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NEW DAY SUNDAY

Remembering President Bush's Life in Public Service; Ceasefire in China Trade War as Trump Freezes Tariff Increase; A Closer Look at the Trump Tower Moscow Deal. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 2, 2018 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00] ] BILL KUHLMANN, ANCHORAGE RESIDENT: We had to put some lights up to make it a little brighter and cheerier in there and it makes it easier to work. Otherwise, you cry.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Still they know that nothing lost here outweighs what really matters.

DIANA KUHLMANN, ANCHORAGE RESIDENT: Wow. That was quite something we survived.

Everything needs washing.

ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, Eagle River, Alaska.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush has died.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I, George Herbert Walker Bush, do solemnly swear. We are Americans.

Peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law.

I love being president. I love working at trying to help people and do perhaps solve problem.

REPORTER: What have you discussed with MBS?

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Come on.

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Thank you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had no discussion. We had no discussion.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines.

TRUMP: And battle sometimes make great friendships, so it's really terrific. Thank you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

President Trump has returned to the United States. He is home now as the nation, of course, preparing to mourn his predecessor George H.W. Bush.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the president returned with news of a cease-fire, at least a pause in the trade war with China. According to the White House, $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods are on hold after President Trump met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit. They hold it to 10 percent instead of increasing to 25 percent as suggested at the start of the New Year.

PAUL: Meanwhile, President Trump expected to lead the nation in mourning President George H.W. Bush. There's a week of memorial services planned now for the 94-year-old former president.

BLACKWELL: And tomorrow begins a week of ceremonies and services to honor the late President George H.W. Bush. The 41st president died Friday night at his home in Houston. Now, he will be flown to Washington where there will be an arrival ceremony at the U.S. capitol and the president will lie in state until Wednesday.

PAUL: CNN's Kaylee Hartung is with us now.

Kaylee, what are you learning about what is to come in the weeks or in the days ahead?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, the Bush family is working in partnership with the Department of Defense to carry out George H.W. Bush's wishes for a state funeral. The family saying they don't want his life to be mourned. They want his life so well-lived to be celebrated.

And so, it is with that perspective that we are learning of the official schedule. It essentially happens in three stages, which begins, as Victor mentioned, with the president's remains being brought to Washington, D.C. tomorrow. That arrival ceremony will be held at the Capitol as announced by congressional leadership. And then he will lie in state there in the rotunda until Wednesday morning.

Then, National Cathedral service will be held. That service invitation only and the White House has announced that President Trump and the first lady will be among those in attendance.

The second stage of these events then returns here to Houston. The president's body will lie in repose in St. Martin's Episcopal Church. This is the same church where Barbara Bush, her life was celebrated just seven months ago. A funeral service then at St. Martin's Episcopal Church will take place on Thursday morning. That also by invitation-only.

And then to the third stage of this, where the president's remains will be taken by train to College Station. That will be his final resting place, home of his presidential library where Barbara was laid to rest and their daughter Rrobin when she was just 3 years old was buried, that on the library grounds. And now, Points of Life organization, the nonprofit that President Bush founded, that organization has asked to celebrate the president's life. You're asked to offer up a day of service in his memory -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Let's get some analysis now.

Joining us is presidential historian and distinguished professor of history at American University, Allan Lichtman, and Tim Naftali, CNN presidential historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, also author of the book "George H.W. Bush" part of the American president series.

Gentlemen, welcome.

Allan, let me start with you, and had this conversation in the context of what we saw in Buenos Aires this weekend, you know, in the discussions of U.S./Russia relations. Many saying the lowest point since the Cold War and President Bush ushered the world through the ending of the war.

[07:05:06] How does the new world order that he talked about in '90 and '91, how is that holding up today in the Trump administration and the context of what we are seeing with the U.S. and Russia?

ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's holding up like a house of cards has collapsed. Understand that George H.W. Bush was a pivotal figure in American history. He walked a transition between a Republican tradition that extended back to Eisenhower and throughout his administration, a tradition that was welcoming to immigrants, that cared deeply about promoting American values around the world, that wanted to promote multilateral relationships and shore up American alliances, a tradition that was deeply respectful, conservatively of American institutions that had stood us so well over time.

Then you transition to the era of Trump to reactionary America first and it could not be more different. Today, the Republican Party is more like the Republican Party of the 1920s. It doesn't care about American values. It doesn't care about our standing of the world. Makes hostility to immigrants a key element of its policy, trashes institutions, isn't humble in walking softly, instead, lashing out.

Things have fundamentally changed from the era of H.W. Bush. The new world order has really devolved in building walls around the United States.

PAUL: Tim, there have to be though -- I mean, I know a lot of who are Democrats and a lot of people who are Republicans and don't fall into the characterizations you just gave, Allan. But you're right, there is so much that is different these days.

Tim, there has to be, however, for president, like George H.W. Bush or other presidents that come through elements of their presidency of them that linger somewhere. Can you identify any?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think Allan is absolutely right that the Republican Party has changed. But I'm not convinced yet that the institutions that presidents -- actually going back to Truman but Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton put in place at the end of the world car and the early post-Cold War that those institutions are falling apart. It's not clear to me that the most Americans, for example, are against multilateralism. It's not clear to me that most Americans are against free flow of goods and services.

I think right now, we are in the middle of a national debate. President Trump does represent a very passionate minority of Americans but I'm not convinced that the national consensus is so anti-what George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan and Clinton built. I'm a bit more optimistic than Allan.

BLACKWELL: Is there a place for -- I mean, we saw that George H.W. Bush, in part, because he had a Democratic house and Senate to contend with, passed environmental legislation during his administration. Is there a place for that type of, at least philosophy in this current Republican Party? Is there an element of that that is still current from the Bush era to today?

I'll start with you, Allan.

LICHTMAN: That is the big test, isn't it, with Democrats now controlling the House? Are there enough voices within the Republican Party to move towards bipartisanship on issues where there is some bipartisan agreement like infrastructure or prison reform, that's the big test over the next two years. And the problem is with Democrats sweeping so many suburban districts and ousting more moderate Republicans, today, the Republican House minority is even more conservative and more Trump-like than it has been before.

And whether we'll have the legacy of H.W. Bush who reached across party aisles for one of the signature achievements of the 20th century, and that, of course, is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has benefited so many tens of millions of people in this country.

PAUL: Tim, same question to you.

NAFTALI: Well, one of the -- someone of George H.W. Bush's generation, World War II generation, many of them, like the former president, they were uncomfortable with ideology, they were uncomfortable with the flexibility of ideology, because for them, they remembered ideology was either Stalinist communism or Hitler like fascism -- the two negative influences that pushed the world to war in the 1940s.

[07:10:02] So for many of them, they were much less committed to this world view that an mates many politicians today and like George H.W. Bush was capable of not only reaching across the aisle to achieve the ADA, but to reach across the aisle to achieve a budget deal that involved raising taxes with Democrats. It's because in the end, country mattered more than party for that generation.

The real question is, you know, as Allan has made clear can we move past the 25 years of tribalism that, partly, I would say, was the product of Republicans wanting to punish George Bush for signing the budget deal and raising taxes with the Democrats. The Newt Gingrich revolution is part an anti-Bush revolution. It's more than an anti- Roosevelt and New Deal attack.

And so, we have to ask ourselves now, can we in the light of the passing of George H.W. Bush take some of that legacy of pragmatic deal making and do it again for the country?

(CROSSTALK)

LICHTMAN: Donald Trump claims to be the deal maker. Let's see.

BLACKWELL: We've got to end it there. Tim Naftali, Allan Lichtman, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thank you, gentlemen.

NAFTALI: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Former President George H.W. Bush joint chief of staff chairman, General Colin Powell, and the state of secretary and also best friend, James Baker, both joined "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. That's at 9:00 a.m. on CNN.

