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President George H.W. Bush Dies at Age 94; Russia Election Meddling; G20 Summit; Trump Had Informal Conversation With Putin; Trump Meeting With China's Xi Ended After 2.5 Hours; Bush, Clinton United by Humanitarian Efforts Around the World. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 1, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:42] ANA CABRERA, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: You're in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us tonight. From all corners of the world, this evening tributes, condolences, fond personal memories and prayers for the family of the 41st President of the United States.

This wreath, now gracing the entrance to the Houston home of President George H.W. Bush who passed away there last night, plans have been set for his funeral and events to honor his life, his presidency, Bush 41 was 94 years old.

His service to this nation was vast. It began when he was a teenager volunteering for the Navy, becoming a fighter pilot. Afterward a Congressman, an Ambassador, Head of the CIA, Vice President and then the White House.

I want to show you what's happening overseas to pay tribute to President Bush right now in Kuwait, a nation that holds him in especially high regard for a leading a coalition that evicted Saddam Hussein's forces after his 1990 invasion there and right now over the White House, the American flag lowered to half-staff in honor of the man who once told CNN that he has fears, but dying was not one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41ST U.S. PRESIDENT: Death doesn't scare me. Used to when I was a little kid, think about dying I was scared of that terrible. When you get older, Larry, you don't think about it a lot. I got too much to do and too much to live for, too much happiness...

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: When Bush 41 became President, the Berlin Wall was up, the Cold War was pitting east against west and not many Americans had heard the name Saddam Hussein, all that and much more in the world changed during his term.

Here's CNN's, Jake Tapper. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Historians say that President 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 where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind.

TAPPER: President Bush charted U.S. policies that promoted Eastern Europe's peace merchants from communism. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of U.S. -Soviet proxy wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

BUSH: Some have felt that we were so infatuated with the change in Eastern Europe that we're in a process of neglecting this hemisphere and that is not the case.

TAPPER: President Bush used U.S. military power to remove a drug- dealing strongman Manuel Noriega who was turning Panama into a narco state.

BUSH: He good luck you fellows.

TAPPER: 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.

BUSH: The skies over Bagdad have been illuminated.

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

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

TAPPER: The Gulf War started just after Time Magazine declared George Bush its men of the year. The cover of the two George Bush's 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.

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.

BUSH: Read my lips, no new taxes. TAPPER: Convinced it was in the national interest to compromise, he

agreed to a bipartisan deal cutting spending and rising taxes. He broke a major campaign pledge and then saw the deal shot down by house conservatives.

[19:05:00] 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.

CLARENCE THOMAS, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 his 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, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. President, I'm one of millions of people who've 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: Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I want to show you a couple of tweets, this one first from Former First Lady, Michelle Obama. She attached an amazing photo of herself and the former President and her words here. "His spirit of service and decency will be missed by many, including our family. I hope his memory will be a guiding light for our country and those around the world. "

And this today from the President's son, Former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. He writes simply, "I already missed the greatest human being that I will ever know. Love you dad!"

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is near the bush family home in Houston. Another of the President's sons, George W. Bush was also elected to the White House some years later. Susan what can you tell us about that relationship between the 41st and 43rd Presidents? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, one of the things that both of these men shared is that they talked about each other. They most certainly got very emotional and usually cried when referring to each other. They are extremely close.

And I've really had an opportunity back in November 2014 to see the unveiling of the book, 41: A Portrait of My Father. This was in College Station, Texas, the Presidential Library. And George W. Bush essentially said to his father that it was less of an autobiography or a biography rather and more of a love letter to his father.

H.W. Bush was in the audience in the front row. He was wheelchair bound at that time, unable to speak. His mother to alive, they both sat there smiling and laughing as he revealed some of the family secrets in this book, but also was rather serious in his defense of his father.

And he told numerous stories about what he wanted people to remember. Of course, a part of that was defending his father in his position to go after the Iraqi forces in Kuwait, but to stop short of getting Saddam Hussein.

