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U.S. Loses Two Civil Rights Legends In One Day; Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) Dies At 80 After Battle With Pancreatic Cancer; Interview With Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL); Interview With Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA); Trump Orders Flags To Half-Staff In Honor Of John Lewis; Rev. Bernice King Discusses Congressman John Lewis And His Legacy & Death Of Rev. C.T. Lewis. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 18, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


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[13:01:02]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin this hour with a heavy heart that's being felt across the country. Two civil rights icons gone within just 24 hours. Congressman John Lewis died overnight at the age of 80. He lost his six-month long battle with stage four pancreatic cancer.

Lewis' death coming just hours after the passing of Reverend C.T. Vivian, one of Martin Luther King's closest friends. Both men are credited for their non-violent commitments to fighting for equality, which Lewis often referred to as good trouble, necessary trouble.

President Trump has ordered the White House and other Federal buildings to fly their flags at half-staff for the remainder of the day. The decision came more than an hour after speaker -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be lowered as well, so far still no words from the President on Louis's death. He is yet to release a statement or a tweet even though other White House officials have done so.

Instead, we're told the President was out golfing this morning. So we began our coverage with more on the passing of Congressman John Lewis. Here's a look back at his towering legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Throughout his life, John Lewis stood for people's rights. Born on an Alabama cotton farm into a segregated America, he not only lived to see an African American elected president, he would be a major part of making it happen.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): Tonight, tonight we gather here in this magnificent state in Denver because we still have a dream, we still have a dream.

SAVIDGE: Lewis growing up was angered by the unfairness of the Jim Crow south. He credited Martin Luther King Jr. for inspiring him to join the Civil Rights movement, and eventually Lewis would become one of its most prominent leaders. As a student, he organized sit-ins at lunch counters. In the early 60s he was a Freedom Rider, challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the south. The embodiment of nonviolence, he frequently suffered beatings by angry mobs.

Lewis, 23-years-old at the time, was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.

LEWIS: We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now.

SAVIDGE: Then two years later led a march for voting rights in the south. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, he and other marchers were met by heavily armed state and local police. They were set upon and beaten, Lewis suffering a fractured skull. It would be forever remembered as Bloody Sunday. The images of brutality shocked the nation, galvanizing support for the Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

Lewis never lost his young activist spirit, taking it from protest to politics. Standing up for what he believed was right, Lewis was arrested more than 40 times by police according to his congressional office.

LEWIS: I'm on my way, and we're going to win this race.

SAVIDGE: He was elected to city council in Atlanta, then to Congress in Washington, representing Georgia's fifth district, fighting against poverty and for health care while working to help younger generations by improving education. He reached out to young people in other ways, cowriting a series of graphic novels about the Civil Rights movement, winning him a National Book Award.

In a life of so many moments and great achievements, it was the achievement of another in 2008 that perhaps meant the most, the election of President Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America.

[13:05:04]1

SAVIDGE: A dream Lewis admits was too impossible to consider decades before even as he fought to forge its foundation.

LEWIS: This is an unbelievable period in our history. Martin Luther King Jr. would be very pleased to see what is happening in America. This is a long way from the March in Washington. It's a great distance from marching across that bridge in Selma in 1965 for the right to vote.

SAVIDGE: In 2011, after more than 50 years on the front lines of civil rights, Lewis received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, placed around his neck by America's first black president.

Lewis wasn't content at just making history. He was also dedicated to preserving it. Consider the impetus of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History and Culture. And he never stopped stirring up good trouble, as he like to call it, boycotting the inaugurations of George W. Bush after the contested 2000 election, and vocally opposing Donald Trump in 2017, citing suspicions of Russian meddling.

And a protest against President Trump's immigration policy, the congressman, by then an elder statesman of the Democratic Party, riled up the crowd with words he had lived by as an activist, as a lawmaker, as a leader.

LEWIS: We must never, ever give up. We must be brave, bold, and courageous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: President Trump has ordered flags at the White House and other Federal buildings to fly at half-staff for the rest of the day in honor of the passing of Congressman John Lewis. But other than that, no other proclamation has come from the president.

It's been quiet. Kristen Homes is at the White House for us. So Kristen, the President is spending the day golfing he hasn't spoken that we know have allowed about a Congressman Lewis but the vice president did.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Fred. And we have asked over and over again the White House if there are any plans released a statement from President Trump or some sort of tweet, some sort of acknowledgement of John Lewis' life. Now, of course, you did say there is a proclamation there, but I want to read you one line from the proclamation and then I want to compare it to what we saw from Vice President Pence.

