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People Are Outrage Over Issue of Confederate Statues; Trump Supporter Turning His Back Now. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 17, 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] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so far nobody has been willing to take that leap and break with Trump publicly in a way that might start a departure, a real wave of departure.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: I want to thank everybody. Thanks for watching 360. We're out of time. Time for CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Hello everyone. We're going to start this show with an uncomfortable conversation. This week has been about uncomfortable conversations. And we're going to talk about this, this symbol. This is probably offensive to a lot of people. Some people may not be so offended by it. Some people see it as a necessary part of their history.
But my question is, as we talk about these uncomfortable things, right? Why is the president reacting the way he's reacting? Why was the same president, President Trump OK with this the ultimate symbol of hate and the confederacy being taken down?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they should put it in the museum. Let it go. Respect whatever it is that you have to respect because it was a point in time and put it in a museum, but I would take it down, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But now he's he is denouncing the removal of Confederate status and monuments as sad and so foolish claiming that we're ripping apart our history and culture. History and culture. We'll discuss that as well.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.
President Trump appearing to give cover to white supremacist, not appearing, he is giving cover to white supremacist and neo-Nazis who went to Charlottesville over the weekend to protest the plan removal of a statute of Confederate general, Robert E. Lee.
The violence that broke out turning deadly. The president saying both sides are to blame. And now republican senators are calling him out and they're doing it by name. Finally some of them are. I want to get right to all of this. I'll bring in my panel. Chris
Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and political commentator Symone Sanders, former press secretary for Bernie Sanders, and former republican Congressman Jack Kingston who was a senior advisor to the Trump campaign.
So, before we get to this symbol of hate for so many and one that so many people love so much. Jack, I have to ask you about think because I think this is a monumental here. No pun intended with the monuments. But two GOP senators speaking out really definitively against President Trump. Senators Bob Corker and Tim Scott. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB CORKER, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation.
TIM SCOTT, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I'm not going to defend the indefensible. I'm not here to do that. I'm here to be clear and to be concise and succinct. His comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong.
What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. That moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Jack, I'm sure you speak to your former colleagues on Capitol Hill all the time. You can't deny that there has been a tremendous fall out within your own party about this. What do you -- what do you say to that?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think Tim Scott -- by the way, I was in a bible study with him for years. He's an extremely sincere guy. He's a great asset to our country whatever your party is.
But I think that his plea to this we need clarity. I think that's important. And I think it's a valid criticism. And so, you know, I don't that think there's a big rip necessarily between the legislative branch and the judicial branch. But, you know, I think the president can do a better job.
But also I feel very, very frustrated as a republican that these are the senators who haven't passed healthcare reform or tax reform. And you know, the appropriations bill, and other things in front of them. I wish the legislative branch as republicans would be part of the lifting that we should be doing.
KINGSTON: So, there may be enough...
LEMON: Let's stick to this subject. I mean, there's enough -- there's a what can we do about isn't for a whole lot of things. Let's stick to this particular subject though.
Senator Corker is from Tennessee. He is up for reelection next year. He is questioning the president's competency, Jack, and his stability. That cannot be understated. He's not a constant critic like Lindsey Graham. You can't say, well, he's always been against this president. He is not.
KINGSTON: No. I agree with you. But I also think that he left enough wiggle room in his comments that there wasn't irreparable damage. But you know, frankly, I do know that Senator Corker deals with Tillerson and deals with the president and the White House a lot, but particularly the secretary of state.
It's very important for the three of them to be in constant communication with everything that's going on in the world. And so, to me, you know, I hope that they're all talking tomorrow going over these comments, getting past them and patching this up so that they can move on.
[22:05:02] JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Don, I completely disagree with the premise of your question. The idea there is some sort of rebellion in the Republican Party.
LEMON: No, I don't -- I didn't say it's a rebellion.
TOOBIN: There are two senators...
TOOBIN: ... who offered very gentle criticism of a man who was appealing to the ugliest sentiment...
LEMON: The worst part to -- yes.
TOOBIN: ... in the history of this country. And the idea that the Republican Party remains unified behind him, that's the story...
TOOBIN: ... not the two senators, you know, say a little bit, a little bit critical remark.
LEMON: Listen, I don't disagree with you.
LEMON: But what I'm saying it's something and you don't -- you don't opt...
TOOBIN: It is something.
LEMON: We have not heard this from republicans since Donald Trump has been president. I take your point. Go ahead.
KINGSTON: And plus I think your...
CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: Jeff and I -- Jeff and I have disagreed on this for the last two days. So I'm going to keep up my active disagreement with Jeff, a friendly disagreement. Which is, look, I do think he's right in that the Republican Party has not come out and denounced Donald Trump saying this guy while he's a republican is not fundamental of us. They have not done that. And I am with Jeff they are...
LEMON: But Chris, it seems to me like any day you have two -- you have prominent members of your own party whether how light it is questioning your competence...
CILLIZZA: That's what I would...
LEMON: ... that's not a good day.
