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President Trump Calls the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists Fine People; Republicans Face the Risk of Losing in the Midterms. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 16, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Someday. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon and CNN Tonight.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Live pictures now, hundreds, possibly thousands of people gathering for a peaceful vigil tonight in Charlottesville, Virginia. Holding candles and singing songs of love and fellowship. A rally for peace and togetherness in a city that saw so much violence over the weekend.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
If President Trump wants to see a gathering of fine people, he'd do well to take a good look at Charlottesville tonight.
LEMON: Instead, the president is defiant. Sources telling CNN he has no regrets for saying that counterprotesters share the blame with neo- Nazis and white supremacists for the deadly violence in Charlottesville.
You'll remember in remarks already infamous, he said yesterday that there was some very fine people amongst the white supremacists who gathered there.
But I want you to hear from those, quote, "fine people," in their own words, which, by the way, we have thanks to Vice Media. Words about what that has fueled their new commitment to white supremacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you get into, as you said, the racial stuff?
CHRIS CANTWELL, WHITE SUPREMACIST: When Trayvon Martin case happened, you know, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, and all these different things happened, every single case, it's a little black asshole behaving like a savage and he gets himself in trouble shockingly enough.
Whatever problems I might have with my fellow white people, they are generally are not inclined to such behavior, and you know, you have to take that into consideration when you're thinking about how to organize your society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: They told Vice News that they don't see themselves as violent. They blamed it on someone else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that is because this city is run by Jewish communist and criminal natives. That's exactly what it is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're the true, you're the true non-violent protesters?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not initiate force against anybody. We are not non-violent. We'll (muted) kill these people if we have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Not violent but willing to kill. And they came armed to the tee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now we have people on the ground at the statue with equipment and they're being told they're not allowed to have a vehicle come through and pick them up or anybody come and pick them up. I'm about to send at least 200 people with guns to go get them out if you guys do not get our people out.
CANTWELL: I came pretty well prepared for this thing today. Kel-Tec P-3AT, 380 ACP, Glock 19, .9 millimeter, Ruger LC9, also .9 millimeter. And there's a knife. Well, I actually have another AK in that bag over there. You got lose (muted) track of your guns, huh?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Why did they do it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're showing to this parasitic (Ph) class white vermin that this is our country, this country is built by our forefathers and sustained by us and it's going to remain our country.
I believe, as you can see, we are stepping off the internet in a big way. For instance, last night at the torch walk, there were hundreds and hundreds of us, people realize they are not itemized individuals, they are part of a larger whole because we have been spreading our names, we've been organizing on the internet and so now they're coming out and now, as you can see today, we greatly outnumbered the anti- white, anti-American filth.
And at some point we will have enough power that we will clear them from the streets forever. That which is degenerate in white countries will be removed. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're saying showing up in physical space
help, lets people know that, like, they are more like them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are starting to slowly unveil a little bit of our power level. You have not seen nothing yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And as these fine people, as the president calls them, have no regrets over Heather Heyer's murder. They take no responsibility and to them as disgusting and infuriating as it is, it's collateral damage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTWELL: I'd say it was worth it. We knew that we were going to meet a lot of resistance. The fact that nobody on our side died, I'd go ahead and call that points for us. The fact that none of our people killed anybody unjustly, I think is a plus for us, and I think that we showed -- we showed our rivals that we won't be cowed.
[22:04:59] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the car that struck a protester, that's unprovoked?
CANTWELL: That's not true. And you know that it's not true. You've seen the video.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen in the video, I don't know much about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you describe what the video appears to show?
CANTWELL: OK. So, the video appears to show someone striking that vehicle when these animals attacked him again and he saw no way to get away from them except to hit the gas.
And sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals who don't pay attention, they couldn't just get out of the way of his car and some people got hurt and that's unfortunate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you think it was justified?
CANTWELL: I think it was more than justified. I can't believe -- the amount of restraint that our people showed out there, I think was astounding. I think a lot more people could have died before we're done here, frankly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
CANTWELL: Because people die every day, right? I mean, do you...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's not of a heart attack. I mean, a violent death.
CANTWELL: Well, people die violent deaths all the time, right? Like this is part of the reason why we want an ethno state, right? So, like the blacks are killing each in staggering numbers from coast to coast. We don't really want to have a part of that anymore.
And so, the fact that they resist us when we say hey, we want a homeland is not shocking to me. All right? These people want violence and the right is just meeting market demand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There's much more of that. We will hear from one of the producers who was there in Charlottesville and in the room with these fine people. That's a little later on in the show.
Plus, we're going to speak with a reporter who got a surprise one-on- one with the man who's web site gave rise to this group, President Trump's adviser, Steve Bannon. We'll get his shocking take on Charlottesville.
But I want to bring in now CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger, Robert Kuttner who is a co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect magazine, and political commentators Amanda Carpenter and Doug Heye.
Good evening to all of you. It's shocking to watch that and actually hear the thoughts of those disgusting people. Gloria, despite all of the fallout -- and there's a lot of fallout -- despite the image of a car mowing people down, or white supremacists beating up a black man, despite the anti-Semitic chants, sources are telling CNN that President Trump says has no regrets over his latest remarks. He's defiant.
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, you know, this is a president who lives without regret and the reason he lives without regret is because he cannot ever admit that he's made a mistake or done anything wrong.