And the proclamation from President Trump The only thing acknowledging his -- John Lewis' long life of giving back and serving the public was one line that said as a mark of respect for the memory and long standing public service of Representative John Lewis, that was it. Now compare that to Vice President Pence's, which we're going to pull up right now, which is an emotional and touching tribute.

It says Congressman John Lewis was a great man whose courage and decades of public service changed America forever, and he will be deeply missed. John Lewis will be remembered as a giant of the Civil Rights Movement whose selflessness and conviction rendered our new into a more perfect union. And his example will inspire generations of Americans. Very powerful and emotional tribute here comparatively.

Still waiting to see if anyone in the press shop is going to get back to us if there's a plan for President Trump to directly talk about John Lewis, we have seen them, including the press secretary out there tweeting about John Lewis, but not clear that that is an official White House statement. The statements don't really say anything at all. They don't say anything at all. Not really about John about -- excuse me about President Trump.

So there's no mention of the White House or President Trump in those statements. So unclear here. What happens next?

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes, keep us posted. Thank you so much. All right. Let's talk more about the life and legacy of Congressman. Let's go to CNN Lauren Fox in Washington. Lauren, some lawmakers are starting to take notice of the President's silence and I understand that at least one Congresswoman wants it to stay that way.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Fredricka, you have to remember. This was a man who was on Capitol Hill for more than three decades and he was beloved by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republicans and Democrats revered him. He was seen as someone who took young members under his wing. And Karen Bass, who is the chairwoman of the CBC said, real Donald Trump while the nation mourns the passing of a national hero. Please say nothing.

Please don't comment on the life of Congressman Lewis, your press secretary released a statement. Leave it at that. Please let us mourn in peace. And you are seeing these tributes pour out across the Capitol today. You are hearing from people like Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, who has at times also stood up against the president when it comes to issues of racial justice.

You also heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who announced she wanted the flags at the Capitol grounds to be flying at half-staff for the next few days. She said in a statement that John Lewis was "A titan of the civil rights movement," whose goodness faith and bravery transformed our nation. And Lewis never lost sight of the activists that he was on Capitol Hill. He led that 2016 sit in over gun legislation.

He often brought members back to Selma to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with him. That was his legacy. And lawmakers are arguing. They want to remember him today. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right, Lauren Fox. Thanks so much. I want to bring in now, two colleagues of Congressman Lewis, fellow Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson, as well as Congresswoman Terri Sewell of Alabama.

Good to see both of you on this very heavy day.

REP. TERRI SEWELL (D-AL): Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: So, Congresswoman, so let me hear from you first, if you don't mind. You know, about your thoughts and your memories of Congressman Lewis. I remember seeing you during the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday with Congressman Lewis there. What are the thoughts that you want to have today for him?

SEWELL: You know, we lost a moral compass in losing john, I want to remember all of the wonderful opportunities I had to sit at his speed and to learn from John. John represents so much to my district, Alabama's seventh district that includes Birmingham and Selma, my hometown. He has such a special place. Selma holds a special place for him that we love John Lewis in my district.

He's Alabama native son, and we are just so blessed to call him one of our own. We want to make sure that we remember his life's work because it's still left undone. John had an indomitable spirit. It was infectious, his love of America, his love of people, and the fact that he stands as a living testament to the triumph of love over hate is something that's so important.

I hope that all of us will rededicate ourselves to his life's work and try to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That to me would be an honor and a tribute to a man and a life well lived.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And Congresswoman Sewell, I mean, how remarkable you would grow up in Selma, and be witness to? I mean, seeing Congressman Lewis who would make his pilgrimage to Selma, and then you would grow up to become a colleague, working alongside him as a member of Congress, you know, representing your district. I mean, that is heavy and that's big. So, you know, how were you able to, I guess, embrace that, you know, live up to that and work alongside him, somebody you admired for so long?

SEWELL: Yes, you know, Fredricka, you're trying to make me cry again.

WHITFIELD: I am not. I've had my tears too. I mean, I -- it's hard -- it's hard not to reflect on him. Everyone's had personal experiences, if you've been so lucky to have that and not tear up but, but go ahead. If you have to tear up, it's okay.

