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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump: "Blame on Both Sides" For Charlottesville Violence. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 15, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We normally start off the broadcast saying good evening. But tonight, there the doesn't seem to be much that is good about this evening, because a few hours ago, the president of the United States revealed so clearly who and what he really is.
Today, the president of the United States ripped open wounds that have barely begun healing in Charlottesville on a subject, race, that has tormented this country from the beginning and nearly torn it apart more than once. He ripped open these wounds so he could show the world that he did not make a mistake on Saturday when he spoke words that were ill-considered, untrue and insensitive.
In the remarks he made today, the president revealed what he truly thinks about race in America. He revealed what he thinks about fundamental fairness, about a president's role in binding up the nation's wounds and appealing to the better angels of our nature to quote another former president. He revealed whether he can ever be a president for all people or just for white ones, a president for people of all beliefs or just the alt-right.
Today, President Trump showed the world exactly how little he knows or cares about U.S. history. He showed the world how much a mother's loss matters to him when weighted against whether or not she praised him. He showed the world how far he'll go to avoid admitting he's ever made a mistake.
So, before we continue, we just want to be real tonight. This was a Unite the Right rally. It was a clear from the beginning exactly what kind of people would be attending -- white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, members of the KKK. They showed up with clubs and shields and some with long rifles. Speakers were announced in advance.
Yet, on Saturday, the president merely said there was violence on both sides, on many sides. He returned to that discredited line today. Here's some of what he said just a few hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't know, I can't tell you. I'm sure Senator McCain must know what he's talking about. But when you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.
REPORTER: Well, I'm saying that as --
TRUMP: No, define it for me. Come on, let's go. Define it.
REPORTER: Senator McCain defined them as the same group. So --
TRUMP: OK. What the alt left that came charging? Excuse me. What about the alt left that came charging at as you say the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
REPORTER: This is Senator McCain's statement.
TRUMP: Let me ask you this, what about the fact they came charging, they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs. Do they have any problem? I think they do.
So, you know, as far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.
Wait a minute, I'm not finished. I'm not finished, fake news.
That was a horrible day.
REPORTER: Protesters on the same level as neo-Nazis --
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that.
But I'll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Both sides had some bad apples is what the president is saying, both sides were violent. But, today, the president seemed to go out of his way to whitewash the nature of what was after all an explicitly white power rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. So, excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see and you know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you're not. But many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So --
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Now, he went on to claim that the people there to protest particularly on Friday night, the day before the main rally, those people were simply protesting, as he just said, the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
The president makes them sound like history buffs, or preservationist, fine people just quietly protesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And you had people -- and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally. But had you many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.
Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people. But you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You got a lot of bad people in the other group, too.
REPORTER: Treated unfairly -- sir, I'm sorry. I didn't understand what you were saying. You were saying the press treated white nationalists unfairly? I just want to understand what you're saying.
TRUMP: No, no, there were people in that rally. And I look the night before, if you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I'm sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people.
Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.
[20:05:01] But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest because, you know, I don't know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn't have a permit.
So, I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, he's singling out Friday night pointing to the groups that there were protesting the statue. I just want to show you a video from Friday night.
And when you look at this video, it's about a minute and a half, but we think it's worth you seeing the entire thing. Ask yourself, do the people in this video who were chanting Jews will not replace us, and chanting blood and soil and all Nazi slogan, do they seem to be quiet fans of the history of Robert E. Lee?
Now, this is video is from Vice Media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CROWD: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.
Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.
Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets.
Whose streets? Our streets.
Whose streets? Our streets.
No Nazis! No KKK. No fascist USA!
No Nazis! No KKK! No fascist USA!
White lives matter. White lives matter! White lives matter!
Black lives matter. Black lives matter. Black lives matter. Black lives matter.
CROWD: White lives matter. White lives matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, those were the people protesting the Robert E. Lee statue being taken down or the idea of it being taken down. The people who President Trump said were just quietly there, just good people. When the president was asked by a reporter why he waited two days before calling out racists and Klansmen and neo-Nazis specifically for their role in the violence in Charlottesville, including the killing of Heather Heyer by a person who used their car as the deadly weapon, this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I didn't wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement.
But you don't make statements that direct unless you know the fact. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don't know the facts. And it's a very, very important process to me and it's a very important statement.