He talked about the fact that he was not trying to finish the job that his father had started and rather his father gave him a blessing and a conversation they had over the phone about the difficult choice of going to war.

They talked about as well the fact that there was a lot of pain in their family. Those personal stories around the loss of his young sister, Robin at three years old to leukemia, and then he talked about the fact that these two men, as grown men and as Presidents, really leaned on each other in their time of need. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD U.S. PRESIDENT: So here's a guy who runs for Senator of Texas twice and loses and runs for President of the United States and a primary against Ronald Reagan in the State of Texas and loses, and ends up being President.

And all the time was still a great father. Defeat didn't define George Bush, there's something greater in life then chalking up political victories or political losses. It taught me, and I'm confident taught Jeb, that you don't need to fear failure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And Ana, he also talked about how he would pick up the phone and talk to his father. Both of them really lamenting over sometimes the criticism, the bad press they got and would try to, of course, fortify each other in that.

And another really interesting story - he kind of was joking a little bit, teasing his dad, saying, "Look, this was a guy who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale and was told, hey, hit Wall Street running". That he could have done anything, but instead moved his family to Odessa, Texas.

He said they were in 7th Street. They had a duplex and it was one of the few places on the street that had an indoor bathroom that they shared, what he said, what he called, two ladies of the night and then made a joke about so much for that silver spoon.

Those were the kinds of things that he shared. He ribbed his father about. And - but, clearly, these two men always very emotional and very close. Ana.

[19:10:00] CABRERA: There's so much to admire about that family dynamic that the Bush family has had over the years. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you for sharing all of that.

News of President Bush's passing has been met by an outpouring of tributes from colleagues and admirers who worked alongside the 41st President throughout his decade - decades, I should say, of public service. Those tributes almost universally paint a portrait of a man who was steadfast in his principles and led a life of utter devotion to his nation.

One such tribute offered by Former New Hampshire Governor, John Sununu, a trusted confidant an advisor who served as President Bush's first Chief of Staff from 1989 to 1991. And John Sununu is joining us now.

Governor Sununu, I know you have a heavy heart tonight. Thank you for being here.

JOHN H. SUNUNU, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thank you. It's a sad day, but a day as we look back where we can at least relish a little bit some of this great President's accomplishments.

CABRERA: Not just as accomplishments, but the person that he was. You write in the Washington Post today, when Bush entered the White House. In 1989 he faced many issues that had been lingering for decades: budget deficits, the struggle against communism, instability in Latin America, social inequality, threats to the environment and struggling schools throughout the country.

But he faced them as any former fighter pilot would. Telling the American people I am a man who sees life in terms of missions, missions defined and missions completed. Governor, what were the missions he completed that he was most proud of do you know?

SUNUNU: Well, he certainly was extremely proud of having guided the Western powers as we handled the collapse of the Soviet Union. And the fact that he was able to do that as effectively and as efficiently as it turned out, and even ended up with the reunification of Germany and their admission into NATO with a nod coming on that issue from the Soviet Union, I think that was one of his biggest satisfactions.

But he also, contrary to the very wrong Time Magazine cover you showed earlier, he also was a great domestic policy President. He passed more major domestic legislation than any President, except Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt. And, although, his foreign policy achievements were so great that they sometimes overshadow that, I think he was very proud of the fact that he focused both on foreign policy and domestic policy.

You and the Former President were close. You were his Chief of Staff, as we mentioned. You call him a dear friend. What's something you know about President Bush that not many others would?

SUNUNU: That he loved the laugh. He was a very fun-loving person, willing to drop a joke in the middle of the most serious issues and conversations. When we were at the NATO meeting in Europe, there were long speeches going on and on and on, and the President kept writing things down. And handing me these notes that I had to receive with a straight face, and nobody realized that he was writing pretty bawdy poems, limericks and we both struggled to keep a straight face. He was that kind of a person.