SEWELL: You know, as you said, I not only have the honor of representing Selma and to being Alabama's first black Congresswoman, but I grew up in Selma. I'm a daughter of Brown Chapel AME Church and having grown up and watch, so many foot soldiers come back like John Lewis time and time again to Brown Chapel to relive and reenact and remember and more importantly, be renewed and rededicate themselves to the fight for equality.

He was a giant among giants. We lost C.T. Vivian as well, yesterday and -- but you know, for me to be able to grow up in Selma, and to be able to then become the member of Congress and get to know John Lewis, I used to sing in the choir and pass out the brochures as an usher at Brown Chapel and then to -- then become a member of Congress.

You know, you're not often able to thank your living legend and I got a chance not only thank John time and time again, but to roll up my sleeves and hand and hopefully try to honor him and the legacy of those foot soldiers by trying to, you know, renew and restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

I carry the seminal piece of legislation HR4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act. And we finally passed it in December. It sits languishing on the desk of Mitch McConnell. But you know what, this is a time for us to reflect on the life -- a life well led by John Lewis, and we need to be rededicate ourselves to the -- to the causes for which he fought. I think that as we think about this moment in American history, I hope that we are all full of the legacy that is John.

He embodied and walk the walk and talk the talk. I'm just honored and blessed to have an opportunity to not only stand on his shoulders, but also to be renewed by his strength each and every day to fight for those causes. That to me, is the best way that we can relive and extend his wonderful legacy.

[13:15:04]

WHITFIELD: Yes, I can hear you are so proud of him, but I assure you I'm sure that the feeling is mutual. He's very -- he's been very proud of you, too. So congressman Johnson, you know, as a fellow member of the Georgia delegation, you know, your thoughts on both Congressman Lewis and C.T. Vivian, who is a resident here of Atlanta, and I know you got a chance to interact with him quite a bit as well. I mean, this is -- this is a double whammy, you know, for so many of us.

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Yes, it really is. And then when you consider that Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery died just a few months ago, March 27th, I believe, we've lost three civil rights icons during this COVID epidemic. And it's been really sad the last 24 hours to think that John Lewis will not be among us when we come back to reconvene under normal circumstances in Congress. He's just been such a powerful voice for what is right, what is just -- what is truth.

He stood, he stood on high moral ground, and he lifted everyone else who was around him up to where he was not in arrogant and high-handed way, but just in being a humble servant of the people. And he never lost track of why he was on this earth. He was put on this earth for a reason. And his reason for being here was to fight for human rights. Not only civil rights for black folks, but human rights for everyone.

He had so much love in his heart. I mean, into -- to be with him just walking through an airport. And I don't care where that airport might be. But you walk through an airport with John Lewis or to any other public location, and to see him interact with the hordes of people who would come up. People wanting autographs, people wanting pictures, people just wanting to have a few words wanting to take some time to talk to John Lewis.

And he would always give everybody, every inch of time that they demanded of him. It was kind of excruciating to watch him and I know that sometimes he was tired and didn't really, you know, want to do it, but he would always smile and engage people. The people actually lifted him up and he never forgot where he came from. But he never did consider himself to be high and mighty. I mean, that was -- if you went someplace with him, he didn't expect for you to treat him differently, or as if he were a high public official, something like that.

He just wanted to be treated just like a regular individual human being. That's what he -- that's what he was. That's what he exemplified. That's the example that he said. And it's one that I will always have front and center in my mind as I move forward. And in fact, I would -- I have often said that I would not even be a congressman had it not been for John Lewis, and just a couple of days before the 2016 election, which was my first election.

John Lewis was quoted as saying that I think Hank Johnson will make a excellent representative and he did not endorse me in that race. It was against a sitting incumbent. But just those words at that particular time, I think were enough to propel me across the finish line. And I've been honored to serve with him for the last 14 years and get to know him. And to get to serve him, I've tried to serve him to help him carry out his legacy.

And so I'm proud of the time that we spent together and I'll always hold it dear to my heart.

WHITFIELD: Beautiful memories. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your hearts with all of us. Congressman Hank Johnson, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, really appreciate you both. Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll have so much more on the life and the legacy of Congressman John Lewis in a moment. But first, the congressman in his own words at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS: All of us, it doesn't matter whether we're black or white, Latino, Asian American or Native American.

