buenos Aires of the G-20 summit.

Earlier today, I sat down for an exclusive interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He talked about several major issues facing President Trump here in Argentina. I started by asking him about his recollections of President George Herbert Walker Bush.


BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Wolf, it's great to be with you.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the late president, George H.W. Bush. How do you see his legacy?

POMPEO: It's a remarkable American legacy. They don't make them like that very often. I had a chance to get to know him when I was a member of Congress first. Then I held the job that he held at one point. I remember talking to him just after I was nominated to be the CIA director. He said, you'll be great, you'll be awesome. It was the second-best job I ever had. And he loved that group of people, that talented espionage agency so much. America is worse off today. And I want to extent mine and Susan's heartfelt sympathy to the entire Bush family.

BLITZER: What lessons can politicians today learn from the life he led?

POMPEO: True life of service. He was also committed to his faith. He was known to work really hard. Maybe those are the three things. You work at it, keep your faith, and you have this commitment to serve, good things can happen, not only to him. He had a remarkable life. But you'll do good work for your fellow man as well. President Bush certainly did that. BLITZER: He was an amazing man.

POMPEO: Absolutely.

BLITZER: I interviewed him on several occasions. I know if he were here, he'd want us to get to substantive issues.

So in his memory --


BLITZER: -- let's talk about some of the major national security issues facing the U.S. right now. Saudi Arabia, do you believe the Saudi explanation that the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman did not know about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

POMPEO: Wolf, I've spoken about this a lot. I continue to work on this issue. President Trump and this administration sanctioned 17 people that we came to learn were connected to the murder, the heinous murder, of Jamal Khashoggi. All across the United States government, we continue to investigate, try and learn, make determinations about what happened, and we'll will continue to hold those responsible accountable. We've been very, very clear about that since literally the very beginning.

We also, Wolf, and this is important, are doing everything we can to make sure we get it right for America, that we keep the strategic relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and protect the American people. Those two things can both be done. And we've done it very effectively.

[13:30:03] BLITZER: Because you have said that -- and you're a former a CNN director so you understand how U.S. intelligence analysis works. You said, "There's no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

Can you confidently tell his four children that he was not involved in that order?

POMPEO: Well, obviously, sitting in an unclassified setting, here's what I can say. I have read every piece of intelligence in the possession of the United States government. And when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there's no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is an accurate statement. It's an important statement. It's the statement that we are making publicly today.

BLITZER: Did the CIA conclude with high confidence he was involved?

POMPEO: I can't comment on intelligence matters, CIA conclusions. I didn't do it when I was the director. I'm not going to do it now.

BLITZER: Because you've seen all the reports in the media about that?

POMPEO: I've seen lots of reports in the media, Wolf. They often are untrue. BLITZER: So bottom line is the U.S. is going to use the same

relationship, the strategical relationships with Saudi Arabia now, irrespective of what may have happened?

POMPEO: Today, we're working with the Saudis in Afghanistan. We're working with the Saudis to push back against Ayatollah Khomeini, who killed hundreds of Americans, Wolf. And they're an enormous support to us. They're a relationship that has mattered for 70 years across Republican and Democratic administrations alike. It remains an important relationship. We're aiming to keep that relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

BLITZER: Because you're losing support in Congress. Even including among Republicans right now to continue U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia operation in Yemen. Even Lindsey Graham voted against your position. I think there were 14 Republican Senators who voted against you the other day in the Senate.

POMPEO: Secretary Mattis and I and the president have made very clear we're working to end the hostilities in Yemen. The humanitarian crisis there's of epic proportions. Millions of people at or near starvation. This administration has put almost $1 billion into stopping that humanitarian crisis. The Saudis have put even more money in of theirs. The Iranians, Wolf, have put zero dollars in to stopping that humanitarian crisis. And we're determined to fix the problem of the humanitarian crisis while ensuring that we don't have a Hezbollah organization on the southern edge of Saudi Arabia.

BLITZER: So U.S. military support for the Saudis in Yemen will continue?

POMPEO: The program that we're involved in today, we intend to continue.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Russia, another critical issue. Why did the president decide to cancel what was supposed to be a two-hour face-to-face meeting with the Russian leader?