So there is no way he regrets anything. He didn't regret Kazr Khan, he didn't regret Judge Curiel and he's not going to regret this. What he's done, though, in all of this over the last bunch of days and, you know, again, that video is just -- every time I see parts of it, it just makes my heart just sink.
What the president has done, though, is rejected the very idea of moral leadership from the bully pulpit. It's as if he is looking at the Nazis and those who oppose the Nazis as just two competing interests. They're not just two competing interests.
One of them is evil and for a president not to be able to come out and say, not that they are very fine people on both sides, but actually that there are evil people on one side is remarkable because part of his jobs, and I would argue, it's one of the most important part of his job, is to provide moral leadership. And there is no sense of that from his bully pulpit. None at all. LEMON: Doug, if you're a fine person, if you're a nice person and you
show up at this rally and you see these guys, wouldn't you just leave?
DOUG HEYE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I sure would leave. I'd want to be nowhere near them because wherever they go, we know that violence ensues. I'd want to be nowhere near them. But that doesn't excuse the appalling actions that we saw in Charlottesville and it certainly doesn't accuse -- excuse the appalling reaction that we've seen from Donald Trump.
And what's so troubling about this, really one of the many things that's troubling about this, is this was very easy for Donald Trump to get right and very difficult for him to get wrong and he sure got it wrong and it's part of why I think so many republicans like myself have been speaking out.
Of course, I've been speaking out about Donald Trump just like Amanda for a long, long time now. But it's different now. We've seen so many times where we've seen inflection points and we say well, this is the one that's going to change things.
I don't know if this one is but it sure reach as new low from what we've seen from this administration and it sends a very troubling sign. And for me, it's somebody who worked at the RNC, I know when I talked to an African-American or Hispanic or gay and lesbian friends, I can't talk to them anymore about why republican policies are better and why they should vote republicans because all they hear is that republicans don't like them.
LEMON: Let's talk about part of the reason, as I said earlier, the rise from this alt-right group, the platform for the alt-right group was Breitbart. The person who ran that web site is in the White House now as a senior adviser to the president.
[22:10:02] And so Robert, I have to ask you, because you landed an interview with the president's chief strategist, Steve Bannon. And first of all, I want you to tell me how that came about, how did that come about?
ROBERT KUTTNER, CO-FOUNDER & CO-EDITOR, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT MAGAZINE: Well, I was quietly minding my own business on my vacation and I've written a column about the China policy pointing out that because we let the Chinese playing the clock of American industry all these years and now we need the Chinese to help us out with Korea and the Chinese are just as happy to have let the United States go to the brink with Korea because that gives them leverage to prevent us from taking a hard line on trade.
Anyway, Bannon apparently read the column. And this was Tuesday, middle of the day. I guess he might have been looking for some distraction from his troubles in Charlottesville. So I get an e-mail from his assistant saying Mr. Bannon would like you to come to the White House to talk. And I said, look, I'm on vacation but I'm happy to talk to him by phone.
So he called me. And weirdly, he never said that we were off the record. So, you know, when a president's chief strategist initiates a call with a reporter, you assume you're on the record. And he proceeded to say a bump of very incautious things.
I don't want to try to psychoanalyze him but you get a sense of the hubris of the arrogance and the lack of self-knowledge that somebody like Bannon, who in many ways is responsible for what we saw in Charlottesville and for the whole alt-right being a big part of the Trump hard core base.
Bannon thinking that because his views and my views happened to converge on China, that we're somehow soul mates and we're going to spend a friendly 25 minutes on the phone talking strategy. It was jaw- dropping. That's not true...
LEMON: So I have to ask you because this is just in the CNN. According to a source close to Steve Bannon he is saying that he didn't believe that he was being interviewed when he spoke to you. Did you make any sort of agreements with him that -- did you ask him to be in the background?
KUTTNER: I took the precaution of recording it and, as you know very well, when you're talking to -- when a political figure is talking to a journalist, and the political figure does not say we're on background or this is off the record, the default setting when you're talking to a journalist is you're on the record. That's how it works.
And this is not Bambi. This is one of the most media savvy people in the universe. And for Bannon to say that, well, he made a rookie error by assuming that we were on background, I mean, that's not just believable.
LEMON: OK. So, listen, because you talked to him after the president's news conference yesterday. That's right?
KUTTNER: No. It was -- the odd thing is, it was just it's about 2 o'clock. It was right around the time of the news conference. So I think the news conference hadn't quite happened yet.
LEMON: What was his mood like?
KUTTNER: But he knew from everything that had been percolating those 48 hours that this was going to be a doozy.
LEMON: All right. Let me read a little bit of it, OK? And Amanda, I want you to respond to this.
KUTTNER: Yes, please.
LEMON: He said, "I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump's reluctance to condemn it."
"Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump's base. He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating ethno nationalism. It's losers. It's fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much and we've got to help crush it, if -- we've got to help crush it, you know. Help crush it more."
"These guys are a collection of clowns," he added, "from his lips to Trump's ears, the democrats, he said, the longer they talk about identity politics, I've got them. I want to them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the democrats."
What do you think when you hear Bannon and when you hear that, when he call these hate groups losers and clowns, Amanda? Is he forgetting that he once called his former web site Breitbart, the platform for the alt-right?
AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, that's the thing. He plays right to them. And maybe Steve Bannon thinks he's the Grand Wizard of Oz and he can control them all to his designs. But Steve Bannon and a lot of people in the Republican Party who are sitting in Capitol Hill have turned a blind eye or tried to turn a blind eye to the worst elements within our culture in the names of political opportunism and winning.