PAUL: I don't know if you heard yet this morning, but President Trump returning from the G20 Summit in Argentina, bringing him potentially ceasefire in America's trade war with China. We're live at the White House.

Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:45] BLACKWELL: The White House is striking an optimistic tone after this weekend's G20 meeting in alternate.

PAUL: Announcing overnight that the president agreed to temporarily halt a substantial increase in tariffs on Chinese imports into the United States.

CNN's Sarah Westwood live now from the White House.

So, Sarah, what are you learning about this meeting?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi, after that 2-1/2 hour meeting over dinner in Buenos Aires, President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China, as you mentioned, are both signaling optimism about the future of those trade talks at time has turned contentious. The president basically saying they have agreed to a delay in the escalation of the trade war saying that he would delay raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. He's already hit those goods with 10 percent tariff. He was scheduled to raise those tariffs to 25 percent come January 1st. That's been delayed because China has agreed to increase significantly its purchase of agriculture goods, energy goods and other products to try to reduce that trade imbalance that Trump has been fixated on for several months now.

The president telling reporters aboard Air Force One: If it happens, it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made. He goes on to say it will have an incredibly positive impact on farming, meaning agriculture, industrial products, computers, every type of product, China will be buying massive amounts of products from us.

So perhaps creating some breathing room so the talks could continue so the leaders could get to some of the stickier points that have held up progress on reducing these trade tensions.

Meanwhile, even though President Trump says he cancelled a formal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina, both acknowledged they had an informal conversation on the sideline for a dinner for attendees of the G20 Summit on Friday night. The White House describing it as one of several informal conversations that the president had with various world leaders but the Kremlin is saying that Putin took the opportunity to speak to the president with the Kerch Strait incident that happened last week when Russians seized three Ukrainian naval vessels, seized their sailors and have not returned the ships, have not returned those sailors to Ukraine. That's the reason Trump gave for cancelling that formal bilateral meeting with Putin.

And speaking at the end of the G20 Summit, President Putin said that he presented Russia's views on that incident to Trump, that he had his views, Trump had his views of the Kerch Strait incident. So, no breakthroughs with the Russia-U.S. relationship during this summit, Victor and Christi, but a potential breakthrough in the relationship with China.

PAUL: Very good point. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's discuss all of this with CNN political commentator Errol Louis.

Good morning to you, Errol.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: So, let's start here with the White House characterization of this meeting with President Xi, calling it highly successful. They've now got 90 days to deal with the real important issues, intellectual property protection, cyber theft, other issues. Look, they were supposed to have these conversations back in September when the Chinese cancelled their visit to the U.S.

If they haven't done that at this point thus far, what is the likelihood they will solve this in 90 days and were the meetings highly successful?

LOUIS: Yes, they are successful if the White House says they are. You know, as far as the White House is concerned, but I see what you're getting at, Victor, is exactly right, which is that hoping to do a 90 days what they could not negotiate over the last two years, is a very optimistic read of the situation. And the White House has not indicated what has changed to make it more likely that this will get done in the next 90 days as opposed to what they have been struggling with over the last two years.

So, I don't think farmers in the Midwest or companies concerned about the steel from China should get their hopes up any time soon. The tariffs are set to go up or at least stay where they are and it's led to record trade deficits. The White House is currently dealing with the exact opposite of what their strategy was supposed to yield.

BLACKWELL: So Trump and Xi agreed according to a White House statement great progress made as it relates to North Korea.

[07:20:00] They point to nuclear and missile tests and return of Korean war dead remains to the U.S., prisoners returned. But there is also the reporting -- first "The New York Times" 13 traditional undeclared mission others centers across North Korea. Is this great progress made considering there is another summit in January or February, according to the president?

LOUIS: Well, you know, it's interesting, Victor, because there's the bilateral side of this the different achievements you listed are, indeed, to the credit of the White House. On the other hand, to flip back for a minute to what we were just talking about, relationships with China also include the fact that China is right on the North Korean border, is their major trading partner and has the ability to almost like a faucet, turn on or off the economy or the economic relationship with North Korea.

