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Star-Studded Funeral for the Queen of Soul; Senator McCain Lies in State Today at U.S. Capitol; Trump Threatens FBI to "Do Your Job" or He'll Get Involved; Interview with Senator Ron Johnson; Thousands in Detroit Line Up to Pay Their Last Respects to Aretha Franklin; Gospel Group the Clark Sisters Pay Homage to Aretha Franklin. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:12] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, on this Friday, good morning, I'm Ana Cabrera in for Poppy Harlow.

Today from the halls of power in Washington to the house of faith in Detroit, Americans this morning are showing their love and sharing their grief for two American giants.

About two hours from now members of Congress will honor John McCain in the U.S. capitol rotunda where the senator, statesman and war hero will lie in state from early afternoon to early evening. McCain will then be laid to rest on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy after a memorial service tomorrow at the National Cathedral.

Now starting next hour in Detroit, a musical, prayerful, memory-filled celebration of the life of Aretha Franklin. And my colleague Fredricka Whitfield is there.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Ana, this is a service fit for a queen, indeed, from the pink Cadillacs, we saw the parade of pink Cadillacs coming in here on the streets to the A-list lineup on the stage of the Greater Grace Temple right behind me here.

Among the 19 scheduled performers, Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson. Speakers including former president Bill Clinton, Smokey Robinson and Jesse Jackson. So this event is set to last at least five hours long. But if you recall the Rosa Parks funeral that took place at this very church in Detroit years ago, that lasted upwards of seven to eight hours long.

An incredible lineup of speakers, of performers. There's no telling how long it will be but this will be a ceremony and a day filled with love and splendor and salute and respect to the one and only Aretha Franklin.

CABRERA: And it sounds like a show she would --

WHITFIELD: We got a few minutes.

CABRERA: It's a show she will approve, Fred. We'll be back to you there in just a few minutes. But first I want to go to Washington, CNN's Susan Malveaux is there at

the Capitol where John McCain's voice may be silenced but his impact, Suzanne, surely lives on.

What can we expect?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Ana. I mean, you talk to people here, there's a sense of loss but there's also a great sense of presence and power Senator John McCain being here, spending 35 years of his life committed to service here for his state of Arizona. It's going to start at 11:00. A private ceremony that will begin at that time. We expect to see his immediate family, his wife, of course, Cindy, his 106-year-old mother Roberta McCain will be here as well as his adult children.

Governors, senators, U.S. lawmakers, people from around the country will be here for this private ceremony. The Joint Chiefs as well as administration officials. It will be the Vice President Mike Pence who will deliver remarks on behalf of the administration, notably absent will be the president who was not invited. Also colleagues of the senator.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan to give their remembrances as well, and then of course, Ana, it will be open to the public about 1:00. That is when people will stream through and that will go until about 8:00 or so. If there's any indication of what happened in Arizona, the state capital there, 15,000 who viewed the casket, there are going to be a lot of people here today also paying tribute -- Ana.

CABRERA: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you.

From the Capitol now to the White House, President Trump's focus is returning to the Russia investigation. During a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg News he calls the Mueller probe illegal and in front of a raucous crowd in Indiana last night, he took another dig with this warning for the Justice Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's happening is a disgrace. And at some point -- I wanted to stay out. But at some point if it doesn't straighten out properly -- I want them to do their job -- I will get involved and I'll get in there if I have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Our Boris Sanchez is at the White House with more on the president's latest attacks -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Ana. Yes, President Trump voicing his ongoing frustration not only with the Department of Justice but also with the Russia investigation which he is now calling illegal. President Trump citing great scholars who have told him that the Russia investigation should never have been started. Further, he believes that the Department of Justice is not doing

enough to go after his political opponents like Hillary Clinton and those in the Department of Justice which he believes have been plotting against him like Peter Strzok, Bruce Ohr and others.

Despite more than a year of attacks on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, President Trump yesterday told Bloomberg News that Sessions' job would be safe at least until after the midterm elections. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[09:05:04] TRUMP: I just like to have Jeff Sessions do his job and if he did I'd be very happy but the job entails two sides, not one side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: President Trump also saying, quote, "I do question whether Jeff is doing." We'll see if the president ends up becoming more intimately involved in the inner workings of the Department of Justice.

One more note, Ana, as part of the Bloomberg interview, President Trump was asked if he missed an opportunity to unite the country over the death of Arizona Senator John McCain. The president saying that he did not believe so, though when he was asked if he believed that John McCain would have done a better job than the men who beat him back in 2008, Barack Obama as president, Trump refused to answer, Ana.

