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Trump Again Blames 'Both Sides' for Violence in Virginia; Heather Heyer to Be Remembered Today. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 16, 2017 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... white supremacists a platform to praise him?

[07:00:06] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What about the alt-left who came charging? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no moral equivalency. There never can or will be.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The Republicans who are speaking out today, what the hell took you so long?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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>. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow is joining me this week. Important day to have you. Thank you for being here.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Of course.

CUOMO: All right, the president of the United States has made it clear he will not completely condemn the hate that led to deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. President Trump's insistence on equating the actions of neo-Nazis and the KKK with those protesting against them has united lawmakers in his own party and much of the country in outrage against his words and apparent lack of moral leadership.

HARLOW: Newspapers this morning across the country condemning the president's remarks with blistering headlines and scathing editorials, and they come as the nation prepares to say a final farewell to Heather Heyer, 32-year-old Charlottesville woman, murdered during Saturday's violence.

All of this while another American city removes its Confederate statues under the cover of darkness.

CUOMO: Heather Heyer is going to be placed to rest. Her favorite color was purple. You'll see a lot of purple on people today, and, you know the significance being obvious: remembering her and what she cared about.

So what the president said that has created an entire new turn in this situation. Here's some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: I think there's blame -- 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, and you don't have any doubt about it either.

Excuse me. 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 -- they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now this is something that we have not heard in modern history. Somebody openly defending the hateful white supremacist types and what they tried to inflict on a community, this time Charlottesville.

Let's discuss with the panel: CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory and April Ryan.

And just because most of this is about moral agency and a failure of it. But the president's making it about facts. Our sister network, HBO, "VICE News," was out there. Let's just show you a taste of what the president was referring to. Here's what was going on in Charlottesville. Here's what was being said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody 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: A lot more racist than Donald Trump. I don't think that you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The same people who want to eradicate the president's blood line, he is defending.

David Gregory, he does not have a good argument on the facts. Yes, they had a permit to march. If you look at research where that permit came from, there was a big legal battle about where they should have been held. They fought it, the Nazis. They won in federal court. That's why they get to have it in a way that probably helped motivate the violence.

They were also cited for unlawful assembly because of the violence, because of the weaponry. So the facts, it wasn't all fair what was going on down there.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you know, in our country, there is freedom of speech and assembly to spread the kind of filth these neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others spread. That's what we do in America. We protect people like that, even though they hate Jews and are racist and have an authoritarian ideology.

But they also are responsible for killing a woman. There was violence at that rally. That's a question for the police. Of course, these neo-Nazis, they want that. They want the attention. I don't think VICE, I don't think anyone should give them any more attention. There's not much more to learn about white supremacy than the terror that has been inflicted by them over generations in this country.

[07:05:07] The president here has decided to elevate the arguments of the white supremacists in ways that completely confound Americans of all political stripes. There is no moral equivalencies here. It's their right to do what they're doing. It should be condemned, and there should be no other discussion about it.

The president has been all over the place on this. A tepid response on Saturday, clearly a forced tougher statement a couple of days later. And now reverting to form. And the president, unlike his predecessors, has decided to whip up social disruption and to deepen the divisions in our country socially, as opposed to trying to tamp down the hatred that an event like this represents.

AVLON: Yes, and look, after this disastrous press conference -- look, it was really -- in the pantheon of American press conferences, this was a new low by Donald Trump's standards or any historic standards. The only people who came out to support him weren't his fellow

Republicans -- There were a couple of paid shills doing happy talk on Twitter -- but were David Duke and white nationalist leaders, white supremacist leaders. If that doesn't cause a gut check, a reality check on the part of people working in the White House, what will?

Because this president seems to have completely abdicated the moral authority that should go with the office of president and the responsibility to at least try and unite the nation.

HARLOW: People standing next to him in his cabinet: Gary Cohn, Steve Mnuchin, also Jewish, as well as his daughter, his grandchildren. April Ryan, to you as someone who's covered the White House for a long time and questioned this president in the briefing room. This was what was in his heart, what is in his heart. He made that clear in the press conference yesterday. Is this what he meant by "Make America great again"?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I believe so. You know, while he was candidate Trump, many people were saying there were code words that he was using: "make America great." And the question was, one of my questions, was what time in our history was he talking about America being great, and he wanted to go back to? And supporting this yesterday shows us.

It's very interesting, in just listening to the conversation all morning and last night, I'm heartsick, but I have several questions this morning. What does Benjamin Netanyahu have to say about this? Because I remember just a few months ago Benjamin Netanyahu came to the United States and said, "Israel has no greater friend than Donald Trump."

