Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Confronted on His Delay to Condemn Racists; Two Days Later Trump Calls Out KKK, Neo-Nazis; Trump Advisers Signal Knives Out for Bannon. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: That was the president just now responding to our own senior White House correspondent it was the voice of Jim Acosta there shouting questions at the president in the White House on the atrocities over the weekend. And as you heard the president say, he's condemned them he says.
I have Paris Dennard with me now who is a former White House director of black outreach under George W. Bush. Keith Boykin is a CNN political commentator and a Democratic strategist. Joe Pinion is a supporter of the president. And Sara Sidner a CNN correspondent is with who has really just been reporting on hate and hate groups in this country over past year. So, welcome to all of you and Keith what is just your immediate response in hearing not only the president from earlier today and condemning who he referred to as thugs, KKK, white supremacists et cetera. But just now saying I condemned it. Your thoughts?
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It sounds like he doesn't take this issue seriously. Even in his speech earlier he went through this whole litany about the economy before he even got to the discussion about the white supremacist murdering attack in Charlottesville. This just a few moments ago when he is questioned about this by Jim Acosta he dismisses it. Oh, they have been condemned. This is a time and opportunity for the president to speak with moral
clarity. He has failed to do that? It took him just 54 minutes to respond to the African-American CEO of Merck today, Ken Frazier to condemn him, but it took him two days to responsibility to the racist murdering attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. That's unacceptable. And it's an abdication of moral leadership and it is failure on the part of the entire Republican party to allow this to happen.
BALDWIN: Paris, how do you see it?
PARIS DENNARD, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF BLACK OUTREACH UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: I 100 percent disagree with everything he says, but that's no surprise. I normally disagree with everything he says. When it comes to the president I was proud to see him once again disavow his association. Talk about why he does not associate himself with these hate groups. He did this back in March 2016 with respect to David Duke. He said Duke is a bad person, I disavow from David Duke, and disavow from the KKK. He did that March 2016. He gave a statement this weekend that wasn't strong enough for a lot of people. Because he did not name specifically these different hate groups just like --
BALDWIN: Was it strong enough for you?
DENNARD: Yes. I was strong enough for me because came out and said hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in our society in America. And that was true.
BALDWIN: Many sides in not specifying groups?
DENNARD: You know what? When President Obama after Charleston came out right after Charleston and gave his remarks, it was a very tempered response, and he did not go into details. He did not name all of those people by name, all those hate groups by name, and did not call that person who was a domestic terrorist. And we knew he was a white supremacist and neo-Nazi. He didn't do anything of that but he didn't receive the backlash. But President Trump did do that today. He did it, and afterwards, when Jim Acosta came and asked him about it again, he said they have been disavowed.
BOYKIN: Can I say something --
DENNARD: And the last point -- Keith, I didn't interrupt you. I'm surprised that all of a sudden, we want the president to be our bishop, priest, pastor. You go back to past presidents, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon for many instances or even back to JFK, there have been huge examples of moral failure. So, the president of so the understand has never been someone that we looked to be our moral leader. If you want a perfect person --
BOYKIN: Paris, Paris I have to -- I just have to say something about this. We have a president of the United States who started his political career by attacking the first African-American president, with a racist birther attack which he continued for five years. He started his political campaign by attacking Mexicans, and he started his ascendancy by attacking Muslins. He has a history of racism and failed to repudiate this. This is unlike President Obama. I'm offended that you continue to go there, Paris, but the reality is President Trump has not done enough. I'm ashamed at you as an African-American, Paris, will not say that.
DENNARD: I am well aware of my blackness and don't need you to classify me as being one.
[15:35:00] BOYKIN: Are you?
DENNARD: Keith, do not go there. Do not go there. I know what it means to be a black man in this country. I know and I experience racism on a regular basis by being a Trump supporter and a proud American who happens to be a Republican --
BOYKIN: So that's the racism you experience, being a Trump supporter?
DENNARD: I get racist comments about my family, about my mother, about my girlfriend, about my character every single day from -- mostly coming from black people, Keith. If you really want to get down to it. Keith, let me finish! My family is from Georgia. We have members missing because of the KKK taking them up. Don't come to me and tell me what it means to be a black person in this country. I fought every day in the George W. Bush White House --
BOYKIN: I asked you a question. Calm down.
DENNARD: I won't calm down. I will not be attacked about my blackness because I happen to be a Republican --
BOYKIN: I didn't -- Paris, you are going off the rails here.
