Return to Transcripts main page
Violent Clashes Erupt At White Supremacist Rally; VA Governor Declares State Of Emergency Amid Violent Protest;; First Lady On VA Clashes: 'No Good Comes From Violence'. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired August 12, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We start with this breaking news out of Charlottesville, Virginia, where clashes have erupted between white supremacists and protestors over the proposed removal of a confederate statue.
We've seen several people injured. We must warn you the outbursts have been violent as well as vulgar.
Charlottesville police have declared a local emergency and the city has declared the gathering an unlawful assembly. Police have been telling people to leave with somewhat success, but we have seen fights break out as people were there.
We want to turn now to Representative Marsha Blackburn who is joining us. Marsha, I just want to get your initial response to what you are seeing here.
REP. MARSH BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: I think like everybody else, you realized that this kind of disruption has no place in a civil society. And I know law enforcement official of officials and the first responders there in Charlottesville are on the ground and doing their best to contain this and to disperse people.
SANCHEZ: Marsha, I do want to ask you about some of the coordinated groups that are out there. It appears that several people are clearly prepared for a fight. It did not appear that they were there for a peaceful protest. What do you have to say to those groups?
BLACKBURN: I think that this has no place in a civil society. You know, it doesn't matter if protesting comes of this nature that turns violent if it comes from the right or the left. It is something that just has no place.
And my hopes and thoughts and prayers will be with those local officials that are trying to contain this because the city made a decision. They have the right to make the decision and they have the right to move forward.
SANCHEZ: Now Marsh, we saw a march, a white nationalist march last night with Tiki torches, more than a thousand law enforcement and first responders were put in place to respond to this. We knew something was coming, but we haven't heard from the president on this. Do you think it's time that he put out a tweet or some kind of statement condemning this violence?
BLACKBURN: Yes. You know, I have not talked with the president or his team. I would think that he is probably monitoring some of this. I do think that he is also monitoring very closely what is happening in North Korea and the concerns that are there with North Korea and the situation that is happening there.
I was in one of my military communities yesterday, and I can tell you as they watch what is happening in the Middle East, they are also watching very closely what is happening in North Korea.
SANCHEZ: And Congresswoman, just out of curiosity, it looks like the crowd is dispersing, but from what you're watching, what would give cause for the National Guard to be deployed in a situation like this?
BLACKBURN: You know, I am not on the ground there so I have no insight into the decision-making process that is taking place in Charlottesville. I would just tell you that we know from we have seen on tv that the first responders are there.
They are working and they are seeking to contain the situation and we all have to support those first responders, and the work that they are doing.
SANCHEZ: And Congresswoman, we brought up this question earlier because it seems like several figures in this alternative-right, whether it be David Duke or Richard Spencer, have been outspoken supporters of the president.
We heard on the campaign trail President Trump say that he disavows these groups, but do you feel that he should be doing more to squash what is obviously a violent nasty strain of racism in this country?
BLACKBURN: When you look at the issues that are like this, I think we all feel like they have no place in civil society. And as I said, it didn't matter if it's something that is coming from the left or the right.
This type of inflammatory rhetoric has in place because it does not serve our nation well. We need to make certain that this is the kind of thing that we don't tolerate or abide by.
And I think most people, most Americans who are watching what is taking place in Charlottesville today are probably appalled by what is taking place there today. Just as they are concerned about what is taking place in North Korea and the escalation of what is taking place there.
SANCHEZ: Congresswoman, I will get to North Korea in just a moment, but I did want to reiterate the question. Do you think the president should echo your comments that this is completely unacceptable and it should be again squashed?
BLACKBURN: Yes, and you know, as I said, I haven't talked with the president or his team.
[12:05:01] I don't know how they are monitoring and I would think that at some point he would come out and speak against this type of civil disobedience that is taking place there, and respect for civil discourse in a community that made a decision.