And to the extent that China is engaged with a trade war with the U.S., they have to be factored in into this entire equation. So, yes, the White House can continue to sort of play the game back and forth bilaterally with North Korea around missiles and testing, but the reality is they are not going to put maximum pressure on the North Korean regime without the assistance of China.

BLACKWELL: Hey, guys, control room, do we have the sound bite from Vice President Pence ready to go?

OK. So, let's go to talk about MBS. You know, typically, at these multilateral summits, it's typically President Trump who is the leader who attracts the most attention. He had some competition this time with Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia. What did you glean from his reception there at the G20 as it relates to or in the context of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? We heard that Saudi Arabia has to extradite the suspects to Turkey. What did you glean from his reception there?

LOUSI: It's interesting, Victor, because the G20 is made of democracies and despots, right? You have countries like Canada, the United States and Great Britain that are democracies that are open societies and then you have these dictators. You have China, you have Russia, you have Saudi Arabia.

And so, the despots really kind of have the upper hand in a lot of cases. They could be very forceful, they could be very decisive, they can rely on in Saudi Arabia's case, the immense oil wealth and the control of energy resources to the Western world.

And so, yes, he is doing what he has set himself up to do which is to control a lot of that region, to be a major player, to frustrate the designs of the democracies, including at this point the United States. And so, it's always been sort of a difficult act. The president, by siding at times more with the despites than the democracies I think left himself exposed.

So, I look at Salman and I see somebody who is playing a very dangerous and disgusting game that takes people's lives and fermented this disaster in Yemen and the United States that seems to be unwilling or unable to really contain him.

BLACKWELL: You know, we have showing the exchange seeing the relationship between Mohammed bin Salman and Putin. But there was another exchange as reported by Agence France Presse and "The Guardian", in which French President Emmanuel Macron confronted Mohammed bin Salman and talk about the Khashoggi murder also, the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, we are seeing this massive humanitarian crisis and people starving there.

But what's the value of Macron making the confrontation. Khashoggi was not a French president. He wasn't writing for a paper in Paris. It was the "Washington Post", and he lived in the United States.

LOUIS: Yes, I mean, France has a proud tradition as many of the western societies of fighting for democracy and human rights. And the reality, and it's frustration, Victor. I've been written about this a few times.

It's such an important tool, it's such important leverage that the United States under this administration has kind of discarded, the fact you can -- you've got on one side a bunch of despots who are doing all kinds of different things. They're importing fentanyl and they're fomenting war and they're creating humanitarian crises. If you stick to human rights, democracy, it gives you leverage and an argument to bring to them and something to bring to the trade table that both enhances the general well-being of the world, but also sort of helps with strategic interest of the United States.

France seems to have figured that out. This White House has chosen not to.

BLACKWELL: Yes, every storyline from the G20 requires work to be done and we'll see how much of that gets done in these deadlines that have been set.

[05:25:04] Errol Louis, thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you.

PAUL: Still ahead, some unique insight coming up from Albert Gonzalez, he was Bush 43's attorney general and White House counsel. He has some things he'd like to say about George H.W. Bush.

BLACKWELL: Plus, Bush 41 went sky diving on his birthday even when he hit 90. We'll talk with HLN's Robin Meade who had to join him for one of those jumps.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:30:21] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty minutes past the hour. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: So, we are learning funeral services for former President George H.W. Bush set to begin tomorrow. He'll be flown to Washington where there will be an arrival ceremony at the U.S. capitol and the president will lie in state until Wednesday.

BLACKWELL: That's where the public will be allowed to pay tribute. Then family and friends hold a service at the National Cathedral. President Trump has declared that a national day of mourning. The President Bush will be flown back to Houston for a second memorial service on Thursday. That's at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, motorcade will then take Mr. Bush to his final resting place to George H.W. Bush presidential library in College Station, Texas. Now, both Bushes, Barbara, the former first lady who died in April and their daughter Robin who died of leukemia as a child are also laid to rest there.