POMPEO: I can actually answer that. I was there. He canceled it because the Russians behaved in a way that is deeply inconsistent with international law and is outrageous, to have held the Ukrainians that they took in the strike needs to be changed. The president wanted to send a clear, unambiguous message that we that find that kind of behavior unacceptable --

BLITZER: But the Russians --

POMPEO -- so he cancelled the meeting.

BLITZER: The Russians have done other awful things and the president went ahead in Helsinki --


POMPEO: This happened hours, days before the series of events --


BLITZER: Is it a good time for --


POMPEO: Hours and days, Wolf, hours and days before. And the president made the decision that the right thing to do was tell the Russians, return the sailors, return the Ukrainian equipment. It's theirs. The people need to be returned to their families. He wanted to send an unambiguous message that the Russians needed to change that act.

BLITZER: It had nothing to do with the announcement that came, just an hour earlier before he boarded Air Force One to fly here to Argentina, that Michael Cohen was cooperating with Mueller and all this new information, details about a supposed Trump Tower project in Moscow?

POMPEO: Ludicrous. Washington parlor game.

BLITZER: Explain. Because --


POMPEO: I was involved in the decision, Wolf. I can explain --


BLITZER: You were aboard Air Force One --

POMPEO: I was aboard Air Force One.

BLITZER: -- and nobody discussed Michael Cohen?

POMPEO: Wolf, this is the thing that the American people need to understand about Washington, D.C., it makes stuff up. That is wholly unfounded. I was involved in the decision-making process. We evaluated it carefully. We considered the opportunity to speak with him. We considered the message we would send. President Trump made the decision this was the right approach based on the activity that had taken place in the lead-up to the G-20 summit.

BLITZER: Is there going to be an opportunity down the road for the president to meet with Putin?

POMPEO: I just made clear the conditions for that meeting.

BLITZER: What are the conditions?

POMPEO: We want the sailors returned, we want the ships returned.

BLITZER: Once the Russians do that, they'll be a summit?

POMPEO: The president has said he wants to meet, he wants to have a conversation with President Putin. There are lots of things we need to find paths forward on together. Lots of places, Americans are at risk. He's trying to find a way to move forward with Russia. Now this jumped in the middle of a time when they could have begun to have a discussion where we might have made some progress. We regret that, but the Russians caused this meeting to be canceled by their behavior in the Kerch Strait.

[13:35:06] BLITZER: When is the president going to meet again with the North Korean leader?

POMPEO: I don't know. I hope it will happen pretty soon. We're working hard at it. I think it will happen shortly after the first of the year but I don't have any additional information to share with you this morning, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the problem right now?

POMPEO: Well, the problem --


BLITZER: With North Korea.

POMPEO: Yes. Well, the progress we've made has been good.

BLITZER: No, what's the problem?

POMPEO: The progress we've made has been good. We're not having missiles launched. There haven't been any nuclear attacks. We continue to have conversations about the right next step that is the right substantive next step, not the process next step of meetings. We're working with partners all across the world, the South Koreans, the Japanese. Remember, Wolf, these are global sanctions, put in place by the United Nations Security Council, which denied North Korea the capacity to improve their economy. That's not going to change. Unlike previous administrations, that when they got to the point that became difficult, wrote checks for tens and hundreds of millions of dollars and let the North Koreans off the hook in that sense. We're determined to fulfill the commitments that were made by Chairman Kim in Singapore and we're working hard at it.

BLITZER: A final question on Mexico. It looks like U.S./Mexican relationships are improving. You're off to Mexico for the inauguration of the new president. And the president, President Trump signed, together with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Canada new trade agreement. But there's still a lot of tension along the border. And there's a lot of uproar about whether or not the U.S. should go ahead and build a new wall, spend all that money. Whatever happened to the president's commitment for so long during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall?

POMPEO: That wall's going to get built. I have already developed a good relationship with my counterpart, Marcelo Abrard, the incoming foreign secretary of Mexico. We've met a number of times already. I'm unfortunately not going to make the inaugurations that's taking place today in Mexico, but he'll travel to Washington on what will be his second day in office and we'll continue to develop this relationship. It's not just focused on the migration issues that draw all the headlines. There are many economic issues between our two countries and other commercial -- we have transnational criminal organizations that we work on together. It's a broad set of relationships. We're going to work to help build the Mexican economy in the southern part of their nation and work with the northern triangle countries too. Those are important elements of what we're trying to accomplish. Soon to be foreign secretary, I guess within hours, Abrard and I are working hard at it.

