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National Anthem Protests Grow in Rebuke of Trump; Trump Administration Unveils New Travel Restrictions. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 07:00   ET


LEBRON JAMES, NBA STAR: ... is not something I can stand for.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Right now they don't have my vote. I want to get there.

[07:00:08] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: GOP leaders hoping to win over holdout witness stand a new version of a health care bill.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Republicans have campaigned on repeal and replace. It's going to be very close.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the biggest catastrophe in modern history for Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 70,000 people at risk for another life- threatening situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to take a lot of prep work, but Puerto Rico is a resilient community.


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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off today. John Berman joins me. We have a lot to talk about.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Back in the day (ph).

CAMEROTA: All right. So up first, President Trump facing a wave of protests across the NFL after calling for the firing of players who kneel during the national anthem. Dozens of players and their owners uniting to defy the president's rhetoric. President Trump says his criticism has nothing to do with race. But even some of his biggest supporters in the NFL are blasting him for his divisive rhetoric.

BERMAN: The latest controversy, maybe coincidentally, maybe not, comes as the White House rolls out a new travel ban targeting eight countries, including North Korea and Venezuela. And the fight over health care coming to a head, the plan to repeal Obamacare, on the brink of failing. One more "no" vote from a Republican would all but sink it. Will revisions to the Graham-Cassidy bill win over these skeptical senators? We've a lot to cover this morning. I want to begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House -- Joe.


The president doubling down on his rhetoric, condemning professional ball players for taking a knee during the national anthem. The president's critics questioning why he had harsher words for players engaged in a peaceful protest than he did for white supremacists implicated in violence in those protests some time ago in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president insisting his remarks have nothing to do with race.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's very disrespectful to our country. I certainly think the owners should do something about it.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump exacerbating a culture war with this unexpected rant Friday night.

TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, just say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired"?

JOHNS: Despite a day of widespread backlash, the president calling again for an NFL boycott and for players who kneel during the national anthem to be fired or suspended.

MICHAEL THOMAS, DOLPHINS SAFETY: You're the leader of the free world. This is what you -- this is what you're talking about?

LESEAN MCCOY, BUFFALO BILLS RUNNING BACK: Our leader of this country is -- is acting like a jerk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think it's very unbecoming of the office of the president of the United States to talk like that, to degrade people like that.

JOHNS: Dozens of NFL players taking a knee or sitting during the national anthem Sunday. Other teammates and coaches standing shoulder to shoulder on the sideline, interlocking arms.

JOHN FOX, CHICAGO BEARS COACH: There's no disrespect to the anthem. We just locked arms in unity.

JOHNS: The majority of Steelers players choosing to stay in the locker room until after the anthem was over. Some singers even showing their solidarity, taking a knee along with players.

The president responding saying, "Standing with locked arms is good. Kneeling, not acceptable."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sounding off in a statement, saying, "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the league and the players."

Even prominent Trump backers finding it hard to defend the president. REX RYAN, FORMER BUFFALO BILLS AND NEW YORK JETS COACH: I'm pissed

off. I'll be honest with you. You know, because I supported Donald Trump. I'm reading these comments, and it's appalling to me.

JOHNS: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Mr. Trump's friend, who gave $1 million to the president's inaugural fund, says he's deeply disappointed by the tone of Mr. Trump's comments.

TRUMP: I like Bob very much. He has to take his ideas and go with what he wants.

JOHNS: President Trump adding fuel to the fire by publicly rescinding a White House invitation to the NBA champion Golden State Warrior Steph Curry after he said he would not go.

STEPH CURRY, NBA CHAMPION: I don't know, you know, why he feels the need to target certain individuals. It's not what leaders do.

JOHNS: Curry's long-time rival, LeBron James, criticizing the president's response.

JAMES: For him to try to use this platform to divide us even more is not something I can stand for.



JOHNS: The president's attacks on players pitting fans fans against each other at Sunday's game.


