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Reverend Bill Graham to Lie in Honor at U.S. Capitol; Jared Kushner Loses Top Secret Security Clearance; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 28, 2018 - 10:30   ET



[10:34:16] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You're looking at live pictures from outside the U.S. capitol right now. The president's motorcade will be arriving very, very shortly.

The leaders, the assembled leaders of the United States right now gathered in the Capitol rotunda to honor the late Reverend Billy Graham who will lie in honor in the rotunda which is an honor that is really provided, very few nongovernmental, nonmilitary figures but the Reverend Billy Graham obviously with impact on so many people, so many lives. This is an honor that the leaders of Congress and the leaders of this nation thought was proper.

Our Boris Sanchez standing outside as we watch the president arrive here.

Boris, what are you seeing?

[10:35:01] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John. Yes, the president's motorcade is now arriving here at the U.S. Capitol to honor the man known as America's pastor. Billy Graham passing away last week at his home in North Carolina at 99. He was someone who was known not only for sharing his faith with millions of Americans but also being influential in politics.

Billy Graham served in some capacity as an adviser to presidents for many decades. He was known to have prayed with presidents dating back to Harry Truman all the way to Barack Obama. He becomes only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor here at the Capitol. He joins Rosa Parks and two Capitol Hill law enforcement officers that were killed here during a shooting back in 1998.

Of course the president is going to be joined by some of his colleagues including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Also on hand, Vice President Mike Pence who called Billy Graham one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century. It will be interesting to see just how the president commemorates this moment. Again, a historical figure by any standard, certainly one that has had a profound influence on the way that we view religion and politics over the last 50 years or so -- John.

BERMAN: You know, it's so interesting, the Reverend Bill Graham had met with every U.S. president since Harry Truman and as you say, Boris, had a profound impact on many of them. George W. Bush said it was one of the reasons that he stopped drinking. Richard Nixon, a close personal friend. And Donald Trump has said that Billy Graham was key to his own discovery of his own faith.

We're going to keep an eye on this throughout the next several minutes as leaders arrive for the ceremony. In the meantime, I want to discuss some of the other major breaking news, Jared Kushner, having his security clearance -- his security level downgraded.

Joining me now to discuss this, Norm Eisen, former ambassador and ethics czar, he's a CNN contributor.

Thanks so much for being with us, Ambassador. I appreciate it. You say that Jared Kushner should have lost this clearance long ago. Explain.

NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: John, thanks for having me back. Mr. Kushner has exhibited all of the indicators that when I was working in the White House would have led not only to losing your security clearance but losing your job. He omitted critical information from his financial disclosure forms. He left out, and we're talking about dozens of examples, meetings with foreign individuals on his FBI security clearance forms.

He conducted his own private meetings against the advice of those in the National Security establishment with figures from foreign powers. He has enormous and growing debts that make him a potential target for influence, and now we learned that foreign governments did try to influence him.

So these are all the red flags. If he weren't the president's son-in- law, he would have been gone long ago, even in this administration, certainly in any prior one of either party.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, the "Washington Post" reports is these countries talked about the fact that they might be able to play him because of the various circumstances there. The "Post" also reports that the National Security Council was unaware of some of these meetings that he held with foreign countries.

Is it clear whether he held the meetings against the advice of the National Security Council and, you know, Abby Lowell, Jared Kushner's attorney, would say at this point they complied with all the requests, they've gone above and beyond, and the fact that it took so long is because Jared Kushner's financial dealings are so complicated, he's a private citizen, he was a businessman, it's unusual, et cetera, et cetera?

The question for you, and again not only have you worked in ethics inside the White House, you've also worked as a U.S. ambassador. You know, can he fulfill his duties without the top level security clearance?

EISEN: John, there's a debate going on about whether or not Mr. Kushner can do so and some people that I respect think he can. I am not buying it. I know how essential it is to conducting diplomacy, to have that highest level of clearance. I enjoyed it. When I served our country abroad for almost four years, I couldn't have done my job day-to-day without it.

Here's a man who's charged with some of the most sensitive relationships and negotiations we have, Middle East peace, Israelis and the Palestinians, broader issues in the Middle East. How on earth -- if he's not fully informed, how can he represent the United States in those conversations?