[13:20:06]

LEWIS: It does not matter whether we are straight or gay, we are one people, we are one family, we are one house, we all live in the same house.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A new step in the fight against the coronavirus. A short time ago the FDA reissued an emergency use authorization to speed up testing in the U.S. The measure allows quest diagnostics to use poll samples with up to four swab specimens. And it comes as the CDC predicts that by August 8th at least 157,000 Americans will have lost their lives to the disease. That's another 18,000 deaths just three weeks from today.

Meanwhile, states are fighting to slow the spread as hospitalization and death rates increasing Florida, Louisiana and Arizona now lead the nation in per capita COVID-19 cases. CNNs Rosa Flores is in Florida.

[13:25:07]

WHITFIELD: So Rosa, the governor just held a press conference. He was trying to remain optimistic. But what did he offer that might be new for Floridians?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the governor announcing that he's expecting for thousands of vials of remdesivir to arrive in the sunshine state in the next few days. He's also asking anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood. Here is the latest in Florida. Just today Florida recording more than 10,000 new cases here in Miami-Dade County where I am.

This is the epicenter of the crisis accounting for about 24 percent of the now nearly 340,000 cases in this state. The positivity right here in Miami-Dade County according to county records, it's 27 percent. The goal for the county is not to exceed 10 percent as for hospitalizations, ICUs are in a 119 percent capacity, the goal for the county is not to exceed 70 percent. Now the county says that the good news is that they have more than 400 other beds that can be converted into ICU beds.

But of course, that is not the situation that any county wants to be at during a pandemic. Now, despite all of these facts and figures, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says that he is not ready to impose more restrictions, Fred, that he is not ready to shut down.

My city of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez just a few days ago was ready. He said he said that he was just days away. Now he agrees with me or Gimenez and they say that if they do shut down, they would do it together. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Rosa Flores in Miami. Thanks so much. All right. With me now, the president of Howard University, Dr. Wayne Frederick. Good to see you, Dr. Frederick. So what's your feeling on, you know, universal or mandating masks everywhere? And how will you ensure that students are going to be safe on campus when they start arriving next month?

WAYNE A. I. FREDERICK, PRESIDENT, HOWARD UNIVERSITY: Yes, yes. I think it's important that everyone wears masks and the current scientific evidence and public health information suggests that wearing masks would prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And so I think it's extremely important that we do that. We're taking all safety precautions on campus by ensuring that our cleaning and disinfecting of the campus is at the level that is required to.

Prevent the virus from spreading. But we're also asking everyone who has to come back to campus and have any type of engagement and interaction to also be personally accountable, not just during the time of day on campus, but when they leave the campus as well for other types of interaction. So it's going to be very important that we all do our part.

WHITFIELD: This is -- this is a really tough day. It's been a very tough 2020 hasn't it with a company coronavirus and, and so many other things. And then on this day, you know that this country is thinking about two huge civil rights icons, C.T. Vivian and John Lewis and they're passing within a 24-hour period. I understand. You had the privilege of meeting, interacting with Congressman Lewis and I would be remiss in not asking, what are your thoughts and memories today?

FREDERICK: Yes, I did. I had the occasion to be speaker at MIT Emancipation Day celebration on the Lincoln Memorial, where he was speaking as well. And I also had the pleasure of having hosted him at Howard doing opening convocation. You just cannot meet a more special human being, warm, kind, gentle,

but at the same time, very committed. You know, as I sent a letter out to the community today, I just reminded them that he was a giant of a man without having to speak of his own bravado.

And at the same time, he could be so compassionate and had a totally strong and deep commitment to humanity. And I think that there's so much that we can all learn from that. And I hope that especially young people today that are on this journey to justice would recognize that one of the travelers that went before them has left very, very big shoes for us to follow in but not fail.

WHITFIELD: So true, beautifully said. Dr. Dwayne Frederick, thank you so much for your time and your memories of an iconic figure.

Next, we remember the life of Congressman John Lewis, the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. Bernice King, joins me next on the historic March Congressman Lewis took with her father.

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[13:34:23]

WHITFIELD: We continue to follow the outpouring of condolences and tributes for John Lewis. Today, the country is mourning the monumental loss of this longtime congressman and freedom fighter who died yesterday at the age of 80.

His passing follows a six-month-long battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He passed away in the middle of the night.

Joining me now is Bernice King, the daughter of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Reverend King, good to see you.

REV. BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR: Thank you, Fredricka. Glad to be here today.

