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Report: North Korea Appears to Back Off Threats; Charlottesville Attack Stokes Raw Emotions on Race; Trump Talks Infrastructure Amid Charlottesville Fallout. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: It appears the dictator is backing off threats to fire missiles at the American territory of Guam. After reviewing a plan to strike the U.S. territory, the leader of the rogue nation says he will wait to see what the, quote, foolish and stupid Yankees do next. This is just the latest in a week of ramped up rhetoric. Defense Secretary James Mattis has already warned Pyongyang that it will be game on if missiles are fired on U.S. territory. So, let's go to our CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, we saw the tripling down last week. Does this signify that North Korea would be willing to come to the table to talk?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think it's too early to talk about coming to the table but the question last week was, could the two sides, or the multiple sides in this ratchet down the rhetoric before there's something beyond just a rhetorical escalation? And it appears that that's possible through a combination, you have this statement from the north, colorful as always, at least saying that this threatened attack on Guam is not going to happen. That followed people like Mattis, Tillerson, Dunford traveling the region saying that diplomacy comes first.

A deliberate attempt by U.S. officials to temper, somewhat, the president's rhetoric from last week. Now, you can argue that perhaps Donald Trump's threat via Twitter and elsewhere forced North Korea to back down, that North Korea blinked. There are also those who argue that North Korea didn't make that threat until you heard fire and fury from Donald Trump. But regardless, what's important here is that there was real nervousness last week, not just here in the U.S., but certainly in the region, and it appears that the rhetoric, the dial, the temperature being turned down somewhat, and I mean, you have to read that as good news in light of how incendiary a situation this is.

BALDWIN: What about Iran? Iran also making threats about -- vowing to drop out of the nuclear deal if the U.S. imposes new sanctions. How serious are they?

SCIUTTO: Listen, I think it's serious for this reason, because Donald Trump, last week in his comments, it was kind of lost in the North Korea rhetoric, but Donald Trump said that he believes Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal. And that's a big deal, because the intelligence community is telling him in their regular reports it is complying, but he's saying he doesn't believe they're complying with the spirit of it, which sets up for the possibility, at least, that president Trump pulls out of the deal unilaterally. Now, you would expect a response from Iran, so that's showing some toughness, say what they would do under those circumstances but the truth is, Iran really needs this deal. Iran's economy, it's sort of economic lifeline, is, you know, dependent on this deal for trade, exports, etc.

The real wild card here is that the U.S. can do what it wants to do, but remember this is a deal that has China, Russia, European powers in there. If the U.S. pulls out and they don't, what happens here? That's a real break between the U.S. and its allies. And that sets up for some real question marks. No one really knows what happens at that point.

BALDWIN: Yes. Jim, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, protesters tear down Confederate statues in three cities in the wake of Charlottesville. Nationwide, the incident has really hit a raw nerve when it comes to race and religion. We'll continue this conversation next.


BALDWIN: It has been three days now since the deadly racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The conversations about how we move forward have been heated and they have been raw all across this great nation, including one moment that happened live on this show just yesterday.


KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We have a president of the United States right now who spent -- who started his political career by attacking the first African-American president with the racist birtherist attack which he continued for five years. He started his political campaign by attacking Mexicans, and he started his ascendancy by attacking Muslins. He has a history of racism and he's failed to repudiate this. This is unlike president Obama. I'm offended that you continue to go there, Paris. But the reality is that president Trump has not done enough and I'm ashamed that you as an African-American will not say that.

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Keith, I don't need you to try to pull my black card. I'm well aware of my blackness. I understand what racism is.

BOYKIN: Are you?

DENNARD: Keith, don't go there. Do not go there. I know what it means to be a black man in this country. And I experience racism on a regular basis by being a Trump supporter and by being a proud American who happens to be a Republican. I get racist --

BOYKIN: So that's --

DENNARD: I get racist --

BOYKIN: That's the racism you experience?

DENNARD: About my family, about my mother, about my girlfriend, about my character.

BOYKIN: We have people who were getting murdered for being black in this country.

DENNARD: I'm from -- my family's from Georgia. Keith, let me finish. My family's from Georgia. We have members of our family that went missing because of the KKK taking them up so don't come to me and tell me about what it means to be a black person in this country.

