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Thousands March to Protest Controversial Free Speech Rally; Interview with Representative Scott Taylor; Should Confederate Statues Be Removed?; Steve Bannon Exits White House; Holocaust Survivor Speaks Out on Charlottesville Protests; What the Rustbelt Thinks; Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 19, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:00] MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": How is the government to function? How can we rely on stability in our government when he doesn't seem to be able to move in any direction successfully?
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Michael D'Antonio, thank you as always for joining us.
D'ANTONIO: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks so much for staying with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Up first on this Saturday, thousands of counter demonstrators converging on Boston overshadowing the self-described Free Speech rally.
All of this comes a week after the deadly racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Boston Police say today's march and rally were mostly peaceful except for the occasional clashes and shouting matches that took place, some of which are continuing right now.
We will head to the streets of Boston for live reports in just a moment.
President Trump tweeting about the protesters today, initially writing, "Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart, thank you." Moments later, he tweeted, "Great job by all law enforcement officers and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh." He went on to tweet, "I want to applaud the many protesters in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one."
Let's bring in CNN correspondent Sara Sidner and Polo Sandoval in Boston for us.
First to Polo, I know you've been witnessing a little bit of an altercation where you are. Talk to me about what you're seeing right now and what you've been witnessing unfolding in the past several minutes.
OK. We obviously are some having problems with Polo's the audio so let me go to Sara Sidner and hear what you're seeing, hearing on the ground where you are, Sara, and talk to us about bigger picture as well because the police largely were happy with how things went today.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We should point out the fact that Polo was standing on one end of the street, we are standing on the other, and, yes, things got heated. There was a police wagon. There was definitely somebody that was detained that we saw detained earlier.
It's an interesting tactic that police are using right now. Basically what they're doing is they're going in mass, they are looking at the crowd, trying to assess the crowd, and then if there's some sort of clash, they move in very quickly, but then they move out. And that's what just happened here.
They have been moving away from the crowds as long as things are peaceful. So we saw a large number of police officers here wearing gas masks, for example, just a few moments ago, and then as the crowd calmed down, they just sort of walked away and left and went back to another area.
And it is right now seemingly a small area, Temple and Freemont. You are also seeing down at Washington and Freemont where there is a Macy's store. But we are actually right outside of the state house as well. You're seeing members of the media here. You're seeing some of the protesters who are left. The state house is just back there behind that tree.
We'll get a frame -- you have a picture of that as well. But it gives you a sense of where this is happening, Boston Common is just down there where the rally was and where the protest, the counter protest was as well. Very large police presence. They are coming in and out, so there isn't really anybody to protest against for some time, and that's kind of how the crowd has been calmed down.
And there is, of course, the city known for its racial tendencies, known for historical incidence with race including what happened some time with the Boston games, right, so I think there's a lot of people here who have a lot of different ideas about things that need to change. And that's why you're seeing some of these folks left over.
I do want to let you hear from the police commissioner who talked about the fact that there were about 40,000 people who showed up, most of them counter protesters. 27 arrests. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM EVANS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: 99.9 percent of the people there were for the right reason, and that's to fight bigotry and hate here for the most part here today. We knew we're going to have some people who are going to cause problems, and we had to make the latest, just 27 arrests so far today. Most of them disorderly, a couple assault and batteries on police officers and other charges, but overall, I thought we got the First Amendment people in, we got them out, and, you know, and no one got hurt, no one got killed, and we don't really have a whole lot of problems. In fact, we have no significant at all property damage to the city. So great day for the city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: And that was earlier today. That was the police commissioner talking about his feelings on what has happened with so many people here and with only 27 arrests. They do also bring up in talking to some of the folks who have been out here for much of the day protesting, some of them said they were a little disappointed that there were more arrests later on in the day. They were hoping that things would end peacefully, but they did kind of make a point, they wanted to make a point that thousands of people showed up to fight against racism, to fight against sexism, to fight against right supremacy, and they wanted to show the world that that's what Boston is all about -- Ana.
