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Republicans Rebuke Trump's Charlottesville Comments; Trump Again Blames 'Both Sides' For Violence In Virginia. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired August 16, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:22] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Here is one thing that is true about both sides. Both sides, Republicans and Democrats, are blasting the president this morning for what he said about the violence in Charlottesville and who is to blame, among his strongest critics, members of his own party.
Let's bring back in our panel, David Gregory, John Avlon, Abby Phillip to go through that.
Guys, just listen to Cory Gardner and what he chose, Republican from Colorado, what he chose to call these evil, evil people being truly an American.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: This past weekend was a tragedy. When we witnessed people with KKK signs, and white supremacist signs, and neo-Nazi signs, I will tell you this, those assholes can go back to their cave, we don't want them in this country.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARLOW: OK. That could not be more different, Abby, from the way this president chose to point fingers like this yesterday.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Believe it or not, Poppy, it's not hard. This is really, really easy stuff. It's very elementary. And, you know, it's inexplicable, really, why it's so difficult, why the president was so focused on who had permits and who didn't to be protesting out there over the weekend.
The reality is the violence element of this has become a smokescreen for the real issue which what is underlying the protests on the right here. That is hatred. It is racism. It is anti-Semitism. And those are the sentiments that everybody wanted the president to weigh in on.
Everybody knows that violence is wrong. The question is, is the ideology behind the violence wrong? You have people like Cory Gardner pointing that out very clearly.
I was talking to a congressman yesterday who said there was no question in his mind, when he saw the images of those folks showing up in Charlottesville, they were carrying shields and hats with fascist and nazi symbolism written on it. He said, it was 100 percent clear in my mind that these people were here to bring conflict. The question is, why is that not clear enough for the president of the United States?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's clear enough but it's at --
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You know what, again, it's a rally. David, right?
GREGORY: Yes, yes.
CUOMO: You know, if they're -- you know, he'll say it was a joke, but he has no problem with violence against something he finds repugnant in that context. But now, he decides to be even handed.
But I do think we have to point something out. You have the sound of Cory Gardner.
CUOMO: We have tweets from Paul Ryan --
HARLOW: Paul Ryan.
CUOMO: -- John McCain and Senator --
HARLOW: Tim Scott.
CUOMO: -- Tim Scott. But I have to ask you, David, tweets in a moment like this?
CUOMO: Tweets? Tim Ryan, speaker of the house, Mitch McConnell, senate majority leader, where are they? Where are they speaking to their president, the supposed moral leader of their party? What, because they're on vacation?
GREGORY: Now, this continues to be a confounding question about why Republican leaders will not call out President Trump. It's because I think they're afraid. It's because I think they want to focus on advancing parts of the agenda that the president seems less concerned about advancing.
So as Abby said, this is easy to condemn. This is easy to separate what's wrong and what's right. You can have a debate as some do between the left and the right around identity politics and what goes too far.
GREGORY: This is not the area to have that debate.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
GREGORY: These are contemptible figures in our society. That's not even questionable.
To me, the larger point is about President Trump not wanting to be president, not wanting to be disciplined about focusing on an agenda to help those people who elected him and all Americans, but to be a kind of social grievance president, to really be a warrior around this area of social grievance.
[06:35:11] AVLON: Yes.
GREGORY: And we -- you remember at the convention, there was a lot of that too, about this American carnage and he will be your voice. He doesn't want to unite the country. But he wants to keep working this area of grievance and pain in the country.
AVLON: And David, I mean, yeah, the American carnage is of course his inaugural and no one can say that they're utterly surprised about this turn of events.
AVLON: What we can say is we're massively disappointed as a nation because usually, there's an assumption that the office will elevate the individual in it. But this president has shown an absolute resistance to trying to unite the nation.
