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Evangelist Reverend Billy Graham To Lie In Honor At U.S. Capitol; Trump Attacks Attorney General Jeff Sessions Again. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired February 28, 2018 - 11:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erica Hill in today for Kate Bolduan. You're looking at live pictures now the hearse carrying the casket of the late Reverend Billy Graham. That casket will make its way into the capitol where he will lie in honor. As we follow this, we'll be bringing you this ceremony and service live this morning.

A welcome as well to international viewers who are joining us now. You see the military guard making their way out there to the hearse. They will be carrying the casket up the east front steps of the capitol where again the late Reverend Billy Graham will lie in honor.

A moment and honor that has been given to four private citizens, the last person to lie in honor there, Rosa Parks in 2005.



HILL: The casket of the late Reverend Billy Graham now making its way into the capitol. You see family gathered on the steps as well. The president will be there. Boris Sanchez joins us now from outside the capitol where you just witnessed this event, the military guard bringing the casket up the steps for us.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. It is really a rare moment in American history where you see both parties come together to commemorate the life of a truly special American, he was known as America's pastor.

Billy Graham, of course, passing away last week at his home in North Carolina at 99 years old, known not only for sharing his faith with millions of Americans, but also for elevating his faith to play a role in politics and being influential, not only in the political process, but really in the White House specifically.

Billy Graham was known to be an adviser to a number of presidents spanning decades. It was said that he prayed with presidents going from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Donald Trump, of course, attributing Billy Graham's influence, to his own reexamining of his faith and getting closer to his own spirituality. We should note that President Trump said that Billy Graham was a great man and he would be missed not only about Christians but by all religions. He's set to give remarks later today. He'll be joined by Vice President Mike Pence, who called Billy Graham one of the greatest Americans of the 20th Century and by other leaders in Congress.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also set to deliver some remarks. Yesterday, they spoke with reporters and said that this was an easy decision to memorialize Billy Graham this way. He becomes only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor at the U.S. capitol.

He joins Rosa Parks and two law enforcement officers killed uring a shooting here at the capitol back in 1998. It will be interesting to see exactly how the president communicates Billy Graham's impact to the nation, a man that will long be remembered again not only for his faith, but the way that he impacted the political life of so many for so long -- Erica.

HILL: Boris, with the latest for us there from the capitol. Boris, thank you. We want to bring in now Randall Balmer, CNN contributor, chairman of the Religion Department at Dartmouth. As we look at the scope of his influence and impact of this man, Reverend Billy Graham. How do you put that into words, Randall?

RANDALL BALMER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's pretty tough. He's a person who was enormously influential. I think he was arguably the first religious celebrity because he came into prominence at the unique moment in history and launching pad was really the 1949 crusade and revival campaign in Los Angeles at which -- during which time William Randolph hearse instructed his papers to puff Graham and that provided a kind of launching pad for him into the public sphere.

More important I think, he's important because he was able to lure evangelicals out of their subculture and out of their cozy little world that they had constructed in the early decades of the 20th Century and into the mainstream of American life and that was symbolized by his very public friendship with the succession of American presidents.

HILL: And it's remarkable too, not just that friendship that ensued, the faith that they put in, the Reverend Billy Graham, and how he helped them with their own faith journeys. When you talk about bringing evangelicals out as well, the impact we have seen in the time since, is frankly enormous.

BALMER: It is enormous, and I have to say that Mr. Graham himself was -- he initially played a part in that, but he came to regret that in 1981 --

HILL: I'll stop you there for just a moment because we're seeing the casket now come in.


[11:11:50] HILL: In just a few moments, we'll hear from President Trump. We'll take a short break and be back with those remarks.



HILL: Live pictures for you here, you see Mitch McConnell speaking at the service at the capitol where the Reverend Billy Graham will lie in honor. Public will be able to pay their respects at 1:00. The president will speak shortly, and we'll bring you those remarks live.

But first, before making his way over to the capitol this morning, the president taking to Twitter, unloading on a favorite target, his own attorney general. Quote, "Why is AG Jeff Sessions asking the inspector general to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse? Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, et cetera. Isn't the IG an Obama guy. Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!", exclamation point.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now from the White House with the very latest -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Erica. That tweet, it's important to note comes after Jeff Sessions said yesterday that Michael Horowitz is going to be looking into those alleged abuses of surveillance.

I should not a few things that are wrong with that tweet, yes, Michael Horowitz was appointed to his latest current position in 2012 by President Barack Obama, but he's someone who worked in top roles at the DOJ under both Republican and Democratic administrations and was once appointed to a job by President George W. Bush.

So, a little bit of context there. He's also known as very much of a straight shooter here in Washington. That tweet is part of the larger attack by the president on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, someone he has been very frustrated with since he first recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation last March.

He continued to attack him not only on Twitter, but in interviews and whatnot since that first happened calling him weak, beleaguered, saying he's very disappointed in him and would not have picked him to be the attorney general if he knew that he would have recused himself.

So, less of an attack on the inspector general whose job is quite literally to inspect those kinds of matters and more of a return of those attacks that friendly fire on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- Erica.

HILL: Of course, as all of this is happening, there are new revelations about the president's inner circle and what may be playing out there -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, that's right. Several things, a very bad day for Jared Kushner. Yesterday, his top aide announced he was leaving the White House, his communications director, Josh Raffel. But also, two other very noteworthy things, Jared Kushner has seen his security clearance downgraded from a top secret interim clearance to just a secret interim clearance, which is going to quite largely affect and quite significantly affect a lot of the things that have been in Jared Kushner's portfolio during the last 13 months in the White House.

He's in charge of negotiating peace in the Middle East but also relationships with Canada and Mexico and several things on his plate that are going to be affected by this, Erica.

And also, his day to day life here in the west wing because he's someone we know one of the top officials in the White House who is requested almost more information than any other official to access to highly classified information.

And he's also someone who has read the presidential daily brief, that document that the president gets that highlight the most pressing information from around the world, something we know Jared Kushner look at before, but will no longer be able to look at with just a secret interim clearance.

That also came on the same day that the "Washington Post" reported that officials from four countries have discussed ways they could exploit Jared Kushner by discussing ways they could do that through his financial problems he had before and lack of foreign policy experience, several other things that certainly affect his standing here in the White House, Erica.

So, Jared Kushner coming to work today with a very, very different day to day life than he had the last 13 months.

HILL: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate the update. Thank you.

Still to come this hour, Special Counsel Bob Mueller now zeroing in on President Trump's business activities in Russia before he announced his run for president. Is Mueller crossing that red line that president set for the special counsel? That's just ahead.

[11:20:05] We are also keeping a very close eye on what's happening at the capitol. You see House Speaker Paul Ryan there making remarks. When we return, we'll hear from the president and bring those remarks to you live.


HILL: President Trump now taking to the microphone. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell and most importantly, thank you to the entire Graham family for honoring us with your presence here today. Thank you.

In the spring of 1934, Billy Graham's father allowed a group of Charlotte businessmen to use a portion of the family's dairy farm to gather for a day of prayer. On that day, the men prayed for the city. They prayed that out of Charlotte the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.

We are here today more than 80 years later because that prayer was truly answered.

Billy Graham was 15 years old at the time. Just a few months later he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

That choice didn't just change Billy's life, it changed our lives. It changed our country and it changed, in fact, the entire world.

The North Carolina farm boy walked out of those fields into a great and beautiful history.

Starting at a small Bible school in Florida, he soon led a nationwide revival, from a large tent in Los Angeles, to 100,000 people in a single day at Yankee Stadium, to more than 2 million people at Madison Square Garden over 16 weeks in 1957. And I remember that, because my father said to me, "Come on son," and by the way, he said, "Come on, Mom. Let's go see Billy Graham at Yankee Stadium." And it was something very special.

But Americans came in droves to hear that great, young preacher. Fred Trump was a big fan. Fred Trump was my father.

In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogota, Moscow, New Delhi, Saigon, Johannesburg and scores of other places all over the world, Reverend Graham shared the power of God's word with more than 200 million people in person, and countless others through television and radio, where people loved to watch and listen.

In 1978, with the support of the Catholic bishop would soon become Pope John Paul II, Reverend Graham went to Poland and spoke of the meaning of the cross to a people suffering under the soulless oppression of communism.

Billy Graham carried his message around the world, but his heart, as Franklin will tell you, was always in America. He took his message to the poorest places, to the downtrodden and to the brokenhearted, to inmates in prison, and to the overlooked and the neglected. He felt a great passion for those that were neglected.

Everywhere he went, Reverend Graham delivered the same beautiful message: God loves you. That was his message: God loves you.

We can only imagine the number of lives touched by the preaching and the prayers of Billy Graham; the hearts he changed, the sorrows he eased, and the joy he brought to so many. The testimony is endless.

Today, we give thanks for this extraordinary life. And it's very fitting that we do so right here in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, where the memory of the American people is enshrined.

Here in this room, we are reminded that America is a nation sustained by prayer.

The painting to my left is of the Pilgrims as they embark for America, holding fast to the Bible, and bowing their heads in prayer.

Along these walls, we see the faces of Americans who prayed as they stood on the Lexington Green, who prayed as they headed west, prayed as they headed into battle, and prayed as they marched for justice, and always marched for victory.

Around us stand the statues of heroes who led the nation in prayer during the great and difficult times, from Washington to Lincoln to Eisenhower to King. And today, in the center of this great chamber, lies legendary Billy Graham, an ambassador for Christ who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God's grace.

Today, we honor him as only three private citizens before him have been so honored. And like the faithful of Charlotte once did, today we say a prayer for our country that all across this land the Lord will raise up men and women like Billy Graham to spread a message of love and hope to every precious child of God.

Thank you. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you very much.


HILL: President Trump and his remarks there. Speaking for about 6 minutes talking about the Reverend Billy Graham and when he was first introduced to him by his father, his father was a, quote, "big fan," talking about his message of love and hope that the president hopes will continue to be spread around the world. We'll be right back.