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Inside America's Rise In White Supremacy; CEOs Quit On Trump; Where Are Jared And Ivanka After Charlottesville? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:32:41] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: They are the images that brought the reality of the white nationalist march in Charlottesville into sharp focus for many of you.

HBO's "VICE NEWS TONIGHT" got an up-close look as neo-Nazis marched through the streets carrying torches, waving Nazi flags, and chanting their racist B.S.

Correspondent Elle Reeve spoke with white supremacists before, during, and after the "Unite the Right" rally. Here's what one supremacist said to her about the car ramming attack that took the life of Heather Heyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL, SPEAKER, UNITE THE RIGHT: The video appears to show someone striking that vehicle. When these animals attacked him again, he saw no way to get away from them except to hit the gas.

And sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals who don't pay attention, they couldn't just get out of the way of his car and some -- and some people got hurt, and that's unfortunate.

ELLE REEVE, CORRESPONDENT, HBO "VICE NEWS TONIGHT": So you think it was justified?

CANTWELL: I think it was more than justified. I can't believe -- the amount of restraint that our people showed out there, I think was astounding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Joining us now is "VICE NEWS TONIGHT" correspondent Elle Reeve. You saw her there doing the coverage.

We also have CNN political commentator and contributor for "The Atlantic," Peter Beinart. He has a great article you need to read that breaks down the groups that the president called the alt-left.

It's good to have you both.

Elle, let's start with you.

One, what was it like being down there? What did you learn?

REEVE: It was crazy. It was much better organized than I expected. There was crowd control. They were -- they had private security. They had people handing out tiki torches.

So that, in itself, was unsettling because it showed a certain amount of strength that I didn't -- that I wasn't prepared for. It was also just scary because they were so angry and had so many guns.

CUOMO: Well, there's a reason that they are at the top of the list of domestic terror threats in the United States.

What do you make of the notion that the KKK, the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, the extreme right wing have an equal opposite on the left-wing? Do you believe that notion?

REEVE: No, not at all. I think that's absurd.

One side is arguing that some people aren't fully people. The other side, maybe they look punk rock or something, maybe they throw some punches, but they believe in equality and egalitarianism.

[07:35:10] CUOMO: The president was making the case that there was blame on both sides. There was violence on both sides.

How did you see it unfold?

REEVE: I tried to stay away from the fights, but I've done some reporting. Most people I talked to do not say that Antifa threw the first punch.

I mean, the white nationalists came there ready to brawl. They had helmets, shields, other weapons. They were looking -- they were angry men with something to prove and I'm not surprised that fights broke out.

CUOMO: And you say that your experience in being with them, that not only were you surprised by their organizational skills and their ferocity, but that they seemed to be on the rise and confident about that fact.

REEVE: That's right. More and more of them are willing to show their faces in public. They feel a sense of comradery. They feel that their movement is going from message boards online into real life where they're able to hold public space.

They also are able to fundraise online through the Internet but that means that they don't have to rely on regular jobs where they might get fired for having terrible views.

CUOMO: What does Trump mean to them?

REEVE: They love him. They love him. I mean, this is one of the only groups in America where Trump is routinely exceeding expectations.

Every -- when he said that -- when he essentially defended him, one texted me saying God bless this man. He truly does have our backs.

CUOMO: Yes, we saw that, and thank you for passing that along to us for our reporting.

All right.

So, Peter, this is the president's argument, OK? I didn't say that the KKK is good, I said that they're bad. But, you and the media have to admit that this alt-left was also bad and that they share blame as well.

Do you accept that notion?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CONTRIBUTOR, THE ATLANTIC, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE FORWARD: No, I think it's a false moral equivalence.

First of all, if you look at the studies of politically motivate murders over the last 10 years -- the Anti-Defamation League did one -- there is much, much more violence, certainly in terms of homicide, by the far-right than there is from the far-left. That's the first thing.

The second thing is the alt-right has a connection to political power in this administration that they -- Antifa -- anti-fascist groups simply don't have.So even if their ideologies were equally bad, which they're not, the alt-right -- quote unquote alt-right -- is much more politically powerful.

