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North Korea Backs Down from Guam Threat; After Backlash Trump Condemns Hate Groups by Name; Fired Google Engineer Defense His Memo on Diversity; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 10:30   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a fair assessment, John. I think Kim Jong-un certainly stepping back from the brink after a week of bellicose rhetoric that we have heard. Interesting that he is holding off on those plans that he was threatening to strike Guam with those four intermediate range missiles with nuclear warheads. Guam of course being a U.S. territory with military bases and Kim Jong-un certainly getting America's attention.

But today, through state-based media KCNA, certainly seems to be dialing it back, perhaps heeding the warnings of the president, more recently, the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as you say. He said if North Korea was to strike U.S. territory, it would be game on. But Kim Jong-un saying he was going to hold off, to wait and see what the foolish and stupid Yankees do, quote-unquote. Obviously making reference to those joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea due to be held as of next week starting on Monday, which, John, as we know, always antagonize the North Korean regime.

BERMAN: And Barbara Starr, what is the view from the Pentagon on this? Do they feel as if that they have outmaneuvered at least diplomatically and with the strong, you know, military statements made from the Defense secretary that in a way they have gotten what they wanted out of this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the Yankees are keeping a very sharp eye on all of this. I mean, maybe. Maybe Kim has heard the warnings because Secretary Mattis has actually been very precise in his language, which is, if North Korea attacks, if North Korea initiates combat, that the U.S. will take out the regime.

And Kim is all about his own survival. So it does appear that he's heard that message for now. But I think a lot of experts will tell you that this doesn't really resolve anything. We have been through these cycles for years. President Trump has been looking for a way to break the cycle. Nobody is looking for war with the North Koreans. But the cycle may be receding a little bit and what happens now when Kim decides in maybe several weeks it's time to ramp it all up again?

I mean, remember, he can always launch missiles short of hitting U.S. territory, short of hitting Guam. He has plenty of missiles he can start firing them basically anytime he wants.

BERMAN: He can be provocative in his own way.

You mentioned the Defense secretary is very precise in his own language, Barbara, and he said something yesterday which got a lot of people's attention, including yours. He was talking about the transgender ban in the military that the president says he will institute. The Defense secretary says he is still looking at it and indicated that it may turn out to be something perhaps different than we think.

STARR: That's right. And let me take everybody just for a second behind the scenes here. Secretary Mattis does not come out in front of cameras very often. But every couple of weeks, he comes to the press area where we all are in the Pentagon, the so-called resident press corps, and he will talk on the record, but not on camera. That's what he did yesterday, said he wants people to understand, that's where all of his remarks come from.

And he was asked about what progress the Pentagon is making on instituting what the president seems to believe will be a ban on transgender persons serving in the military. He said that they are still studying it and he said that they are looking at ways, possibly, possibly in which transgender persons could somehow continue to serve.

The important thing is, he did not say, he did not endorse specifically President Trump's ban on all of this. He, very much, is leaving the door open -- John.

BERMAN: Very interesting maneuvering there.

Barbara Starr, Anna Coren in Seoul, thank you very, very much.

Iran's president is threatening to quit the 2015 nuclear deal within hours if the U.S. hits the country with more sanctions. Earlier this morning President Trump signed into new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Iran's parliament has since passed a bill outlining plans to, quote, "counter U.S. terrorist measures in the region."

At least 245 people are dead, 600 people missing after powerful mudslides in Sierra Leon. Search and rescue missions are underway in that West African nation. As many as 3,000 people have been displaced. Days of heavy rain and flooding triggered the mudslides, crumbling homes near the capital city of Free Town and the death toll there is expected to rise.

All right. President Trump did call out white supremacists and neo- Nazi's by name, finally, in the wake of the Charlottesville violence. How do those groups see his words in that delay?

I'm going to speak to a former neo-Nazi next.



[10:38:50] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.


BERMAN: Facing backlash from his initial response, President Trump did finally call out hate groups by name. It came 48 hours after the violent protests and demonstrations in Charlottesville. The question a lot of people asking, did the president do enough or was it too little too late?

We have a very interesting perspective on this. Joining me to discuss, Christian Picciolini. He is a former neo-Nazi, founder of Life After Hate, which helps fight white extremism. He's also author of "Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead."

Christian, thanks so much for being with us. Look, you said you heard a dog whistle with the president's initial statement, when he said the violence and the hate and the bigotry was coming from many sides. What did you mean by that?

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI, FORMER NEO-NAZI SKINHEAD: You know, John, the far right has this tactic of calling out people on the left as the haters or as the racists, or the people who are trying to suppress the free speech of people on the right.

[10:40:02] So when the president said that he hopes that all sides would find, you know, a way out of this conflict, he was speaking directly about the left wing folks who were there protesting, I believe.