So, I don't want to the go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: President Donald Trump wanted to know the facts. Just let that sink in for a moment. President Trump says he wanted to know the facts. If there is anything we already know about this president is that he does not wait for facts to become clear before speaking. Has any president in modern history lied so frequently and so fast as this one?
But even if the president was really waiting for the facts, in the case of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, the facts were plain before, during and after the bloodshed. A fact the president had at his disposal Saturday while the president was willing he says, waiting he says, for all the facts. A fact he had Friday night when they marched, a fact he had weeks before when it became known who would be attending and speaking at the rally, a fact his daughter recognized Saturday when she reportedly urged him to call out these thugs by name, his Jewish daughter who, by the way, we have not heard from for days, nor from his Jewish son-in-law.
The president today, though, preferred to focus on the statutes and displaying his grasp of American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of -- to them of a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same as --
TRUMP: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down -- excuse me. Are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington?
How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
REPORTER: I do love him.
TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue because he was a major slave owner? Now, are we going to take down his statue?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, it's hard to know where to begin on that. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both slavers.
[20:10:01] One wrote the country's founding document. The other led an army to establish it. Neither one did what Robert E. Lee did which is take up arms against it.
Yet, they live together on the same historical plains as president and if history doesn't matter, let's try current events. The murder by vehicle of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Today, the president neither mentioned her nor her mother Susan Bro by name. He did however mention Ms. Bro had written words of praise about him.
He thanked her twice, in fact, without her daughter's name. And when asked whether he will be speaking to her, or visiting Charlottesville, he quickly segued to talk about the winery bearing his name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I own a house in Charlottesville. Does anyone know that? Oh, boy. It's going to be -- it's in Charlottesville. You'll see.
REPORTER: Is it a winery?
TRUMP: It is the winery. I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple days. I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It's in Charlottesville.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He owns one of the largest wineries.
As you might imagine, the president's words, just like his words on Saturday, are drawing fire, including from top Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeting: We must be clear, white supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.
He's not alone. However, the president is drawing praise from at least one voice: Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville. That tweet is from white supremacist David Duke.
In a moment, three former presidential advisers joining us. But, first, CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim, what was that today exactly? I mean, what was that supposed to be and how did it segue into this press conference unlike any I recall ever seeing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, that was a press conference from hell, no question about it.
Essentially, what happened today, the White House came out to the reporters gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower and said to all of us, listen, the president is going to come down with a couple of his cabinet secretaries. He's going to make some remarks and then he's going to go back up the elevator into Trump Tower and these cabinet secretaries will then take your questions.
What happened after that is that things as we've been saying all day long went completely off the rails because as the president wrapped up his remarks on infrastructure, he was again peppered with questions about this lackluster response to the violence in Charlottesville and the shifting explanations. And the president essentially as you just pointed out reverted back to his initial response, blaming both sides for all of this and sort of echoing some of the complaints from white nationalists that well, if you start taking down statue of Robert E. Lee, statues and monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson will be next.
Anderson, I talked to somebody who is familiar with the thinking of Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist. You heard the president was asked about Steve Bannon earlier today. The president said, well, he wasn't really sure how things would shake out with Steve Bannon.
But Steve Bannon is very much plugged into the alt-right. He used to run Breitbart online which is obviously a publication that espouses a lot of these white nationalist views. And according to the source who is familiar with this thinking that is really prevalent in Bannon world, the president is torn inside this White House between two rival factions, one representing Jared and Ivanka and other more moderate leaning people inside the White House. And Steve Bannon who really represents this base that according to this source Trump does not want to offend.
And so, I think that's why you saw in this very strange bizarre surreal press conference the president defending these views of the alt-right and was really damning the torpedoes from anybody else. Now, I can tell you there do not appear to be many regrets inside the White House about this is this evening, Anderson in just the last few moments, I was told by a Republican source that a messaging memo is going around to Trump surrogates tonight telling them to emphasize that both sides in the view of the White House acted irresponsibly in Charlottesville.
Anderson, that is a very clear indication that there are no regrets coming from the president's inner circle. He's beyond doubling down and tripling down. I don't know if you can call it quadrupling down. But they are firmly cemented in this view that the president's initial response to all of this in Charlottesville was the correct one.
COOPER: So, what about his statement yesterday in which he did what many people wished had he done on Saturday? I saw someone in Twitter referring that as, you know, just like a hostage video. I mean, was that just someone else give him the script to read from off the teleprompter and today, he's just expressing his real thoughts?
I mean, clearly, today, he's expressing his real thoughts because there was no teleprompter today. These weren't written remarks.
COOPER: This was what he actually thinks in his head. So, was yesterday just a lie?
ACOSTA: That's right.
Yesterday was forced. It was not heartfelt, Anderson. I was in the room with the president. You could see that on his face.
And what you saw today inside Trump Tower was there for Trump Tower earlier today, you could see his chief of staff, John Kelly, waiting off to the side with his arms folded, looking down at the floor.
[20:15:06] There were no attaboys. There was no back-slapping and high fives after this performance from the president inside Trump Tower.
And just to give you an indication how Republicans are feeling about this tonight, Anderson, I talked to a top Republican congressional source who said tonight that the president's ability to effectively govern this country is, quote, dwindling by the hour. So, clearly, Anderson, the Republican Party is losing patience with the president tonight. But if they don't really do anything about it, Anderson, this is really becoming the party of Trump, not the Party of Lincoln -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks.
I want to bring in three people with decades of White House experience between them. Van Jones, David Axelrod, former senior advisors to President Obama. David is also the host of the "AXE FILES" here on CNN, and senior political analyst David Gergen who's worked closely with Republican and Democratic presidents dating back to the Nixon administration.
David Gergen, first of all, how do you view what the president said today, specifically, you know, basically reversing himself from what he said yesterday and going back to what he had said on Saturday?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I must tell you, Anderson, after watching presidents for a long, long time, I was really shocked by today's performance on two grounds.
One is that on the issue itself of Charlottesville, he so clearly is wrong. He so clearly sees the world differently than most of us do. And he, in creating once again an equivalence between the neo-Nazi and people who came to protest what the neo-Nazis are saying. You know, it's just so unacceptable to masses of people in this country. I'm shocked that I went back there.
But, Anderson, the bigger question for me, the harder one that is more worrisome is what's going on inside Donald Trump? This is a man with such massive insecurities. We haven't seen anybody in the White House with such massive insecurities since Richard Nixon. And I think increasingly, people feel he's posing a danger -- not just to his party but to the country. And you know, he's going to tear us apart.
COOPER: You really think he poses a danger to the country?
GERGEN: This is a tough, tough night.
COOPER: You really -- I mean, that's a strong statement for someone who worked for both Republicans and Democrats in the White House. Do you really believe the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is posing a danger to the country? GERGEN: I believe when I worked for Richard Nixon, ultimately, he
needed to leave office, just as most of my colleagues at the Nixon White House. We thought he was posing a threat and to leave him there, given did the violation of the laws, you simply couldn't do that.
I don't think we're there yet with Donald Trump, but I do think there is an issue about his insecurities and where they may lead. He -- we saw the real Donald Trump today, the unapologetic, unmasked Donald Trump. Yesterday was a fake Donald Trump. That's apparent now.
And we see a man lashes out, who is -- can't control himself and he's only a short way away from the nuclear button. He's only -- he's the man who tells whether we go to war or not. So, yes, I think there's some dangers here to the country.
COOPER: David Axelrod, I mean, you know, we've seen time and again this president stepping on the White House's own message. You know, today was a day where there were a lot of positive things that the president could have been talking about. You know, North Korea seemed to have blinked on the whole issue of Guam. You know, president wanted to talk about infrastructure. The stock market at a high.
And yet -- I mean, is this probably one of the worst days for this president you've seen?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, you know, it's hard to rate them, but you'd have to say so. Yes, I would love to have been a fly on the wall in General Kelly's after action meeting on the infrastructure event. I don't think it went very well.
But look, you know, Michelle Obama said in her convention speech last summer that the presidency doesn't change people. It reveals who they are. And as you said at the outset, this is who Donald Trump is. This is who he was throughout the 2016 campaign.
There was this hope that somehow the presidency with all its responsibility and all the majesty and gravity of it would change him. He's not going to change.
What we saw yesterday was a hostage video. He practically blinked out in Morse code. I don't believe a word of what I'm saying.
And today, he did. We saw his true character. We saw his true views. He gave aid and comfort to neo-Nazis, to these white nationalists. And they rewarded him with praise as you point out.