And third of all, as Elle was rightly saying, Antifa doesn't view certain religions and races as sub-human. That's -- they're anarchists, and I have some problems with anarchism, but anarchism is not an ideology of hate in the same way.

That said, I do think that Antifa, which stands for anti-fascist, have displayed a pattern of violence in trying to prevent people from having the right to protest. Again, not murder but violence, which should be troubling.

It's not the same scale in any way of neo-Nazis and white supremacists but that doesn't mean it's not a problem in its own right.

CUOMO: So it seems that the president is taking a little bit of truth and exaggerating it for his own effect, and that means that do you have anarchists that go too far which is inside of Antifa?

BEINART: Yes.

CUOMO: Yes.

Do you have that same type of criminal element that finds its way into other groups that I guess you could loosely define as being on the left?

I don't like ascribing the KKK to the right because, you know, when I think the right I think conservatives, GOP. I don't think hate groups.

But, it's true. You do have criminal elements that find their way into those organizations and in the name of those organizations people do go too far and do criminal acts. But does that, in any way, justify an analysis of Charlottesville as problems on both sides?

BEINART: No. The two are vastly disproportionate.

I think the real challenge that we need to debate as a society is what do you do when you have people like the folks that Elle so brilliantly profiled who come and want to march? I think that legal scholars have to discuss this, right?

Free speech is really extremely important, especially in some ways, for the people whose views are most odious. And so I think we need to reject the notion that because someone's views are vile they don't have the right to march.

CUOMO: Right, but it's about how. Even within the law you have time, place, and manner restrictions.

BEINART: Exactly.

CUOMO: The president cherry picks his facts in this situation.

Elle, back to you.

He'll say well, you know, the guys on the right, they had a permit.

You know the history of that permit. You know the local blogger who got it and that there -- you know, there was confusion about who it would be and what this march was supposed to be. It kept growing in its understanding.

There was a legal battle. The municipality lost. They wanted to move this march to a safer area to secure.

The Nazis didn't want that. They won with a federal judge and it gave them an opportunity to confront people in a way that would be even more provocative.

[07:40:05] So in the aftermath, and the president coming out and in this press conference saying what he said, what impact did that have on the people you profiled?

REEVE: So, the alt-right -- these white nationalists, they have a very sophisticated media strategy. They've been studying leftist politics for a long time and one of their goals is to look like victims.

They want to make it look like police are shutting them down. They want to make it look like the city government is shutting them down because if that happens, it looks like their ideas are dangerous and that if too many people hear them they might actually like it.

So, this is just -- this, ultimately, goes to their benefit. CUOMO: Here's a little bit of sound of one of them trying to play the victim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTWELL: We have done everything in our power to keep this peaceful, you know? I know we talk a lot of s*** on the Internet, right, but like, literally, Jason Kessler applied for a permit like months ago for this, OK? When they yanked our permit we went to the ACLU and we went to court and we won.

We've been coordinating with law enforcement the entire time. Every step of the way we've tried to do the right thing and they just won't stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: How do you explain this emotion? What do you make this -- what's this about for you?

REEVE: These guys truly do feel like they're oppressed. They feel like there's a conspiracy to suppress white identity, to convince white women to sleep with minorities, to make white men look bad. And that is one reason why he started crying.

But the other is they want to look like they're being put down. That they are just noble, objectors to our current state of affairs and they're just trying to speak their mind, and that's how they're trying to win over people in the middle.

CUOMO: So, Peter, what is the net effect of what the president has done here?

BEINART: Gosh. I mean, I think that the net effect is that these groups are going to grow because they've gotten tremendous publicity as a result of this and they feel like they have a president on their side.

And I think the result is also that we're heading towards a cycle of street violence that we have not seen in the United States since probably the 1960s. I mean, Charlottesville is not the first time. There's been brawls in Berkeley, in Portland -- a whole series of brawls, basically, where these folks show up.

And we, as a society, have to figure out some way to allow them to exercise their free speech rights without allowing them to commit violence. And we need to have a legal conversation and a political conversation about how to do that because the way it's playing out in Charlottesville is -- played out in Charlottesville is going to escalate and is extremely dangerous.

CUOMO: Peter Beinart, thank you very much.

Elle Reeve, I know the kind of reporting you did is scary. It's not easy. It's not easy to make it work and you succeeded on every level and you did it in a way that provided a moment of clarity when this country needed it.

High praise, well deserved. Thank you for being on the show --

REEVE: Thank you so much. Thank you.

CUOMO: -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. That was incredible reporting. Let the awards pour in, as they should because that opened all of our eyes even more.

Elle, great job to you. Important discussion.

Ahead, the CEO president abandoned by the CEOs. The implications, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:30] HARLOW: Time for "CNN Money Now."

America's CEOs abandoning the CEO president. The president dissolving two of his business advisory councils in the wake of his comments on Charlottesville.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans in our Money Center with more -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Poppy.

You've heard of the Trump bump -- you know, the stocks getting a rise out of the Trump presidency. Well, this is the CEO Trump dump.

At least eight executives quit Trump's Manufacturing Council and as a second Economic Strategy Council was about to dissolve, the president -- he tweeted that he was going to disband both groups.

Titans of business sat on that Strategy Council -- Blackstone, JPMorgan, Pepsi, GM, Walmart. They employ hundreds of thousands of Americans. They have millions of customers.

The exodus of these leaders -- the collapse of the president's blue- ribbon panels an unprecedented rebuke to the business-friendly president.

Now, they disagreed with Trump on climate change, on immigration, but most CEOs had been willing to work with President Trump. That is until he blamed both sides for the violence in Charlottesville. That was the last straw.

JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon criticized the president for equivocating when denouncing racism.

Quote, "It's a leader's role in business or in government to bring people together, not tear them apart."

A break with business, by the way, could hurt Trump's economic agenda. He's relying on their help to push for tax reform and infrastructure.

Chris, they have stepped away from the table at this point. A real, real break with business -- Chris.

CUOMO: Well, and that's going to be a big deal for motivating the agenda because that's what he was supposed to do, was bring the private sector in.

Christine Romans, thank you, as always.

So, as the nation tries to recover from what happened in Charlottesville, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump -- their absence looms large. Where are they in this time of crisis, being the president's family, advisers, and Jews?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:15] HARLOW: Growing outrage over President Trump's latest comments on Charlottesville giving equal blame to the white supremacist groups and those fighting against them.

Remaining silent through all of this, two people incredibly close to the president, Jared and Ivanka Trump, who are both advisers, family members, and Jewish.

Our White House reporter Kate Bennett joins me now.

Kate, you cover all things Jared and Ivanka and they're critical not only because they're the president's children, they are among the people closest to him advising him on the single-biggest issues.

"Vanity Fair" writes about it this morning.

"The other repetitive beat in the Trump-Kushner timeline has been that when things are at their worst, they tend to vanish."

Why?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it is interesting, Poppy.

I mean, here's the thing. They are on a vacation right now, returning this morning to Bedminster, but have been in Vermont for the past couple of days. And we haven't heard from Ivanka Trump since Sunday morning about the issues in Charlottesville.

I mean, it just appears to be either the craziest coincidence of these vacations and trips, of which there have been many for senior advisers, you know, going back to March when they went to Aspen on a ski trip, April on another ski trip to British Columbia. You know, there have been several vacations.

It's been, you know, always timed with -- they were away in Sun Valley when Donald Trump, Jr.'s e-mail scandal was making the headlines.

HARLOW: Right. BENNETT: So it is -- it is enough to sort of pause and say where are they? And is saying I'm on vacation enough of a reason to remain quiet?

HARLOW: And also so critical that they are Jewish, in the wake of the comments the president has made. Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism. They are practicing Orthodox -- modern Orthodox Jews. I mean, they observe the Sabbath.

[07:55:08] I mean, you also have "New York" magazine reporting this morning that the rabbi that oversaw Ivanka Trump's conversion is getting political, something that religious leaders rarely do, and sent a letter out to the entire congregation saying, "While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence."

It makes you think will -- can Ivanka and Jared stay silent on this?

BENNETT: Well, I think we see the answer to that. I mean, it's been several days.

I mean, these days sort of feel very long to us in the news cycle, however, it's been since Sunday. And I think, as you said, that they were observing the Sabbath as these riots were happening in Charlottesville is very telling.

And I feel like the Jewish community is asking Ivanka Trump, who has a very strong brand name in addition to being a senior adviser to her father, to be an advocate for the Jewish people in this time of turmoil. And by remaining silent, I think they feel that that silence is, quite frankly, deafening.

However, on the other side, I do feel like this is a conundrum that happens when this unprecedented situation of having a senior adviser in the West Wing also be the daughter of the president and the son-in- law. So when you sort of build these extra layers of complication it definitely becomes, I would imagine for Ivanka Trump, sort of being between a rock and a hard place.

HARLOW: OK, but there's also right and wrong, right, and they're speaking out, as she did so eloquently in her tweet on Sunday morning condemning this before her -- before her -- before her father did.

However, I wonder if too much credit is given to Ivanka Trump in terms of how much she and Jared Kushner can actually sway the president?

They have these high roles, right, in title, but they didn't sway him on the Paris Climate Agreement. They didn't sway him on transgender in the military and she's been a very outspoken advocate for LGBT rights.

BENNETT: Yes.

HARLOW: They didn't sway him on immigration, you know, a long time ago. She was very upset about the comments he made during the campaign when he announced his candidacy. And clearly, they're not having an effect on Charlottesville.

Are they getting more credit than they actually deserve for having any impact on this president?

BENNETT: Right. So her political capital is kind of, you know, shot at this point. She was allegedly going to be this Trump whisperer and able to sort of influence her father. I mean, it's an excellent question.

And, sort of, after these scandals happen there's this whispering that comes out of the White House a little bit of like well, they tried, right. Like, well, she wanted the language that the president used for his second statement on Charlottesville on Monday to be more forceful.

OK, well, you know, when push comes to shove that's an interesting storyline. However, the proof that we have to see is -- as you said, has been a little bit -- has fallen short.

She's pushed through other issues -- workforce initiatives.

HARLOW: Right. Parental leave.

BENNETT: She's also done talking points on different things with women.However, as you said, it's -- it might be time for Ivanka Trump to speak out.

HARLOW: We'll wait. They're back this morning, as you said, in Bedminster with the president. We'll watch.

Thank you very, very much, Kate Bennett. We appreciate it.

We're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump defiant in the face of mounting criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wasn't business as usual today with the CEOs. Their support for him completely collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His moral authority is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are they going to do when the next rally happens?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: White supremacists are emboldened and Congressional Republicans are emasculated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can't reprimand the President of the United States who are giving aid and comfort to Nazis, I need you to exit stage right.

CHARLOTTESVILLE VIGILGOERS (singing): We all need somebody to lean on. ROMANS: Hundreds of people taking part in the vigil against hate and violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heather Heyer was the best that we had.

SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: I'd rather have my child but, by golly, if I've got to give her up we're going to make it count.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

CUOMO: Good morning and welcome to your new day. It's Thursday, August 17th, 8:00 in the East.

Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow is by my side during a very tumultuous week.

HARLOW: Yes.

CUOMO: It is good to have you.

President Trump fighting back this morning, slamming anyone who opposes him, anyone who criticizes what he so clearly said about Charlottesville.

He's going after senators in his own party -- senators he needs to motivate his agenda and he may need in any political trial.

The president is also falsely denying that he morally equated the groups involved in Charlottesville.

HARLOW: This escalating crisis over the way the president has responded to this national tragedy is coming not only from lawmakers, from CEOs, and from the president's own military generals, and that is rare and notable.

The American people also weighing in this morning, as they have been. We'll bring you some new polling in a minute.

But, President Trump, despite all of this, remains defiant and we're told without regret over his defense of these hate groups.

Let's begin our coverage with Jeff Zeleny in Bridgewater, New Jersey where the president is today. And Jeff, that's your reporting, that despite all of this he is defiant and standing his ground.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy.