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Terror in Charlottesville; Trump Blasted for Response to White Supremacist Rally. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired August 13, 2017 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): 4:00 AM on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome back to our breaking news coverage here at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

A car that plowed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally. I'm George Howell. This deadly attack happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, and federal authorities are now investigating this car attack as a civil rights case. Here is a look at the man that police arrested in connection with this attack, 20- year-old James Alex Fields Jr. He is being held on suspicion of second-degree murder and now to show you the actual video from this car attack.

We do want to warn you, it is graphic so if you have small children in the room, now is the time to have them turn away. Here is a look at the video now.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Them Nazis drove into people. He -- oh, my God. Oh, my God.


HOWELL (voice-over): A sense of the chaos there and then this still image tells the story as well, the exact moment when people were thrown into the air. Just look at that and you get a sense, people did not have time to react when this happened.

Now a 32-year-old woman of course was killed in this attack.

In the meantime, the President of United States, Donald Trump, urged for unity but was less than explicit when it came to who was to blame here. Both Democrats and Republicans are criticizing the president for not labeling protesters what they are: white nationalists.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.


HOWELL: That term, "on many sides," has a lot of a lot of people scratching their heads. As just mentioned, though, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released a statement about the investigation into the violence in Virginia.

He said this, in part, quote, "The violence and death in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.

Let us get the latest now from CNN's Brian Todd on it what exactly happened in Charlottesville, Virginia.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A day of violence and escalating tension here in Charlottesville, Virginia, as white supremacist protesters engaged in a pitched street battle with counter demonstrators on Saturday in Charlottesville.

And then the violence got even worse. Several people were injured in the initial clashes between the two groups of demonstrators then shortly after 1:30 pm Eastern time in the street just behind me, 4th Street here in Charlottesville, as a group of demonstrators were walking down the street, a car plowed into several of them and then struck two other vehicles.

One 32-year-old woman was killed in that incident; at least 19 people were hurt.

And separately, two state trooper died in a helicopter crash just outside Charlottesville, Virginia.

Here is what we can tell you about the suspect in the car strike that occurred, again, right behind me here at the scene. He is 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. from Maumee, Ohio. He has been arrested and booked a local jail. 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, which resulted in a death.

In addition to that, three people have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations; two of them are young men from out of town. And the governor and local mayor here have told us that a lot of people they believe who have come here to cause trouble did come from out of state. So investigators here are still piecing through what happened. A

civil rights investigation has been launched by the Justice Department into the incident here behind me. And one man faces a second-degree murder charge -- Brian Todd, CNN, Charlottesville, Virginia.


HOWELL: Brian Todd on the scene there. Now earlier CNN spoke with a reporter who heard from the --


HOWELL: -- mother of the man suspected of driving that car into the crowd of people. Listen.



LAUREN LINDSTROM, "TOLEDO BLADE": He told her last week he was planning to go. He had taken the day off of work. And she described this as an alt-right rally but she had no idea kind of -- she said she was unaware of its extremist natures or leanings as far as the other people who were going to be attending.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did she say that her son was part of an of these groups, was somehow simpatico with any of these groups?

LINDSTROM: So she was pretty unaware of what the definition of alt- right would be. She fumbled over the language. I don't think she had a clear idea of what that definition of what that would be.

She said to me that she doesn't try to get too much into his political beliefs and that she's not too well versed in his political leanings in any way. So I don't get a sense that she necessarily knew what he was headed for this weekend.


HOWELL: So still some uncertainty into the motive, according to the interview that you here there but the investigation certainly underway.

The mayor of Charlottesville says the white supremacists brought hatred into the city and in his words "that belongs on the trash heap of history."



MIKE SIGNER, MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE: This tide of hatred and of intolerance and of bigotry that has come to us and that has marched down with torches the lawn of one of the founders of democracy, it is brought here by outsiders and it's brought here by people who belong in the trash heap of history with these ideas. They're going to be in the trash heap of history. This day will not

define us. We will define this day by the story that we continue to tell tomorrow and the tomorrow after that, the week after that and the year after that.

There is very sad and regrettable coarseness in our politics that we've all seen too much of today. Our opponents have become our enemies; debate has become intimidation.

