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NEW DAY SATURDAY
President George H.W. Bush Has Died At Age 94; Sources: Cohen Thought Trump Would Offer Pardon For Loyalty; Trump To Meet With Schumer And Pelosi Tuesday. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired December 1, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:30] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: 7:00 in the East and Saturday, December 1st, becoming quite a memorable day. Thank you so much for being with us, I'm Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell and we're following breaking news. The 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, has died. He was the patriarch of an American family, a dynasty. His political career spanned four decades. George H.W. Bush was a man known for his generosity, kindness, but also his competitive spirit. A spirit on display in each political race he entered regardless of political success or failure, his inherent modesty meant showing little emotion, even when the public wanted to see more. Behind that stoic front was a deeply spiritual man who was admittedly emotional in private. President George H.W. Bush was born into privilege but had a spirit of service. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, also raised their children with those same values.
PAUL: CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Houston right now. The city is honoring the former president, of course, and getting reaction from the people there. Kaylee, good morning.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Christi, as Houston's mayor has said, he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. You can only imagine many Houstonians waking up this morning to the news of George H.W. Bush's passing and recognizing they will never again see him at an Astros game here, supporting the baseball team, or at a Texans football game here in Houston.
Houston's Mayor Sylvester Turner, saying George and Barbara Bush were boosters of everything Houston. And that will be a hole that will be left in this community. And we're also, of course, hearing from the Bush family: Jeb Bush tweeting this morning, "already miss him." Of course, there was a statement from George W. Bush overnight, very soon after 41's passing saying, "Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear dad has died. George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for dad and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens." George H.W. Bush also leaves behind 17 grandchildren. We're hearing
from George Prescott Bush, one of the grandsons tweeting: "My grandfather was the greatest man I ever knew. His life spanned the American century. He fought in World War II, took part in the Texas oil boom, served out a distinguished career in public service including serving as president during the final days of the Cold War." You know, perspective there from some of the people who knew him best. And in the coming days, we anticipate the Bush family gathering here in Houston where George and Barbara called home since 1993. As Houston's mayor said, they could have called anywhere home following their departure from the White House, but they came back here to this beloved city where his political career actually began.
Now, the family has not announced official plans in the coming days, though, we anticipate a few events. You could only imagine that there will be a day or two in Washington for this former president to be remembered. As we have seen former presidents before him lie in state in the U.S. Capitol, most recently Senator John McCain. You have a visual of what that could be like, as well as perhaps a state funeral in Washington's National Cathedral. And then, with Barbara Bush's funeral so fresh in our memories, just little more than seven months ago -- her life was celebrated at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, just a couple of blocks from the home they shared here; that church was a big part of their lives. But again, we don't know firm details from the family as to how he will be remembered, but we anticipate many days ahead for his life and memory to be celebrated.
BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Kaylee Hartung, we will await those details. Thank you so much.
PAUL: And when you really think about it, think about the fact that we have lost this president. Bush 41's passing, it marks -- almost a jolting era.
BLACKWELL: Yes. Yes, the last president having served in World War II and the oldest living president in American history. He leaves behind not only a significant legacy but a political dynasty, although he did not like the word. It has changed the American political landscape. CNN's Jamie Gangel has more.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, help me God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.
G.H.W. BUSH: Thank you.
[07:05:16] JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George H.W. Bush may have sat in the oval office for just four years, but his legacy will last for generations. In foreign policy --
G.H.W. BUSH: This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.
GANGEL: Bush's coalition-building during desert storm was unprecedented, uniting nearly 40 countries and ending the conflict in a matter of weeks. A playbook for all presidents that followed.
JAMES EAKER, PRESIDENT BUSH'S SECRETARY OF STATE: If you want to know how to a war, take a look at the way George Bush fought the first gulf war.
GANGEL: The Cold War ended on his watch, without a shot taken or a bomb dropped.
COLIN POWELL, PRESIDENT BUSH'S JOINT CHIEF CHAIRMAN: He didn't gloat because he would not be in his nature to gloat at someone else's misfortune.
GANGEL: That same diplomatic restraint also shown when the iron curtain collapsed.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, PRESIDENT BUSH'S SOVIET SPECIALIST: On the day that the Berlin wall came down, we all went over to the oval office to tell President Bush that he had to go to Berlin.
GANGEL: You wanted him to go.
RICE: I wanted him to go to Berlin.