[18:05:02] CABRERA: I know there were concerns initially that some of the people who were at that rally in Charlottesville, people connected to the KKK, white supremacist groups, and other hate groups would show up today to the so-called Free Speech rally. Did you see any sign of people like that?
SIDNER: Look, there were a small group of people that were here to take part in the rally. Police made sure that at some point they were moved out of the way. I mean, they are far outnumbered by the thousands of people here who were protesting against them, and the people that were in that rally have said, look, we are here, we are not racist. We're not for white supremacy, but we are here for free speech.
The reaction, though, there being that people here were, like, well, look, if they are going to be spewing hate speech, we want to show them that we're against that in whatever form necessary. And so you are just seeing a few groups that is leftover. A very small number of people still leftover but for the most part now it's peaceful again -- Ana.
CABRERA: Sara Sidner there in Boston, thank you.
Near Richmond, Virginia, today, meantime, a state policeman lost his life while supporting police during last week in Charlottesville rally was laid to rest. This was the public memorial service this morning for Lieutenant Jay Cullen. He and the state police pilot were both killed last Saturday when their police helicopter crashed in a wooded area near Charlottesville. Virginia's governor spoke at the service.
GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: Today, we lost a member of our family. Dorothy and I are heartbroken. It'll never be the same when I step into that helicopter and not see Jay in that front right seat with Cullen on the back of his helmet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I want to bring in Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. Congressman, wow, what a week for your state, for our nation. Have
the president's comments in the wake of Charlottesville helped eased the racial tensions in your state?
REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Well, thanks for having me this afternoon. It's good to be with you, and, obviously, my sympathies for Troopers Cullen and the other troopers as well, too. And Heather's family as well.
You know, look, I've been very clear that I didn't -- the president I think had a strong conference first and then the last conference, you know, I've been very clear, I did not agree with it. And I came out opposing what he said. That being said, I've also heard things from the other side as well, too, that I don't agree with. I think that everyone, whatever platform you have, whether you're in the media, whether you're -- it starts at the top, let's say that first and foremost, with the president, other politicians, the media as well, too, our rhetoric should be one of unity and not identity politics, not racial politics, not tribal politics because that's very dangerous.
And, obviously, everyone in my state, the vast majority of folks in my state, black, white, brown, all that, they want unity, they don't want violence, they want to move together as a nation.
CABRERA: What do you make of the president's tweets today about Boston? First calling counter protesters anti-police agitators. Then he did later say he applauds them, but his initial response.
TAYLOR: Well, I didn't see that. I saw it in your last segment, you put them out, but, you know, as the mayor said it -- not the mayor, excuse me, the head of police in Boston said that 99.9 percent of the protesters out there were peaceful. I did see that. I did -- you know, you said earlier the president came back and said -- he said thank you to the folks that are out there supporting and speaking out against hate, and stuff like that. So, you know, as I said, I think that the rhetoric on both sides, that should not be an issue that you should be trying to gain political --
CABRERA: What's the other side? I'm just trying to figure out exactly --
TAYLOR: The other side that I'm speaking --
CABRERA: When you say both sides, let's be very clear after everything that's unfolded.
TAYLOR: Sure. The other side that I am speaking about specifically are Democrat politicians, in my state as well, too, Republican politicians, I think that both Republican -- both sides, meaning Republican and Democratic politicians and leaders --
TAYLOR: -- should be speaking with rhetoric of unity as opposed to divisiveness. I've heard divisive comments as well. CABRERA: Sure.
TAYLOR: And I said I've been critical of the president as well, too.
TAYLOR: I think now, for the nation, we all need to be espousing rhetoric that is one of unity.
CABRERA: You have said this week that you believe the president showed a failure in leadership, but now one of your Republican colleagues is taking it a step further, Senator Bob Corker, actually questioned President Trump's mental stability. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: 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)
CABRERA: So Americans hear the talk, where is the action? What are you planning to do?
TAYLOR: Where's the action in terms of what?
