Return to Transcripts main page


White Supremacist Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Turns Deadly; President Trump Under Fire for His Response on the Violence in Charlottesville. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired August 13, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:03] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We are following breaking news. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Fredricka Whitfield is off.

Charlottesville, Virginia once again on edge, just over an hour or so, about protesters shouted down a white supremacist leader trying to hold a press conference.

Our Brian Todd is there. We will get the very latest from Brian in just a moment.

Plus, we have learned the identity of the woman killed in that horrific car assault in the city. She is 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a paralegal from Virginia. All of this as the department of justice here in Washington opens a formal investigation into that deadly assault crash, the violent clashes that have left more than 30 people injured. Virginia's governor sending a very stern message to those violent protesters.


GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: The white supremacists and the neo-Nazis who came in our beautiful state yesterday, there is no place for you here in Charlottesville. There is no place for you in Virginia and there is no place for you in the United States of America. We deplore your hatred and bigotry and shame on you.


BLITZER: Let's check back on the situation on the ground in Charlottesville right now where the organizer of that rally was shouted down just moments ago. Here is a clip of that event.


BLITZER: CNN's Brian Todd was not far from that confrontation. He is joining us now.

What did you see, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just behind my left shoulder here we can maybe zoom in down there, down this alley. This is right next to the police station and city hall. A smattering of protesters still there, still making speeches over (INAUDIBLE), still doing chants and things like that. But it has died down from that scene earlier that you just showed. That was a pretty heroing scene with these white supremacist leader Jason Kessler having to shuttled out by riot police after the crowd kind of converge on him.

A short time ago, I talked to a police officer here in Charlottesville about whether Jason Kessler is still being held here at the police station for his own safety. That officer said no he is quote "long gone." They got him out of here. I asked him where they took him, he said they couldn't tell me. I asked him whether Kessler is under any police protection, he said no, we are not protecting him.

So Jason Kessler has left. He has been taken out of here, not clear exactly where his whereabouts are right now or whether he is going to stick around this area, Wolf.

But new information also about this suspect James Alex Fields. He is 20-years-old from Mami, Ohio. A CNN affiliate spoke to a former teacher of his, Derek Weimer, a man who taught him for two years in high school. And Weimer had some fairly disturbing things to say about a field his beliefs. Take a listen.


DEREK WEIMER, FORMER TEACHER OF CHARLOTTESVILLE MURDER SUSPECT: I mean, he had some very radical views on race. He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler. He is also a huge military history expression. It was like German military history in World War II. But he was pretty infatuated with that stuff. In his freshman year, he had an issue with that that was raised. And from now on, you know, we knew that he had these issues.

I developed a good rapport with him. And I used that rapport to try to steer him away from those beliefs, you know, to show clear examples, you know, why that thinking is wrong, why their beliefs were evil, you know, things like that.


TODD: And we continue to try to dig up some more personal information about James Alex Filed. We will be investigating his past for the foreseeable future and get more information about kind of what led up to this? What led him here to Charlottesville? And who he might have been affiliated with. Still digging up some of that information.

What we can tell you is that he will be arraigned tomorrow morning here in Charlottesville. He faces one count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop in an accident which resulted in a death. So that is what he is facing right now.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much. We will stay in close touch with you.

I want to bring in CNN's Rosa Flores right now. She is learning more about the victim.

Rosa, you are at the memorial for Heather Heyer. What else are you learning about this young 32-year-old woman?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, hearts are heavy for her, Wolf. We know that she is 32 years old and that she was a paralegal at a law firm here in Charlottesville. But she is from up the road about 17 miles from Ruckersville, Virginia. And of course, she spent a lot of time here. And so people who know her, people who learned about what happened here have been stopping by leaving flowers, notes, cards here for her and for the other 19 people who were injured here.

This is the street where a car plowed through a crowd of counter protesters killing Heather Heyer, injuring 19 others. And the latest news that we have from UVA medical is that ten of those individuals are in good condition. Now that is an upgrade because there were some individuals in critical condition. And now the latest that we have learned is that ten are in good condition, nine have been discharged. But there has a lot of love, a lot of outpouring of support here.

We talked to a woman a little while ago that had a sign saying free hugs. And then she also had a message on her arm. And I asked her about that message. Take a listen.