He loved a good laugh, and Mrs. Bush even commented on that in her biography. She said that she walked past the White House in the morning meeting all she heard was raucous laughter and couldn't understand how those people ran the world that way.

CABRERA: It's not hard to find a picture of him smiling or laughing, we've been showing them all day long. We've also talked a lot about that letter he left President Clinton, the man who defeated him in his bid for a second term. And the deep friendship they ended up forming over the years.

How was he able to be not just admired, but truly loved by his biggest political rival and opponent of a different party?

SUNUNU: Because he showed the respect to the President Clinton when he defeated him - when President Clinton won that election. His letter shows that respect. And over the years they interacted face-to-face and on the phone. And I think there was a mutual respect there which is so important.

I think the country has had a great tradition of past Presidents not giving their success as a real hard time and George Herbert Walker Bush was a firm believer in that and honored that to the letter.

CABRERA: What will you miss most about him?

SUNUNU: The chance to go up and visit - when he was in Maine in the summers, my wife and I used to drive up and see him and Barbara two or three times.

[19:15:00] And it really was a fun time to go and reminisce, never really heavy conversations on the politics of the day, but always good memories. And those were really great times.

CABRERA: Governor John Sununu, thank you very much for being.

SUNUNU: Thank you.

CABRERA: We appreciate your stories and your service as well to this country. SUNUNU: Thank you. So the last President to serve in World War II has

passed. Up next, I'll speak live with another hero from that conflict, Former Senator Bob Dole. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: With President George H.W. Bush's passing we have lost the last Commander in Chief to have served in World War II. And joining us now on the phone is Senator Bob Dole. He not only served in World War II as well, but he also ran against George Bush for the Republican nomination in 1988.

Senator last time you and I spoke, it was after the death of Senator John McCain and I'm very grateful to be able to talk to you tonight about the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush. You both served in World War II. As we mentioned, with his passing, he is now the last World War II President. What does that mean to you?

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATE, MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it means that it's an end of an era. And World War II veteran - well, I'm one of them, but most - there are not many left.

[19:20:00] So I think President Bush, as you indicated was the last World War II veteran President.

CABRERA: Yes. As Americans, what does that mean? What have we lost with his passing?

DOLE: Well, I believe there are certain qualities that veterans have and when Bush was President I think about three-fourths of Congress were veterans, and we would stick together and work together across the aisle. And President Bush was a Bipartisan President. So we got quite a lot done.

CABRERA: Give us a sense of what it was like to run against him? You were his Republican opponent in 1988?

DOLE: Yes. I think I could have beaten President George, but I couldn't beat Barbara. She was pretty tough.

CABRERA: Well, we know they were a couple, partners throughout life and through ups and downs, through in and out of different service positions that the Former President held. You served alongside him for a time in Congress, what kind of statesman was he?

DOLE: He was very - well, I served - he came into the house, and I was in the House. But then he later, of course, was the Vice President. So - and then he was President and I was his Republican leader for four years. So we had a lot - we were foes, but that was a long time ago. We've been friends for 30, 40 years, I guess.

CABRERA: Do you have any memories you want to share?

DOLE: Well, one. When the President lost in 1992, I was the leader of the Republicans in the Senate and we knew he must have felt terrible, so we thought we invite him for dinner, and he finally agreed to come and we all were in tears and he was in tears, I was in tears when I introduced him.

But when he got back to the White House, he wrote me a note, saying, "I didn't want, but you convinced me and I'm now very pleased that I did, because we tried to cheer both he and Barbara up a little". But he went he moved right, ahead kept busy, did a lot of public service, lot of charity, and was a very good friend. We became fast friends the last, I don't know, 15, 20 years, 30 years.

CABRERA: Tell us more about your friendship. What was it that made him such a good friend?

DOLE: We're about the same age. I'm just a few months older, and we both had the same ambition. And we both wanted to go to the White House and of course only one was going to do that, then we had to - he got the nomination, of course she had to win the general election.

But he won, I lost. He became President. I served as his Leader in the Senate. We got along very well.