What democracy is about -- and we this here because we're the birthplace of democracy -- it's about deliberation. It's about action. It's about progress. It's about working together and it's about, at the end of the day, if you disagree with somebody, you don't try to take them down. You agree to move forward.

These folks do not want that. They do not agree with the rules of democracy and they are on the losing side of history. The work of rebuilding and healing is just beginning today. Tomorrow will come and we will emerge, I can promise you, stronger than ever.


HOWELL: So there is the event that happened in Charlottesville and then the optics of the president's response, Ellis Henican, setting up this camera but we'll bring him in here shortly.

Ellis, are you back with us there?

We needed a moment of levity there. Your camera looks good. Thanks for being with us again here on NEWSROOM there in New York.

So here is the question, talking about the big picture, Ellis, the President of the United States being criticized for not calling these protesters what they were: white nationalists.

But let us not forget that, on the campaign trail. President Trump, then candidate Trump aggressively criticized his predecessor for not using the term "radical Islamic terrorism." Let us listen to this clip, we can talk about it here on the other side.


TRUMP: Radical Islamic terrorism and I'll tell you what, we have a president that refuses to use the term. He refuses to say it.

He refuses to use the term radical Islamic terrorism. He refuses to use the term.

You know, you hear the term "radical Islamic terrorism." He won't say it. He won't say it. And you can't solve a problem if you refuse to talk about what the problem is.


HOWELL: And to now use the President of the United States' own words, he refuses to use the term, Ellis. The question here, why do you think that might be the case?

Is there some political account calculation here as to why the president won't just call a duck a duck?

ELLIS HENICAN, METRO PAPERS: Well, you're right and it's not exactly the same, honestly, as Obama's explanation for not wanting to use the Islamic term.

This group of people -- we can call them a white nationalist, white supremacist, the alt-right -- pick whichever word you like. They are indeed part of the Trump coalition, what successfully elected Donald Trump the President of the United States.

Now it's not fair to say that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a racist or believes in some of these horrible views. But it is true to say that part of the coalition did include some people who do hold these views and we saw a group of them out of the streets of --


HENICAN: -- Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend.

HOWELL: But rather, the question here is the shoe on the other foot now because again there was a term that the president said needed to be used several years ago, needed to be used to address the problem directly.

And now we are seeing a problem that is not being directly addressed.

HENICAN: It's a fair criticism honestly. It is that notion that if you can't name your enemy, it's kind of hard to fight your enemy. But it's being done in a very calculated way.

The president is reluctant to alienate that group of the electorate in the same that (INAUDIBLE) we've been scratching our heads about it, he seems reluctant to alienate Vladimir Putin. At some point or another if you're the president, you have to take a stand on these things.

And he has been notably slow in this case, you are absolutely right.

Ellis, I want to show our viewers, if we're able to -- I'll ask our director, if we're able to, to bring up the video of the protest that took place in Charlottesville because when you see the video, then it starts to sort of paint the picture of the question that I will ask here.

Many critics are questioning the president's term or use of the term, "many sides." So again, many sides, Ellis, is that creating a false equivalence here?

And by doing so, does that legitimize this group of hatemongers?

HENICAN: It does. If you say that, well, all God's creatures are sinners somehow, while that might be true on some kind of a technical literal level, it does not shining on the -- what is I think and I think most Americans believe -- is a more pressing reality, which is that there are some people in our country, some people in our midst, sometimes even people that we know who hold views that are -- on matters of race and justice and equality pretty abhorrent to most Americans.

And you've got to stand up and say that if you want to do anything about it.

HOWELL: It is important to point out in the president's response, he did mention the word "bigotry." But again critics saying that he did not go far enough, did not call a spade a spade, a duck a duck, whatever you want to say.

The people that were there were white nationalists and that is simply the fact. Ellis Henican, thank you so much for your time today.

HENICAN: Good being with you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, President Trump being criticized again for his reaction to Charlottesville, both sides of the aisle saying they are giving their statements more directly. We'll have more on that ahead.





HOWELL: We continue coverage the aftermath of what happened in the U.S. state of Virginia, breaking news this hour here on CNN. I am George Howell.

Federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation into this car attack that took place in the city of Charlottesville. One woman died, this when a car rammed into a crowd of people who were protesting a white nationalist rally.