As we come back here taking a live look I will tell you about what that sign was on that woman's arm. She had her emergency phone number on her arm, Wolf. She said that she was out here. She was a little scared but she wanted to be here in solidarity not only for Heather Heyer and the people who were injured but for other counter protesters. But she was a little afraid. She said if something happens to me I don't want my phone number to be in my backpack or on some other item. I want it on my arm. Just in case something happens to me, they can notify my family -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences to the family of Heather Heyer, this 32-year-old paralegal who was in that crowd when the car just rammed in killing her and injuring 19 others.

The man charged James Alex Fields Jr., 20 years old from Ohio charged formally now second degree murder. We will stay on top of that.

Rosa, thank you very, very much.

Some top Republicans aren't holding back in their condemnation of yesterday's very violent attacks here in the United States. The House speaker Paul Ryan, the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and senators Marco Rubio and Rob Portman, they are all speaking out against bigotry and hatred while the President faces some tough criticism over his response to the attack. His homeland security adviser at the White House Tom Bossert says the President's message called for respect and love among Americans.


TOM BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: The President not only condemned the violence and stood up in a time and moment when calm was necessary and didn't dignify the names of these groups of people but rather addressed the fundamental issue. And so, Jake, what we need to focus on is the rest of his statement. The President didn't just call for human beings to respect one another which is his pragmatist core, fundamental bare minimum, but he called for ideally Americans to love one another, for all of God's children to love one another.


BLITZER: Let's go to OUR White House correspondent Athena Jones. She is joining us from Bridgewater, New Jersey, not far away from where President is spending his working vacation at his golf club up there in New Jersey.

Athena, I take it we haven't seen or heard directly from the President at all today.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. That's right. No word from the President, nothing on twitter. And no word about what he is doing today. We have asked repeatedly whether he may be playing golf. It is a lovely day here for golf. And we haven't gotten any sort of answer to that question.

But we have heard from the President's daughter Ivanka Trump several hours ago now, earlier this morning on twitter, she put out this statement. She said there should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans and be one country united. That from Ivanka Trump who is of course one of the President's senior advisors.

A couple of hours after those tweets we also heard from unnamed White House official putting out a statement that goes further at as more explicit than what we heard from the President yesterday. Here is that statement from a White House official.

They said the President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.

So now with that statement now naming explicitly at some of the groups that were responsible for some of the violence that we saw yesterday in Charlottesville. You mentioned Tom Bossert, the President's homeland security adviser. He also in that interview in the "STATE OF THE UNION" after being pressed by Jake Tapper. He personally condemned white supremacist hate groups and Nazis.

But what a lot of folks want to hear is they want to hear the President himself say those words. And the presidency, it is bully pulpit for a reason. And so that is why you are having not just Democrats but also Republicans who are calling on the President to be more vocal in condemning these groups.

This, as you know, Wolf, the President has been passionate and vocal on twitter in condemning all sorts and criticizing a long list of people whether it is Democrats like secretary Hillary Clinton or President Barak Obama or members of his own party like senate majority leader Mitch McConnell or Arizona senator John McCain. The list goes on and on.

Of course, the media, he has called the media the enemy of the people but not on that list are neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists. To be fair, the President did, as president-elect in November, give an interview to the "New York Times" where he said he didn't want to energize all right movement, the White nationalist He hasn't repeated that statement in recent times. And that is what many folks what to hear the President do -- Wolf.

[16:11:03] BLITZER: In the one statement that the White House did release today came from an unnamed White House official. Why was it unnamed White House official sending out this statement specifically condemning white supremacist, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremists rich? Why was it attached to a chief of staff or press secretary or the President himself?

JONES: Well, that is another question that we don't yet have an answer to, Wolf. Certainly, the statement would have more force if there were a name attached, whether it is the press secretary or someone in the communication shop or as you said the President himself. So it is odd to see them take this step of clearly trying to clean up a little bit of what happened yesterday in the wake of the harsh reaction the President has gotten. They went as far as putting out this new statement, this much more explicit statement but wouldn't attach a name to it. A lot of folks see that as odd and perhaps another missed opportunity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Athena, if the President does decide to show up let us know. We will of course have live coverage of that.