GANGEL: And he said --
RICE: And he said, what would I do? Dance on the wall? He said, this is a German moment. I thought, the president of the United States to step back, this is a German moment.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he deserves credit for getting the world off in the right direction at the end of the Cold War. The Cold War being over without an excuse to pack up and go home, it was an excuse to build a new world of cooperation. Time will prove that he was right in wanting an integrated, cooperative world of strong security but lots of freedom, lots of democracy, lots of interaction between people.
GANGEL: On the domestic front, Bush is credited for making improvements to the Clean Air Act and signing the Americans with Disabilities Act. Critical legislation that revolutionized access for millions including Bush himself when he suffered from Parkinson's disease in his final years.
PIERCE BUSH, PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH'S GRANDSON: That community, I think, holds my grandfather up here -- he wasn't their likely hero. You know, they have all these big, kind of, liberal advocates that advocated for their movement. But my grandfather is the guy who got it done. It's not just through things like wheelchair access but it's changing the culture of how people with disabilities, you know, can shine and let their abilities shine and have jobs in places where they might not have jobs. So, I think that's an awesome legacy.
GANGEL: Another legacy, many will remember Bush for this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because you're an old guy, you don't have to sit around drooling in the corner. Get out and do something. Get out and enjoy life.
GANGEL: Bush did that, jumping over and over and over again, even for his 90th birthday.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the reason he did it is because he's got a young heart. And that it's the thrill of the jump, and once he did it the first time, became a natural for the next four or five times.
GANGEL: And while Bush 41 disliked the word "dynasty," no question he was thrilled --
G.W. BUSH: I George Walker Bush do solemnly swear --
GANGEL: When his oldest son became the 43rd president of the United States.
G.W. BUSH: He felt a sense of pride and I was grateful for that. I was happy that he was happy.
GANGEL: Did he give you any advice?
G.W. BUSH: No, no. And he was guarded about giving me advice, unless I asked for it.
GANGEL: But for many, Bush 41 will long be remembered for what he did after the White House.
NEIL BUSH, PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH'S SON: The family legacy isn't about who's president or first lady or governor. The family legacy is the legacy of service.
GANGEL: He turned a campaign vision into a post-presidential mission statement.
G.H.W. BUSH: I want a kinder and gentler nation, like 1,000 points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.
GANGEL: That call prompted millions to volunteer. And Bush and wife, Barbara, did their part, too: Helping to raise an estimated $1 billion for charity.
JEB BUSH, PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH'S SON: It does fit my dad's philosophy that the definition of a successful person is not just about how much money you make or the Ws on your -- in your column, it's about helping others. It's about acting on your heart.
GANGEL: Is there a phrase that you think embodies him?
N. BUSH: I would say it is service above self.
GANGEL: A legacy that led him to receive the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His life is a testament that public service is a noble calling. We honor George Herbert Walker Bush for service to America that spanned nearly 70 years.
[07:10:14] BLACKWELL: Joining us now: CNN Presidential Historian and former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Tim Neftali. Also wrote, "George H.W. Bush," this part of the American president series, "The 41st President." Tim, welcome back to the show. Let's start here. You know, you wrote this book, and you wrote that he was better prepared for the challenges facing the United States at the end of the Cold War than any other, why?
TIM NEFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN AND FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Well, George Herbert Walker Bush had been vice president, he had been the head of the CIA, he had been the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and he had represented our country in China. So, he had more hands-on foreign policy experience than any previous occupant of the White House with the possible exception of Dwight Eisenhower because of what he had done in World War II. So, there was no better prepared person for the diplomatic peace of the end of -- ending of the Cold War than George Herbert Walker Bush. We were uniquely blessed that this was the man who was in the oval office at the time when you needed to help guide Mikhail Gorbachev through his soft landing of the Soviet Empire.
PAUL: What do you think is different about politics today because of George H.W. Bush?
NEFTALI: Well, this is -- I mean, this is a day of celebration of a life. He lived over 94 years. He lost his dear wife, they were so close. And in many ways, now, he has the chance to join her. So, this is a time for celebration. Now, if you talk politics --
PAUL: Well, I don't mean --
NERTALI: No, no... No, no, no, I'm going to answer because it's extremely important, his legacy. He was beaten by his own party. He's not re-elected. Partly, of course, because of the strength of Bill Clinton, but it was a three-man race. And it was a three-man race because many people in the Republican Party were angry at him for not keeping his promise not to raise taxes. But he decided that he had to. That Reaganomics had led to such a huge deficit that there was no way to close the gap without raising taxes.
