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Trump Reverts, Blames All Sides For Charlottesville Violence; China Calls On U.S. and N.K. To Cool Off; Sierra Leone Mourns Mudslide Victims; Late Night Reaction To Trump. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 16, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:32:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there's blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides. I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A defiant President Trump once again putting counter-protesters on the same level as white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers.

A remarkable press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It was remarkable. Charles Krauthammer, noted conservative columnist, called it a moral disgrace.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

We start with President Trump going off script and, some might say, off the rails.

At a stunning news conference the president making a dramatic pivot on the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, reverting back to his original vague response from Saturday blaming both sides for the unrest, equating white supremacists with counter- protesters.

ROMANS: During a combative exchange with reporters, the president said those protesters who he dubbed the alt-left were also the aggressors. When asked if he was putting the counter-protesters and white supremacists on the same moral plane he said this.


TRUMP: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs, and it was vicious and it was horrible, and it was a horrible thing to watch.

But there is another side. There was a group on this side -- you can call them the left, you've just called them the left -- that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want but that's the way it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, from both sides, sir? You said there was hatred, there was violence --

TRUMP: Well, I do think there's blame, yes. I think there's blame on both sides.

What about the alt-left that came charging at the -- as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging -- that they came charging with clubs in their hands -- swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

I watched this very closely -- much more closely than you people watched it -- and you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now.


BRIGGS: The president's comments making it clear that his full- throated condemnation of the hate groups just a day earlier was largely a sterilized version of his views.

The president also raising eyebrows with his take on the nationwide effort to remove Confederate memorials, apparently unable to differentiate between flawed American leaders and Confederate generals committed to maintaining white supremacy.

[05:35:07] ROMANS: Let's bring back Zachary Wolf, managing editor of, and Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University.

And oh, Professor, we are glad to have you here because I need to you listen to what the president said yesterday about some of our forefathers and tell me what grade you would give him in presidential history -- listen.


TRUMP: Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down -- excuse me, are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington?

How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do love Thomas Jefferson.

TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue because he was a major slave owner? Now, are we going to take down his statue? So you know what, it's fine. You're changing history, you're changing culture, and you had people -- and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally -- but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK, and the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.


ROMANS: Julian, what do make of that response from this president putting Confederate generals and, you know, revolutionary leaders of this country on the same footing?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's really a skewed view of history and it's a skewed view of what the debate is about.

He's comparing, you know, the first President of the United States and Thomas Jefferson, his associate, with all sorts of ideas such as individual rights with one of the leaders of the Confederate Army that was, in the end, defending a slave society against the Union.

He's also defending monuments that were put into place as part of the racial backlash after reconstruction --

ROMANS: And that's important.

ZELIZER: -- and in the 1950s and sixties. That's why these are so pointed.

Look, great presidents often take stands. Lyndon Johnson took a stand for civil rights in 1964 and 65. Ronald Reagan took a stand for freedom and democracy against communism. He's just taking a stand for principles that are being espoused by white extremist groups.

ROMANS: There are 1,500 of these monuments.

I just want to show you some quick video from Baltimore last night because all four of these monuments came down in Baltimore last night. The City Council voted to do it, I think, on Monday -- it happened. They took them down with cranes, peacefully.

But this is an ongoing debate about whether we should keep these monuments.

ZELIZER: And it's a good debate. You know, he's saying people are whitewashing history. In fact, it's the opposite.

This is a debate about our racial past and how do we remember history. It's not about the history, itself. What do we choose to emphasize, who do we choose to put the spotlight on, and what principles do we want to debate?

And so, that's a legitimate debate to have. To say we can't have that debate and everything comes down if we're talking one monument, that's the exact definition of whitewashing. So it's actually the president who's doing that. BRIGGS: These local communities could -- should continue to have this debate and also discuss why these monuments were constructed in the first place.

Zach, that's the past. Let's get to the present.

As to the notion that both side share blame in all this, the president did find some agreement in all the wrong places.

Prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer said, "I'm proud of him for speaking the truth."