In the aftermath of yesterday's incidents in Charlottesville, the day is being remembered in headlines, some of the country's major newspaper as pointed out one reading a day of death. Around the world others are questioning President Trump's reaction.

Israel's Jerusalem post that newspaper, on story says "American Jews urge President Trump to denounce Charlottesville violence.

We also got a statement just in from the U.S. holocaust memorial museum here in Washington which says in part that the United States holocaust memorial museum mourns the loss of life in Charlottesville, Virginia, strongly condemns the violence and neo-Nazi racists and anti-Semitic symbols and language used by some of the participants including reporter chants of quote "the Jews will not overtake us," close quote. Neo-Nazism, the statement from the holocaust memorial museum goes on to say in any form is antithetical to American values and has no place in American society.

That sentiment certainly echoes criticism, these been facing from some within its own party. Right now, I want to bring Tamar Zanberg to talk about this. She is a member of the Israeli, the Israeli parliament from the merits party. Thanks so much for joining us. Let me get your reaction to what the

President has said, what he hasn't said. What is the reaction generally you are hearing in Jerusalem from Israelis?

TAMAR ZANBERG, MEMBER, ISRAELI PARLIAMENT: I would warn from an attempt to create an equation by the phrase, you know, violence or radicals on both sides, on many sides like the President said. And this is an equation where Nazi, racists and violence on one side. And as if it is morally equal to anti-Nazi, anti-races and peaceful in the idea that all men are created equal on the other side.

And this is the leader of the free world and in a way he normalizes the greatest danger to the free world's values. And I think this is not acceptable. And as a citizen of the homeland for the Jewish people that suffer from these Nazi racists throughout history and now it's supposed to lead the idea of a world that is free from those expressions, I think the idea of condemning all kinds of violence of all sides is actually normalizes one specific kind of racist violence that we should all unite against in these times.

BLITZER: Tamar, I want you to listen to precisely what the President said yesterday. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.


[16:15:07] BLITZER: Those words on many sides has been so controversial because as you point out it sort of gives moral equivalence.

As you know the President is widely seen as a strong supporter of Israel yet he refuses to specifically condemn the neo-Nazis, the anti- Semites. How do you explain that?

ZANBERG: Yes. I think this is a great danger to Jews around the world and Muslims to minorities, to women, to anybody who is considered a minority. And I think the fact that right wing governments and right wing politicians stand next to each other should actually worry us if they keep silent to these very, very explicit expressions of anti-Semitism, of racism. And we see it leads to very clear and explicit violence. And I think the values that we should all stand together in opposing this disgusting expressions of Nazism is unity, equality and justice for all. And I think the fact that these leaders stand with each other in keeping their mouths silenced about clear Nazism and racism should be very worrying here in Israel and the U.S. and all over.

BLITZER: We know that vehicles, cars have been used as a weapon in various terrorist attacks in Israel, whether in Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv or elsewhere. But when you see this happening here in the United States what is your reaction? ZANBERG: I think this is a clear expression of violence. You see and

I heard your reports earlier. Here in Israel in the Middle East we call that a terror attack. It is aimed to take lives and this is where vehicle turns into a weapon. And this is the, you know, the words are the words of the leaders. But the actions are the actions of the terrorists and the people who commit violence activities and it takes lives.

BLITZER: If the President of the United States, Tamar, is watching you right now what message do you want to send him?

ZANBERG: My message is, Mr. President, you are the leader of the free world. You should lead the free world exactly against these values or these are not values, against these Nazi racist violence that we have seen and unite all of us in equality and in anti-racism, anti-Nazism and anti-violence. This is your role and we all look forward to you.

BLITZER: Tamar Zanberg is a member of the Israeli (INAUDIBLE), thanks so much, Tamar, for joining us.

ZANBERG: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Up next we are going to hear from another person who eyewitness the unrest and deadly crash in Charlottesville. He will share his thoughts right after the break.


[16:22:16] BLITZER: We are following the latest out of Charlottesville, Virginia where the justice department here in Washington is now looking into yesterday's deadly clashes between white supremacists and protesters. One woman who was killed after a car rammed into a crowd alto. The violence left more than 30 other people injured.

I want to bring in Chris Mahony right now. He is an eyewitness to the crash.

