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President George H.W. Bush Has Died At The Age Of 94; Top U.S. Naval Commander In The Middle East Was Found Dead In Bahrain Earlier Today; Trump Meets Informally with Putin as Mattis Says Russia/Putin Interfered with Midterm Election; Trump Cancels Press Conference "Out of Respect for Bush Family"; Pompeo: "No Direct Evidence" Linking Saudi Prince to Khashoggi Murder. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 1, 2018 - 16:00   ET



[16:00:22] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. And you are watching CNN special coverage. The life and legacy of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States. His passing at the age of 94 marks the end of the era, the last president to have served in World War II. The oldest living President in U.S. history and a patriarch for an American political dynasty.

Bush led the nation through tumultuous times: the first Gulf war, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the demise of the Soviet Union. Bush was a man who dedicated his entire life almost to public service as a Navy pilot, as a congressman, a diplomat, director of the CIA, vice President under Ronald Reagan. And thought he was, without question a politician who could at times play hardball, Bush nonetheless achieved a reputation as a gentleman known for his kindness and grace personally, for his love of family, and for his faith.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's people in heaven that you want to see.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Definitely. I can't quite sort out in my mind how we're going to find them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who would you want to see first?

BUSH: Well, it depends in Barbara pre-deceases me. I would probably go with her. But I think my mom and my father and maybe Robin, our little girl that died.


TAPPER: Robin. The political cartoonist of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger Marshall Ramsey creating this cartoon, this touching tribute. Bush flying the same plane that he flew in the Navy during World War II up into the clouds to join his beloved wife Barbara who passed away in April and their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953.

CNN is now learning about the last words that President Bush spoke. They were apparently to his son, George W. Bush before he passed away.

CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel who has covered the Bush family for years joins me now.

Jamie, tell us about his last words.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we have found out this afternoon is that the day that he passed away, he was asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, if he wanted measures to be taken. And he said, no. That he was ready to go. And just as we saw in that cartoon, he actually said I want to go be with Barbara and with Robin. And then later that evening we are told he was surrounded by family. His Neil Bush, Maria Bush, grandson Pierce, and his very good friend, best friend, James Baker and Susan Baker were there.

But on the speaker phone, he was talking to his son, former President George W. Bush, Bush 43. And 43 said to his dad that he was a wonderful father, and his father responded quote "I love you too." And those, we are told, were his final words before he passed.

TAPPER: We should all have such final words.

GANGEL: Exactly.

TAPPER: Saying I love you too to a child who loves us so much.

We are also -- yes, that's a tough thing to hear. We are also getting our first look at the funeral invitations.

GANGEL: That's correct. So we now know that the funeral will be at 11:00 on Wednesday. And just to go back to this father-son relationship. I can't tell you how many times each one of them said to me, don't ask about the relationship. Bushes don't believe in psycho-babble. But tonight at 8:00 we have, I think, a pretty extraordinary documentary that includes interviews with the family and former Presidents, and we are just going to show you a little part of it. It is the son, Bush 43, talking about his relationship with his father.


GANGEL: In a famous picture your first moment after you were sworn in in the oval office.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. So we had gone to the inaugural parade. I decide I was going to go see what it was like to be in the oval office as president, and I was in there taking in the moment, and dad walks in. I said welcome, Mr. President. And he said thank you, Mr. President. And it was a very moving moment. It was a fitting end to a great day.

GANGEL: Was it hard to live up to him?

W. BUSH: No.

GANGEL: Because? W. BUSH: Of unconditional love. In other words, the best from George

Bush was I love you no matter what you did. I might have tested that unconditional love on a fairly regular basis at points in my life, but he never said in order for you to live up to my expectations, you have got to do this or you got to do that.

GANGEL: Best advice he ever gave you?

W. BUSH: Do what you say you are going to do.

[16:05:01] GANGEL: Keep your word.

W. BUSH: Keep your word, yes.

GANGEL: Give me some words to describe your father.

