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Analysts Debate President Trump's Comments on Charlottesville Violence; Woman Dies During Violence in Charlottes Protests; Friend Of Charlottesville Crash Victim Speaks Out; Trump Under Fire For Refusing To Condemn White Supremacists. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What is your point of disagreement exactly?
KENNETH CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, my point of disagreement is that that was an excuse to bring these groups together. The local blogger who got the permit to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue then blew this up. That was an excuse.
SYMONE D. SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And now someone's dead.
CUCCINELLI: Look at how they got the permit. Can I finish, Symone? Will you just shut up for a moment and let me --
CUOMO: Easy, Ken.
SANDERS: You don't get to tell me to shut up on national television.
CUCCINELLI: Hold on.
SANDERS: I'm sorry. Under no circumstances do you get to speak to me in that matter. You should exhibit some decorum.
CUOMO: Guys, bth of you stop for a second. Symone, Ken? Symone? Ken and Symone, hold on a second. You need a reset. You need a reset. Ken, you don't want to use language like that when you're talking to Symone. You can disagree but don't talk like this on this show.
CUCCINELLI: I keep getting interrupted.
CUOMO: I know, Ken, but we don't tell people to shut up on this show.
CUOMO: I know, but, Ken, you can stand up for yourself and still be civil.
CUCCINELLI: How do I keep talking when people keep interrupting me?
SANDERS: I'm sitting right here. CUOMO: Symone, I apologize for that. We don't talk to people like that on this show. And Ken, I know you. You don't talk to people to insult. And I know you don't mean to insult somebody like that on this show.
CUCCINELLI: Of course not, but I can't be walked over for over and over and over.
Look, let's be really clear here. Step one, you had a local blogger protesting the removal of the Confederate statue. That guy was also connected, it looks like, to these outside groups. That permit was an excuse to bring these people in. And they came in from all over the country, as the arrests show, you know, they were arrested mostly outside -- there was only one Virginian I know of arrested. All the others were outside from Virginia. This was a gathering of hate groups. That's what this was. And they can define themselves however they want. They're all outrageous, ridiculous. And this guy was essentially a domestic terrorist.
CUOMO: Right, but you're not disagreeing with the idea that Robert E. Lee is emblematic of a hatred that is of particular sensitivity and pain to the African-American community? You don't deny that?
CUCCINELLI: Of course I don't deny that.
CUOMO: That's what started the confusion. That's all. That's what started the confusion. And it needed a point of clarification.
CUCCINELLI: Where I start to have a problem, Chris, is that when you want to go ahead and say someone like Steve Bannon buys in completely to all of this and that's the advice President Trump is getting, that just goes way, way too far.
CUOMO: Then why wouldn't he name the groups then, Ken? Help me understand how you arrive at that conclusion.
CUCCINELLI: Yes. No, look, this president defies understanding on my part. So I fully expect -- let me lay out my expectations for a president. I expect this week, as we've now have gotten out of a weekend and into the week, I expect to see him making stronger statements, like the vice president did. I expect to see that. I expect to see that progression, especially as they learn more facts from the ground, as we did around midnight.
CUOMO: You don't need to know any more about this. Ken, I've got to the analogy to what the previous president did --
CUCCINELLI: Could he have said more? Of course he could.
CUOMO: That's the point. It took me 11 minutes to get to that point.
CUCCINELLI: The point wasn't to equate them, Chris. It was to point out the escalation in the language a president uses when you have got a tragedy like this.
CUOMO: Right, but what I'm saying is when there is this rush to draw equivalence and defense and protection because of what happened with Obama -- I hear it on the show all the time. And there's plenty to criticize the past administration for.
CUCCINELLI: No equivalence is appropriate.
CUOMO: But Dylann Roof, when you don't know what's going on, you say we don't know what's going on but we're going to get to the end of it. I get being measured. That's not what happened here. He had over a day. We knew what happened. We knew someone was dead and we knew who they had in custody. We knew who the groups were. There was no reason to offer anything vague as a way of being measured, Ken. That doesn't make sense logically.
CUCCINELLI: I think, Chris, the most important thing you mentioned there was the equivalence. I think the thing that the president has to wipe off the board is the notion that there's any equivalence between these hate groups and anybody else he might have been referencing. And that is on him this week. He is going to have to do that himself. I think that's critically important in a situation like this going forward. And that's on him. We all know that he operates somewhat independently, even of his own staff, and that's his burden as we start the week.
CUOMO: Symone, give me your last word.
SANDERS: Chris, again, I believe we need to hear from the president of the United States today. We need to hear him say the words white supremacy, KKK, neo Nazis, and then we actions to follow up with those words. We need him to reverse the policy change that the United States of America no longer is looking at white supremacists in our counterterrorism program.
[08:05:05] He needs to remove the white supremacists from around him, white supremacist sympathizers, that is Steve Bannon and Gorka. And I would posit that people in America clearly need to get a history lesson, such as Mr. Cuccinelli, on this program. Thank you.
CUOMO: All right, look, let's just remember something else here. One of the things that you do when you see hate is you condemn it. The other thing that's just as important is to counter it. That's why we use civil discussion on this show. And I know you both want that when you're at your best. There is no need for anything other than that on this program.
SANDERS: I'm still waiting for my apology from Mr. Cuccinelli for to telling me to really shut up on national television.
CUCCINELLI: When you sweep in -- and, Chris, one of the problems with this --
SANDERS: If this isn't an apology, Mr. Cuccinelli --
CUCCINELLI: If people use them to smear others like you've heard here on this discussion, it makes it harder to have a civil discussion.
CUOMO: Ken, I hear, but still -- SANDERS: Steve Bannon, I said he curated the platform of the alt-
CUCCINELLI: Focus on the evil folks, the neo Nazis and the KKK. Those people need to be condemned.
CUOMO: I didn't want to get us back in to the discussion, but what I was giving you a chance to do, Ken, was apologize to the language you used to Symone Sanders. Do you want to do that?
SANDERS: I don't think he does.
CUOMO: Let him answer for himself.
CUCCINELLI: I'll apologize for "shut up" and I'll accept her apology for interrupting me.
SANDERS: I don't have an apology for you. I don't have an apology for you. Thank you for having me today, Chris. I don't have one for you. You will not get one.
CUOMO: Civil discussion is always the appropriate counter to hate. Both of you, thank you for being on NEW DAY.
All right, you've got to make that point. I know people get upset. I know Ken doesn't like being accused of not understanding the history of racism in this country. He's a very learned guy and he fought a lot of those fights. But at the same time, you tell somebody to shut up, it's a line you cannot cross.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You can't do that.
CUOMO: So we had to do that.
Now let's keep another part of this conversation going that matters just as much. What the president says matters. We all know that. And he's getting due criticism for his initial response to the deadly violence that came at the hand of a member of a hate group in Charlottesville. So far FOLLOW THE MONEY the president is tweeting, he's talking about how to make the country great again. But he is not talking about this. We do know, CNN has learned that the president is intending to break his silence on Charlottesville today. What will he say? We'll see.
HARLOW: That's what we don't know. Will he call out this racism and the groups for what they are and name them? It's important.
Meantime, the attacker who is accused of slamming his car into that crowd of protesters and killing that young woman will be arraigned in just hours. We're learning from a high schools teacher of his he idolized Hitler.
CUOMO: So what was the moment that really changed everything down there? We've seen haters come, we've seen the violence that can break out in this country about it. But then there was this moment when you had the crowd of protesters and this car came barreling in to the situation and wound up leading to the death of Heather Heyer who was there to protest against hate. We have to show you the video because it was an important moment, but it is not ease toy watch.
At least one person, because of what you're about to see, lost their life, 19 others injured. The victim was 32-year-old Heather Heyer. She was at that rally for the right reason. She was there to support friends, to support diversity, and to stand up against hate.
Now, Martin, her boyfriend, pushed Blair out of the way, saving her life, but he was hit himself and sent flying through the air. The moment captured in this incredible picture. I'm talking about Marissa Blair. She's going to join us now. Marissa, you're with us, right?
MARISSA BLAIR, CLOSE FRIEND AND FORMER CO-WORKER OF HEATHER HEYER: Yes, I am.
CUOMO: So do I have it right. You were there, you were protesting against hate. Your friend/boyfriend, Martin, he pushed you out of the way.
BLAIR: My fiance.
CUOMO: Good. I didn't want to get the relationship wrong.
BLAIR: My fiance, yes.
CUOMO: So your fiance pushes you out of the way, breaks his leg. But he's expected to recover, yes?
BLAIR: Yes, he's going to recover. We're just happy we're both alive.