Chris, you were there when the car simply plowed into those folks there. How close were you to that incident and what did you actually see?

CHRIS MAHONY, WITNESSED CHARLOTTESVILLE CRASH: First I saw the car at the top of the hill before it came down. We walked past it. And I thought it was very strange that the car wasn't going through the intersection. It was sat at the traffic light. No other cars around.

BLITZER: With black windows.

MAHONY: Tinted windows. And I didn't think too much. I walked down the road and maybe 10 or 20 seconds later I saw a coffee shop that I thought might be open, walked up the middle of the road and then heard it hit the speed bump and sort of bounce. And then I looked back and saw it go through the next block and then plow into the group of people.

BLITZER: So you were very, very close. You could have been among those that looked injured.

MAHONY: That is possible.

BLITZER: I mean, you were right there.

MAHONY: Right. I was right next to your previous guest, Brennan, who was taking the footage.

BLITZER: And he was right there and he is lucky to be alive himself or at least not injured. You are originally from New Zealand. You are here for a few years. Did you anticipate anything like this could happen in a beautiful community like Charlottes or Virginia, home of the University of Virginia?

MAHONY: Quite honestly, yes. Because I have been there for the preceding three hours. So you can see the level of hate. You can feel in the air the tension.

BLITZER: Tell us about that.

MAHONY: I mean, you had these people saying hail Trump, you know, with their arms extended. You had tension building between the two sides. And as it became physical we left because there were so many people that were armed. And so, we all thought at some point these people pushing and shoving and punching each other, someone I going to start firing. And so we anticipated something horrible but we didn't think it would be a car.

BLITZER: Yes. Virginia is an open carry state, you know. You can carry a weapon if you want. You saw a lot of weapons there.

MAHONY: Yes. And as you noted I'm not from the United States so this is a very foreign intimidating thing to see when you are walking among ordinary civilians.

BLITZER: And wearing body armor and all sorts of military gear you think they are part of the military but these are private individuals.

[16:25:06] MAHONY: Exactly. And some of them had U.S. marine on the military fatigues. So you wondered if they were U.S. marines, if they just taken this, what kind of training, like who are they affiliated with, who gave them this authority?

BLITZER: When you heard them speaking out, the white supremacists, these groups, what were they saying?

MAHONY: You will not replace us. Hail Trump. Make America great again, all sorts of slogans that at times we couldn't hear because we wanted to keep our distance. As I mentioned to you (INAUDIBLE) with former congressman (INAUDIBLE). And we were concerned that (INAUDIBLE) anytime. But it was rhetoric of hate on the opposite side. Of course, the people that we have joined, the anti-racist on demonstration, you know, they were obviously had their own chants, as well.

BLITZER: This was like for you I'm sure and for so many others who were there a defining moment, a critical moment in your life.

MAHONY: Yes. I mean, you see the car got pass and you think I was just there a moment ago. Like had wanted a coffee. It could have been me. And then you know we were wondering, of course, where are the police? Where is the protection?

BLITZER: What did you think of the way the President of the United States responded?

MAHONY: Well, it was obviously distressing because he was equivocating. He used constructively ambiguous language which side are we talking about. He is saying as many sides have been Nazi people or is he saying this other side is also somehow culpable for a terrorist attack. That was very confusing. And it felt like, of course, this is an opportunity for someone to come forward and say not only is this a terrorist attack, not only is this racism wrong but here are concrete steps I am going to take to deploy resources independently to people to ensure that we go through all this footage and find all the people that engage in violence and hold them to account for the fullest extent the law allows.

BLITZER: Chris Mahony, thanks so much for joining us. I'm glad you are OK.

MAHONY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up we are going to go back to Charlottesville, take a closer look at exactly what some of these white supremacist groups have been doing, what they have saying.

Much more of our special coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington and once again we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Just in to CNN, we're learning that Virginia's governor Terry McAuliffe, he's going to be joining what's being described as a unity prayer and reconciliation rally. That happens right at the top of the hour in Richmond, Virginia, the state capital. We'll have coverage of that. Standby.

In the meantime, President Donald Trump had condemned hate and bigotry, quote, on many sides after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia but failed to specifically call out by name white supremacists and neo-Nazi's. Today, a White House official released a statement saying this quote, the president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white supremacist, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.

