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Trump Response Too Little Too Late?; Three CEOs Quit Trump's Council; North Korea Backs Off Missile Threat; Tiger Woods Had 5 Drugs In System During DUI Arrest. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: You may have seen photos of the white nationalists carrying Tiki torches over the weekend.

[05:00:02] So, Tiki brand is reminding customers it does not support their message, and that it is deeply saddened its products are being used this way, adding that its torches are for positive events like backyard gatherings. Again, another example of the unsettling moment in the American experience.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed it is unsettling.

EARLY START continues right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs.


BRIGGS: The president finally denouncing white hate groups by name. Now, courting some controversies through retweets and lashing out yet again at the media.

ROMANS: Plus, three CEOs now say they will not serve on a presidential council. They will not advise this president anymore. Two making it clear his delay in condemning hate groups is the reason why.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Tuesday, August 15th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. Josh Rogin will join us on all of those headlines in just a bit and discuss this controversy.

Up first, better late than never, or is it too little too late? President Trump finally responding after two days of harsh criticism from all directions, certainly from his party, in the wake of the hate-filled violence in Charlottesville that left three people dead.

The president issuing a brief statement Monday. He began with a boast about the economy before delivering a full-throated condemnation of hate groups.


TRUMP: As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. 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. To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you'll be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered.


ROMANS: Now, he started with a, you know, a victory lap about the economy to be fair. He did not start. But he stayed on point and he was strong and many said this was the statement he should have given on Monday. But this was President Trump's initial response on Saturday to the Charlottesville violence.


TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides -- on many sides.


BRIGGS: All right. Let's get more now from CNN's Sara Murray at the White House.



The president only clarifying his stance after days of backlash. Not just from some of his backers on Wall Street and not just from Democrats but also from members of his own party as it appears clear that the White House and Trump's advisers were caught flatfooted by the developments.

Now, when President Trump was asked why it took him days to condemn these actions by white nationalists, he said only that they are condemned. But that explanation rang hollow to some, in part because this is a president who has repeatedly fumbled his efforts to denounce the white nationalists that have rallied in his name.

Remember, it took him multiple attempts to say he disavowed the support of David Duke, a former KKK leader. This is a president who at different points has re-tweeted white supremacists. And this is also someone who rose to prominence in part by questioning whether President Barack Obama, the first African-American president, was born in the United States.

These are some things that lead people to believe that there are more nefarious efforts underway behind this delay in President Trump's comments and an indication that this controversy is not going to evaporate from the White House any time soon.

Back to you, guys.


BRIGGS: Indeed far from over. Sara Murray, thanks.

The president arriving at Trump Tower in New York late last night, his first time back since taking office. He was greeted though by a swarm of protesters shouting messages like no hate and impeach.

Mr. Trump turning to Twitter to vent and perhaps sparking a new controversy. He retweeted a post from what you might call a controversial conspiracy theorists who post questioned why the media was covering the Charlottesville story instead of violence in Chicago.

ROMANS: The president has been under fire for not specifically rejecting the support of white supremacy groups or immediately, immediately calling them out by name. And he hasn't explained why. Listen to this exchange with CNN's Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORERSPONDENT: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn the hatred by name over the weekend?

TRUMP: They've been condemned. They have been condemned.

ACOSTA: And why are we not having press conferences today? You said on Friday we would have a press conference.

[05:05:00] TRUMP: We had a press conference. We just had a press conference.

ACOSTA: Can we ask more questions, sir?

TRUMP: That doesn't bother me at all, but, you know, I like real news, not fake news. You're fake news.


ROMANS: OK, that was not a press conference. That was the president reading a scripted response, right? And the reason why Jim Acosta was saying, can we ask more questions, because in a press conference, the media assemble to ask questions.

The president followed up that exchange with this Twitter attack on the press: Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realized once again that the fake news media will never be satisfied. Truly bad people, exclamation point.

Business leaders are not happy with President Trump's response to Charlottesville. Three CEOs quit his manufacturing council. The heads of Intel and Under Armour stepping down, following the lead of one of the most prominent black CEOs, Merck Chief Kenneth Frazier.

Frazier was the first to lead. He quit the council after Trump's initial failure to condemn white supremacy. He said that America's leaders must clearly reject hatred, bigotry and group supremacy. Trump then in a heartbeat lashed out on Twitter against that CEO, saying that now, Frazier will have more time to lower rip-off drug prices. Firing off a response, less time than it took him to denounce white supremacy.

Corporate America quick to rebuke Trump on issues, now including immigration and climate change and Charlottesville. But very few CEOs have broken with the White House, perhaps because their companies and their stocks still benefit from Trump's pro-business environment. And they certainly want a seat at the table when you're talking about tax cuts for business.

There are a few exceptions, CEOs who have broken with the White House. The former Uber CEO left the president's counsel after his travel. The Disney CEO Bob Iger, the Tesla founder Elon Musk, they quit after the president broke with the Paris climate agreement.