It's a common tactic. And I have heard the dog whistles all throughout the campaign and even into the presidency where, you know, in the movement 30 years ago when I was involved, they would say things like the Jewish media, whereas now they've started to use more palatable terms like liberal media or globalism when referring to the global Jewish conspiracies. So these are all very concerted marketing strategies on the ultra right's part to really make the language more normalized to appeal to more Americans.

BERMAN: We'll about the media in just a second because there's an interesting new twist to this whole thing. The president's new statement, you know, three days after the fact. Were there any dog whistles there? We just heard it, he called out the KKK by name, white supremacists by name, neo-Nazi's by name.

PICCIOLINI: Yes, well, you know, to me it's too little too late and it certainly felt very contrived to me. And, you know, I would just speak to Mr. President right now and just say until we put back funding to counter extremism from the far right, from domestic terrorists, we are not taking this issue seriously.

We have an estimated 300,000 sovereign citizens and militia members training in a very military style in this country. And I can tell you that if we had 300 ISIS members training in any city in America, I don't think that the president would hesitate to drop a bomb on any major city. Attack them in Philadelphia, attack them in Tulsa. And we've seen this before. So there's a discrepancy here that we need to address.

BERMAN: Do you think the movement is growing? The FBI and DHS just put out a joint bulletin in May that warned that white supremacists will likely continue to pose a threat level in the next year.

PICCIOLINI: Well, it's a problem that's never gone away. It's always been a problem that -- since our founding, you know, we've had systems in place that support white supremacy.

BERMAN: Do you think it's worse now?

PICCIOLINI: So of course it's been continuing.

BERMAN: Do you think it's worse now, and if so, why?

PICCIOLINI: Absolutely. Well, you know, I think it's bigger now because there's so much propaganda on the Internet that's recruiting young people who feel marginalized, who may not fit in in real life, who are searching for an identity, a community and a purpose. And because they are marginalized or because they have some sort of brokenness underneath them they're tending to try and find these solutions in very simple ways and very black-and-white terms that blame the other.

So it is bigger. But I also think that because the media is speaking about it so much, you know, we're also recognizing it more in our sons and daughters and co-workers. So, you know, at some point, we need to really take this issue very seriously.

BERMAN: All right. You brought up the media before, which is a constant foil for President Trump. And this morning, I'm not sure if we have the image or not, but for a brief period of time, he sent out an image which was of a train hitting a CNN reporter right there. It says, "Nothing can stop the Trump train." A train running over a CNN reporter. He pulled down that tweet and the White House later said that it was inadvertent. He didn't realize what it was initially, that it was a CNN reporter being mowed down right there.

You talk about the messages about the media, now called the liberal media in some fronts. You said back 30 years ago when you were involved with a neo-Nazi movement, it was called the Jewish media right there. What's the impact of messages like that, images like that, if even for a brief time from the president?

PICCIOLINI: Does it really matter who was on the end of that train? Should a president be tweeting anything about a train running over anybody? I think it's inappropriate. And, you know, we have seen some of the re-tweets that he's made on Twitter even as early as this morning where he re-tweeted a conspiracy theorist. That shows me what world he is living in, where he gets his information and what's influencing his decisions.

BERMAN: And -- but historically speaking, from your time there, attacks on the media, you know, it's not just questioning the quality of journalism, is it? PICCIOLINI: No, no. It's questioning the power and the control

behind the voice of the public. And they claim that there is a conspiracy theory that diversity is a code word for white genocide. They believe the media is promoting a multicultural agenda. They believe that the media is co-opting, you know, what they see as kind of their white identity and it couldn't be more false.

BERMAN: All right, Christian Picciolini. Very interesting discussion. Thank you for helping us. In some ways, you know, we hear what is spoken. We don't always know what is heard by these groups and sometimes that's just important. So thank you very much for being with us.

PICCIOLINI: My pleasure, John.

BERMAN: All right. His controversial memo on diversity cost him his job. But a fired Google engineer is not backing down. And he tells CNN the company is unsafe for conservatives.


JAMES DAMORE, FIRED GOOGLE ENGINEER: They don't feel like they can bring their whole selves to Google. And that that is a psychologically unsafe environment.


[10:49:24] BERMAN: So the Google software engineer fired over a controversial memo says the company is psychologically unsafe for conservatives.

James Damore spoke to CNN's Laurie Segall defending his 3,000 word post which slammed political correctness. In that post, he argued there are fewer women in tech jobs partly because of biological causes.

Laurie Segall joins me now.

And Laurie, it's fascinating. The intersection of all these different stories right now.


BERMAN: This guy has been embraced by the alt-right. A lot of the same types of people involved in Charlottesville. How does he feel about that?