Let's go a CNN's Sarah Sidner who's been reporting extensively on these various groups involved here, and breakthrough all of these various groups for us. Break it down for us, Sarah, because you've done some extensive reporting on all of them.

SARAH SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you Wolf. Let's talk about who was out at this rally. You've got the white nationalist and that's probably the largest group because there's lot of different people underneath this umbrella. They support white supremacist ideologies which make them white supremacists. Today, some openly use racial slurs to incite violence. Others claim they are nonviolent organizations.

But then you have other categories like the KKK, neo-Nazis, the neo- Confederate. There's also the alt-right and alt-light, two groups that talk a lot about white nationalism and they want to be in a place where white history in other words European history is the sole history that people learn and that they can be proud of.

I do want to talk about the fact that Donald Trump did not specifically name neo-Nazis and specifically name white nationalist and specifically name white supremacists. If you don't think words matter you would be wrong. Words matter, and I want you to hear what one of the most extreme groups, the "Daily Stormer," a website out there. The person who runs that, Andrew Anglin, is one of the most racist, hateful people in these groups and is definitely a part of this march -- some of his people at the march.

I want to read what he said after Donald Trump spoke those words but failed to mention neo-Nazis and failed to mention white supremacists. He said, quote, Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us, talking about white supremacist. He just said the nation should come together, nothing specific against us. When asked to condemn he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.

This is from one of the most extreme people in this whole white supremacist movement and he's basically saying, well, the good thing is Donald Trump didn't say anything condemning us specifically so we're good and he is good because he is basically saying to us we're OK doing what we're doing, that we need to keep doing this. This was really a recruiting tool, we should mention that as well as far as all of these different groups going out and marching together with their tiki torches.

Definitely for recruitment. That is what these groups are looking to do, include and bring in more young people hoping that they will see it. There are so many people that are for this sort of white supremacy ir white nationalism that they will join alongside them. Of course, they don't want blacks to join. They don't want Jews to join. They don't want Hispanics to join. They want to get rid of everybody else but they certainly want whites to join them. That's what you're seeing here, a recruitment tool, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes Sarah, these white nationalist groups, they're pointing fingers at what they say is the other side violent groups. Tell us about that.

SIDNER: Look, it is fair to say that there are a section of the anti- fascists or antifa as they're known as black bloc that often come out and they do end up pushing and shoving and screaming at one another. They were created in the 1930s. They usually target racism, fascism, Nazism. They are known for destruction and violent acts. Just one section of it known as the Black Bloc is known for coming out and burning things and we saw some of that in Berkeley

[04:35:00] over this past couple of years and this year especially we've seen some of their reactions there. You see some of the fighting that went on. That was a Trump rally that happened in Berkeley. There was another rally against a white nationalist or alt-right speaker who came to the University of California-Berkeley and the black bloc so to speak, you see them getting arrested. Usually their faces are covered. They're wearing all black. And their point is to be destructive.

Their feeling is look, nonviolence hasn't worked. We are going to do something different and often it's destructive and violent. But we should be very clear here in saying that what started all of this was this march with the tiki torches and the things that were being said by the neo-Nazis, by the white nationalist or white supremacists, call them by whatever name you want. That is what sparked some of this reaction.

People terrified and worried that this is going to grow and one of the biggest reactions of that was that Donald Trump did not condemn these groups specifically, that's a real problem because these groups are taking that as a thumbs up to what they're doing, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Sarah, thank you very much. Sarah Sidner reporting on these various groups. Coming up here, how does the city hit with violence and death begin to rebuild after such a tumultuous weekend? After the break, we'll talk to someone who has had first-hand experience in rebuilding a community after violence and heartbreak.


BLITZER: The city of Charlottesville, Virginia still reeling from the deadly attack in a rally of white nationalists yesterday since the horrific incident. There has been condemnation of bigotry and hatred across the nation. Last hour I spoke with the vice mayor of Charlottesville, Wes Bellamy, who says his community will not be broken by white nationalist. Listen to this.


