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John Lewis Motorcade Will Wind through D.C. to Capitol Building; Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) Discusses His Dear Friend, Congressman John Lewis; Lewis to Lie in State in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda Today; White House National Security Adviser Tests Positive for COVID-19; COVID Cases Rising in 22 States, 28 States Report Steady or Downward Trend. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 27, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I find that moment so fascinating that this was the second inaugural. America had already elected its first black president but Congressman Lewis knew the re-election of that black president was also a key step, if you will, another building block, if you will, in the march.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. And -- and he told me, just like after the first inaugural, that President Obama, after the second, came up to him just moments, around when we were talking, saying once again that it was because of him that Barack Obama became president of the United States, not for one but two terms.

And that was actually on the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. And if you remember, John, President Obama used Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible to -- for the swearing in. And John Lewis remembered so many times when Martin Luther King Jr was using that Bible, praying with that Bible along the way in the 1960s when the two of them were called together for the civil rights movement.

So there's so many touchstone moments that -- that John Lewis had, that people around here in the capital had with him.

And, you know, people call him the conscience of the Congress. You know, it sounds like maybe a moniker that is just kind of an easy thing to throw around, but it fit him so well.

There was really nobody like him that could capture the audience of members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican. Make no mistake about it, he was a partisan Democrat, but he was a very, very different kind of lawmaker and a leader.

Not just because of his history in the 1960s but because he walked the walk and talked the talk even when he was a member Congress, protesting several times on the House floor, even out and getting arrested to protest Barack Obama's immigration policies. He continued to do that over and over again. When he saw something, he

said something and did something.

KING: Good trouble as he called it.

Again, we're watching live pictures from Joint Base Andrews, the body of John Lewis aboard the plane that soon will be put into the hearse there. It'll begin the procession to Washington and through the streets of Washington.

Van Jones, as you rejoin the conversation, I was just speaking to Senator Cory Booker, 51 years old, himself a son of parents who were civil rights activists in their own right.

But my question on the generational point here is you're a son of the late '60s. John Lewis was not only part of our history but he was also a witness to so much of history, with Bobby Kennedy, on the night that Dr. King was killed, working on the Kennedy campaign when Bobby Kennedy himself was assassinated in 1968. That is the year of your birth.

Many what is -- I guess -- let me ask you this way. Do you worry, as an activist, when the heroes pass that you don't have the living history? How do you help mentor teach the lessons?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW": You know, that's one of the things so beautiful about him and his whole generation.

My godmother is Dottie Zellman and Dinky Forman and they were in the committee room by him. They were taught by other. C.T. Vivian, who died on the same day as John Lewis, was just a little bit older than Diane Nash, a little bit older than John Lewis, but he was there as an older student teaching the younger ones. This tradition of passing it on from generation to generation, you know, has to continue.

I think it must be an extraordinary thing to be of the John Lewis generation, for those people, what you would call your autobiography, we would call our history. I mean, that's the impact that they had as young people, as people who were breaking down barriers.

This new generation is in a very interesting spot because they are out there with a much bigger movement, from a numbers point of view, from a diversity point of view, frankly, from a corporate celebration point of view.

The civil rights movement was never embraced, you know, by the equivalent of Starbucks at that time. The Walgreens of that time wasn't putting out, you know, Dr. King T-shirts the way that the corporate movement -- corporate America has now embraced Black Lives Matter and its allied movements.

And so on the one and they arrived at a bigger pinnacle than even the John Lewises. And at the same time, changing the laws and following through has still yet to be done for them. And they have the opportunity, thank goodness. John Lewis was so generous with his time. He was so generous with his

instruction.

My ex-wife and still best friend, Jana Carter (ph), went down to one of those marches and spent time with him,. And thousands of people can say that, just ordinary folks.

He left behind not just a legacy but the lessons, not just the demonstrations but the conversations. And that stuff is going to be in the blessing for a long time.

And part of the reason it's so important what we're doing today, that we're taking the time, not just yesterday but all day today to tell the stories again and again is to give this next generation more and more access to the quality of leadership, what you can do with your life, what you can impact people with.

[11:35:07]

If you are consistent, if you are compassionate and if you are courageous and if you stick with your views, eventually things come around to you.