BERMAN: Ambassador, I have time for just one more question here. Very quickly, one of the things inside the "Washington Post" story was that that the perception within the National Security community, they were so concerned about the possibility again that foreign countries might be able to play Jared Kushner, that it came up in the National Security adviser's H.R. McMaster's daily intelligence briefing.

[10:40:06] What does that tell you?

EISEN: It tells me that this is a major risk for the White House and for the national security of the United States, that even with the lowered security clearance, there's still a grave danger to having Jared Kushner there. He should be gone yesterday, John. Tomorrow is not soon enough.

BERMAN: Ambassador Norm Eisen, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

EISEN: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: We want to take you back to Capitol Hill right now. We do have live pictures. This will be a service for the late Reverend Billy Graham. This is inside the Capitol rotunda. You can see Democrats and Republicans side by side with each other, bipartisan really outpouring of honor and emotion today to honor the man known as America's pastor.

The president will be speaking very shortly. We'll bring this all to you live. Stay with us.


BERMAN: All right. Looking at live pictures. That is inside the Capitol rotunda where very, very shortly a ceremony service will begin honoring the late Reverend Billy Graham. He will lie in honor inside the Capitol rotunda. Only the fourth private citizen ever to do so. We are going to watch this throughout the morning because it is a wonderful vision.

The outpouring of emotion, I think. The outpouring of love I think for this man. You're looking at the former governor of Texas, the current Energy Secretary Rick Perry, right there, for instance, and there are plenty of Democrats in there as well.

Joining me this morning CNN's Boris Sanchez who is covering this. Also with me, Randall Balmer, our CNN contributor, chairman of the Department of Religion in Dartmouth, and Reverend Doctor Susan Johnson Cook, a former U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom and former faith adviser to President Clinton and President Obama. Boris, just very quickly, give me the tick-tock here of what we're

going to see.

SANCHEZ: Hey there, John. Yes. From what we understand there's going to be a few remarks given by a pastor who will mark the life of Reverend Billy Graham. Then we will hear from President Trump. There will be a few ceremonious moments and then his body will lie in honor here for the rest of the day until tomorrow when he heads back to his home in North Carolina.

[10:45:04] Obviously this is a profound moment for so many, not just Christians but people of all religions as was noted by President Trump. He as you mentioned earlier said that the reverend played a big role in his decision to relook at his faith. President Trump historically not known as a very religious man but he clearly has rediscovered his faith in recent years.

The president will be joined by other Republican leaders including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Yesterday they spoke with reporters and said that this was an easy decision for them to make to commemorate the life of Billy Graham this way.

Beyond that, John, we should note this is not without some controversy. There was at least one group yesterday that put out a statement saying that this was inappropriate. They cited some of the controversies in Billy Graham's life. Obviously he was no stranger to controversy because of his positions.

We should note, though, that as far as today there are no protesters on hand, no distractions.

BERMAN: Right.

SANCHEZ: Or any sort of involvement by any of those groups here at the Capitol. It will be a somber day, one of respect and remembrance -- John.

BERMAN: Boris, stand by for a moment.

Ambassador Cook, to you, you know, it is a vision here. It's a very rare thing when you see Republicans and Democrats gathered in the Capitol because they both want to be there together at the same time. What does that tell you about Billy Graham?

DR. SUSAN JOHNSON COOK, FORMER AMBASSADOR FOR INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Well, it's not a political matter. I think, you know, the words respect and remembrance are so important. It's not a political matter, he impacted everyone's lives. And you know, talking about one's faith and so together we're Americans and he was an American pastor. And so I think that we give respect, we give honor.

And he did his first crusade in the year I was born. So I literally grew up with Billy graham. My mother was a North Carolinian, so you could not get in and out of North Carolina without knowing about evangelist Billy Graham. So he's had an impact and it's so important that he's here today. BERMAN: And when the remains, you know, the casket carrying Billy

Graham, when it is walked in to the Capitol rotunda it will be the North Carolina delegation that leads it, you know, his home state playing a big role in this.

You know, Professor Balmer, to you, again just the fourth private citizen ever to lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda and that too tells you something about Billy Graham.

RANDALL BALMER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: By any measure he was an important and influential person on American life. And so in that sense he certainly deserves that honor.