I don't think this is what winning feels like. It feels pretty terrible. And so I'm sick of looking for, you know, Donald Trump to say the right thing or republicans to have a nice statement that finally puts him in his place.
We need action and I think every elected republican should draw a clear line in the sand and say Donald Trump, I will not appear in public with you, I will not fundraise for you, I will not go to the White House to have meetings with you until you clearly denounce this hatred that you are bringing out and trying to exploit within our society.
[22:15:08] Because, listen, if Donald Trump cannot denounce Nazis, the Republican Party should denounce him. What more do we need to see? I saw it from the beginning, as did Doug, as he mentioned earlier, when he was talking about Access Hollywood and Kazr Khan and saying, republicans how can you come out and defend this?
And they kept saying, well, maybe he'll pivot. We got to win. This isn't what winning looks like. Do you have to wait and see until these Nazis are both marching in your background with loaded guns and showing up in your districts with loaded guns for you to see the lights?
Causticize (Ph) now. Put him in his place. You can go to work, you can send bills to the White House. He can sign them. But this is dysfunctional relationship and someone has to start drawing a line in the sand.
LEMON: I want to bring in now CNN political commentator Scott Jennings, he joins me here on set. Scott, Bannon says let the democrats talk about race and identity politics all day long. We've got them when they do that. Is this a mistake on the republicans' part or does he have a point there?
SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think he's keying on something that they used to their advantage in 2016, which is that a lot of people in the Midwestern United States didn't feel like the democrats had an economic solution for what was ailing that part of the country and we saw that manifest itself in the Electoral College and I think he's hoping that that continues.
But here's the thing. Americans look to the president to do a couple of things. Number one, national security. Defend the nation. Number two, how's the health of the economy and, number three, it's something intangible but is it, are you helping us morally lead the world? Do we feel fulfilled as Americans that the rest of the world is looking up to us?
So it's more than just, are we feeling good in our pocketbooks? We have to feel good about our national security internally and externally and we have to feel good about our place in the world. One thing, Don, that nobody is talking about right now, there are going to be more rallies. These white supremacists and Nazis are out there talking about it. They're going to come to monument...
LEMON: He said it in the video. He said this is just the beginning.
JENNINGS: They are coming.
LEMON: We're going to show up...
JENNINGS: And I've local read news clips in states today where white supremacists have said, well, it doesn't have to be like Charlottesville but it could be. And so here's what I want to know. What's the next step here for the Trump administration? What's the reaction of our collective federal and state and local government is going to be when the next rally happens. We cannot let the next one get out of hand.
LEMON: Gloria, Bannon is calling these groups fringe -- a firing element. I mean, do you think the president is getting that message and if he continues to do this, because from what everyone has said, you know, members of both sides of the aisle, that he's emboldened, his comments yesterday are fueling these groups. Do you think that he gets this?
BORGER: You know, he is fueling these groups. I mean, he got an atta boy from David Duke in a tweet yesterday, you know, praising the president's courage, for heaven's sakes. This is the president of the United States being praised by David Duke. I mean, think about, think about that for a minute.
And I think in an odd way that the president thinks somehow that some of these people are his supporters. You know, I would wager that a large majority of Donald Trump's supporters, if not all of them, think these people are nuts.
But that, you know, Donald Trump believes, well, if you like me, I'm not going to be so bad to you and, you know, these people have said that they do support Donald Trump, that he's their guy and they have taken comfort in this false equivalency, that he -- that he gave portfolio.
LEMON: Gloria, do you think he need to give it another shot, should he give it another shot to go and get in front of the public and say this case?
BORGER: Well, I hope so. I mean, look, I mean, maybe third time is a charm. Maybe third time is a charm.
CARPENTER: But can we one point...
CARPENTER: I mean, we cannot talk about why do these white nationalists feel so comfortable with Trump. It's because they sent them signals all throughout the campaign. Can we remember how his sons would re-tweet nationalists all through the campaign?
Kellyanne Conway, for God's sake, look at that interview that 60 Minutes with Mike Cernovich, known, you know, conspiracy theory pusher and said, wow, look at that, everyone should watch the whole thing. Ratings bonanza.
This has been deliberate. It's been concentrated and that's why people have to walk away from it and say I will not have any relationship with this White House as long as it continues that alter means we're not going to confirm your birther nominees that you sent to the Senate for confirmation.
There are tools that republicans can use. There needs to be pressure on them to start using them.
LEMON: Go ahead.
BORGER: But who's going to lead that? You know, that's my question.
LEMON: That was my question, Gloria.
CARPENTER: I'm looking. I'm looking.
LEMON: Who's going to do that?
CARPENTER: Well, right now I think the media is the only tool. I hate to say it, the Republican Party has been spineless, gutless. I still have some hope that maybe Paul Ryan will step up and fill this leadership vacuum. But the media have to ask questions...
LEMON: He won't even mention the president in his response to what happened in Charlottesville.
[22:20:01] CARPENTER: I know. Listen, I am doing what I can, I've been doing what I can since the primary season when Ted Cruz went to the convention and tried to blow it up and it's sad in my heart that he endorsed Donald Trump in the end.
But there were people like Mike Lee, like Ted Cruz who went to him and said please, can we please reconsider making Donald Trump our nominee and the leadership in the party said, nope...