BALDWIN: Gentlemen --
BOYKIN: You're obviously very sensitive and defensive.
DENNARD: Keith, you better watch your mouth.
BALDWIN: Keith and Paris, please, please, come --
DENNARD: Get him under control because I will not come on the show, I will not be disrespected.
BOYKIN: You can disrespect the African-Americans every day when you come on the show.
BALDWIN: Hang on, hang on, hang on, please.
DENNARD: You don't represent them at all.
BALDWIN: Guys, guys, guys.
BOYKIN: You're their spokesperson.
BALDWIN: I want to bring Joe in. Paris, please, sir.
BOYKIN: Good for you, Paris.
DENNARD: Denouncing David Duke like he did in March.
BOYKIN: After he was forced to do it.
DENNARD: He wasn't forced to do it.
BOYKIN: It took him two days --
BALDWIN: Take that conversation, have it off camera. I would like a substantive conversation --
DENNARD: He better watch about how he talks about me.
BOYKIN: Paris, shut up, please. For god's sake --
DENNARD: You are going to let him tell me to shut up?
BALDWIN: No, I'm not. I'm not.
DENNARD: Don't tell me to shut up on this show. This is preposterous and you know it.
BALDWIN: Guys, please, respect, give me a minute. Joe, I know you've been listening to this. How do you view how -- as a conservative, as a beloved member of the Republican party, listening to the president, listening to this conversation, this is where we are now in this country?
JOSEPH PINION, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think that the reality is this is where we've been at as a nation for a very long time. I don't think this is necessarily something that's new. For a lot of Americans, they're just finally realizing the fissures. I listened to what just occurred, it's heartbreaking. You both are my brothers. Regardless of what's happens right now in this country, we have to find a way to fix these issues as brothers. Not tearing each other down, not engaging in, in black on black intellectual prime in prime time.
I understand that we get frustrated when people try to castigate us, I get ridiculous things on Twitter the same way you do, Pairs, I understand the frustration and anger but you cannot drive out hate with rage. So again, we need to figure out a way that we can as a nation, as people, as a community of people of color, as a nation of people that's a tapestry of all different ethnicities. Figure out how we can again come together and hold hands and do things differently. The reality is we need to confront on the Republican side as well as just as a nation.
I think when you have a president that habitually communicates in the language of hyperbole. When you contrast that with the statement that he made over the weekend, it makes it very difficult for people who have been marginalized, for people who do not necessarily feel like they have felt the warm embrace from this president to believe he is being sincere. That is the outcome of what has transpired, for better and for worse. And so, I think again, ultimately it is incumbent on us, those of us who have this platform, those of us who have been blessed with the opportunity to have input on issues that impact people's lives to be able to sit down and say, what is our objective? And say there is not one path to get there but multiple forces from different standpoints can work together to get us to where we're trying to be as a society.
SARA SIDNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want to add this.
BALDWIN: Please, Sara.
SIDNER: It's important to know, this fight we're just having, we haven't even mentioned the victim's name, Heather Heyer, who died as a result of hatred. I think it's important to remind everyone why we are talking about this.
[15:40:00] If people thought they were lives in a post-racial world because we had a black president, welcome to reality. Now, look, we had a black president, look how great America is coming together. We are divided, and it's getting worse. America is coming together. We are divided, and it's getting worse. The words he did not use, and how that affected neo-Nazis. One of the most prolific, I want to read you what he said after the initial statement. He said, Trump's comments were good. Nothing specific against us, when asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.
Those words are coming from a person who using the most vial disgusting hateful anti-Semitic, anti-black, misogynistic. He's gone after the victim in this case and these are the records from him. That's how President Trump came off to those who believe in white supremacy. Words matter. They matter to everyone who was listening, and the fact he waited a couple days to name these groups and say, look, no to the KKK, no to neo-Nazis. We have to look at this. They are taking it as a signal that Trump is giving then a thumbs up. That's a problem.
BALDWIN: The question to Paris, how can the president -- shouldn't the president, given that disgusting response say, if you were my supporters, I do not want your support. Call them out by name, do not support me.
DENNARD: He's done that. When he said I disavowed back in March --
SIDNER: It's not March, we're in August. Someone is dead. Why can't he just go after the people who were perpetrating some of this. Yes, a lot of people are angry.
DENNARD: Yes, actually that's what he did --
SIDNER: Why not mention it immediately?