The president's nonprofit Points of Life is asking people to celebrate the former president by giving a day of service in his memory.

PAUL: Alberto Gonzales, Bush 43's U.S. attorney general and White House counsel is with us now.

Mr. Gonzales, thank you so much for being with us. I know that you knew this family. Our condolences certainly to you.

We have heard so much about George H.W. Bush the last couple of days. I'm wondering if you have a story we have not heard yet, something about him that maybe we don't know?

ALBERTO GONZALES, BUSH 43 U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, he was a remarkable man. What I remember he was president of the United States and held so many other positions. In 2004, on the day of the election, as I recall, from time to time, he would come by the West Wing and he came by my office. I was White House counsel at the time and sat down on the couch and he was worried. He was very worried about the re-election of his son.

And so, here was a man who had had all of these wonderful titles but on that day and thinking like any father would about the future of his son. I remember that. We had a very good conversation about the election, about his son's vision for a second term and, of course, everything worked out well. But it's just one of many examples of the kind of person that he was.

And I had the opportunity to meet him in 1986, first of all. In 1988 when he was first elected president of the United States, I was offered a job with the administration but I turned it down because I wanted to stay at my lawmaker and make partner and thinking there was plenty of time to work for him in Washington.

That second term didn't happen, of course, and I really thought there goes my opportunity to work in Washington for Bush. Of course, in 2000, that all changed when his son was elected president of the United States.

BLACKWELL: You know, he had a lot of time. We talked about CIA director, vice president, congressman, ambassador. But is there a word that has been used several times and that is humility about this former president. And in the late '90s when most former presidents would write an autobiography, he didn't do that. He published a collection of letters, all the best.

Talk to us about the humility, if you recognize that in the former president.

GONZALES: Well, I think -- yes, I did. He had the ability to laugh at himself. And we saw that reflect -- I saw it reflected often with his son. I think his children all received, you know, learned that from his father, not to take yourself so seriously and understand you're not perfect and you're going to make mistakes.

And so, I think, as you know, to anyone whoever worked around him, ever spent time around his family, just really remarkable person. And you're right about his letter writing. From time to time, I would send him a card or note and he would always respond back. I think he really appreciated hearing from folks and I think he valued the opportunity to respond back and teach people about service and devotion of family and nation.

PAUL: So, how are you left? What resonates with you about your time with him most? And how perhaps has this president and your interaction with him shaped any decisions you've made moving forward?

GONZALES: Well, I think that what I value most about George H.W. Bush and Barbara is the way they raised their family. It's because of the way they raised George W. Bush and the values and his vision for America that gave me the opportunity to go to Washington and serve. And so, I once told Barbara and this is really true for George H.W. Bush, that their son fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life and it's because of the way that they raised him.

[07:35:06] I'm sure there are thousands of Americans who, in one way or another, their lives were affected. The trajectory of their lives was affected by an incident, a decision, a statement, something by the Bush family but certainly George H.W. Bush.

PAUL: Alberto Gonzales, we appreciate you taking the time to share some of your memories with us. Thank you.

GONZALES: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Special counsel Robert Mueller is revealing some new findings in the Russia probe. We'll take a look at the Trump Tower Moscow deal, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:40:00] BLACKWELL: President Trump is back at the White House after a three-day trip to the G20 Summit. On Saturday, while the president spoke with Russian President Putin on unrelated matters, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis revealed that Russia tried to, as he characterized it, muck around in the 2018 midterm elections.

PAUL: Now, the Mueller team is revealing new findings in the Russia probe, shining the spotlight back on President Trump and his business dealings in Russia.

Here is CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For Trump, it's always been about business, his business, his brand, his properties.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People ask me, what does Trump stand for, more than anything else? If I use one word it's always quality, big windows, great fixtures, beautiful kitchens. Everything is going to be the best and that's what it's all about.

CHANCE: And it was Trump that property developer who campaigned to be a Republican presidential candidate, juggling his business and political ambitions which inevitably overlapped. But by how much is only now coming to light. His former lawyer revealing negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow went on much longer than previously admitted, until at least June 2016 after essentially he secured the nomination. Nothing wrong with that, Trump insisted, before leaving for the G20.