CABRERA: Boris Sanchez at the White House, thank you.

Joining us now is Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin. He's the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Johnson, thank you for joining us. And our condolences for the loss of your colleague. I know it's a somber day for everyone there in Washington so let's start our conversation talking about Senator McCain. He served as a senator for more than 30 years. He called it, quote, "the most important job I have had in my life."

What do you see as his defining mark on that governing body?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, good morning. You know, John obviously was a larger-than-life figure and if there is one word that I think really symbolizes John, in the end it was healing. And he was a feisty guy. You know, you could get in an argument with him pretty fast but then he was one of the first people to really stand up and say OK, let's figure out how we can come together and he's obviously associated with the phrase serving a cause greater than one's self but take a look at his history.

You know, being held in a cage in Vietnam and yet so many years later he almost single-handedly, you know, made that move to improve relationships, to establish diplomatic relationships with Vietnam. He healed the situation. And so I think, you know, yes, this is a very sad moment right now, it's a sad week but it can also be very uplifting.

If you really take a look at what John stood for, he revered this country, he was a patriot, he loved this nation, he realized how important American leadership was in the world, he promoted it tirelessly. I don't think people realize how hard John worked traveling around the world, how well he's respected not only here in the Senate but worldwide.

He was not only a national hero here in America, he was a national hero to so many people that were trapped in tyranny that were seeking freedom. For example, from the Soviet Union. I mean I had the pleasure of traveling with him four times over in the Eastern Europe and he was just a hero in places like Ukraine. And people could not get enough of him, they wanted to shake his hands, they wanted to get photos with him. They shouted out John McCain ceaselessly.

Again, just a larger-than-life figure. This is the time to reflect, to really celebrate a life really well lived?

CABRERA: There are so many reasons to admire this great man and yet the president for so long, nearly two full days, didn't thank him for his service which of course stirred a lot of controversy and then in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg President Trump defended his response to the death of Senator McCain saying he has done everything that they requested. He feels he did not miss a chance to unite the country.

So let me is ask you, did the president miss an opportunity here to unite the country with his handling of McCain's death?

JOHNSON: Well, again, what I want to concentrate on is John's life and what I would really refer all of your listeners to is read John's farewell address and listen to Lindsey Graham's extraordinary speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday. That's what I want to concentrate on.

CABRERA: As we remember your colleague then, let's remember his fight to uphold American values and American institutions as President Trump meantime continues his attacks on the Justice Department saying last night what's happening with the Department of Justice is a disgrace and he says he'll get involved if he has to.

What do you think he means by that, get involved?

JOHNSON: Well, again, if you want to change subjects and talk about what is happening with the FBI and the Department of Justice, I mean, that's a whole another segment. I'm highly concerned about what has been happening. And just the most recent interview by Bruce Ohr with the House should raise all kinds of questions. For my own part, Homeland Security, we are digging into the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal and the FBI's investigation of it.

There are some very serious concerns and one of the problems is it's been taking so long for Congress to get the information which means the American people don't know what happened. So listen, there are some very serious concerns there. We're going to keep working on it but, you know, one of my problems of having a special counsel appointed so early is once you start with active investigation, Congress and the people do not get information on exactly what happened.

[09:10:02] And listen, it's so important --

CABRERA: But --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Let me just stop you for just a second.

JOHNSON: It's so important for us to having a single system of justice.

CABRERA: Let me stop you for a second, though, because --

JOHNSON: We don't have that right now.

CABRERA: I hear what you're saying but are you OK with this president directing the DOJ in their investigations, essentially telling the DOJ to go after his political adversaries? I mean, is this supposed to happen in America?

JOHNSON: I think we really do need to find out exactly what was happening inside the Department of Justice. You know, why informants report to that campaign. I think those are legitimate questions American people need to have an answer to and as the information dribbles out, I for one become more and more concerned about this -- you know, two systems of justice, one for the well connected, the Clintons, Democrats, and one for everybody else.

It's shocking really in terms of the disparity. For example, Dianne Feinstein had a Chinese spy in her office and the FBI went directly and discreetly to her. Compare that to when the FBI handled it when they suspected potentially some in the Trump campaign. They didn't go to Trump. They didn't say here's the problem. Instead they set him up.

So no, there's some real questions about the disparate treatment in terms of the way the FBI handles these things.

CABRERA: Let me --

JOHNSON: And, you know, the people need to understand that.

CABRERA: Let me remind you.

