Return to Transcripts main page


Debate Intensifies over Statues; Missouri Lawmaker Deletes Post; Romney's Facebook Post; Twitter and Trump. Aired 9:30-10:00a

Aired August 18, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:08] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Early this morning, crews in Maryland removed a controversial statue, this time the statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice -- Chief Justice of the United States, Roger Taney, who defended slavery. The move came just hours after President Trump defended statues with links to the confederacy calling them beautiful, saying that the removal rips apart American history and culture.

That is not how Florida Congressman Ted Deutch sees it. He wrote, this was never about the statues and the president knows it. And this is what the congressman has said about the Charlottesville protests. Will POTUS look into the eyes of a Holocaust survivor and tell her that even one Nazi swastika flag is OK?

Congressman Ted Deutch joins us right now.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

This was never about statues. What do you mean?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS, JUDICIARY AND ETHICS COMMITTEES: Well, the president knows this was never about statues. Anyone who watched what happened in Charlottesville last weekend knows that what it was about was hatred, racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism. And for anyone who thought otherwise, including the president of the United States, to look at the video of people shouting racial epithets, chanting about Jews, carrying torches and harkening back to a time in this country that we have moved past, they didn't see -- we don't see fine people. Only the president saw fine people there. That's why it's time for the United States Congress to hold the president accountable.


DEUTCH: Well, we've seen -- just over the past few days we've seen building pressure, part of it because others outside of Congress have stepped up. The CEOs who walked away from the advisory councils, those in -- who had been supporters of the president who have criticized him for the outrageous response to what happened in Charlottesville. Because of that, we've seen some Republican colleagues of mine tweet about their displeasure, even going so far as to perhaps condemn, call into question the moral authority, the president's moral authority.

BERMAN: Well, congressman, you're saying -- you're saying -- DEUTCH: Yes, but I --

BERMAN: You're saying hold him accountable. There are some Democrats who want to pass some kind of a censure measure in Congress. Is that something you support?

DEUTCH: I do. That's exactly what needs to happen.

The point I was getting to, John, is that tweets don't make a historical record. This is as important moment in the history of the United States. When the president look at Nazis and Klu Klux Klan and white supremacists and sees fine people and says all sides are to blame. So we shouldn't rely on tweets.

When we go back to Washington, the United States House and the United States Senate should have an opportunity to vote on a censure resolution to hold the president accountable so that our grandchildren and great grandchildren will know that at a moment in history, when the president saw something different than the overwhelming majority of us in the United States, that the Congress, on behalf of the American people, stood up and said, that is wrong, that is unacceptable.

BERMAN: And, congressman, do you think that is of a higher priority now? Would you like to see Congress act on that before something that other members of Congress have called for, which is the removal of any confederate statues from the Capitol?

DEUTCH: Well, as I -- as I said, I don't -- I don't think this is about statues. Of course those confederate statues should be removed. But it's because of what they represent, which is what the march in Charlottesville represents, which is hatred and bigotry and anti- Semitism.

John, my father earned a Purple Heart when the Nazis put shrapnel into his head in the Battle of the Bulge. How it is that anyone can look at what happened and say that there were fine people marching with nose Nazis is beyond me.

And, yes, Congress -- this is not complicated, John. This is a moment for Democrats and Republicans to come together to make an historical record that the United States Congress and the people we represent are appalled, appalled and disgusted when the president of the United States looks at what happens and tries to provide cover for the anti- Semites and the racists who were marching in Charlottesville.

[09:35:19] BERMAN: They were chancing Jew will not replace us.

I do want to ask you about a Missouri Democratic senator, Senator Maria Chappelle Nadal, who wrote, I hope Trump is assassinated. Here are some people who now -- by the way, she ultimately removed that tweet. There are some people who say that this state senator should step down, should resign. How do you see it?

DEUTCH: I -- it's the first I've heard of it. It's awful. I mean, look, we have -- we have great disagreements with the president. I've made that clear with -- today and with you before. But we should never -- no one should ever call for violence, not against the president, not against anyone.

And that's -- again, that's why what's -- what happened in Charlottesville and the discussions that we're having right now are so important because we have to stand up to those purveyors of hate, and the racists, the anti-Semites, the white supremacists who marched down the street. We all looked at that and were disgusted. Everyone should be disgusted. Congress needs to go on record making that clear for the American people.

BERMAN: Should anyone who ever holds office say something like that, congressman?

DEUTCH: No one who holds office should ever talk like that. Of course not.