WESS BELLAMY, VICE MAYOR, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: They have become empowered and emboldened, but we are not going to tolerate it. We're not going to stand for it. They can continue to come but our community will not break. Again, the people here of Charlottesville, white people, black people, yellow people

[04:40:00] old people, young people, we're a community that rallies and rise together. This is a community that I saw pick me up on my darkest and deepest moments to encourage me and they've done the same thing for other people. We're a resilient group thing and sometimes we may get knocked down but we always stand back up. That's who Charlottesville is and that's who we will continue to be. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Right now I want to bring in Reverend Sharon Risher. She's a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose mother and cousins were killed in the horrific Emmanuel Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina back in 2015. Reverend, I'm so sorry for your loss. Our deepest, deepest condolences. Thank you so much though for joining us today. How do families of the victims of Charlottesville as a community now, that you have unfortunately first-hand experience, at least begin to move forward?

SHARON RISHER, EVERYTOWN SURVIVOR NETWORK: You know, right now is too early to even start to talk about moving forward. When we have these type of events that happen there is no moving forward. Your soul, your mind has to process everything that have just happened. So no, we just can't jump into trying to move forward. It's been two years since the tragic event in Charleston and families are still trying to make sense. Yesterday was just another trigger of the pain that people have to go through because of racism and it's just too early for moving forward.

BLITZER: The violence in Charlottesville as you know is on full display. There were torches in the street, weapons in the open -- Virginia an open carry state -- what do you make of the escalation that we saw at yesterday's rally?

RISHER: Well, I think a lot of that escalation comes from the fact that in Virginia there is an open carry state. Now, when you give people the opportunity to carry weapons out in open and then you already have all of these other things to contribute to an escalation such as racism and genderism and faith, all of these things cause an anger, and when you have a gun that's automatically a thing for violence.

And a lot of this comes from the laws that we have and that's why it's important for all of us to be a part of Moms Demand Gun Sense and a part of Everytown Survivor Network because guns regardless of who have them and especially in the hand of a racist white supremacist, things are going to happen and guns are a part of that whole atmosphere of this white supremacy. Where would they be without their guns?

BLITZER: As you know Reverend, there's been criticism of the police in Charlottesville for the way the event was handled. What are your thoughts on police presence at rallies like this and protests, the nature of these kinds of events?

RISHER: The police men are there to do a job and I just pray that when these men and women are out there to serve the community that that's what they do and that they are not an escalating point either. I believe yesterday that that whole event was not handled properly to whatever administrative channels that need to be happening.

I'm sorry to say if that was a black, a group of black protesters that had started all of that, there would have been cops everywhere. But I guess they figured because these were white supremacists, they had another sense of being able to do this peacefully. Well we know that that didn't happen. I think they could have done better.

BLITZER: All right, Reverend Risher, thank you so much for your thoughts. Appreciate it very much. Our special coverage will continue right after a quick break.


BLITZER: The former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci spoke out for the first time since getting fired from his role at the White House, a role he had for only about 11 days. Scaramucci didn't mince words criticizing the president's response to Charlottesville and called out the president's top adviser, Steve Bannon, a snag on the president.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: But you also got this sort of Bannon Bart (ph) influence in there which I think is a snag on the president. If the president really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people, the lower middle class people and the middle class people. Then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon Bart nonsense.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: What you mean Bannon and Breitbart, Steve Bannon.

SCARAMUCCI: Oh yes. The whole thing is nonsensical. It's not serving the president's interests. He's got to move more into the mainstream. He's got to be more into where the moderates are and the independents are, George, that loves the president. And so if he does that he'll have a successful legislative agenda that he'll be able to execute.


BLITZER: Let's talk about this and more with Ben Ferguson, he's a CNN political commentator and Ellis Henican, he's a political analyst. Ben, what do you think about Scaramucci, his recommendations to the president.

[04:50:00] BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not surprised. I mean, there's no hiding the fact that Scaramucci and Bannon never got along. If you look at the words he said to one of those reporters that cost him his job about Steve Bannon. This to me is flat out inside baseball. I do think the point that he made overall about the president making it even more clear and the White House seems to be saying now all the words that people wanted them to say with Nazis and white supremacists, that's a point I'm fine with.

I think overall though, this is inside baseball with him. He's angry that he lost his job. He's angry that Steve Bannon is still in the White House and obviously this is his way of getting even. So I think this is nothing more than just bitter politics by two people that really at this point with everything going on, I don't care what he has to say.