LEMON: Amanda, let's listen to him. Everybody wants to get in on this and Doug, I know you want to get in and Scott as well. But let's listen to Ted Cruz tonight, your former boss, ask about President Trump blaming both sides yesterday. Here's how he responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED CRUZ, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: You know, the president speaks for himself. The Klan is evil. They are racist bigots. Nazis are the very face of evil. Their hatred, their anti-Semitism is completely unacceptable. And I think we should speak unequivocally condemning their hatred, condemning their racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. Two things, Amanda. He says all of the right things but he's not the president. He wanted to be the president but he didn't mention the president and the person who responded to this wrong, the person who was supposed to bring the nation together and give us some sort of moral clarity didn't do it. So he didn't mention the president. So what good is that? Is that like tree falls in the woods?
CARPENTER: What good is it? I mean, I think everyone knew who he was talking about. I would encourage Ted Cruz when he come from the recess to get a contingent republican senator to go down to the Senate floor and send a clear message to Donald Trump.
We've done it with Mitch McConnell and we can do it to Donald Trump certainly as something as substantive as this. If we can fight the debt ceiling and speak clearly to republican leadership on things like that, certainly we can find it in our hearts to do it for Donald Trump.
LEMON: Doug, I know you wanted to jump in. Go ahead, what do you want to say?
HEYE: Yes. You know, about what we can do, you know, for me, I e- mailed the White House and RNC press offices yesterday and I said, don't send me anymore e-mails, don't send me anymore talking points. I'm not interested.
And man, I'm subscribing from an e-mail list is obviously not big news. That used to be my RNC e-mail list when I was the communications director in 2010 and '11. So it mean something, it's personal. That's one small step but it's continuing that.
But ultimately, nothing is going to change as long as Donald Trump's popularity with republican voters remains at a super high level. And I spent a lot of time in my home town of North Carolina this year and the one thing I heard consistently about Trump was what I call, yes, but. Yes, we know the tweets aren't helpful. Yes, we know the comments is taking off...
LEMON: And what about this? But what about this?
HEYE: But Donald Trump is fighting for this and that.
LEMON: But what about this?
HEYE: As long as he has the attitdre we're going to have the same conversation for a long time.
LEMON: Go ahead, Scott. Like so don't -- and listen, no one is talking about -- well, go on.
JENNINGS: Well, we're talking a lot about internal party politics here. How are the republicans going to treat Trump and how are we going to do things as an internal party. But you have to remember, there's something else going on. And that is Americans are looking to the Republican Party not just to see how they're going to treat each other but how they are govern the nation.
And remember, before Charlottesville, a lot of the conversation was about gridlock in Washington. They can't get things done. Is that really govern the nation?
LEMON: Scott, nothing is getting done because this president, they don't want to work with them. They don't want to be associated with them and they won't say it publicly but then privately there's no healthcare, and the wall is being paid for by Americans if it's going to be built. There's no legislative achievement. So nothing is being done and republicans don't want to do, don't want to work and be associated with this president. Again, they won't say it publicly.
JENNINGS: Well, you beat me to it. And that is, the alternative to what's been happening here, the gridlock, they're not getting things done is to see if the Republican Party can find a way to come together and get a few things done and give people confidence that they can actually govern the nation.
LEMON: In spite of?
JENNINGS: They control everything and they are going to control everything until next November. So if the choices are, gridlock and nothing happens until next November or they find a way forward here to do something, I want that. But it's more than just policy. I'm telling you, they've got to find a way to give people confidence that the next rally, the next terroristic attack by these white supremacists will be handled properly.
LEMON: Gloria, I need you to hold your thought. We got to take a break. Stay with me, everyone. When we come right back, President Trump's staff stunned by his off the rails press conference. One even described as enraged and considering quitting. Well, we will see if there's a mass exodus from the White House. We'll be right back.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump's aides shocked at his remarks, equating neo- Nazis and white supremacist in Charlottesville with counterprotesters. One official telling CNN the White House chief of staff John Kelly urged staffers to stay focused on their work.
Back with my panel now. Gloria Borger, I cut you off mid-sentence. What did you want to say?
BORGER: Yes, I was going to say to Scott, it's great to say republicans have to get back to work and they've got to pass the agenda, but, you know, the point is the president is isolated right now and I want to suggest something I know would be shocking to most people.
But maybe one way to get something done is to actually talk to people on the other side of the aisle and go around the president. And there may not be a lot they can agree on but maybe they can agree on something on infrastructure or -- and give him something that he has to sign. I mean, if you can't work with him, perhaps you work around him.
LEMON: What's interesting to me, Mr. Kuttner, is that Steve Bannon gave a very interesting, I guess insight to all of the chaos and what's happening behind the scenes at the White House. Did he do that with the new communications director? No. I mean, it wasn't set up. He called you out of the blue, correct?
KUTTNER: Yes. I think, so he's trying to build a kind of a left-right coalition on getting tough with China and the American Prospect is a very well-known liberal magazine and I've written very critically on America's trade policy so it's like all of a sudden we're soul mates.
But in the course of letting his hair down and talking strategy as if I were a member of the family, I got a real picture of the kind of infighting that he's right in the middle of. Because he's got the State Department and Defense Department who don't want to upset the apple cart in terms of getting China to help us with Korea. He's got the treasury and the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn,
not wanting to have a get tough trade policy.