The question for the Republican Party is, not just whether they're going to put statements out condemning this particular incident. But are they going to go after the issue of this element within their own party. And how just how are they going to move forward, not just dealing with Donald Trump but dealing with the forces that have propelled Donald Trump, unlike Richard Nixon who David worked for, Donald Trump is not a creature of the Republican Party.
[20:20:07] I don't think he cares much what the establishment Republicans think. That alt-right group, that's his base. And he's clearly catering to it.
COOPER: Van, I just want to read again what David Duke tweeted after the president's remarks today. Thank you, President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM and Antifa.
We don't -- I mean, we don't know what the president's motive is but we can say his words have absolutely emboldened white supremacists.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST, "THE MESSY TRUTH": You know, this is a tough night. I think for normal people. You got a lot of people at home going through Kleenex right now. He got a lot of people at home who are keeping their kids away from TV tonight because we're spiraling away from each other. We're spiraling away from each other.
And you want the president to be the person who comes and grabs us by the hands and pulls us back together and reminds us what this is all supposed to be about. And instead, he's picking a fight, even if he's right, which he's wrong, he's picking a side in a food fight, by his own understanding.
And he's actually cheerleading for one side and defending one side. He's not defending humanity of the people who were run over. There are 19 people were run over. He's not telling their story. He's not defending their humanity.
And you can't draw basic distinctions. He would flunk second grade. You can't distinguish between the founder of our country who was a flawed individual, but who did great things, and the person who led a rebellion against this country.
Robert E. Lee should not be in the same sentence as George Washington. He can't distinguish between Nazis with torches saying anti-Jewish, anti-black stuff who went there chanting things that people died by the millions in the last century over. He can't distinguish between them and the people who went there to try to defend people from those thugs.
COOPER: Yes, I keep wondering -- I keep wondering, Van, I mean, he's surrounded by military people. H.R. McMaster, who's had an incredible career in the U.S. Army, U.S. Army fought the Nazis in Europe. You know, Kelly who was a Marine, I mean, most of the Marines were in the Pacific theater but there were Marines fighting against the Nazis in Europe, as well. What did these people surrounding him think?
Ivanka Trump. What -- I mean, Jared Kushner, what are they thinking?
JONES: I don't know but I'll tell what you I'm thinking. I'm thinking about my godmother, Dottie Zellner (ph), who is Jewish. I think about what she's gone through in her life sticking up for civil rights. The stories she's told me about her family and the things that her family suffered in Europe, and the fact that she can't count on the president of the United States to stand with her when a Nazi ran over an American citizen, killed an American citizen with ISIS tactics in our country? And my godmother can't turn on television see the president of the United States show any sympathy for her, the father of a Jewish daughter?
I mean, this is not funny. It's not cute. It's not a sound bite war. At a certain point, you have a lot of people now, it's not just the people you're emboldening. It's the people you're abandoning who now don't know if they have a government that gives a damn about them.
Those are the people you have to worry about, too, because we're spiraling away from each other. We're spiraling away from each other.
And I don't know what to say tonight. I usually have something clever, something smart. I'm just hurt. I'm sitting here hurt. And I think a lot of people are hurt tonight.
COOPER: You feel this personally?
JONES: I do and I know David does. I know all of us do. Everybody's trying to hold it together tonight.
AXELROD: I'm the son of a Jewish refugee. So, yes, I feel it strongly.
But here's the thing -- how many times are we going to sit here and say we're disappointed in the president of the United States? We're disappointed that we don't have a president who is going to stand up and provide the moral leadership that the country deserves.
At some point, we have to conclude it's not coming. He's throwing kerosene on the fire. He's exploiting -- he's exploiting our divisions. And it's up to the rest of us to pull together to defy that to say we're better than that, to rise above that.
I'm tired of saying that Donald Trump is disappointed us. Donald Trump is who he is. He's not going to change. This was definitive proof of that today.
COOPER: Yes. David, thank you. David Gergen, Van Jones, thank you.
There are many more aspects to this to explore including president's claim he's all about having the facts before he speaks, the deeply fretted history of war monuments, the civil war and race in this country, the president's claims about violence on both sides and more. The panel joins us, as well as we continue.
