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President Trump on Civil War; Trump Targeting First Amendment?; Trump Praises North Korean Leader. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 1, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's hard to talk about Andrew Jackson without mentioning he was a slave owner. It's hard to talk about Jackson as if he didn't brutalize Native Americans.


SELLERS: Look, we can have this conversation and go round and round and round. We can have this conversation and go round and round and round.

But what the Trump administration cannot do and we cannot allow them to do is continue to pervert facts, which is what this was again.


BEN FERGUSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And the facts here -- and if you actually listen to a historian, he actually explained how it wasn't only or solely about one issue, which you seem to be absolutely obsessed with trying to connect to the president, which is the issue of race and/or racism.

At some point, if we actually want as a country to move forward, we have to look at the entire context of some of these comments and look at the historical comments of it, because it is sometimes different than what you want it to be, which is, oh, I can now go back out on national TV and imply that Donald Trump is a racist because he likes a former president. It gets old.


SELLERS: That's not what I said, Ben.


BROWN: OK, thank you so much, gentlemen. Ben, Bakari, Howard, you all had plenty of time to get your opinions, your voices heard during this segment. Thank you so much. Appreciate you coming on.


SELLERS: Thank you.

BROWN: And top of the hour now. Great to have you with us on this Monday. I'm Pamela Brown.

And just minutes ago, the White House went on the defense, explaining why President Trump said this to Bloomberg Politics about the possibility of meeting with North Korea's brutal dictator, Kim Jong- un.

The president said -- quote -- "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely. I would be honored to do it, if it's under -- again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that. Most political people would never say that, but I'm telling you, under the right circumstances, I would meet with him. We have breaking news."

That was coming from him, not us.

Here's what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said moments ago.


QUESTION: The president didn't just say that he would be open to meeting with Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances. He said he would be honored to meet with him.

This is somebody who has starved his own people, somebody that has threatened to destroy the United States. Just last week, he put out a video showing the Capitol getting destroyed by North Korean fighters. How could he be honored to meet with Kim Jong-un?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the president understands the threat that North Korea poses. And he will do whatever is necessary under the right circumstances to protect our country from the threat that they pose. So...

QUESTION: How could that be an honor?

SPICER: Jon, I guess because he's still a head of state.

So, it is sort of -- there's a diplomatic piece to this. But the bottom line is, the president is going to do what he has to do. And right now, he's building a coalition in the region to isolate North Korea both economically and diplomatically to get the threat -- to take that threat down.

QUESTION: What did he mean when he called him one smart cookie or a pretty smart cookie?

SPICER: Well, I think his point was -- he went over this in the interview, that he assumed power at a young age, when his father passed away.

And there a lot of potential threats that could have come his way. And he's obviously managed to lead a country forward, despite the obvious concerns that we and so many other people have. The president -- he is a young person to be leading a country with nuclear weapons.

And so, that set aside, I think the president recognizes the threat that he poses and is doing everything he can to isolate that threat and to make sure that we bring stability to the region.


BROWN: All right, lots to discuss.

With me now, CNN military analyst retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, CNN political director David Chalian, and Margaret Talev, White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, who just interviewed President Trump.

Margaret, starting with you, when President Trump said that he was -- quote -- "honored," how did you perceive that at the moment he said it?

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Pamela, this is perhaps just another example of President Trump speaking in terms that people who have been in government for a long time and, in fact, most presidents would sort of shy away from.

What did it actually mean? What was he actually hoping to accomplish? If you listen to Sean Spicer sort of walk back or contextualizing of this in the briefing, it certainly seemed that the president was trying to offer to Kim Jong-un the possibility of sort of a carrot if he changed his behavior.

But the language he used with us was really different. He gave us the impression that this is something that he had been contemplating in the context of his ability personally to have personal relationships that shift the dynamic.

He's meeting with a boss on Wednesday. He's invited Mr. Duterte from the Philippines, despite a lot of controversy over extrajudicial killings. I asked him specifically, under what circumstances and is that time now?

And rather than just point-blank say, no, it's absolutely not now, he would have to satisfy a number of conditions, he talked instead about the idea that, if it were appropriate, if the time were right, absolutely, he would.

