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Protesters Gather Outside Trump Tower; President Re-tweets Online Conspiracy Theorist; Trump Caves to Outrage, Denounces Hate Groups By Name. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And says he is not likely to participate in that upcoming anti-Google protest planned for this weekend.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's an interesting situation. There's a lot of news going on. Let's get after it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump re-tweeting a prominent conspiracy theorist just hours after condemning hate groups.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don'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 the president's lack of response on Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people who have a worldview in this White House that is very fringy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not hard work to use the word white supremacy, white nationalist, and say this has no place in American politics.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning, Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, August 15th, 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joins me, is going to be here all week.

HARLOW: Good to be here.

CUOMO: Good to have you. Good to have you.

So just hours after caving to pressure to condemn white supremacists and other hate groups by name, President Trump is sparking a new controversy, once again re-tweeting a conspiracy theorist who peddles baseless stories. The president's re-tweets this morning -- we'll show them to you. He may have deleted them, but he should have never re-tweeted them in the first place.

HARLOW: And you'll see those in a moment.

Meantime the president's failure to quickly condemn white supremacists has led three big name CEOs to quit one of his advisory council's completely while thousands take to the streets here in New York City to protest the president's response. We have it all covered.

Let's begin with CNN's Jeff Zeleny live at Trump Tower.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is waking up here at Trump Tower for the first time since takings office. Now, it's part of his working vacation here from New Jersey to Washington back here to New York. And controversy has followed him along the way, including a tweet he sent out overnight echoing the message of a conspiracy theorist.


ZELENY: Only hours after attempting to quell the outrage over his initial response to the deadly violence to Charlottesville, President Trump re-tweeting a prominent supporter and conspiracy theorist. The president's re-tweet 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 peddled 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 pizza-gate hoax which alleges that top Democrats were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?

TRUMP: They have 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 has now cost him the support of three CEOs on his American manufacturing council. The CEO of Intel becoming the third business leader to step down, 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 lined the streets outside of Trump Tower ahead of Mr. Trump's arrival last night.

CROWD: No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.


ZELENY: Now police are bracing for more protesters here at Trump Tower today. Chris and Poppy, you can see a heavy security line including these big dump trucks here in front of Trump Tower. But the president is scheduled to hold meetings on his infrastructure plan and other matters here.

[08:05:00] He's surrounded by some advisers, but one adviser who is not here in New York at Trump Tower with him is Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist. He was on thin ice this morning again. We're keeping our eye on that to see if Steve Bannon can withstand this latest storm.

CUOMO: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much for the reporting.

And moments ago we spoke with Marcus Martin and Marissa Blair. Marcus is the man you see toppled in this photo. He was in Charlottesville. He was there with his fiance Marissa Blair who you met on the show yesterday. In an instant he pushed his fiance out of the way even though he knew that meant he was going to get hit by the car. He suffered a broken leg and other injuries. Both he and Marissa knew the woman who was killed in the same incident, Heather Heyer. Here's part of what we talked about this morning.


CUOMO: Marcus, how you feeling? How's your leg? How's your heart?

MARCUS MARTIN, INJURED IN CHARLOTTESVILLE CAR ATTACK: Heavy. Heavy. Just a lot of pain. It's a lot to cope with.

CUOMO: It is. We see that you both have the shirts on to support Heather this morning. What do you want people to know about why you were there?

MARTIN: Because I wanted to stand up and spread love. I wasn't going to attend the rally. But then I get on Facebook and I see videos of them just beating them with torches. And that's what I stand for, like I stand for my black community. I stand for everything what's right. And by me being able to see what's really going on, I couldn't allow myself not to go.

CUOMO: Do you remember yourself being on the street and the car coming?

MARTIN: Yes, sir.

CUOMO: How do you remember it?

MARTIN: Yes, sir. The only thing I remember was we was walking up the street, and the car was just sitting there, just there. And out of nowhere I'm looking on the phone, and you hear the tires screech, and then I look up and body are just flying. And I just thought for one split second, I didn't think about myself. I thought about my fiance. I had to protect her. That's why I'm here. And I put it all on the line for her.

CUOMO: Did you know you were going to get hit when you moved her out of the way?

MARTIN: There was a big chance of me getting hit, but I'd do it all over again to make sure everything's OK with her.

CUOMO: A car coming at you, that's a deadly weapon and it took your friend's live, it could have taken a lot of lives. And how are you guys feeling together since that moment?