CABRERA: In terms of making sure that the president does get right on -- on the right side of history.
TAYLOR: Well, I think it's pretty clear when you have folks of your own party coming out and speaking out and saying, listen, you know, this ship needs to be turned a little bit. The rhetoric has to be tamped out or changed.
[18:10:03] That's a lot of pressure. I mean, that is a lot of pressure, so, you know, I expect that you would see, that you would see some changes, I'm hopeful that you will, that you'll see, you know -- again, but, you know, I want to speak out against politicians on the Democratic side as well, too, in trying to take advantage of something -- a tragedy, quite frankly, for political gain.
I think that both parties, starting with the president at the top, as well as all of us, myself included, I put myself in there as well, too, need to be espousing rhetoric to calm the tensions, calming rhetoric, if you will, unity, to not have tribal, racial, identity politics which are very dangerous, and emotions are very high certainly in my state and around the country as well, too. And that is not the direction that we want to take. There's no question about that.
CABRERA: Democrats are planning to introduce a formal resolution to censure the president over his Charlottesville remarks to be an official condemnation or rebuke from Congress of the president's remarks. Do you support that? TAYLOR: I don't support that. I don't -- I think that's -- I've been
very clear of my thoughts on this network numerous times. I don't support them putting articles of impeachment and other things there. They have been doing that the whole time --
CABRERA: But if you think that the president's remarks were not OK --
TAYLOR: Let me finish my -- let me finish my sentence please, Ana. Please?
CABRERA: Go ahead.
TAYLOR: I've been in Congress since January, and every single thing that comes up, whether it's, you know, he's a traitor in Russia, he's a racist, every single day they put, you know, taxes, whatever it might be, they are putting those articles of impeachment, political, divisive -- you know, it's completely political. So I don't support that. I've been very clear that I was critical of the president on what he said, you know, on this network, but, again, I think it's -- to use these issues as a political means to gain advantage I think is wrong.
CABRERA: You obviously need the president to accomplish the Republican agenda. Is that impacting pushback against the president or is it fear of the president and his allies coming after members of Congress personally?
TAYLOR: I can only speak for myself. I have zero fear of anyone coming after me personally for trying to do what I was elected to do, whether that's a Republican or a Democrat. I'm not worried about that.
Sure, we need the president to pass our agenda. Democrats, remember, Democrats, if they want to get anything done, they need the president as well, too. So all I heard on that side is a lot of stuff that's hot air, nothing substantive. Personally, every single bill that I've introduced in this Congress has a Democratic co-sponsor because I'd like to get things done, so, sure, we need the president, both of us, Republicans and Democrats, to move agendas forward.
CABRERA: Right now Confederate statues are being defaced or removed across the country. So we're seeing problems, debate, and violence, unfortunately, regarding those vandalism.
After what happened in your home state, where do you stand on the issue of these Confederate statues, whether they stay or go?
TAYLOR: Well, you know, I stand in the same spot that the African- American mayor of Richmond said a couple of months ago, and that was listen, leave the history there. I mean, driving up here, I saw, you know, monuments to the war dead, battle fields, statues. Just driving up Virginia, it's pervasive throughout our state, of course.
I stand where he stands in saying, leave them, but teach the context. Make sure that the history is completely known. You know, I think that whether you're looking for social justice, racial justice, economic opportunity, just removing statues doesn't do anything about it.
So, look, I think that we need to choose the direction, we need to move in as a nation, and that should be one again of unity and not of divisive identity politics and quite frankly vandalism in some respects. So if there has to be localities that need a conversation of what they want to do with the statues, then, OK, have that conversation, but do so in a civil manner. Don't use it as political means to pass an agenda. I think that's the wrong message for America.
We have very layered history. It's very imperfect, but one of the great things about this country, of course, is the fact that we can make a more perfect union as opposed to most countries around the world, and that's something, obviously, that I'm proud of and support.
CABRERA: Congressman Scott Taylor, thanks very much for your time.