BERMAN: All right, Representative Ted Deutch of Florida, thank you so much for your time today. A wonderful story about your father, as well. Obviously we honor him now and forever.

All right, the president lashing out, Republicans digging in. Mitt Romney now with a stunning new statement directly condemning the president's words. How will the party recover?


[09:41:11] BERMAN: All right. Breaking news just in to CNN. New video of the shoot-out overnight in Cambrel (ph), Spain. This is 75 miles southwest of Barcelona right now.

What you're seeing is one of the suspected terrorists in a shoot-out with police there. You can actually see this man at one point go down right there. He's wounded here very clearly. At this point he appears to get up. Witnesses on the scene say that moment after this video stops rolling, he did go down for good.

Again, there were five suspected terrorists killed in this confrontation. Four of them we're now told this morning killed by one police officer. These are five now connected to a cell that's believed to include ten, if not more, people that began with the Barcelona attack and ended with this rolling confrontation in Cambrel (ph) overnight. Much more on that a little bit from now.

In the meantime, new Republican backlash over the president's response to the Charlottesville violence. This time from former presidential nominee Mitt Romney who posted a very direct and emotional Facebook post. This is just part of it.

Whether he intended to or not, what he, the president, communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep and the vast part of America to mourn. This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching. Our soldiers are watching. The world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country. Joining me now, Scott Jennings. He was Senator Majority Leader Mitch

McConnell's former political advisor during many of his election campaigns. Also a special assistant to President George W. Bush for a time.

Scott, thank you so much for being with us. And we should say, we've seen you work through a lot of these issues right before our eyes this week on television. Mitt Romney just said, whether he intended to or not, President Trump sent a clear message. What people heard was that message equating, people who were protesting racism there with these neo-Nazis and white supremacists. That's apparently what Mitt Romney saw. That's what the mother of Heather Heyer saw. And that's what more and more Republican elected officials seem to be saying, Scott.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I've heard from a lot of Republican officials this week who are really distraught because they really want to be with the president in policy. And if you look at the polling, you know, a vast majority of Republicans support the president and his policy agenda. But he's making it difficult to support him in spirit on this particular issue.

And so that is -- that is really what's going on, I think, inside the Republican Party right now is wrestling with having to defend the concept that we may be giving quarter to racists or neo-Nazi group inside of our party. And I know the president has strongly reputed everybody who was engaged in violence and I think that is absolutely correct. But we have to be clear that the Republican Party is the party of Lincoln and all that that entails.

BALDWIN: Bob Corker, Republican senator from Tennessee, seemed to go a step further than then when he said that the president has not shown stability yet. And again, Chris Cillizza, our friend, points out the opposite of stability is instability. You operate behind closed doors of these Washington corridors where people say a lot of things. Have you heard whispers from others elected officials questioning the president's stability?

JENNINGS: Well, I think there were people who were sort of unhappy about the initial reaction on Saturday who were then extremely happy about what he did on Monday. I mean if you look back on the Monday statement, it was clear, right on message, exactly what you'd expect to see out of a president. And then they were distraught again on Tuesday when he unraveled all of it. And so I think that caused some people in private, in many cases, and some in public to question whether the president had a handle on just how the country was viewing these events in Charlottesville.

[09:45:11] I will say, John, that I have --

BERMAN: That's not -- that's not questioning -- that's not questioning his -- that's not questioning his stability, though. Once you start to question whether the president is stable implicitly you're saying something much different than that.

JENNINGS: Yes, I've not heard -- I mean, look, there's some people who believe the president's not stable, but they've always believed that. I'm not sure the Charlottesville issue has changed that.

There are certainly people, though, who want to see stability out of what you expect of the office of the president in times like these. You know, the president is often called upon to be the comforter in chief. You comfort the nation. You reassure the nation in times of trouble that hatefulness is not going to win out over our inherent goodness as Americans. And that's what I think that may be lacking here in the Oval Office response.

So, you know, I've seen also a lot of people suggest this week that maybe people should be resigning in mass. That people should be grinding the Republican agenda to a halt because of a -- out of protest. But I'm not sure that's the correct reaction either.

BERMAN: Your McConnell -- fellow McConnell veteran, Josh Homes (ph), says that Republican need to reassert their Republican identity without Donald Trump. Just ignore him completely. What do you think of that?

JENNINGS: Well, I -- we can't ignore the president. Josh is a friend. But I think what Josh may be getting at here is that political parties should be built on ideas. They should not be cults of personality. And so I've seen some people, some Republican, some Democrats this week say things like, well no tax cut, no regulatory relief, no road project is worth all this. But is -- are you really suggesting that we should grind all policy making in Washington to a halt?

To me, that would be going against what the people of the United States voted for last November. So if you want political parties to be built on ideas and not just personalities and individuals, then I think it's imperative that Republicans pursue the policy agenda they were elected to pursue. Donald Trump largely agrees with that agenda. And so to the extent they can do that and prove the party is built on ideas, I actually think that's the right way to go.

BERMAN: All right, Scott Jennings, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate your time and your insight all week.

JENNINGS: Yes, thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right, President Trump endorsing confederate monuments, attacking Republican senators, spreading historical lies all in 140 characters or less. The new impact of these choices, next.


[09:51:55] BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news now we want to tell you about. We're getting some information about an incident in Finland, in the city of Turku. This is east of Helsinki.

We are told that several people have been stabbed there. We don't have a number beyond that. Several people have been stabbed. And the public is being urged now to avoid going to the downtown area there. Get out of that downtown area in Turku, the public now being told.

Several people stabbed in Finland. This, of course, follows the incident in Spain, which in some ways still ongoing. A manhunt underway. Police still investigating that incident. We will have much more on this as it comes in.

The president is under fire for his response to the attacks in Spain. In a statement, the president spread a debunked story about General Pershing (ph) shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs blood during the Philippian/American War. And where he made this statement, it is the constant source of discussion right now. He said it on Twitter.

I am joined now by CNN's Bill Weir, the host of "Twitter and Trump." This is a special report airing tonight on CNN.

And, Bill, so many times over the last several years --


BERMAN: Our shows have been filled with the news, the controversy that the president has created in 140 characters or less.

WEIR: And I wanted to see what that looked like in book form. Check this out. We had all of the president's tweets printed and bound, going back to 2009, because this is the historical record. People will be studying his words for centuries. And it's pretty staggering when you look at it and you go back and you realize how his Twitter habit evolved, how he learned to weaponized it in the early days.

But it's -- it is a staggering body of work. And interesting, if you do sentiment analysis, you can tell which of these tweets were sent out by some of his staff, which are his purely by the aggressive nature of the tone.

But we want to go back to the early days and look at how it started. And it's interesting to think about, in 2009, just over a decade ago, there was a guy on the West Coast named Jack Dorsey (ph), a guy on the East Coast named Donald Trump, at different stages in their lives, never imagining how they would collide. Take a look.


WEIR (voice over): In 2006, just as season five of "The Apprentice" was falling out of the top 50, a web designer named Jack Dorsey sat down at his computer in San Francisco and typed, just setting up my Twitter.

JACK DORSEY: I have 90 followers at the moment. So 90 people --

WEIR (on camera): Are watching what you're doing?

DORSEY: Are watching what I'm doing.

WEIR (voice over): What started as an idea to send short messages to a network of friends, (INAUDIBLE) to the newest strand of social media and then exploded the day Michael Jackson died.

PETER SINGER, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: And for the first time we see more than 100,000 tweets in an hour. And that's the sign that, hold it, this has become a space that people are going to both break and talk about news.

WEIR: This new tool captured the imagination of online marketers.

PETER COSTANZO, PUBLISHING MANAGER: Back in 2009, I was working for a publishing company.

[09:55:02] WEIR: Including the man tasked with finding new ways to promote Donald Trump's new book.

COSTANZO: They were saying, we don't really understand this. So, you're the expert, why don't you explain it.

WEIR: They set up a meeting with the boss where Peter explained the basics to the billionaire and then mentioned one hitch, an imposter had already claimed the handle at Donald Trump.

COSTANZO: So that's when I suggested to him that we call him at real Donald Trump, because he's the authentic real deal. And I remember he just kind of nodded because he really liked the sound of that.


WEIR: But despite the (INAUDIBLE) authenticity, that gentleman ran his account for the first eight months and then Trump eventually took over. And tonight we're going to examine the cost benefit analysis of how the Twitter president will be remembered by history.

BERMAN: This book, by the way, doesn't even include the last two weeks, which has stirred up a whole bunch of other controversy.

WEIR: Exactly.

BERMAN: Bill Weir, this will be fascinating. Thank you very, very much.

That special report, "Twitter and Trump" airs tonight, 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Again, a manhunt across Spain, 14 people killed in separate attacks. We have new developments.

And some kind of an attack happening right now in Finland. Stay with us.