BALDWIN: This is where we are now in this country?

[15:40:00] JOSEPH PINION, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think that the reality is that this is where we've been at as a nation for a very long time.


PINION: So, I don't think this is necessarily something that is new. I think that for a lot of Americans, they're just finally realizing the fissures that have existed in this nation for a very long time. I listen to what just occurred right now, it's heartbreaking because again, I look at both of you. You are my brothers, and regardless of what's happening right now in this country, that we have to find a way to fix these issues as brothers.


BALDWIN: I want to just share that moment because I feel like it shows the difficult yet authentic emotions of where we are as a nation. Let's talk about it and so much more. I have CNN reporter Sara Sidner, who was part of that conversation yesterday. CNN money national reporter for race and equality, and Don Lemon, anchor of "CNN Tonight." So, welcome to the fifth-floor set, everyone. And you and I texted a little bit about that yesterday. I got a lot of email and a lot of feedback, and it points -- it was hard for me to listen. I couldn't fully understand, but you watched it. What did you make of that?

DON LEMON, HOST: To be honest, I thought Paris, thou doth protest too much. I don't think that his blackness was being challenged. I think his humanity was being challenged. I think he was asking him, as a person of color, as a president who has not stood up for the values of African-Americans, how could he just reflexively support this president, and I think that, you know, maybe Paris has some issues going on with people questioning his blackness because he is a Republican and a Trump supporter, that's a whole other thing, but I don't think that's what was happening and being challenged in that moment.

And I think if you do support this president and considering what he did and how he handled the reaction, how he reacted to what happened in Charlottesville, I think you should be questioned, and I think you should be questioned deeply about it. Because it took him a long time to respond in a proper way, and it's taken him a long time to denounce racism, to denounce David Duke, to denounce anything that has to do with neo-Nazis and racist bigots. Something that would take you and I, anybody on this panel, a half a second to do.

And so, I think that, you know, I actually saw an interesting conversation last night with Anderson, with the -- a similar panel, and folks being challenged about the president saying, I don't know who David Duke is, I don't know anything about that. Well, it's not true because he was considering a run, Donald Trump, in 2000 for the reform party and was asked by Matt Lauer what he thought was wrong with the reform party and he listed David Duke as one of the ills of the reform party because David Duke was a bigot and no one wanted that associated with his party. So, 15, 16 years later, he doesn't know who David Duke is? That's a flat out lie.

BALDWIN: I feel like my job is to listen when that was happening yesterday and that was sort of the ugliest part of it all. We had a really, I thought, a substantive conversation. You chimed in and were excellent. It felt almost like a window into conversations being had in this country, emotional conversations.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that what you're seeing play out there is that not all black people think alike, and I think there's a lot of people that think that we do, and they think we all have the same politics and that we all have the same ideas and what you saw play out there is a lot of hurt and a lot of difficulty talking about things when two people disagree. This president is polarizing, period. That is what has happened. The country is far more polarized as we look at what's happening in the country today, and it's getting more and more polarized and I want to mention something that I mentioned yesterday.

You have a reaction -- we have proof that neo-Nazis, one of the most prolific neo-Nazis that's out there that has a website, where hundreds of thousands of people go on his website and read for hours every day, some of the vile hatred he spews, directly responded to the fact that President Trump took two days to actually say something, specifically targeting neo-Nazis, white supremacists, bigots, racists, you name it.

[15:45:00] So, without calling out the KKK, without calling out the neo-Nazis, what he said to them, this is in his writing, Anglin said, he loves us. And I -- those are quotes. He loves us. He is with us. There's a quote there. And then after that, look at this. Because this is really important. This man says, hail victory. He's harkening back to Nazism, and to everyone know this, we are now at war and we are not going to back down. There will be more events. Soon. He heard Donald Trump's non-words. What he didn't say, and took it as, we're in. We're good.

LEMON: But also, it's a wink and a nod because after two or three days, well, they made him say it.

SIDNER: Absolutely.

LEMON: So, he's really with us, but in order to keep his position, and to keep some folks happy, he had to say it. So, we understand he had to do that but if he had done it immediately, then that person would not have options.