But great thing about that, he wasn't just a demonstrator. He was also a legislator. He didn't just march about it. He got the laws changed. And that's what we've got to stick with as we move to the next stages.

KING: Excellent points by Van Jones.

And is you see, the Air Force joint at Joint Base Andrews making the final preparations to bring the casket carrying the late Congressman John Lewis off the plane and into the hearse and then the procession through the streets of Washington.

I want to go back up to Capitol Hill and Dana Bash, who has a special guest, a dear friend of the late Congressman.

BASH: A very dear friend, a friend of 50 years.

Congressman Clay, of Missouri, thanks for joining me.

You want to talk about John Lewis, the person who you have known for half a century.

REP. WILLIAM LACY CLAY (D-MO): Yes. Thank you for having me.

Just coming off the elevator to come here, you come out of the elevator, and you see John Lewis' name plate on his office. And this is going to be a tough day today on Capitol Hill and throughout this country as we say good-bye to -- to John Lewis.

John Lewis was a personal friend of mine, known him for almost 50 years. When he would come to my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri, and give his speech, we would always get together after the speeches and go and have a nice dinner, a nice meal and talk and hang out.

And every time we had a vote here, he and I would seek each other out and have a conversation.

He taught me so much about perseverance, persistence. And he bridged generations. He bridged generations. From his generation to mine and to future generations. And he taught us how to -- to stay -- to stay focused and to persist.

BASH: And, Congressman, I just want to tell our viewers and you that what we're seeing right now are John Lewis' family members waiting. Right now, they just arrived a short while ago from -- from Alabama, and we're waiting for them to start the procession.

So as we watch that and keep the discussion going, you talked about how he taught you perseverance and taught you and so many of your colleagues so much. What was it like to be a colleague and a friend and a pupil?

CLAY: Sure. First of all, when you talk about impactful legislation, he was a walking history book. I mean, I could go to him and learn about what the struggles were.

He would talk about how he met President Kennedy and how they struggled through the early '60s and finally got to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

That's why it would be so meaningful if we did something of conscious, for the conscious of the Congress in a bipartisan way and strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the name of John Robert Lewis. It would so apropos for the House and Senate to come together and do that.

BASH: And that legislation is now in the Senate waiting but, you know, we'll see what happens with that.

But talking about legislation we -- we when we remember John Lewis, understandably, he talked so much about the 1960s and the struggles and how he was one of the fathers of the civil rights movement. But he also had quite a legislative history and accomplishments here.

CLAY: Right.

BASH: And he was also on, now looking back, the right side, from the perspective of a lot of Democrats, of a lot of issues that they were relate to. Like he was against the Defense of Marriage Act. He was an early supporter of gay rights. He opposed the crime bill that many Democrats supported.

CLAY: Yes.

BASH: Talk about him as a legislator?

CLAY: He was a senior powerful member of the House Ways and Means Committee and he led the charge on a lot of initiatives.

And I think about the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act and how he was an essential player on that legislation from his perch at the House Ways and Means Committee. How he always took care of Medicare. He was so concerned about our

seniors and how we provide for them through Medicare and Social Security.

Those were the issues that John Lewis championed. And those are the issues that we can be proud of him and to be able to say, hey, this was our friend.

[11:40:04]

BASH: Congressman Clay, thank you so much for remembering your friend and colleague with us. And we are sorry for your loss.

CLAY: Thank you for having me.

BASH: Thank you.

John, back to you.

KING: Dana Bash, thank you.

And thanks to Congressman Clay as well.

Congressman, as he noted, the family connection. His dad was a congressman before him and good friends with John Lewis.

You're watching the scene here at Joint Base Andrews. Family, friends, staff members of the late congressman, Speaker Nancy Pelosi down there organizing on the tarmac.

You see the truck to the left of the screen, fading off to the screen as the shot moves in closer on the crowd. That truck will lower the body of congressman and American icon, John Lewis.

And the procession will, begin first, to Washington, Joint Base Andrews just outside of the nation's capital, a short drive, and then through the streets of Washington.

Nia-Malika Henderson and Van Jones are still with us.

Nia-Malika Henderson, as you watch this, Van was making the point earlier about the example, the lessons John Lewis can be. He was living history until just a few days ago.