[20:28:10] COOPER: We're talking about the president's off the cuff press conference today at Trump Tower and his insistence he did not speak out against the racists on Saturday because as he put it, he was waiting for the facts. Here again is that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. I couldn't have made it sooner because I didn't know all of the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts.
I had to see the facts. I want to know the facts. I want the facts. I wanted to see the facts.
Before I make a statement, I need the facts. You don't make statements that direct unless you know the fact. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Trump claiming he likes to know the facts.
The impromptu press event began with a question about CEOs leaving a presidential advisory panel in manufacturing in the wake of Charlottesville. That number now stands at six.
I want to bring in the panel. Tara Setmayer, Scott Jennings, Kirsten Powers, Charles Blow, Paris Dennard, Paul Begala.
Charles, where were you at tonight?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's -- part of me is not responding the way other people are responding because part of me wants to say to America, where have you been? What were you reading? What -- what were you listening to? Why does this take you by surprise?
I've been howling into the wind since before the election that this man is a bigot, that this man is a misogynist, that this man is a bully. And people like me and other people saying the exact same thing that this thing -- you know, you have to ask yourself a very profound question. Whether or not Trump is an articulation of them, or whether he is an articulation -- whether he's an articulation of them or they are an articulation of him, or is there some symbiotic relationship happening here, where they are feeding off each other?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- or whether there's a symbiotic relationship happening here. They are feeding off of each other. I mean, the Republican Party has to ask itself, I mean, America has to ask itself a question. These people exist. There's a lot of negative, racialized imagery, well short of vehicular homicide and people chanting that.
If you know full well that the war on drugs has a disproportionate impact on black people and you support it, where does that place you? If you know that mass incarceration is devastating black communities and you support it, where does that put you? If you know that stripping the votes or voter suppression is having a negative impact on some people and therefore increasing the power to vote of other people and you support that, where does that put you?
America has to ask itself some really profound questions about what white supremacy actually is. Because it is not simply anonymous (ph) -- there are people -- were abolitionists who hated the idea of slavery, and yet had no concept or will to entertain the idea that black people were equal to them.
There are people who today detest the violence in Charlottesville and yet do not believe that black people are equal to them. That is what white supremacy is. That is what is. And so once you order people, once you make a hierarchy of people, once you devalue some people and lift others. That allows you to do things.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Paris, I mean, as a supporter of the President, how is it that this President, you know, yes, yesterday he gave this teleprompter speech which he renounced the -- or not using KKK and white supremacists. Today he's saying that the people who were rallying around the Robert E. Lee statue on Friday night, with tiki torches of all things, chanting "Jews will not replace us," "Blood and soil," calling the counter-protesters that the small, the counter-protesters who were there, calling them faggots. How do you defend that? I mean, how do you defend the President for what he said today, those people -- he was saying that they were quietly protesting the statue.
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the interesting thing Anderson that I saw in the voice clip of the entire night, the one minute clip that you showed out from that entire night on Friday was that there was actually people on the other side chanting, black lives matter. Remember seeing that?
COOPER: Yes, how dare they. I mean, is that what you're saying? What?
DENNARD: I'll finish my comment.
DENNARD: But my point is, there were other people there that night that were not saying all the things that you were saying --
COOPER: There were a couple of dozen counter-protesters who had surrounded the statue when the several hundred guys with tiki torches arrived and they basically were overwhelmed and the police came once they were chased off.
DENNARD: The only point I'm making, Anderson, is that everybody there Friday night were not doing the things that you're saying, that the majority of them were doing.
COOPER: Look, there's hundreds of people with tiki torches and they're saying --
DENNARD: Anderson, it's very simple --
COOPER: -- will not replace this, so there's some quite people walking with them?
DENNARD: The only point I'm making is this. When the black lives matter -- and let me start off by saying I'm not equating black lives matter to anything of these neo-Nazis and fascists thing, and white supremacists, but the point it, there was a strong push in the media and a lot of people saying, well, when you see the black lives matter people saying, if the police, burning cars and doing this, the police back would say, that was a small fragment of those of people -- the majority of the people who were there were peaceful, quiet, and angry at the situation.
The only point I'm making now is that yes, in the voice clip that you just showed, there were people chanting black lives matter and we're on the other side of the people there. So it is unfair to characterize everybody there as neo-Nazis.