Now, what he wanted was a pragmatic conservatism. And there was huge pushback and that pushback led to Newt Gingrich's revolt and the contract with America. And the contract with America is the basis for the partisanship at least on the right in our country. So, what happens to George Bush is actually the beginning of the story of the change of the Republican Party. So, his legacy is very, very important for understanding in part why we are, where we are right now.
BLACKWELL: Yes, someone earlier today reminded us of the men of the year cover from Time Magazine, the foreign policy George H.W. Bush versus the H.W. Bush in domestically as it relates to the economic challenges, the recession, and so forth. And he took that 92 loss understandably very hard --
NEFTALI: Very, very hard.
BLACKWELL: How did that shape him moving forward?
NEFTALI: Well, the great thing about this man was he, he had this internal drive. So, he didn't disappear. That energy didn't dissipate. He, he found a way to volunteer. He kept being interested in politics. He was very interested in his sons' political careers. He basically passed the torch to the family, though, he didn't call it the dynasty. He did believe in the family. He passed the political torch to his sons: Jeb and George W. He watched from afar but was there with advice when they ask for it. He didn't disappear but he decided that his political career was over.
PAUL: All right. Tim Neftali, always learn something from you. Always appreciate your perspective. Thank you so much for being here.
NEFTALI: Thank you both.
BLACKWELL: So, the White House is offering praise for former President Bush. We've got live pictures here from Washington. This is the flag atop the White House at half-staff as one would expect for the passing of a U.S. President. This is a statement from the president and the first lady.
PAUL: Yes, they say, "Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service. To be, in his words, a thousand points of light illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world."
Abby Phillip is with us from Buenos Aires, that's where the president is at the moment attending the G20 summit. What are you hearing there about President Bush's passing? What are the conversations being held?
[07:15:23] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Christ. President Trump is here in Buenos Aires on the world stage for meetings with world leaders, but this news coming overnight prompted a statement from the White House. And then this morning, as everyone is waking up here in Buenos Aires and in Washington, President Trump issued a personal tweet saying, "President George H.W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life. Whenever I was with him, I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. His accomplishments were great from beginning to end. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all." That statement coming in addition to what you just read, coming out of the White House last night.
And it's interesting, Victor and Christi, because President Trump and George H.W. Bush did not really have much of a relationship. George H.W. Bush was critical of President Trump, and President Trump, his White House, his aides, responded back in kind. But I think what you're seeing here is something we don't see often from President Trump, which is taking a moment of graciousness to honor the legacy of a former president, a former Republican president.
And we also saw Melania Trump who represented the Trump administration at the funeral of Barbara Bush earlier this year, issuing her own condolences on Twitter saying, it's -- very simply, "My heart goes out to the entire Bush family." Melania Trump often taking her own course and not just signing on to something coming out of this White House. So, I think you're seeing really, a very genuine expression of condolences coming from this White House from both the president and the first lady in as personal a term as you can get. We will see President Trump in just a few hours later this morning where I expect we'll get more, Victor and Christi.
BLACKWELL: All right, Abby Phillip for us in Buenos Aires. Thanks so much.
PAUL: Thanks, Abby. There is other news that we're following this morning, as well. President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen apparently had been expecting to be protected by the president if he faced any charges. We'll talk about that.
BLACKWELL: And we'll continue with remembrances of President George H.W. Bush who has passed away at the age of 94 and his ability to reach across the aisle, apparent from this speech. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[07:17:35] G.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)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, George Herbert Walker Bush, do solemnly swear --
G.H.W. BUSH: I, George Herbert Walker Bush do solemnly swear --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.
G.H.W. BUSH: That I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And will to the best of my ability --
G.H.W. BUSH: And will to the best of my ability --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.
G.H.W. BUSH: -- preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, help me god.
G.H.W. BUSH: So, help me god.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.
G.H.W. BUSH: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:23:00] BLACKWELL: President Bush taking the oath of office there. We're now hearing from leaders across the U.S. and around the world, sending messages of sympathy and support to the Bush family.
PAUL: And in fact, two former presidents are reacting to Bush 41's passing. Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton releasing this statement: "Few Americans have been or will ever be able to match President Bush's record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it. From his military service in World War II to his work in the Congress, the United Nations, China, the Central Intelligence Agency, the vice presidency and the presidency where he worked to move the post-Cold War world toward greater unity, peace and freedom. He never stopped serving."
BLACKWELL: This from President Obama: "What a testament to the qualities that make this country great. Service to others, commitment to leaving behind something better. Sacrifice in the name of lifting this country closer to its founding ideals. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family and all who were inspired by George and Barbara's example." Joining us now, CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley.