At least 19 other people were wounded. Police arrested this man in the case, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. He is being held on suspicion of second-degree murder. Three other people were also arrested in connection with clashes that took place between white supremacists and people who came to face them down.

So here is the background on what happened today, on that day; the rally that took place was to protest the planned removal of the statue of a Confederate Civil War general from a city park. It is a divisive and very emotional issue for many Americans.

Monuments like these bring out strong feelings because the Confederate states fought to preserve slavery in the South. Many say that that makes these statue symbols of the past, of racism and bigotry. But others say they simply want to preserve their heritage and history. The issue is especially emotional in the U.S. state of Virginia. Some

more background: Virginia's capital, Richmond, was also the main capital of the secessionist Confederacy. Much of the four-year U.S. civil war that began in 1861 was fought in Virginia.

And half a million men became casualties within its borders. The state was starved and devastated by the end of that war. Many cities then built statues of Confederate generals. And battlefields, they are often preserved as parks.

As reactions go so far to what happened in Virginia, Democrats and some Republicans are criticizing the President of the United States for his response to the violence in Charlottesville. CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones has more on that.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there; that's right. The president did respond to the violence in Charlottesville earlier today. Here is part of what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP (R), 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.

It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.


JONES: And one phrase that you heard from the president just now there is getting a lot of attention and a lot of criticism, I should say, and that is when he said the violence, the hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. A lot of folks are saying he is equating the neo-Nazis and white supremacists and white nationalists who were demonstrating today and last night with the folks who were counter demonstrating, protesting the racism and the racial epithets they were espousing.

I asked a White House official what the president meant by "many sides." I asked several White House officials. This is what one of them said.

They said the president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.

So that was the White House doubling down on this idea that both sides are to blame.

Another thing that is notable here is that the president talked about bringing the country together, about the need to unite, to straighten out the situation in Charlottesville, to study it, to figure out what's going wrong in this country that allows this sort of thing to happen. Well, a lot of critics on both sides of the aisle are saying that the

president himself needs to call out the organizers of these demonstrations by name; specifically we're talking about the white nationalist, people who were carrying flags with Nazi emblems, carrying Confederate flags, people who showed up on the University of Virginia's campus last night, carrying torches --


JONES: -- protesting the removal of a Confederate statue.

They note that the president has long criticized people like President Barack Obama for not using phrases like "radical Islamic terrorism," arguing how can you fight or defeat this enemy or this idea without naming it?

They are calling on the president to condemn white nationalists. And one more thing I want to note. This is a president who has not been shy about criticizing a long list of people, whether it's Democrats like President Barack Obama or his former rival, Hillary Clinton, or fellow Republicans like Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Senator John McCain, also the former FBI director, James Comey and the current special counsel, Bob Mueller.

But what he has not done while president is condemn white nationalists, white supremacy, white nationalism or Nazis or neo- Nazis. That is why a lot of folks believe that his statement today, the statement here on Saturday, did not go far enough -- back to you.


HOWELL: Athena Jones, thank you.

Some critics say that President Trump's lack of condemnation of white supremacists sends a very strong message. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen says, in many ways, it lends them legitimacy. Listen.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: We do know one thing that's clear. The president, in saying it's -- we've violence and hatred and bigotry on all -- on many sides, on many -- as he repeated -- on many sides, did equate -- he placed a moral equivalency between the neo- Nazis and the people who showed up today to defend racial justice.

He essentially -- and in doing that and by putting that equivalence on -- he, in effect, defended the neo-Nazis. That in effect was an offense. Everybody does it; oh, everybody out there is doing; everybody has to calm down.

I'm sorry. The -- they -- what we have to be very clear about is -- a second thing is, yes, there is a First Amendment protection for freedom of assembly, freedom of speech but is not an unfettered right.

You do not have a right under the First Amendment -- the courts have been quite clear about that -- you do not have a right to use language that incites violence.

And when you have groups marching through Charlottesville as they were, chanting anti-Semitic slurs, when they are going after blacks, when they're saying take this country back and make it a white dominated country again, that's an incitement to violence and that's what we then had.

Primary responsibility then for the violence rests with those people who were the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists and the other extremists.


HOWELL: Now as David Gergen, adviser to presidents of both political parties and CNN senior political analyst.