So, he views himself as this kind of figure who's going to save the Trump administration by delivering it to the kind of economic nationalism that will play to the base and he's got all of these enemies inside the administration.
So you get a window on why he is kind of isolated and kind of on thin ice and I think he was also willing to blow off the president's own views of how to handle North Korea.
[22:30:05] One of the things he said to me in that conversation was there's no military option because if we had any kind of an attack on North Korea, 10 million people 35 miles away in greater Seoul would be killed. So that's not an option at all.
And this comes a few days after his boss, the president, you know, is talking about -- you know, the rhetoric, what's going to happen to them if they launch the...
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So he's contradicting the man he's supposed to be advising the commander in chief. Did this seem disloyal in any way to you?
KUTTNER: Well, let's say it seemed incautious, it seem reckless, it seem intemperate, and but it also emblematic of the chaos that General Kelly was brought in to straighten out. You have a lot of people freelancing and I think to distract himself -- I'm imagining this, right?
So you've got all of this mess in Charlottesville. Bannon is being held responsible for it, I think quite fairly. And so I think I'll call Bob Kuttner. He's a liberal. And maybe I can get him to support my view on trade. It's really bizarre.
LEMON: Is it fair that Bannon is being held responsible for this?
KUTTNER: Sure it's fair. I mean, don't forget what happened. I mean, Bannon takes over Breitbart and if you read Josh Green's amazing book which everybody ought to read on Bannon and Trump, he realizes that there is this group of people out there who have been previously consigned to the fringes who can be mobilized into an army and that there's a slippery slope between the alt-right and the neo-Nazi right and the KKK right. And you know, some people during the 30's used to say, no enemies on the left. Bannon's view is no enemy is on the right. It's impossible to beat too right to these guys.
LEMON: I wanted to...
KUTTNER: We saw that -- we saw that from...
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Doug, what's your responsible to this Bannon rebuke? Do you
think it's is will, do you think fair to blame him for what's happening with the alt-right and for this administration...
DOUG HEYE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I don't blame Steve Bannon or anybody in the White House for what's going on except for one person. I'll tell you, I talked to Reince Priebus about six weeks ago at the congressional baseball game and he asked me what I was hearing. I told him it wasn't good. He said, is that staffers. I said, Reince we have one problem.
There's only one problem in this White House and as long as Donald Trump is the president, sometimes we focus on Cohn or Bannon or McMaster or Kellyanne Conway. There's one problem, it's Donald Trump. And if we take our eye off that we're actually I think probably helping Donald Trump.
LEMON: Scott, I want to talk to you about all of the people who work for this president in the White House. What's the breaking point for them by standing by this president are they supporting racism?
SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: You know, when you go to work at a senior level in the White House, you actually get sworn in just like the president. You take an oath of office but you don't take an oath of office to an individual president. You take the oath to the Constitution and to the country.
And I think I know a lot of people that work in the building and in the administration. Everyone I know, good people, believe in public service, they want to be there for all the right reasons.
Somebody asked today, you know, should we see mass resignations? Should people walk out if -- I don't believe our government works best like that. I'm a conservative. I don't want to see people sort of treat our government the way you might see it in another country. Well, the government resign today so we'll have an election in six weeks. That's not the American way.
LEMON: Well, the whole government...
JENNINGS: It's not the American way.
LEMON: Scott, the whole government is not going to resign. If you work for...
JENNINGS: People have suggested mass resignations, cabinet and staff.
LEMON: Well, that's -- OK.
JENNINGS: That's crazy. LEMON: I think that's a bit of a hyperbole. But I think if you work
for someone and you don't believe in what they're saying or if there's something that you just cannot, it doesn't go along with your principles or your morals, why do you stay there and then continue to support that person?
JENNINGS: You know, the advice I got on this from Andy Card once was, when you come to work at the White House, if you're not amazed and in awe of working through the doors every day, then that's the day you should resign and he sort of put it that way.
You're putting it a little different way about your interpersonal feelings about the man who is the president. But there is a time for every adviser when it may be time to leave. But I'm just telling you when you get sworn in, when you take the oath -- I did this. And you take an oath to the country and the Constitution, the concept of laying that down because you believe you're there for the greater piece of public service, it's hard to get over the concept of resigning when you've taken that oath.
LEMON: Amanda, but if the greater piece of public service is not being served or upheld, I mean, do you think that they should resign or should they stay and try to fix it? Do you think that they are supporting racism or racist policies by staying there?
AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think everybody has a different line and there's a big difference between somebody saying working for Rick Perry at the Department of Energy versus someone personally assisting Donald Trump in the White House and getting his message out.
[22:34:56] I'm a communications person. I could not defend someone who I know would not defend me. I would not go to work for someone who is not upholding the ideals of this country.
And so I think there's a laser focus, in particular, on people who choose to work with Donald Trump on message like a Sarah Huckabee Sanders, like the women at the RNC right now who I haven't seen out today. Funny how they're not out there today.
The people who sign up to defend Trump, I want to see them on TV right now. I want to see how you do this. Because right now they're hiding out and your job is to get his message out. So let's see it. I think they're afraid and if you're afraid to do your job, that is the time to walk out.
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: You know...
LEMON: Gloria, both of us and I've got to run, but we've been, both of us have been on television a lot today and I have not seen very many republicans sitting next to me...
LEMON: ... or in these little boxes, satellite boxes on television. Quickly, Gloria, I got to get to the break.
BORGER: Well, and that's what I was going to -- that's what I was going to say. If you look at the CEOs today...