TAYLOR: Thank you for having me.
CABRERA: Coming up, amidst the controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate statues around the country, some of the direct descendents of these iconic Confederate figures are now speaking out about what they think should happen to the statues.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:18:28]CABRERA: Let me take you back to Boston now, some interesting things happening on the grounds there. And Polo Sandoval has a lot more for us regarding what's happening right now between protesters and police. There were some tensions, but I understand there was a real moment that you just witnessed. Tell us about it.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, not only a tense moment that we witnessed, but also a very powerful one that we just witnessed a few moments ago which the police superintendent here in Boston really -- by the way, is in that crowd right now speaking to some of these counter demonstrators connected with this crowd, speaking to them very quickly, deescalating what could have before a fairly dangerous situation.
I want you to listen to a small portion of the conversation that he had with what is a pretty significant crowd here in the heart of downtown Boston.
As we work to try to get that for you, Ana, I do want to tell you a little bit about what we heard. He basically applauded the efforts of some these -- some of these demonstrators, some of these protesters. He was -- in his own words, he was very proud of what he saw today, as we heard from the police commissioner earlier today, is that Boston came together, essentially, and stood up against fascism, for example, and hatred. Again these are some of the words that we have heard from police
officials here, and only about an hour or so after we heard from the police commissioner saying that today was a good day for Boston, yes, here, there was a fairly tense confrontation with law enforcement, but police superintendent Gross quickly come again to the crowd here speaking to some of these demonstrators.
Ana, so, again, that's some of the positive things that we've seen here on the streets, already four hours after that so-called Free Speech rally was held, and still people on the streets and those conversations, those peaceful conversations are happening -- Ana.
[18:20:07] CABRERA: That's great to hear. We heard from the police commissioner, from the mayor a couple of hours ago. They estimated some 40,000 people turned out today.
CABRERA: I mean, how many people are on the ground now? Are most of those protesters gone or are people sticking around?
SANDOVAL: People are -- but people are still sticking around. It is obviously a much smaller crowd than what we witnessed today. You heard from officials earlier today, there were tens of thousands of people who were not only in Boston Common, but also on the streets of Boston itself, especially when there's two demonstrations merged together against what was possibly several dozen individuals, these so-called Freedom of Speech demonstrators, so, yes, there is still a heavy presence here.
But again the main highlight here on is you're able to see some of the police supervisors, the top officials are on the ground speaking to folks, making sure that things stay relatively safe as they have been most of the day except for, as police described, a few troublemakers.
CABRERA: All right. Polo Sandoval reporting in Boston, thank you.
Another statue dedicated to a civil war general has been taken down. This one on the campus of Duke University, North Carolina. Somebody had already vandalized and damage the statue of Robert E. Lee a few days ago.
The university president ordered it removed from view, but said it would be preserved for historical purposes.
I want to bring in Jonathan Horn. He was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and wrote a biography of General Robert E. Lee.
Jonathan, thanks for spending time with us. Do statues of civil war figures belong in public or in a more historical academic setting?
JONATHAN HORN, AUTHOR, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITER: Well, I think it comes to the question of what the statue is for. If the purpose of the statue is only to hold people up as an ideal role model, it's pretty clear that no Confederate memorial could achieve that aim because anybody who fought for a confederacy dedicated to securing human property cannot be an ideal role model.
The question is can we put these memorials in context? And that context requires understanding that the people who put the memorial -- that the memorials probably say more about the people who put them up than about what -- than who they were supposed to memorialize, and in fact they're going to tell us about people in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
CABRERA: And in fact you say General Lee himself actually opposed creating war memorials. Explain why.
HORN: Right. Well, after the civil war, Robert E. Lee got a number of requests from people interested in building memorials, and sometimes he said he thought the people of the South were too poor after the war to afford to build memorials? Sometimes he said he worried that buildings would anger the victorious federals.
As to when the right time to build memorials was, he seemed to suggest never. He seemed to think that the countries that do not preserve reminders of sectional strife move on quicker from sectional strife.