SANCHEZ: Now pivoting to North Korea, which you've mentioned, Congressman, in 1994, North Korea threatened to turn Seoul into a sea of fire. We've heard this kind of rhetoric from North Korea before. What makes this situation different and should Americans be concerned about this?
BLACKBURN: I think that everyone has the right to be concerned about this. Of course, Guam does, our military community does. And you know, I would commend to you and to your viewers an article that AEI has posted by Michael Rubin as he has followed this entire situation and he goes back into what originated as the Korean conflict.
And when we look at what is happening right now and the approach that this president is taking, what we are seeing is he walks the walk, talks the talk, or kind of has strategic deterrence in his choice of words.
And think we should be very he concerned about North Korea and how they have gone over this past several decades thinking that they have the right to move forward with the uranium enrichment, plutonium as they developed a nuclear warhead.
SANCHEZ: Now, Congresswoman, I want to get your take on this because at one-point President Trump was mocked for saying that some of our allies in part of the world, Japan and South Korea, should have access to nuclear weapons that that would be a determent for any kind of aggressiveness against them. Is that still an option and would you consider it a good one?
BLACKBURN: I think that what we want to do is focus on dealing with this issues with North Korea. And as we hear from the governor of Guam and as we hear from the other Asian nations and out allies, they want to deal with that issue in North Korea.
I don't know, I don't think that they are looking to have a spread of nuclear weapons across that region, but what they have expressed a desire is to see the Kim family and that dynasty and that ruling in that country dealt with.
I think there are concerns expressed when you talk or you read some of what those in South Korea have said, their concern and their hope that this is something that can be addressed quickly and that that situation can be settled quickly, not only as you look at the Korean Peninsula, but as you look at that entire region.
And of course, they are looking to the United States for leadership on this and are hopeful that the leadership that is given by the Trump administration is going to be more successful in deterrence than has some of the past decades of leadership that has come where you would see the situation tamped down and then it kind of percolates up again. And I think what they would like is to finally have this resolved.
SANCHEZ: Yes, a newly elected President Moon in South Korea said that he's open to direct talks with the North. Kind of a different tone that we're hearing from the president.
But I want to move back to these protests in Charlottesville. We're seeing still what appears to be violence and people fighting. I want to bring up this tweet just a few moments ago from Chelsea Clinton.
She writes, "Mr. President, question mark," we're assuming that she is talking about what is unfolding right now in Virginia and asking why the president has yet to respond to it. Give us your response to that.
BLACKBURN: I am certain there are many people that will want to hear what the president has to say about this. As I said, you know, you're asking me to respond to something that I really do not know how he is monitoring -- who is monitoring with him and what he will have to say.
All I can say is that I think most Americans are absolutely appalled or disappointed to see this type of disruption on the street of Charlottesville.
SANCHEZ: Congressman, I think it's a fair point that you're not exactly sure what the president is watching right now, but I do want to push back a little bit because this is just one of many recent events that have exemplified the divisions within our country.
You could point to the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise. You can point to other symbols of unrest and violence in the streets.
[12:10:06] SANCHEZ: So, what would you like to see happen next? Obviously two sides that are very far apart come together.
BLACKBURN: I would love to see a return to civil discourse. Whether it's the events that you just articulated or this morning, I was at a Farmer's market and got yelled at twice. And the people that were standing around me even the guy that was selling me corn turned to the gentleman and said you know, this just has no place.
And I think everyone is just a little unsettled when they hear that type of rhetoric. Our nation has been so well served by robust political debate and by making the statement that we agree to disagree, but that we will find a resolution for the good of the country.
And this goes back through our nation's history, and it is how this nation has stood strong and resolute for the cause of freedom. And at this point in time, coming together, working to resolve these issues is what people want to see.
Whether it's health care or tax reform or -- Joe Kennedy and I just did a bill for over the counter hearing aids. And when people see that are you seeking to work together and find resolution, that is what they are going to be supportive of.