This is -- this is bigger than just everyone talking about the heart and moral authority. And then, you know, I also think about, you know, at the beginning of this president's entrance into the Oval Office, the big story -- I remember Zeke Miller made a mistake talking about the King bust wasn't there. But the reason why it was such a big deal is because so many people were concerned about the president's heart and his mind when it came to issues of inclusion and race.

And that statue is still in the Oval Office, well, at least the last we checked. So those are two things that make me question this morning.

CUOMO: Well, David, look, here is the going concern now. We know what the president said. We know what his defense for it is. And frankly, it was weighed and measured and found lacking. So where is the response from leadership?

I see the tweets. We'll put them up there for you. Paul Ryan, Rubio, John McCain. They should live by their own rule. When they say, you know, tweets don't really matter, we disagree with them when it comes to the president. But it does matter about right now. I know you're on vacation. But you know, bad situations don't wait for you to be in session. Where are they, calling out this president, marshaling moral agency, telling this country what matters and appealing to our better angels? They're not doing it, David. And the silence is deafening.

GREGORY: Right. It is. And it's a failure of leadership, and it's a failure of moral leadership, because the obligation here for leaders in Congress and national leadership inside and outside of politics is to try to soothe the divisions, to try to -- to bring down the roar a little bit here.

It is a mistake if we're going to allow, whether it's President Trump or his defenders, to say this is an argument about political correctness or caving in to the far left. That's completely bogus. I mean, this is just morally wrong. The fact that we're allowing white supremacists to -- to be in the forefront in a conversation about national memory and history? It is wrong.

This was, without any doubt, wrong what happened in Charlottesville. This was an act of domestic terror on the part of domestic terrorists. White supremacists, period. There's nothing about how there were other people involved.

So there's an obligation to speak out against the president, who's -- who's only deepening the division in the country. This is not Donald Trump who started all of this. These problems between African- Americans and so many communities here and the police, or questions about national memory, these are not new questions, but they need to be shepherded in a way that's responsible in the country.

[07:10:18] HARLOW: And John Avlon, the question becomes what do they do? What will fellow Republicans do? It's easy -- it's easy to say bigotry is wrong. It's easy to say hatred is wrong. Everyone should be able to say that in their sleep.

CUOMO: Yes.

HARLOW: It is John McCain pretty much alone. who is actually naming the president, calling out the president in a tweet. But where are all of the other Republicans calling out the president by name, laying this in his lap and then acting?

AVLON: And that's what we need, I think, to watch for today. Who will call out the president by name, because increasingly Republicans have realized that they feel the freedom to speak their mind when it comes to Donald Trump, that there may not be the political price to pay that they feared.

And instead, I'd flip the question -- and this goes for people serving for patriotic reasons, in part because they're trying to contain the president's worst instincts.

But the look you saw on General Kelly's face yesterday was someone who realized that, "You know what? You're not going to be able to change this man," and that there's a question about not only the political cost but the personal cost of going down with this particular ship.

Because Donald Trump is almost singlehandedly erasing the legacy for the party of Lincoln and the people who'd like to claim that memory. And while that problem has been growing for a while, it now is undeniable. And it's amounting to basically a political suicide note for a party that wishes to reach out to the millennial generation and beyond.

CUOMO: April, he made his stand. The president, whether or not it's because the media backed him in a corner, and he doesn't like to being blamed. Fred Trump, Roy Cohn (ph) and all that other stuff that they spin about his battle mentality.

Or it's just that this is what is in his heart. And if you change the facts, and it's ISIS who's doing this and not the KKK, he'd go crazy about it. But when it's these white supremacist types, it doesn't get him as angry. We know where he is on this? But where is Ryan, where is McConnell, where is Ted Cruz? Where are these people who wanted to be president? I think they have to be measured by this, as well.

And if they're doing it in furtherance of an agenda -- well, we want to get our stuff -- we want to get that infrastructure bill passed, moral agency matters, too, does it not, April Ryan?

RYAN: Yes, it does, Chris Cuomo. Here's the bottom line. People in Washington are very afraid of the president's thumbs, his 140 characters, particularly those in his party.

But now it's time to say, "Am I going to be afraid or am I going to stand up?"

And you know, people are also still concerned. There's still a sizable amount of the American population who supported this president, who believe this stuff.

And I love David Gregory so much, but I'm going to say this: I do believe we need to show this. I do believe we need to hear what's said so people understand fully where this president's mind is.

But you -- we need to also understand and find out where the mind and the power is behind the Republican Party. I mean, there are African- American Republicans now very upset about this. They're meeting with the RNC this morning about this. I mean, I'm in the Baltimore area right now, just got off the phone before we went on the air with the mayor of Baltimore, Katherine Pugh who called me with conviction, "We took all of those Confederate statues down, four of them." People have to -- don't tell me, show me. You have to show that you're really standing where you stand, and not speaking is complacency.

GREGORY: Also, I think there's a political dimension to this. I mean, I take -- I take April's point. I mean, I would just argue that there are limits to how much aggrandizing of this movement you want to do. We understand what it is. We might apply that thinking to, you know, propaganda videos, say, from ISIS. We might want to curtail how much we show of those.

But on this point, too, the larger political question, you have CEOs who are dropping off his advisory council. This is getting beyond his core base.

So Republicans have got to start to worry about whether he's ever going to get to the agenda items that they are counting on. You see risk-averse CEOs, part of the business constituency for Donald Trump for years, and now President Trump, getting more and more uncomfortable with him. These are the things that he's got to be thinking about in the broader term of his presidential leadership.

And it is -- John made this point. General Kelly brought in as chief of staff to right the ship. How is that going so far? It just shows you he's not being listened to.

HARLOW: And everyone should be asking themselves this morning, "What will I tell my child when they ask me, 'Mom, Dad, what did you do? What did you say when the president said this?'" It's a gut check for everyone, all of us this morning.

[07:10:07] The city of Charlottesville will gather in just hours in a public memorial. This is a day to honor a remarkable young woman, Heather Heyer, just 32 years old, murdered in that car attack in the midst of the violence in an act of domestic terror on Saturday.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live in Charlottesville at the site of the memorial. So what will we see today?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, here at the Paramount Theater, just a block from Robert E. Lee's statue, two blocks from the site where Heather Heyer lost her life, today her life will be remembered.

Reverend Alvin Edwards will deliver the eulogy, and as he told Anderson Cooper last night, he will emphasize learning how to make each day you live count. He'll say you do that not by counting the days that you live but living each day to the fullest, living your beliefs and values and practicing them. That's how Heather lived her life.

Now, Heyer's family have received an outpouring of support from all over this country, but they have not yet spoken directly to President Trump. Among his remarks last night, he mentioned he will be reaching out to them.

Time will also be taken in the coming days to remember the lives of the two state police who died in a helicopter crash on Saturday. A funeral for Trooper Pilot Berke Bates will be held Friday in Richmond. Lieutenant Jay Cullen will be remembered in a service on Saturday just outside of Richmond. Both will be buried in private services over the weekend -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Kaylee, thank your very much.

And Heather Heyer's favorite color was purple. You're going to see purple all over the place to try to, you know, encapsulate what she was about and what was lost.

So lawmakers who support President Trump, what are they saying about his latest comments about the violence? What are they doing about it? We'll talk to a Republican congressman from Virginia. And let me tell you, it wasn't easy to get Republicans on the show today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[07:20:58] TRUMP: I do think there's blame -- yes, 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, and you don't have any doubt about it either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The president is certainly wrong about the last part, because we have a lot of doubt about what he just said, invoking this "both sides" narrative, which is being praised pretty much only by white supremacists and pretty much condemned by just about everyone else.

Joining us now is a very rare animal in the political kingdom, a Republican willing to come on television to discuss what's going on in the country right now. Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia, former Navy SEAL, served this country, an Iraq War veteran.

Always good to have you on the show, sir, and we need you right now.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Chris.

CUOMO: Frankly, the silence is deafening. Yes, there have been some tweets. We saw Senator Cory Gardner in a town hall talk about this in strong terms, but by and large, your colleagues, especially in your party, silent about this. And it's just not a time for that type of leadership or lack thereof.

What do you think needs to be said to the American people about what they heard from their president yesterday?

TAYLOR: Well, let me first give my sympathies out, of course, to Heather and Trooper Cullen and Trooper Bates here in Virginia and their family and their friends. We're thinking about them, of course.

You know, I think that yesterday's conference, it was a failure of leadership. I really do think that was the case yesterday. You know, I think that the conference before that was fine and strong. But yesterday was not the -- not the best day. There's no question about it. There is no moral equivalency. They should absolutely be condemned, the Nazis and KKK.

And ironically, I was in Israel when I first heard about the violence on Friday night and first put a statement out. And I had to put a second one out after Saturday.

But there's no question about it, that they're 100 percent to blame. That doesn't excuse premeditated lawlessness. Well, as you did see, a very small percent. The vast majority of counter-protests were there to stand up to hate, for sure. But there's no question about the responsibility lies with that hate group that organized the protest.

CUOMO: Why is he saying it, Congressman? Why do you think the president is insisting on drawing a moral equivalence that very few others see? Why is he doing this?

TAYLOR: I can't -- I can't speak for him. Of course, I don't know what's in his mind or his heart. But I will say I think that he tried to sort of put things together and articulate it in a way that wasn't very good in terms of trying to say that there was problems on both sides when it was very clear that it was one-sided that started this, as well as, you know, the Confederate monuments and other statues, which I think is a separate issue.

There are probably millions of Virginians who are not racist or any more racist than you or I are, but they do believe in heritage and history, and they don't agree with taking them down. But that's a separate issue from what that -- from what that protest was.

CUOMO: So fine. That is one discussion that has to have about the history of these monuments and what do you want to remember and what you don't. That's fine.

But if we know that the president is not right on the facts, and he certainly has access to the facts. OK? He keeps saying one side had a permit. Well, you know, I'm sure, coming from Virginia, what the origins of the permit was, who put in for it, the legal battle that ensued, that the Nazis and white supremacists fought against. They wanted this to be held in the way it was that made it more likely where there would be an aggressive interchange.

The municipality wanted it in a bigger place that was safer to police. A federal judge sided with the Nazis. They still wound up getting cited for unlawful assembly.

So on the facts, the president is wrong about how it went down there. There wasn't equal responsibility. The police reports reflect the same. This comes down to moral agency, Congressman. This comes down to...

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR: I think it's clear. I think it's clear that it's unequal. You know, you had David Gregory here just a minute ago talking about, you know, the law does defend their right to speech. So as a judge came down on their side.

CUOMO: Sure.

TAYLOR: Because, you know, we may not like it, and we shouldn't like it. And we should shame them, and we should be -- no one should be happy -- there's no home for hate in Virginia or America, but there is protection, of course, for speech.

[07:25:13] That being said, yes, it was not equal. There's no question about it. The vast majority of the counter protests were there to stand up for hate. There were a few that came there with premeditated lawlessness, and they should be held accountable on both sides. But the vast majority of them were there for peaceful protests against hate. There's no question about that.

CUOMO: So what do you say...

TAYLOR: So I don't agree with his facts, the stated facts. I don't agree with them. I also don't agree there were some folks on this program a little earlier that were using their opinions as facts. They're not facts either. I think facts are important for the news. And those -- they should come out, of course.

CUOMO: What do you think is being used as an opinion, as fact?

TAYLOR: Well, I've heard sort of, you know -- again, 100 percent, I want to say this unequivocally, 100 percent of the responsibility goes with the Nazis, the KKK, the white supremacists who started the protests. But again, that doesn't excuse premeditated lawlessness...

CUOMO: Right.

TAYLOR: ... on the other side. So that's been glazed over in some respect. I do believe that the president was wrong, that it was not -- it was not equal by any means whatsoever. But folks should be held accountable if they break the law. There's no question about that.

CUOMO: So what are you saying to people who are coming up to you and they want some kind of consolation, that it seems that the president of the United States just empowered white supremacists in this country, and what's the proof? Well, the white supremacists are all too damn happy about what he's been saying, Congressman, and you know this. It's all over their web sites. They're coming out and thanking the president.

This is a man who's got Jews in his blood line. His grandkids, his daughter is a convert. You know, his son-in-law is an Orthodox Jewish person. What are you saying to people who are saying, "This scares me. I'm frightened by what our president is saying"? What are you telling them?

TAYLOR: Well, I've been clear on my statement, both here, earlier on this program and I've been clear in my statement back home, as well, too, that we put out.

You know, I think that it -- I think that there was a failure there in the press conference. There's no question about that. But I've got to be -- look, I've got to be honest, with all due respect, Chris. I mean, you know, they're getting a hell of a lot of platform on this network and other networks, as well, too. So I'm sure they have to be very happy about that.

CUOMO: Yes, but here's the thing. Congressman, I hear you about that. And look, I've dealt with this struggle throughout. And I've been in this business a long time. Don't let the makeup fool you.

And there is a balance about how much oxygen you give to hate, how much of a platform you give it. But you know what? I don't have a choice, because the president of the United States just breathed life into that movement, just said that they're on equal moral footing with the people who oppose him. We have no choice but to bring it out and remind people of what it was. But I'll tell you what. You're the only man we could get today to

come on this show and talk about it as a Republican, elected. And I respect it and I appreciate it. Thank you for your clear message. Thank you for representing your constituents in Virginia and beyond here on the show this morning. Thank you, Congressman Scott Taylor.

TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well.

Poppy. Thank you.

HARLOW: Hopefully, more in his party will join him and come out and speak.

Ahead for us, why is President Trump showing sympathy for white nationalists and other hate groups? One editorial board of a big paper this morning calling the president America's bigot-in-chief. A debate you don't want to miss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)