[13:34:57]

WHITFIELD: With this news and the passing of Congressman Lewis, what are the images that -- and the memories that keep replaying through your mind since learning of his passing? Is it that of the Congressman's civil rights icon, who marched alongside your dad so many years, or are they the images of him being like your uncle for most of your lifetime?

KING: I think it's really the images of the constant sacrifices that he made. One of the things that I speak about when I travel around this nation and the world is the sacrifice that he and so many others made.

And one of the principles of nonviolence we teach about at the King Center is that honor and suffering is redemptive. And I use him as an example, especially to young people, when so many

feel like, is it really worth risking my life? Is it really worth putting it all on the line? Will we ever get to some resolve?

And I think about John Lewis, and I tell them, look, John Lewis was on that bridge, and he was beaten, left by those who beat him for dead, and he survived it.

But he never knew on that bridge he would one day serve in Congress. And he never knew he would one day serve in Congress under the first African-American president for two terms. That was unearned suffering that was redemptive in that moment.

And he just continued to show the power in his life of nonviolence. He was one of the very few out of my father's movement that remained true to it until the day he died. And so, you know, I think about that.

And I had a wonderful privilege last week to go see him. And when I looked in his eyes, all I could say is, well done.

I could see he was tired. I could see that, you know, he had given it his all. He was a fighter. And I could still see a little bit of fight in his eyes. And he -- he lived almost seven more days after I saw him.

And, you know, told him I love him. And we thank God for him. And we're going to continue the fight.

So that's -- I want to remember that moment. And I want to remember the fact that he, among so few, really championed, you know, that nonviolent legacy, which is desperately needed today.

If we're going to correct the social injustices and the systemic racism, we can only do it through nonviolence. And that's what he continued to tell us over and over again.

WHITFIELD: He exemplified that all the way.

KING: He did.

WHITFIELD: And

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And, you know, here he is meeting with a foot soldier that he had been with for many, many years, too. C.T. Vivian --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: -- would pass away within a 24-hour period.

KING: That's right.

WHITFIELD: And they're both in heaven together.

What are your thoughts about -- (CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: -- Reverend C.T. Vivian and that moment?

KING: You know, yesterday was just a lot.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

KING: Who would have known that, that evening, Congressman Lewis would have passed?

And I thought about the duo. This was the duo whose heads were bloodied in Selma, Alabama. C.T. Vivian on the steps of the courthouse as he confronted sheriff, Jim Clark. Bravery, courage, determination. And then John, on the bridge, the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Both of those men leaving on yesterday, in this probably most-defining election year of our lives, is sending a large and a huge message to us that we've got to get it right on voting rights. We've got to restore the voting rights.

I'm appealing to Congress. And President Johnson did, after my father's assassination, and Congress had passed a Fair Housing Act. I'm appealing to Congress to please restore the Voting Rights Act. That we stop voter suppression in this nation.

And that those who do not understand the importance of the right to vote, who have been indifferent about it, who have been cynical about it, these two men, whose heads were bloodied so that you can have your voice heard, so that you could participate in government, please don't take this for granted.

Please, let's rise up and let's honor this legacy. Let's become engaged citizens. Not just voting, but truly engaging our elected officials from the local, the state, and the national level on an ongoing basis so that we all can participate in continuing the freedom struggle.

[13:40:08]

And I just want to close with this. My mother said something. And I think the fact that those two men joining together on that day, I told somebody jokingly, C.T. said, John, hold up, I've got a little more age on you. Hold up, I've got to go first.

(LAUGHTER)

But those to joining together, in many respects, it is saying to so many of us in the next generation that we cannot give up the fight and the struggle no matter what the cost is.

Because my mother said, struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. And that's what we have to continue to do.

John never let up. C.T. never let up. We must never let up. WHITFIELD: Yes. And those men and those words must forever fuel us

all.

Reverend Bernice King, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

KING: Thank you. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:45:21]

WHITFIELD: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announcing just yesterday that she is undergoing chemotherapy, and has been since May, to treat her recurrence of cancer. This news comes after she was discharged from the hospital this week after battling an unrelated infection.

With me now, CNN Supreme Court Reporter, Ariane de Vogue.

Ariane, what more can you tell us?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, 87-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leading liberal on the court, she released that statement saying that, back in February, they had done scans and they had found lesions on her liver.

This would be her fifth bout of cancer. Although, she's calling it a recurrence, likely because it's related to pancreatic cancer that she was diagnosed with in a previous diagnosis. She said the chemotherapy right now is going well.