BROWN: I'm going to bring in Rear Admiral here John Kirby, because when he was asked about the word honored, why would he be honored to talk with him, Sean Spicer sort of dodged the question, then said, look, it would be -- there's a diplomatic piece to this.


What would the diplomatic piece to this be? Would it be that he's trying to sort of appeal to Kim Jong-un and speak directly to him to try to butter him up? What would it be?


It could be, or maybe he's sending a message to President Xi of China as well that he needs to be aggressive in terms of what they are trying to get done with policy. I don't know. I frankly don't think that there was a lot of craft put into this. I think he just said it. And I don't think he even could explain why he said it.

But it was an inappropriate use of the word honored. This is a man who has starved his own people. He is a man who is racing towards nuclear weaponry to challenge the existence of not only South Korea, but our allies and partners in the region and perhaps even the Western coast of the United States. So using a word like honor is completely inappropriate in that regard.


BROWN: Go ahead.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And we don't have diplomatic -- there is no current diplomatic piece actually, right?

BROWN: Right. As far as I know, there's not communications happening between U.S. aides and aides in North Korea.

KIRBY: No, there are not.

BROWN: Am I mistaken to say that?

And so -- but what do you make of this, David Chalian, of this visit as well -- or this invitation, I should say, for a visit to the president of the Philippines, Duterte, who does not have a good human rights record, to say the very least? He's killed thousands of people.

In fact, let's actually listen to what Sean Spicer said about that. And then I'm going to get your reaction on the other end. Let's take a listen.


QUESTION: Did the president know about those comments and about his record of human rights abuses when he extended the invitation for him to visit the White House?

SPICER: The president gets fully briefed on the leaders that he's speaking to, obviously, but the number one concern of this president is to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our people, and specifically to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea.

And I think, when you look at what he's doing in terms of building that coalition of countries in that region to do it, I think this is hopefully going to have -- well, he knows -- I'm not going to tell you everything that's in his brief, but he's well aware of -- when he speaks with a leader, he gets briefed on a lot about their -- what they are doing, what they have done. That's all part of the brief.


BROWN: Your reaction, David?

CHALIAN: Well, this just seems to be of a piece.

Add in Egypt. Add in his meetings with the Chinese leader, President Xi. This president, President Trump, has clearly chosen not to publicly make human rights a key part of his agenda, something that believes is sort of an entrance fee, if you will, to meet with some leaders where the U.S. does have stated concerns about human rights abuses or human rights practices.

And President Trump clearly doesn't make that sort of a public -- now, again, he may say things in private, but as part of the public groundwork to meet with these leaders.

BROWN: So, what do you make of the fact, Rear Admiral Kirby, that this apparently seemingly was off the cuff?

Because we're hearing from our sources to CNN that this was unexpected. This was not planned. What do you make of that?


I'm not surprise if that's actually the case. I mean, I think it goes back to the use of the word honored. I think he's just spitballing. But in this case, he needs to understand the ramifications of such an invitation.

Duterte can make a corkscrew look straight. I'm this guy has got real problems. And the way he's handling his country and those problems are and should be a real concern for us. And so to invite them to the White House is basically to reward him for this kind of behavior. And it's completely unacceptable and inappropriate.

And back to the -- to your point on human rights, I totally agree. Sometimes, those do need to be articulated verbally and clearly for the rest of the world to see, because sometimes our national security interest in the United States are best protected when we're protecting the rights of others to live free. It's who we are.

And matching national security with our values, that's where you're the strongest when you're developing policy.

BROWN: All right, I want to turn back to Margaret to talk a little bit more about this interview and something else that President Trump told you.

He took credit for jobs added during the first quarter. But he blamed President Obama for the disappointing GDP during his first quarter. It seems like he was trying to have it both ways, sort of taking credit for the good things and blaming the Obama administration for the bad things in the first quarter, Margaret.

TALEV: Well, yes, he said it isn't my quarter.

And I think, in fairness to the president, if you talk to most economists, they would say that those -- first-quarter GDP is sort of a carryover from trends that were happening already before President Trump was in office.