W. BUSH: Humble. Driven. Competitive. Willing to listen to the other person. Great listener. Thoughtful. And a person who cared deeply about others who hurt.

One of more of a very dramatic moment for me came on September 14th at the national cathedral. The very fearful of man tears and the country didn't need to see a weeping president that finished the speech. And I went back to the pew and sat down. I felt him his hand reached across line and grabbed my arm. Just a small gesture that meant a lot to me. It was a very sweet moment of fatherly love.


GANGEL: We can report that the son will be giving one of the eulogies on Wednesday about his father in that same national cathedral. And he told me in that moment when his father touched him, was the most memorable moment for him of their relationship during his presidency. When he is giving that eulogy, Bush men are criers. I think it's going to be a very emotional speech for him.

TAPPER: It's a special relationship.

Jamie, thanks so much. We really appreciate it.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us now live from Houston where the Bush family has been gathered.

And Kaylee, we learned earlier today that President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will be attending President Bush's funeral in Washington. Obviously, President Trump was notably not invited to first lady Barbara Bush's funeral in April because of the nasty attacks that President Trump has made against the Bush family.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. And now, President Trump declaring Wednesday, December 5th, a national day of mourning. It is that morning that the state funeral will be held at the national cathedral in Washington where he and the first lady will be in attendance.

Barbara Bush's funeral is so fresh in our memories, really providing a blue print for this family in many ways as to how they will remember our 41st president. But the family has not yet released full details of the large scale of plans that we will see in the coming week. But we have learned from a congressional leadership in Washington that before that state funeral the President's body will lie in state in the U.S. capitol's rotunda. His body will arrived there on Monday and there will be a ceremony at the capitol upon his arrival.

The public can then visit him from Monday evening after 7:30 p.m. until Wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m. And then following that service at the national cathedral, President Bush's body will return here to Houston, the city he and his wife called home since 1993. There will be a service at St. Martin's Episcopal Church. Again, that same church where Barbara Bush's life was celebrated a little more in seven months ago. Just a few blocks from where we are here, outside the home that George and Barbara shared here in Houston.

And then his casket will travel by train to college station. That's the home of the Bush Presidential library.. And that is where he will be laid to rest alongside Barbara and their late daughter Robin who died when she was just three years old -- Jake.

TAPPER: Kaylee Hartung in Houston, thank you so much.

When then vice President George H.W. Bush launched his bid for the White House in 1988, his message of picking up where Ronald Reagan left off, staying the course in his view, resonated with voters, but when it came time to run for reelection, his popularity collapsed under the weight of an economic downturn and the notable, broken campaign promise.


TAPPER (voice-over): Historians say that George H.W. Bush's international dealings set the gold standard for the modern presidency.

H.W. BUSH: It is a big idea, a new world order for diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind.

H.W. BUSH: President Bush chartered U.S. policies that promoted Eastern Europe's peaceful emergence from communism. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the end of U.S.- Soviet proxy wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

H.W. BUSH: Some have felt that we were infatuated with the change in Eastern Europe that we are in the process of neglecting this hemisphere, and that is not the case.

TAPPER: President Bush used U.S. military power to remove a drug- dealing strong man, Manuel Noriega, who was turning Panama into a NARCO states.

And in what at the time was the biggest U.S. military operation since the Vietnam War, President Bush put together an international coalition that liberated Kuwait after it had been invaded by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated.

[16:10:00] TAPPER: After just over five weeks of aerial bombardment, coalition ground forces pushed the Iraqi army out of Kuwait in just three days.

H.W. BUSH: We stood our ground because the world would not look the other way. Ambassador Osaba, tonight Kuwait is free.

TAPPER: The gulf war started just after "Time" magazine declared George Bush it is men of the year. The cover of the two George Bushs still sums up his presidency. The uplifting world leader on the international stage and the one in Washington D.C. weighed down by a sputtering economy and D.C.'s endless political wars. President Bush tried to be bipartisan from day one.

H.W. BUSH: I'm putting out my hand to you, Mr. Speaker. I'm putting out my hand to you, Mr. Majority leader.

