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Fourth Executive Quits in Protest; Trump Unleashed on Critics; Pardon for Arpaio; Trump Calls CEOs Grandstanders; Trump's Retweets Fan Flames Around Race. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:23] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me on this Tuesday afternoon.

After taking basically 72 hours to condemn racists by name, the president of the United States had a much quicker response in calling out some of the nation's top business leaders who have now parted ways with him. He just tweeted, quote, for every CEO that drops out of the manufacturing council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. Jobs.

And it looks like more and more, quote, grandstanders, just to borrow the president's phrase here, are choosing to sit out of the president's manufacturing council. We've just learned in just the last little while this fourth executive announced his exit. Scott Paul is the head of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. He joins the heads of Merck, Under Armour, and Intel of bowing out.

These executives are protesting the president's initial failure to call out these racists for who they are, who are responsible for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Scott Paul has now tweeted, quote, I'm resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it's the right thing for me to do.

So let's begin with Jim Acosta, here's our CNN senior White House correspondent, just outside of Trump Tower.

And so, Jim, in addition to the executive news today, you know, you have the president also retweeting conspiracy theorists. Talk to me about that.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The president, Brooke, seems to be allowing Americans into his inner monologue today with all of these tweets. He's been on something of a tweet storm all day long. You mentioned the tweet that he posted earlier today slamming those executives, those business leaders for quitting his manufacturing council.

But, yes, you're right, he also has retweeted in the last 24-hours a noted conspiracy theorist who is pushing the pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracy theories. That person who was a member of the alt-right has espoused alt-right views was essentially saying, why isn't the media paying more attention to these shootings in Chicago, the violence in Chicago. The president retweeting that.

Brooke, he also, I guess, for a brief period, appeared to retweet an image of a train running over what appeared to be a CNN journalist. Now, we have heard from the White House on that. An anonymous White House official, keep in mind, the president has said in the past don't believe anonymous sources coming out of the White House. But an anonymous White House official said that that tweet was inadvertently post and then later deleted. So we did hear from the White House in terms of one of the president's tweets today.

But this has been going on for the last 12 or so hours and it appears to be sort of the president kind of flailing around after some of the negative reviews he got yesterday after those remarks he made at the White House. I was there for those remarks when he tried to walk back his initial comments on the violence in Charlottesville from over the weekend.

BALDWIN: Yes. And you were shouting those questions at him yesterday afternoon when he was saying, I've condemned it, I've condemned it.

Staying on the president's tweets, Jim, just quickly, what's the latest on -- he had retweeted this report about the potential of him pardoning, you know, controversial Joe Arpaio out in Arizona.

ACOSTA: Right, the Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio. You know, he has been brought into court and essentially charged with being in contempt of court for violating a judge's order to stop rounding up immigrants, apparently for just racial reasons. And the president was asked by Fox News whether he's seriously considering a pardon. He apparently told Fox News that, yes, he is considering that. "Fox and Friends" put out a tweet to this effect earlier this morning. The president retweeted that.

And then, oddly enough, the president appeared to retweet somebody who is calling him a fascist. That tweet was also retracted. And so it's just sort of time and again we're getting instance after instance over the last 12 to 24 hours of the president doing some rather strange things with his social media. And keep in mind, Brooke, you and I both know, there have been several polls that have come out in the last couple of weeks where it has clearly demonstrated that a vast majority of Americans would like the president to stop tweeting as much. But, of course, the president is demonstrating in the last day or so that he's going to keep doing what he's doing when it comes to his Twitter account.


BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you, for now.

Let's get back to this headline about these four executives, these four new defectors joining three other CEOs who have abandoned the president's business councils. Previously it was over the president's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. Before that, it was President Trump's attempt to ban refugees and immigrants from several Muslim majority countries.

So with me now, Richard Quest, CNN money editor at large and CNN business correspondent, and Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a CNN political commentator.

So, good to see both of you. And just for people just also just on understanding this manufacturing council, where you have now four like that gone, you say this is an incredibly big deal because why?

[14:05:10] RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a big deal because these are companies that have vested -- big, strong vested interests in manufacturing, and they were being given a seat at the table in Washington right at the heart of the White House. Now, we can debate whether or not this council was ever going to do any good or was it just a talking shop, or window dressing, a PR exercise. But to actually then say, no, I'm not going to stay, I'm going to leave, is setting out at all (ph). And you could --

BALDWIN: What's the message that sends?