CABRERA: Well Senator Bob Dole, we appreciate you reflecting with us. Thank you so much for joining us.

DOLE: Thank you. Bye.

CABRERA: Good night. These are pictures now of flags at half-staff outside the Former President's home in Kennebunkport, Maine, his old home in Washington, the White House. There you go. Up next, we'll look at how the Former President

drastically changed the Republican Party when he came into office and how history looks back on him.

[19:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: We're looking back at the life and presidency of George H.W. Bush who passed away last night at his home in Texas. He was 94 years old. One of the most defining moments of his time in office happened when Iraq invaded the tiny oil-rich nation of Kuwait.

President Bush led a coalition through what's now called the First Gulf War, and its impact is being felt today. Here is CNN's, Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H.W. BUSH: I'm sending a signal, a clear, clarion signal to Saddam Hussein. We are deadly serious about seeing you get out of Kuwait.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It was a signal backed up by a half a million U.S. troops, the largest U.S. military operations since the Vietnam War. The 1991 Gulf War was a sweeping victory that then and later George H.W. Bush saw as a moral imperative.

BUSH: You have to do it sometimes. It's good versus evil. And when we were fighting Saddam Hussein, I felt it was that clear.

BLITZER: In the summer of 1990, the Iraqi leader, desperate for money after a disastrous eight-year war with Iran, invaded it's much smaller, but oil-rich neighbor, Kuwait. President Bush ordered U.S. military deployments to the region to prevent Iraq from going any further. It was called Operation Desert Shield.

BUSH: This will not stand. This will not stand this aggression against Kuwait.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: He said it will not stand. Now, that meant he was going to work diplomatically and bring out a huge coalition of political leaders together to force Saddam Hussein to leave, but it was also clear in my mind if that didn't work, we're go to war and that's what we were prepared to do.

[19:30:00] BLITZER: President Bush assembled a global coalition, 39 countries, 28 of them supplying troops.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He had the kind of relationship and reputation with everybody that they all trusted him, they all wanted to be on board.

JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And then guess what, he got other people to pay for it. That's the way to fight a war.

BLITZER: The United Nations set January 15, 1991, as the deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait.

BAKER: I can tell he was apprehensive. I can tell he was worried, he was anxious. He said I know what I'm doing - I'm convinced I'm doing the right thing.

CHENEY: Then he actually then shot down over the Pacific. And so he had probably as much as anybody involved in the operation first hand personal experience on what we were asking people to do.

BLITZER: A CNN crew covering the last minute diplomacy in Baghdad witnessed what happened next.

BUSH: The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We're seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.

BLITZER: In Washington, it was the evening of January 16, 1991. The President went on national television to announce the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.

BUSH: Some may ask why act now? Why not wait? The answer is clear. The world could wait no longer.

BLITZER: After five weeks of air strikes, the President ordered ground troops to push Iraq's army out of Kuwait. In just three days, coalition tanks and troops swept across Southern Iraq, encircled Kuwait and Saddam's occupation collapsed, even though the Iraqi remained in power.

POWELL: The President made it absolutely clear that our mission was limited one, to get the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, to restore the government of Kuwait and to get our troops home. CHENEY: We all felt that going to Baghdad would have been a violation

sort of the agreements we had made to get people to signed on.

BLITZER: Less than two months after the war started President Bush declared victory.

BUSH: Now we can see a new world coming in to view. A world in which there's a very real prospect of a new world order.

CHENEY: If you were to design a President, the deal was that kind of a situation, a military crisis, massive use of military force, global operation. You'd be hard put to find anybody, any better designed, if you will, than George Bush. He had it all.

BLITZER: Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now the Gulf War and the defeat of Saddam Hussein, just one several major international events that happened under President Bush's watch. Let's bring in CNN Presidential Historian, Tim Naftali now.

And Tim, President Bush, he was only in office for one term, but he really did get a lot done, especially when you look at foreign policy.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, he President during a revolutionary period international politics and he wanted to stabilize that period and he helped the Soviet Union have a soft landing.