TAPPER: Democrats who controlled both Houses of Congress and sometimes even his fellow Republicans slapped that hand away. Alarmed by then record deficits, the president broke his most memorable campaign promise.

H.W. BUSH: Read my lips.

TAPPER: Convinced it was in the national interest to compromise, he agreed to a bipartisan deal, cutting spending and raising taxes. He broke major campaign pledge and then saw the deal shot down by House conservatives.

A second attempt passed, but did not stop the recession in time. Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court provoked another acrimonious fight. Democrats dug up claims of sexual harassment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.

TAPPER: And Bush's approval rating, an unheard of 91 percent by the end of the gulf war, slowly eroded. The recession he could not stop ended up costing him a second term.

But President Bush left indelible marks on the nation as well as on the world. He signed the clean air act of 1990 calling it one of the administration's greatest domestic achievements. He also signed the Americans with disabilities act, prohibiting job discrimination and to this day, opening buildings and public transportation to millions of Americans. It is no wonder that modern presidents from both parties looked up to him.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, I'm one of (INAUDIBLE) of people who have been inspired by your passion and your commitment. We are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you. And we can't thank you enough.



TAPPER: Joining me now is CNN's senior political analyst and advisor to four presidents, David Gergen.

David, you had a night to reflect on President Bush's passing. What is your major thought today on his life and his legacy?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I major thought that is that I'm just so pleased at the way he is being celebrated. I'm just heartened by it. Not only does it fit the man and I think he merits it, but I think this is also a 24 hours of nostalgia about what leadership used to look like in this country. And I think he represented the best of that leadership tradition.

He was the last of our World War II Presidents. People who fought overseas, came back home, took our uniforms off and went to work on behalf of America. We had seven Presidents in a row from John Kennedy to George Bush Sr. who are World War II Presidents.

And I think what he also brought was that extra dimension of personal admission of character, the decency, the civility. We talk a lot about the lack of civility today. He was highly civil. And it opened doors for friendships across the board. His empathy for others. (INAUDIBLE) by the disabilities act.

But for also it is a used of power. He did not abuse power. He used power with restraint. He understood that's one of the main tradition of our American presidency. You have an enormous amount of power but don't send the troops (INAUDIBLE), you know. And when he went into Kuwait, Jake, and he claimed down (INAUDIBLE) and he had them in retreat, he was under a lot of pressure from the right and from some of his own team to quote "finish the job." To go in to Iraq, to knock Saddam Hussein out of power, and he said I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to shoot people in the back as they are running away, as they were retreating. But more than that, I made a promise to nations in the area, to the Saudis and to others we would not invade Iraq. We would only do this. And that restraint of power was a lesson. Unfortunately, it was forgotten. And the administration followed by his son, to be honest with you.

But it was really important at the time in sending a message of restraint. So I think that this is a moment, such a difficult time of like, through such turbulence and such darkness that people can be remind of what a true leader looks like, and maybe we can be harkened back to these values and to go forward.

[16:15:00] TAPPER: You worked for President Reagan when Bush was his vice president. Do you remember anything about his time as vice President where you had a firsthand wind (ph) into it?

GERGEN: Sure. I will tell you that during the transition, just after the Reagan-Bush ticket had won the presidency in 1980. Someone (INAUDIBLE) and others and we are talking about how can we strengthen the bond, the relationship between these two men so that George H.W. Bush who wanted to be the most loyal, vice president ever, how he could be trusted by the President. How they could grow into a very, very close relationship. And so we called Bob Finch (ph), who had been the lieutenant governor to Reagan out in California and said what would you recommend? And he said most important thing is to make sure that they have a lunch once a week. The two of them just alone together. So that's what we set up and it worked out beautifully.