COOPER: What you're saying literary makes no sense. I'm not characterizing the black lives matter people as neo-Nazis. Small group of them, mostly UVA student and their supporters who are around the statue when the neo-Nazis arrived, it's the people with tiki torches that the President is talking about as just being quiet, good people who are just to there to protest the statue. And that's just -- they're freaking chanting "Jews will not replace us" on the streets of America.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The event said it was a pro white demonstration. That's what those people were there to do. So why are you acting like it's just a few random, bad apples. These people are --
DENNARD: That's not what I'm saying.
POWERS: Yes, you are. You're saying because there was somebody there saying black lives matter, which is perfectly appropriate thing to say because to you --
DENNARD: That's what I was saying --
POWERS: -- that they don't but these people were there organized to do a pro white demonstration with David Duke and Richard Spencer. I mean, what -- where do you not condemn this? I mean --
[20:35:10] DENNARD: How do you say I'm not condemning it?
POWERS: Do you? I think you're condemning.
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- Paris was to come out and find a talking point spin --
DENNARD: No, there was a talking point --
SETMAYER: It is.
DENNARD: No, hold on, this is what I believe.
SETMAYER: You got your shot. The part about this that bothers me about the conservatives that are trying to spin this and come out and even friends of mine who are trying to cast aside the fact that the President of the United States went on a self-aggrandizing, victim blaming rant today where he was disgraced the office of the presidency, and potentially planted the seed for even more division in this country that we've already seen today.
And shame on you, Paris, and everybody else that's coming out here today, shame on the staffers in the White House that are still standing behind the President Trump and trying to spin this into what was Charlottesville fault. There was a couple of black lives matter people's fault. I have issues with black lives matter. I have matters with Intifa (ph). But they have done some horrible things and said horrible things to but they didn't kill anyone on Saturday.
They don't have the history that neo-Nazis and white supremacists do in this country. And for people to come out, and that's the deposition that they take, when the President of the United States made it about him, made it about his grievances. He gave the alt- right and these white supremacists a platform to praise him, shame on you, shame on the President, and shame on anybody that continues to enable him in this disrespect.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Anderson, I'll tell you what I'm hearing from Republicans tonight, and that is a very simple message for the President. Mr. President, we want to be with you in policy. But you are making it impossible for us to be with you in spirit.
Moral clarity is required of the office of the President, because that is the spirit of being an American, knowing that the rest of the world looks to our country and our President to provide absolute, unequivocal moral clarity. You cannot say that there are good people standing in this rally, because if a good person left their house and went to this event, and showed up and the person next to them was holding a nazi flag and they chose not to go home, then by definition they checked their good person card at the gate.
So the only people left at the rally were not the good people. And to try to say that there was a smattering of bad people mixed in with good people, absolutely vacates the moral clarity required of the office of the President. We're not the party of Robert E. Lee. We are not the party of Jefferson Davis. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. We revere George Washington. We are the party of Dwight Eisenhower, who defeated the Nazis.
So the message I hear from Republicans tonight, Mr. President, do not make it impossible for us to support you. You have an agenda. The Republican Party largely supports your policy agenda. Don't render it inoperable.
BLOW: But the problem here is that -- sorry, Paul. But, the problem there is that beginning in the late '60s and early '70s they were the party of racial division, right? And these are not like things that you can't find. They were Nixon's top aides were literally going to newspapers and magazines and giving on the record interviews. One top aide gave an interview to "Harper's Bazaar" where they said, our enemies, this is 1968, our enemies are blacks and hippies who are anti-war.
Now, we can't make laws to outlaw blacks and hippies, but we can associate in the mind of the public hippies with marijuana, and blacks with heroin, and we can punish those crimes to the point that we break those communities. That's a quote from "Harper's Bazaar."
Two years later, another Nixon aide gives an interview to "The New York Times," which he says we want more blacks to register as Democrats, because the Negro foes, that was his word, will flock to the Republican Party. That was the southern strategy. That's my lifetime, right? So I was born in 1970. That interview was given in 1970. The entire history of my life is surrounded by the idea of people accommodating these people and putting a better face on them. I just came back from Louisiana --
SETMAYER: That's not the whole --
BLOW: No, that's --
BLOW: Nothing is never the whole. Tara, I'm sorry, but --
[20:39:54] BLOW: I am going to finish. I am going to finish. I am going to finish. I am going to finish. I'm going to finish. I just came back from Louisiana. David Duke is prominent in this story. David Duke was elected to the Louisiana House, and then he ran again for governor of the state and won most of the white vote in Louisiana. And the platform that David Duke ran on and the bills that he proposed when he was in the legislature are no different than the Republican bills that --
BLOW: I'm sorry.