David Duke, former KKK leader, said "Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in Black Lives Matter and Antifa."

Republicans, they were not so pleased with what the president had to say. We could go on for the next half hour about those that condemned his remarks, but Marco Rubio probably the most stark.


BRIGGS: "Mr. President, you can't allow white supremacists to share only part of the blame. They support ideas which cost nation and world so much pain."

"White supremacy groups will see being assigned only 50 percent of the blame as a win. We cannot allow this to be resurrected."

Tim Scott, the only black senator -- Republican senator -- also tweeted his disapproval.

What's the political cost of all of this? Really, those are the only two that were pointed toward the president. What does this change?

ZACHARY WOLF, MANAGING EDITOR, CNN POLITICS: Well, you got a taste of this Republican frustration with his initial statement on Saturday when, you know, a lot of Republican people like Orrin Hatch and others came out and basically pressured him into correcting himself on Monday.

And now, he's essentially rejected that, stood with the alt-right and the white nationalists, essentially. Even though he condemned them he has taken their side in this issue and you have to wonder if, you know -- if the -- if the bulwark of the Republican Party is criticizing him about this -- is so forcefully saying this is -- this is not something to do -- you know, siding against him, will he follow them?

It doesn't seem like he will and that will just totally isolate himI think in a way we've never seen an American president isolated on this very important racial issue that is festering right now in this country.

[05:40:09] ROMANS: The president clearly sees a very different event over the weekend than objective observers see. You know, when you look at pictures of what happened and then you contrast that with what the president says happened there on the ground -- with who these protesters were.

I want to juxtapose that for you. Let's watch.


TRUMP: You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest because, you know, I don't know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn't have a permit.

So I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story.

PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.


ROMANS: So, Julian Zelizer, the president talking about who had a permit and who didn't have a permit.

Those men have torches. Those torches symbolize something very ugly and very terrible in American history. They don't symbolize a backyard barbecue.

ZELIZER: Absolutely. The debate about permits should not be what the president is talking about.

The images and message that were being chanted on the lawn of the University of Virginia, that's what this march was about.

It wasn't even about the monuments. This was why many people were at this rally. This was why the rally was organized.

And the president is just picking up talking points from some of the organizations that want to defend what happened and what this is about.

And at the same time, let's remember, this is not new Trump. President Trump has been --


ZELIZER: -- toying with this since the campaign.

And in terms of the Republicans, they have to now wrestle with the fact that this was their candidate. This was the candidate that a lot of Republicans supported and a president who has received Republican support.

ROMANS: His candidacy was born in criticizing --


ROMANS: -- and questioning the citizenship of the first black President of the United States. ZELIZER: Exactly.

BRIGGS: Well, let's be clear. There are millions of Americans that liked what the president said yesterday and continue to support his message and like this.

Let's move, Zach, though, from the Republicans and Congress -- the Republicans and Democrats, like Gary Cohn, in his cabinet who are Jewish, who stood there alongside the president defending people who chanted Jews will not replace us. The president's daughter is Jewish, the president's son-in-law is Jewish, his grandkids are Jewish.

How about those close to him? How do they play this moving forward?

WOLF: I -- you know, I don't know and I think we're in uncharted territory. They must be thinking about that, obviously, you know.

He has family members who are Jewish. They're not going anywhere.

You've got to wonder for some of the Jewish members of his cabinet, are you doing to do a better job, you know, making a big statement and jumping ship or trying to influence things from the inside? Who are those people going to be replaced by? There's three years -- you know, more than three years left of a Donald Trump presidency here so, you know, just quitting -- I don't know what the answer is.

You saw, however, you know, his chief of staff looking dower and the facial expressions on --


WOLF: -- that that man was giving off yesterday during those -- that press conference. There's got to be a lot of internal turmoil for those people personally as they hear something like that.

ROMANS: And we know that -- you know, Jeff Zeleny is reporting that the people around -- that the plan was not to have that press conference. The plan was to talk about infrastructure and if there was a pivot toward his position on Charlottesville to stand by his prepared remarks.