BORGER: ... they resigned and Donald Trump may believe, like, well, I'm just going to dissolve this but it collapsed and then he tweeted, well, these groups are going to get dissolved. They quit. They left him. But they have a constituency, they are CEOs, they have constituency to their boards, to their customers, to their businesses and you show them up there and they said, OK, we're not doing it anymore.
The question is, will the CEOs lead the way for -- and I'm talking about elected officials now who also have constituents -- republicans to come out, as Amanda was saying publicly and say I need to talk to this president. I need to take him on, I need to tell him how I feel publicly because I'm in a position of leadership as well as an elected official.
Some of them may be afraid because their constituents are loyal to Donald Trump. I get that. I understand that. But leadership sometimes requires that you go against the grain.
BORGER: And we haven't seen that yet, as Amanda points out. And maybe it's because they're out of town. OK? But when they come back, I'm wondering whether this is just going to pass and they'll move on to something else.
LEMON: Yes, but everybody has one of these. And they can write something.
LEMON: We can hear from them. We can send a satellite truck to them, wherever they are. Thank you, all. I appreciate -- because we tried to get a lot of them today. Thank you very much.
When we come back, what the U.S. military and the U.S.'s closest allies have to say about the president's comments on Charlottesville. Fareed Zakaria and John Kirby will join me to discuss. That's next.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon with some choice words tonight for white nationalists.
I want to bring in Fareed Zakaria, the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, and CNN and military and diplomatic -- diplomatic analyst rear admiral John Kirby. Gentlemen, good evening to you. This is a fascinating interview about Steve Bannon. I want to get your
reaction to it, first Fareed Zakaria. He did it with the American Prospect what he said about Charlottesville. Because he called white nationalists a collection of clowns. And if he didn't think he was on the record, then he was leaking.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN: The whole thing is bizarre. And it tells you I think the degree of internal anxiety and chaos that is probably now consumed the Trump White House because often what happens in these situations is, I've been in them, somebody calls you and it begins often as a sort of proper interview and they're trying to spin you but after a while, you know, you become the therapist because they are venting in a way that they don't have those many opportunities too, and they are trying to shape the way the public sees them.
Everybody in government often feels at a high level that they are deeply misunderstood. And clearly, you know, part of what was going on was that with Bannon. As always with Steve Bannon, what is striking is how intelligent he is, how coherent his world view is, if you listened to what he was saying about China, it's a very striking coherent view. He is very intelligent about laying out exactly what the prize is, which is an economic war really with China.
All the rest of it is a sideshow. We're not going to get bathed into a war in Korea. But what is striking on the political side is Bannon seems to recognize that this was a very convenient vehicle to get him to where he wanted to get to but as he put it, these guys are losers.
LEMON: They are clowns.
ZAKARIA: And we have to crush them. Now, I wonder whether how much trouble this will get him into with the Breitbart crowd. They have proudly, you know, used this banner and now here you have Steve Bannon describing this group as a bunch of clowns and losers.
LEMON: He seems to contradict the president last week, do you remember his tough on North Korea, right, and the nuclear threat there. He said "There's no military solution to North Korea's nuclear threats. Forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about. There's no military solution here. They've got us."
That is rebuttal of the fire and fury and he's refuting the fire and fury thing.
ZAKARIA: Well, he's refuting it frontally. He's essentially, you know, arguing that the president's rhetoric made no sense. That at already happened with that remarkable op-ed that Rex Tillerson and James Mattis wrote in the Wall Street Journal which was essentially, you know, the way I read the op-ed was, don't pay any attention to what our President Donald Trump is saying.
Here's America's policy on North Korea. We want to negotiate with them. We don't want to grapple the regime. We do not contemplate any kind of military action. And so Bannon is in the sense reflecting that. So what you know what you realize is everybody is serious at the White House thinks that Trump went off on some kind of an unscripted dangerous rant about North Korea.
I think that what one wonders about is how is Trump going to be able to conduct personal diplomacy when his credibility with international partners has been absolutely destroyed, not by his enemies but by his closest aides, Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Steve Bannon are essentially now saying pay no attention to what that guy in the Oval Office says.
ZAKARIA: It is not --it is not credible, it's not feasible, it's not viable.
LEMON: The men behind the -- they're the men behind the curtain. So, listen, admiral Kirby, I want to turn now to the military's reaction to what has happened in our country since Charlottesville and the president's statement.
Five U.S. joint chiefs have issued public condemnations of white supremacist groups all through Twitter. And here they are right now. Chief of the Naval operation, Admiral Richardson tweeted, "Events in Charlottesville, unacceptable. It must not be tolerated. U.S. Navy forever stands against intolerance and hatred."
And then Tuesday, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Robert Neller tweeted that "There's no place for racial hatred or extremism in USMC. Our core values of honor, courage, and commitment frame the way marines live and act."
And so all of this, so after finding out the head of the white supremacy group was a marine for several years he did that, and then you go on and on. You have all of these folks in the military who were responding, what do you think of that? We can put them up as you speak.
JOHN KIRBY, MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST, CNN: I think this is, these men -- and I know them all. I mean, I've actually served with all of them in staff capacities over the last several years, they are speaking for the core values of the United States military.
[22:45:01] And it's important for them to do that. And they were reacting to Charlottesville and the way they felt their own troops and their troop's families might be reacting to Charlottesville as well as, Don, America's sons and daughters who have yet to recruit, or parents that might be thinking about a young son or daughter signing up to go to boot camp. And what do they think they are joining, and what values does the military represent to them.