CNN asked two dozen execs on the manufacturing council if they would stay. While those that responded denounced hatred, at least seven companies said they would remain, including Dow Chemical, Whirlpool, Campbell's Soup, and General Electric. They cite the importance of participating in the discussion on U.S. manufacturing.

BRIGGS: All right. So, let's bring Josh Rogin, CNN political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Post".

ROMANS: Hey, Josh.

BRIGGS: Great to see you, Josh.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. Great to see you.

BRIGGS: Where does this leave us with the White House? Where are they? So, seven CEOs have left this jobs council. Two after his announcement, reading the scripted response condemning white supremacist groups, KKK, and neo-Nazis. Where does this leave the Trump White House?

ROGIN: The Trump White House remains in denial about the real broad- based sort of opposition but also sort of disappointment with the president's actions over the last three days. You can say it's the media, but as you just reported, it's not just the media. It's business executives, comedians. But very interestingly, a lot of prominent Republicans, OK?

And this is -- you know, as the saga goes on and on, the president's sort of back and forth, half-hearted statements, reluctant sort of acknowledgement of the reality of the situation. His again sort of catering to the alt-right by giving them acknowledgment while he's trying to condemn them at the same time. This is a very clear sort of transparent display of what the president really thinks about this issue. And more and more parts of the country are really saying, that no, this is not OK.

And the president and White House don't seem to acknowledge that. They don't seem to necessarily care about that. But it doesn't change the reality. It's not made up by the media. This is something that people in politics, comedy, business, and regular Americans are really upset about.

ROMANS: But the president is talking, Josh, to his base. I spoke with someone who sat down with the president in the last couple of weeks, somebody who has advised this president, who said that the end of every day, the beginning of every day -- beginning and end of every tweet, this president is talking to the people who elected him, the people who put him over the edge, the white, working-class voters in Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Iowa, in Michigan. Those are the people that he is talking to. It's almost as if he is the president for that America, not the whole America, when you look at the response to Charlottesville.

ROGIN: I think that's right. I think, you know, you can understand from a pure political calculation why the president wouldn't want to alienate a part of his base, right? It's not his entire base, just a smalls election of his base. And because he won by so little, he may make the calculation that he can't afford to alienate any part of that coalition that got him elected.

But what we're seeing is clear, OK? This strategy is untenable in the long run. Inside the White House, outside the White House, there's a battle going on between Trump supporters who agree with this type of stuff and Trump supporters who are absolutely offended by it.

And those two camps are not going to survive all the way to 2020. Eventually, the president of the United States and the rest of his staff will be put to a test. This is part of what we see playing out in the White House and the fight between Steve Bannon and many others, right?

[05:10:01] But we also see it -- this fight playing out on the outside of the White House, OK? You know, in the end, the president's going to choose. Does he want, you know, a broader coalition of people who support his policies, who want to see his agenda move forward, but who think that this type of rhetoric and this type of -- this alt-right community needs to be shunned and kicked out of the tent, or does he want to try to continue to cater to these groups and perhaps sacrifice the larger goal?

BRIGGS: Well, ultimately, they'll have to determine if they can get re-elected just with that base alone. And you brought up Steve Bannon. Some interesting reporting in "The New York Times" this morning about the "Game of Thrones" that's going on inside this White House and the tenuous position Bannon finds himself in.

Here's a quote: At a recent dinner at the White House with Mr. Kushner and the son in law, and Mr. Kelly, the chief of staff, the president listened while one of his guests, Rupert Murdoch, the founder of FOX News, said Mr. Bannon had to go. Mr. Trump offered little pushback, according to a person familiar with the conversation, and vented his frustrations about Mr. Bannon.

That reporting is also on the front of this morning. And Steve Bannon also said that he only expected to last eight months or so in this Trump administration. What will his survival in this White House tell us about the direction the president is prepared to take, and do you think he survives?

ROGIN: Right. Great reporting by "The New York Times" on this. I think it shows a very mixed picture. On one hand, you know, they're definitely not -- you can understands why Rupert Murdoch would want Steve Bannon gone. Steve Bannon's dedicated a big part of his career to taking on the part of the Republican establishment that Rupert Murdoch is in charge of.

You know, there's similar opposition to Steve Bannon inside the White House. And while the report showed that President Trump hasn't met with Bannon over the last week, at the same time, he's still listening to Bannon, OK? And a lot of what we saw about his reaction to Charlottesville is right out of the Bannon playbook.

So, we shouldn't be too eager to say that Steve Bannon's on his way out. You know, I think what Steve Bannon was acknowledging, according to the reporting in "The New York Times," was the fact that eventually, he may have to go. But that's not going to be right now. And meanwhile, he still has huge influence, not over just personnel but over policy and everything else.

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: OK. So, this battle is still raging inside the White House. It's not over. Sometimes the man inside wins the battles, sometimes they lose the battles. But overall, you know, the fate of this sort of huge split, this ideological war going on inside this White House is not yet determined. And the only person who can make the decision is President Trump. And I don't think he's made the decision yet.