But I think the thing to watch for on this GDP question is that President Trump has said GDP could be 4 percent, 5 percent. Obviously, the first-quarter numbers are very far from that.

How do you turn lemons into lemonade? We are beginning to see it now. We will see him say that this is the reason for his tax cut programs for corporations and for the wealthy, that this is an opportunity on infrastructure, that all these various plans of his are going to raise that GDP.

Therefore, if the plans don't go anywhere in Congress and GDP doesn't go up, he can say, see, didn't pass my plans. And the flip side, and what I think he hopes, is that that will be leverage to help get some of these initiatives over the line.


But you're absolutely right to point out he's very quick to say, hey, that doesn't really count.

BROWN: Right.

What do you make of that, David Chalian? What's your reaction?

CHALIAN: Classic Trump, I feel like, is what I make of that.

Listen, any -- every president would want to take the fact and figures that fit their narrative to support it. But you can't hold those two ideas for the same time period, that one piece of the economic problem is President Obamas' fault, but this piece of the economic success at the same time is President Trump's success.

Those -- you can't hold them in concert at the same time.

BROWN: Margaret, what else, just as we wrap this up? What else sort of stood out in your interview with President Trump? Any other headlines you want to discuss?

TALEV: I'm going to put this under the general theme of, he's thinking about a lot of things.

He's thinking about talking to the leader of North Korea if and when the time is appropriate. He's thinking about a gas tax if and when it makes sense because some folks in trucking or business want it.

And he's thinking about breaking up the big banks. But we don't exactly know precisely what that means yet. So, he's not afraid. And some of his advisers probably wish he were a little more cautious about getting out in front of things really before they are baked or tested, even if they move the markets, even they create a reaction on Wall Street or in the business or national security community, in order to sort of make his point and sort of see what happens.

That really did stand out to me today.

BROWN: All right, Margaret Talev, Admiral Kirby, David Chalian, thank you to the three of you. We appreciate it.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

BROWN: And breaking news this hour, a new casualty in the scandal that has plagued FOX News. The co-president of FOX, Bill Shine, is out as of today.

I want to go to CNN senior media and politics reporter Dylan Byers.

So, what happened, Dylan?


Bill Shine has become the latest casualty in this ongoing scandal centered around sexual harassment allegations first against former chief Roger Ailes, then against Bill O'Reilly.

The charge against Bill Shine was not that he was guilty of sexual harassment, but rather that he enabled Roger Ailes' sexual harassment by helping him to sort of cover up or at least allegedly cover up many of these incidents.

Shine was an integral figure at FOX News. He was with the network since its inception in 1996. He was seen as the right-hand man to Roger Ailes, intimately involved in so many of the business doings there, had a better relationship and better knowledge of talent and of how that network worked than anyone.

But for 21st Century Fox, the parent company of FOX News, they have other considerations at play, including a bid to take over Sky, the British broadcaster. They don't want all of these problems at FOX News getting in the way.

So, the announcement today, Bill Shine out as co-president, it came and it came very fast. Top staffers at the network weren't even aware of it until Rupert Murdoch sent out a memo to staff just a few minutes ago.

BROWN: And this comes as Murdoch is once again promoting more FOX News long-timers under Roger Ailes. Is that right?

BYERS: Well, that's right.

There is no indication here that, just because Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and now Bill Shine are out of the network, that it intends to change anything about its sort of editorial stance, its conservative right-wing view of the news.

That will continue to be the case. You still have Tucker Carlson at 8:00. You have co-hosts of "The Five" at 9:00. And you have of course Sean Hannity at 10:00.

Now, speaking of Sean Hannity, he was someone who had just tweeted last week that Bill Shine was integral to the network, that his departure would mean the end of FOX News. He tweeted, "I stand with Shine," even accused someone high up at the network of a campaign to try and get Shine fired.

We reached out to Hannity today. Hannity has now become probably the most valuable anchor at that network. He declined to comment on Shine's departure.

BROWN: All right, Dylan Byers, thank you so much for that breaking news.

BYERS: Thank you.