SANCHEZ: Yes. It certainly feels like history is repeating itself with talk over a nuclear war and fights over race in the streets.
BLACKBURN: Unfortunately, and let's hope we learn some lessons and not repeat bad actions.
SANCHEZ: Let's certainly hope so. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, thank you so much for the time.
BLACKBURN: Delighted to be with you. Thank you.
SANCHEZ: I want to turn now to CNN law enforcement analyst, the former New York City Police Department Detective Harry Houck. Harry, you've been watching what has been unfolding here.
It looks like these protesters have walked away from the statue of Robert E. Lee that ignited this entire incident. Where are these folks supposed to go? From what we understand, this is a very small town. So, what can police do to try to keep the peace if this continues being violent from what we just saw?
HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you know, the police have to give them an avenue to escape from. You can't bunch them into one area where they are a trapped animal.
So, I think that the police are just trying to get them away from the main area where these demonstrations had started and try to get them to go to the vehicles, buses, wherever the staging areas so that they can leave town.
But you know, I tell you what, we're not seeing any buildings being destroyed, we're not seeing any fires. No police cars being destroyed. We see people on the right and left with weapons that should not be allowed.
The police I think right now they are afraid to, you know, engage to the point of taking weapons away because it might take more violence. Police can't be afraid of that. If you got people breaking the law and carrying weapons, the police need to take them away.
We just saw a crowd of people walking down the street. You know, we have right wingers, left wingers here. As Marsha Blackburn said, I agree we should not ever get to the point where there is violence.
SANCHEZ: Harry, I have to cut you off. I apologize, but we do have an update from Kaylee Hartung, who is on the ground right now in Charlottesville, Virginia. Kaylee, what is the latest? We saw some fights breaking out in a parking garage. What are you seeing?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Boris, the park has been cleared. Police are continuing to move protestors down either side of market street. It seems as though -- it's unclear if there was any methodology in which they did that.
Police say arrests have been made. We don't have a number. We saw with our own eyes several men and women detained, but there is no count just yet from Virginia police. This site was declared unlawful assembly by the Virginia police.
Before the event technically even began as it was scheduled to begin at noon, that permit granted by the city and all of the efforts that went into that. But this has indeed been declared unlawful assembly.
As we've seen the pictures of the smoke bombs and had the knowledge of pepper spray, no tear gas to our knowledge was deployed by law enforcement. They looked as if they were making preparation to do so, but it didn't come to their meetings to do that. Once they declared the unlawful assembly, people began to disperse.
[12:15:01] And we now see the National Guard staging just to the side of the park. It's unclear if they have been deployed or simply here in a support capacity until it's necessary for them to be deployed.
The governor has declared this a state of emergency. He's come out with a statement saying the acts and rhetoric in Charlottesville over the past 24 hours are unacceptable and must stop.
We also just learned that all scheduled events on the University of Virginia campus have been canceled today.
SANCHEZ: And Kaylee, I just want to set the stage again for our viewers, why exactly again did this unfold in Charlottesville?
HARTUNG: This is the third demonstration of its kind in Charlottesville this summer, Boris, and the center of controversy here being a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the middle of Emancipation Park where this rally just took place.
It was formerly known as Lee Park, but a decision was made by the city council about a month ago to rename it Emancipation Park. A very big part of the discussion about what to do with that monument as many cities around the country are having that very same discussion about confederate monuments in their respective cities.
And the city council here voted back in February to remove the monument, that decision is now in court, a judge reviewing the legality of that decision by the city council, but that is the center of this controversy here in Charlottesville, Boris.
But Charlottesville has become a hot bed of (inaudible) for this discussion. The mayor is telling me in part because this is a town that has not shied away from having the tough discussion that you need to have about the history of racism.
And how you reconcile this historic town pass this president, you have a diverse place of Thomas Jefferson here. The statue of his on the university's campus with which alt-right activists rallied around last night with their torches lit.