Now it would be wrong to say that George Bush ended the Cold War. But he was the exactly right partner for Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was going to be making very tough decisions and what Bush understood was Bush didn't want to make those tougher.

Bush understood the Gorbachev was a politician and that if Gorbachev lost face, if Gorbachev looked like a loser, he was probably going to be overthrown. So Bush was always thinking what - how can I move Gorby in the right direction without pushing him so far that his people will overthrow him, and when they finally did, it was too late.

CABRERA: It's so interesting that being one of the moments and yet how he handled that conflict too even after he was overthrown and he had that delicate dance. We talked about in the last segment with Bob Dole about this service to this country and The Navy and how he served in World War II.

We know he was shot down during his service. And he was the last President elected to have served in World War II. The last from that era. Do you think his experience being in the military itself informed him as a Commander in Chief?

NAFTALI: It's so interesting how people are described. If you don't like someone's biography, you call them a CV, a curriculum candidate or you could at the person who has a lot of experience. Hi World War II experience informed the way in which he looked at the world after the Cold War ended.

He was a - he's a pragmatic man. He believed - he understood power, but he was also a touch of a Rooseveltian idealist. He actually believed in the possibility of collective security. In other words, he believed the UN - United Nations could do good work.

So he thought with the end of the Cold War let's make it clear to small countries, especially, that this is not the time for them to use force, to change borders, which is why he was so tough on Saddam Hussein and which is the reason why the coalition was simply designed to liberate Kuwait.

[19:35:00] It wasn't designed to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Now, sure, if Saddam Hussein had been overthrown by his Generals, George Bush would have been happy. But the coalition was designed to show the world, you don't invade your neighbors. It was a way of laying a marker down for a new system of international relations following the Cold War.

Only somebody with a World War II experience, only somebody who remembered Roosevelt, only someone who actually still believed in the possibility of collective action would have pushed as hard as George H.W. Bush did at that time.

CABRERA: And because there was so much going on in the world and his focus on foreign policy, did that hinder him in some ways on in domestic policy?

NAFTALI: Well, some of our Presidents have preferred foreign policy. John F. Kennedy, much preferred foreign policy; Richard Nixon much, preferred foreign policy and George H.W. Bush was in that same category. He just enjoyed it much more. It was more intellectually interesting to him, he liked the problems.

But it would have been dereliction of duty on his part at that time in world history not to a focused on world events. Look, the Soviet Union - it wasn't clear the Soviet Union would collapse peacefully. It wasn't clear that Europe, in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union, wouldn't start having these minor fights.

The Hungarians were upset with the Yugoslavs. The Yugoslavs themselves were falling apart. There were all kinds of old unresolved border disputes that have been frozen by the Cold War. It could very well have been a time of more fighting in Europe than we saw, so you couldn't have neglected international politics.

CABRERA: Yes, but what do you look at and see as his domestic policy legacy then?

NAFTALI: Well the tough call in dealing with Reaganomics. Reaganomics had failed. The whole idea of supply-side economics that you could cut taxes and revenues would increase, that was disproven.

So - and by the way, he probably George Bush probably knew this would fail. He called it in - in 1980 he called it voodoo economics. In any case, he inherits this budget deficit. Now he's told to the Republican Party and the American people no new taxes, read my lips. And he does that because he gets a challenge from the right.

When he gets into office, he looks at the budget information. He talks to a very smart man named Richard Darman. He says can we do this? Can we correct this problem without raising taxes? And his people said no, Mr. President.

So he has a choice. He can choose country and do the right thing for the economy or he can choose party and do the right thing for the Republican Party. He chooses country, hoping that he can persuade Republicans to go his way.

What happens is a Republican Party breaks apart, it splits apart and they there's a revolution within the Republican Party, because George Bush violated his no new taxes pledge and that is the birth of Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America and ultimately of the Tea Party.