BROWN: And coming up on this Monday, as we mentioned, President Trump says he would be -- quote -- "honored" to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if the circumstances are right. We're going to get reaction from the family of an American currently being held in prison in North Korea, their take on what would be a dramatic shift in U.S. policy.

Also, President Trump is considering how to make it easier to sue the media by changing libel laws. Is that even possible?

Back in just a moment. Stay with us.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROWN: And we have some breaking news at this hour, reports of a stabbing on the campus at University of Texas, Austin.

I want to go to Polo Sandoval to learn more about this.

What can you tell us?


This is what we're being told by Austin police, some of the numbers here involved. At least three people have been taken to the hospital after a stabbing in the heart of U.T.'s campus there in Austin. At least one person has been confirmed dead. And, also, one arrest has been made. This is information that came into the newsroom just a few moments ago.

But what I can tell you, again, at least three people have been taken to the hospital, one person confirmed killed and one stabbing, at least one suspect in custody right now.

When you look at the map, you can see that it's really in the heart of the city -- in the heart of the campus that is in downtown. It's a large campus, about 50,000 students there, and several staff members as well.

So, as you can imagine, this -- the focus here right now is for people to simply avoid that area as this investigation continues. Here's what we don't know, a motive involved in this. This is

obviously going to be key in also what comes next in this investigation, but, again, at least one person confirmed dead after an on-campus stabbing there at U.T. in Austin -- Pam.

BROWN: Just terrible to hear. Of course, I know you will continue to monitor the situation there and keep us updated.

Meantime, more of President Trump's comments raising eyebrows, these involving the Civil War. President Trump made the comment during an interview set to air on SiriusXM Politics this afternoon.

But Trump has been suggesting that former President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the war, could have prevented the conflict between the North and South. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart.


And he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, there's reason for this. People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?


TRUMP: People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?


BROWN: All right, let's talk about this.

Andre Bauer, CNN political commentator and former Republican lieutenant governor of South Carolina, joins us, and Marc Lamont Hill, CNN political commentator and professor at Morehouse College.

Andrew, first to you.

Why is President Trump questioning the Civil War? Where did this come from?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know that he in fact even questioned the Civil War. He referenced an individual who had referenced the Civil War, but I didn't see in the interview where he actually referenced the Civil War.

But I think just he admires Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson was a man with courage to take on the majority. He wanted to help the small people. He actually is the only president I think in history to ever pay off the national debt. And he sought to advance the rights of the common people. And I think President Trump in fact finds a lot of that in himself that he wasn't really a politician. In fact, he was someone vastly different than that.

BROWN: Your response, Marc?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, he was certainly a -- not a politician. He was certainly a populist and certainly engaged in forms of political action that lowered the national debt.

But he also was a slave owner, an unapologetic slave owner. To say that he was this great with a warm heart who could have stopped the Civil War seems to me to be bizarre and ahistorical.

The reason the Civil War happened was because the Southern expansion of slavery, the South's recalcitrance around the issue of slavery. The South wanted to keep slavery as America's original sin and original institution.

So, the fact that Andrew Jackson not only supported it politically, but had slaves himself, would suggest to me that that is not true. And then there's the equally bizarre claim that no one is asking the question why did civil rights happen -- why did the Civil War happen? That's what Donald Trump says. No one is asking that question.

There are literally thousands of books in American history, there are thousands of books in universities written by scholars and everyday people about why the Civil War happened. It may be the most answered question in the history of American questions. So, I'm not -- I have no idea what President Trump is talking about.

BROWN: Andre?

BAUER: It's just discouraging. To the victors goes the spoils.

And so history has tried to beat this thing as only a slavery issue. But sitting right here in downtown Charleston, it was more than that, much more than that. When you talk about economics, disproportionately, the South was paying most of the taxes.

But here's a quick fact. At the beginning of the war, Robert E. Lee freed his slaves. You know what General Grant did? He kept them to the very end. And his quote was, good help is so hard to come by these days. That's why he kept them.

So there's a little bit of not fair on history, when the most popular Southern general got rid of his slaves who were inherited, by the way. He didn't purchase his slaves. But Grant kept his until the very end.