Charlottesville has become this hot bed for a discussion taking place all over the country, but today's gathering a show of force by protesters and counter-protestors un-paralleled across the country. SANCHEZ: All right. Kaylee, please stick around. We'll check back in with you in just a few moments. But joining us right now is the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Lecia Brooks. She is the director of Outreach. Lecia, what is your response to seeing what unfolded today in Charlottesville?
LECIA BROOKS, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER (via telephone): Our response is we're not at all surprised. We saw this coming of course. This is the third such protest, largest to be sure that has happened in Charlottesville recently.
We saw Richard Spencer there in May with torches. We saw a clan rally in July and then today this "Unite The Right" rally has turned out to be just exactly what we expected.
SANCHEZ: The Southern Poverty Law Center described this event as the largest hate gathering of its kind in decades in the United States. But I think what is really unique about this is the degree of coordination between some of these alt-right groups.
They had not only shields, but tactical vests, goggles, helmets, with symbols on them. Clearly this was very thought out. What you can tell us about these groups?
BROOKS: Well, these groups have organizing for some time and that really is about uniting the right. It wasn't simply about the alt- right gathering. Richard Spencer and people that had called themselves adherence to the alt-right may have had a part of this.
The clan has a part of this. We saw confederate groups were a big part of this. We saw anti-patriot or patriot groups, anti-government groups. They did come prepared to fight.
You know, when we saw last night, a preview of what was going to happen today, that was probably the most frightening. That those images of them with torches reminiscent of clan rallies in 20s, 30s, and 40s.
Today, though, they by no need to cover themselves in hoods, and they are just out in a crowd and still emboldened by the election of President Trump.
SANCHEZ: It's interesting you make that connection to the president. Are you waiting to hear a response from him? What would you like for hear from the president as he is obviously at least aware of what is going on in Charlottesville right now?
BROOKS: We not only need to hear from President Trump, we need to hear from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and any white person in a position of leadership at this moment. We're in a crisis situation. It's not only the white nationalists that showed up in Charlottesville, but the people that are at home watching this.
And will as a result of the violence that resulted in this gathering will either lean more to the right or lean to the left. If no one in a position of power condemns this, it will be allowed to become normalized.
[12:20:08] SANCHEZ: Lecia Brooks with the Southern Poverty Law Center, we ask that you please stick around.
Right now, we have to turn to CNN politics reporter, Dan Merica, in Bridgewater, New Jersey not far from the president in Bedminster. Dan, has the president given any indication that he's watching what is unfolding or has he had any kind of response?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Hey, Boris. No response yet from the White House, from White House aides. My colleague, Athena Jones, and I have reached out multiple times to multiple White House officials and haven't heard anything back.
President Trump has made comments in the past about alt-right, about these alt-right groups, who really try to draft off his 2016 campaign, rise to national prominence. You have these people like Richard Spencer and David Duke, who spoke out in favor of Donald Trump's campaign and really gained a national following.
In November, he said to the "New York Times," he said, "I don't want to energize the group and I disavow the group." That's speaking about the alt-right. This came in November after Richard Spencer, one of the alt-right leaders who is in Charlottesville we understand spoke at an event and actually used some Nazi-esque rhetoric that led to people in the crowd holding up Nazi salutes.
He went to say it's not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it, and find out why. But we've heard some responses from Republicans, Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, Orrin Hatch, a top senator from Utah as well as the RNC chairwoman, have all weighed in.
We're still waiting to hear from President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a whole host of people inside the Trump administration, who could respond to something like this.
SANCHEZ: Just to be clear, Dan, this event was initially organized by some white nationalists and neo confederates who last night held a Tiki torch march through the streets of Charlottesville. One which the mayor there called despicable and disgusting, and today, we saw it unfold with this disgusting display.