TANZINA VEGA, NATIONAL REPORTER FOR RACE AND INEQUALITY: This is a president that's so reacting to everything. I mean, he's -- every morning we wake up and there's a tweet about this and that. Even this morning. So, to say, oh, you know, he need really precise language or he needed a teleprompter in order to be articulate about something like this is insane. It's a no-brainer.

LEMON: You don't need a teleprompter to speak what's on your heart.

VEGA: And he always says what's on his mind so to not do that in this case --

LEMON: By the way, the same president who would criticize the last president for using a teleprompter all the time is now dependent on a teleprompter.

VEGA: Speaking of the last president, President Obama, when he was still candidate Obama, had to give a speech on race, because of his affiliation with Jeremiah Wright, so this was before he became president, had to address issues, so the burden of race and explaining race is often put on communities of color to be able to explain and that's exhausting.

LEMON: Yes. If Obama had to explain it, why shouldn't this president?

SIDNER: Have to explain it and address it.

BALDWIN: What about all these cities, now you have these confederate monuments now being toppled down. The cities, Durham, North Carolina, Gainesville, Florida. Are mayors feeling pressure to take them down?

VEGA: I think there's pressure coming but I think we also have to look at the narratives around these monuments. People are saying, we want to preserve our history. There's a place to preserve history but there's a reckoning with that history that has to be done and I think we're lagging behind doing that in this country. That's why we're at this point. We can't just look at a statue of Robert E. Lee and not talk about what that stands for, and what that means, and also recognizing the other issues that we've had that don't symbolize hate, you know, that have to be --

LEMON: As a southerner, you know, I have -- and you know this as well. I'm very familiar with this subject, and I think that southerners, especially white southerners, are taught a lie about the confederate flag and about what it means, what our southern pride means. There's one flag, and that's the American flag. So, if you want to hang a flag or display a flag, then you hang and display the American flag. The other flag is no different than wearing a swastika and displaying a swastika and as far as those monuments coming down, I don't think those monuments should be in public places. If you go to Germany, it's a culture of remembrance, not a culture of celebrating Hitler. Can you imagine a child having to go to Hitler high school?

There was a Robert E. Lee high school where I grew up, rebels. That is deeply offensive to African-Americans. So rather than celebrating that, I think that maybe you should put that in a museum. It should not be in a public space. But I think that those monuments should come down and we should have a culture of remembrance. We should remember the people who died as a result of the Civil War. We should remember the people who were lynched. Remember the history of this country, the people who came over as slaves in this country.

There were no, as I said last night in my opening monologue on the show, my people came over here under duress. There was no, I'm going to look for the American dream. There were no Ninas and Pintas for my people and the people who wanted to keep us in chains, meaning African-Americans, were those southern people and it was Robert E. Lee who led the charge, so I would rather not have a Robert E. Lee statue or monument or flag hanging anywhere this country except for a museum.

BALDWIN: What about the vice mayor of Charlottesville, he was on NEW DAY and kept referring to President Trump as 45. Here he was.


WES BELLAMY, VICE MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE: Well, we are indeed looking for is his leadership but I would love to move away from the remarks and comments from 45 and focus more on what's going on here on the ground in Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wes, quick question. Why do you refer to president as 45? Yes, he is the 45th president, but is that intentional? Is that just a quick term?

BELLAMY: Well, that's just what I call him. I believe that when he begins to act as if he deserves to be in that office and leads in terms of unifying people, then he will deserve the name of President Trump.

[15:50:00] (END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: This will infuriate him. This is the thing that I think gets in his craw more than anything, because he did win, he is the president, he did not win the popular vote, but he did win. He is the president of the United States. And I'm sure that tweaked his nerves. Like it is exactly what he's been fighting against this whole time but I do want to go back to something that Don said about the Confederate flag.

There are two different thoughts to it and you talked about feeling oppressed by it but people are afraid when they see it because people used to see that flag, knowing that their family members suddenly disappeared under that flag. And so, there is a fear here that you are seeing play out for black folks. There's a fear, and for those who are saying, well, we're just standing up for the south, the south lost. Very few places have statues up of people who lost the war in the country. This is where the schism is. LEMON: Not only for black folks.