QUEST: The message is, shareholders, investors, employees, family, friends, whatever it is have put pressure and they don't think I should stay.

And remember one crucial point. The head -- the president of the American Manufacturers Alliance has just resigned from a manufacturing council at the White House.

BALDWIN: It's not a good look for the White House.

QUEST: Well, I mean, he's a manufacturing man and he's gone.

BALDWIN: So your point is that -- and you alluded to, maybe this is just a talking council, maybe, you know, not policymaking, but you say it's a bad PR move, PR sign.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. It's - yes, the PR is terrible, and it's the consequences of operationally messing up on Saturday. Now, I think the president's statement yesterday was right on, and so I'm glad they came back and got that right. I also think that if the president wants to get a CEO of something on the phone, he probably can. So as it relates to policymaking, if he wants to talk to a CEO about, hey, we're thinking about doing this or that, he can talk to virtually anyone he wants to.

BALDWIN: Do you think they'll really want to hop on the phone with him given the fact that these four have left this manufacturing council? I mean the message this is sending.

JENNINGS: I would be - well, I would be surprised that if you were sitting at your office and your president calls, you wouldn't take the call. That would surprise me. If, you know, it's happening in private, if the president of the United States calls you, you're going to want to take it.

I also think the White House would say, look, this council aside, what we want to talk about today is the positive economic activity in the United States. The Dow is up. You know, unemployment is down. We have job openings.

BALDWIN: He led with that yesterday before denouncing the racists, he led with the economic news.

JENNINGS: So - so I think if you asked them, they would say, you know, these councils and the machinations of the government aside, everything's going fine in the economy and we deserve credit for that. So that's the positioning, I think, they will take to pivot out of what I think is a rough PR moment.

QUEST: All presidents in some shape or form, all governments have these advisory councils.


QUEST: But the speed with which these were set up right at the beginning of the administration, with these massive photo opportunities in the White House with, you know, blue ribbon CEOs round and about, more than you could throw a stick at, but what have these councils done? Well, the economic one, headed by Steve Frotsman (ph), you know, it hasn't really met. And although they say they're doing back room work with position papers, nobody really knows if this isn't just a way to guild the lily so that things look good.

BALDWIN: But still, Richard, to your point, I mean we've seen so many photo ops of these CEOs sitting around this big table with the president. This is significant. This is a businessman, now president, who seems to me proud of the economy, proud of the progress he feels like he's made. And so he wants to have these be flanked by CEOs. And when they continue to drop out, how is this not a blow to, if anything, his ego?

JENNINGS: Well, he is a business person and he clearly enjoys being surrounded by people from the private sector. I mean look at the people he appointed to his cabinet. A lot of folks came in from the private sector.

But again, I think, as an operational matter, you really won't see much of a change on policymaking here. Look, they're going to move forward on their core economy issue in the fall, which is tax reform, and this council was not going to affect their core issues on tax reform.

BALDWIN: But how about how he's characterizing this on Twitter, calling them grandstanders? And not only that, but, you know, critics are saying, wait a second, Mr. President, you took 72 hours to denounce racists and you take 51 minutes to denounce Ken Frazier, the one African-American CEO who has resigned.


QUEST: And only the second African-American CEO in the S&P 500. So, you know, when Ken Frazier left, and he's, you know -- that was a clear, strong message. Now you've got Under Armour and you've got the American Alliance and you've got Merck all leaving. And although they're not specifically saying we can't stomach what he did, the fact they've left, knowing the controversy, under the circumstances, leaves no doubt as to what that message is.

BALDWIN: OK. Scott and Richard, thank you both so much. Appreciate it.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Next question, what happened inside Trump Tower this morning. This wave of retweets and deletes from President Trump, all of them fanning the flames involving his Charlottesville response. We'll get - delve deeper into that.

Also, the vice mayor of Charlottesville raising eyebrows by simply referring to President Trump as 45. He refuses to call him the president. Hear why from him.

And the Trump administration demanding the IP addresses of users who visited anti-Trump websites. Is this crossing the line, violating one's rights? Those details ahead.

[14:10:06] This is CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. This is CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We're going to look farther into what the president's recent tweets mean, specifically the ones after giving that speech against racism, calling out those hate-laced groups this time yesterday.