DENNARD: That's what he did today. And actually, it is more than one person who is dead, there's three people that are dead.
SIDNER: That's true. It's a very serious issue, but the person hit and killed by someone who had these views is dead and you had two sheriff's deputies dead trying to help deal with the situation that got out of control.
DENNARD: Right. No matter what the president says, these idiots who you just gave a wonderful platform to will continue to use his name --
SIDNER: They have a platform.
DENNARD: David Duke is the most irrelevant person.
SIDNER: This isn't David Duke.
DENNARD: David Duke keeps coming around because he wants to be in the media. This website, these neo-Nazis, KKK members, they want the media platform, they said to have the microphone. Keep mentioning their website. Congratulations. You are going to keep driving up their numbers. I won't go visit their website. I am not going to Google who this person is.
BALDWIN: Paris, this is about the president.
DENNARD: And he disavowed it back in March. He did it a couple days ago and did it again today. BOYKIN: Paris --
DENNARD: I distance myself. He keeps doing it, and it's fine.
BOYKIN: Why is it that white Republican senators and members of congress have been disagreeing with President Trump's statement on Saturday, saying he didn't go far enough?
DENNARD: Because if -- if the president had read the statement as written and not ad-libbed, which he normally does, and not says those two or three words that he ad-libbed on.
PINION: Many sides?
DENNARD: Many sides, everybody would have said this is an appropriate response, but the media and everyone else fanned the flames saying this president is racist.
BALDWIN: You have to understand, Paris, and he wasn't speaking on the groups. Would you tell not be specific on the groups, call them thugs and be done with it at the get-go. It was that nebulous nature of the comments led to the criticism. The genesis of the criticism was the president.
DENNARD: I don't think naming the groups then would have done anything different than it did day. It pacified a lot of people who came to him to do that. Listen, I go back to President Obama. You don't like me to do it, but I do, it gives us context to what people do on the situation, when it happens unexpected like Charleston did. [15:45:00] President Obama did not name him and call him a domestic
terrorist. He did not call him a white supremacist. And President Trump did --
BOYKIN: Paris -- let's just --
PINION: I don't believe those statements.
DENNARD: And President Trump did not do it but both statements were strong and were clear when the president said hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in America. He wasn't talking about the Christians in church-going people. He wasn't talking about the people who were there peacefully. He was talking about those who hate, those who are bigots and exercising violence.
BOYKIN: Let me say this, Paris, because President Trump spent his entire political campaign attacking President Obama.
DENNARD: You've already making that talking point. Move on.
BOYKIN: This is a different point.
DENNARD: Go ahead.
BOYKIN: Don't let me finish my point. Thank you. President Trump made this whole political career talking about President Obama's failure to call out radical Islamic terrorism unless you call it by name. Here we have white supremacist terrorism, and President Trump won't call it by name.
DENNARD: Actually, he did that today. That's what he did today.
BOYKIN: It took him two days.
DENNARD: Be accurate. Either he said it or didn't.
BOYKIN: Paris, let me finish.
DENNARD: He said it today.
BOYKIN: We understand.
SIDNER: But he said it after a lot of pressure from other Republicans.
BOYKIN: Even today he said, "and other hate groups." He left that wiggle room so people could interpret to whether it's black lives matter or people supporting black lives matter.
DENNARD: This is what I'm talking about. You never will be satisfied. You can't list every hate group in America.
BOYKIN: He doesn't have to. All he does is have to say the specific groups.
DENNARD: And he did.
BOYKIN: He didn't have to say, "other hate groups." He doesn't speak with moral clarity when he talks about Ken Frazier or black lives matter. Anybody he dislikes, he's very clear. When he talks about white supremacists or Vladimir Putin, he's not clear.
DENNARD: He's clear to me.
BALDWIN: Joe, Joe.
SIDNER: The message is clear to the KKK and neo-Nazis as well.
DENNARD: This is ridiculous.
BALDWIN: Where do we go from here?
PINION: We have a president that does not always speak with nuance, often does not speak with nuance, so I think it becomes frustrating for people when we act as if somehow this president is going to somehow be held to a different standard when it comes to issues of people with color, when it comes to Russia issues, but everything else he's given carte blanche to speak off the cuff. I think that is very frustrating, that is dangerous. I think ultimately when you talk about where we go from here, we need to sit down as a nation and say these are the things we value.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, all we ask from America is to be true to what he say on paper, yet, incumbent in that is an understanding that some of the things on paper did not always apply to people of color in this country. So, when we talk about these issues of race, we can have honest and open discourse, but that has to be rooted in truth and demonstrated love. That's where I think we do a better job. Not just as a party and political figures, but as a nation.