CABRERA: And you wrote in an op-ed putting it this way, "Lee least feared that these reminders of the past would preserve fierce passions for the suture. Such emotions threaten his vision for a speedy reconciliation. As he saw it, bridging a divided country justified abridging history in places."
So Lee agreed with those who say the statues are divisive?
HORN: Well, I think it's very difficult to take a figure from the 19th century and ask him what he would think about something in the 21st century. That said, if you wanted to guess I think you would say that Robert E. Lee would be in the camp of people who would think it's best just to remove the statues and do away with the controversy. He really did want to put the civil war behind him. He had no nostalgia for what had happened.
CABRERA: Now let's take a look at when some of these Confederate statues and memorials were created because as you talked about earlier, they say a lot more about who put them up versus who they are of. And a lot of these, we've learned, have gone up in the not-so- distant past, maybe during the civil rights era or before that during Jim Crow.
What was the intent of putting these up?
HORN: Right. And I think certainly with the Robert E. Lee statues, you really have an intent to glorify the cause that people fought -- that the South fought for in the civil war and really is hiding what the real cause of the civil war, which of course, the slavery, and so if we're going to put these memorials into context, it's going to requires our understanding that the people who put them up may have had some ugly history. And we're going to have to understand that history.
CABRERA: Jonathan Horn, author of "The Man Who Would Not be Washington, Robert E. Lee, Civil War, and His Decision That Changed American History." Thank you very much for joining us.
HORN: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, a photo shows just how many people had left Trump's inner circle in the past seven months. So what does the latest departure mean for the future of the White House as you look around the room? How many of the guys are left?
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:29:16] CABRERA: Another staff shakeup in the Trump White House. The president's controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon is the latest in the long line of Trump officials to be shown the door.
Bannon's exit comes just seven months after the president took the oath of office. Sources tells CNN Bannon believes he put the pieces in place, however, for his agenda to live on without him in the White House.
Boris Sanchez is joining us now.
Boris, what more are we hearing today now from Bannon and the president since his exit?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana. Yes, we finally heard from President Trump today on the firing of his former chief strategist at the White House, Steve Bannon. He sent out a pair of tweets earlier today. Here's the first one he sent out, he writes, quote, "I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against crooked Hillary Clinton. It was great. Thanks, S."
[18:30:06] A few hours later, he then went on to tweet this, he writes, "Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at Breitbart News. Maybe even better than before. Fake news needs the competition."
Now we have not heard from Steve Bannon today, but yesterday he told the "Washington Examiner" that, "The Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over." That led to speculation that perhaps he might train his weapons or Breitbart so to speak against the administration that dismissed him. However, CNN has heard from several people close to Steve Bannon who say that his focus is not going to be on attacking Donald Trump, but rather the establishment as per usual -- Ana.
CABRERA: Boris, President Trump is still receiving backlash, there's been fallout still today. The latest comes from the Kennedy Center Honorees over the comments about last week's hate filled violence violation in Charlottesville. Tell us about that.
SANCHEZ: That's right. Earlier today, we heard from the White House announcing that the president and first lady would not be taking part in the annual Kennedy Center Honors this year. This marks only the fourth time that a sitting president is going to be skipping this event, and in part that statement attributed the president's absence from this event to trying to spare the honorees, quote, "political distraction."
Despite that, these honorees have already gone political even before the backlash from the president's comments regarding Charlottesville. Several of them, including Lionel Richie and Norman Lear said that they would boycott a reception at the White House that takes place before the Kennedy Center Honors Awards.
In part, the Kennedy Center put out a statement saying that they were grateful that the president took this step to try to keep the dignity of the event at its standard and avoid, again, distraction -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you.
Coming up, in the wake of the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville, I sit down with a holocaust survivor and get his reaction to these neo-Nazis marching and chanting in the streets of Charlottesville.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:36:35] CABRERA: The frightening chants of white nationalists as they marched on Charlottesville with torches last week still haunt many Americans. This video says a lot about who showed up to rally in Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MARCHERS: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I sat down with the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, a holocaust survivor, and asked him what it was like to see and hear that in year 2017.