CUOMO: All right, so I'm sorry to have to put that video out there again, but it matters for people to know what happened, how Heather lost her life, how he got hurt, how so many others got hurt and what it was about. What do you want people to know about what brought you there, what brought Heather Heyer there, and what you were against?
BLAIR: We were against hate. That's what we were against. This is our city. We work here. We live here. And we didn't want neo Nazis and alt-right and racists to come into our city and think that they could spread their hate and their bigotry and their racism. And we wanted to let them know that we're about love and we will out-power them.
We weren't hateful. We weren't destroying anything. We were peacefully protesting, and we were just standing up for what we believe in. And we weren't going to let anybody come and spread their hate in our city and not meet resistance. And that's what Heather stood for. And that's why Heather was out there. That's why we were out there.
[08:10:11] CUOMO: Tell me about your shirt. It says "You're not paying attention." What does your shirt say? BLAIR: It says "If you're not outraged you're not paying attention."
CUOMO: "If you're not outraged you're not paying attention." And there's a picture of Heather on there, right?
CUOMO: What is the message behind the shirt? What do you want people to pay attention to?
BLAIR: I want people to pay attention to what happened. I want people to pay attention to the hate and how this can bring our community together, and it shouldn't take hate to bring us together. We should already love each other and denounce hatred, denounce racism. That's what Heather was about. Heather wasn't over optimistic about the world like I am. She had a quirky way of dealing with the hate that she knew that was going on in the world, and she felt bad for people who weren't like her and didn't grow up like her and minorities and people of other races and religion that have to deal with hate every day. And she hated it. And she made sure she stood up for it and she spoke for people even if they didn't speak for themselves.
CUOMO: Everybody knows --
BLAIR: This is her quote. This is what she said.
CUOMO: That's what she said?
BLAIR: She didn't say it, but she would always say it. She strongly believed in it. She thinks it's ridiculous that people are still thinking that racism isn't a problem in America, that it isn't resurfacing. It's resurfaced.
CUOMO: Let me ask you something. When you found out -- you know when you go to a protest like that, especially when you're dealing with white supremacists, it can get hot. That can be verbal, that can be physical. But when you learned that heather lost her life because of that car that came in there, that could have killed you, could have killed your fiance and so many others, how did it hit you?
BLAIR: I don't think it still has yet. We were with a group of counter-protesters that were happy. We were around spreading love, we were happy ton around people that believe in the same things we believe in and that were fighting for the same things we were fighting in. We weren't around protesters, any neo Nazis, any alt-right people. We weren't around them. We were marching peacefully through the streets. There were clowns on the streets. We were having a good time.
So it makes it even harder to think we were just enjoying ourselves and we were spreading love and then this happened. It was a split second. And I still can't believe Heather's not with us. We're all numb to it. We barely slept. My fiance can't even get out of the bed he's in so much pain. But it sounds terrible to say that we're thankful we're alive when Heather is gone. I just wish Heather was here. I wish she was here so she could talk, so she could be in front of you today, so she could spread her message, but we're going to do it for her.
CUOMO: That's what she needs for you to do now. If she cared about that message, she wants to see it carried on. And you know the big political, I guess -- it's not really political, but this discussion that's going on about what happened president said and what he didn't say. He is expected to come out again today. Does it matter to you if the president of the United States says this was white supremacists that did this down there? I don't want anything to do with them and the ranks of people who believe in me and I want to call them out as something that is hateful in this country?
BLAIR: He needs to. He needs to call out the hate in this country. But he won't because that's what he ran his platform on. He ran his platform on hate, and he won't denounce white supremacy, he won't denounce racism because he's scared that he's going to lose his followers.
He needs to be worried about the United States and not his followers and not the power and not his publicity and not his golf trips. He needs to worry about my friend that died. He needs to worry about the people that were injured. He needs to worry about her family. He needs to worry about America's family. Heather would not want his condolences. She would not. She would not want his condolences. She would not want him to speak her name. Bernie Sanders, that's what Heather stood for. She loved him. That's her message. Trump, no. He needs to denounce hate in America. If he can't see what's going on, he's not paying attention.
CUOMO: The defenders of what the president said make the argument that he did denounce it. He denounced it on all sides, and as the president said many sides, many sides. What did you make of that?