SETMAYER: Charles, come on.
BLOW: That is true.
SETMAYER: And the Democrats --
SETMAYER: You can't sit there and blame the Republican Party for all racism in America.
BLOW: I'm quoting a magazine. I'm quoting a magazine. You have some magazines you want to quote?
SETMAYER: It was the Democrats -- How about the Democrat's platform in 1924 that wasn't against the --
COOPER: All right. Paul?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We've come to this with a great deal of history. Jefferson slave -- said, slavery was a firebell in the night. More recently Bill Bradley, the senator from New Jersey, said it was our original sin. And we've never gotten over it. And American was still recent with it tonight, but I thin Charles was stepping (ph). This is not Richard Nixon with dog whistles. This is Donald Trump with a fog horn. This is a bullhorn. This is -- say what you will about the recent history of Republicans on racism. And I grow up in Texas and I've been fighting all my life. This is different. I mean, Ronald Reagan disavowed the Klu Klux Klan in 1984 when they endorsed him. Eisenhower as Scott pointed out, not only defeated the Nazis in battle, he opposed Joe McCarthy.
George H.W. Bush when David Duke was in the legislature running for government toward H.W. Bush disavowed him. This is no longer Republican versus Democrat. This is Nazis versus Americans. This is freedom verse fascism. And the moral blindness that our president show willful moral blindness today was unlike anything ever seen in American politic.
BLOW: Yes, but if that person gets elected by -- nominated as the Republican nominee then, what does that say? I'm sorry you can't divorce him from them. There is no way to do that. There is no way to do that. You can't say this is -- we can't both 0:02:10.0 in this thing out. We can't both say, well, this is not a left-right issue. If the person you just described was a Republican nominee and then that was President of the United States and most white people in America voted for that person, what does that say? I'm sorry there is no way to --
COOPER: We've got to take a break. I'm sorry. Coming up, Trump blamed so-called both sides for violence, the white supremacists and those who protested against their hate. We'll tell you more of what he said. We'll hear from Dr. Cornel West who was actually there at the rally. We'll be right back.
[20:46:07] COOPER: Just to take a few moments to summarize where we are and how we got here since the weekend. Neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacists, white nationalists gathered for a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. They yelled, they marched with torches, they chanted racist slogans. A young woman and American citizen's killed in broad daylight in an attack like the ones we've seen ISIS carries out. A car plows into people who are trying to stand up against hate. Today, we learned more about how the President of the United States sees those events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And what about the 'alt-left' that came charging them? Excuse me. What about the alt- left that came charging at the -- as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging -- that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
Far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait -- wait a minute. I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched this very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I'll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mitt Romney just tweeted, "No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes."
Joining me now is Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University's Divinity School and Professor Emeritus at Princeton.
Dr. West thanks for being with us again tonight. You were there Friday night, you were there Saturday. When you hear the President of the United States saying that the people who were marching with torches, saying "Jews will not replace us" and saying, blood -- chanting, Nazis slogan, "blood and soil" that there were good people in there who just were there because they were upset about the statue, what do you think?
CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL: You know, but Anderson, I'm not surprised though. Donald Trump, he's a neo-fascist. He's a right wing gangster. Therefore, I don't have expectations for him. Those of us who were in that church were trying to keep alive prophetic witness, to accent love and justice, the humanity of all of us from that no matter what sexual orientation race, national identity and what have you.
The sad thing is we're dealing with the life and death of the American democratic experience. And what I mean by that is, the spiritual blackout, the eclipse of honesty and integrity, moral meltdown where there's no prophetic space for prophetic witness of love and justice. And it's not a matter of just the President. I had no expectations from Donald Trump. I've been a black man in America for 64 years. Donald Trump is not -- I've been dealing with white supremacists, I've been dealing with neo-fascist and so forth and so on. I can discern them.