JOHNS: Meanwhile, there is a lot of policy on the plate to worry about here at the White House. The administration is keeping a watchful eye on the progress, or lack of same, of the health care revamp proposal now on Capitol Hill. The president expected to hold a jobs event here today in Washington.

Back to you, Alisyn and John.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our political panel to discuss all this. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory and Karoun Demirjian; and CNN contributor Wesley Lowery. Great to have all of you.

[07:05:05] David Gregory, politically speaking, is this smart of the president to play to his base in Alabama on Friday night with these comments about SOBs, or is this dumb politically, in that it creates all of this backlash this weekend?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, we'll get a gauge of that, I suppose, over time. I actually don't think that's what's most important. Because whether it's smart or dumb, it's irresistible for Donald Trump who, as a political figure and now, as president, cannot help himself but to insert himself in a way that's so counterproductive, that only further divides us, only stokes grievances between factions in our country and doesn't try to bring people together and help people understand that this is a tough debate over the appropriateness of his protest or to try to validate where the protest is coming from on the part of largely African-American players, who are protesting police brutality or misconduct in this country. This is a tough issue.

And for the president to wrap himself in the flag is particularly rich, given the fact that -- and we were reminded of this last night -- this is the president who said of one of the leading figures in our country, John McCain, a war hero from the Vietnam era, shot down in Vietnam, refused to leave captivity, because it would have put him ahead of his fellow prisoners and would have been used as a propaganda tool, he said that he was no war hero because -- because he was captured. And he doesn't like people who are captured.

This is the president who wants to lead us by calling these people SOBs, who should lose their jobs for disrespecting the flag? I mean, that's -- that's the problem we face here, when the president acts this way.

BERMAN: The president who got his own deferrals during the Vietnam era. To note that.

Steve Mnuchin, his treasury secretary, was out making the same case yesterday, saying this is an issue of patriotism. It's not about racism. Listen to the treasury secretary.


MNUCHIN: This is about respect for our military. This is about respect for our first responders. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. Players have the right for free speech off the field. On the field, this is about respect for lots of people.


BERMAN: You know, Wesley Lowery, he said two things there, of note. One, he said it's about respect for military and first responders. No. 2, he said you shouldn't do this at your place of work.

I suppose let's address the first issue, the military. First of all, if you talk to people in the military, you know, some will agree with what the president said. Others will note they don't fight for flag. They fight for country and Constitution, Wes.

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I think it's -- I think it's stunning. I think we have to remember what this is. Right? We're moving in from the specific context of the conversation we're having. Here, you have government officials, the president of the United States, members of his cabinet advocating that private business take punitive measures against their employees for political speech that the president of the United States does not agree with. Right?

That the NFL, while what we've seen from the reports from Senator McCain and Senator Flake, does in fact, engage in a lot of patriotism, the U.S. government does not own the NFL. The president of the United States instructing NFL owners how to or to punish their players for political speech does have a potentially chilling effect that I think we can't lose here. Right?

These are private businesses and private citizens. And it's up to those businesses to decide if they want to allow their employees to express political speech. I don't know that members of the cabinet really have any say in this whatsoever or should have any say in this.

Again, what we have here is a president of the United States asking for punitive measures to be taken against private citizens who engage in speech he disagrees with. Right? This is not -- you know, and can the U.S. government compel private individuals to engage in acts of patriotic expression that those people don't want to engage in. I think that's the core of this conversation.

And I think that, again, it's a pretty stunning statement for the White House to be doubling and tripling down on this idea that, if you do not honor and respect our government the way we want you to, we are going to use our bully pulpit to have you lose your job.

