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Trump Caves to Outrage, Denounces Hate Groups by Name. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired August 15, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump re-tweeting a prominent conspiracy theorist just hours after condemning hate groups.
[05:58:58] DONALD TRUMP (R), 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He won't get a mulligan as president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what he said today was exactly right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three CEOs are leaving Trump's manufacturing council because of the president's lack of response on Saturday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not hard work to use the words "white supremacy, white nationalists" and say this has no place in American politics.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, August 15, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joining me this week.
Thank you for doing it, my friend.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here.
CUOMO: Appreciate having you.
Here's our starting line. Hours after caving to pressure to condemn white supremacists and other hate groups by name, President Trump went right back to the fringe, retweeting a right-wing conspiracy theorist who pedaled baseless stories. Thousands taking to the streets to protest the president's response outside Trump Tower, while others topple the Confederate monument in North Carolina. Even the late- night hosts doing what the president did not getting serious and specific to address the deadly violence.
HARLOW: The president's failure to quickly condemn those white supremacists has led three big-name CEOs to quit one of his advisory councils completely. This as Charlottesville prepares for a memorial for Heather Heyer, killed for standing up to hate.
All of this as the president's controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon, appears to be on very thin ice. He is laying low, apparently hasn't talked to the president about his future nor met face-to-face with him in about a week.
We have it all covered. Let's begin with Jeff Zeleny, live at Trump Tower here in New York City, where the president last night was met by a lot of protestors.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy.
President Trump is waking up here in Trump Tower for the first time in some seven months. And as you said, he did arrive here late last night to thousands of protesters here on the streets of New York City.
He was trying to put one controversy behind him, but overnight a tweet sparked a new one.
ZELENY (voice-over): Only hours after attempting to quell the outrage over his initial response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, President Trump retweeting a prominent supporter and conspiracy theorist.
The president's retweet originated from Jack Posobiec, a prolific social media user the Anti-Defamation League says is a member of the so-called alt-right. The ADL says the movement rejects overt white supremacist views but embraces misogyny and xenophobia.
The ADL has also highlighted Posobiec's frequent anti-Muslim tweets and harassment of former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Posobiec was granted access to the White House press briefing in May.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Seth Rich, can we talk about Seth Rich.
ZELENY: Posobiec has pedaled a number of debunked conspiracy theories online, including a baseless story that the Democratic National Committee was behind the death of former staffer Seth Rich. The claim was the subject of a FOX News story that has since been retracted and deleted.
And the Pizzagate hoax, which alleges that top Democrats were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizza shop during last year's campaign.
On Monday, the president caved to pressure, condemning white supremacists and other hate groups by name.
TRUMP: 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.
ZELENY: CNN has learned that the president insisted on addressing the economy before making these additional remarks, which came two days after the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?
TRUMP: They've been condemned. They have been condemned.
ZELENY: Hours later, shortly before leaving the White House the president took aim at the media for the controversy that cost him the support of three CEOs on his American Manufacturing Council. The CEO of Intel becoming the third business leader to step down Tuesday night, saying in part, "I resign, because I want to make progress while many in Washington seem to be more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them." The president's do-over also does not appear to have been enough for thousands of protesters who line the streets outside of Trump Tower, ahead of Mr. Trump's arrival last night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA. No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA. No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA. No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.
ZELENY: Now, this is another stop on President Trump's working vacation. He'll be here for the next couple days, holding meetings later today on infrastructure. We're scheduled to hear from him this afternoon.
He's surrounded by some advisers, but Chris and Poppy, one adviser who is not with him is Steve Bannon, the chief strategist at the White House who is on thin ice, we are told, by several advisers. The president will be making a decision whether to keep him on board or to follow the advice of many of his supporters and close advisers to push him aside. So that's one of the things weighing on the president's mind, even as all this controversy still swells over Charlottesville -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Jeff, appreciate the reporting.
So, the simple question is whether or not the president has made the situation better or worse.
Joining us now is the vice mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, Wes Bellamy. Mr. Mayor, it's good to have you with us this morning. What is the
state and the mood of your city? Are things still calm there? How is it?
WES BELLAMY, VICE MAYOR, CHARLOTTESVILLE: Thank you for having me.
Before we begin, I think it's important for to us express our sincerest condolences to sister Heather, as well as the two officers who lost their lives over the weekend. Our prayers are with their family. Now to your question I believe personally the mood on the ground is a group of individuals which we call the great city of Charlottesville, ready to move forward.