You know, I had a chance to talk to Admiral Richardson tonight and he was telling me what really motivated him. He was the first one out with a statement. In fact, he was out before even President Trump's first statement.
He was in the gym down in Norfolk, Virginia, working out with a bunch of young sailors. They didn't really even know that he was with them. And all of this was unfolding on TV and he noticed as he was working out how the sailors themselves, of all different sizes, shapes, colors, creeds, the very diverse group of sailors working out in the gym were stopping what they were doing and watching and shaking their heads and talking to one another.
And clearly the mood was somber and he asked himself, what am I going to say to them? How do I communicate to them, if this isn't OK, this isn't who we are and this is what the navy stands for. And that's what prompted him to do that. And I think it was reflected again that same attitude.
LEMON: But this is rare. Can you explain to us how rare this is and these men felt compelled to send these statements but it's very rare for this to happen.
KIRBY: It's very rare for them -- it's not rare for them to stand up for core values and to demonstrate that publicly. What's rare for them is to get involved in or discuss a domestic issue like this like what happened in Charlottesville.
They are typically, as you want them to be, outwardly focused in terms of the world and what's going on in the national security threats but I think they look at this as a real threat to their ability to conduct their missions.
I mean, these guys, the service chiefs are responsible for manning, training, and equipping all the services. They are the face and the voice of each of the military services. And so the diversity of America, the diversity of our population inside, the ranks, all of that is very much critical to mission readiness and to mission accomplishment.
So for them this also got to the bottom line for their jobs and what their responsible to doing for the country, which is bringing in talent in the United States military, training it and retaining it and deploying.
LEMON: Fareed, we know the president respects the military, he respects the generals, and he respects wealthy businessmen and he's lost both, it appears.
ZAKARIA: Well, I think what's really interesting about the military response is that it also speaks as John Kirby was saying to something that is an extraordinary success story in America. The single most successful institution at integrating the races over the last 30 years has been the United States military.
I remember when Colin Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What people were stunned by was how obviously competent, super competent Colin Powell was and then they began to realize that there were, you know, there were people under him and there were people under him and it's suddenly made you realize that this institution had taken people from all walks of life, all races, all socioeconomic backgrounds and found a way to integrate them in a way frankly, that the private sector had not been able to do.
So, I think the military is really standing up for one of its absolute core values but also its great success stories. I'm a little bit less impressed by the business elite, to be honest. I think they have been more followers than leaders. I think that, you know, what is surprising to me is how long it took many of them to act as they did.
If the Merck CEO had not done what he did, I don't know how many would have done have followed suit. To my mind, you know, the Johnson & Johnson CEO is a perfect example of a kind of profile and cowardice where he, you know, after confronting everything that happened, issued a statement saying, well, you know, I wish Trump had not said that but, you know, we're still going to stick with him.
And then after Trump disbanded the council, 15 minutes later, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson announces that he was going to quit the council which no longer existed now that Trump has disbanded it.
So that was really brave of him to once there was no council to resign off the council. I think that, you know, one of the reasons businesses and the fix and we have the kind of populist resentment that we have is that business leaders don't recognize they have enormous power. They have enormous credibility, they have enormous respect in this country and they have been using it very badly for the last 20 years.
Think about the financial crisis. Think about these kinds of things. They have to be broader society leaders and not just look at the bottom line.
LEMON: Thank you, admiral. Thank you, Fareed. I appreciate it.
When we come back, sources telling CNN that President Trump has no regrets about his press conference. Two men who have covered Trump extensively over the years, they will join me next and we'll break that down. They're going to breakdown his comments on race throughout the years. What you hear might surprise you.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Many people speaking out against Donald Trump for his Charlottesville comments. Quoting Maya Angelou when someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.
I want to bring in now CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth About Trump," and Tim O'Brien, the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of being the Donald."
Hello to both of you. Michael, I just -- I just want to play something. I play this earlier in the week. This is a clip from Donald Trump. It was way back in 2000 and he was speaking about why he didn't want to be associated with David Duke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you see as the biggest problem with the Reform Party right now? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you've David Duke
just joined. A bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he was considering a run for president as a member of the Reform Party and then he decided not to do it because he didn't want to be associate would the likes of David Duke.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: He didn't.
LEMON: Remember he said he told my colleague Jake Tapper in 2016, I have no idea who -- I don't know David Duke. So what happened to this, how do you reconcile these two versions of Donald Trump? The 2000 version and the 2016 to 2017 version of Donald Trump?
D'ANTONIO: Well, he's completely self-interested. This is a man whose priority is Donald Trump. Now that he's the President of the United States, everyone hoped he would change, hoped that somehow he had raised to the occasion. The office might make him presidential.
But it's the same fella who in 1972 screamed reverse discrimination when he was asked to obey the fair housing laws, the same guy who in the '90s took out the ad about the Central Park Five.
He is consistent with this self-aggrandizing appeal to racism when he wants to and then retreat from it when he thinks that will serve him.
LEMON: Right. So he denounced racism with that, but when it's politically expedient, you're saying that personally he can benefit from it personally then he uses...
D'ANTONIO: He built his whole political identity, prior to the 2016 election, on the birther campaign.
LEMON: Which was racist.