MARISSA BLAIR, FRIEND AND CO-WORKER OF HEATHER HEYER: I mean, we're just happy to be together. I was telling him last night, being at the rally, being at the counter-protest and seeing all the hate that was going on with the protestors, it made me not think that maybe the world isn't such a great place. Maybe human beings aren't so great. But ever since then we've got nothing but love and support and kindness from people all over the world, people we don't even know. And it just shows you there is good in the world, that I'm so lucky to have someone like him to be by my side, to protect me. And we grew to love each other more and more each day, but this is unexplainable how much our bond has grown since then.

CUOMO: What do you make of the idea that people like you and your fiance and Heather Heyer who were down there to oppose the white supremacists were somehow equally in the wrong for being there and for what happened?

MARTIN: The only individual that's in the wrong in this whole entire situation is the guy that ran the car into a peaceful protest. There was a lot the wrong going on down there, but that protest that I was in and my fiance was in, it was peaceful. We weren't spreading hate. We were spreading love. We was chanting "Whose streets? Our streets." That's the only thing we chant.

BLAIR: Racists go home.

MARTIN: We don't want you here. And that's all we said. And I guess that led to the tragic event that occurred. And he took it upon himself to walk out the rally, to get in his car, to find out where the good protest was going, and you find us and you run us down.

[08:10:10] And then I feel multiple times that people saying he's 20 years old, it was an accident. He knew exactly what he was doing. His intentions was clear. He wanted pain. He wanted hurt. He wanted blood. That's what he was after. You come down to Charlottesville, yes, everybody that was out there was out there as their own risk, but we was out there standing up for things we believed in. And we wasn't out there to protest hate or anything. The only thing we was doing was standing up for things we believed in. That's all. That's all.


HARLOW: He wasn't even going to go. The he said I saw the hate, I saw what they were doing, I saw it on Facebook and then I wanted to go and stand up also just like Heather did for what's right and become a hero in the meantime.

CUOMO: They're also an example of a different reality, which is for those who are laboring under the misperception you had these neo-Nazis who were somehow in some kind of conflict with these extremist lefty groups that are equally as violent and disgusting -- yes, you do have bad actors that find their way into the left. And there have been violence and other things. But the people you were just seeing there, that was the majority of the overwhelmingly of who was there to protest against the white supremacists. That's why drawing any equivalence, the president making the case that that's why he needed to be measured is so offensive to so many because it doesn't meet the reality.

HARLOW: Absolutely. I'm so glad that they shared their stories with us this morning.

Let's talk about all this and the political fallout. Our panel is here, CNN analyst David Gregory, CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, and CNN contributor J.D. Vance. David Gregory, to you first. The president last night, instead of tweeting about Heather or Marissa or Marcus, he chose to re-tweet a conspiracy theorist, the guy who peddled the Seth Rich conspiracy about his murder, the guy who peddled the pizza-gate conspiracy which a month another that another guy shows up and shoots up the D.C. pizzeria, so violence ensued after that. This in the midst of a national crisis. Your take?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I just think there's a petulance on the part of President Trump who didn't like admitting a mistake and therefore he didn't. And the mistake was a completely unsatisfactory response to this violence over the weekend that had to be corrected but with the guidance of some of his advisers.

And to undercut that by this lack of discipline, getting on Twitter, re-tweeting some of these people, and just showing that it was something, perhaps he was just going through the motions to do. It makes me question the impact, frankly, of General Kelly as chief of staff, whether the president is really listening to him, whether he wants to be a more disciplined president who is focused on his agenda. There's no other way to look at it, that the president was kind of dragged into giving a more forceful statement.

And I think it's ironic that as we talk about protecting the first amendment rights of the KKK and others who peddle this hate, which we absolutely should because that's what America stands for, they're also reaching a worldview that would not offer those freedoms to other people, lest anybody get confused. And I don't think the president is really absorbing this. He still gives them space because he doesn't want to alienate them, and that's something I just can't understand.

CUOMO: Cillizza, I think to add to David's point with your own, you see what matters to the president here by his actions. What he didn't say in the first instance, how he put it the second time, what he decided to re-tweet. What he decided to tweet and then delete just this morning. Put up a couple of other ones. Look, to many people this will be funny/harmless. But now? On the heels of what you're trying to heal in Charlottesville you re-tweet something. Yes, he deleted it, but he re-tweeted a train bashing into us, an obvious violent, he re-tweeted something elsewhere someone I think the president thought was being supportive of him, where he said I'm going to quit Twitter because the president just re-tweeted me. And then someone pointed out to the president that the guy's tweet was about he probably supporting Joe Arpaio because this man believes Arpaio, and the suggestion is obvious that that's something the president would like, so he deleted it. This is where his head is. This is what he values.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: I always, Chris, I always rejected this idea, no one really says it anymore, but early in his presidency you have to ignore his Twitter feed.