ABRAHAM FOXMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: I don't think I believe that I would ever in my lifetime witness this kind of manifestation of Nazi hatred in the United States. But what made it worse is the president of the United States rationalized it. Was unable, unwilling to condemn it for what it is for this anti-Semitic racist hatred.
CABRERA: He said --
FOXMAN: I don't know -- well, he really hasn't. He's equivocated, he's gone all over the place. I've been involved with the Anti- Defamation League for 50 years so I've seen hatred, I've followed hatred, I know there's hatred in this country. I know there's racism. I know there's anti-Semitism. So it didn't come as a complete shock. What came as a shock is their arrogance.
You know, the hate groups in our country for many years were in the shadows, they hid their identity. To see them proud, they were so emboldened with their hatred. They wanted you to hear them. They wanted you to see them, they wanted you to be intimidated. That was the scary part.
CABRERA: Do you get the sense that they feel that what they believe and what they are saying is somehow in some twisted way socially acceptable?
FOXMAN: Yes. I think they feel emboldened by the last election because some of the themes that they -- which is anti-immigrant and xenophobic. This is part today of accepted social discourse in this country.
In this last campaign when the president ran for office, he destroyed all the taboos. We've established in our country, you want to be a bigot, our Constitution permits you to be a bigot in your head, in your heart, in your home, but when you act out your bigotry, there's a price to be paid, there's a consequence.
Comes this man and breaks every taboo. And so there are consequences. So the people in Charlottesville, the bigots feel that they are emboldened. It's OK now to publicly demonstrate.
CABRERA: But now we have the cover of "TIME" magazine, this new cover, where you see a person who is draped in an American flag doing the Nazi salute. What would you tell the president? What would you advise him to bring unity?
FOXMAN: Well, I'll tell you, I would have advised his daughter and his son-in-law to walk into the office or the residence with a copy of the Vice video, close the door, and say, Dad, this will impact on your grandchildren who are Jewish.
[18:40:03] You need to say something, you need to clearly say something. Not from a prompter, but from your heart.
CABRERA: And yet we -- you mentioned Jared and Ivanka. We haven't heard anything from them. We did see a couple of tweets from Ivanka right after the accident initially happened, but since the president has made his remarks, they have been silent. We also know a couple of other members of his team, Gary Cohn, Steve Mnuchin, they are also Jewish and have also been silent. Are you surprised?
FOXMAN: Well, we have to be careful here because they are Americans who happen to be Jewish. They're not in the White House because they are Jewish.
FOXMAN: Ivanka is not there as a Jew. She happens to be his daughter. And so we have to be careful in terms of how we focus on them. So I think they're serving the president and serving the country as Americans. But the fact that they are Jewish, their antenna like mine, quiver when they see Nazism in the way that most don't because we almost -- we lost a third of our people. So what I would expect them to do -- I don't think they should resign.
I think they should -- we should hear their voice. Now if he fires them, that's something else, but, yes, I think there's -- every American should speak out.
CABRERA: Would you like to have a conversation with the president?
FOXMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
CABRERA: I know you've spoken with past administrations.
FOXMAN: Yes, I -- I know him for many years in different context.
CABRERA: This president you have?
FOXMAN: This president.
CABRERA: You have met him before?
FOXMAN: The first time I met him was 30 years ago and it was on the issue of anti-Semitism.
FOXMAN: I was on Mar-a-Lago. Yes.
CABRERA: Tell us about that.
FOXMAN: He was having trouble building Mar-a-Lago because Palm Beach didn't want him for all kinds of reasons. They didn't think he was part of the society that they wanted. So they put obstacles in his way. So he held a press conference and he says, I'm not getting these permits because of anti-Semitism.
FOXMAN: And so the Anti-Defamation League was called and said what do you think, and my director in Florida said that's nonsense.
CABRERA: What did he mean by that?
FOXMAN: So we criticized him, and I got a call saying from some of his friends, well, you meet with Donald. He's very upset at the Anti- Defamation League. I said OK. So we had breakfast at The Plaza. He came late. That's a tactic. Walked in and he said, Trump, Foxman, I never apologized. That was his hello, good morning. I looked at him and I said, Foxman, Trump, I didn't ask for this meeting, you asked for it.
We had breakfast, chatted, he's very charming. And then he says to me, who is this guy who criticized me? And I said this guy works for me. How dare he say that? I said, Donald, if I flew in to Palm Beach tomorrow and had a press conference on real estate values, you would say, who is this guy? What does he know?
You go and punted placate on anti-Semitism, but this is all about -- all he said to me, A, all my members are going to be Jewish. I said, Donald, that's anti-Semitism.
CABRERA: Yes .
FOXMAN: I learned 30 years ago this man can't take criticism and won't apologize. And you know what? He hasn't changed one iota.
CABRERA: But the fact that he was fixated on anti-Semitism, you don't believe that he is anti-Semitic in any way, do you?
FOXMAN: No. No. I don't think he's a racist, I don't think -- he's Trump. It's all about Trump. The crescendo is growing. And the good people are standing up, and one by one, the voices are being raised. And that's the beauty of our country. That's the beauty of democracy.
Surviving the holocaust, I don't have the right to be a pessimist. I've been an optimist. Even though I've been a realistic optimistic because I -- for 50 years I saw the hatred, the bigotry, the ugliness, and yet, you know what? I'm here because there was a woman, one woman, who risked her life to save me.
And so I know in every individual there is this possibility of goodness. So I still believe of this epiphany.
CABRERA: What does the president need to say?
FOXMAN: He needs to say, I made a mistake, something I'm not sure he's capable of doing. He needs to apologize, not from prompters, but from his gut. He needs to fix it because he's part of the reason we're in this mess now of giving, emboldening Nazis and bigots to say, hey, this is our message, our message is out there, and it's legitimate. He has to make it illegitimate again.
CABRERA: Coming up, amid the sometimes violent protests over the removal of Confederate statues around the country, what do those in front of President Trump's base make of the president's reaction to the Charlottesville attack? We'll discuss with JD Vance next.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:49:05] CABRERA: Thousands of people marched through the streets in Boston today. A small portion of protesters there for a Free Speech rally. The majority were there to counter them. This comes just one week after the deadly racial violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And I want to bring in CNN contributor and author of "Hillbilly Elegy" JD Vance.
JD, I want to get your reaction first to this movement happening across the country. Today, it was Boston. A much different picture than what we saw in Charlottesville a week ago. How do you think people in the Rust Belt, those Rust Belt voters who supported President Trump are seeing these events?
JD VANCE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think there are two separate takeaways. So the first is that compared to Charlottesville, you obviously had a pretty peaceful protest, most people behaved. There were, I think, about two dozen arrests, so the second piece of it is that even a relatively peaceful protest in this incredibly charged climate that we have still had some violent, still had -- you know, some people doing some sort of disruption.
[18:50:04] So I think that this isn't -- this doesn't gather a lot of headlines in the Rust Belt. This is not the sort of thing that's going to change the conversation a ton in one direction or another. But I look at it and I do say to myself, if this is a relatively peaceful protest where you have the Boston Police Department saying don't throw things at us and you have 27 people arrested we are living in a pretty precarious time in the country. So I do think it just adds to that sense. It doesn't really change the conversation.
CABRERA: Now last hour I spoke with Trump's biographer, Michael D'Antonio and he has a new op-ed for CNN out right now. He writes, "As president, Trump has rarely traveled outside of the states he considers part of his political base. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the president has shown he would rather frighten his fellow Americans and degrade the nation's standing in the world than admit he is mistaken."
JD, is President Trump reflecting the fears of his voters or creating them?