And when you look at the Emancipation Proclamation, they freed the slaves in the South, but they didn't free the slaves in the North. And some of those states even after the 13th Amendment to the Constitution still kept slaves almost to the turn of the century, going against the United States Constitution.

HILL: So, there are so many things wrong with those claims, but I want to stay focused on the topic, which is Donald Trump's claim that Andrew Jackson would have stopped the Civil War. Again, Andrew Jackson did own slaves. Andrew Jackson didn't inherit

just slaves. So, again, there's no evidence that he would have stopped it. There's no evidence that he had any investment in stopping the expansion of slavery.

And, yes, there are many issue that led to the Civil War. But the primary one was the fact that the South was still -- and America itself was built on the unpaid, exploited labor of African people. That's what we're talking about here.

And Donald Trump's lack of knowledge about it, lack of nuance about it, and really lack of care when talking about such a painful issue is really stunning to me and disappointing. It's not disappointing, because I don't expect much from him, but it's still stunning.

BAUER: Actually, Jackson wanted to keep the Union together. He wanted to do everything he could to not have the Union break up. He believed in a more federal system. I'm actually more for states' rights.

But he was actually more about the federal system protecting the little people. And so he actually may very well have been able to broker a deal. We know slavery in its true form was actually reducing in size each year anyway.

BROWN: All right, really quickly.


BROWN: OK, go ahead, quickly, and then I'm going to switch gears.


HILL: Just again, it's just not true.

One, the South was actively trying to expand slavery at the moment of the Civil War, so that's actually not true. And then there's this other question again about Andrew Jackson.

Yes, he wanted to keep the federal government together, but on his terms. He didn't want to end slavery. The whole point is that the Civil War was a fight to end slavery.

Yes, people wanted to keep the Union together. Lincoln wanted to keep the Union together. And I'm not suggesting that these Northerners had an investment in African people and that they wanted to end slavery just for its own sake.

I'm saying, though, that, ultimately, this was a decision made to save the Union and slavery was the key issue here. We can't pretend that it's not.


But I know we got to move on.


BAUER: The easiest question would be, why didn't Lincoln free the slaves in the North?


BROWN: All right, quickly, let me just switch gears, because I do want to fit this question in, first to you, Marc.

Your reaction to the Trump administration killing Michelle Obama Let Girls Learn program, her signature initiative facilitating educational opportunities for adolescent girls in developing countries? What do you make of that?

HILL: They have been cutting anything that's symbolically or materially tied to the Obama administration. We saw the school lunch crisis, where you see that cut, where the access to healthy options in food menus in public schools. We see this when it comes to women's rights abroad.

This is, again, disappointing. And it's always framed as trying to stop federal overreach or trying to stop excess spending, but really this is an attack on the vulnerable that we have seen from the Trump administration since day one.

BROWN: What do you think, Andre? Is this an attack on the vulnerable?

BAUER: These is an attempt to be more judicious in how we spend our federal tax dollars.

A lot of these things, these aren't in the Constitution. Look, I'm a guy that doesn't believe the government ought to be taking care of every single problem in every single part of the world.

I think that those rely more on faith-based groups, communities, churches, families, neighborhoods. And, again, the federal government keeps taking these dollars and then bureaucrats allocate them out to what they think best.

And this is a chance to stop overreaching government and say, hey, look, some of these are better dictated by each community and how they spend them. And, look, I was in local government. I was in the House and Senate. We fund a lot of those programs.

Let us keep our own federal tax dollars. Don't send them to Washington. And let the states decide how to best spend that money and then -- instead of a bunch of bureaucrat who really don't know. There's a big difference how it affects people in Alaska vs. Florida. And so a lot of these programs aren't as effective as they could be at the local level.


BROWN: All right, clearly, two different perspectives. Very interesting discussion. We have to wrap it up there. But, Marc Lamont Hill, Andre Bauer, thank to you both. We do

appreciate it.

BAUER: Thank you.

HILL: Appreciate it.

BROWN: And up next, outrage from lawmakers on both sides after President Trump's chief of staff says they have looked at ways to change the libel laws, which are considered key to a free press.

We will discuss.