SEGALL: You know, I asked him that and he said just because they embrace me doesn't mean I embrace them. But, you know, his -- this rhetoric that he put forward in this memo talked about how Google has a certain type of ideology and any dissenting opinions aren't looked at in a good way.

[10:50:12] And his firing confirmed that to a degree. And so what he said was Google wasn't a safe place for conservatives in the closet. That's how he talked about it. He said there are many more people out there like him. But we shouldn't ignore the gender part of this memo because that was a big deal. The controversy was about biological, how he said there weren't more women in high-tech jobs because of biological causes.

I asked him about that. And I said, you know, historically that hasn't been the case. In the 1980s, there were many women in tech. And that number started to climb beginning in the 1980s. I asked him how that fit into his argument. Listen to what he said.


DAMORE: So there are several reasons for why it was like that. Partly, women weren't allowed to work other jobs, so there was less freedom for people and also it was simply different kinds of work. It was more like accounting rather than modern-day computer programming.

SEGALL: You say those jobs are more like accounting. I mean, look at Grace Hopper who pioneered computer programming, Margaret Hamilton, who created the first software which is responsible for landing humans on the moon. Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughn, they were responsible for John Glenn accurately making his trajectory. Those aren't accounting-type jobs.

DAMORE: Yes. So there were select positions that weren't. And women are definitely capable of being competent programmers.

SEGALL: Do you believe those women were outliers?

DAMORE: No, I'm just saying that there are competent women programmers. There are many at Google and the women at Google aren't any worse than the men at Google, but I'm saying that there were many positions that were listed as coding that are different than what coding currently is.


SEGALL: A very interesting exchange and also, you look at this idea of gender and politics in the current political environment and it's all coming together as seen with the reaction towards this controversial memo -- John.

BERMAN: Really interesting, really relevant discussion.

Laurie Segall, great work. Thanks so much.

SEGALL: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The right to sit. The NFL commissioner speaks out on players sitting down during the national anthem. What he has to say during the "Bleacher Report," next.


[10:56:44] BERMAN: The number of national anthem protests against racial injustice in the NFL, they continue to grow.

Coy Wire has more on the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked yesterday by a fan if anthem protests this season were going to be another problem. Here is what he said.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: The national anthem is a special moment to me. It's a point of pride. And it's -- that is a really important moment. And I think -- but we also have to understand the other side of it. People do have rights and we want to respect those.


WIRE: Now also, yesterday, Brown's head coach Hue Jackson was asked how he would react if his players were to protest during the anthem this season.


HUE JACKSON, BROWNS HEAD COACH: Well, I think everybody has a right to do, you know, and I get it. But the national anthem means a lot to myself personally. I would hope we don't have those issues.

I understand there's a lot going on the world. Hopefully that won't happen. I can't tell you it won't happen. But I just know our guys. I don't think that's where our focus is. And we hope the things that are going on in the world get ironed out.


WIRE: The NFL does not have a rule that requires players to stand for the national anthem.

The toxicology report revealed that Tiger Woods had five different drugs in his system at the time of his DUI arrest on Memorial Day. He passed a breathalyzer test but urine test found the combination of pain, anxiety and sleep medications as well as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Tiger released a statement to CNN yesterday saying in part, "Recently I have been trying on my own to treat my back pain and a sleep disorder including insomnia. But I realized now it was a mistake to do this without medical assistance."

Back in June, Tiger announced he was receiving professional help to manage his medications. And last week, he entered a DUI first offender program. His arraignment is set for October 25th.

Got to share this feel good story with you. An emotional return to the mound for Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis beat cancer twice to make it back to the Majors after surgery for testicular cancer last fall. The cancer returned and he had to leave the team to start chemotherapy. Well, last night just three months after his last chemo session, he

dominated, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Braves. And afterwards, he talked about this long journey.


CHAD BETTIS, COLORADO ROCKIES PITCHER: Doesn't get much better than that from my standpoint. Just thinking about everything that had happened. Everything that my family and I had been through. I was holding back tears until the start.


WIRE: Guys, Rockies won, 3-zip. And now through all of this, his wife Kristina was pregnant with their first child Everliegh and Chad says that Everliegh's birth was the biggest of many blessings during his journey back.

An incredible story, John. Had to share that one. Great perseverance.

BERMAN: I love it. You know, you said the final score was 3-0. But the important score there is, you know, Chad Bettis one, cancer, nothing. You know, he won the important game there, for sure.

All right. Coy Wire, thanks so much for being with us. Great to see you.

WIRE: You're welcome. You too.

BERMAN: And thank you all so much for joining us today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John. Hello, everyone, I am Kate Bolduan.

President Trump is back where it all began today.