And at some point, and I think this is what we should be discussing, his party has got to not simply nibble around the margins. Increasingly, senators are speaking up --
AVLON: -- and standing up because the idea that the president, unfortunately, is a moral leader of his policy, of his party and nation is becoming laughable because of his own actions and instincts and lack of curiosity and empathy about American history.
And the office of the president should have a moral dimension. The president is expected to appeal to the better angels of our nature. But he is utterly uninterested in doing that, and that needs to be called out by anyone who puts country before party.
PHILLIP: And --
HARLOW: And call that, Abby, by name, right? I mean --
HARLOW: -- John McCain -- Senator John McCain is on an island this morning, as among one of the only Republicans to actually name the president as having responsibility. The president of the United States, he says, should say so and should call out this hate and bigotry.
You know, well, Chris pointed out, those tweets from Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican senator, and from Speaker Paul Ryan, they don't -- they're not naming the president -- CUOMO: Right.
HARLOW: -- and where is the responsibility by naming. Abby, you brought up such a good point in the other part of what our sister station, VICE, was able to capture in this horror. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to spread ideas, talk in hopes that someone more capable will come along and do that, somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So Donald Trump but, like, more racist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a lot more racist than Donald Trump. I don't think you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Oh my gosh --
PHILLIP: The president heart just really sinks. Yes. It gives you really the wrong kind of chills to watch something like that.
These are the people who were marching on Friday night. That much we know. And anyone who associates with people like that should be condemned.
I don't care whether you label yourself a neo-nazi or not. If you are marching with people like that, you ought to be condemned.
You know, this is beyond just the name calling. He called out Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in a really horrifying way in that clip.
But these people have blanket views that Jews do not belong in this country. And that is the kind of thing that people in this country fought an entire war to stop.
The president of the United States has a responsibility to speak out about that. Republicans, you know, Chris, to your point, they have a responsibility to both speak out and to do something about it. There were a lot of statements yesterday that used the word "we" without using the president of the United States, without saying, "President Trump, this is what you need to do," x, y and z.
Republicans, some of them, are willing to do it. Others are not, and now is the time for clarity. I think that that's what this whole thing has really shown.
AVLON: And look, you know, if the president sees that clip from VICE, and that gets his attention because it mentions his daughter and son- in-law, that I think speaks to the moral insufficiency of feeling personally implicated before it gets to your attention. PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely.
AVLON: It requires a degree of moral imagination that the president, apparently, doesn't have because that's not subtle. And that anti- Semitism he expressed and that racist being expressed, notice how it's wrapped up inside of ideas, just as so much of the argument the confederacy is somehow blanketed in the argument about the constitution.
It's not. It's about base hate. It's about people who want to divide. It's about people that Washington called pretend patriots who try to divide this nation.
GREGORY: Right. And I don't --
AVLON: And that Scott, that's the core of what the bully pulpit needs to do, and this president seems totally uninterested in doing that.
GREGORY: But John, it's not just it's -- I agree with that and the fact that we have a president who won't use the bully pulpit to bring people together and to tamp down the division. It's so unfortunate.
But we also have to stand up in the media as well and use this institution for good. There is a very important debate that is rising to the surface about national historical memory around the statues. What Mitch Landrieu has done and said in New Orleans as he marry (ph) there is so inspirational and so historically significant.
Let's not let the white nationalists and the Ku Klux Klan lead this debate. Let's, on CNN and other outlets, have a real discussion.
[06:40:06] It's a painful discussion among brothers and sisters who are Americans. But for a confederacy that was on the wrong side of history and was an enemy of America, let's have a real discussion about that here in 2017.
CUOMO: And those people who are sitting there with their arms crossed and their heads down, uncomfortable around the president and his advisers, what are they going to do?
CUOMO: What are they going to do in this moment?
HARLOW: Because if you stand by silently --
CUOMO: What you ignore, you empower.
HARLOW: Has President Trump lost his moral authority with what he did yesterday? We will continue to debate this next.