CILLIZZA: Yes, Don. I actually think the Corker stuff is important and it may not go as far as some people would want and I understand that. But I actually think it's important because, look, in six sentences the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee who has considered for the vice presidency for Donald Trump who was considered to be secretary of state for Donald Trump, who was the congressman has noted has a positive relationship with this White House.
This is not John McCain and Donald Trump said the words stability and confidence. I think that that's different and at a bigger level than simply saying I condemn these remarks and I hope he doesn't say it again.
Bob Corker said today in not so many words there are questions about whether the office of the president has is an office he is fit for. I actually think that's a somewhat big deal. Now, does that get carried over? Do other people pick it up? Is there any follow through on that? Rhetoric is rhetoric.
LEMON: But, Chris.
CILLIZZA: I don't know the answer to that. But I don't think you can dismiss it out of hand and say, well, if they don't say he should be impeached tomorrow it shows that nothing is changed.
LEMON: Yes. Look, I don't know about impeachment. But Symone, I mean, when did you heard some of the -- the competence. This is what you hear lawmakers say. And this is what...
SYMONE SANDERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I've been questioning Donald Trump's competency from the beginning.
LEMON: Yes. But this is what you hear republicans -- but this is what you hear republicans say in the green room, in the commercial break. And I would imagine those who cover Washington hear it all the time behind closed doors. But you don't hear it in front of the television cameras and you don't hear publicly and no one wants to put their name to it.
SANDERS: This is true. And so, I actually agree with Chris here. That this is an interesting and notable development. but are we going to see folks go further? You know, there have been calls from other individuals that if Congress really feels so disgusted with what the president has been saying and doing then why don't you censure him.
That would be a clear shot across the bow to the White House that the republicans in Congress have a fundamental issue and are willing to stand up to this President of the United States. That's why I think...
TOOBIN: Or how about a smaller step?
KINGSTON: And Symone...
TOOBIN: How about you say if the republican Congress decided to hold hearings on the threat of white supremacy on the threat of neo-Nazis.
KINGSTON: Or what...
TOOBIN: They're not doing that.
KINGSTON: Or what if...
TOOBIN: They are doing nothing. They are doing nothing.
KINGSTON: What if I prosecuted the largest group of white supremacist in history of America, wait, that just happened. You know, I do think that there is an element here.
LEMON: Donald Trump prosecuted them? Are you talking about the attorney general of the United States?
KINGSTON: I just did. Well, it happened under Donald Trump and so I think we all acknowledge that the largest prosecution just set place.
TOOBIN: What are you talking about, Jack?
SANDERS: I'm confused.
KINGSTON: But let me -- let me just say this.
TOOBIN: What is this case that I've never heard of?
KINGSTON: Well, I'm not sure of the details, but I know that I was looking at that.
LEMON: Jack, jack, jack. Come on, you got talking points.
KINGSTON: I'm going to get you the details.
LEMON: You got to dig deep in the talking points and then you have to research them to make sure the talking points are true before you come on television and repeat the talking points, Jack.
KINGSTON: Well, you know, let me -- let me tell you. Hey, listen.
SANDERS: Shame on the person on the communication's team that...
LEMON: Let me say this.
KINGSTON: Being the minority on the panel tonight...
LEMON: Let me say this.
KINGSTON: ... you got to give a little of everything.
LEMON: How about we treat domestic -- I want everyone please, please, please.
KINGSTON: But I won't agree with Symone about them.
LEMON: Jack, please. How about we treat domestic terrorists the same as we do foreign terrorists? The president said I needed all the facts before when it's a clear cut case of terrorism what happened in Charlottesville. But then today, he's like, it's obviously terrorism. He didn't need the facts. Why don't we treat them the same. Is the president going to come out and say well, I'm not sure it was terrorists. I don't know and there were good people on -- some very fine people on both sides with this. This is a clear act of terrorism, Charlottesville as well. And there are no fine people on both sides.
[22:10:00] KINGSTON: I don't think so. But let me throw this out to you because...
SANDERS: Well, wait, wait. Wait. Why don't you think it was a clear act of terrorism in Charlottesville? Is that what you just said? I don't think so, too.
KINGSTON: Let me answer the moderator's question, Symone, if I can.
SANDERS: All right. We don't want to say it's a clear act of terrorism. Come on, Congressman.
KINGSTON: No. No, I'm going to go with you on that. That's not a problem to me. But I want to say there's two issues there, if we will. One may have been -- or one is the president's reaction. And people can talk about how the president reacted.
The other thing which is a much bigger issue is what are we as Americans going to do about this. I don't think we should wait for the White House, whether they are democrat or republican, I worry what can I do in my hometown of Savannah, Georgia, which is haf black, half white, it's a 50-50 percent town.
What can I do to make it better? What can I do to address the issue of monuments? What can I do to address the issue of my offended brothers, if you will? And as a member of Congress that's what I thought was the big question of what are we going to do?
I was talking to Rodney Slater tonight, who as you know is the African-American, former secretary of transportation for Bill Clinton. And he and I were talking about what if people like he and I get together and said maybe we should go on the road and address people. Have a good town hall to let people talk.
SANDERS: Pardon me?