So with me to discuss, I have Bishop Jim Lowe Jr., pastor of Guiding Light Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He co-organized an All Lives Matter march with Glenn Beck. Also with us today, CNN political commentator Shermichael Singleton, who is a Republican strategist.

So, gentlemen, great to have both of you on.


BALDWIN: And, Shermichael, if I may just begin with you.

You know, looking at the president here, you know, he certainly publicly yesterday condemned racism. But when you look at his tweets, it might give you a different impression. Let me just tick through this.

You know, yesterday morning he went after the African-American CEO of Merck. He then shared a tweets from someone known for pushing conspiracy theories. He then retweet and then deletes the tweet of this train running over a CNN reporter. Keep in mind, this is after a car, you know, ran over that young woman, Heather Heyer, in Charlottesville over the weekend. And then retweeted a story where he's considering pardoning controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All of that, Shermichael, in the full picture, what does that indicate to you?

SINGLETON: Well, I think for a lot of Americans, Brooke, who have watched the president's tweets are wondering, how serious was he in his condemnation of the alt-right, of white supremacists, of neo- Nazis. Saturday, the president had an interesting moment in time to bring the country together. This is the same person who then, as a candidate in 2016, stated about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that in order to address a problem, you have to state it by name. The president had that opportunity to state white supremacy, neo-Nazis directly by name and he was absolutely silent.

These folks not only hurled racist rhetoric, they hurled anti-Semitic rhetoric. His son-in-law, his daughter, his grandchildren are Jewish. And now we look today on the president's tweets, Brooke, and he's tweeting about things so irrelevant. He's tweeting about a train running over CNN, which insinuates violence against the media.

We are at a crisis level in our country right now as it pertains to morality and, unfortunately, we have to look to a leader who, in my opinion, is morally bankrupt. And so what do we do as a country? I think we can no longer rely on the president. I think it's becoming, upon all of us, each of us individually in our own respective communities to say, what are we going to do as individuals to see the change we want to see, because we can no longer rely on the president.

BALDWIN: Bishop Lowe, you heard Shermichael. He says the president is morally bankrupt. Questions today, does he have any moral compass? Do you think he does?

BISHOP JIM LOWE JR., PASTOR, GUIDING LIGHT CHURCH: Well, first of all, in response to that, I think the president is one person. I think the president, on very many times, has tweeted on issues that seem to be not the issue. His tweeting is an issue sometimes when he's not speaking on the subjects that are happening today. He's been behind before.

Now the question of his moral character and things from what we see from his tweets, I think I cannot do that. But I do believe that regardless to what the president does, we, as the people, must begin to respond in the right manner and the right way to what all of these things that are going on.

SINGLETON: Well, Brooke -

LOWE: Even if this president has missed to lead (ph), we still have to step up, and we still have to begin to condemn these type of activities that are going on like this, even if the president doesn't. Remember, we're the nation of we the people, and we are supposed to lead the president, actually.

BALDWIN: Well, it depends on, I guess, who you talk to. We, the people, we lead the president, he is supposed to be our leader. And even though he did come forward and condemn these, you know, hateful people yesterday, I'm left wondering, Shermichael, you know, can the president -- can he separate himself from these white supremacists who support him? SINGLETON: I mean, Brooke, time and time again, when President Trump

tested the political waters, starting with birtherism, from the moment he came down the escalator at Trump Tower where he said all Mexicans are rapists and he said some of them may be good people, to the time he mimicked a handicapped individual, there are so many times that we could all point out to where the president had an opportunity to correct himself, and time and time again, including myself, I was briefly a part of his administration, we've all stated, give him a chance, he'll become presidential. Give him a chance, he'll figure it out. Give him a chance, he will finally get it.

Well, Brooke, when someone continues to show you who they are time and time again, at what point do we wake the hell up and say, this is who this guy is. We can no longer have the expectation that he is going to change.

LOWE: Well, can I interject in here?

BALDWIN: Please, sir, bishop, go ahead.

LOWE: What - yes. The point is, right now, we have to recognize the majority of the people in this nation, or at least according to our electoral college, have elected him to be president. To sit up and condemn every action that he takes is not productive. We have got to begin to pull together as a nation.

SINGLETON: Bishop, I didn't say every action, bishop. I pointed out specific actions, specific moments in time that I find ethically and morally objectionable. As an American, what I saw in Charlottesville Saturday was disgusting. American soldiers lost their lives fighting against Nazi Germany. As an African-American, I was saddened because those images of white nationalists wearing Ku Klux Klan uniforms are images that should be relegated to a history book, documentaries and museums. And as a Republican, I am embarrassed that the leader of my party took 72 hours to denounce racism. That is a problem to me.