CUOMO: President Trump facing a new round of backlash after once again blaming white supremacists and the, quote, Alt Left for the violence in Charlottesville equating the actions of hate groups with those protesting against them.
Joining us now to debate, CNN political commentator, Symone Sanders and Bruce LeVell, the executive director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump.
Bruce, do you accept the president's proposition that there was equal blame, that those who came at lawful protesting Nazis share the blame for what happened there, that there's moral equivalence?
[06:45:11] BRUCE LEVELL, EXEC. DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DIVERSITY COALITION FOR TRUMP: Well, Chris, thanks for having me. And blessings and prayers out to the fallen police officers and the young lady that lost her life. I just wanted to send our prayers out on behalf of the coalition.
Well, you know, first of all, it was a terrible tragedy. Unfortunately there was a lot of different parties that showed up to this rally that had intent to harm a precious thing, what we call protest, peacefully.
I would caution, though, you know, I do like the fact that President Trump sent A.G. Sessions out immediately. Unlike, you know, places like Ferguson that took forever to get the attorney general out there. So I do commend that.
The other thing too, Chris, is like there's still an ongoing investigation in terms of interviewing the witnesses, interviewing the people who were arrested to find out there might be other groups that associated this.
But it is true that a lot of people showed up to intent to disrupt this rally, to bring havoc. All different sides of the groups that were wanting to create mass pandemonium and create harm. They showed up in shields. They showed up in bats. They showed up in riot gear. I have never seen anything like this.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN DEBATE AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Showed up in Nazi symbols group.
LEVELL: Excuse me, excuse me Symone, I'm speaking please with all though respect.
SANDERS: You know --
LEVELL: Excuse me. I never interrupted you on T.V. I never --
SANDERS: I think it's laughable that folks think in the morning. We can just speak unfettered for seven minutes and so no one is going to be interrupted on this lyrically.
Folks showed up with Nazi symbols on their arms, they showed up wearing swastikas. And they showed up bearing the confederate flag. And only one side killed someone on Saturday. So I want to be clear that that side is the White Supremacist side. And that's not or saying is anything else. CUOMO: Bruce, there's a different moral proposition here, right? The facts about what happened there, I have to tell you, they don't line up well for the president. Yes, they had a permit. You can research who got that permit and what it was for and whether or not it was legitimate. You know the municipality fought very hard to move the situs of the demonstration and it was resisted by the Nazis and the judge wined up siding with them. And that was probably one of the biggest motivating factors for the violence was where it was held.
But more importantly, if you want to play with the facts, not only is the video clear that you had hateful people, who, by the way, want each of us on this panel eradicated, Bruce. OK. That's what they're there, to espouse. They don't want you to exist. They don't want Symone to exist. They don't want me to exist. And they were cited for unlawful assembly because of how they were protesting, how they were assembling. So those are the facts.
But why would you couch any type of defense of this situation in the morality of this. And that everybody was there and you have to look at it. Let's look at the facts. You know what White Supremacist are, Bruce, you know why they came. You know why they brought guns and torches. Why would you defend that?
LEVELL: Chris, well I will tell you this that coming from a civil rights background. My family members who marched with the rough date but having that then many others down here in the south in Atlanta, I do know racism when I see it, Chris, just for the record.
The other thing to is that, one thing about this heinous group that came from Louisiana, than came up there with intent to protest and all the other folks that showed up from all over the country to Charlottesville. One thing I have to say that is that it's -- and this a caution to all American that's watching this is not give life and so much energy to such a heinous group like this and breath this into the American people, when they're just a small miniscule group that came out there to protest and other folks that protested.
SANDERS: But, Chris --
CUOMO: So Symone, Bruce Levell making that appeal to the president of the United States who did exactly that, who just empowered White Supremacist, who is being --
LEVELL: Chris, he didn't empower. He didn't. Listen Chris.
SANDERS: I think they were empowered. I absolutely think --.