BRIGGS: But we know --

ROMANS: He went off script.

BRIGGS: -- from that same reporting that these were his original thoughts.


BRIGGS: This is the way he feels about this subject. They were surprised to hear those voiced so passionately yesterday.

ROMANS: Julian Zelizer, Zach Wolf, thanks so much, you guys.

ZELIZER: Thank you. ROMANS: Nice to see you this morning.

BRIGGS: Thank you, guys.

ROMANS: President Trump declares he can fix racism in America. He will create jobs.

The way the president explains it, people will be making money, quote "much more money than they ever thought possible. That will fix race relations."


TRUMP: Been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that because he made speeches about it.

But I believe that the fact that I brought in -- it will be soon -- millions of jobs. You see where companies are moving back into our country. I think that's going to have a tremendous, positive impact on race relations.


ROMANS: You know, it's a painful subject that labor market economists and social scientists have studied for more than two generations now. Truth is, even in the best of times the spoils of job creation go disproportionately to white workers over black workers.

Today, after years of strong jobs growth, the jobless rate for black Americans is nearly double that of whites. The reason is a toxic brew of discrimination, criminal justice issues, education, family resources. A whole host of thorny issues.

[05:45:00] Now, the president was not specific about how he would -- his job creation would end racism.

The president again declared, by the way, he has created a million jobs since he took office. He has created them.

A couple of points here. Job creation under President Trump is actually right on pace with the last six months of President Obama which Trump, at the time of course, derided as depression-level unemployment.

Another point. Presidents don't create jobs. Companies create jobs, small businesses create jobs.

And the cracks are starting to show between Trump and corporate America. Six more business leaders have quit Trump's economic council this week, alone.

I always say the presidents get too much credit and too much blame for job creation in this country. But the president says he owns this job creation and he owns this economy right now, and taking a victory lap.

BRIGGS: Doesn't every president? ROMANS: Unless it's bad.

BRIGGS: Yes, right.

ROMANS: Unless it's bad, they don't.

BRIGGS: Right. They certainly create the right environment to create jobs.

OK, the president's all too brief condemnation of white supremacists providing lots of material for late night.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": That's why I sent him this card. Happy belated condemnation. I can't believe we did not see you condemn them sooner.


BRIGGS: Wow. How the late-night hosts handled Trump's reversal on Nazi sympathizers ahead.


[05:50:30] BRIGGS: China calling on the U.S. and North Korea to put the brakes on provocations and name-calling now that Kim Jong Un has apparently backed off of his threat to fire missiles toward Guam. The call for de-escalation coming just hours after the North Korean leader decided to hold off on that plan.

CNN's Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, South Korea for us this morning. Morning, Paula.

A long way from fire and fury to Rex Tillerson's continued call for diplomacy on Tuesday.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Dave. You certainly heard the words dialogue and diplomacy a lot more this week than you did last week.

We're hearing it, as you say, from Secretary of State Tillerson. We're hearing it from China, again calling on both sides, the U.S. and North Korea, to put on the brakes -- to stop the threat, the words -- the provocative words against each other.

China and Russia saying a very similar thing, saying the foreign ministers have spoken and they agree that there is no alternative whatsoever to a diplomatic and a political settlement to what's happening in North Korea -- the nuclear and military missile program.

They're also saying in the Russian foreign ministry that any threats of force against North Korea is simply quite unacceptable.

We've heard from North Korea, as well, through the state-run newspaper, slamming South Korea for talking about dialogue at the same as pushing more sanctions with the United States and at the same time as those joint military drills are about to start with the United States. That starts on August 21st.

But one saving grace, though, is that they are more computer simulation, less visual, less live-fire drills. Potentially less provocative to North Korea but we'll simply have to wait and see what they think.

BRIGGS: The 21st. The day of the eclipse should be an interesting one, indeed.

Paula Hancocks, thank you.

ROMANS: The West African nation of Sierra Leone beginning a week of mourning today for hundreds of victims in a deadly mudslide. The pictures are just terrifying.