BLITZER: Ellis, what do you think?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAUL ANALYST: I am chuckling just a little, Wolf, at the notion of the Mooch being the voice of moderation in this crowd. Listen, it is important because what we have here is a government of grievances and factions and this is just another way of playing out these bitter feelings among these folks. Yes, it does get in the way of governing and it gets in the way of the message of the president.

BLITZER: A White House source, Ben, tells CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta that Steve Bannon may be on the outs with General Kelly, the new White House chief of staff. Do you believe that that is really realistic that Bannon potentially could be gone if General Kelly has his way?

FERGUSON: Well, I've always said this since literally the first week in office, people have been saying and sources have been saying that Steve Bannon's job is on the line or he's going to be out or he's going to be fired and he's lasted longer than pretty much everybody. So, I don't put any stock in any of this. I think ultimately the president's the one that's going to decide this. It's very clear that you wouldn't have said that Scaramucci would be gone in less than 10 days and he's out the door.

So, I think as long as the president sees him, is helping him and helping him move his legislation forward, he's going to have a job there, and there have been a lot of the articles and a lot of quotes, you know, White House sources, unnamed sources that have said he's been out for the last six months and he's still there.

BLITZER: Is that a big deal if he's in or out, Ellis?

HENICAN: Yes, it's a big deal. I mean, he may be a zombie but you better put a stake in his heart or he is going to keep going. But here's why it's important, he does play to a genuine part of the Trump constituency, the same reason the president was slow to explicitly talk poorly about those folks gathered in Charlottesville is the same reason that he keeps Bannon so close. It's part of the Trump team.

BLITZER: Are you surprised -- go ahead Ben.

FERGUSON: I got to disagree with what Ellis just said there. The reason why, when people say the president was slow to condemn these people, his words, I want to read them exactly, egregious displays of hatred, bigotry and violence. Bigotry, hatred, egregious displays of hatred, bigotry and violence covers all of the groups that were there. And so when people try to say, well, he didn't say this exact word. He covered them all by saying egregious, hatred bigotry and violence of these people are unacceptable.

Now, the White House has come out again and said, and we'll add all of these names to that group just so some of you that didn't understand it correctly. But if you look at the words of the president, it was abundantly it was clear he was calling out all of these groups that are bigots, that covers the KKK, that covers white nationalists, that covers alt-right, it covers all of them when you call them bigotry with hatred and say it's egregious.

HENICAN: Come on.

BLITZER: All right, go ahead Ellis. Go ahead.

HENICAN: Listen, when you blame all God's creatures, when you say, we all have sin in our hearts, you blame nobody. Blame only makes sense if you focus it on the people who are primarily responsible for something. These broad nets are a winking way of saying, we're not really so mad at you guys.

FERGUSON: There was a state of emergency declared --

BLITZER: Ben, I just want to point out the criticism the president faced was because he made that statement. He said he condemned in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence and then he added on many sides and then he once again said on many sides. The criticism was that he was going -- he was sort of giving this moral equivalency of what the white supremacists were saying and the counter-protesters were saying and doing at the same time.

FERGUSON: I think you have to look at perspective. And when the president walked out there, he had just spoken with Governor McAuliffe at the time. A state of emergency had been declared in the state. It was very clear that there had become violence on both sides. And many police officers and law enforcement including the governor were terrified that last night, there was going to be a loss of life and a lot of bloodshed.

And it was going to come from people that were angry on both sides. And I think what the president was trying to do was calm down and protect innocent lives and make it very clear that we are not going

[04:55:00] to continue to allow this to escalate. That's why he condemned everyone hat was involved in the violence. So he talked directly about the bigots. He talked directly about them and what they were doing. And I think when you're the president, sometimes your job is actually to look at the situation and see how you can make sure you can protect people's lives.

BLITZER: The criticism was that he didn't specifically condemn white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis. An unnamed White House official put out a statement like that, but the president has been silent on this all day. Guys, thanks very, very much. We have some breaking news coming into CNN right now.

We just learned that the suspect from the car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia actually served in the U.S. military according to military records. James Alex Fields, Jr. served from August to December of 2015. It's unclear why he left the military after only a few months. We're working that story. Our breaking news will continue right after a quick break. To all of our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.