Here's something to think about. She actually -- we've had a lot of statements about her health over the last few months and the years. Usually, they come from the public information officer.

But yesterday, she decided to release her own statement and she wanted to make one thing perfectly clear, and that's that she's going to continue to work.

In the statement, she repeated something she often says when she gives speaking events. She said, "I've often said I would remain a member of the court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that."

So strong statement from her. She wanted to make that clear.

Of course, Fred, this is all coming down in an election year. And President Donald Trump very often on the campaign trail boasts about the fact he got two Supreme Court justices on the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

If another vacancy were to arise, that would really solidify the conservative majority of this court for decades to come. We're now at 5-4. That would really swing the court to the right. And, Fred, it would also be a big fight because the Democrats haven't

forgotten that, after Justice Antonin Scalia died, Republicans refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama's nominee. So it would be a big fight -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Ariane de Vogue, thank you so much.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:51:53]

WHITFIELD: Law enforcement officials in Oregon used tear gas after another chaotic night of protests in downtown Portland. It's unclear who deployed the gas, but the Portland Police Department says that no gas was used by its officers.

This, as the Oregon attorney general sues the U.S. government over its deployment of federal agents to the state after this video circulated on social media, showing unidentified Border Patrol agents arresting a protester and then taking him away in an unmarked car.

Joining me right now to discuss, Andrew McCabe, CNN senior law enforcement analyst, and former deputy director of the FBI.

Andrew, good to see you.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: So let's talk -- let's talk about this lawsuit claiming that the man was arrested and released without any explanation. So how unusual would that be?

MCCABE: It is absolutely unprecedented in my experience.

I think it's important for your viewers to understand that federal agents typically only arrest people after there's been a probable- cause determination made by a grand jury or from a judge. And then they get an arrest warrant that specifically states who they're arresting and why. And then they go out and execute that warrant.

To conduct surveillance, in an unmarked car, drive around the streets of Portland and snatch one into the back of the van without identifying yourself or why you're taking that action is just -- I've never heard of anything like that before. It's incredibly concerning.

WHITFIELD: So there would be no other circumstances in which that is a method carried out?

MCCABE: No, not really. You know, you have the authority, as an officer of the law, to make an arrest if you see somebody commit a violent felony in your presence. So in this situation, you could imagine, if you were sent to Portland,

as a federal agent, to provide security at the courthouse, if somebody came up to you and assaulted you, or assaulted one of your fellow officers, you would certainly from the authority to take them into custody. This is a remarkably different situation.

We specifically don't have the authority to investigate people for their expressions of First Amendment-protected speech. And here, it certainly looks like that could be the case.

Why they were surveilling this individual and following him? There's a lot of very tough questions to be answered here.

WHITFIELD: This is a tough day for so many people. Because people thinking about this giant of Congressman John Lewis, you know, who passed away overnight, an advocate for peaceful protests. And you would likely have some thoughts on what we -- he would likely have some thoughts on what we talked about.

And he spoke about social justice and law enforcement at the FBI. You were there. What was that moment like?

MCCABE: It was incredible. He graciously came to the FBI, during Black History Month, to speak to our employees. I had the privilege of hosting him for that event.

You would expect someone of Congressman Lewis's stature to come over and tell stories about his own heroic experiences in the 1960s and the civil rights movement, and we certainly would have loved to have heard those, but that's not what he did.

[13:55:11]

He came over and he talked to us about the FBI, and the importance of the FBI in protecting people's civil rights and civil liberties. And how the nation depended upon us to be one of those pillars of strength and fairness in the ongoing struggle for civil rights.

This is a guy who certainly experienced the first aspects of the FBI in the 1960s. And yet, he remained hopeful and generous and inviting, to all of our folks and to our mission.

It was a remarkable series of comments. I will never forget it. And I think he really sent folks out of there just kind of reenergized to do the work.

WHITFIELD: And likely re-evaluating their place, right? I've heard that so much from so many people.

MCCABE: That's right. That's right.

WHITFIELD: That being with him makes you rethink and re-evaluate your role.

Andrew McCabe, thank you so much.

MCCABE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.

MCCABE: Thanks, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Coming up, remembering Congressman John Lewis. You're looking live at a mural dedicated to him in Atlanta. And I'll talk live with a Georgia Senate candidate who was endorsed by Lewis, and even appeared in his campaign ads.

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