[14:20:15] LOWE: Let me just say to you -- and I'm not in defense of President Trump. I'm saying the reality that we see with President Trump is that, when has he ever really addressed issues that are important that are dealing with the issues?

There is something in that -- in where things are working with him where he will address something that has nothing to do with what's really going on. That's the nature of the man that we see.


BALDWIN: So who needs to hold him accountable, bishop? Who needs to hold him accountable and have him address what he should be addressing?

LOWE: Well, now, that's what his staff should be doing. And, of course, he needs to have people that are going to tell him the truth. I would like to think he does have people that are doing that type of thing. But it's -- this is the nature of the person, the people of this nation have elected. Now, what do we do? Do we -- we can't remove him from office except he

does something that is of an impeachable nature. Right now we've got to work together. We've got to pull together. We must make sure as a people we focus on the thing that is the thing and the issue that is the issue.

SINGLETON: I actually -

LOWE: We are divided -

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Shermichael.

SINGLETON: I actually agree with the bishop. Look, Brooke, at the end of the day -


SINGLETON: The government we have will be no more or no less than the government we deserve. People have to show courage. And I put emphasis on courage because of all the virtues in my view, courage is the most important because you cannot practice any other virtue consistently. We have to be willing to look in the mirror and say, what am I doing where I am, to the bishop's point, to see the change that I want to see because it has been proven time and time again that we cannot, unfortunately, rely on the leader of our country.

And to my fellow Republicans, Speaker Ryan in the House, Mitch McConnell in the Senate, the executive branch is failing the American people. We can no longer put party politics as the country around us goes up in flames. We have to step up and be the voice and speak not only to the people who voted for us but to all Americans, to this great collective that we call the United States.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, I appreciate the dialogue.

LOWE: I agree with him (ph).

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Bishop, I've seen you nodding as Shermichael's been talking. I appreciate the respectful dialogue today. Shermichael Singleton and Bishop Jim Lowe, thank you both so much.

SINGLETON: Thank you, Brooke.

Thank you.

LOWE: God bless.

BALDWIN: Same to you.

Just in, another act of vandalism. The Lincoln Memorial, the new target. We'll hear what happened there.

Also ahead, this emotional letter from parents of one of the men seen at that racist rally. Hear their words to their own son and why they're now telling him he is no longer welcome back at home.


[14:27:14] BALDWIN: I want to read something for you now just in its entirety. The family of one of those white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville over the weekend is publicly rebuking his son for his racist behavior. This father is disowning him unless the son changes his views and his heart.

So let me just take you to break with this stunning and heartfelt letter that this father wrote to his hometown newspaper in Fargo, North Dakota. And here it is.

My name is Pierce Teft (ph). I am writing to all with regards to my youngest son, Peter Teft, an avowed white nationalist who has been featured in a number of local news stories over the last couple months. On Friday night, my son traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, and was interviewed by a national news outlet while marching with reported white nationalists who allegedly went on to kill a person.

I, along with all of his siblings and his entire family wish to loudly repudiate my son's vile, hateful, and racist rhetoric and actions. We do not know specifically where he learned these beliefs. He did not learn them at home.

I've shared my home and hearth with friends and acquaintances of every race, gender, and creed. I have taught all of my children that all men and women are created equal, that we must love each other all the same. Evidently, Peter has chosen to unlearn these lessons, much to my and his family's heartbreak and distress.

We have been silent up until now, but now we see that this was a mistake. It was the silence of all good people that allowed the Nazis to flourish the first time around, and it is the silence of good people that is allowing them to flourish now.

Peter Teft, my son, is not welcome at our family gatherings any longer. I pray my prodigal son will renounce his hateful beliefs and return home. Then, and only then, will I lay out the feast. His hateful opinions are bringing hateful rhetoric to his siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews, as well as his parents. Why must we be guilty by association? Again, none of his beliefs were learned at home.

We do not, never have, and never will accept his twisted world view. He once joked, the thing about us fascists is, it's not that we don't believe in freedom of speech, you can say whatever you want, we'll just throw you in an oven. Peter, you will have to shovel our bodies into the oven too. Please, son, renounce the hate. Accept and love all.

[14:29:54] We'll be right back.