BERMAN: And again, we've noted, you know, he met every president since Harry Truman. George W. Bush credits a walk with the Reverend Billy Graham in Maine for helping him stop drinking over time. So he's had not just sort of a -- you know, a political impact but also a very direct personal impact on some of our nation's leaders, Professor.

BALMER: He has. Some more than others. He arranged a meeting with Harry Truman in the White House and Harry Truman was not terribly impressed with this flamboyant young evangelist. But beginning with the Eisenhower administration, Graham managed to insinuate himself into the Eisenhower administration. He even offered to do diplomatic missions in the course of his travels around the world.

He had a less close relationship with John Kennedy for a number of reasons, including Kennedy's Catholicism.

BERMAN: Right.

BALMER: But through the years he has established at least some relationship with every American president through Barack Obama.

BERMAN: And again, we just saw the hearse arrive. Here is a busy. I can only imagine that is carrying some of the family members, perhaps some of the North Carolina delegation, people who were close to the Reverend Billy Graham who will be part of this ceremony.

We do expect to hear from the leaders of Congress. We also do expect to hear from the president of the United States on this day.

COOK: Except for Barry Black also, who's the chaplain for the United States Senate which will be also important.

BERMAN: Why do you think he did have such a direct impact, Reverend, on political figures in this country?

COOK: Well, you know, I mean, first of all it's an honor. I was a faith adviser to two presidents and so you can advise in too many ways. You can advise them on issues or you can actually be their pastor and be invited in the Oval Office. And so for him to have that impact across the lines, Democrats and Republicans, is major.

But I think the reason he had such an impact was because he hit it with the media. The media had a major impact. He was really the first televangelist. He was the first one when Hearst zoomed in on him in the '60s and said this is the one we're going to make America's pastor, media makes a difference. So he was a man with a message but he certainly had the media on his side. And I think that that makes a big difference.

BERMAN: All right. Guys, stand by, we're going to take a quick break.

[10:50:00] When we come back, the country honors the late Reverend Billy Graham.


BERMAN: All right. Live pictures from Capitol Hill, you can see there a hearse carrying the remains of the late Reverend Billy Graham outside the Capitol. Inside the Capitol rotunda you can see a ceremony where the late Reverend Graham will lie in honor, just the fourth private citizen ever to receive that honor.

A bipartisan gathering inside for what will be a very special ceremony. We will hear from leaders of Congress. Also the president of the United States.

Our Boris Sanchez standing by outside as this ceremony is about to begin -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: That's right, John. You noted just how rare this is. It really is a special accolade and one fitting of someone of the caliber of Reverend Billy Graham, the legacy that he's left behind. Not only impacting so many people through his faith but also really elevating his faith to play a role in politics and carrying influence with presidents dating back to Harry Truman.

[10:55:07] It has been said that he's been active -- that he's played an active role throughout many presidencies, not only as an adviser but also as a person that has brought spiritual counsel to presidents like George W. Bush and even to the current president, Donald Trump, who called Billy Graham a great man and said that he would be missed not only by Christians but by people of all faiths.

Of course, President Trump expected to speak during this ceremony. He'll be joined by Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and congressmen from both parties. This ceremony will be closed to the public, of course the only people attending are congressmen, the president and vice president and Billy Graham's family.

Afterward at around 1:00 p.m., it will be open to the public. There's already a large crowd gathered outside the Capitol to pay their respects to Billy Graham. Again, a towering figure in not only American spiritual life but also in politics -- John.

BERMAN: You know, Professor Balmer, to you, born, though, to a simple life in North Carolina. Did he ever reflect on his overall impact on American society? BALMER: He did. He often said that when he got to heaven he would

ask God, why me, why is it that I was chosen to be such an important and influential figure? And when I interviewed him in the early 1990s for a documentary, I asked him about how he thought he would be remembered 50 years after his death. And first he adopted the kind of Carolina, oh shocks attitude, well, I'm not sure anybody is going to remember me. And then he said well, maybe if they see documentaries like this they might remember me.

And he finally finished up by saying that he wanted to be remembered as someone who was faithful to God and who preached the gospel. And I think -- I think by any reasonable assessment, that's true.

BERMAN: And that is quite a legacy in and of itself.

All right, Professor Balmer, Ambassador Cook, Boris, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, the ceremony in honor of the Reverend Billy Graham.