SANDERS: Jack, are you trying to tell me a road show is going to breach white supremacy in America?
LEMON: OK. But, Jeff, listen, you're going to have to go on road but you can reach more people that Jack, you reach more people here on CNN than you had reach on a road show.
LEMON: And you have the opportunity -- you have the opportunity to come on every night and be honest about the state of race relations in this country and the history of this country. Why don't we start from this point?
And by the way, this isn't -- you know, people are trying to spin into a democratic, well, liberals want this, the conservatives want that. If -- it doesn't matter if it's -- hate has no political party. And so, when...
LEMON: ... what's his name? Bill Maher said we got castigated by progressives and liberals. When someone who speaks hate or does something wrong that person should be castigated as well. So the people who did wrong in Charlottesville they should be called what they are - white supremacist. And that is not a liberal or conservative thing.
That's the talking point that people are trying to come on the Trump supporters and the republicans are coming on to try and make it into some sort of left versus right thing. This is about right versus wrong.
Stand by, everybody. Because I want to bring in now, I want to speak to Julius Krein. He's a founder and editor of American Affairs. Julius. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate you waiting for us.
I want everyone to hear this conversation, my panel because I want them to react to it, and hope folks at home are paying close attention to this. You're out with a very powerful op-ed in the New York Times. And you say you sorely regret voting for President Trump. He supported the president for a long time. Why was Charlottesville the last straw for you?
JULIUS KREIN, FOUNDER, AMERICAN AFFAIRS: Well, the question kind of answers itself. I mean, his response was just morally repugnant. And he -- I -- there's no word for it. I mean, it's disgusting to me. And the refusal to, quote, unquote, "tell it like it is" in this instance and blame the white supremacist groups that were responsible for killing someone. There's no defense of that.
It was the last straw for me as it was for all the business leaders and others who can no longer pretend that this is a serious person who should be the leader of our country.
LEMON: I believe that if you reflexively support the president's action -- not if you support him because everyone has the right to. He's our president. But if you support the actions of what happened in Charlottesville and especially if you are close to the president, I'm not talking about his general supporters.
I'm talking about the people who promote his ideas who some on and defend him. Who talk about, you know, who may try to cover up for the lies that he tells -- that they are complicit and whatever it is that he did at that podium and whatever policies that he may espouse coming from them. They are complicit and racist into a certain degree.
KREIN: I'm sorry. Is that a question?
KREIN: I mean, I agree with that sentiment in general, yes.
KREIN: Yes. I guess the only thing I would worry about is, you know, for the responsible people in the White House and the cabinet. Somebody has to run the country, so, however -- and however, they might want to leave. I feel they almost have the duty to stay try to hold this together. TOOBIN: Can I ask Julius a question?
LEMON: Yes, absolutely. Go ahead.
TOOBIN: Julius, what did you think about the fact that Donald Trump spent years lying about whether the first African-American president was born in the United States?
LEMON: That was my next question by the way.
TOOBIN: I'm sorry. I apologize.
LEMON: I'm going to ask him that. Let's take one at a time. Because I have the Access Hollywood tape and on and on, but I think Jeffrey...
KINGSTON: I want to get in the cue too, for a question, if I can.
LEMON: But hold on. But, go ahead. So, what do you think about the whole birtherism thing which Jeffrey ask?
[22:14:57] KREIN: Yes. I never defended that. I'm certainly not going to defend it now. I was able to overlook it because I thought that he did however hastily and vaguely and inarticulately address some of the core economic issues and foreign policy failures more forcefully than others did.
KREIN: And you that, the reality is, I think especially for republicans they have a lot to apologize for. They have been wrong on basically every significant policy issue for the last 25 years whether it's an economic policy, healthcare, foreign policy, and finally we had someone who again, not perfectly by any stretch of the imagination but came along and called them out on it. And he called out some of the Democratic Party failures too.
KREIN: And I think when you get, you know, some desperate for that alternative you're able to rationalize a lot of things. But now in retrospect was obviously a serious mistake.
LEMON: Hey, listen. Julius, and don't think we're not grilling you. It's just interesting. We want to have a conversation with you. And there are a lot of people who are anxious on this panel to understand your thinking and why you did what you did.
My last question to you, you know, before I ask you about the birther thing, when I said about being complicit, about complicity, I think people think if you don't prioritize racism then you're being complicit. Do you understand that? Because it's not you said that you could overlook it. So it wasn't a priority for you. But for many of Americans, you know, African-Americans, you know, people of color, minorities... (CROSSTALK)
KREIN: Yes, I think...
LEMON: ... it's -- they can't -- they can't -- it's a priority. They don't -- they can't prioritize it. They can't put it in the lower rank. It's about their very existence. Go on. Sorry.
KREIN: I understand. I always thought that, you know, the stupid comments he made -- and he made more of them than most politicians and worse ones. But you know, pretty much every politician has made insensitive even racially insensitive comments.
I mentioned Biden in the op-ed. But the Clintons have both done it. Romney's 47 percent remark wasn't racist, but you know, clearly a gaffe. John Kerry I recall, you know, said something about people who fight in wars are the ones that, you know, can't go to college or something.