VANCE: Well, I think it's tough to say. I mean, obviously, people follow their political leaders. And so in some ways, the president is creating the narrative, but it's definitely the case that he's also responding and has a pretty instinctual view of what his base is feeling. So, you know, when you look at the polls and the response that a lot of folks had to what happened in Charlottesville, you know, I was pretty critical of the president.
I thought that he could have done a lot more to unite the country, to call out the Nazi terrorism in Charlottesville. But if you look at how people on the ground actually felt, there was this massive wedge between how the media and folks at the elite levels of both left and right were perceiving the problem and on the other hand how his base was perceiving the particular reaction to Charlottesville. And so in some ways I saw it as another depressing example of the fact that we very often live in two separate countries, and those parts of our country aren't especially good at talking to one another.
CABRERA: And why is that?
VANCE: Well, it's tough. And I don't think there is -- unfortunately there isn't a very easy answer. Part of it is just that you have people that are living in very geographically isolated places. So if you live in Washington, D.C. or New York City, you probably know very few people who voted for Donald Trump. On the other land, if you live in an area of the country like southwestern Ohio where 80 percent in some cases of the populous voted for Donald Trump, it's very possible that you don't know a whole lot of Hillary Clinton voters.
So I think in that world it's just really easy to caricature the other side. And unfortunately, when you're caricaturing the other side, it's difficult to have a conversation or understand what's driving how those people think.
CABRERA: There is that echo chamber effect.
I want to turn to Steve Bannon, now the president's former chief strategist. He was viewed as the ideological head of the Trump movement. Now he's gone seven months into Trump's presidency. He's declared the initial movement that Trump was elected on to be over. Is this a betrayal of what Trump supporters thought they were getting?
VANCE: Well, I don't think it's a betrayal of what Trump supporters thought they were getting just because most people don't pay attention to White House staffing decisions and probably most of them don't care which person is in and which person is out.
I will say a couple of things. The first is that it does add to the general sense of chaos, the fact that you had so many high level advisors come into the White House and now leave only seven months in leave the White House.
But there is a more interesting question about Steve Bannon's role or lack of a role in the White House over the next two years because if you think about who really composes the president's inner circle, Gary Cohn, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, these are people who don't have obviously a ton of connections to the so-called Trump base.
Steve Bannon was the one person in his inner circle who really had this connection to the populist conservative movement that Donald Trump capitalized on. So I do think it's going to be interesting to see whether Steve Bannon can influence the White House from the outside. And if he doesn't, if he can't have that influence, then he may very well go to war with the president who he helped elect.
CABRERA: Right now he's saying he's going to go to war for the president. You know, you talked about the influence that some of these people have on the president and his base and, yet, there was some polling out this week that showed six in 10 of Trump supporters say there is nothing this president could do that would make them disapprove of the job he is doing as president.
So when we look at his administration and really it hasn't accomplished a whole lot so far, he has failed to follow through on a lot of his promises. Obamacare hasn't been repealed, replaced. Mexico hasn't paid for this border wall. None has been built so far. What do his supporters want most from this president now? VANCE: Well, it's important to keep in mind that the 24 hours news
cycle I think is driven by a different time line than the average voter on the street. I think a lot of folks are still staying loyal to their man. They still think that things are going to happen. They're happy, for example, that you have seen some increased immigration enforcement, you've seen a drop in illegal immigration in the country. And so that's obviously something that makes them happy.
[18:55:06] But you're right that if nothing happens over the next few years, that if there isn't some significant reform packages put in place, if we don't make some progress on health care, if we don't make some further progress on reforming the immigration system, I do think the president is eventually going to lose that support. But I also think that it's important to keep in mind that the average Donald Trump voter isn't asking themselves every week, has something happened this week that's going to cause me to abandon the president? They're looking at this thing over a slightly longer time horizon.
CABRERA: All right, JD Vance, thanks so much for joining us.
VANCE: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, we will have the latest from the large anti- racist protest in Boston and around the country. Stay with us.