PAUL: Douglas, thank you so much for being here. You've written about many presidents. What stands out you to about George H.W. Bush?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The main thing was the time he became president. You played him getting sworn in. But in early 18 -- I mean, early 1989, we call 18 -- 89 the year of revolution, things were sweeping the country. And Bush gave a speech, we call the new breeze inaugural because he was talking about how the world's going to change, and sure enough it did. In Tiananmen Square, with that lone soldier in China meaning people there were dissidents for democracy. The fact that you had the Berlin wall come down in '89 and what that meant, the wall being the symbol of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan had said Mr. Gorbachev, tear it down.
And now, it was being chiseled away with young people ripping away at it, German re-unification happening, the breakup of the Soviet Union and what that meant. All these countries that had been in Eastern Europe and the Balkans trying to join NATO like Poland and Romania and the Czech Republican and Slovakia. There was this moment in the Bush presidency that it seemed like the American Democratic ideal was taking over the globe in a revolutionary fashion. And the capstone of that became when he went in with the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait and famously did. And then our troops did not extend the war into Baghdad but said this, we had a mission and we're not going to have mission creep. Was able to be -- to be known in history as the commander in chief who won his war, the Gulf War.
BLACKWELL: We talk a lot about style with the current president, Douglas. Was there something remarkable, something unique about President Bush's style of leadership? His style in the White House?
BRINKLEY: He would never get angry in an unjust way. Always a lot of humor around. He chronically wrote thank you notes to people and continued that all of his life. I have a file filled with handwritten letters from George Herbert Walker Bush for you. I said something on television or you wrote an article, and he would stay very aware and engaged with people. One evening, a -- Maureen Dowd at the New York Times had written some columns about him, some that he liked and didn't like; some about his son he liked and didn't like, but he popped up at her Georgetown home one night just to chat with her.
This was somebody who may have been a journalistic enemy but he quickly humanized the situation. I think he was a man so comfortable in his own skin due to his father, Prescott Bush, being a senator, due to the fact that he was married to Barbara, the love of his life; due to the fact that when he moved to Texas, he made a million dollars and became a millionaire on his own by the age of 40 working oil and gas in the Permian Basin in Texas. And so, he has a lot of self- confidence, and that self-confidence meant you didn't have to belittle people, you tried to build people up.
Overall, he had great empathy and an open heart and we can see that presidents sometimes aren't always that warm-hearted, and Bush really felt the human condition and anxiety, agony going on out there with every day people and tried to help them and the Disabilities Act, Clean Air Act being great -- you know, great monuments to his kind of breaking ranks. That should have been Democratic liberal legislation, but he stamped it Bush because he was willing to be bipartisan in spirit if it meant helping fellow Americans.
PAUL: There are these -- this word human and humility. I mean, you used human that everybody keeps using to describe this man.
PAUL: If it has been a resonating theme all morning. Thank you so much, Douglas Brinkley. We appreciate it.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
PAUL: Absolutely. And as we continue to remember George H.W. Bush's life, we remember that president was not his only title by any means. He was a proud, devoted family man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [07:28:25] G.H.W. BUSH: This one was December of 43. My darling Barbara, this should be a very easy letter to write. Words should come easily and in short, 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 have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you. And then later in the letter, good night, my beautiful, every time I say beautiful, you're about to kill me, but you'll have to accept it. I hope I get Thursday off. Still a chance. All my love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:34:00] PAUL: I want to show you something here. Look at this. This is the scene outside the gate to George H.W. Bush's home.
That man just hung a flag moments ago on his own, paying respects to H.W. Bush, who is now reunited with his wife and his daughter in heaven.
PAUL: And the people in Houston there, just now waking up -- many of them just waking up to this news because it did happen overnight. But this is how they are reacting first and foremost, first thing in the morning. It's really touching.
BLACKWELL: And this man, you see there are two flags here. We may have to re-rack this video if we go too long. But he says that the smaller flag that you see there standing on the ground, he thought it was just too small. So, he brought a second flag there.
And we know from covering situations like this that this will soon in the next few hours be covered likely with flowers and balloons and notes from people.
I'll often find a remarkable the personal notes that people leave here --
[07:35:05] PAUL: Yes.
BLACKWELL: -- to people they've never met. And just the example of President George H.W. Bush. And potentially some of the policies, and how they have impacted our lives. We'll keep an eye on this throughout the morning and get you more as I am certain, this tribute will grow here outside of the home that George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush are shared in Houston.