Let's turn now to Kaylee Hartung, if she is available. Kaylee, are you there? It looks like she is not here with us right now. Again, this all unfolded near a statue of Robert E. Lee that the city council decided to remove and over the past few month, we've seen these white nationalist groups treat Charlottesville as ground zero for their cause.
Again, last night, there was a march. Today, there was a demonstration set for noon, and at about 11:00 is when things completely got out of hand. We saw fighting in the streets and people bleeding.
I want to bring in CNN political commentator, David Swerdlick. David, I think you were listening when you heard Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn on with us. What did you think about what she had to say regarding the president and his response to these kinds of events?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, Congresswoman Blackburn is in a tough position as a Trump supporter, but I think in this particular case maybe she needs to show a little more tough love to President Trump in this situation.
Certainly, the president again I said in the last hour, he is not making people throw punches and throw rocks at each other, but he did over the course of the last two years contribute to this us versus them climate that we find ourselves in right now.
And so therefore, if he wants to represent more than just the hardest of his hardcore supporters who support him across the board, and he wants to project to the nation that he represents everybody, then it really is incumbent upon him to speak out and speak out soon.
I'm noting from Twitter right now that House Speaker Paul Ryan came out with a tweet that was a pretty strong statement. He tweeted, "The views fueling the situation in Charlottes are repugnant, let it unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry." That is a strong statement.
The kind of statement that I think a lot of people would expect a president of the United States to have made in this situation. I was actually during one of the breaks on my message board and a friend of mine pointed out, look, the president has a lot on his plate, but he takes time out to tweet all the time, Boris.
So why hasn't he no matter how busy he is taken 5 minutes out to tweet about this ongoing violence in Charlottesville when he tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger and his poll numbers all the time.
[12:25:05] SANCHEZ: Yes, it appears we are now starting to see responses from more lawmakers. David, please stay with us.
I want to bring in Charles Ramsey, a CNN law enforcement analyst, the former Philadelphia police commissioner, and former Washington, D.C. police chief. Sir, watching everything that unfolded today, does it seem to you that police was anticipating something like this or prepared for it?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Well, that is a good question because when I first started watching, it's the first thing that crossed my mind is where are the cops. I mean, whenever you have a demonstration like this that you know can turn very violent on you, you have to be able to separate the demonstrators and the counter demonstrators the best you can.
And from a lot of the footage early on, the different groups seem to have their own security as supposed to having the police, National Guard or whatever try to keep them separate. And as soon as things start to become violent, you have to break it up immediately because it will get worse, not better if you are not careful. SANCHEZ: And I have a question about what appear to be at least defensively armed protestors. In other words, those that had shields and what appeared to be batons and homemade pepper spray from what we've heard from our reporter on the ground, in helmets. What do you do in a situation where you see feel like that lining up for a protest? Would it be legal to ask them to hand over those shields?
RAMSEY: Well, you could ask them, but with the number of people you got there, that's going to be very difficult, but it's clear that you will have problems. People are coming prepared for a confrontation and it's not like it happened overnight.
They have had applicant of notice that this was about to take place. So, you are starting to see police assemble. But with these marches that are mobile and which makes it a little more difficult, but still you have to be right there with them.
And you have to avoid having the two groups come that close together where they can get into the physical confrontation that you saw moments ago and continue to see now. Somebody will get seriously injured or killed if they have not careful.
SANCHEZ: And so, you are making the case that police should have had a line in between the two groups, right?
RAMSEY: What I'm saying is they should have been a lot more visible and if at all possible have a line there. Of course, you have two groups marching, but if you are right alongside them and in good radio communication, you can assemble and try to keep the two groups from converging at a given point if at all possible to do that. And I don't see why it's not.
When I was chief in Washington, D.C., we had more than our share of protests that we had to deal with, including some that you knew had the potential for violence. So, you have to be ready for that and you have to have a real strong show of force. That means a lot of cops.
You have to have so many that people will think twice before they engage in the kind of conduct that you see now. But when you see protesters with sticks and shields and all this kind of stuff, that tells you that you will have a major problem on your hands.
SANCHEZ: Charles Ramsey, former police chief and police commissioner. We ask you to stay with us as we continue to monitor these events in Charlottesville. I want to bring in CNN political analyst, Rebecca Berg. I believe they are with us.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
SANCHEZ: Sorry about that. We have a ton of stuff going on. Lynn Sweet is also with us. Rebecca, first to you, what do you make of everything that is going on right now? It looks like this is just one ugly violent example of the division between groups in this country.
BERG: No doubt about it. To borrow a word from the speaker of the House in his statement, it's repugnant, vile, all of those things. Certainly, it's a positive step that we have lawmakers on both sides of the aisle coming out to reject this sort of demonstration.
But absolutely reflecting divisions in this country that have really deepened since the election. And it's interesting because the president came into office saying that he would help heal those divisions, hope to address them as president of the United States. But so far today silent on what we're seeing in Charlottesville.
SANCHEZ: A lot of folks expressing anticipation for the president's response to these events. Lynn, I will get to you in just a moment, but we ask that you standby. We have to take a quick break.
We'll continue monitoring what is happening in Charlottesville, Virginia right now, an all-out brawl in the streets over race. Please stay with us. We'll be right back.
[12:34:19] SANCHEZ: There is breaking news out of Charlottesville, Virginia where clashes have erupted between white supremacists and counter-protesters over the proposed removal of a confederate statue. Several people were hurt. And as you can see the outbursts were violent, they were vulgar. And a state of emergency was declared by the governor.
Now, the city has declared a gathering an unlawful assembly. Police have been trying to get people to leave with varying degrees of success. There were fights as people were trying to walk away from the main center point of this battle in the street, a statue of Robert E. Lee.
Let's get to CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung who was on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Kaylee, it looks a lot different right now behind you than it was just few moments ago.
[12:35:07] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does Boris. Police have cleared Emancipation Park formerly known as Lee Park, the park that holds the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the center of today's controversy.
Now, that -- if you think back to just three hours ago, today, Boris, the first interactions we saw between protesters here were rather peaceful. We first saw armed militia men which was a very jarring image marched to the park. And when clergymen walked up, face to face with them they sang "This Little Light of Mine" and there was a rather peaceful reaction between them.
But around 10:00 a.m., things escalated rather quickly here as white nationalist groups emerged marching with flags. And chanting hate speech. And then violence ensued as they clashed with counter protesters. We saw protesters pepper spraying one another, using the poles of their flags as weapons. We water bottles flying through the air. There were some reports of those being filled with cement.
But we never saw police use force against the protesters. Once they declared there's an unlawful assembly, they were able to disperse the crowd without a use of force telling people that if they did not vacate the premises they would be arrested. We've seen them send protesters either way down Market Street right in the middle of downtown Charlottesville.
And Jason Kessler, who is the organizer of the Alt-Right event, Unite the Right today. He went to his Twitter periscope feed as he left this gathering saying, this is not over. He is a native of Charlottesville. He lives in Albemarle County. And he says, he and the people he's gathered this weekend will be here all weekend, Boris.
SANCHEZ: All right, Kaylee Hartung on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, please stick around. We will go back to you.
First let's bring in the Lynn Sweet. She's a Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times." Lynn, watching all of this unfold, do you think the president has a responsibility to respond to these events and give his take on it as quickly as possible?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Yes, he does, absolutely. Just a few minutes ago, Ed Gillespie who is the Republican nominee for Virginia governor sent out a strongly word statement saying, just because you have the right to spew hate, doesn't mean its right.
These are statements that in other -- for other political figures are often routine when faced with an extraordinary circumstance. It will be interesting to see how long the president goes without responding or if it indeed he does send out at least a tweet.
SANCHEZ: And what kind of response would you look for him to send out? What would be kind of adequate in the situation? We've heard him say that he disavows these groups before. Was that strong enough?
SWEET: Well, this isn't a matter of disavowing. This is a matter which implies that maybe you had some connection. That is not the issue. I'm kind of looking at what Republican Virginia governor candidate, Ed Gillespie said, you can respect first and second, amendment rights, you could protest in Virginia, you can carry your weapon. But it doesn't mean that the message that the anti -- that the racist and anti-somitic messages of these so-called nationalists have.
So it doesn't seem to be a big asks for the political figures up to and including the president to condemn this kind of actions. And if it helps, urge peaceful protests.
SANCHEZ: Lynn, please stay with us. I want to go to CNN political commentator, David Swerdlick who's been kind of watching this all unfold with us. David, we've seen other political figures, Republicans including the House Speaker Paul Ryan already respond to the situation in Charlottesville. What kind of a response would you expect from the president of the United States when it comes to these confederates, neo-confederates and clan sympathizers that clearly ignited trouble in Virginia? DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, Boris. So, again, as far as an immediate reaction, like Lynn said, I think at a minimum the president by now should have been able to come out with a tweet, a method of communication he prefers and uses often for matters important and trivial, and make a statement similar to the one that House Speaker Paul Ryan did, just a full throated denunciation of any kind of white nationalist sympathies that would give rise to some kind of confrontation.
That being said, more fully, the president if he wants in the coming days to be seen as someone -- and, you know, it's not clear right in this moment how he wants to play this as someone who wants to expand his base, expand the number of people who have confidence in him, to bring people together. If he can do that, he should make a more full throated statement beyond just something he should say on Twitter.
[12:40:07] I can just add one more thing, Boris, and that since you brought up this whole idea that this is swirling around the confederacy, the Republican Party of which President Trump for now and for better or worse is the head of the Republican Party, is the party of Lincoln. And then for much of its history has branded itself as such.
President Lincoln's most important achievement was fighting the civil war against the confederate states of America. It's not that President Trump now has to come out and give a history lesson in a, you know, multipart tweet storm or has to give a long winded address about this particular point.
But the fact that he at least for the moment is not ready and willing to jump in here as quickly as some leaders in Congress suggests to me that he doesn't view his legacy in that same lane even though when it suits him, Boris, the president is eager as he was in a rally a week or two ago go to liken himself to President Lincoln because President Lincoln he was of course one of our great president.
He silence right now even though he's got a lot of his plate with North Korea is not presidential.
SANCHEZ: Well, we've actually just gotten a tweet from the first lady. I'll get to that in a moment. But first we have to take a quick break. David, thank you. Actually, there it is right now. Melania Trump tweeting out, our country encourages freedom of speech. But let's communicate without hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. Hash tag Charlottesville. We will hear from the White House I'm told in just a few moments. Stay with us after a quick break.
[12:46:09] SANCHEZ: We're continuing to follow this breaking news. This may lay that ensued during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. There were clashes with counter-protesters in the streets. Several people are injured. You can imagine many people will be arrested following this ugly, ugly display. And we are now getting responses from lawmakers. I want to pull up a tweet from House Speaker Paul Ryan who sent us just a few moments ago writing quote, the views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.
The question that we've been posing this afternoon is, where is the president's response to these events? Let's bring in CNN politics reporter, Dan Merica. He is in Bridgewater, New Jersey not far from Bedminster with the president is having a working vacation. Dan, it appears that the first lady has come out with a response but not yet the president?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, Boris. The first lady was the first White House official if you will to call her a White House official to weigh in on what we're seeing in Virginia. I'm going to read you what she said on Twitter. Our country encourages freedom of speech. But let's communicate without hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. Hash tag Charlottesville.
Now, the important question here, it's nice to hear from the first lady weighing in on what we're seeing in Charlottesville. But the president has not weighed in. Vice President Mike Pence has also not weighed in. We have asked both offices if they intend to weigh in on what is happening in Charlottesville.