BLITZER: Mexico paying for the wall?

POMPEO: We're going to get the wall built, Wolf.

BLITZER: Will Mexico pay for it?

POMPEO: Wolf, we're going to get the wall built.

BLITZER: I'll leave it on that note.

POMPEO: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, you have a busy schedule ahead of you.

Thank you so much for spending time with us.

POMPEO: Thank you, Wolf. Have a great day.

BLITZER: Thank you.


BLITZER: Lots to sift through in that interview with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We'll discuss that and more when we come back.


[13:42:15] BLITZER: We're back now live in Buenos Aires where we're learning President Trump did hold an informal conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. This, after he canceled a former meeting with Putin, which was supposed to last for two hours. That is not happening.

I asked the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to react to the cancellation and suggestions that it was triggered by developments in the Russia investigation back in the U.S. Listen.


BLITZER: It had nothing to do with the announcement that came, just an hour earlier before he boarded Air Force One to fly here to Argentina, that Michael Cohen was cooperating with Mueller and all this new information, details about a supposed Trump Tower project in Moscow?

POMPEO: Ludicrous. Washington parlor game.

BLITZER: Explain. Because -- (CROSSTALK)

POMPEO: I was involved in the decision, Wolf. I can explain --


BLITZER: You were aboard Air Force One --

POMPEO: I was aboard Air Force One.

BLITZER: -- and nobody discussed Michael Cohen?

POMPEO: Wolf, this is the thing that the American people need to understand about Washington, D.C., it makes stuff up. That is wholly unfounded.


BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. He's here along with our CNN senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, let's get your reaction to what he's saying is absolutely untrue, what was happening with Cohen and the Russia investigation had any impact at all on the president's decision to cancel that meeting with Putin.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: The secretary of state likes to say the questions are ridiculous, call certain notions ludicrous, but if we're going on evidence here, I would say you could make a good argument to say it is ludicrous the president himself wanted to send a strong rebuke to Putin. Because the president himself has never done that even when he's side by side with Putin. I'm not doubting there was a discussion whether to cancel this but what was in Trump's mind as the reason to say, yes, I don't want to do this now, that's what we don't know -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We know there was a little informal conversation between the president and Putin that took place at the dinner.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, we don't really have a great deal of detail on that, Wolf. We know they were able to have a conversation on the sidelines, on the margins. I think, you know, again going back to what Michelle was just saying about the optics of all of this, President Trump leaving the White House said he was waiting to get that report on what was happening with the Ukrainian sailors, when he got on board Air Force One, flying down here. We know at that moment the information about what had happened to those sailors, that they were being held by the Russians, was public knowledge, and it didn't take long when he was aboard Air Force One for him to say that's the reason I'm not going to have this meeting. So --

KOSINSKI: Nothing had changed.

[13:44:58] ROBERTSON: So nothing had changed. The Russians were desperate for this. As you found out in your interview there with Secretary Pompeo, the bar has now been set high for a real meeting. So although they met briefly and had a conversation briefly, a substantive conversation, now the bar to have that is very high.

BLITZER: He laid out these conditions, Secretary Pompeo, the Russians will have to return the Ukrainian soldiers that they took and the ships, they'll have to return those as well. Those are demands that the U.S. is making in effect towards Russia.

KOSINSKI: Right. So he set the bar for another formal sit-down. It's something the Russians want. And we see them criticizing this decision. But I would ask again, if the president, as the secretary of state just said, wanted to send such a strong message to Vladimir Putin here, why did he then go have a chat with him at dinner and there's no information coming out? If that message wants to be sent, why didn't the White House put out a statement or respond to questions about it, saying, yes, he spoke to Vladimir Putin directly about the Ukrainian issue. We don't know that he didn't. If that's the message you want to send, why don't you send that message?

ROBERTSON: And he has a track record of not standing up with the tough messages as we know in Helsinki where he didn't appear to hold Putin to account for attacking the 2016 presidential elections, neither did he seem to hold him to account for the position that 60 countries, allies of the United States and Britain had put forward about Russia and Putin's use of Novachuk nerve agent to attack a former spy in the U.K. that could have killed thousands of British citizens. He has a track record of not confronting, even on issues that are known to be contentious, even on issues that are known to be important. And for whatever reason, he seems overly sensitive, even making this an issue about Ukrainians, about getting an opportunity to really tackle tough.