But always before the lunch George H.W. would patrol through the halls of the west wing and stop you and ask you a question, something you needed for the lunch. So you would think, Jake, that what he would want was some late piece of news about the Middle East or something, you know, some serious anecdotal issue that you could help him with. That's not what he was looking for. He knew that Ronald Reagan when he went in there for lunch would always have a fresh story or two, both of them humorous, and he was looking for fresh jokes. He would approach each of us. You hear anything lately? We often had is something for him and it helped their relationship. But they had a wonderful bonding relationship over time. I think it was a very successful President-vice presidential relationship.

TAPPER: We lost first lady Barbara Bush about seven months ago. President Trump was not invited to her funeral, pointedly. He is, however, invited to President Bush's funeral. Does that surprise you? What do you make of that?

GERGEN: Well, I have to say that Barbara Bush remembered those who stabbed her. She remembered those who caused hurt to her husband. And she had a long memory. And she did not let you forget those things if you were the person that perpetrated that. And I'm sure that she had very deep feelings of hurt and pain for her husband, for her children about the campaign of 2016.

George H.W. Bush, by contrast to his wife, he was a forgiving man. He would get angry at you. He could bear a grudge for a little while, but it gave way. And he sought reconciliation. And George has a slightly different personality. So it is not a surprise to me that, you know, that Barbara -- that people are not Barbara would say I don't think it would be good to invite the Trumps, but with regards to George H.W., you know, he has forgiven. You know, he moves on. He was -- they were just different personalities and I think different outcomes in terms of the funerals.

TAPPER: David Gergen, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

A quick programming note, Bush's close friend, secretary of state, chief of staff, James Baker and President Bush's joint chief chairman Colin Powell will be my guests tomorrow on "STATE OF THE UNION." That's at 9:00 a.m. eastern. Please watch tomorrow morning.

George H.W. Bush's political and professional achievements defined his public persona, but nothing perhaps made him prouder than being called dad. We will take a closer look at Bush, the family man, next.


W. BUSH: History will remember him as a great President. Not only was he well-prepared for the job, but when the unexpected took place, he handled it with vision, a clear strategy, and calm nerves.

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: He is the most decent, honorable, wonderful. Nobody has ever been as lucky as I have been. I want people to remember him as courageous. I want them to remember him as he is.



[16:23:10] TAPPER: President, vice President, CIA director, ambassador. Of all the titles, George H.W. Bush held during his storied career, the one he took the most pride in was dad.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer takes a look back at Bush, the family man.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, SITUATION ROOM (voice-over): He trusted others and inspired their loyalty. And above all, he found joy in his family and his faith. Those are the words of an admiring son, George W. Bush writing about his father.

George H.W. Bush grew up in Connecticut. He was eventually a U.S. senator. In 1945 he married Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of McCall's magazine. More than anyone, she was his companion and sustaining light in peace and in war.

W. BUSH: He would complete 58 combat missions. These were tough days. But he had something that kept him going, and if you look closely at the photographs of the planes he flew, you will find what kept him going, and the name he had painted under his cockpit -- Barbara.

BLITZER: A daughter, Robin, died of leukemia at age three. Four sons, George W., Jeb, Neil, and Marvin, and one daughter, Doro, were adults by the time he became president. Over time gatherings at the family compound in Maine became larger and more raucous (ph).

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: What is it like, Doro? I said you can't agree on everything. When inside the family you disagree with the President or a governor.

DOROTHY BUSH KOCH, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT BUSH: We -- there isn't a lot of that. Actually, when I spend the weekend with my brother or my father, we sort of talk about fishing or laughing and it's not like that. I think people voice their opinions.

[16:25:03] BLITZER: Although they lived public lives, the Bushes guarded their family's privacy and resented outsiders' attempts to pry in or to play up stories of rivalry between the father and son presidents. H.W. BUSH: Well, we know who we are. We know how we get along, and

there's no rivalry or there's no kind of trying to live up to something or bring the boy up. I mean, it is crazy. We are a close, loving family, Larry, and these speculative stories drove me crazy.

KING: How about you?

L. Bush: They are nutty. There was people saying we won't object to be president, not George. Two books written about me by someone who never spent - spoke to me ever. So I mean, I think you just overlook those. They are just not true.

KING: But you get angrier than your husband. Didn't you?