BLAIR: I made it out to be that he was protecting the neo Nazis, the racists. Don't blame both sides. They came to this city to spread their hate. It was plenty of evidence beforehand that they were coming to spread hate. The night before my friend got killed, they were beating UVA students with Tiki torches. And they still let them come and they still let them rally. It's unexplainable. It should have never happened.
You can't condemn people that are protesting against hate, racism, that people are protesting for equality.
If you love who you love, whatever race you are, whatever religion, just love each other. You can't denounce people that are speaking out, showing love and protecting people that don't even want to protect themselves.
You can't say that we were wrong. We weren't wrong. The only person that was wrong was the man that drove his car through a crowd of peaceful protesters. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, there is a vigil last night. We have a picture of you and your fiance there. This is a moment you lost a friend. You became part of something that was much bigger than anybody anticipated it being. You also got a really unusual measure of the love of the man you're going to spend the rest of your life with.
BLAIR: Yes, sir.
CUOMO: It's not a given, Marissa, that somebody is going to push you out of the way when a car is coming when they may get hit and, in fact, do get hit. What does it mean to you, what your fiance did?
BLAIR? My God. It means -- I feel like I'm alive today because of him. He always told me he loves me more than any anything in this world and he would do anything for me and always protect me from anything and anybody, and he proved it.
I believed him before, but he proved it. Who thinks to push someone out of the way when a car is coming? A split second to think and he thought to push me out of the way. I'm forever grateful. He's my hero. He and Heather are both my heroes.
CUOMO: I think that the split second you refer to probably tells you everything you need to know. Because when he didn't have any time to think, just to react in terms of protecting what mattered most to him, he protected you.
BLAIR: Yes. Yes. I love him.
CUOMO: And thank God, he's as strong as he is and it was just his leg.
BLAIR: Exactly. He asked me did I push you hard? I said you pushed me hard enough.
CUOMO: He sounds like a good man and was there for the right reasons.
BLAIR: He's amazing.
CUOMO: What do you want people to know about your friend that people won't know? Your fiance will continue to live and be able to tell his story. What do you want to tell people about Heather Heyer, who she's not going to get to tell her own?
BLAIR: Words can't describe Heather. I will never find another friend like Heather, whether her walking in in the morning saying hey, girl, just getting her coffee. The little moments about Heather. If you knew Heather -- so many people are doing vigils for Heather and they didn't even know her.
So, it's so amazing to see the love. If you knew Heather, you would know that she loves everyone and wants equality for everyone, no matter who you love, what color you are. She was very strong in what she felt and she spoke with conviction. She would never back down from what she believed in. That's what she died doing, fighting for what she believed in. She was a sweet, sweet soul but will never be replaced or forgotten.
We're going to keep her message going and I know Heather would want that. If it was one of us, Heather would be doing the exact same thing.
CUOMO: She was so young. She was just 32 years old. You have the rest of your life in front of you. Good luck with your fiance. I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience with us on NEW DAY this morning.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: What an incredible woman, captivating.
CUOMO: What a thing to live through, to lose something so dear, to have what you believe matters in life to be tested that way and to learn about the depth of love of the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with.
HARLOW: And also what someone does in the instant that it happens.
CUOMO: Didn't have time to think about it.
HARLOW: And what he chose to do. What an incredible interview. I'm so glad we did that.
All right, coming up for us, President Trump under fire, as you know. He is expected to speak about what all transpired in Charlottesville. The question becomes, will he actually, as Marissa just said what he must do for America, call out the white supremacists for what they did? Our panel is next.
HARLOW: I hope you saw Chris' last interview because you heard from an incredible woman, Marissa Blair, one of the survivors of this terror attack in Virginia, who lost her dear friend, Heather, and she called on President Trump to denounce hate and call out those hate groups by name.
Now CNN has learned the president is expected to address the situation in Charlottesville at some point today. We just don't know what he's going to say. If he does finally denounce them by name, is it too little, too late?
Joining us now CNN political analysts, April Ryan, and Karoun Demirjian. Ladies, thank you for being here. I know you were listening to that interview. It was just incredible to hear from her. April, to you. If the president does say what his own vice president has said, what the White House said in a statement that they didn't tie a name to, that this is the KKK, Nazis, white supremacists, and they all need to be condemned, if he says that today, is it enough or is it too late?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's late but we need to hear from the president. The president needs to make, in no uncertain terms, just point blank, this was terror and it's not acceptable. You know, he talked about all sides.