LEVELL: Excuse me. The --
CUOMO: Hold on, here is the question. Why are they congratulating him? Why are they thanking him? Why are they saying Trump got it right?
LEVELL: Chris? CUOMO: Why are the people who want to destroy the people on this panel applauding him?
LEVELL: Chris, the Alt Left, the Alt Right --
SANDERS: There's no such thing as the Alt Left.
LEVELL: The Alt Down, the Alt all around -- excuse me Symone are all guilty --
SANDERS: Why are you --
LEVELL: -- of coming up to this rally --
LEVELL: -- and trying to create havoc and destruction on this peace behalf.
SANDERS: The White Supremacist are the only folks that are guilty.
CUOMO: Does the Alt Left want to kill you and your bloodline?
SANDERS: There is no such thing as the Alt Left.
LEVELL: The up down, the up down, all around, whatever you want to call it, whatever name you want call it. At the end of the day when you show us --
CUOMO: But it's not all the same.
LEVELL: -- when you show up to protest wherever you're coming from --
SANDERS: So, Chris --
LEVELL: -- with intent to harm American citizens that is wrong across the board --
SANDERS: If I may --
CUOMO: It's also not so not what happened there.
SNADERS: If I may --
CUOMO: It's also not what happened there. Symone, go ahead.
SANDERS: If I may that is not what happened. White Supremacist neo- Nazis, members of the KKK showed up on Saturday, on Friday actually to terrorize the community, to terrorize the community.
[06:49:57] And then on Saturday someone lost their life at the hands of a KKK member and neo-Nazis someone that identified as a White Supremacist. But I want to gear in on the point on that I heard you make this morning that other folks have been making about not giving space to this quote on quote, French groups or this White Supremacist not talking about them.
If anyone believes that by not calling a thing a thing by that namely White Supremacy that we are somehow keeping at that day. They are absolutely incorrect, that these nine other marches unite the right Alt Right if you will marches have been planned since Saturday. This is real.
America has yet until as I've been saying recon with its history of white supremacy. And because we have not recon with it because we have actively worked to sweep it under the rug things are coming to a heck.
Donald Trump stood up yesterday. And he gave a platform to the White Supremacist in the worst way. He able to dog whistle --
LEVELL: Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
CUOMO: How is it wrong? Bruce, how is it wrong?
LEVELL: But for example, the president has totally been against this hate group, this person who I will not mention on your show Chris on national T.V. He doesn't deserve to even have his name or his group spoken to at all. Matt Lauer 2000, disavowing this man, this heinous group, 1991 Larry King, I lost track after 13 times the president of the United States has disavowed this creature from the lagoon wherever he came out of the black hole whatever it is and brought this negative spirit in Charlottesville --
SANDERS: And that's nice. But he has also track it to new bigotry --
LEVELL: But why don't you play the fact -- Why don't you --
CUOMO: Hold on. Let him finish his point.
LEVELL: You're trying -- you're trying to marry --
CUOMO: Go ahead, finish your point.
LEVELL: You're trying to marry this group to the president is dead wrong. Why don't you show the videos of 2000 and 1991 showing President Trump totally disavowing this guy?
CUOMO: You know why? I'll tell you why --
CUOMO: No. No. Bruce you made a point.
CUOMO: Don't believe her proposition. You made the point, why don't we? Here is why, because Jake Tapper had to pull it out of him like a rotten tooth. How he felt about David Duke.
LEVELL: Well that era is go back and read the transcripts.
CUOMO: He has to pull it out of him like a rotten tooth. That's why, because --
LEVELL: Chris --
CUOMO: -- in his most recent stand as a candidate to be president of the United States. He said, I don't know anything about David Duke. I don't know who these people are. I don't what it is. He played dumb about something that he knew all too well. Bruce, that's he had to go after him.
LEVELL: He doesn't associate. That's very civil. And it was a bad ear piece. It's on the transcript, Chris. He came back and said, one more time.