JOHNSON: But again --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Let me remind you what the attorney general said last week as the president started this attack on the Justice Department and specifically pointed the finger at Jeff Sessions saying he wasn't doing the job that he was put in place to do. The attorney general responded with, "While I am attorney general the

actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

Do you disagree with that statement?

JOHNSON: No. Listen, I'm a Jeff Sessions fan. He's a man of integrity and I hate to see all these things -- you know, those divisions play out in public but again, what I really hate to see in a moment when we're trying to reflect and remember a great American, American hero, I mean, here we are distracted by this again.

So again let's just go back to John McCain. An American hero, very few people would have given up the opportunity to come home and that's exactly what John McCain did and he did serve a cause greater than himself tirelessly as a true patriot and that's really what we need to be concentrating on the next couple of days.

CABRERA: Senator Ron Johnson, I've got to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Have a good day.

CABRERA: Let me take you back now to the other big story, the big event happening right now.

Family, friends giving a final farewell to the Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin's star-studded funeral getting started in just minutes. Fans have already lined up. They've been there for hours outside the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. We will take you there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, HOST, NEWSROOM: Hi, welcome back, I'm Fredricka Whitfield outside the Greater Grace Temple Church here in Detroit, and right now you're looking inside -- people are streaming into the church where in just minutes, some of the biggest names in politics and entertainment will pay tribute to the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.

Just take a look at this lineup for the queen of soul's funeral service today. The speakers including former President Bill Clinton, Bishop T.D. Jakes, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Smokey Robinson. The list is long, you see right there, there will be musical tributes from Stevie Wonder as well, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson and several other musical celebrities that you see on the list there spanning so many different genres of music, R&B, Gospel, you name it, Pop.

This is video from just moments ago, Aretha Franklin's 24 carat gold- plated casket arriving at the church just moments ago as you see right there. Originally, this service was invitation only. But this morning, organizers revealed that around 2,000 fans, so many of whom came out at 4:00 in the morning, lining the street here, that they would indeed now be allowed inside.

And some of them have been lined up for so long they would have been so incredibly disappointed if they weren't allowed to go in. Even though, there is a jumbotron set up outside, but that would not suffice particularly to people here who really consider Aretha Franklin the heart of this city, Detroit.

Our Ryan Young has been talking to so many of those fans, he is out in the thick of it talking with folks there. And the crowd seemed to be growing and Ryan, you know, I just loved seeing this motorcade of pink Cadillacs that made their way in.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes --

WHITFIELD: People have been singing -- their apartments line the streets, some folks have been playing music, I mean, this has been a beautiful outpouring of love for the queen of soul.

YOUNG: This last week has been unbelievable especially for a city that has had some down times, and they love the fact that Aretha's never left them. You talk about all the people who've gathered here, there are people in this crowd right here who have been here since 5:00 yesterday when a rumor started about people getting in.

You can see police are finally starting to put barricades up because this has been a conversation. How many of these people are going to get in? This goes all the way down the street. One officer estimated more than 2,000 people here, so what's going to happen and who is going to get in?

But you see some of the people in their Sunday best, they are ready to go in for a Gospel service and of course, you've been to a service like this before, a home-going service where they can send someone they consider family in this city home in the right way.

So you understand they want to get in, it will be interesting how the emotions go in the next few hours, but everyone wants to see some of the stars that are here. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Young, we'll be checking back with you throughout the morning, an incredible event already under way here. So Aretha Franklin; she started her unparalleled career by singing as a child in her father's church and those Gospel roots really never left her, and she inspired and mentored so many other Gospel musicians.

[09:20:00] And that includes the famous Clark Sisters; Detroit born, and they're joining me right now. They were friends of Aretha.

You all talk about how much she inspired you -- I've got with me, Jacky, Karen, Dorinda and Twinkie. Tell me what this feels like, Jacky, to now be a part of the eulogizing, celebrating the life of Aretha Franklin on this home-going day.

JACKY CLARK CHISHOLM, GOSPEL MUSICIAN & FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: It's a big honor for us because she was a big sister to us, and so we are so proud of being able to be a part of her home-going. She was a -- she sang at our mother's home-going, and so to be able to do this today is just -- it surpasses anything that I could even imagine to be able to honor her this way today.

And she's going to truly be missed. She was an icon in this city. There were so many -- when you called Aretha Franklin's name, everybody wanted to go see where she was going to be and be there, and be a part of whatever she was doing. So to be a part of this today is just amazing and it's awesome and very humbling experience for us.