TRUMP: There was a well-known project. It was during the early part of '16 and I guess even before that. I didn't do the project. I decided not to do the project so I didn't do it. So, we're not talking about doing a project.

CHANCE (on camera): It was in this location the outskirts of Moscow near the sprawling Crocus business and entertainment complex that the Trump World Tower Moscow as it was called was meant to be built, part of a 14-tower project according to the developers which would have stood across this whole area. You can see here, as we look through this wire fence, some of the towers have already started to be constructed but of course, the Trump Tower isn't amongst them. One of the ideas for that Trump building, according to one of his

business associates, was to give the top floor, the penthouse apartments, 250-apartment block, to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, as a way of attracting buyers.

IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER: The Trump Organization likes to be ahead of the curve. We are always ahead of the curve and this would be another example.

CHANCE (voice-over): Ivanka Trump and her spa fitness brand were also an integral part of the Moscow proposal. According to a letter intent obtained by CNN, Trump's daughter would be given sole and absolute discretion to approve the spa designs. This was a Trump family affair.

But how much was the Kremlin also involved? Until this week it insisted attempts by Trump associations to make contact over the Moscow Tower that had been ignored. The Kremlin spokesman now admits his office called and asked why they wanted to have meetings with the presidential administration and explained that we have nothing to do with construction issues in the city of Moscow. It may be an important change.

The Russian-based owners of the Crocus City where Trump Tower Moscow was meant to be built have been embroiled with the Trump family in other areas too.

(on camera): Did the Russian authorities give your family information to pass on to the Trump administration?

(voice-over): Take Emin, the pop star of Crocus owner Aras Agalarov who helped set up a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton at Trump Tower in New York. Aras and Trump also co-organized the 2013 Miss Universe contest in Moscow that the U.S. president it appears business and politics in Russia have often mixed.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: We continue to remember the life and work of President George H.W. Bush. Boy, did he live up to things on his birthdays. Someone wrote that. That's not really my thoughts. I'm sure had he a great birthday, though.

We'll talk to HLN's Robin Meade who got to go sky diving with the man for his 85th. Transparency, folks. Transparency.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[07:48:54] GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: And it's a great exhilarating feeling. I don't feel a day over 84.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush back in 2009 there. He had just made a parachute jump to celebrate his 85th birthday and that would not be the last time he did so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: For his 85th birthday, President Bush had one specific request. He wanted to be sky diving as usual, but he wanted HLN's Robin Meade to go with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Just because you're old, that doesn't mean you can't do fun stuff. And you don't want to sit around drooling in the corner, and so it's a wonderful release. The scariest moment when you look out, even though you're hook, get ready, get ready to jump. You get out the door and you look down and no feeling of support. That is what the heck am I doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right. Robin Meade --

(LAUGHTER)

[07:50:00] BLACKWELL: Robin Meade, host of HLN's "Morning Express" is here with us.

Now, what was that we just had you?

PAUL: You feel the heebie-jeebies all over again?

ROBIN MEADE, HLN HOST, MORNING EXPRESS WITH ROBIN MEADE: You know, the first few seconds of the freefall are awful. I'm not a real fan of coasters. I don't know if you two are.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

MEADE: But it must what coasters feel like, because your stomach doesn't catch up with you for a few seconds and then I remembered the cameras were on me and went oh, yes.

But what an opportunity to get to do that with him. What happened was I interviewed him first at their home in Kennebunkport, Maine. So I was concentrating on the questions and trying to get to the essence of the man, and after the interview was when I realized, oh, yes, that jump.

And you can see in the plane, now, there, I'm all smiles. But when the plane started to take of off, there was no need for me to need oxygen except I started to panic. And there was such an example of the compassion of the man. At some point, you can see me go where is the oxygen? He shows me how to put the oxygen mask on.