We will see the president today here in New Jersey. He will sign a memorandum -- excuse me, a bill on the dealing with Veterans Affairs issues around 3:00. And it's expected that there will be a pool of reporters there to expect that he will be asked about this. That may be the first time we hear something from him on this if he doesn't decide to tweet.
It is unclear actually what he's doing this morning. We haven't been briefed in by the White House about what his morning activity where he is here in New Jersey on this 17 day working vacation. He could be hitting the golf course. It's not sunny right now, but it certainly not raining.
A number of other Republicans have weighed in as you mentioned, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has commented. Senator Orrin Hatch, the head of the RNC. But we will continue to question, you know, why is it that the first lady was the first person to weigh in from the White House. And the president, vice president and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions for that matter have not weighed in. Boris?
[12:48:35] SANCHEZ: Yes, certainly, a nontraditional move from a very nontraditional White House. Dan Merica, we thank you for that. We're going to stay on top of the story and take a quick break. We'll bring you the latest when we come back. Thanks.
SANCHEZ: We're still following the breaking news out of Charlottesville, Virginia where a melee ensued earlier today. There were white supremacists demonstrating at a statue of Robert E. Lee that the City of Charlottesville voted to dismantle. And things very quickly got out of hand as you can tell from the video that you are watching. Several people injured.
I want to bring in Charles Ramsey, who's a CNN law enforcement analyst, former Philadelphia police commissioner and a former police chief for Washington D.C. Sir, should the police response to this have been stronger from the start? Earlier when we spoke, you said that you were concerned that you didn't see enough police in the crowd breaking up these fights.
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right, if you've got a situation like this, you've got to have a very strong presence at the very beginning, because that sends a clear message to people. They obviously have a right to protest, both sides do. But what they don't have a right do is harm one another, throwing rocks, bottles, hitting each other with sticks, all that sort of thing. And once they see a strong police presence, then sometimes it begins to kind of neutralize that a bit.
SANCHEZ: And, sir, when you see before this chaos broke out, when you see protesters standing on the side of street with some of the shields that you see, the pepper spray that they apparently sprayed at counter protesters, helmets and goggles, how do you neutralize that situation before something like this happens, can you?
RAMSEY: Well, they're not going to use it on one another. That's the whole point of trying to keep demonstrators and counter demonstrators apart from one another. And try to avoid a clash as best you can. Now, you also don't want to specifically throw things. So you have to be a little careful trying to get in there and I like to say take away that stuff from individuals, can cause a problem as well.
But if you're there and if you're standing in between, you have a strong presence, not to say that you won't have something happen perhaps. But certainly not the kind of contact that we saw earlier today where there was a lot of physical clashes taking place people in large numbers.
[12:55:00] SANCHEZ: Now sir, a lot of these clashes, the more violent once were obviously caught on camera, do you foresee law enforcement going back and trying to find some of these people to potentially press charges?
RAMSEY: It's a possibility. It all depends on their action of the individual whether or not you have a complainant in a particular situation, so that all depends. Right now, the only thing those police officers are focused on is trying to keep this thing from getting any worse than it already is, separate the two groups.
I know when I was in Washington. I don't even know how the protesters got there. But I always liked it when they were busting for example because that means that the bus has to leave at a particular time. This means people leave town because they got a long way to go. It's 1:00 now almost and it begins to get dark.
A lot of times, now you got these groups start roaming around the city and then you have other issues and other problems. But the main body of people I hope will disperse within the next couple hours, at least hopefully anyway.
SANCHEZ: All right. Charles Ramsey, thank you so much for your perspective. We have to toss to a break. But we will be back with the latest from Charlottesville, Virginia. Stay with us.
[13:00:12] SANCHEZ: It is just about 1:00 p.m. on the east coast, thank you so much for joining me.