Now among those attending the rally in Virginia was a Holocaust denier, former KKK leader David Duke. He's been a vocal supporter of President Trump. And here's a clip from 2016 when then candidate Trump was asked about David Duke.


TRUMP: Yes, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel about the recent endorsement from David Duke?

TRUMP: I didn't even know he endorsed me.

David Duke endorsed me?

OK. All right. I disavow.




HOWELL: The president there in that clip disavowing David Duke. But keep in mind the context here. This after an interview with my colleague, Jake Tapper, where Tapper asked candidate Trump about David Duke and Mr. Trump in that interview asked, who is David Duke?

I'm paraphrasing poorly -- but did not denounce in that interview.

Duke explained the reasoning for Saturday's alt-right and neo-Nazi rally in Virginia. Listen to this.



DAVID DUKE, FORMER KKK LEADER: This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back.


HOWELL: Mr. Trump condemned the rally and urged Americans to come together. Duke sent a tweet directed at the president, saying that "Mr. Trump should take a good look in the mirror and remember that it was white Americans who put him the presidency, not radical leftists."

Earlier, my colleague, Amara Walker, spoke to the former Lt. Governor of South Carolina Andre Bauer about David Duke. Here's part of that conversation. Bauer began by reacting to David Duke's comments.


ANDRE BAUER, FORMER LT. GOV. OF SOUTH CAROLINA: David Duke is not a -- anyway, what I think, what this country tries to speak to the world about welcoming and being tolerant of other people's views.

In fact, it's just the opposite and it's not healthy. I don't know how he's continued to be relevant. I wish y'all wouldn't even cover him and then it would take a lot of his relevance away.

But I hope the president will address that.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Your thoughts on some of the GOP lawmakers who are basically doing what the president didn't do. For instance, Senator Orrin Hatch, tweeting, "We should call evil by its name.


WALKER: "My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home."

Senator Ted Cruz also calling it domestic terrorism. Chuck Grassley, what white nationalists are doing in Charlottesville is homegrown terrorism. You have lawmakers, Republican colleagues of the president, who are calling it what it is yet the president not doing that.

How do you explain this huge disconnect between the President of the United States and these GOP senators?

BAUER: Well, those GOP senators had plenty of time to come up with their message. They're not taking on as many as things as the President of the United States is right now. And we do have --


WALKER: Well, the president has had time --


WALKER: -- hours to tweet again, hasn't he?


BAUER: -- sad and unfortunate -- well, I don't know that he said unfortunate.


WALKER: He hasn't called out white supremacy.

BAUER: Well, I hope tomorrow that he does. Again , I was watching Van Jones, a good friend of mine earlier. And I heard his heart. I heard what he was saying and I heard what he wanted to hear from our president. And I think our president will clarify some of the things that maybe he didn't get a chance to address today.

WALKER: All right. Andre Bauer, we appreciate you coming on. Thank you so much for your perspective.

BAUER: Thank you, Amara.


HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, U.S. leaders denounce radical bigotry after violent rallies that took place in Virginia with white nationalists. We discuss race relations with a bit of history in mind. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We continue following the breaking news this hour on CNN.

Rage, hate and death in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. I am George Howell at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

Three people have been arrested after these violent clashes that took place between white supremacists and people who came out to face them down. Federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation. This after a car plowed into a crowd of people who were protesting the white nationalists.

Also, we have video of the incident. But we do want to warn you, this video is graphic. It shows part of the chain reaction of that attack, that red van moved into a crowd of people after being hit from behind by the attacker's car.

We know that a 32-year-old woman died in the crowd; 19 people were injured, several critically. Police took this man into custody in connection with this car attack, 20-year-old James Alex Field Jr. being held in suspicion of second-degree murder.

The governor of Virginia had a very emotional message for the white nationalists at Saturday's rally. Listen.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple. Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.

You pretend that you're patriots but you are anything but a patriot.


HOWELL: In the meantime, Democrats and Republicans are criticizing President Trump for not labeling the protesters what they are: white nationalists.


DONALD TRUMP (R), 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.

It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time.


HOWELL: Joining me now to talk more about the situation, we have with us this hour Derreck Kayongo. He is the CEO for the Center for Civil and Human Rights right here in Atlanta.