But out of compassion and empathy for me, you also see him put on the oxygen mask. This a World War II hero. This is a man who jumped before.

PAUL: He doesn't need oxygen.

MEADE: He does not need oxygen. I saw behind the scenes the authentic him that was amplified on the world stage that the rest of us saw too on the big stage that everything matched up what I saw behind the scenes with how we knew Mr. Bush.

PAUL: Yes.

MEADE: He -- I asked him on the interview about legacy and he referred to it as the "L" word. He wasn't about the "L" word. Let everyone else decide it.

Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MEADE: And he went on that sound byte to talk about, let one person govern at a time. Let the next guy do it and not to speak out. He taught his son that as well.

And he said, for better or worse, I'm not going to write any biography or anything like that. I'm confident because we had such a great team around us, that it will be favorable. Now, that was many year. That was '85, so that was 2009.

PAUL: I saw an interview with him where he said, I'm not worried about my legacy. He said, I just want my son's legacy -- that was so important to him.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: That was important to him because he was such a family, he was such a parent. Yes?

MEADE: So protective of each other, the next day -- but they had the ability, he really did, to open up their home and their family to you. After the live shots, he that day, afterward, he actually invited me and my husband to come to their house. He did not have to do that.

So, there we are, the next morning. When we walk up to the estate, the -- what I noticed was there were two golf carts. One said property of 41, hands off. The other said property of 43, hands off.

(LAUGHTER)

MEADE: And I asked him that morning. We had a nice brunch with Mrs. Bush and him and I was like, what's up with that? He goes, oh, those grandchildren, they will just jump in there.

So to us, he is a world leader, a diplomat, a statesman. To him, he was grandpa, but he had the ability to make you feel, for whatever moment you had with him and them that like you too were part of the family. The same morning -- now back in the plane, he asked them, even though the weather was terrible and we were trying to find a spot to jump live on the air, he asked them if they would tilt the plane, he would like to show me his boat.

BLACKWELL: OK.

MEADE: And he remarked about the horsepower that the boat had and it was some astronomical amount, 900 horsepower, and I was like Mr. Bush, why do you need 900 horsepower, whatever it was. He was like, to beat the guy who doesn't have it.

So, the competitive spirit that you have to have to run for an office like the U.S. presidency, it was still there. The next day when he took us for a ride in his boat, he says -- this is his sense of humor, right? He said, watch this, I have more horsepower than the Secret Service boat that's supposed to follow us. He blows them out of the water.

It's apparent to me that he did this before because there was another Secret Service boat waiting out in the bay. Moments like that, you really saw the essence of the man.

Here's another one, his sense of humor. My husband was with me and he had his phone on. Here we are with Mrs. Bush, Mr. Bush and my husband leaves his phone on. Who do you think calls? You know her. My mother.

My mother calls. She doesn't know that we stayed over an extra day. And I was like, Tim -- he goes, that's your mother and Mr. Bush, Mr. President says, let me have the phone.

BLACKWELL: Wow.

MEADE: So, he pranks my mother. He talked to my mother on the phone. She thought she was being funny because she thought she was talking to her daughter.

Are you all Bushed out yet?

PAUL: Oh, no.

MEADE: And he acted like it was the funniest thing, right? So his sense of humor was there.

[07:55:01] But he also -- my mother said to him, I saw you in person when you campaigned for re-election in Cleveland and you could almost see the hurt in his face when he said oh, yes, but the winds had changed and the people didn't want me. All those years later, that still hurt him.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: We were talking about that earlier, that that lingers.

MEADE: Yes, you just saw on an old man's face that that still impacted him. It didn't stop him, of course, from going on to work with former president bill Clinton, working for other causes. So -- but my thoughts to the family and I'm comforted and hope they're comforted by the thought that he is now with Mrs. Bush and their daughter, Robin.

PAUL: What an experience for you. Thank you for sharing.

MEADE: Thank you for letting me share.

BLACKWELL: Robin Meade, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thank you.

And thank you so much for sharing your morning with us. We hope you make good memories today.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after a quick break.

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