L. BUSH: Always.

BLITZER: Shortly before the start of the 1991 gulf war, President Bush summed up his feelings about his family in a letter to his children.

H.W. BUSH: I had a little plaque made. It says CAVU. C-A-V-U. Cavu was a kind of weather we never plow its water when we were to fly off out carrier in the pacific. We had little navigational instrumentations so we wanted cavu. Ceiling and visibility, unlimited.

And because of the five of you whose hugs can still feel whose own lives have made me so proud, I can confidently tell my guardian angel that my life is cavu, and it will be that way until I die all because of you.

BLITZER: Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Washington.


TAPPER: CNN's special coverage continues in a moment.


H.W. BUSH: My view and legacy is let the historians figure out how I screwed up and figure out what I got right. And I'm confident that, you know, we had a good administration and good people.



[16:31:28] TAPPER: And we have some breaking news into CNN right now. We are learning that the top U.S. naval commander in the Middle East was found dead in Bahrain earlier today. Officials are investigating the death of vices admiral John Scott Stearney. But they do say there is no evidence of foul play at this time.

CNN's Ryan Browne joins me now.

Ryan, tell us more. RYAN BROWNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we learned that the

admiral Stearney was found dead today in Bahrain. Now Bahraini officials and the Navy's criminal investigative service, NCS, are investigating this death. However, they have been able to determine that at this time foul play is not suspected.

Now, the cause of death not yet known. That will be part of the investigation. But we spoke with the chief of naval operations today, Admiral John Richardson. He said that admiral Stearney was not under any kind of investigation and that they will release additional details as they are learned.

Now this is a critical command that deals with various challenges in the region from Iran, rebels in Yemen, firing missiles into the red sea. So it's seen as a critical command. And to that end the Navy is flying out one of its most senior officers tonight, vice admiral Jim Malloy, to take over an interim basis to help oversee the command and ensure that operations continue. A major senior naval officer, a real shock to the Navy community today -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Browne at the Pentagon. Thank you so much.

Coming up, they were bitter rivals who became the best of friends. As we celebrate the life of President George H.W. Bush, a look at the special bond he forged with Bill Clinton. Next.


H.W. BUSH: President Clinton beat me like a drum back in 1992 and then we became friends. And some of his friends look at him, and they say have you lost it with this crazy guy? And some of mine look at it and they have said it's just the same thing. What are you doing with Clinton? And just because you run against someone does not mean you have to be enemies. Politics does not have to be mean and ugly.



[16:38:04] TAPPER: For all of Bush 41's many remarkable lifetime achievements from his World War II heroism to his presidency, he did see his share of spectacular losses and failures. His biggest political defeat by far, 1992, that's when Bill Clinton denied him a second term as President, and even then he was quite gracious.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: January 1993. His final days in office. President Bush was thinking of someone else, his successor.

H.W. BUSH: I'm sitting here now alone. A desk there. Picture is gone. I'm dreading the next few minutes walking over and saying good- bye to the staff. I leave it out on the desk for Bill Clinton. Looks a little lonely sitting there.


I walked into this office just now, I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. There will be very tough times made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I'm not a very good one to give advice, but just don't let the critics courage you or push you off course. I'm rooting hard for you. Good luck, George.


TAPPER: And CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley joins me now.

Doug, it was only in 1993 that that exchange of letters or that letter took place. It seems like hundreds and hundreds of years ago on a planet far, far away.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Boy, it really does. I mean, the age of civility seemed to have ended at some juncture. But Bush and Clinton became very good friends. Part of it, Jake, as you recall in 1992, there was a third party candidate, Ross Perot, the billionaire from Texas. And Bush wasn't so kind to Ross Perot after he lost in 1992 because Perot had taken 19 percent of the vote as a third party. And much of that vote, the Bush circle, thought came out of 41. So he thought Bill Clinton was the opposition, and he won. He was angry for a long while even until recent times that Perot had messed up his reelection campaign in 1992.