The death toll just now rising to 297 people. More than 600people are still missing.

Heavy rains triggered a river of mud to roar down a mountainside Monday, burying everyone and everything in its path.

The country's president pleading for urgent support in the face of overwhelming devastation.


ROMANS: All right. We'll check in on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:55:20] BRIGGS: Criticism of the president's remarks blaming both sides for the deadly Charlottesville violence was swift and sharp. Among those most eager to pounce, the late-night crowd.


TRUMP: Before I make a statement I need the facts.

COLBERT: OK, I wait for the facts, OK? Just ask the millions of illegal voters who refused to look for Obama's birth certificate during my record-breaking inauguration, OK? It's all on the Obama White House.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it, either.

COLBERT: The only thing I'm doubting right now is whether you're still going to be president by Friday.

TRUMP: Is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you all -- you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Where does it stop? Buddy, we've been asking ourselves that question since January.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": I don't know who decided it would be a good idea to send him out there to talk to reporters today, but whoever did obviously misread his state of mind and the mood on this country right now.

The president -- I feel like I can say this with reasonable certainty. The president is completely unhinged.

I want to speak to those of you who voted for Donald Trump. They can do one of two things. You can dig in like Chris Christie at a HomeTown buffet or you can treat the situation like you would if you'd put "Star Wars" wallpaper up in the kitchen.

All right, I got caught up, I was excited. I made a mistake and now it needs to go. Well, now he does need to go.

ROMANS: So, I was so interested at the coverage the media -- sort of the banters and everything yesterday are said off the rails. "Business Insider" said melting down. Another one was temper tantrum.

It was just so -- it was just -- it was a moment where you couldn't believe we're talking about presidential history.

BRIGGS: But yet, online, I heard from dozens and dozens of people who loved what the president said, liked that he stuck to his original instincts. And you wonder how much of that base does support this very notion. It might be somewhere in 30 percent --

ROMANS: Yes. The president of the base or President of the United States? Your call, Mr. President.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global markets mostly higher today after Wall Street closed flat.

Retail stocks fell sharply on disappointing earnings from a few major retailers. That affected the broader sector.

It lost almost three percent for the day, evening bringing down shares of Home Depot despite strong results.You know, Home Depot's results actually tell us the housing market is really humming here, by the way.

The market coming off its biggest one-day gain all summer as stocks rebound from last week's drop.

Right now, looking at futures, they are higher.

Uber is being punished once again by the U.S. government for deceptive behavior. Uber agreeing to being audited by an outside party for the next, oh, 20 years. It's part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The case revolves around a 2014 incident in which more than 100,000 customer names and driver's licenses were accessed in a breach.

Obamacare premiums will rise 20 percent next year if the president ends key Obamacare subsidies. That's according to a brand new CBO report. If the president allows Obamacare to implode, 20 percent increase in those premiums.

Cautionary payments help insurers, of course, pay the lower income -- pay for lower income enrollees. President Trump has used them as a bargaining chip just for health reform. So far, it hasn't worked.

Killing those subsidies wouldn't just cost Americans more, it would cost the government more as well. That's the other payments the U.S. makes to help pay for coverage would increase as a result. That means growing the deficit by $194 billion through 2026.

The high cost for taxpayers --


ROMANS: -- and for consumers of letting Obamacare implode.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

The president's here in New York where he'll wake up to some rough covers of his favorite newspapers.

"NEW DAY" has their hands full. It starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's posing a danger not just to his party but to the country, and he's going to tear us apart.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Peddling to racism is just as bad as being a racist.

TRUMP: Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not the party of Robert E. Lee. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a lot of Republican versus Democratic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The moral blindness that our president showed today was unlike anything I've ever seen.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not just the people you are emboldening, it's the people who now don't know if they have a government that gives a damn about them. DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Donald Trump is who he is. He's not going to change. This was definitive proof of that today.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, August 16th, 6:00 here in New York.

You've got Chris Cuomo and Poppy Harlow with you this morning.