[06:05:08] Last night we went to -- excuse me, we attended a community meeting at the African-American Heritage Center, in which I saw nearly 500 people in attendance, all -- from all different races, ages, nationalities looking to bring about solutions.
I came here back to the park. There was another vigil that was being held by a group of clergy members and just different members here in the park, and they all were standing together holding arms, ready to move forward, ready to show that our community is one of resilience, one of determination, and one that will not only not be intimidated but one that will progress and become even bolder and more united after this. So I'm encouraged to say the least.
CUOMO: Did you feel that the president helped with what he said yesterday?
BELLAMY: I believe that 45 did make some strides in regards to specifically condemning the white supremacists and the KKK. However, I must admit that I was rather disappointed in seeing the tweet that went out last night, and listen, I want to be clear. I'm not one who sits on some moral high horse, who says that I've never made mistakes or never done anything in my life so that I can condemn everyone else, but what we are indeed looking for is leadership.
But I would love to move away from the remarks and the comments from 45 and focus more on what's going on here in the ground of Charlottesville. Listen, today is just three days after the tragedy that occurred, and we still have more work to do; and that work is getting done. We have economic equity to address, affordable housing issues to address, criminal justice issues to address, equity in relations throughout the city to address, and those are the things that we're going to continue to do.
Our young students start school next week, and we're going to make sure that our kids are ready for school. We're going to make sure they have the best opportunities to learn in mentoring programs, afterschool programs and also showing them that this is a community that cares and this is a unified place.
So again, I'm not as concerned with what 45 is doing. I'm more so concerned with us progressing as a community. and that work. I can assure you. will get done. CUOMO: Wes, quick question. Why do you refer to the president as 45?
Yes, he is the 45th president, but is that intentional, or 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, but at this point, I believe that he has not done the things in regards to bringing this country together. He has not done the things in regards to making us a more unified place. Neither -- excuse me, nor has he decided to condemn the individuals in a rapid pace or as he should or speak out in the way in which we believe he should, but again, I'm not here to talk about 45.
I'm here to talk about the great people of Charlottesville, and we are a great city. We're not a perfect city. We're a place of imperfect people looking to make this place better, but I guarantee you, we will be stronger and more united than ever.
CUOMO: All right. Wes Bellamy, vice mayor for Charlottesville, thank you very much for joining us. Please keep us apprised of the situation down there and the progress that's made.
BELLAMY: Much love. C'sville, stronger together.
CUOMO: Be well -- Poppy.
HARLOW: All right. Let's bring in our panel to talk about all this, because there's a lot to get through this morning. CNN political commentator Errol Louis is here. And Errol, so much to talk about. I think it's an interesting note that the vice mayor is just calling him 45. Let's get to that in a moment.
However, the retweet the president last night, instead of doubling down on his comments, calling out these white supremacist groups by name. He chose to retweet someone who is not just controversial. This guy pedals in conspiracy theories. He's the one who pedaled the Pizzagate experience theory, which became dangerous.
He made something up that Democrats and Hillary Clinton's team was somehow involved in a child sex ring at a D.C. pizzeria. Well, you know what? It's not just a conspiracy theory. A guy goes there a month later and shoots the place up. This is dangerous, and the president is retweeting something from him in the last 12 hours.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's really remarkable. This is, among other things, you have once again what's called dog-whistle politics where this is kind of a wink and a nod from the president to some of the worst elements of society, people who have spread conspiracy theories, people who have spread hate, people who have sort of taken us up to the brink of violence.
And occasionally, we see people take the next step into violence. And so this is something that a responsible leader would go nowhere near. This is something that a White House, you know, would have been unthinkable prior to now, just to see something like that coming, essentially, from the Oval Office. You know, and we call them tweets, because that's a technological term.
HARLOW: It's a written statement from the president.
LOUIS: From the president of the United States, right. And so for him to even indirectly endorse something like that, I think we all know by now what this is all about. He's done this over and over and over again, starting with the birther conspiracies that he pedaled for years. All of these are signals, and as we saw over the last weekend, people take that seriously.
[06:10:13] And, you know, leaders of Ku Klux Klan will get -- will stand there, look into the camera and say, "We are fulfilling a mission that we got from President Trump." I mean, it is shocking. I think the good side of all of this, of course, is that there are others, including corporate leaders, as we're seeing, who are going to step forward and sort of fill a leadership vacuum that this president, for whatever reason, has chosen to lead behind.