SANDERS: I know the talking point they handed out this morning, Bruce, the facts of the matter are this. These are the best. The facts of the matter are this.
LEVELL: It's on your transcript. The bottom line is he disavowed 13 times over and over and over. How many times he need to say it?
SANDERS: As many times as we asked him if white supremacy is real.
LEVELL: How many times?
SANDERS: As many times as we asked him to. As many times as it takes until people are not loosing their lives in the streets of America through ISIS style tactics associated with White Supremacist, as many times as we asked him to. And yesterday Donald Trump let us know exactly who he was.
He talked about what's wrong with -- he talked about culture. I'm wondering what culture preservation was Donald Trump referring to. He panders to White Supremacist yesterday. He stood up on in front of the world and flip as though he was a White Supremacist sympathizer. Now, he's not want to be associated with White Supremacist, do not associate pander and traffic to and in White Supremacist.
SANDERS: There are no words to say because what I did --
LEVELL: No, no, no. I'm sorry I didn't hear you.
CUOMO: Your ear piece if fine. Go ahead Bruce, take your point. Yes. You can hear. Go ahead make your point.
LEVELL: Listen, at the of the day, we're talking about race reconciliation. I ask all Americans to look into the mirror and ask themselves what particular group am I associating with. Who is my church segregated, is my community segregated, is my home? Do I not allow my children o go out and play with other cultures?
This is a very dangerous road we're going down because we should govern ourselves for the people by the people. Not look to the government, push back on govern our selves. I don't want to get to a point where the government steps in and said there would be absolutely no protest at all.
So at the end of the day, whoever showed up there, this left, this right, up, down, all around, whatever. When you came with intent to disrupt, to hurt people and harm people it is wrong across the board.
LEVELL: Stop trying to paint a picture on the president of the United State.
CUOMO: All right, let's leave it there. Symone Sanders, thank you very much. Bruce LeVell I appreciate. You go back to your family who fought for civil rights and you ask them if they feel that everybody there on that floor was equal.
CUOMO: And we'll talk about it another time Bruce. I appreciate you being here.
LEVELL: Well, they'll tell you not to give it light too, Chris.
CUOMO: Well, then tell that to the president of the United States that's what he's like. But thank you very much for having a conversation here on NEWDAY, you both always well. Poppy.
HARLOW: He did it and he fought with reporters over it instead of calling the mother of Heather Heyer yesterday was being honored today. All right, the president astonished news conference forcing "Late Night" host to toss out a monologue and take on the president. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JIMMY KIMMEL, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE HOST: Watch the whole press conference from beginning to end. It's astonishing. The only thing I can compare it to is remember when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear off? And then he bit his other ear off. This was the presidential equivalent of that.
[06:55:11] CONAN O'BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST: President Trump said the hate and the division must stop. Yes. That's what he said, yes. It's good, thank you. Yes. You have faith in, yes. Yes. For a minute the crowd got excited because they thought Trump was resigning. Yes.
SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS HOST: President Trump this afternoon gave a press conference that can only be described as clinically insane. You know that list of side effect at the end of a pharmaceutical add. He apparently has all of them. Here's a picture of General John Kelly his new chief of staff during this press conference. Look at that guy. Sure he's fully out of his mind. He broke a general. That guy has been in wars. STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT HOST: We all thought that General Kelly was going to bring some order to the Trump Administration. Well, General Kelly was there to witness the whole thing seen here overwhelmed with pride. This guy is a four star general. A rock, no problem, Afghanistan, we can do it. Twenty minute Trump press conference a quagmire from which our country will never know.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CUOMO: Well, look there's part of it that you can laugh at. And part of it you can't which is this is a time for people to stand up. Whatever the president's motivations were, they were wrong and where they led him yesterday. And folded arms and down heads and uncomfortable looks aren't going to get it done.
HARLOW: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.