BALDWIN: We're going to leave it there. Appreciate all of you, I'm done. We'll be right back.
[015:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: In the latest power struggle inside the White House, CNN learned the knives are out for Steve Bannon, he is seen as pursuing his own agenda which apparently doesn't mesh with the power structure new chief of staff John Kelly has put in place. Bannon who is former executive from Breitbart news reportedly has been on thin ice for weeks. Listen to Trump's former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Been tough on Steve Bannon, does he have to go?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think the president knows what he's going to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is what?
SCARAMUCCI: Let's leave it up to the president, it is his decision. At the end of the day, I think the president has a very good idea who the leakers are inside the White House, the president has a very good idea of the people that are undermining his agenda that are serving their own interests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they include Steve Bannon?
SCARAMUCCI: Yes, I mean, look, we're not on a phone call, a taped phone call, we're on live television. I would prefer to let the president make the decisions he needs to make.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you and Steve Bannon still work together?
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I work with a broad range of talented people. It is a privilege every day to enable the national security team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't answer. Can you and Steve Bannon work in that same house?
MCMASTER: I am ready to work with anyone who will help advance the president's agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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)
[15:55:00] BALDWIN: With me now, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Seltzer and CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel. You have been talking to your people, what's the real deal on his status?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: What have we known about Steve Bannon for a long time, he doesn't play well with others, and that has not changed and it's not going to change. Are the knives out for him? Yes. Are they sharp? Yes. We know that the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has wanted him out. His daughter Ivanka, chief of staff General Kelly is not a fan. That said, he's a survivor and someone said to me he has nine lives and he has a couple more left. Don't count him out yet.
BALDWIN: What about General Kelly, how does he feel about him?
GANGEL: I am told that General Kelly would like him gone, so who wants Steve Bannon there, the one person, the obvious person, President Trump. And what I'm told is that first of all, in every White House, presidents pick people for different reasons and they appeal to different parts of their personality. There is clearly something about Steve Bannon that appeals to Donald Trump, but in addition to that he has caused a lot of trouble inside the White House. The concern is if you let him go outside the bubble, he could cause even more trouble and the president believes that Steve Bannon is a connection with the base that still supports him.
STELTER: And this is a base presidency, Bannon is the one with the white board listing all the promises mad and kept.
BALDWIN: To you, sir, pivoting back to Charlottesville, the photo, this extraordinary tragic photo that was caught by the photographer at the "Daily Progress" here, look at this. You could look at so much video, but the feet flying in the air, the mayhem, the chaos, you know, this is Ryan M. Kelly, "The Washington Post" calls it the photo from Charlottesville that will define this moment in American history, and it was this photographer's last day on the job.
STELTER: He is off taking a job at a brewery.
BALDWIN: At a brewery?
STELTER: He was out taking photos of the protest and counter protest, he had been in the street a few seconds before. He feels that he very well could have been hit by this car if he hadn't stepped on the sidewalk and turned around to see this. Jimmy, don't you think this could be a Pulitzer Prize contender for photography, for spot photography. It captures the terror of that moment as well as that man in the foreground rushing to help.
BALDWIN: Photo deserves to be in the series when you go into a museum of award winning pictures. Other pictures through the weekend. STELTER: One from July that I want to show. This was around on
social, not from Saturday, but was very popular on social media. If you see it in your feed, I think we can show this from July from a different racist rally. You see this black-police officer protecting these KKK members that are out there protesting, so it is not from this weekend. If you saw it on social media, might have thought it was from Charlottesville, it was from July. I share it to let you know it is from July, nevertheless makes a broader point about the people there trying to protect even the white nationalist protesters. And this is two men facing off, one with fire, another with the flag. I think confederate flag. If you crop it, might take a perspective away from the story. You see two sides wanting to fight in Charlottesville on Saturday, and we've seen the aftermath ever since.
BALDWIN: Brian and Jamie, thank you so much. Can't believe this. I started my career in Charlottesville, Virginia. Quintessential college town. To think it all descended on Charlottesville makes me sick. Anyway, thank you both so much. Quick break, we're back in a moment.
BALDWIN: We're back. Any moment we will be briefed by Charlottesville police on all of the atrocities that happened over the weekend, stay tuned.