Well, the former president's political and his professional achievements. They defined his public persona, but he took no greater pride in something in a title than the title of dad.
PAUL: CNN's Wolf Blitzer takes a look with us here at George H.W. Bush, the family man.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: 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. His father was a banker and 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.
G.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 in the name he had painted under his cockpit, Barbara.
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.
LARRY KING, HOST, ORA T.V.: What is it like, Doro, and since you can't agree on everything, when inside the family, you disagree with the president or a governor?
DOROTHY BUSH KOCH, DAUGHTER OF GEORGE H.W. 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. But I think people voice their opinions.
BLITZER: Although they live public lives, the Bushes guarded their family's privacy, and resented outsider's attempts to pry in, or to play up stories of rivalry between the father and son presidents.
G.H.W. BUSH: We know who we are. We know how we get along, and there's no rivalry, there's no kind of trying to live up to something or bring the boy up. I mean, it's crazy. We're a close loving family Larry. And these speculative stories just drove me crazy.
KING: How about you?
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that they are nutty. There was people saying we wanted Jeb to be President, not George. That's -- who writes the thing? Two books were written about me by someone who never spoke to me ever.
So, I mean, I think, when you just look -- overlook those, they're just not true.
KING: But you got angrier than your husband, didn't you? B. 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.
G.H.W. BUSH: That can said, I had a little plaque made, it says CAVU, C, A, V, U. CAVU, was the kind of weather we, navy pilots wanted from we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific. We had little navigational instrumentation, so we wanted CAVU. Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited. Because of the five of you whose hugs I 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.
PAUL: OK. So, here's something -- I don't know if you've seen this yet this morning. I know that you remember this USA Today cartoon, came out when Barbara Bush died in April. Let's show that if we could, please.
I mean, it's just -- it just hits you right there. The former first lady getting to the gates of heaven, greeted by her daughter Robin, who, of course, died from leukemia at age three. Well, what a follow up they have for us this morning.
BLACKWELL: Yes, and this new illustration. George H.W. Bush. Look at this. He's arrived in heaven after his final flight flying this TBM Avenger. The same plane he flew during World War II. And in Robin, and his wife Barbara are there with the simple greeting, "We waited for you."
That's got to make you feel something this morning.
PAUL: I can't even -- I can't even -- Wow! Yes, that is -- that's -- that is a great cartoonist. All right, to be back in a moment. Stay close.
[07:43:56] PAUL: Well, new details are unfolding in the Russia investigation this morning. According to discussions with federal prosecutors, President Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, thought that he'd be protected if he faced charges related to paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
BLACKWELL: That Cohen believed the president would pardon him in exchange for staying on message and supported the president. But, after the FBI searched, raided Cohen's office and his home, you noticed things changed and acted to protect himself and his family.
CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow. What more are you learning? Good morning to you, Fred. FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, hi, Victor. And we're hearing that he's working together with the courts, working together, of course, with investigators as well. And as far as a sentencing memo is concerned to a New York Court where Michael Cohen is asking for time surge -- served for some of the transgressions that he's admitting to.
He says that he kept president, or then-candidate Donald Trump abreast of his efforts to try and get a building project here in Moscow, for a Trump Tower in Moscow, going as late as June 2016.
He said that there was a lot of information that was coming through. He also said that he had a substantive conversation with what he says was the assistant to senior Russian officials in 2016, as well, trying to forward that project.
Now, we know the senior Russian officials being talked about is Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin. And Peskov, himself, told me a couple of days ago as he was actually on Russia's presidential plane traveling the G20 summit that yes, he had received an e-mail from Cohen's office, and that an assistant had gotten back to Cohen.
Now, the Russians are saying that they essentially turned that offer down. That they said, look, the Russian presidential administration is not in the real estate business.
However, it does seem as though more and more is coming to light there in Michael Cohen's working together with the authorities. Victor?
[07:45:48] PAUL: All right. Fled Pleitgen, we appreciate it very much. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Thank you. All right. CNN legal analyst and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Department of Justice, Michael Zeldin, joins us now. Michael, welcome to Atlanta. Good to having in here.
PAUL: Yes, good to have you here in person.
BLACKWELL: OK. So, let's first start with this --
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I didn't bring the rain, I want you to know that.
BLACKWELL: OK. Well, somebody did.
ZELDIN: Somebody did, absolutely.
BLACKWELL: Let's start here about the reporting that Michael Cohen expected President Trump to pardon him. I mean, at first it's remarkable to say that Cohen would commit the crime of misleading Congress -- lying to Congress.