[16:40:21] TAPPER: And President Bush and Bill Clinton, when they were both out of office starting as you alluded to and in unlikely but very genuine friendship and did a lot of humanitarian work together, they were political opposites in many ways. Two different generations, but they reconcile. They work together. What do you think was behind their bond?

BRINKLEY: Well, people love seeing them together. It was like Bubba and the Bramen, you know. And they would go to places like Haiti and just crowds of workers would just want to meet them, shake their hands, and they made people that worked in the says NGO's of the world feel good. That they were spearheading not just fundraising of money, but actually going places and meeting people.

I think both Bush 41 and Bill Clinton for all their differences in the way they have conducted their lives, both had a lot of empathy. They had big hearts. They did care about the poor of the world and the disenfranchised and those less fortunate. And that bond, plus a great sense of humor.

Barbara Bush never bought into the Bill Clinton act as fully as 41 did. She was a little bit suspicious of him, but 41 just adored him. Almost thought of Bill Clinton as another member of his family.

And you know, we forget, also, Jake, that he put -- Bush 41 put Jimmy Carter in as our diplomat abroad, former Democratic President. It was Carter who goes 1989 to monitor the elections in Panama. Bush sends Carter in 1990 to deal with Daniel Noriega and the Sandiness (ph) victory in that country. So we was willing to be very bipartisan any chance he could get.

TAPPER: President Bush once threw a surprise party for his white House staff to boost morale after he lost to Bill Clinton. There was a special guest invited to the party. Take a look at this.


DANA CARVEY, COMEDIAN: I actually, I was staying in Lincoln bedroom last night. And I couldn't resists getting on the phone and I call at the secret service as the president. Feel like jogging tonight in the nude. My wife and I were looking on the lawn around midnight, and these guys were fully unclothed.

The way to do the President is to start out with Mr. Rogers. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Then you add a little John Wayne. Here we go. Let's go over the ridge. You put them together. You have George Herbert Walker Bush. That's one thing there. Now --



TAPPER: That's a man who laughed along with others. Even when he was the butt of the joke, as he surely was when Dana Carvey portrayed him on Saturday Night Live, again, seems like a different era, a different planet.

BRINKLEY: Well, because he was all about self-deprecating humor. People used to make fun that he would play horseshoes, so he would make jokes or that he used to eat pork rinds to seem more populist. And he went with the joke and made fun of himself all the time.

In one very funny moment, Jake, that William Webster told me, former head of CIA, FBI, that they created a body double for Bush 41, somebody that looked just like him, and they decided to see if Barbara Bush could recognize that it wasn't her husband, and they staged this event in the oval office, and Barbara didn't even know that that body double wasn't her husband for a while, and then when she finally caught on to it, all of her husband and her friends came out dying laughing that they were able to pull this stunt on the first lady. So there was humor in the Bush White House and yet serious foreign policy making.

TAPPER: Yes. And self-deprecation which we haven't seen for quite some time.

Douglas Brinkley, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Be sure to tune in tonight for a CNN Special Report, "Remembering 41." That's at 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

We are going to take a quick break.


[16:48:40] TAPPER: As we track several moving parts out of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, we get this breaking news. Defense secretary Jim Mattis just told a defense forum in California that Russian president Vladimir Putin tried to interfere in the U.S. midterm elections last month.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There is no doubt the relationship worsened. He tried again to muck around in our elections this last month. And we are seeing a continued effort along those lines.


TAPPER: This news follows word that Putin one of several world leaders that President Trump had informal conversations with during last night's dinner in Argentina.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins me now live from Buenos Aires.

Jeff, what do you make of this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there is no question those words are certainly stronger from the defense secretary than anything we have heard from here at the G-20 summit from the President or any of his advisors. This is the first word we have had from the defense secretary and who is certainly one of the highest ranking officials of the U.S. government saying that definitively that he believes that Vladimir Putin and Russia tried to, in his words, muck in the midterm elections.