[08:15:01] Even many Democrats said ignore his Twitter feed. It's all just a distraction.

His twitter feed is the main line into Donald Trump's cerebral cortex. This is how he thinks and what he cares about. I'll give you a somewhat less controversial than the tweets overnight and this morning. How about yesterday? Two tweets about the Merck CEO, Ken Frazier, who left an advisory council. Zero tweets about Charlottesville.

I mean, again, it speaks to what he is focused on and what he cares about. I kept overnight and when I got up this morning thinking about why would he retweet an alt-right conspiracy theorist who is a well known alt right conspiracist? This is not an account with five people. This guy has a following unfortunately.

And, you know, the reason is I think because Donald Trump basically divides the world into people who love him and people who hate him. And if you love him and if you're telling the story he wants to be told, you're good. And, you know, that's it. He doesn't go really beyond that.

It doesn't really matter what else you've said or done, or if it does, he doesn't, you know, well, he said something nice about me. I mean, remember his first response when asked about Vladimir Putin. He says nice things about me, I'll say nice things about him, right? That's who the guy fundamentally is. There's no gray area.

It's why he also says we're fake news, because we don't report nice things about him, which, of course, as we all know is not our job.

HARLOW: So, J.D. Vance, as someone who was born in Kentucky, sort of a major area for this president and his election. He then grew up in Ohio. You have a unique perspective on some of this.

You said this week, I think it's tempting and comforting to try to stereotype these white nationalists as a bunch of knuckle-dragging slack-jawed yokels. Explain.

J.D. VANCE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think when you have an incident like this, we try to find people who are not like us and say these ideas only belong to those other people. And it's convenient and it's tempting because it allows us to absolve ourselves of any responsibility that we might have or that our broader might have in actually addressing these problems.

And what worries me about the response to this particular white nationalist terrorist attack, a lot of things worry me. But one thing that worries is that we're trying to paint this white nationalist movement as a movement primarily of poor and working class Americans when the truth is that the alt-right is actually led by better educated and frankly pretty well-to-do people.

So, this is not a problem for just people from my community. It's actually mostly a problem I think for those who are doing pretty well, who have good education and good jobs.

So, effectively, we need to accept that racism is a problem across the country. It's not just a problem to point a finger at poor whites and say, this all belongs on you.

CUOMO: J.D., let's stay with that point because -- let me just have J.D. follow up on this, David, and please weigh in.


CUOMO: The idea that we're seeing develop here is OK, the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, OK, they shouldn't have been down there with Tiki torches and doing anything violent. But what about all the lefty extremists also? I don't see where it meets the facts of this situation and it gets a little frightening when I see so many people defending these white supremacists that way on social media. How do you take it?

VANCE: Yes, well, there's no defense. And unfortunately in this country, we're suffering from a real problem of what-aboutism, which is, whenever something bad happens, people automatically try to point the finger at somebody else, so that the finger doesn't get pointed at themselves.

And, look, there's definitely left wing violence. We saw that in President Trump's inauguration. But as we just watched with the young men who was run over by the car, that wasn't the main thing that was happening in Charlottesville. And the only really bad thing that happened in Charlottesville, is that someone was killed by a terrorist. And I think we need to be able to talk about that to point the finger at that evil and name it without trying to point the finger at somebody else.

HARLOW: David Gregory, weigh in.

GREGOY: Yes, just a couple. First of all, J.D. Vance is fantastic and his book is fantastic, not that he needs any help selling it from me or anybody else. But the perspective is so important on a couple of levels.

One, there is a larger argument and feeling in this country about politics. It is about a lot of people who look up at all of this and maybe they condemn the KKK, but they feel that there is a kind of, you know, political correctness that elites and liberals have taken over and have marginalized them and made them into bigots when they're not. I think that's part of the undercurrent in the politics.

And there's another point. Let's remember why these fascists were down there. It was to oppose the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee who led the confederate forces during the civil war. This is going on in New Orleans. It's going on in other parts of the country.

There's a bigger discussion to be had about America's memory of the confederacy and why -- it's appropriate we have it, because these were people, including General Lee, who were enemies of America. He fought against America and to protect the enslavement of black people.

Let's have that conversation and let's not let the KKK lead the conversation. Let's have our military leaders, some of whom I've spoken to who think it's completely inappropriate that we keep lionizing these bigots without, first of all, the proper context of what else was going on. And, by the way, how many black families in northern Virginia or throughout Virginia have to send their kids to a school named after General Lee or some other enemy of America who fought to enslave black people? This is the really conversation to have.