And then, wait for the charges that expect the president would take care of him. But the president's rhetoric early on suggested that he would look after his guy. What do you think about this reporting that Cohen expected a pardon?
ZELDIN: Well, it's hard to know what was in Michael Cohen's mind. And the basis for his belief that the president would protect him. Perhaps, it's out of their relationship. All those years together, he thought, "Well, if I'm going to take a bullet for him, he's going to help me." It doesn't seem that that's the president's M.O.
But we don't know yet from a legal standpoint whether that was Cohen's hopes and wishes and desires. Or whether there was something that was really communicated to him like stay on message and you'll get this. If it was the latter, that's very problematic.
We saw that in the Manafort case, remember? Manafort was charged in that secondary indictment with trying to influence the testimony of a witness. And Mueller charged him with that witness tampering charge.
So, if this is the case here that somebody made a promise, that's going to be a criminal count against them.
PAUL: But, I have to ask you. How reliable is Michael Cohen, is his testimony right now? I mean, do you have to couple it with some tangible evidence to take it for what it is.
ZELDIN: It needs to be corroborated. There is no way in the world that seems to me that a prosecutor would build a case solely around Michael Cohen's testimony. He's just been all over the place on too many cases to be alone credible. It has to be corroborated.
And it has to be corroborated, probably, in writings, or telephone calls, or something that's unimpeachable as opposed to perhaps another witness who has a motive to lie to protect themselves. OK.
BLACKWELL: All right, Michael Zeldin, good to have you in Atlanta. Thank you so much.
ZELDIN: Thank you.
PAUL: Thanks you've been here.
BLACKWELL: And we know that Schumer -- Chuck Schumer, minority leader in the Senate, and the incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be with the President on Tuesday. So, we will see what comes out of that, that just coming in.
PAUL: All right, we are, of course, following the breaking news this morning. If you are just waking up with us, we have to tell you about the death of former President George H.W. Bush.
We're taking a look at this man who said, president being president is pretty fun.
[07:53:05] PAUL: So glad to have you here this morning. We are remembering the 41st President George H.W. Bush. He said the challenges that he faced they were difficult, but he also said that being president was fun.
BLACKWELL: Yes, that did not necessarily mean he wanted his grandchildren following in his footsteps. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
G.H.W. BUSH: I'd love it if any of them did, absolutely. But I don't think it's a must, and I don't think they should feel that their grandparents would love to see that happen. I mean, I think they should make up their own minds. After making a living, after making a record and life as helping others or making some money or something like that. But, of course, I'd like it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: President George H.W. Bush only served one term as president. But encountered his fair share of crises.
BLACKWELL: Yes. When Saddam Hussein refused to leave Kuwait, President Bush authorized Operation Desert Shield and Storm. Weeks of non-stop air strikes. And back home, the recession forced him to break a campaign promise on new taxes.
But, if he felt pressure or stress, he didn't let it show. Here is President Bush with CNN in 1990.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BIERBAUER, FORMER CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Let me asked you something about the nature of your presidency. About a year ago you said you hadn't really been tested.
In fact, those of us who traveled with thousands of miles with you, seem to think that the first year of this presidency, you had a lot of fun being president if you will. You seem to be enjoying it. Have you now been tested? Is it less fun? Is it different than what you expected?
[07:54:38] G.H.W. BUSH: Yes. It's not less fun. I enjoy it. I still go to work early. I still an enthusiastic. But I would have to concede that there have been some tough problems out there. When I'm related to the getting the budget deficit under control.
Clearly, the slowness of this economy presents not only the president but all the American people with the -- with the problem. And I think Panama presented me with tough decisions. And I think the Middle East presents me with those decisions.
But I haven't lost my zest or enthusiasm for this job. And I don't feel embattled, and I don't feel beat on, and I feel -- I feel very fortunate to be president at this fascinating time. You see we got to sit here and talk about the problems. You're not interested in all the banks that were not robbed today. Got to talk about the crisis, about the problem. Look at the fascinating changes for the good that have taken place around the world.
Look at democracy on the move in our hemisphere. Look at what's happened in Eastern Europe. I mean, there's a great -- it's an exciting time to be alive and to be President of the United States. So, I don't -- I don't let myself get so dragged down by the problems that I lose, lose sight of the big picture.
And yes, I think -- I think if you said have you been tested by fire? I'd say it's been pretty hot out there. And yes, I think I'm being tested that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)