Derreck, it's good to have you with us for perspective. So given the center there, given the history that I know that you know so very well, I want to talk about the president's words that are getting so much criticism, so much attention right now, "many sides."

If we could, I just ask the director play a bit of that video, showing the protesters as they were facing many of the white supremacists that were there at this rally, you get a sense here of what was happening on the ground. Some people will see it one way, others will see it clear as day another way.

But here is the question, "many sides," Derreck, putting many sides in the context of history, would "many sides" be applicable to the 1960s with the civil rights rallies that happened?

"Many sides."

KAYONGO: Many sides there are, I think this is a term for the president to go back and look at this particular statement, a way to address the country. I think if I were him, I would really sit down and (INAUDIBLE) a whole sort of language piece that explains to the country what is going on.

Because what happened? Let's look back over the conversation. Something in terms of voting happened. They voted in Virginia to put down the statue. That's what led to this particular event. So I think that there is a march of freedom, toward freedom, that is happening all over the country.

This has happened in New Orleans. It happened in South Carolina with the flag. It is happening everywhere. We're bringing down these vestiges and bringing up new monuments of courage.

So I think that this needs a lot of more thought to it than just one little sentence.

HOWELL: Let us get past the optics of the president's response and get deeper into the nuance and the context of the history here because, again, you point out, in New Orleans, in Georgia and in many different Southern states, there is this debate about what some people say -- this is an effort to preserve history.

KAYONGO: Correct.

HOWELL: And others say these symbols are symbols of slavery, of bigotry, of hatred. It is a very emotional issue that divides Americans.

KAYONGO: It is and rightfully so. Because when you look at what happened in the country during slavery, it is inhumane. And so it is important for us to realize it, who is in this fight right now. It's not just African Americans. It's whites. It's Jews. Everyone of us that has a thought towards justice is involved in this fight to bring about equality.

And not just for African Americans, for everybody. We need gender rights. [04:35:00]

KAYONGO: We need -- people need jobs so we -- unfortunately, of course in this old struggle, when we have real problems that are going on in the country. So I think that this is really important that we actually uproot this particular feeling and go back to the important things at task right now.

North Korea, we have jobs issues, Social Security, health care, all these are important discussion if you look at where we are charged (ph). We are talking about old vestiges, how sad.

HOWELL: But again, an vestige that that is a good, big part of American history, that has a deep place for many people.

Do you feel that this is an issue that is being addressed as directly as it needs to be right now?

KAYONGO: Not really. We need to really think about our leadership, which has so far sort of mentioned powerful words. The Republicans have said some really important things; the Democrats have said some really important things. The president needs to come out of this, some very, very important things. But at the end of the day, I ask myself every day. What am I doing as Derreck to bring this country to that moral aptitude that we're looking at?

Not habitude but aptitude. I think all of us in the United States have to really ask ourselves, what are you doing every day to build this country to that place where we all say, ah, this is a country that respects everybody's rights. But next year, George, is the commemoration of Dr. King's death, 50 years, 50 years since he passed away.

So this is important.

HOWELL: Derreck Kayongo, the CEO for the Center for Civil and Human Rights here in Atlanta, it is a pleasure to have you with us for the context and perspective. Thank you.

KAYONGO: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, we continue to watch this developing story out of Charlottesville, Virginia. But after the break, we will look at the escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. It's put the small island of Guam in the middle of it all. Our Ivan Watson takes a strategic look at the island from the air, dubbed "the tip of the spear," a very important strategic location for the U.S. Stay with us as NEWSROOM pushes on.





HOWELL: A quick update this hour on our top story. The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Saturday's deadly clashes that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One woman was killed; more than a dozen other people were hurt or injured. This after a car slammed into a crowd of protesters. They were counter demonstrating against white supremacists attempting to hold a rally in Charlottesville.

Around the world now, following our international news, tensions between U.S. and North Korea remain high. This after Pyongyang's latest missile threat. The U.S. and its allies are also bracing for a potential attack.

Also, CNN has learned that the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is set to meet South Korea's president on Monday. All of this after North Korea's threat too launch missiles toward Guam. CNN's Ivan Watson recently got a bird's-eye view of the island and its strategic importance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Guam is the U.S.' westernmost territorial possession, an island about three times the size of Washington, D.C., with spectacular beaches, reefs and greenery home to more than 160,000 American citizens.