There has been utter silence here from the President on that front. And we are told that they - he did have an informal conversation with Vladimir Putin after dinner last evening as you said. But one of the challenges of these informal conversations, a, we don't know what happened. And, b, it's not a read-out. There isn't a read-out of what actually was said. But the president certainly did not use that as an opportunity to call out Vladimir Putin.

So Jake, that was something hanging over the summit that the President decided to cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin. But, Jake, happening right now is perhaps the most consequential meeting of the summit altogether. The President is about an hour or so into his dinner with Chinese president XI Jinping. Of course, that is one of the biggest issues here. Is there going to be an escalation in the ongoing trade war between the two countries or is there going to be a deal?

Just a few minutes ago the President, he said the relationship is very special. There is a reason to think that we could get something for the U.S. and China that's good. But, Jake, very, very vague. And we are told that this dinner may be close to wrapping up. So we will see if there's there is any conclusion to this ongoing trade escalation. But probably the most important meeting here, Jake, but a very short one as well, this dinner. After that the President flying back to Washington - Jake. [16:51:09] TAPPER: And Jeff, the President was supposed to have a

press conference there. But he canceled it saying he was cancelling it out of respect for the Bush family.

ZELENY: He did. He was supposed to have a press conference this afternoon. But it was oddly timed before this dinner with Xi Jinping, which was again the big high point of this summit. But the President said he was cancelling out of respect for the family. Never mind that President George H.W. Bush may have liked a moment of diplomacy or, you know, wanting to see the president actually confronts some of these issues. But this was what the President said a short time ago about President George H.W. Bush.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was a very fine man. I met him on numerous occasions. He was just a high quality man who truly loved his family. One thing that came through load and clear. He was very proud of his family. And very much loved his family. So he was a terrific guy. And he will be missed. And he led a full life and very exemplary life.


ZELENY: So the President repeatedly talking about how President Bush was a family man. But, Jake, not mentioning at all about what he had done in terms of building alliances. Of course, the Trump doctrine so, so different than the Bush doctrine in every way. U.S. foreign policy, entirely different. But that is still hanging over this some of here, Jake, is the President is beginning to wrap up that dinner and will be heading back to Washington this evening -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Buenos Aires, thank you so much.

President Trump on stage at the world -- on the world stage at the G- 20 summit amid a variety of international tensions, including, of course, controversy over his administration's response or lack thereof of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

My colleague Wolf Blitzer spoke with secretary of state Mike Pompeo about whether the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was directly involved in that brutal murder.


BLITZER: You are a former CIA director. You understand how U.S. intelligence analysis works. You said there's no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Can you confidently tell his four children that he was not involved in that order?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, sitting in an unclassified setting, here is what I can say. I have read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of the United States government. And 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 is an important statement, and it is a statement that we are making publicly today.

BLITZER: Bottom line is that the U.S. is going to continue to maintain the same relationship, strategic cooperation with Saudi Arabia right now irrespective of what may have happened.

POMPEO: Today we are working with the Saudis in Afghanistan. We are working with the Saudis to push back against the Ayatollah who killed hundreds of Americans, Wolf, and they are an enormous support to us. We are working to end the hostilities in Yemen, the humanitarian crisis there is much epic proportion and millions of people that are 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 are determined to fix the problem of the humanitarian crisis while insuring that we don't end up with 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 are involved in today, we intend to continue.


TAPPER: Pompeo also doubled down on President Trump's reason for cancelling his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying it was only about the recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the aggression by Russia against Ukraine. And not at all about Michael Cohen's recent plea deal with special consequence Robert Mueller which talked about Russian business deals that President Trump lied to the public about in 2016.

Coming up, we continue to remember the life and legacy of President George Herbert Walker Bush, including his adventurous side.


[16:55:13] H.W. BUSH: Just because you are old that doesn't mean you can't do fun stuff. And I don't want to sit around drooling in the corner. And so, it's a wonderful release. The scariest moment is when you look out even though you are hooked on. Get ready. Get ready. Get ready to jump. You get out the door and you look down. There's no feeling of support. And that is, you know -- what the heck am I doing?