But lessons will come on at a moment. One of the places he will stop is one of the places where he made his last public appearance, what has become a gathering place here, steps from the White House. Black Lives Matter painted in the streets. It's now become known as Black Lives Plaza -- Black Lives Matter Plaza here in Washington, D.C.

Steps from Lafayette Park, where the president of the United States and his deputies had that crowd dispersed. And steps more now from the White House.

It is interesting, if you study the history John Lewis, when he was young and he was the youngest speaker in the march on Washington, he was known as a bit more radical and aggressive. And over time, Dr. King and others told him to -- to tone it down a bit.

What was most remarkable in Washington, whenever you met Congressman Lewis, was just how peaceful he was, what a calming presence he was. How he would take your hand and ask you how you were doing.

There's a lesson in that, too, as he learned himself, from a young man to an elder statesman here in Washington, how to never stop marching but sometimes how to get the nuance just right.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I -- I think that's right. He was a radical in his youth. You think about what -- what they were doing in terms of the freedom rides. Going into the south where white supremacy reined and segregation was the order of the day. This was dangerous and people lost their lives.

This is why his parents, Willie Mae and Eddie Lewis -- we should lift up their names and thank them for giving us their son for the last many years, 80 years of living. And what a life he led.

You're right. He was an outsider in the ways, in terms of where the mainstream of the movement was, the sort agitation and the radical, you know, activism that he wanted to engage in, and sort of like the elders like Martin Luther King who recruited him into the movement, right?

He heard Martin Luther King on the radio when he was 15 years old leading the Montgomery bus boycott and he was obviously encouraged and inspired to join this movement. He gave his life to this movement and to the cause of equality.

Once he got into the Congress -- you know, sometimes he talked to younger people about folks in this movement. And they can be disparaging and say, oh, all that stuff he did was in the past. But he brought it to past.

Dana mentioned, for instance, him speaking out against -- there's his casket there in a moving scene here.

KING: Yes. And let's -- let's just for a moment watch the military Honor Guard here and the proceedings under way at Joint Base Andrews.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: (INAUDIBLE)

[11:45:53]

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: Forward march.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: (INAUDIBLE)

KING: Remarkable scene, Joint Base Andrews. The casket of the late Congressman, American civil rights legend, there in the hearse being saluted by that military Honor Guard.

This is a man who began his activist career marching for the right to vote, marching for civil rights, being justly saluted as an American hero at this very important military base just outside the nation's capital.

You can see the hearse, the driver, other staffers getting in. This will begin a procession. This is Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, a very short drive from the nation's capital.

And then, the procession will go through the streets, again, passing several landmarks, including just by the White House, by the Justice Department, which Congressman Lewis pushed to have named in honor of the late Robert Kennedy, whose 1968 presidential campaign he was working on at the time, Senator Kennedy was assassinated.

This is a man who made history and who witnessed so much history in this country.

Dana Bash, Van Jones and Nia-Malika Henderson are still with us.

Dana, I want to get to the point that everybody keeps making, that you got to see so often in a town where there are a lot of celebrities. There are a lot of famous people. There are a lot of egos.

Everybody who met John Lewis understood they were in the presence of a remarkably unique and singular human being.

BASH: It's so true. It was just something ineffable. Even if you don't know all the history, you just had a feeling being with him. And I don't say that lightly.

You and I and Van and Nia have all had the privilege of meeting a lot of powerful people in our careers. And he was a quiet yet incredibly powerful presence.

And you're right. You knew that you were with somebody who did some remarkable things but just had an aura about him of peace and power at the same time.

Congressman Clyburn told me earlier today that he and others studied, you know, peaceful protests and nonviolence but he internalized it. And you got that sense when you were with John Lewis.

KING: You're watching the scene at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The body of John Lewis in that hearse soon to travel to the American capitol in what is a sad day but a celebration of his life and a celebration of his imprint on American history, including here in the nation's capital.

[11:50:08]

A very quick break. When we come back, we'll continue our special coverage of a day of tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:55:09]

KING: The hearse still there at Joint Base Andrews, carrying the late congressman, the American hero, Congressman John Lewis, soon to make its way to Washington.

We'll return to our coverage of this special day of tribute the late Congressman in a moment.