This is something that was started from a group who wanted to show that they wanted to stand by the confederacy. They wanted to support the statue staying up. This president has to come out. It's not about the vice president saying it. It's not about his administration.
He is the president of the United States and understandably, it's his base that he doesn't want to offend, but he is the president of all America. Yes, his base, that small base that he's going to talk to is a small base.
But there is a larger number of people out here who are very concerned about what's happening and there is spillage. He has got to come out and condemn what happened from those who started it.
CUOMO: So, Karoun, you are so wired down there in D.C. The question that's plaguing is why did the president arrive at the conclusion to soft pedal what happened there and avoid the names? Who told him that?
[08:25:05] We keep hearing he met with a lot of advisers. We had another conversation that was not a demonstration of us at our best. Simone Sanders coming after Ken Cucinelli, and Ken was very resistant to the idea of painting the people around the president, specifically Steve Bannon, with a brush of being sympathetic to this type of all right types.
That's what Bannon called Breitbart. Breitbart was quiet during these ugly events down there and it wasn't an accident that they were quiet. We make choices about what we emphasize and what we don't. So how did the president arrive at this conclusion to -- this was intentional.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we reported that early on, you know, before the president had fully seen what had happened he had been told that a lot of different groups were coming to Charlottesville and some of his advisers were speculating maybe that colored his thinking.
But the point is he spoke after these things happened, after he had seen what had happened, the violence that occurred, this driver, somebody is dead. Also, remember, this isn't really happening in a vacuum for the president.
He has been through similar experiences like this before with the David Duke things, with the criticism he received after the holocaust Remembrance Day statement, not mentioning Jews.
For various other things that he has gotten a very strong backlash from people saying you need to be more specific, and not say these vague statements who in the ears of people you want to condemn might sound like acceptance.
I don't think necessarily somebody who is a self-described white nationalist here is the word, bigotry, generally speaking, and thinks that must be (inaudible) if they don't want to think that way.
The most remarkable thing is the silence since Saturday from the president. So many other members of the GOP have come out and said in no uncertain terms you need to say these words, Mr. President.
You need to name these groups. The people that are defending the president's choice of generalities are his surrogates for the most part. Even though the surrogates are saying we accept the president's approach, are still naming those groups for the most part, which makes it more of an open question of why won't he say sorry, I picked the wrong words. Of course, I meant KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis. But he hasn't gone there and we don't know if he will.
HARLOW: I mean, April, even his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who certainly has fallen out of favor with the president, was asked this morning on CBS does the president need to specifically condemn neo-Nazis, white supremacists, will he do that?
Sessions said absolutely. Nikki Haley, his own ambassador to the United Nations led this charge when she led the taking down of the confederate flag in her hometown when she was governor. How long can the president -- I suppose he can go on and on resisting, but this is beyond party.
RYAN: This is beyond party. This is about humanity. This is not Nazi Germany. This is 2017. We are a nation that's still grappling with trying to come with the hard issue. We've got laws and legislation about issues of how we're supposed to not discriminate or treat one another.
Now it's a heart issue. This is where the morality of the president of the United States comes in. He is a moral leader as well as the commander-in-chief, what have you, leader of the free world. He has to set the tone.
I remember 20 years ago, Bill Clinton, when he had the race initiative, talking about trying to heal this racial divide in this nation. We weren't on fire at the time, but he knew that there as a growing number of people coming into this country or being born in this country as well who were not white America.
And he said there will be a time when the minority will be the majority. And then you had George W. Bush who had to grapple with issues as well. Katrina was a stain but he tried to fix it. Then you had the first black president.
And you have this right now, this ground swell from a resentment of having the first black president for some, particularly some in this president's base. He has got to come out and stand.
And I remember -- I remember when all of that happened in South Carolina and when then President Barack Obama want to South Carolina and delivered the eulogy for the pastor and he sang "Amazing Grace." It wasn't just about the song. It was about what happened.
Why that song was created, that gospel song that is shared by black, white, all types of people, even the religious white, that song meant a lot about healing of racial attitudes, healing of tolerance.
This president has got to come out and set the tone and say something. Jeff Sessions is -- they might have a rift, but Jeff Sessions is absolutely right. If this president does not say something it's going to spill over.
HARLOW: Thank you both very much, April and Karoun. We appreciate it. We are going to talk more ahead about those numbers with the president's own --