It is closer geographically than countries like the Philippines and Japan than the mainland U.S. It is also an important military position. About a third of the island is controlled by the U.S. military and in our aerial tour, we've seen submarines pulling into naval base Guam. We also have passed over Andersen Air Force Base, where B-1 bombers have been flying out of this week.

There are about 5,300 U.S. service personnel and dependents. This is important staging ground, refueling stations and launch pad for the U.S. military. And North Korea has announced that it's drawing up plans to try to fire four intermediate ballistic missiles that they say would aim to splash down in the ocean about 20 miles, 30 to 40 kilometers off the coast of this American island -- Ivan Watson, CNN, in the skies over Guam.


HOWELL: Ivan, thank you so much for the look there at Guam.

CNN is covering the North Korean missile threat with our correspondents across the globe, a great deal of context and background here, experience from Anna Coren following the story in Seoul, South Korea, and Sherisse Pham, live with us this hour in Tokyo, Japan.

Good to have you both with us.

Anna, let us start with you.

Do we have any indication of what might come out of this meeting that's set to take place between a U.S. official and the South Korean president?

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): George, we know that General Dunford was always due to come to South Korea. This was a scheduled visit. And obviously he will now be meeting with President Moon Jae- in as well as the national security advisor and the head of the defense ministry, when North Korea will be top of the agenda.

While he's here in the region, he will also be traveling to Japan as well as China and Hawaii. But as I say, North Korea definitely top of the agenda. They will be talking about security. They'll be discussing the plans in place, if there are any provocations, and also reassuring South Korea that the United States is here with them.

But some 30,000 American troops are stationed here in South Korea. So this is an alliance that certainly goes a long way back. It's very strong. And General Dunford coming to South Korea just reaffirms that.

Now, George, in the last few hours we have heard word out of North Korea through Rodong (ph) newspaper, which is a mouthpiece for the ruling Workers' Party. I want to read you some of the excerpts that have come from it.

It says, "The strategic nuclear force, the DPRK the best safeguard deteriorating the U.S. imperialist nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula."

It goes on to describe --


COREN: -- the United States as "the worst nuclear warmonger in the world."

And it says that the reason that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons is for defense -- George.

HOWELL: Anna Coren, following this story in Seoul, South Korea, where it does appear that life goes on as usual today. The people certainly have this story at the top of mind. Thank you for the report.

Now bringing in Sherisse Pham following the story in Tokyo.

Sherisse, what more can you tell us about how that nation is preparing?

SHERISSE PHAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Japan responding by deploying Patriot missile interceptors to the southern regions of Japan. So those areas that North Korea said missiles would fly over on their way to Guam if Pyongyang carries through with its threat, the Ministry of Defense deploying those systems over the weekend, right in the middle of a national holiday here.

And the local reporters are saying now that the interceptor systems are in place and the launch pads are angled up, which means that Patriot missiles are pointed toward the sky, ready to take out a threat if one arises.

So really showing that even though officials have been really measured in their response to this escalating war of words between the U.S. and North Korea, they're taking this threat at least somewhat seriously.

That being said, important to remember that there are some 54,000 U.S. military personnel based here in Japan and there has been no evacuation for U.S. citizens and life for regular Japanese folks carries on as usual, as you can see behind me -- George.

HOWELL: Sherisse Pham, following the story in Tokyo, again, where people are just moving about as normal but certainly this is a very important story that the world is paying attention to.

And Anna Coren this hour in Seoul, South Korea.

Thank you for the reporting from both. We will stay in touch with you.

Now let's bring in CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Good to have you with us, sir, this hour from Eugene, Oregon. Let us first start with the big picture, the big optics here, the President of the United States hearing from allies, even adversaries, urging caution in this thing.

Where do things stand now?

Is this a matter of who calls whose bluff first?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, this is the real problem. We're up against each other and the best thing that the leaders can do is like ratchet down the rhetoric because, at some point, one side is going to have to make an accommodation to the other.

We've got the two opposing sides and they have two opposing positions which are diametrically opposed to each other. We want the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the North Koreans want at least the calling-off of these multinational exercises that we hold in South Korea every year.