But now to very important developments as well in the coronavirus pandemic. The virus now reaching one of the highest-ranking officials at the Trump White House. This morning we learned Robert O'Brien, President Trump's national security adviser, tested positive for COVID-19.

Let's get straight live to Kaitlan Collins at the White House with the latest.

Quite a shock I would guess in the West Wing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Quite a shock and even a surprise to some of Robert O'Brien's own staffers on the National Security Council, John, who found out, some told us, from press reports that the boss tested positive for coronavirus.

This is significant because this is the highest-ranking official so far at the White House here who has tested positive that we know about for COVID-19, of course, following the president's own personal valet and the vice president's communications director testing positive several weeks ago.

And now Robert O'Brien, someone who has an office in the West Wing just steps away from the Oval Office where President Trump works out of, has tested positive for coronavirus.

And it's raising concerns inside the White House about, you know, just how efficient the contact tracing will be and whether or not it will change any of the other protocols. Because, of course, we know that, in the West Wing, most people are not wearing masks because they're tested so often.

The White House confirmed this in a statement, John, with no name on it. They just said that he had tested positive. They said he had mild symptoms and had been self-isolating and working from a secure location offsite. They said there is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president.

But they do not say when was the last time that O'Brien came into contact with President Trump. He is someone when's often on the plane with him.

He was on the White House grounds last Thursday. And then we are told by several sources he abruptly left after receiving a phone call. It's unclear if that phone call was informing him that he tested positive.

But Larry Kudlow, another top aid, just told reporters that O'Brien's daughter had recently tested positive for COVID-19 so that's how they believe he got it.

So of course, the question is, has it been transmitted to anyone else. How symptomatic was he? Those are questions that the people in the White House are trying to learn.

But this is someone when's incredibly senior staff, works closely with the president, often briefs him. So while we try to figure out the last time they were together, it is notable he just got back from a trip to Europe, John.

So it is raising questions of who it is he came in contact with and whether or not it changes anything going forward here at the White House.

I want to point out, Larry Kudlow, as he was gaggling with reporters, wore a mask while he was speaking with us. That's not something that typically you have seen aides doing. The press secretary doesn't wear one in the briefing, anything like that.

We asked him why he had a change of heart, why he is wearing one now, and, John, he said, because we were wearing them, he was going to wear one as well.

KING: All right. Shifts at the White House. Important news. Contact tracing now across the Atlantic, I would guess.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks for that live report from the White House.

New numbers just in from Florida, one of the states pushing the summer surge. The state reporting just shy of 9,000 new cases. And you see it right there. And 8,892 new cases of COVID-19. Also, sadly, 77 additional deaths in the state of Florida.

Let's take a look at where we are. Across the country, right now, if you track the summer surge, the 50-state map, a bit better on this Monday than we were last Monday.

But still 22 states trending up. Meaning more cases this week than reported last week. And 20 states holding steady. Significantly that includes Florida and California, two of the states as I just noted that have been driving the summer surge, holding steady at the moment.

Right now, eight states going down. Those are in green, including Texas, another state that has been pushing up the numbers part of the summer surge.

So 22 states going up, 20 steady, eight down, as we again the work week. Let's see if the map improves throughout the week or if the surge

returns, if you will.

This is where we were on July 20th. You see a lot more red on this map. Texas significantly red there. Some progress today. The question: Do the trends continue in a positive direction?

A sad trend, we know deaths is a lagging indicator. You get higher cases and then hospitalizations, and then sadly this. You have right now 29 states, more deaths reported in the past week than the previous week, 29 states. And you see some of them in dark red.

That's one of the sad legacies of this summer surge. Case counts, hospitalizations, deaths tend to be a lagging indicator and follow.

And the question is: Do we get a plateau? And even if we get a plateau, look at the high baseline. You go back to July 1st, 510,174 cases, 77,000-plus on the 16th, halfway through the month. And 73,000 on Friday of last week.

So there are those at the White House who believe we have hit a plateau. But, wow, if it's a high plateau, it is still a very high baseline. The challenge to push it down. This, much higher in terms of a daily case count than we were back in March or April when we hoped we were at the peak back then.

[11:59:03]

One of the concerns, even if Florida gets a bit better, Texas gets a bit better, and California get a bit better, will it cycle back?