My concern is neo-fascism is a rule of big money, big military adventurism, escalating wealth and equality, the collapse of public life, and the scapegoating of the most vulnerable, of the immigrants and of Muslims and Arabs and Jews and black people, and gays and lesbians, of bisexuals and trans. folks. And so the real challenge is the relative silence of those Americans who ought to be part of an anti-fascist coalition.
We should have been thousands and thousands of folk in Charlottesville. We should have thousand and thousand vowing witness against the neo-fascist. They were emboldened. Yes, they've been emboldened by Donald Trump. They know he has neo-fascist sensibilities. The problem is, look at corporate America. They have been relatively silent. We just had two recent bothers break laws.
[20:50:01] Where is the anti-fascist, the anti-racist orientation? Where is the church? Where is the synagogue? Where are the mosques? Where are our fellow citizens who ought to occupy that prophetic space of love and justice and put a smile on the face of Martin Luther King Junior, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dorothy Day (ph) and (INAUDIBLE), and all of those who said, we must be honest and tell the truth about those who would use arbitrary power for wealth and equality, xenophobia and the military adventurism in various part of the world.
The American empire can devour American democracy. It's only the people, are weaken, who can do it. Donald Trump must not be shidoshi (ph), he didn't have magical powers. He has too much power as a President, but he can be pushed out. By pushed out I mean impeachment of right, and the Republican Party can be rendered accountable for each silence.
The Democratic Party has to deal with its relative silence as in regards to some of the things that Charles was talking about with regard to massive incarceration tied to Wall Street and so forth and so on. That's the kind of revival moral and spiritual revival that we need. And that's my tradition as you know about that Anderson. That's what (INAUDIBLE) when the others are trying to talk about.
COOPER: Do you see that happening? I mean, do you see an event like this and it's not just this event. It's, you know, what we have seen so far in -- from this President, and what we are likely to see in the future given the fact that he's 71 years old and unlikely to change. Do you see that revival happening?
WEST: I absolutely see it happening. Sister Heather was standing right next to the 20 of us who were almost crushed like the cockroaches that the neo-Nazi view us to be. She along with the anarchist, along with the anti-fascists were protecting us. She is a freedom fighter. The memory of her sacrifice, the 19 who are in jail, that can generate an awakening, but it has to be a moral and spiritual awakening. It can't just be revenge. It can't just be talking about power. It's got to be talking about what is right, what is moral, what is just, and what is morally consistent. That means it's going to be a critique of the establishment of both parties, it's going to be critiques of my churches and mosques and synagogues and our universities.
All of those comfortable middle class folk who remain spectators don't want to intervene into this, and most importantly, our young people. They are thirsty and they're hungry for precisely this kind of awakening. And I see it escalating, and in that sense, I see it as hope in motion.
I'm not in any way disempowered by the neo-fascist sensibilities of Donald Trump. I've been seeing it all my life in a variety of different places. I'm more emboldened by the folk who are waking up and shattering the silence, shattering the complacency, shattering the kind of distance and detachment from engagement and struggle around love and justice. And I don't care whether it's secular agnostic, Christian life myself, Muslim, Buddhist like Bill (ph), so that we can go on. And we can come together. We can make a difference. This is the moment for them.
COOPER: Dr. Cornel West. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
Much more ahead tonight, we'll have more reaction to what the President said today. What it means for this White House, this country, and in case you missed it, we'll hear a large portion of Donald Trump in his own words after a quick break.
[20:57:53] COOPER: Top in this hour, the President of the United States revealing no one certain terms, who he is, what he is? He went before reporters this afternoon at Trump Towers spoke at length off the cuff about the tragedy this weekend in Charlottesville. Unlike yesterday's prepared statement on the teleprompter which called out the neo-Nazis, and Klan members and white supremacists directly. Today's collection of thoughts were so kind to this collection of haters, it left even supporters of the President dumbstruck, a discussion to come, but first an extended sampling of what the President said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- said that the alt-right is behind these attacks and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville
TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I can't tell you. I'm sure Senator McCain must know what he's talking about. But when you say the alt- right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.
TRUMP: No, define it for me. Come on, let's go. Define it for me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain defined them as the same groups.
TRUMP: OK. What about the alt-left that came charging at -- excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Senator McCain --
TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging -- that they came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day --
TRUMP: Wait a minute. I'm not finished. I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it the same level as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: Those people, all of those people- excuse me. I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.