CUOMO: You also had a very other obvious hypocrisy at play here, Chris Cillizza, which was Donald Trump and people around him are the same people who are saying you have to call Muslim terror radical Islamic terror. You have to call it that.

HARLOW: And he did, so many times.

CUOMO: Yes. Even though his own secretary of defense spoke to him the same wisdom of so many others, which was, don't give the terrorists ownership of a faith. It's not only numerically false, it's just subjectively false. You're giving them what they want. He ignored it. He did it, because it's so important to name the problem, Chris.

And then here, they say, well, we didn't want to dignify them. We didn't want to give them the attention. It rings false in a frightening way to a lot of people. It seems almost, Chris, like he was trying to defend these groups.

CILLIZZA: And he didn't want to do it. I mean, that's why he didn't. For the same reason that he opened with the economy and jobs in a speech that should have been about Charlottesville yesterday, right? He does what he wants to do. He doesn't listen -- that's why I always think we focus -- I understand we should focus on the fact that there's a new chief of staff in the White House, right? It's an important job.

But the truth of the matter is, Donald Trump does whatever he wants to do. That's been the through-line of his entire life. He makes controversy. He is a provocateur. This is who this person has been, is, and I feel comfortable in this prediction, will be for the remainder of his presidency and the remainder of his life. That's who he is. It's what he believes.

You saw yesterday, this was like when I make my 8-year-old apologize for something, he doesn't really think he did wrong. Yes, I'm really sorry. Like this was not Donald Trump.

This was him saying the economy is great. I'm going to talk about that. Yes, I'm going to name these people but I'm going to make it clear that twice, he says, that as I've said repeatedly, or as I said on Saturday because why does he say that, because he thinks he's already done enough and he wants to make sure that you know it's grudging.

That's, to David's point about a conversation in J.D.'s -- my wife tells me every day that J.D., I need to be more like J.D.


CILLIZZA: I think what's important here is who can lead that conversation? A president, right? And that's why Saturday was so problematic and even his response yesterday so problematic because it's an abdication of moral leadership. And that matters well beyond Republican and Democrat.

HARLOW: J.D., part of the charge of being president is to bring a country together when it is most divided. And this is a president who likes to quote Abraham Lincoln, who likes to say we are the party of Abraham Lincoln, but is it not his charge to bind up the nation's wounds? Is it not his charge to do what Lincoln said in his second inaugural? And can he do that?

VANCE: Well, I think it is his charge and I do think that he can do that. Obviously, it's question of whether he chooses to. What really bothers me about last weekend is that if you think about how divided this country is along virtually every dimension, the one thing or one of the few things that really unites us is the idea that Nazis are bad. I mean, we are the country whose grandparents defeated the Nazis.

And so, the fact this provides an opportunity for the president to go and say this is the thing that should really unite us together, and it was a missed opportunity. He chose not to name that enemy. He chose not to make it about what unifies us as a country. I do think it's a missed opportunity and it will continue to be a missed opportunity.

CUOMO: And it wound up creating a new division because he forced the media really, you know, to take it on.

HARLOW: Not just the media. Republicans.

CUOMO: It's true. People had to take up the conversation because he failed to do it in a moment when it mattered.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for the valued of your perspective this morning. Appreciate it.

So, President Trump's finally denouncing the hate groups by name. What did it do? What was the net effect of the statement you see on your screen right now? We'll ask the head of the GOP in Virginia, next.


[08:28:44] CUOMO: The fact is, it took two days for President Trump to denounce the hate groups involved in the deadly violence in Charlottesville. Joining me now is the chairman of Virginia's Republican Party, John Whitbeck.

It's good to have you, sir.


CUOMO: I'm doing well.

How do you feel the community is there in northern Virginia? Do you believe -- you are in Leesburg this morning, but we're hearing reports that Charlottesville, that the memorials, the vigils and what we'll see for Heather Heyer when her funeral procession is had, that these are all helping these events to bring people together and move forward. Is that your sense?

WHITBECK: It's, you know, a wonderful aftermath from a terrible weekend to have the unity that we have in Virginia right now. I mean, here in my home county of Loudoun County, we had -- we've had vigil last night and there's another one coming up. You know, so, it's a nonpartisan issue. People united, Republicans, Democrats, independents, and in wake of a terrible tragedy, it's good to see Virginia coming together.

CUOMO: Members of your party, as you know, stepped up against the president of the United States and called him out for not calling out the hate groups there by name. And did so themselves. What do you make of that moment? Do you think the criticism was justified?

WHITBECK: You know, the statement that we saw on yesterday was the statement we wanted to see on Saturday, but, you know, at the same time, we were as Virginians focused on what was going on with all of our leadership.