BLITZER: What do you think about what Secretary Pompeo said about the Saudis, that the U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia's operations in Yemen will continue, they'll be no change in that. And he says he doesn't have any direct evidence


BLITZER: -- that the Saudi crown prince was involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

KOSINSKI: Right. This direct evidence thing, that is a factual statement, from everything we know. From other sources too. That there's no smoking gun. That doesn't mean there's not a strong inclination, that there's not strong evidence. Just based on knowledge of how the Saudi kingdom works, based on knowledge of this incident, based on the new reporting that came out today from the "Wall Street Journal." People in the United States justice system are convicted of murder all the time on not-direct evidence, on circumstantial evidence. He, being a former director of the CIA, for him to, again, not even give heed to the fact that it is now way out there worldwide, that the CIA has made this assessment, without a smoking gun, sure. But the fact that he won't even go there, won't even comment, OK, I get it, it's under investigation. But this that direct evidence thing, I think that's pushing it a little far.

BLITZER: I want your reaction, Nic, because you cover this stuff closely, they just issued the joint communique for the G-20. All the members signed, including the U.S. Except the U.S. specifically said it was not endorsing the provision in there, the Paris Climate Accords, which the U.S. has rejected and issued a separate declaration on that. All the others signed that. The U.S. didn't.

ROBERTSON: There were several takeaways about the joint communique. Number one, it's short. Go back a few years and joint communiques are much longer. This is five and a little bit of pages of text. There's a paragraph there, paragraph 20, actually, where all the other nations say we believe in the Paris Climate change agreement. They don't use the word climate in there. It's just "Paris agreement." I think that's telling as well. And we believe it should be fully implemented. There's a separate paragraph 21 that comes up after that, that's exactly that, where the United States excludes itself from support, reiterates its position of not supporting the Paris agreement. It doesn't, again, mention climate.

BLITZER: At least the U.S. signed most of the agreement this time.

ROBERTSON: This was the compromise.



ROBERTSON: This was the compromise to get it done.

KOSINSKI: Right. They did join it.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much. I know you're going to stick around. We're going to continue analysis of all this.

We're going to have much more.

[13:49:17] Also, on the death of President George H.W. Bush, including the advice on life that he shared with his own sons.


BLITZER: It has been a heart-breaking year for the Bush family. First, the passing of the family's matriarch, the former first lady, Barbara Bush. She passed away in April. And now, the loss of its patriarch, the 41st president of the United States.

Their son, the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, tweeting this morning, and I'm quoting, "I already miss the greatest human being that I will ever know. Love you Dad."

While Jeb Bush was running for governor of Florida, and years before George W. Bush ran for president, their father wrote a letter with some words of advice. The former president shared that letter with Larry King back in 1999. Listen to this.


LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: OK, a letter to George and Jeb, governor and governor. Not yet governors when this was written.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, this was -- well, well, the letter speaks for itself. But they were both running. And George was governor of Texas.

KING: George was and --


BUSH: And Jeb was running. Jeb lost in '94, running again in '98.

It's the summer.

[13:54:58] "Dear George and Jeb, your mother tells me that both of you had mentioned to her your concerns about some of the political stories, the ones that seemed to put me down and make me seem irrelevant, that contrasts you favorably to a father who had no vision and who but a placeholder in the broader scheme of things. I've been welcomed to pass along advice. Both of you are charting your own course, spelling out what direction you want to take your state. In George's case, running on a record of accomplishment. But the advice is this, do not worry when you see the stories that compare you favorably to a dad for whom English was a second language and for whom destiny meant nothing."

And we skip.

"It's inevitable that the new breed of journalists will have to find a hook in stories and will have to write of your plans and dreams but will have to compare those with what, in their view, I failed to accomplish. That can be very hurtful to a family that loves each other. That can hurt you boys who have been wonderful to me, you, two of whom I am so very proud. But the advice is, don't worry about it."


BLITZER: Very moving words, indeed.

We have much more ahead on our special coverage. Stay with CNN as we celebrate the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush.