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Virginia Governor Tells Extremists to Go Home; Trump Blasted for His Response; White House Defends Trump's Response to Virginia Violence; Scaramucci Suggests Knives Are Out for Bannon; White Supremacists Protest Using Nazi Salutes, KKK Hoods. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 13, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[06:00:05] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 in the afternoon out West. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, right now so far, no flare-up of fighting like the kind that sent many people to the hospital this weekend and cost one woman her life.
White nationalists and other hate group members battled in the streets with police initially unable to stop them. And then things turned deadly when a car accelerated into a crowd of counter protesters. The driver of that car, a 20-year-old man arrested and held without bail right now.
President Trump on Twitter and in person declined to label those responsible as hate-filled extremists. The governor of Virginia today had no such hesitation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: As you know, we had folks come to our beautiful state. Let's call it for what it is. They were white supremists. They were Nazis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their names. Call their names.
MCAULIFFE: They don't stand for us. They call themselves patriots.
Ladies and gentlemen, they were not patriots. They get out of bed every day to hate people and divide our country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MCAULIFFE: As I said yesterday, go home. Leave our beautiful city.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd in Charlottesville right now.
Brian, what are the priorities of city officials there right now? And is there any lingering tension?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, you heard it in the governor's voice just now, and we heard it all day today. There is a lot of simmering anger in this city over what has transpired here over in the last 48 hours. People here are very, very angry that the white supremacists descended on this city to hold their demonstration, and that they stuck around today.
The governor said, we don't want you here, get out, there's no place for you here. He said that yesterday. You heard what he said today about how angry they are that this had happened. Well, one of the white supremacist leaders Jason Kessler decided to stick around today. He wanted to come here, to a sport just behind me, to hold a news conference today and it backfired on him.
He started to speak. There were protesters here countering him, shouting him down. There were people playing instruments trying to drown him out. At one point, the crowd converge on him and he kind of either fell or was pushed, and then the police came in and swooped him away, really protected him from the crowd, an angry crowd that was swarming around him, and got him into the police station here.
Excuse me. That was kind of an ugly scene. And one man was arrested for misdemeanor assault and battery for spitting on Jason Kessler. A short time ago Kessler tweeted this, he said, quote, "I tried my best, but once again violence rules over speech and ideas, in #Charlottesville, the First Amendment is finished, it seems."
But again the crowds here are still very angry. It's still boiling with tension here. I spoke to a counter protester named Katrina Turner a short time ago. Here's what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATRINA TURNER, COUNTER PROTESTER: We need for them to leave and don't come back. That's what we need. Because whenever they come, we're going to be here, and they will not come to this town without a fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now a big question tonight is, how many of these people are sticking around? How many white supremacists are still here? Is Jason Kessler still here? I talked to a police official a short time ago, asked if Jason Kessler was still being held here. He said, no, he's long gone. We got him out of here. I asked if they're still protecting him. He said no, we're not protecting him. And I asked where he was, he said, we're not responsible for his whereabouts.
The question is, is Jason Kessler going to stick around this area, come back here and try to hold any more events? We don't know that. What we can talk a little bit more is some new information we got tonight about the suspect, James Alex Fields, the suspect who allegedly struck those people on 4th Street just to my left here yesterday, killing one woman and injuring several others. We found out today from some records that we obtained that he served in the U.S. Army for about four months from August of 2015 to December of 2015.
He is charged with one count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of failure to stop in an accident that resulted in a death. He is going to arraigned tomorrow morning -- Ana.
CABRERA: Brian Todd in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thank you.
I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen.
David, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe made a very pointed statement while speaking at a vigil last hour, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCAULIFFE: And I call upon every elected official from the White House to the state House to all the local offices, we got to call it out for what it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MCAULIFFE: It is hatred, it is bigotry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MCAULIFFE: And our leaders have got to be very frank, unequivocal, we will not tolerate that in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: David, it seemed pretty clear who he was talking to.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does, indeed, and I'm afraid the president still hasn't stepped up to what would be expected of a president in a situation like this, that is to make forthright statements with the same kind of emotional intensity and clarity that he's condemned Islamic terrorism when it occurs in this country.
[18:05:10] I must say, I do think there are people around the White House, Ivanka Trump among them, who have strengthened the White House's position. I think it helped the president by being more forthright. Another one that's very importantly was H.R. McMaster today, who said on television this was an act of domestic terrorism.
The president has to be equally frank. He has not been. It's clear that in his heart he doesn't want to be and it's clear that the white supremacists fully have taken heart from his vagueness, from the fact that he has not condemned them, and the kind of way we know Donald Trump can through his tweets and other, you know, personal statements. So I think the country is still on boil today or tonight. And I think we -- the president talks about bringing us together. We're -- if anything, the emotions have become more poisonous, the divisions are deeper, and we're a long, long way from being a country that we want to be. We're not united, we're tearing ourselves apart at the moment.
CABRERA: You mentioned Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter. And she tweeted today, "There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazi." She also said, "We must all come together as Americans and be one country united, #Charlottesville."
The president has had no problem in the past re-tweeting other people, other publication. He could have re-tweeted his daughter, too, right?
GERGEN: He could have indeed.
CABRERA: I mean, is he making a statement by not doing that?
GERGEN: I think his lack of speaking with clarity and with emotional punch sends a very clear message that he just does not feel that these people ought to be singled out. He continues to see this as a law and order problem, not a terrorism problem, and he continues to see it as -- there's violence on both sides. And to be -- let's be fair to the president, there is some violence that we saw, and there is some hatred on the part of the people who came as a counter protesters. We saw that just in that clip.
But nonetheless, the primary responsibility here rests upon those who preached hatred and held this rally. You know, you do not have a First Amendment protection if you use language that incites violence, that incites hatred. That is not protected by the First Amendment. The courts have been very clear on that point.
And so the primary responsibility for this violence rests with those who came to Charlottesville, the neo-Nazis, the anti-Semites, the KKK and all these other forms of hate groups descended upon Charlottesville. And they bear primary responsibility for what happened.
CABRERA: Would it help if the president went to Charlottesville and visited with the victims and talked to officials there?
GERGEN: Well, that's a very good question, Ana. And I think that's exactly the line of thinking that ought to be exported by the White House, for example, for starters, he should call the family of the woman who was killed. You know, he needs to offer a sincere condolences on behalf of the nation to a grieving family. A woman who should still be alive thriving today and was a totally innocent victim.
He should, in addition of course, call the families of those who were the state troopers who were out there and died in this as well. I think that's for starters. It's worth remembering how important the call was, way back when, when John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running for the presidency in 1960 and Martin Luther King was thrown into jail. And the Nixon people remained quiet and John Kennedy placed a phone call to Martin Luther -- to Mrs. King, Coretta Scott King, to express his great concern and support for her.
And it made a difference. It sent a clear signal. I think the president's team ought to be devising a series of steps that would be healing and would show a recognition and an acceptance on his part that we're dealing with terrorists. And he has been -- you know, he's gone way over board to condemn Islamic terrorism, but there are studies that have shown in the last decade or so, the number of domestic cases of terrorism have been double that of Islamic related terrorism in this country.
So -- and this administration is proposing to cut the funding for the programs that deal with domestic terrorism.
CABRERA: That fight domestic terrorists and some of these hate groups. Exactly.
CABRERA: This morning on "STATE OF THE UNION," the mayor of Charlottesville actually accused the president of emboldening racist, some of these hate groups. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL SIGNER (D), CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: Look at the campaign he ran. I mean, look at the intentional courting both on the one hand of all these white supremacists, white nationalists, group like that, anti-Semitic groups.
[18:10:04] And then look on the other hand the repeated failure to step up, condemn, denounce, silence, you know, put to bed all those different efforts just like we saw yesterday. And this is not hard. There's -- you know, there's two words that need to be said over and over again, domestic terrorism and white supremacy. That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend. And we just aren't seeing leadership from the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Do you think that's fair criticism?
GERGEN: I think it is basically fair criticism from a mayor who is I am sure deeply distraught and very emotional, and he put it right on the line as he sees it. I know there are people around the president who don't believe that's what the president thinks, that's not who he is. But, you know, what's more important is, that these white supremacists, some of them were quoted today, there was a quote in the press today by a white supremacist saying, we were emboldened by Donald Trump's election. We have taken our signals from that.
So he has to denounce this, I think, to restore the -- to build up the moral authority of this presidency. I cannot emphasize enough, Ana, the overall context of this is, as Franklin Roosevelt once famously said, the presidency is preeminently a place of moral leadership. Preeminently a place of moral leadership.
What he was talking about was, that repeatedly in American history, questions have come up about right versus wrong, and it's been up for the president whoever's in that office to identify what is morally right, and in this case, President Trump needs to provide moral clarity on what we're facing.
CABRERA: David Gergen, thank you very much for joining us this weekend.
GERGEN: Ana, thank you so much.
CABRERA: Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, mixed messages? The White House issuing a new statement today on the violence in Virginia, but it didn't come from the president. Plus the images from Charlottesville, terrifying, disturbing. I'll speak to a former neo- Nazi skinhead about what life is like inside a hate group.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:16:21] CABRERA: President Trump has yet to specifically condemn white supremacists following the deadly clashes between protesters and counter protesters at a white nationalist rally. Instead the president condemned violence on all sides. On many sides, he said.
His Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert spoke to CNN earlier today and like the president, he pointed to violence on both sides. That's when Jake Tapper asked this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: How many people did the counter protesters kill yesterday Mr. Bossert?
TOM BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I will tell you, one death is too many, Jake. And --
TAPPER: But that wasn't by the counter protesters. She was -- the victim was a counter protester.
BOSSERT: I don't --
TAPPER: The victim was a counter protester.
BOSSERT: Hold on -- hold on one moment, Jake. I don't for one minute, I don't for one moment, and I won't allow you for one second to put me in a position of being an apologist for somebody who is now a charged murderer. This individual should face swift justice. The president of the United States shares that view. I know he does. I share that view deeply.
And I don't want to be put in a position -- I won't allow you to put me or him in a position of not finding that -- finding that justice as swiftly as possible.
TAPPER: You just --
BOSSERT: I think that you should --
TAPPER: You just decried both sides. You just decried both sides.
BOSSERT: Well, I think --
TAPPER: Here we have a situation, Mr. Bossert, where neo-Nazis --
BOSSERT: Well, no. No, I don't -- I don't -- I don't paint --
TAPPER: -- and others.
TAPPER: Went to Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting You just decried both sides. We have a situation where neo-Nazis, the
No, I don't --
Went to Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting anti-Semitic, anti- African-American, and other racist slogans, provoking the people of Charlottesville, Virginia.
TAPPER: Making them feel intimidated. Yes, violence did break out. One person was killed by one of these alt-right, Klan, Nazi protesters.
TAPPER: And you just decried both sides of this.
BOSSERT: No, I didn't.
TAPPER: And this is the issue.
BOSSERT: No. No, I didn't. And you're making this issue a little bit distorted. So what I would decry is the individual that committed murder yesterday. What I would do, though, is quibble with this notion that any of this is acceptable. These groups showed up spewing hate. These groups showed up looking for violence.
TAPPER: What groups?
BOSSERT: And I think it's just important for people to understand --
TAPPER: What groups are you referring to?
BOSSERT: Of course the groups that showed -- well, I -- I refer to the groups that clashed yesterday. I think it was pretty graphically evident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: With me to discuss, CNN political commentator and the former lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Andre Bauer, and "New York Times" contributor Wajahat Ali.
Wajahat, let's start with you this time. It's clear this suspect was demonstrating alongside the white supremacist. Does the president need to come out and specifically condemn this attack?
WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTOR, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, but why would he go against his base? And this has been a recurring theme for the past two years. There are two groups that President Trump seems utterly impotent in front of and incapable of condemning. Number one, Vladimir Putin. And number two, white supremacists.
And so it's a very easy meatball down the middle. He could crush this, he could easily say, I condemn white supremacy, I condemn the ideology of hatred of Nazis, I condemn the racism of the alt-right. I call it out for what it is, domestic terrorism, white supremacy terrorism, just like I call out radical Islamic terrorism and I criticize President Obama for being weak on terror and not calling it out.
So here I am President Trump who, by the way, shoots off the cuff and say whatever I want whenever I want and tweet fire and fury against a nuclear North Korea and go against CNN and the CIA and the intelligence agencies, and Republicans and basically anyone who I want to, but I am unable to go against white supremacists.
And the question should be, why? Why is President Trump unable to muster 140 characters to call it for what it is?
[18:20:05] White supremacy terrorism -- excuse me, white supremacist terrorism and condemn it. And this is the question we should be asking, Ana. Why?
CABRERA: Andre, you've been defending the president. Do you have an answer to that question?
ANDRE BAUER, FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I hope -- actually I agree with him that I hope the president will specifically say it. I thought he covered it pretty well. I see a lot of folks are going to criticize the president no matter what he does. I'm not saying the guests on this show will. But a lot of the people I continue to be on with, no matter what the president does or says, if he had said this, there would have been another criticism.
But it would be better if he absolutely, unequivocally clear this up so that we can move forward. I feel like the president did a pretty good job yesterday, some folks who had been on the show don't. But again there's no room for this. Absolutely. The Republican Party, when people say this is Trump supporters, I went to a lot of Trump rallies, not one time did I ever see one of these individuals carrying a swastika or a Nazi flag or a Confederate flag. I hadn't seen any of that. And so to brand President Trump with this
CABRERA: Guys, we have some brand new video of the suspect that I want to get in here real quick. This is the individual who rammed his car and this is video of James Fields at the white nationalist rally. He's in the white shirt here, we're told, holding a shield. His former high school teacher had previously told CNN Fields had a fondness for Nazis and Adolf Hitler.
What's your reaction to this, Wajahat?
ALI: It's sad because we see young white men radicalized online. We see an online community that is finding itself feeling dislocated from society. United by racial hatred, feelings of superiority. We would -- you know, in other words, we would call some of these people ISIS, but in America, they're white supremacists. And some members of the alt-right. And you see a 20-year-old who rammed his car deliberately and killed -- excuse me, I believe her name is Helen Heyer, a 32-year- old woman -- Heather Heyer, excuse me, a 32-year-old woman.
CABRERA: Heather. Yes. Heather Heyer.
ALI: Heather Heyer, 32-year-old woman, you're right, anti-racist activist, and apparently, Ana, there are many sides, quote, "many sides," according to Donald Trump. There's Heather Heyer who died, and then there's also James Alex Fields, a Nazi sympathizer, Hitler sympathizer who rammed his car and killed her.
So I don't see the moral equivalence here, and I don't see why it's so difficult for people to come out and condemn it for what it is. Hatred, white supremacy and domestic terrorism.
And let's not forget, Ana, just last week there was another act of terrorism, an IED was thrown in a Minnesota mosque. Thankfully no one was been hurt. It's been a weak and Donald Trump is silent. And Sebastian Gorka, his aide, thinks it might have been a false flag operation. And Sebastian, his White House aide, also said just on Wednesday on Breitbart Radio no less that we're paying too much attention to white supremacists.
CABRERA: We played that on our show.
ALI: -- slamming radical terrorism. Why can't he call out white supremacist terrorism?
CABRERA: We did play that Sebastian Gorka comment on our show earlier, but, Andre, let me read you the reaction by these white supremacists in response to the president's statement yesterday, and this is from the "Daily Stormer," a neo-Nazi Web site. And I quote, "Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry and implied that there was hate on both sides. "So he implied, the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter
signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him."
Andre, if neo-Nazis are celebrating what the president said, did he say the right thing?
BAUER: Look, anybody can take what the president says and make it what they want to. These people we know aren't operating with a clear head, they're people that need to be incarcerated. They are dangerous people, as we saw yesterday, but just because they took -- extrapolated certain words that the president said and tried to push it for their cause, they're probably just trying to gain more people to get active in the cause, maybe people that just support Trump that would think this person otherwise wouldn't read his message, but because he tied it in with something that the president said, they tried to bring that in.
But again, Donald Trump doesn't associate with these people. I didn't see any of them at the rallies. And this is a time when as a country we ought to try to find ways to come together, ways to fix this problem, ways to address this.
I will say this. More and more moderate people that may have attended these rallies in the past I think will look back and say, I don't want to be affiliated with this type of individual, and I think you'll see less people turn out in the future, when anyone that says they are in anyway neo-Nazis or any of these other groups.
[18:25:07] I think you'll see less and less participation from moderate folks that may have just been against removing a statue.
CABRERA: Andre Bauer, Wajahat Ali, thank you both for being here. We appreciate your time.
Coming up, the president under fire for his statements on the events in Charlottesville. And did the president fail a key leadership test? We'll discuss live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.
[18:30:00] We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Today, the White House is playing defense after the President blamed many sides for the violence in Virginia, instead of directly denouncing the actions of the White supremacists involved.
A White House official now trying to clarify by saying, quote, the President said very strongly in his statement yesterday the he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. And, of course, that includes White supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He calls for called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.
Joining me now is CNN Senior Media Correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.
Brian, is this clarification going to be enough?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not from the President, and it's not, you know, the President on camera saying this. So I think as we head into the new workweek, the answer is no. There's going to be continued calls to hear more from the President about this.
A couple unusual things about this statement, Ana. It was from an unnamed White House official. Some of the reporters went back and said, can we at least identify who's saying this? And the White House press shop said no.
So it's kind of weird to see an anonymous statement from a White House official, about 20 hours after the President's speech, trying to do cleanup, it seems. Trying to answer all the questions that were being asked yesterday.
CABRERA: It is mostly odd that it was an anonymous statement. I mean, why wouldn't somebody want to give their names for that?
STELTER: You would think that the Press Secretary or whoever else wrote it would want to put their name on it, would be proud of it. You'd think the President himself would want to write it.
And some of this, I admit, is in the weeds. You know, we're talking about who signed the statement or not. But the point is that the main message from the White House this weekend has been the President's own address in front of the cameras on Saturday afternoon. And that's the one that's getting widely, closely universally criticized for not going far enough.
So as this heads into Monday, then we're going to continue to hear calls from the President to say and do more. Not just from Democrats, but also from Republicans.
CABRERA: Well, it was his omission in his statement, to leave out the words White supremacist, Nazi, and so forth. But in the meantime, the President's daughter did use those words and issued this strong condemnation on Twitter. Here's what she said.
There should be no place in society for racism, White supremacy, neo- Nazis. We must all come together as Americans and be one country united. #Charlottesville. We know now just how close the President and his daughter are, and how
much weight does her influence provide when it comes to social media statement like this.
STELTER: It's one of the mysteries of the White House, is just how much influence does Ivanka have, and when does she choose to wield it?
Again, not to get into the weeds, but the President of the United States could have retweeted his daughter, could have shared her message far and wide today, and he's chosen not to. Just one of many examples of what he could have done.
CABRERA: And he hasn't hesitated to retweet other people in the past.
STELTER: Exactly. He could have if he wanted to try to amplify what Ivanka said even more loudly. And that's why I think this is going to continue to be an issue.
For example, the "Financial Times" just came out with a really scathing editorial. I think we can put a part of it on the screen. I was struck by this part of the editorial.
It says, in the days to come, the President and his advisers will, doubtless, work to try to amend or reinterpret what was said over the weekend, but none of this will obscure the challenge facing the U.S. To the extent that it is the role of the President to provide moral leadership, the White House is unoccupied.
And it evokes an interesting image of an empty White House right now literally.
CABRERA: Right. In the West Wing.
STELTER: It's because they're doing renovations. But more importantly, a lack of moral leadership. This is the F.T. which is a paper that reaches the whole world, so it's a sense of how the world is viewing a situation like this, when the President of the United States doesn't say what we're used to hearing presidents say.
I think, even growing up reading history books, Americans are used to hearing certain sorts of moral statements from their president. And I think what this weekend is all about is the confusion about why that's lacking.
CABRERA: And remember, the President, we learned, on the issue of North Korea, he had been so outspoken, asked -- answered 50 questions in two days --
STELTER: Yes, that's right.
CABRERA: -- had multiple press conferences in which he took questions after such a long gap before having had another solo press conference. And what we learned from a White House official was that he really wanted his voice to carry the message when it came to the issue of North Korea. It was that important. And so it does stand in stark contrast to how he has responded to this
incident and walking away when people were lobbing questions about whether he condemned White nationalists and White supremacists and neo-Nazis specifically.
But I'm also wanting to ask, when you talk about the vacancies in the empty White House, we don't have a communications director.
STELTER: That's right, yes. Yes.
CABRERA: And how much of an issue is that?
STELTER: I think right now, in the short term, the President can get around for a couple weeks without one. He certainly did back in June.
But long term, if he wants to try to turn things around, try to improve his approval ratings and try to get some policy, some legislation through the House and the Senate, he does needs someone thinking long term. He does needs a communications director. It's a hard job to fill. And apparently, a lot of people don't want that job right now.
But he was answering a lot of questions on Thursday and Friday. He did seem to enjoy his banter with the press. I had a White House aide say to me, hey, this is vintage Trump. He feels like he's back on the campaign trail. He's out of the White House, out of the swamp, and he's enjoying himself in Bedminster.
[18:35:01] But, you know, on Friday, he said he would have a big press conference on Monday. He promised a big press conference on Monday. So I'm wondering, in the wake of Charlottesville, will he follow through? Will he want to answer questions from the press corps, or will he try to somehow avoid it?
CABRERA: We'll see tomorrow.
CABRERA: Brian Stelter, thanks for the conversation.
CABRERA: Good to see you.
Coming up. New reports suggest the knives are out for Trump's chief strategist. Why Steve Bannon may be the next one to be shown the door. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Happening right now, crowds marching through Manhattan. These are live images as they make their way from Union Square to Trump Tower in midtown. This is a rally being held in solidarity with the victims of the violence in Charlottesville.
We'll continue to monitor this situation. It's been largely peaceful from everything we have witnessed. We'll bring you updates as we get them.
The White House palace intrigue continues. Today, people close to the President are hinting the knives are out for Trump's controversial chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
[18:40:03] First, take a listen to Trump's former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. This is what he said this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: 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 Bannonbart nonsense, if you will.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You mean Bannon and Breitbart? Steve Bannon?
SCARAMUCCI: Oh, yes, that --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Steve Bannon?
SCARAMUCCI: Yes, the whole thing is nonsensical. It's not serving the President's interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: And now, take a listen to how Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, responded when he was asked, not once, not twice, but three times, if he can work with Bannon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Can you and Steve Bannon still work together in this White House or not?
LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I get to work together with a broad range of talented people, and it is a privilege every day to enable the national security team.
TODD: You didn't answer. Can you and Steve Bannon work in the same White House?
MCMASTER: I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the President's agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.
TODD: Do you believe Steve Bannon does that?
MCMASTER: I believe that everyone who works in the White House, who has the privilege, the great privilege, every day, of serving their nation should be motivated by that goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Joining us now is Ryan Williams. He's the former spokesman for Mitt Romney.
Ryan, Scaramucci and others, they've made the argument Bannon and his ties to alt-right Web site, Breitbart, they are to blame for the President's widely criticized response to the violence there in Virginia when he didn't directly condemn White supremacists. Are they right to make that argument?
RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY FOR GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: Well, I don't know who advised the President to make that statement. I will note that Steve Bannon has been lying low in recent days. And he's not in Bedminster with the President, so I don't know if we know if he had in that statement.
That being said, the knives certainly are out Mr. Bannon as they have been in the past. He's managed to survive in the past. However, this time we're seeing some of his allies that he installed on the National Security Council being fired and laid off since General Kelly took over as Chief of Staff.
So perhaps his power base is eroding now that some of his allies are being pushed out, we don't know. The knives have been out for him before. But we'll see, if this time, if it has any long-term consequences for him.
CABRERA: Do you think there is a place for Bannon in this administration going forward?
WILLIAMS: Well, the President is entitled to pick whoever he wants in his administration. That's his prerogative. He's someone the President trusts. He was on his campaign as his chairman.
It's up to the president. And, you know, the President will make a change, I think, if he thinks it's appropriate. But if he doesn't, I'm sure he'll continue to keep him on board.
CABRERA: What do you view as what Steve Bannon brings to the table to benefit this President and his administration?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think a lot of what you're seeing from the President's agenda is directly tied to Mr. Bannon's worldview. The Muslim ban which he put forward which many don't agree with, that's something that Mr. Bannon put forward. Certainly, the tightening of immigration policy on -- for an illegal and -- illegal and legal immigration.
The President is following Steve Bannon's playbook. If that's something he's comfortable with, he, obviously, is entitled -- he can implement those policies, but he's also going to have to face the consequences or any kind of public backlash that he gets from them.
CABRERA: Now, if Bannon is to go, what does that tell you?
WILLIAMS: I think it would be signature Trump. Every few months, we seem to have a major upheaval in his leadership chart. We saw that in the campaign. If he were to go, I think that would be standard policy for this administration. We've already been through a chief of staff, a press secretary, two
White House communications directors. So I mean, it wouldn't be a surprising to me if we saw another senior staff relieved. But this is one who certainly has had a great deal of influence, in terms of crafting the domestic policy and some of the immigration issues, so it may leave a void in terms of what direction the President would choose to pursue his agenda going-forward.
CABRERA: Now, earlier this year, Bannon was on the cover of "TIME" magazine as "The Great Manipulator." And now, it's Trump's new Chief of Staff, John Kelly on the cover with the headline, "Trump's Last Best Hope."
Sources are telling CNN Kelly has soured on Bannon because he has been -- seen as someone who wants to push his own agenda. How do you see this power struggle between those two men playing out?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think what we have seen is a pretty public power struggle between Steven Bannon and H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser.
There have been some of Mr. Bannon's allies in the conservative leaning media who have openly targeted him, said that he's not sufficiently pro-Israel enough, said he's not tough enough on Islamic terrorism. The President put a statement out to dissuade any kind of notion that he was losing faith in H.R. McMaster.
But, look, General Kelly is someone who has worked with H.R. McMaster before, respects him, and runs a tight ship, and does not like these kind of public staff feuds that distract from the President's message. So I could see that being something that would work against Mr. Bannon, if, you know, General Kelly were to see that effort continue.
CABRERA: Ryan Williams, thanks for bringing your perspective to the show. We appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
[18:44:57] CABRERA: Straight ahead. The images we saw from Charlottesville are chilling, leaving a lot of people asking, how can this kind of hate happen in America? A former member of the first neo-Nazi skinhead gang in the United States will join us live, next.
CABRERA: Welcome back. Many of the White supremacists who showed up to protest in Charlottesville made it clear which side they were on, making the Nazi salute, wearing Army-style fatigues with pro-fascist patches and KKK hoods, and some of them carrying White nationalist flags.
[18:49:57] I want to bring in someone who understands this movement. Christian Picciolini spent years involved with hate groups and turned his experiences into a book called, "Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead."
Thank you, Christian, for joining us.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI, AUTHOR, "ROMANTIC VIOLENCE: MEMOIRS OF AN AMERICAN SKINHEAD": Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: First, you have been inside one of these groups. What draws people into this ideology or movement? What drew you in?
PICCIOLINI: You know, I was recruited when I was 14 years old in 1987, and I spent eight years, every one of my teen and early adulthood years, until 1995, when I was 22, in America's first neo- Nazi skinhead group. And what drew me in and what draws people in, that I speak to every day, is this idea of a fundamental need for identity, community, and purpose.
And if there is an underlying brokenness, if there is a pothole that deviated their path originally, they're open to these ideas of an "us against them" narrative, or blaming somebody else for the problems that exist in their lives. And frankly, we're living in a society right now where millions of young people are feeling marginalized.
They don't have a lot to hope for. Job opportunities are scarce. College is expensive, if you even are, quote/unquote, lucky enough to take that burden on. And there isn't a whole lot for them to look forward to as far as leadership or where our country is going.
So it doesn't surprise me that young people are joining far-right groups. They're joining intercity gangs and are even flying to Syria to join ISIS. Because they want paradise. They want a solution for what's happening.
CABRERA: Why do you think Charlottesville, specifically, is becoming a target for this movement? We know there was an earlier rally in the same area held by Richard Spencer back in May. And then we see this large gathering yesterday that the Southern Poverty Law Center had anticipated being the largest hate group gathering in decades.
PICCIOLINI: Yes. The truth is, is rallies like this have been happening for decades. They haven't been reported. In my book, I write about a rally that was almost identical to what happened in Charlottesville.
And make no mistake, this wasn't about a statue. This was about racism. This was about showing people -- showing other Americans, through fear, that these people can gather and really try and spread this rhetoric around so that people see them en masse and think that this is a big movement. And in fact, it is a big movement, but it is very spread out online, and it lives in mostly a virtual world.
CABRERA: I want you to listen to what the President said in response to the violence in Charlottesville yesterday. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: What do you make of his statement? Did you hear a dog whistle in that?
PICCIOLINI: Oh, I did, of course. I think the far right has, since the beginning, used propaganda and spinning to call the left wing the haters or to call them the bigots or the racists.
As far as what I saw yesterday, I saw only one group or one movement ram a car into people and murder somebody. I saw one group carrying swastika flags, and I saw another group of American citizens who were standing up against something that they believe is undemocratic and un-American.
So for somebody to say, especially the President to come out and equate the protesters that were there to the neo-Nazi demonstrators to me is not calling it how it is. And I would love it hear the President call out White supremacists for what they were doing yesterday specifically.
CABRERA: You do not sound like somebody who has lived and breathed that ideology, that mentality. What does it take to change the hearts and minds of members of these groups?
PICCIOLINI: You know, it really -- for me and for so many other people, it really comes down to receiving compassion from the people that we least deserve it from when we least deserve it.
I had the opportunity to meet Richard Spencer. I sat down with him for two hours after I spoke Whitefish, Montana, after the town was terrorized by neo-Nazi trolls. And I can tell you that, had I punched him and had he punched me -- and I'm talking about 25 years ago -- I would have come back angrier. It would have polarized us further.
And what we need to do is start with the common ground. And I know it's hard for people to believe that we actually have some common ground with neo-Nazis or with haters, but we do. We're all Americans.
We all want happiness. We all want to be loved. We all want security. And we need to start from there, and stop blaming each other for the problems that exist in the world when 99 percent of the time none of us are responsible for those problems.
CABRERA: Was there --
PICCIOLINI: We're in this together.
CABRERA: Was there something somebody said specifically that woke you up?
PICCIOLINI: You know, it started with the birth of my children. When I was 19 years old, I got married, and I felt connected to the innocence that I lost at 14 years old when my son was born.
[18:55:00] There were people -- after I opened a record store to sell, specifically, White power music, which ended up being 75 percent of my revenue back in the early '90s, I started to also sell hip-hop and punk rock, and meet the people that I thought I hated.
For the first time in my life, I had a meaningful interaction with African-Americans or with Jewish people or with gay people. And I suddenly realized that I had much more in common with them than I had indifference. And that the differences were only there to really, you know, add more flavor and add culture to it, and appreciate rather than polarize us further.
CABRERA: Well, Christian Picciolini, we really appreciate your time. And thank you for bringing your perspective and your insight to our show.
PICCIOLINI: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: Coming up live in the NEWSROOM, the words of a Christian pastor in the Deep South going viral. His powerful message to White Americans, live in the CNN newsroom.
[19:00:07] CABRERA: Top of the hour, you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. It's great to have you with us this weekend.