WHITFIELD: And Karen, there's so many ways in which this city has exhibited how much they love Aretha Franklin from the people who are coming out, you know, days ago to get their spot, you know, to see her body lie in repose to what Ryan described.

Folks who came out yesterday to get their spot here in the church, and then last night, it was beautiful to see downtown Detroit just washed in pink. And you know, the General Motors building had a big jumbotron and it spelled out r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

So everyone feels like Aretha Franklin was theirs in a way, Karen, and I see how moved all of you Clark sisters are to be here. But explain to me what is it about how people here in Detroit particularly really felt like they knew her even if they never had a chance to meet her.

KAREN CLARK SHEARD, GOSPEL MUSICIAN & FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: When I tell you, it's like today is like we're going to see auntie Aretha, mama Aretha.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right --

SHEARD: It was like she was so amazing to her city and she gave back. She used to give programs, she used to feed people. I mean, the neighborhood and it's like they're giving back to her saying, thank you today, and giving her the respect.

I believe she was prophetic when she said r-e-s-p-e-c-t, because this is what's happening today, and I believe that, you know, with us saying that we're here honoring her, she set a precedent and I think a great example for even artists coming up today and to see the city of Detroit, it's like the love here is just giving back to her saying, thank you, thank you for making the impact on each one of -- whether, it was her song, whether it was something that she said.

And then you know, whether her father started out. You know, the Reverend Franklin and just, you know, opening up and embracing everybody. That's what I loved about her is that she touched everybody; the poor, the needy, she reached out to everybody.

WHITFIELD: And Dorinda, you and the Clark sisters performed with Aretha Franklin at the Grammys --

DORINDA CLARK-COLE, GOSPEL MUSICIAN & FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: Yes --

WHITFIELD: Back in 2007, and you all are Grammy winners in your own right. Talk to me about what it is to perform with Aretha Franklin, you know, your auntie, your mom -- CLARK-COLE: Yes --

WHITFIELD: Your sister, I mean, the woman that you consider all things to you.

CLARK-COLE: You know, that particular time was very special with us, because that was the actual first time that we had performed with her. You know, we knew her all the time, but it was like, you know, she's performing before us, you know?

And then at that time, Miss Franklin was in the same category that we were in, and so when we won that day, she was like oh, you're all my girls, you know, we --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm proud of you all, OK --

CLARK-COLE: You know, you all take that, you know. So it was an honor just to be able to have that presence because she is an icon. She's an icon, she's a Gospel icon, she's an R&B icon, she's a classical icon --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Icon --

CLARK-COLE: She's -- you name it --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, genres of music --

CLARK-COLE: Yes, she's crossed all barriers, and so today, to see this on seven mile and right here in Detroit and to know like Karen said, she gave back to the community yesterday, her body was lying in state there at her father's church was the last time that the people there on that street could actually see that.

And it was just amazing to see the love that is shown here and what she's leaving a message and that is let's definitely respect each other.

[09:25:00] WHITFIELD: You know, and Twinkie, I went to her neighborhood yesterday, I went to see her home on La Salle where she grew up and saw the long lines of people --

ELBERNITA TWINKIE CLARK-TERRELL, GOSPEL MUSICIAN & FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: Yes --

WHITFIELD: Just down the street, you know, to see her and honor her and playing music and selling T-shirts. So Twinkie, how did Aretha Franklin, you know, make the biggest impact for you in music and in what?

CLARK-TERRELL: To me, Aretha was a great legend and she had so many gifts. She could sing, play, write and perform with other artists, and I admire her for that. Two times she asked me to come and be on program at her revival at her father's church and four times she asked Karen and one time, Dorinda.

And I just think that was such an honor for her to take out the time to ask us to come and participate on the program. And to me, almost every artist that is doing very well have patterned themselves after her. They do her runs, her real -- that kind of stuff we get from her, and she just -- such a -- such a great legend.

WHITFIELD: Yes, leaving such an incredible imprint.

CLARK-TERRELL: Yes --

WHITFIELD: Jackie, I think you all will be performing today, what will you be singing and what do you suppose that's going to feel like?

CHISHOLM: "Is My Living in Vain", which is one of the songs that she loved, so we're honored to be able to sing something that we've done to salute her. And it's going to be a grand occasion for us as well.

WHITFIELD: Beautiful salute. Clark Sisters, thank you so much, what a great honor to talk to all of you, and of course, all of our hearts are heavy. Thank you. All right, we'll be right back from Detroit after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)