ROMANS: Well, when you come back in about a half hour, I want to talk about the president. He will be speaking today. We know he's launching a look into Chinese trade practices, we have North Korea on the horizon here. Cooling tensions with North Korea it feels like if you look at the way the stock market reacted.

So, we'll talk about that when you come back. Thank you, sir.

ROGIN: All right. Thanks, Josh.

Meanwhile, James Fields, the 20-year-old Ohio man accused of plowing his car into a crowd of Charlottesville activists, being held without bond this morning. He made his first court appearance Monday from prison via video link. He faces charges that include second-degree murder for the death of Heather Heyer. Fields told the court he could not afford an attorney on his security guard salary. The Ohio security firm that employed him just announced he has been terminated.

ROMANS: All right. Thirteen minutes past the hour. Game on. Defense Secretary Mattis warning North Korea about threats to the U.S. Now, it appears Pyongyang is backing off.

We'll go live to Seoul.


BRIGGS: North Korea backing off its threat to launch a missile attack on Guam. State-run media saying Kim Jong-un has finished reviewing an attack plan and will hold off on a decision depending on what the, quote, foolish Yankees do next. The statement coming just hours after Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned that if North Korea fired on the U.S. territory, it would be, quote, game on.

Meantime, South Korea's President Moon says his government is determined to resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula peacefully. CNN's Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul with the very latest.

Good morning to you, Paula.


Well, there is a sense of somewhat a pullback here in South Korea, maybe a breather. But, of course, it really depends on what happens. So, what we're hearing from North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, is that at this point, he has reviewed those plans and he's going to wait and see what the Americans do, potentially talking about just next week when there's going to be U.S./South Korean joint military drills starting from August 21st, going on for 10 days.

They happen every year at this time of year. They are defensive in nature, according to the U.S. But North Korea does not see them that way. They see them as provocative, as a dress rehearsal for an invasion. And so, they could well react to those. But we heard from General Dunford just Monday evening here in Seoul that they will go ahead as planned.

Now, we've also heard from the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, just a matter of hours ago, liberation day here in North and South Korea, liberation from Japanese occupation 72 years ago. So, one thing that the North and South Koreans agree on, he said there will not be a second Korean war as long as he is in power.

BRIGGS: Tensions certainly remain high. Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Toxicology reports reveal five different drugs were in Tiger Woods' system the night he was arrested for DUI. Coy Wire has the details in this morning's "Bleacher Report". That's next.


[05:24:04] BRIGGS: All right. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks out on the growing number of national anthem protests stemming from Colin Kaepernick's stance against social injustice last season, and the fact that he still remains unsigned.

ROMANS: Yes. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Coy.

BRIGGS: Hey, man.

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

The commissioner was asked at a Q&A session for Cardinals' season ticket holders yesterday, and he was asked if the anthem protests were, quote, going to be another problem. Here's 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 we also have to understand the other side, that people do have rights. And we want to respect those.


WIRE: Now, Seahawks Michael Bennett and Raiders Marshawn Lynch both sat during the anthem before their preseason games last weekend. Brown's head coach Hue Jackson was asked yesterday how he would feel if his players were to sit during the anthem. He said, quote, I hope that won't happen here, unquote.

[05:25:03] A toxicology report reveals 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 tests found a 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, quote: Recently, I have been trying on my own to treat my back and -- back pain and sleep disorder, including insomnia. But I realize now it was a mistake to do this without medical assistance, unquote. In June, Tiger announced he was receiving professional help to manage his medications. Last week, he entered a DUI first offender program. His arraignment is set for October 25th.

How about this? Emotional return to the mound for Rockies' pitcher Chad Bettis who beat cancer twice to make his way back to the big leagues. Now, after a surgery for testicular cancer last fall, the cancer returned, and he had to leave the team to start chemotherapy. Last night, just three months after his last chemo session, he dominated, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Braves. And afterwards, he talked about his long journey back.


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

(END VIDEO CLIP) WIRE: Now, the Rockies won 3-0. Through all of this, guys, he and his wife Christina, they're pregnant with their first child. He said the birth was the first of many blessings during his journey back. The team was thrilled to have Chad back. They say he is their lifeline, their energy source. He was smiling the entire time he was going through this battle with cancer.

BRIGGS: Oh, man, was I smiling throughout that entire start. Admitted Rockies fan. That is just a wonderful story, a long way back from here. And a big win for that team that need it, as well. That's good stuff. Thank you.

WIRE: Absolutely. You're welcome.

ROMANS: You gave me goose bumps. Thank you.

WIRE: Oh, good. You're welcome.

ROMANS: Mission accomplished.

BRIGGS: All right. President Trump re-tweeting a controversial conspiracy theorist and -- you guessed it -- slamming the media after he finally names names and condemning white supremacy. More on that next.