CABRERA: Well, we got to leave it there. I wish I could have more time to just pick your brain, it's so interesting. There's so much to discuss about this man. Thank you so much Tim Naftali.

NAFTALI: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Good to see you. Some other news developing tonight as we hear of an impromptu meeting between Vladimir Putin and President Trump. The Secretary of Defense reveals the Russian President tried to meddle in the midterms just last month here in the U.S., details ahead in the CNN Newsroom.

[19:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back. A stunning revelation from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis today about Russia's determination to influence the U.S. elections and how according to Mattis it is still happening. Here's what he said about Vladimir Putin during an event in California earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: We hear this from Mattis just one day after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders used the words, "Russian witch-hunt hoax", in referring to the Mueller investigation into Russia's 2016 election meddling.

Meanwhile, President Trump boarded Air Force One a short time ago without speaking to reporters. He's now on his way back to the U.S. from the G20 Summit. And we've learnt he spoke informally with Putin during the summit, even though Trump cancelled their formal talks citing Russia's standoff with Ukraine. CNN International, diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is joining us now

Buenos Aires. Nic, Putin told reporters he and Trump discussed Ukraine, what more are you hearing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. The very reason that President Trump said that he wouldn't meet with President Putin was precisely the issue of Ukraine, the fact that Russia had snatched a number of Ukrainian soldiers and vessels near Crimea.

What President Putin says that he discussed with President Trump was he said he put his position forward. But he said that he couldn't convince President Trump of his position and President Trump couldn't convince him either of his position, so the two still disagree over that situation and that standoff in Ukraine right now.

Putin also went on to say that it's important that the pair of them do have a big meeting. We know that the Russians were counting on this meeting. We know that there's a lot of issues that they want to discuss, missile control agreements is just one of them. So the indication from the Russian side and President Putin said this very important that they do get to meet at some point.

As we know from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier today talking to Wolf Blitzer that's not going to happen until Russia hands back those Ukrainians sailors.

CABRERA: Meantime let's talk about Trump's meeting with China's Xi. We know it lasted two and a half hours over dinner. Any word just yet on what they discussed?

ROBERTSON: Sure. We are getting word, and it's very limited word, and it's coming for one of China's state news agencies. So, again, this is something we're going to have to look at and cross-check, reference with the White House. But what China state media is saying is that the agreement that they think that has been reached at the table here is that there won't be an increase of tariffs on the 1st of January.

As we know that there are $200 billion worth of goods right now that the United States has 10 percent tariffs on and the expectation was, and the plan was to raise those tariffs to 25 percent. Now at the beginning of the week President Trump had indicated that that's what he was going to do and also there was a question of another $267 billion worth of trade with China, the President Trump was considering putting tariffs on.

[19:45:00] So it seems at the moment that what the Chinese are saying is no more increase in tariffs as of the 1st of January. Is this a major breakthrough? Absolutely, not. This is really just sort of a delaying tactic and it doesn't address any of the fundamental issues that underpin why there's a standoff.

It merely sort of just delays a situation, maybe a warming for the markets to know this that there's a little bit more certainty in these months. But further down the road these issues are still going to have to be addressed on.

CABRERA: Right Nic Robertson, Buenos Aires, Argentina, thank you.

They used to be political rivals and ended up longtime friends, Presidents H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton shared something special, more on their unlikely friendship just ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 say, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: One of the most complex and remarkable relationships in President Bush's life was with President Bill Clinton. On Clinton's inauguration day in1993, he came across this handwritten letter from Bush at the White House.

It reads, "Dear Bill, when I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that too. I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described. There will be very tough times, maybe 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 discourage you or push you off course. You'll be our President when you read this note. I wish you well, I wish your family well. Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck. George.

Today President Clinton wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" calling his relationship with the man he succeeded one of the great gifts of his life. Here is Anderson Cooper with more on the two men who went from political adversaries to close friends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In the 1992 presidential election, they were bitter political rivals. The incumbent President--

H.W. BUSH: --character counts. You cannot make the White House into the waffle house. You cannot - you cannot flip-flop on all these issues.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And the upstart Governor.

BILL CLINTON, 42ND U.S. PRESIDENT: When there is no national vision, no national leadership, no national direction, a thousand points of light leaves a lot of darkness. COOPER: The hard feelings from the election of 1992 already had begun

fading for several years when an international disaster brought the two former Presidents together. The day after Christmas in 2004, catastrophic earthquakes struck near Indonesia, setting off tsunamis that killed a quarter million people. Nearly 2 million more in 14 Southeast Asian countries were displaced.

G.W. BUSH: I have asked two of America's most distinguished private citizens to head a nationwide charitable fundraising effort.

COOPER: When President George W. Bush asked his father and Bill Clinton to reach across party lines to lead a non-government relief effort, little did he know he was creating one of the most unlikely friendships in politics.

The former Presidents toured the disaster area and got to know one another.

BUSH: I've enjoyed working with President Clinton. We were political adversaries. The current President and I don't always see eye-to-eye on issues, but that is not what's important. What's important and what's wonderful for us is really we're trying to help people.

COOPER: Their mutual admiration was clear for all to see.

BUSH: You should have seen him going town to town, country to country. Energizer Bunny here would kill me.

COOPER: Later in 2005, another national disaster, Hurricane Katrina brought the former Presidents back together, this time raising money to help their fellow Americans. Former President Bush's book of published letters "All the Best" gives a deeper insight into the Bush- Clinton friendship.

CLINTON: May all of the Democrats forgive me this close to the election - I love George Bush. I do.

COOPER: After that 2006 remark at an awards ceremony, Bush wrote to Clinton, "I so appreciated your words about our relationship, about our friendship. It was from your heart. I hope you know I feel the same way."

ANDREW CARD, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: They have become really great friends. In fact, almost like family.

COOPER: Clinton joked about it at the dedication of George W. Bush's presidential library.

CLINTON: Starting with my work with President George H.W. Bush on the tsunami and the aftermath of Katrina, people began to joke that I was getting so close to the Bush family, I had become the black sheep son.

COOPER: American politics at its best - one time rivals, working and laughing together and helping others.

Anderson Cooper, CNN. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: As we go to break, I want to show you a more personal moment from the life of President George H.W. Bush. This is in 2013. He shaved his head in support of the son of one of his secret service agent's 2-year-old Patrick who was battling leukemia. And this was a cause that was very dear to the former President's heart. He lost his own daughter Robin to leukemia when she was just 3 years old. We'll be right back.

[19:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: As we continue to remember President George H.W. Bush, those who knew him the best are also paying tribute, including his granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, who wrote earlier today, "Waking up missing this giant of a man who gave me everything. He taught me and my family about service, family, decency, the power of gentle words and a beautiful heart. I will miss him desperately, but so happy he and my grandmother are back together".

In 2016, both his granddaughters reflected on just how much family meant to him.

JENNA BUSH HAGER, GEORGE H.W. BUSH'S GRANDDAUGHTER: We were little when my grandfather was President, we, Barbara, I, - I'm speaking to my naiveness as a child, I thought everyone's grandfather was a President. And I think that speaks to how normal our grandparents were.

They baby-sat us the night before one of his huge debates when he was Vice President and Barbara lost her stuffed animal, which she still has at 34.

BARBARA PIERCE BUSH, GEORGE H.W. BUSH'S GRANDDAUGHTER: Don't age up. No, we are 34.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.

BUSH: Okay, go ahead.

BUSH: She lost her stuffed animal and my grandpa, instead of prepping for the debate, went on a search with flashlights because she wouldn't fall asleep. I think that that kind of speaks to the fact that they always put - and gosh, they always put family first. So of course Barbara thought everybody - because he seemed - he is a normal, wonderful man.

CABRERA: Thank you for joining us tonight. I'm Ana Cabrera. A CNN Special Report, "Remembering 41", starts right now.