Every politician has made gaffes. And in this case I thought, well, this was a gaffe and that's not really who he is and that's not really what he priorities, what he really cares about are these economic issues. That was obviously wrong. So, that to me is a mistake. It wasn't that I didn't care about racism. I didn't think that's really what his priorities were.
LEMON: I really appreciate your honesty.
KINGSTON: Hey, Don.
LEMON: Hold on, Jack. Hang on. I'm going to let you in.
KINGSTON: I just want to get in line.
LEMON: And again, I don't want him -- I don't want him to think we're beating up on him because we're not. We're just very curious and we're anxious to talk to him. So, let's talk a little -- Jack, I'll let you get in. But stand by.
KREIN: You can beat up on me. It's OK.
LEMON: OK. Well, OK, go on because I'm going to go a little bit with this, producers, so just get ready. Jack, go ahead.
KINGSTON: Hey, Don, number one you said republicans have been wrong on all issues for 25 years. I have wanted to just point out three you may like. Children's healthcare passed under republicans, Medicare part D that gave our senior citizens prescription drug medicine passed under republicans. African-American museum authored by me and John Lewis signed by President Bush. Those are three things I want you to consider.
LEMON: What's your question, though?
KINGSTON: My question is, what is the business leaders they do strike me a little bit as sanctimonious coming out denouncing Trump and OK, let's all say that's what you want to do, you got the right to do that, but what are they doing in own corporations? For example, are they...
LEMON: Who you want -- Jack, that's not a question for Julius. So.
KINGSTON: Well, yes, if he's in touch with -- if he's in touch with them, I just like to know shouldn't these businesses be doing something proactive within their own corporations besides denouncing things and passing human resources laws which are already the laws of the land? What steps are...
LEMON: OK. Jack, this is irrelevant. And I think they tried to do that with President Trump.
KINGSTON: It's relevant. I just want to...
LEMON: Jack, hang on. Let me get Julius back up, please. Thank you.
KINGSTON: I'm asking as a thought leader.
LEMON: Jack, I think they wanted to do that with the president and then figured out that they couldn't work with someone who wouldn't denounce racists. That was the last straw for him. That's the bottom line on that.
So, Julius, let's get back to your op-ed. You write, "Mr. Trump once boasted that he could shoot someone in the street and not lose voters. Well, someone was just killed in the street by white supremacist in Charlottesville. His refusal this weekend to specifically and immediately denounce the groups responsible for this intolerable violence was both morally disgusting and monumentally stupid. In this, Mr. Trump failed perhaps the easiest imaginable test of presidential leadership."
You believe he failed an easy test there. What does that say about the president? Do you believe the president is racist?
KREIN: Well, he certainly says a lot of racist things. I've never spoken to him. I couldn't deny it. Let me put it that way.
[22:20:00] LEMON: Why not?
KREIN: Just based on his actions this past weekend and of course all the other incidents that you add up that don't -- no longer look like misstatements or blunders, but he's actually used.
LEMON: Do you think when we talked about people working in the White House and you said someone has to run the government do you think people working for President Trump either in the White House or his cabinet members should they resign?
KREIN: Like I said, I mean, there's a moral case to be made for that. But at the same time someone -- some decent people have to run the country. You know, actually he did bring in people like Wilbur Ross, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, and Mattis. Agree with them on policy or not these are very accomplished people and they're serious people.
And you know, the world isn't going to stop. And someone needs to address the issues that we face. And so, I hope that, you know, intelligent responsible people in a sense have a duty to stay on whatever the moral issues that might compel them to leave.
LEMON: There's talk and there's action. So far we're hearing a lot of talk. What should republican lawmakers do, Julius, in your estimation?
KREIN: I don't know what they can do necessarily other than, you know, denounce the president for his, you know, inexplicable conduct. I mean, I think if the president had any sense he would probably resign. I don't see how he can govern. But if he had any sense we wouldn't be having this conversation.
LEMON: You have defended the president again and again. If he's watching right now, what would you tell him, what would you say to him?
KREIN: I think he's let down tremendously the vast majority of his supporters who want nothing to do with the alt-right and these neo- Nazi movements. I think that he has, you know, harmed the country tremendously and for the good of the country -- you know, whether it's something as drastic as even resignation. Or a major course correction of some kind is necessary to repair the sulfur fabric that he's damaged and the other policy failures that he's presided over.
LEMON: Julius Krein wrote a very interesting and very moving and powerful op-ed in the New York Times. Julius, thank you so much. Please come back.
KREIN: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you. Back with the panel. Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think?
TOOBIN: Well, I guess I'm a little surprised. You know, the idea that Donald Trump has surprised anyone is peculiar to me. I mean, look at his record. I mean, look at the fact that he made his name as a politician with being a birther, a racist crusade based entirely on lies.
Now people are surprised that he's engaged in, you know, the most appalling kind of discussion of racial issues. I mean, I guess I'm puzzled that anyone is surprised that we have reached this point.
LEMON: Yes. Jack?
KINGSTON: Well, first of all, I think Jeffrey has a point. I don't know why everybody -- I think they're feigning some designation right here. And I agree with Jeffrey on that. But I do want to point out the birther stuff was started by Hillary Clinton.
LEMON: That's not true...
SANDERS: Come on.
LEMON: Jack, again, another talking point that you need to get right before (Inaudible).
KINGSTON: No. Actually it was...
LEMON: Jack, I'm not going to let you repeat that because that is a lie.
KINGSTON: That was covered on...
LEMON: It has been fact checked and it has been denounced and it has been refuted a million times.
LEMON: It's not so. Symone, go ahead.
KINGSTON: No it wasn't.
LEMON: Unless you're going to tell the truth...
KINGSTON: Her former campaign manager...
LEMON: Unless you're going to tell the truth, Jack.
LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead.
KINGSTON: No, Don.
LEMON: It's not true.
SANDERS: No one is on -- I want to be true...
LEMON: Jack, it's not true.
KINGSTON: Don, I was on -- I was on a very friendly format.
LEMON: OK. Jack, it's not true.
KINGSTON: It is true.
LEMON: It is not true. Please stop right there.
LEMON: Jack, stop.
KINGSTON: Don, you and I...
LEMON: Symone, go ahead.
KINGSTON: You and I can have a disagreement with this.
LEMON: We're not having a disagreement on something that's not true. It is not true that the president was born in Africa. It is true that he was born here. It is not true that Hillary Clinton started the birther thing.
LEMON: And Donald Trump spread it for years. He was the head birtherism in chief.
KINGSTON: Yes it is Iowa primary in 2007.
LEMON: Go ahead, Symone, please.
KINGSTON: Her campaign manager...
LEMON: Symone, go ahead.
KINGSTON: ... admitted it...
LEMON: Jack, please let her speak. Go ahead, Symone.
SANDERS: But I guess the thing that -- so the thing that struck with the interview that you just had, I thought it was fascinating. But I've had the opportunity to sit to a lot of different focus groups and interactions with Obama/Trump voters. So this was really interesting to me.
The thing that struck me was when you asked the gentleman if he thought Donald Trump was a racist. And he said, you know, I don't -- I've never spoken to him, I've never -- I don't know him, but yes basically.
And for a long time I actually never actually thought Donald Trump was a racist. I was on Anderson show just the other night and passed on ask me. Did I think the president was a racist. And I said look, he's a white supremacist sympathizer.
But today - today when the president was tweeting again about culture and tripling down on these statues. Something just clicked in my brain.
[22:25:04] It made me think not only is Donald Trump a white supremacist sympathizer, I think he identifies with this notion of white supremacy. This notion of preservation of white culture. And does that make him a white supremacist? Yes. Does that essentially make him a racist? I absolutely believe so.
And I've been hesitant to say that because I think words matter and words are really important. I don't like to throw the word racist around. I don't like to throw lots of this kind of word like that around.
And so, today, I'm like the point much like the guest you just had that the president of the United States is a racist.
SANDERS: And we have put a white supremacist in the White House.
LEMON: Chris Cillizza?
CILLIZZA: I mean, look, I think it's beyond debate that Trump's coded language, his unwillingness to condemn things that clearly moral society condemns that this is a feature not a glitch. I mean, as Jeff points out that his candidacy was born in conspiracy theory. He has dabbled in conspiracy theories of, you know, different faith.
He saw Muslims celebrating on New Jersey rooftops. He -- Barack Obama wire tapped his phones. Ted Cruz's father might have been involved in the JFK assassination. So not all of them have the racial component but this is clearly something that he dabbles in.
I don't know what conclusion you can draw other than, and Jack made this point earlier that, OK. We need in our own communities set the example. I think that's of real value. But at the same time it is impossible to dismiss when the president of the United States abdicates moral leadership.
And no matter what you think of Donald Trump I find it hard to believe you would not see what has happened over the last five days since the abdication of moral leadership. When that happens it does have a trickledown effect that can counteract a lot of the good that we're trying to do on the person to person level.
That's why who the president is and how the president acts -- not just in politics, but acts. He's the president of our country it maters a lot. The words he says and frankly, the words he doesn't say matter.
It's hard for me, I used to always say, well, Donald Trump just doesn't get that. It's hard to say he doesn't get that anymore.
CILLIZZA: He chooses not to do that.
LEMON: He doesn't care.
CILLIZZA: I don't know why.
LEMON: He doesn't care.
CILLIZZA: I don't know why but he doesn't.
LEMON: OK, he doesn't, OK. So, listen, Jack, we love having you but I can't let you come here unless you tell the truth. I don't -- and if you repeat the lie, Jack...
KINGSTON: Don, Don...
LEMON: ... hang on. Let me get my thought out. If you repeat a lie enough people start to believe it. And I don't want lies repeated and people believing untruths on this show. I will not be the purveyor of fake news.
So, thank you all.
When we come back...
LEMON: ... the president responding to today's terror attack in Barcelona with an hour. So, why did it take so long for him to respond to Charlottesville?
[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a terror attack in Barcelona.
Today, President Trump tweeting "The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough be strong. We love you."
Let's discuss this now. And a lot of this stuff with Frank Bruni, the New York Times op-ed columnist. Frank, thank you so much.
This tweet came within hours of the attack. I just want to sort of contrast that in reaction to what happened in that car attack in Charlottesville, both by cars.
FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Right.
LEMON: Both acts of terror. He needed the facts before, you know, saying it was an act of terrorism and then this he knew. Any explanation?
BRUNI: He didn't need the facts. I mean, when he said I needed the facts before I comment, that was ridiculous. He was just trying to make excuses for that Saturday comment which fell so short of what he needed to do.
You know, he was still litigating that case on Tuesday when he made the ridiculous comment about needing facts he speaks. He didn't need the facts before he spoke about his wires being tapped. He hasn't needed the facts before half the things he said. He's one of the most fact impervious presidents we've ever seen. So, I mean, that was just a line. LEMON: A short time later President Trump tweeted again. And he's
writing this, he said, "I study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorist when caught. There was no more radical Islamic terror for 35 years."
Essentially recycling a debunk anecdote that he used to tell on his campaign trail describing this incident between General Pershing that he used bullets dipped in pig's blood to kill terrorists in the Philippines. Zero evidence that Pershing ever did that. Why do that?
BRUNI: He's trying to change the subject. I mean, for days we have all been rightly talking about the way in which he has surrendered, forfeited the moral authority of the presidency. We've been talking -- I mean, this was one of the things that keeps playing me away here, Don, is the presidency is a really tough job.
And sometimes when we all sit here and criticize the way presidents behave we don't -- we don't give full acknowledgment to how grueling and tough and difficult the job it is.
What happened in Charlottesville that's an easy moment for the president? Because what you're supposed to say is so clear. What is right and what wrong is so clear, what the nation needs to hear to move toward healing and what the moral position is so clear.
He bungled an easy moment of the presidency, a moment for ready-made grace. And now he's doing everything he can to try to stop us from talking about it. He's talking about that ridiculous anecdote. He's trying to make this a debate about Confederate monuments when it is really not that if you look at what happened...
LEMON: Why not treat this Pershing thing about Charlottesville?
BRUNI: Because he doesn't want to talk about that.
LEMON: But that's the thing that gets me. A I was watching today and I said there was a car that went into a crowd. That's exactly what happened in Charlottesville.
BRUNI: Got you.
LEMON: And everyone, you know, the reaction is like, my gosh, immediately it's terrorism. What was terror then why do we treat domestic terrorism differently, especially when it comes to white supremacy?
BRUNI: We don't. He does.
BRUNI: He does. He knows that this group of people who are marching in Charlottesville, he knows those are people who love him. They've given him a lot of love. [22:34:59] And Donald Trump if there's one thing that's been consistent about him through his campaign through presidency is the people who are showing him love and clapping the loudest he does not want to say a bad about them. The people who are criticizing him even if they are saying all the right things, even if they're asking him to step up in the right way he doesn't want to listen to them because they're not clapping, they're not giving him love.
LEMON: Are you surprised that only 55 percent of Americans disapprove of how he's dealing with domestic terrorism of Charlottesville?
BRUNI: Yes. I'm little shocked. Yes, I'd like to know. I'm shocked by that. I'd like to know a little more about the numbers. And I want to say one of the things, Don, at the top of your show you showed some quotes from senators. Senators are finally saying things they should have said long ago about Donald Trump's leadership. And I think Senator Corker said something about he hasn't shown the ability to lead here.
LEMON: You mean Bob Corker?
LEMON: But can we -- let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB CORKER, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Stability, competence, character.
BRUNI: Here's the thing that struck me about it. He said the president has not been able to, the president's stability. What occurred to me today, Don, the president is not interested in leading, right? It's not a question of ability. It's a question of interest.
He does not want to heal. He does not want to lead. He just wants to have a big fight with us about whether he was right or wrong. And he just wants to sort of pushback and have this kind of ongoing quarrel. It's really clear how you lead the nation through a moment like this. He's just not interested in doing that.
LEMON: OK. So, just to borrow from Bob Corker, stability and mostly competence, what does that say about his competence that he can't in an easy moment bring the nation together, rather than starting a big fight and a big argument? What does that say about his competency?
BRUNI: Well, I mean, I think one of the things being suggested there and one of the things that is murmured about greatly on Capitol Hill and all around the country is this Donald Trump on truly, truly kind of sound judgment and mind at this point. And I think that was in a very subtle way was being suggested there. But I think that he...
LEMON: That's he's not of sound mind?
BRUNI: Well, you know, that he's not a specimen of mental health. But I would submit to you take that sort of loaded question out of it. Donald Trump is he's a narcissist on a scale where he's not competent because he cannot look behind -- beyond himself.
He, you know, every single president we've had is an arrogant person. You don't get to the office without being arrogant. There's a whole lot of vanity in all of them. But I think most presidents, almost all of them have the ability to see what they're doing and the job in the White House as an enterprise and an obligation and the calling that is larger than self.
If you look at the way Donald Trump has comported himself all he cares about is the adulation and the promotion of Donald Trump, whether it's ignoring conflicts of interest whether spending all this free time in Trump branded properties. It's always all about Donald Trump.
And if you can't step outside yourself and say, wait a second, I have an obligation to these hundreds of millions of people who are the greatest nation on earth. If you can't do that you are incompetent and I think that's part of what Senator Corker was saying.
LEMON: Competency. Competency and fitness for office which one of my colleagues has been saying for a while and we should be talking about that. And finally, about people behind the scenes who some, one or two of them are now saying publicly, wondering if about this president's fitness for office.
BRUNI: It's a really scary moment. Because he's also never been more isolated than he is right now. He has estranged all of the people who are trying to help him. And he is an isolated and spectacularly lonely president.
LEMON: Yes, you've been on the Carl Bernstein he's been saying that forever. Thank you.
BRUNI: Thank you.
LEMON: I appreciate it. Thank you so much. When we come right back, a growing number of cities are removing Confederate statues from their public spaces. But what do the descendants of the man memorialize in this monuments think? We'll hear from members of Robert E. Lee Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis lineage, next.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight the city council of Lexington, Kentucky unanimously passing a resolution to relocate the statutes of two Confederate leaders. Lexington's mayor saying they're not sanitizing history but instead, honoring the city's history by relocating the monuments.
President Trump, of course calling the removal of the Confederate monuments and statues sad and foolish. But what are descendants of Confederate leaders saying.
Here's CNN's Polo Sandoval.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three most famous fathers of the confederacy carved into the granite face of George's Stone Mountain and displaced in sight across the country. Not many have more of a stake in the raging debate over the removal of the statues like Warren and Jack Christian. The two men are brothers and said to be the descendants of Thomas and Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general during the Civil War.
JACK CHRISTIAN, DESCENDANT OF STONEWALL JACKSON: As a person he was very complicated. He did in his adult life own slaves as part of his religious calling he taught, he taught Sunday school to enslaved people where he lived.
WARREN CHRISTIAN, DESCENDANT OF STONEWALL JACKSON: I think Jack and I along with our parents it's kind of some mixed feelings, mixed emotions about being direct descendants of Stonewall Jackson.
SANDOVAL: The pair is calling for the removal of their great-great grandfather's statue in Richmond, Virginia. In a letter to the mayor they, quote, "We understand justice very differently from our grandfather's grandfather. And we wish to make it clear his statue does not represent us.
W. CHRISTIAN: I think it's very clear if you look at the context in which the monuments were put up. They weren't -- they weren't celebrating kind of benign war heroes. They were very clearly meant to be things that would intimidate black people and further white supremacy in the U.S.
SANDOVAL: The Christian brothers aren't the only Confederate kin speaking out.
[22:44:59] ROBERT E. LEE V, DESCENDANT OF ROBERT E. LEE: We have to, you know, to have that conversation without all the hatred and the violence.
SANDOVAL: Robert E. Lee V is the great-great grandson of the leader of the confederacy. In a phone interview with CNN, he says the best place for the historic monuments may just be in a museum.
LEE V: And if they choose to take those statues down, fine. Maybe it's appropriate to have them in the museum, so instead of put them in some sort of historical context in that regard, fine.
SANDOVAL: A feeling echoed by a direct descendent of Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy. BETRAM HAYES-DAVIS, DESCENDANT OF JEFFERSON DAVIS: In a public place
if it is offensive and people are taking issue with it let's move it. Let's put it somewhere where historically it fits with the area around it so you can have people come to see it who want to understand that history and that individual.
SANDOVAL: That's not what you hear from the president, though. The commander in chief once again took to Twitter saying "The removal of these statues was, quote, "sad" and the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed."
SANDOVAL: And some of Robert E. Lee's writings suggested he may have never even been a fan of these kinds of Confederate monuments. The general wrote that he feared they would, quote, "keep open the sores of war," Don. So, that in one way answer the question. If the general was alive today, how would he feel about this debate that's sweeping across the country tonight?
LEMON: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. Much more on this when we come back. We're going to break down the historical value of those monuments and whether they have a place in today's society.
LEMON: President Trump condemning the removal of Confederate monument as sad and foolish. I want to discuss this now with Alfred Brophy, he is a law professor at the University of Alabama and author of "University, Court, and Slave: Pro-slavery Thought in Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War."
And Michael Higginbotham is here, he's a professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore and author of "Ghost of Jim Crowe Ending Racism in Post-Racial America."
[22:50:04] I've been looking forward to this conversation. Thank you, gentlemen, so much for coming.
Al, I need to start with you because the president tweeted about statues this morning saying that "It's sad to see history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of beautiful statues and monuments." When the president uses words like our and the history, and culture of our country, our beautiful statues, who is he referring to?
ALFRED BROPHY, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: Well, I think he's referring to the descendants of people who fought for the confederacy and tried to memorialize it.
One of the things about what he's tweeting was he was saying we should all remember our history and I wish we would get to that process, right, of remembering what the legacy of the confederacy meant and, you know, talking about the way in which the Civil War was a war to promote slavery. LEMON: And those statues because those statues didn't come about,
many of them, until Jim Crowe, and until some of them during the Civil Rights movement as a, you know, as a fear tactic, right? To try to scare people and because southern whites were upset about their changing culture. They had nothing to do with coming, you know, during the time of the Civil War.
BROPHY: Well, and to celebrate the era of the confederacy and the war to fought to promote slavery. I mean, I think that's the interesting piece of this and why I think probably we should be trying to preserve some of these statues because they are reminders of the bad old days.
LEMON: Michael, what do these statues represent? He said it's a reminder of the bad old days, what do they represent?
MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: Well, I think they represent, as was mentioned, they represent white supremacy, they represent standing up for segregation. They represent anti-Civil Rights and many of these statues were put up, not at the Civil War time but they were put up during the Civil Rights movement. They were put up during Jim Crowe to represent that white supremacy and that anti-integration.
LEMON: yes. And it's very similar. You know, people talk about the flag and one would think, you know, and I held up the flag at the beginning of the show, you would think like right after the Civil War that everyone around the south was running around with the flag, and even during the Civil War with the Confederate flag.
That is indeed not so. I think the flag, the Confederate flag that we have now is like the second or third -- it was like the third or fourth iteration of the flag and it was actually Robert E. Lee's infantry flag. It had nothing to do with the -- it had very little to do with the confederacy of the south overall.
And as a matter of fact, the flag not until the 1940s it began to appear frequently out of context and unrelated to the Civil War. Like University of Mississippi football games. But somehow history has been rewritten about the flags and these statues and these monuments and I think it has a lot of people in this country, especially southerners believing it's southern pride or believing in a fake history.
Which do you think should be taken down? Any or all of them? Do you think they should, Michael? All of them should go or any of them should go?
HIGGINBOTHAM: I think this is a very easy call. Just like the flag. Confederate monuments on state, you know, state grounds, state property, they need to be taken down. They need to be moved as some of the relatives of these individuals, descendants of them said they need to be moved to museums or private property. It's about education, not celebration for these Confederate monuments.
LEMON: Is it common to have statues and monuments for people who were lost -- the people who lost the war? Why would -- why would we do that? I mean, do we do it for, you know, the revolutionary war with some of the people who were fighting on the British side? We don't see monuments erected to them. Al?
BROPHY: I mean, so there are occasional monuments to the British, which I think were put up, you know, sort of between World War I and World War II as a sort of trying to celebrate Anglo-American connections.
But I actually think we're going to see monuments taken down. Like the corollary to the idea that there's nothing so powerful as an idea whose communist, there's nothing so powerless as an idea whose time is past. And I think after Charlottesville, we're going to see monuments taken down.
I do think that that's -- there's a danger with this though. Because I fear that -- though, as my friend, Michael Higginbotham points out, they're monuments to white supremacy and their injurious in many ways. I think we need to preserve some memory that once the people who were in power throughout the south celebrated the confederacy. I think the monuments are historical, important historical artifacts.
LEMON: I want to play this before we leave because I was in Columbia, South Carolina when that Confederate flag came down from the state house weeks after the shooting at Mater Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
[22:55:05] Nine people were killed in that as we know. This is what then-candidate Donald Trump said at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they should put it in the museum. Let it go. Respect whatever it is that you have to respect because it was a point in time and put it in a museum. But I would take it down, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: A quick answer from both of you. Why do you think that was such a striking difference to this week when it relates to monuments? First to you, Al.
BROPHY: I puzzle about that all the time. I'm not sure if there's -- if this is -- there's something politically charged helpful that Trump sees in this. I think he was right to take -- we were right to take down the Confederate flag. I see the monument issue as a little bit different.
LEMON: OK. Michael.
HIGGINBOTHAM: Yes. I think it's politically motivated. I think, you know, the president is attempting to change the direction of this conversation because so many Americans are against what he said about Charlottesville.
LEMON: All right. Thank you all. And before we go to break, I just want to put something up. And this is, if you guys in the control room can put this up. Two articles that I'd like you -- everyone to read because we in just two or three minutes we can't get everything that we'd like to talk about.
One is from the Atlantic and it's called the myth of the kindly General Lee. The myth of the kindly General Lee. It talks about the legend of the Confederate leader's heroism and decency is based in fiction of a person who never existed.
I would implore all of you to read that. And then there's another one which talks about how Germany responds to blood and soil and politics. And this one is from The Economist. And it talks about how Germany deals with that, how every elementary school child in Germany has to visit a Holocaust site and memorial site and how they deal with remembrance rather than erecting statues of Hitler and the third Reich in Nazis they deal in remembrance in Germany.
Please read those articles. I think you'll find them fascinating. You'll learn a lot.
When we come right back, demonstrators in Charleston shouting horrifying anti-Semitic chants while the resurgence in -- why there's resurgence in anti-Semitism right now.
Plus, James Murdock lashing out about President Trump's response to Charlottesville. We'll tell you what he's going to do in the stand, his stand against this president. The Murdoch's of Fox News by the way.
[22:30:02] LEMON: We're going to start with some breaking news. A major American business executive slamming President Trump for his response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.