I do not think either side is willing to give on either one of those.

HOWELL: Col. Francona, I see that you are having some trouble with the earpiece where you can hear me. So if you are having trouble, let me know. But the question I have for you is this, what options does the United States have?

Obviously Guam is at the center of this all, dubbed "the tip of the spear." It is a very important strategic location, as our own Ivan Watson pointed out for us. What does the U.S. have in its playbook in response or even in preemptive response here?

FRANCONA: Well, no military options are good. I think we need to say that right up front. Any military option will trigger a war on the South Korean Peninsula, on the Korean Peninsula that we don't want. It will be catastrophic. The human cost will be tragic and the ramifications will be long-lasting.

So we need to go back to this -- come back from the brink and sit down and come up. Now what is in the U.S. playbook? What we're asking for is a freeze on the Korean nuclear program. I do not think that is going to happen. The North Koreans have made their nuclear program the centerpiece of their foreign policy. It's written into their constitution.

They believe, because of this paranoia of isolation over the last 70 years, that the only deterrence against the continued American assault on their homeland is this nuclear deterrent. So I do not think they are going to be able to back down from that.

So what do we do?

I think was going to happen is -- and there is back channel diplomacy going on right now -- is that we will defuse the situation but we will not solve the crisis, the crisis will continue on.

And I think the United States is going to have to figure out, do we live with a North Korea or are there other options we can take?

What is it going forward?

And we have not figured out yet. And I know the North Koreans think they know what they want. But I do not think they are willing to give anything that we want. So I think we're at an impasse and I think it's going to continue. But I think that the -- this brinkmanship that we're involved right now will slowly back off, George.

HOWELL: Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona with perspective from Eugene, Oregon, this hour. Thanks for your time today.

Also we're following another story. We're learning more about the investigation into the Trump administration's possible ties to Russia, "The New York Times" reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to interview current and former senior officials from the Trump team. That includes former White House Chief of Staff --


HOWELL: -- Reince Priebus. Investigators reportedly want to know if Priebus met former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, back in June 2016. On that same day, Manafort, President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. all attended a meeting at Trump Tower with Russians, who claim to have had damaging information on candidate Hillary Clinton.

"The New York Times" says that Mueller is also looking into President Trump's decision to fire FBI director James Comey.

Still ahead this hour on NEWSROOM, more deadly clashes in the state of Virginia. We'll have more on what happened there. You'll hear the shock witnesses, who saw the car ram right into pedestrians. Stay with us.




HOWELL: All around the tragic situation, some might say heartbreaking, what happened in the U.S. state of Virginia. Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. Here is what we know so far.

Three people have been arrested over clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters. All of this taking place in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia.


HOWELL: And also a car attack is being now -- is now being investigated as a civil rights case. One woman died when a car rammed into a crowd of people who were protesting white nationalists.

This man is being held in connection with that crash. In the meantime, Democrats and Republicans both are criticizing the U.S. president for not labeling the protesters, not calling them what they are: white nationalists.

Witnesses who saw the car slam into this group of counter protesters say that the vehicle was going very fast. Two men who were there at the scene described exactly what they saw and what they heard. Listen.


BRENNAN GILMORE, EYEWITNESS: The car reversed very fast back up the street, as you can see in the video. So we were still in the scene and jumped out to get out around the corner, this barrier of this building.

And the car flew by and immediately -- there was -- victims started coming out -- my friend ran after the car. I gave first aid to a lady that had come out from the scene and, yes, that's basically what happened. The car disappeared after that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you able to get a look at the driver as he sped by you?

CHRIS MAHONY, EYEWITNESS: No; the car had tinted windows. So it was difficult to see in. So I was more looking, as this person going to come directly toward me. So I was looking to get out of the way of the car, right, as it came back.

When it came past us, we didn't see. I just saw it plow, like Brennan said,, into the group of protesters. And I thought, wow, this is clearly like a terrorist incident.

GILMORE: I got a glimpse of the driver. I was standing about just a few feet from him as he came back, a white male, appeared to have close-cropped hair but it was tinted windows. I didn't get a very good look at him.


HOWELL: This had to be a really scary moment for everybody that was there when this happened.

Thanks for being with us. I'm George Howell at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Our breaking news coverage continues in a moment. Stay with us.