D'ANTONIO: For five years after every other politician abandoned it. He stuck with it. And he was told point blank that it was racist and he was good with it.
LEMON: His connection to the alt-right, is it a political move or does he share their believes? Because he was very passionate about it yesterday, Tim.
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Yes. I think -- I think the reason he can't fully put any moral authority or strength in the condemnation of the alt-right is because he's played race baiting throughout his entire career as a public figure, as a businessman and now as president.
As Michael mentioned earlier, in the 1970s the Justice Department sues Trump and his father. It was then Trump management for red lining, for not allowing people of color to rent in Trump housing in Brooklyn in Queens. In 1989, he takes out full page ads in New York newspapers going after Latino and black teenagers who had allegedly had assaulted and raped a white jogger. They were later exonerated.
LEMON: All of them.
O'BRIEN: All of them were exonerated and they were exonerated through DNA testing and as recently as last year Trump still questioned their guilt.
[22:55:01] He's never, as Michael also pointed out. He used birtherism to hound Barack Obama during his entire presidency. In each of these events Trump had no reason, particularly in the Central Park 5 case and with Obama and birtherism, to insert himself into these moments other than to create publicity for himself or to take advantage of sensationalism and race baiting.
And I think the Matt Lauer interview is an anomaly. I think what Trump did this weekend with Charlottesville is very consistent where he's been throughout his whole career. And that's why he can't denounce his people more forcefully.
D'ANTONIO: Well, and that wasn't his first Matt Lauer interview. The first one he did was in 1988 or '89 when he said if you're a young black man you're advantaged over everyone else.
LEMON: Yes, right.
D'ANTONIO: But this is someone who clearly hasn't studied history. He doesn't understand it and he's cursing us because now we have to relive it. We're going back to the long-hot summers of racial conflict and he's dragging us there because I actually think this is what is in his soul.
O'BRIEN: And he doesn't care.
D'ANTONIO: This is -- this is a reflex. This is where he resides. This is an Archie bunker kind of Queens 1971 resentment and it's natural for him.
LEMON: Again he was one of the leading voices in the birther conspiracy and carried the ball longer than anyone else. And promoted -- had the biggest mega phone when it came to that and would argue people down about it and then said you know, you would believe what my people are finding. I'm sending investigators. No proof that he ever send investigators, nothing ever came of it. How has that played into the Trump of today?
O'BRIEN: Well, it's the same. It's consistent. That this is the Trump of today. He's somebody who is willing to exploit racial differences and racial animosity to either make political hay or stand with the spotlight. This is -- this is who he's been for a long time.
D'ANTONIO: And look at how he's paralyzed the Republican Party. We now have one republican after another denouncing him. But they still have their agenda that they'd like to pursue. But he has no commitment to them.
You know, he ran as a republican. Was elected by the republican machine, their apparatus. They've been as loyal as they can be and where does he stand now? Completely outside of the mainstream republican ideal.
LEMON: Maggie Haberman of the New York Times is reporting that Trump felt liberated after his rant yesterday. What does that...
D'ANTONIO: Well, that...
LEMON: What does tell you about our president that he felt liberated after that embarrassing word salad yesterday.
O'BRIEN: Because first he said nothing when Charlottesville happened. Then he came out and said everyone's at fault and then he was taken to task for that and then he came out and gave a statement saying, of course the KKK and neo-Nazis were horrible people and then he came out and had to get back to where he was most comfortable, saying he didn't really think they were the only ones at fault. He felt liberated because actually he was able to say what he truly believes.
D'ANTONIO: Like he was like kid who was sent to his room for being bad and then he got out. And when he got out he went right back to being bad again because this is satisfying to him.
LEMON: Well, everyone knew. I mean, as you're watching, I could hear and I happened to be watching with a group of people. I mean, I hear everyone there's a television on the desk and everyone was saying, my gosh, does he really feel this I can't believe he's saying this. And my thought was does he know the television cameras are rolling? And I kept thinking someone was going to say last question, you know. And no one ever did, he just kept going on.
O'BRIEN: Well, and Don, he did it during the campaign.
LEMON: He did.
O'BRIEN: Remember Judge Curiel, when he went after him?
LEMON: Yes. So during the campaign, though, he also bragged as much as possible about his business acumen and success. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's in business. I did a very good job but I will say this and people are very, very impressed with what I've done, the business people done.
I have the best business leaders and they all want to do it. They're wealthy because they make good deals, like me, I make good deals. You know, it's a talent. It's a talent.
I have the greatest businessman in the world.
I will tell you this, what I am far and away greater than an entertainer is a businessman.
I have the best businessmen in the world. You know, we -- and women. We have the best. We have the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he admires business people and you saw the CEO's today, the people he most admires -- most admire, backing -- turning their backs on him. How is he likely to -- or just got rid of it. He just got rid of his councils...
O'BRIEN: Well, they were starting to leave before he got rid of him.
O'BRIEN: He made a public gesture in getting rid of his group but they were already leaving and I think they were leaving because they finally realized that Trump wasn't going to be useful for them anymore.
They want deregulation. They want a tax cut. They want hard core business friendly policies driven out of that White House and they have someone in there who is not a great businessman during his own career.
[22:59:59] LEMON: He step -- let's be honest. And people -- he started -- he started in third base if not a home play.
O'BRIEN: Yes. He was born comfortably wealthy. He did build the family business far beyond where his father had taken it but he also drove it into the ground later on. And that Trump he's emerged in that debacle.