SIDNER: There are white folks, too.

LEMON: Especially my Jewish brothers and sisters, which I don't think that the media has done a good enough job in putting their perspective on the air, because they are fearful of that flag as well, and I think the language that was happening in Charlottesville as well for the anti-Semitism was just as much, even if not more for African- Americans.

BALDWIN: And people are making the point that the president's own son-in-law.

LEMON: And the daughter is Jewish. Can I say something about 45? It was funny because I mean, that's old to me. As a --

BALDWIN: You're hearing people --

LEMON: I hear it all the time. If you watch "The View," Whoopi says it, Joy says, the guy in the White House. I like to respect the office but we have to remember that the person in the office needs to respect the office in order to garner respect from other people. He is the leader, if can't respect the office then why should other people do it? I, as an American, as a journalist, I respect that he's president of the United States. I call him the president. But if he wants people to start calling him the president, rather than 45, he needs to start acting like the president of all people rather than his supporters when he goes to the rallies and has those people supporting him and yelling back at him.

VEGA: I think it is somewhat insulting to the American public to assume we can't see that those remarks felt forced. They definitely didn't feel genuine. He said it. So, what?

BALDWIN: In Charlottesville, it is a tragedy to lose any life. Heather Heyer, that was one person. What happens when it happens again. We're going to leave it, laid, Don, thank you so much. We appreciate the conversation and the honesty.

LEMON: Brooke, can I say something? Brooke and I spent the weekend together with friends that are of all different backgrounds and religions. All of this was going on and we had conversations in my kitchen, in my house saying what is happen to this country. Here we are at my house, Brooke, we both from the south, your fiancee, my boyfriend.

BALDWIN: having a conversation until the wee hours of the morning.

SIDNER: Can I answer you, you made me do this. What's happening is the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists are recruiting people. This is not just about we show our white pride, this is about getting more people to come to their side and showing how many people they have on their side, this is all about recruiting. They don't care if there is violence. It gives them fuel.

VEGA: It also means it is time for white people to help out.


BALDWIN: Thank you all so much. We do need to listen to the president who will be speaking from the lobby from Trump Tower at any moment on infrastructure. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Any moment now, the president will be stepping behind those microphones to speak specifically on infrastructure. Manu Raju is live to speak about this.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: The president just met with some senior members of his infrastructure. In will need congressional approval. This has been difficult for the president to achieve. What will be especially difficult is the process they are going to use to enact something will require Democratic support. He will need at least eight Democrats to support him. Most of his party had not seen any details of the infrastructure plan. They only have a basic outline. This is an issue a lot of members wanted to focus on. The concern is that all the oxygen may be out of the room after that bruising health care fight. Will they be able to turn the page on infrastructure? Uncertain. Who was in the room today. Elaine Chao, who was in the room. Who is her husband? Mitch McConnell. Will he be able to push through Trump's infrastructure plan?

BALDWIN: I feel like I'm hearing more of an echo from your voice. It is quiet and empty I know where you stand. Congress is on recess. You are still working, thank goodness. Everyone comes back in September. Walk us through what September will look like. We left off with the failure on health care. What does September look like where you are?

RAJU: It is going to be brutal because of all these key deadlines are coming. September 30th is the deadline for congress to pass an appropriations bill to keep the government open. They have to do that. They also have to raise the debt ceiling. It looks like the president right now.

BALDWIN: Here he goes, Manu. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great to be back in New York with all of our friends and some great friend outside the building, I must tell you. I want to thank all of our distinguished guests with us today including treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, Mick Mulvaney and Elaine Chao, our transportation secretary. Thank you all for doing a really incredible and creative job on what we are going to be discussing today, which is infrastructure. We've just had a great set of briefings upstairs on our infrastructure agenda. My administration is working every day to deliver the world class infrastructure our people deserve and frankly our country deserves. I just signed a new executive order to dramatically reform the nation's badly broken infrastructure permitting process. Just blocks away is the empire state building. It took 11 months to build the empire state building. But today it can take as long as a decade and much more than that.