CUOMO: Look, leadership is often about moments, and moments are often a function of timing. You know, what the president didn't say initially matters. The timing of this retweet matters. Right on the heels of supposedly doing the right thing, he does something that can only be considered the wrong thing.
So let's bring in Karoun Demirjian. You know, there's going to be talk about this vice mayor in Charlottesville, refusing to say the name of the president. He'll say that was disrespectful. You know, he's an elected official. He should be better than that. Or maybe he's appointed. I don't know. The vice mayor is probably appointed.
But when the president does something like retweeting somebody who pedaled the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, isn't he asking for it, Karoun?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it depends who you're asking. I mean, he's certainly setting himself up for more criticism, for more anger pointed in his direction.
Look, the last few days did not go well for the president of the United States. He did not read the country and the mood of the country correctly in waiting so long to amend his statement from Saturday to include those groups, the KKK, white nationalists, neo- Nazis that he finally named yesterday, and it's at best a little tone deaf to follow that up with this.
I mean, the question is, are we in a position still where people want to give the president the benefit of the doubt, that he's just a little bit clueless when it comes to these things and not malicious? And I think a lot of people are starting to leave that fold when they're starting to say, "Well, I don't want to mention him by name" or things like that.
The question is now even before people of his own party. You're seeing people saying -- yesterday there were calls for him to move certain people out of his advisory group from the White House that are fairly senior ranking like Steve Bannon and others. I mean, this is reaching a bit of a fever pitch if you even have members of the GOP saying that right now.
So I think the question is just, you know, he took a step yesterday that everybody said, "OK, maybe that was too late but at least it corrected the trajectory of what we were on." This now complicates that and makes it more difficult for a lot of people who were not very happy with him in the first place to keep swallowing the succession of events that are coming out of the statements the president's making officially but also his Twitter account. And they do go together hand in hand.
HARLOW: So three big-name CEOs have come out, as you know, in the last 12 hours, 24 hours. The CEO of Merck, the CEO of Intel and the CEO of Under Armour. These are huge companies.
These are companies where, you know, it can be difficult to stand up to power structures like the White House in terms of what policy is going to be moving forward for, say, the big pharma industry, et cetera. But they did it. And "The Washington Post" editorial board praised them this morning, writing, "If there's a reason for hope at this dismal juncture is that Americans who stand on principles are recognized and extolled for having done so by speaking truth to power. Mr. Frazier, the CEO of Merck and others like him galvanized the national conversation and helped cauterize the wounds inflicted by Charlottesville, at least for a moment. That, at least, should give Americans cause for pride."
It's a big deal, Errol Louis, is it not?
LOUIS: Yes, it's a very big deal.
HARLOW: These corporate CEOs, who do not like to talk politics, do this.
LOUIS: That's right, and I -- I think it may be a little premature to conclude, as the "New York Times" editorial page has concluded, that there's a moral awakening going on.
But I think of it more as sort of a vacuum left by the White House. Moral leadership, you know, clear guidance, speaking in a timely and forceful way about common shared values that are really important to this country. This president has just chosen not to do it. And it's not as if he just forgot. It's not as if people didn't encourage him to say the right thing at the right time. He made a decision to sort of just leave that alone as if it was none of his business or as if it didn't matter.
There are others, fortunately, who have stepped forward. These are men who lead major organizations who have thought deeply about what leadership means, who have sort of a global vision and global responsibilities and global constituencies. And so they're just filling a vacuum that this president should never want to have left open.
HARLOW: But also know that there are -- but also know that there are big supporters of the president who voted for the president, who work under them. Right? They're risking that. LOUIS: Oh, sure. The next round of reporting, I'm sure we're going to see this from Christine Romans and some other people, that you know, these are companies, CEOs and brands that are admired, that are respected, that people sort of vote for with their dollars every single day.
[06:15:04] That should be sort of a note of alarm, frankly, for a political leader, that you know, you're dipping in the polls; and respected important powerful brands and personalities are walking away from you. That is -- that's sort of an alarm bell that should be going off in the West Wing today.
CUOMO: And also, remember what we're talking about here, Karoun. You know, when we talk about health care, there are millions and millions of people who are affected by these policy things that's going to get people angry on a lot of different sides. You're talking about tax structure. You're talking about foreign affairs. They matter.
But there are a few things that are as uniquely dangerous as playing with hate. And I'll tell you last night when I was considering the situation what we're seeing from GOP lawmakers, OK. Thousands of people including people who voted for President Trump, who were just aghast at what he didn't say when the moment demanded it and I went back to this book from David McCullough, one of our famous historians.
During the McCarthy period in this country the senator who stepped up doesn't get a lot of credit. It was a female Republican senator named Margaret Chase Smith, and she said something I think that bears reminding today, that she didn't want to see her party falling prey to the four horses of calumny, you know: disparagement, fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.
And Karoun, it seems like we're in a moment just like that again, where his own party has started to step up and say, "Don't make us about this, Mr. President. Don't make us people who pander to the worst of us."
DEMIRJIAN: We are. We are, and we're seeing people are saying look, I mean, you frequently heard probably over the years Republicans say, "We're the party of Abraham Lincoln." And that doesn't match up with what we're seeing today. There isn't necessarily -- for many Republicans, there is not room under the Republican tent to include these white supremacist movements and others like them.
And so you're actually seeing this issue, unlike other policy issues where, as you said you can kind of say, "Well, I think this. I think that." You can have a legitimate disagreement about policy even if it gets very, very heated and emotional.
But on this sort of issue, this is just about, you know, fundamental character. It's not about a piece of policy right now. It's just about who you are and who you are as American citizen and that's who you are as a country and that you don't want your party to reflect something that is not that by including voices that mar what that message and that fundamental character is supposed to be. And I think that's part of why you're seeing so many people completely
unperturbed by the idea that they need to show loyalty up the chains of the White House on this issue and saying, "No, this was wrong. You need to fix what you're saying, Mr. President." And maybe you need to make some changes in the White House, as well, if this is just the latest and most egregious of a pattern of things we've been seeing of letting that white nationalist voice be not instantly repudiated.
Also just to add to one quick thing that Errol said, I mean, these businesses that have left him, that kind of hits Trump where it hurts. He's a businessman. So maybe this makes him listen and pay attention even more so.
CUOMO: Certainly made him attack faster than he did when the events unfolded in Charlottesville. That's for sure.
All right. Thank you very much, Karoun, Errol. Appreciate it.
So the deadly violence that we all witnessed in Charlottesville has come down to this image. This is the resonance that brings us back to what happened there. You see Marissa Blair's fiance, Martin, getting struck by that car, allegedly driven by one of the white supremacists, after he pushed his fiance out of the way. Marcus, not Martin. Marcus and his fiance, Marissa Blair, are going to join us at 7 a.m. Eastern to tell us what they're doing to build after Charlottesville.
HARLOW: It was incredible to hear from her yesterday. Now you're going to hear from them together. Pretty remarkable.
All right. Ahead for us late-night comics finding it pretty hard to laugh in the wake of what has transpired in Charlottesville and since, President Trump's response to the violence nearly reducing Jimmy Fallon to tears. His emotionally charged monologue is next.
[06:23:44] CUOMO: Even the late-night comics were getting serious last night in the wake of that deadly violence in Charlottesville and President Trump's response. Take a listen.
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful.
One brave woman in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, died standing up for what's right at the age of 32. I can't look at my beautiful, growing, curious daughters and say nothing when this kind of thing is happening.
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC'S "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": There were two sides, not many sides, and one of those sides had Nazis on it. All he had to do is condemn the Nazis.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS'S "LATE NIGHT WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": If only the president was as mad about neo-Nazis murdering people in the streets as he's been about Hillary Clinton, the "New York Times," CNN, Joe Scarborough, Kristen Stewart, the cast of "Hamilton," Diet Coke, Nordstrom not selling his daughter's clothes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), me, the state of New Hampshire, Gold Star families, Antoinette's (ph) Las Vegas show, the movie "Django Unchained," Meryl Streep and lady "Ghostbusters."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: It's an odd day when you don't have to exaggerate reality to make parody, but that is where we are. So let's bring back the panel. Errol Louis, Karoun Demirjian and Jeff Zeleny.
So you know, look, this is one of those moments where the country takes its own measure, Errol. And the president had an opportunity. He didn't take it for whatever reason. And then he did take it, and then he did something right after taking it, retweeting this. This is not just another blogger. This -- you know, this isn't one of us. This is somebody who pedals to the fringe, who pedaled Pizzagate, pedaled Seth Rich. And you have to believe that the president knew what he was doing when he retweeted this guy that it wouldn't be just retweeting another opinion maker.
LOUIS: That's right. And he knows full well, and while he doesn't have a background in traditional politics, President Trump actually is quite gifted when it comes to sort of reading the cultural mood and sort of steering his way through the thicket that brought him to the White House in the first place.
So I see that as just sort of a wink and a nod back to the people that he is relying on or trying to cater to in some sense and sort of saying, "I'm not completely gone, you know. I'm still sort of here. There's a little ambiguity here."
[06:25:07] I think also, though, we know that he watches this show and other morning shows and is an avid watcher of the news, but he's also an entertainer as part of his background. I think it cuts him to the quick that the late-night comics are going after him, because what is he going to do, call them fake comedy? No. He understands that the culture is moving in a direction that is at odds with this sort of game of footsie he's been playing with the extremists.
He's going to have to figure out whether he wants to sort of write off a very large chunk of the country in order to play to his base and be the president of his base as opposed to president of the United States.
HARLOW: By the way, we should note this is not the majority of his base. This is not a majority of any Americans. This is a fringe, hateful, un-American part of this country.
Karoun, to you, last night in North Carolina, we saw another statue was brought down by protesters. You see it right there, a Confederate soldier. There are more than 700 of these that remain across the country. And I think, if you don't live in the south and they're not around you -- you know, they're not here in New York City, and they're not part of our everyday lives, what they stand for, the hate that they stand for, sort of the anti-Abraham Lincoln message they stand for is being fought physically here.
This is a symbol certainly, and it is evidence of how so many Americans are feel right now. Is this the beginning, do you believe, of a lot more to come?
DEMIRJIAN: I think yes. I don't think this is over or self-contained in one weekend. It led to this point from origins that started before this point. It's not going to simmer down because this is not really over.
I think a lot of people are frustrated. You'll probably see various other towns and municipalities and counties or whoever controls who -- the areas in which these statues exist having discussions about whether you should take them down, much like we talked about nationally when it came to the Confederate flag and much like was I guess the touch-off point, I guess, for much of why people gathered and conjugated together in Charlottesville. Though like I said, there were other fueling factors there, too. Because you had these movements looking for a reason to be able to get together, basically, and make this sort of a stand.
But in places like North Carolina, I believe there's many parts of North Carolina where the process is either impossible to get the statues removed quickly, and so you've seen protesters taking matter into their own hands like in that video that you just showed. There is frustration now with authorities up the chain, because people felt like they shouldn't have had to wait so long for the president to make his statements.
There's concern in the country that people really need to not let this moment go and not let this moment go to make the point of these symbols, these movements, they are not OK, and so I think that you will see this continue elsewhere. North Carolina is a good example of that. You'll see this push and pull between much smaller groups that are espousing these messages of hate, and white supremacy and the rest.
Maybe take steps where they're trying to promote these issues. You saw it in Boston. You saw it at the Holocaust Memorial was damaged yesterday, as well. And then you'll see, you know, others that want to defend the country's moral standing and say that these measures and these statues and everything else is wrong. Take measures, too, as we saw in North Carolina.
CUOMO: The president's reluctance has wound up translating into making him a symbol of something to be resisted in that way. Let's just show what happened in front of Trump Tower last night, the president coming home. Ordinarily, you'd expect it to be a celebration, where thousands of people out there who were very much focused, Jeff Zeleny, on what had happened in Charlottesville and, you know, playing to these fringe types, and they were angry. They were out there.
Now politically, in terms of why the president did or did not do certain things with respect to this issue and other ones that cater to the same base instinct instincts, Steve Bannon's name keeps coming up. We know that he is reportedly laying low right now.
What do you make of the reporting on the stability of Bannon within the White House and the basis of saying, "Well, you know, that's why the president comes up with these ideas is because of Steve Bannon." Do you buy that?
ZELENY: I don't buy that, Chris. I mean, the reality is President Trump is the one who is in charge of what he says, what he thinks he believes, what he doesn't say. So this is not a Steve Bannon phenomenon, a Steve Bannon blame.
Steve Bannon is on thin ice, and he is on thin ice in the West Wing, not because of Charlottesville. Actually, because of very different things. And I think it's, you know, far too early to say Steve Bannon will be leaving the president's side. He's been on thin ice before. He has repeated lies here. He is probably working up towards his nine lives. That the reality here is the president made the decision, this instinctive decision on Saturday, did not address this initially. Yes, he talked to Steve Bannon on the phone. Yes, he talked to other advisers, but this is not something that you can blame Steve Bannon for.