CAMEROTA: You know, Karoun, I know that Gregory just shot down my political -- political angle. And he's right. I mean, look, obviously, there are much larger issues here that I'm glad we're talking about. But I'm confused on the political angle. Because just as Charlottesville dies down, why would the president launch another grenade into the culture wars? How does that benefit him?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You could ask that question for various rounds of Charlottesville, as well. I mean, this seems to be an instinctual response from the president. It seems to be something he doesn't want to let go of, whether it's more well- thought-out. It seems to me he feels it appeals to parts of his base or not or just an expression of what his own positions are, that's difficult to say.

But you could ask the question of why this doesn't make any sense, it doesn't seem politically expedient at so many junctures over the last few months. That this one is something that he has observed before. This time he weighed in more sternly, actually advocating that certain people lose their jobs, which is what has gotten everybody else up in arms to defend these players that were initially taking the knee. The president doesn't seem to think two steps out about is what the -- how galvanizing his comments can be of people who do not agree with him.

GREGORY: I just want to say...

BERMAN: You already had your chance, Gregory, and you upset Alisyn.

GREGORY: It's not the first time. It's not the first time.

BERMAN: Maybe it's not, you know, in spite of the fact that Charlottesville is dying down. Maybe it's because Charlottesville is dying down. I mean, David Gregory...

CAMEROTA: How does that make sense?

BERMAN: I'm not saying it makes sense. But I am saying this is a president that is more comfortable, perhaps, talking about the culture wars. More comfortable in enflaming these things than he is talking about health care, than he is talking about helping people in Puerto Rico, than he is talking about, you know, his son-in-law's private e- mail account that he's been using over the last few months.

DEMIRJIAN: Sure. The weird think about this one is it cuts to a demographic that might actually be upsetting his base in a different way. I mean, you could say, fine, that his base doesn't live in Puerto Rico. Or maybe his base really isn't looking at the details of the health care bill. But the idea that his base doesn't watch any football, or wouldn't have feelings about this, that's more a live wire and an unpredictable situation.

GREGORY: But it's the point of -- I wasn't trying to dismiss the idea of political calculus. I do think it's actually -- it's -- it's less important and it's really problematic, right? Because what happens is that Trump looks at how to factionalize the country. He did that in the course of the campaign. And so to inject himself into culture wars, to get into the business of saying, you know, that Hillary Clinton should be locked up, or that these people should lose their job, these football people should lose their jobs for a protest, it goes to two points.

One is the historical framework. What did Richard Nixon do, you know, in 1968 to rise to power? He divided people, those who were law and order people, who were the silent majority, against the excesses of what many people thought the excess of the civil rights movement. That sought to divide people further. Johnson did it in the Vietnam War, talking about leftist impulses or influences on the anti-war movement during Vietnam.

And so here the president is doing -- doing it now over race, over patriotism. And these are the kinds of things that he has exploited well during a time when we are really factionalized about religion, about political polarization. And as president, you have an opportunity to insert yourself in a way to be productive, because there's lots of elements who are going to be counterproductive. There's only one president who can try to tamp these things down and bring people together.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

DEMIRJIAN: The problem, though, for what this president is choosing -- where he's choosing to have these fights, though, he's not picking something that is as clear and obvious as the Vietnam War to argue about. It's football. Sometimes it's movie stars. It's going into the cultural space to start the cultural wars. And that's when you can't really control how it's going to go, which direction it's going to go in.

CAMEROTA: Wesley, the president said yesterday, "This has nothing to do with race. I've never said anything about race." How do you see that? LOWERY: I think that very often, around politics, we like to pivot

towards that type of argument. If you did not explicitly have the conversation in racial terms, the conversation cannot and must not be about race. And we know that that is not true.

We know that this conversation, a conversation that's about black athletes largely, taking a knee during the national anthem in protest, in demonstration of police violence, of racial -- racial disparities and the number of black people who are killed by then police. And then a conversation that we've had for the last year in light of those protests about whether or not these black athletes are allowed to or should use these platforms to do this.

These black athletes in a league largely constructed of white owners. These athletes who have faced punitive measures and, in some cases, have been left off of teams for speaking their minds and for using their platforms. This is a conversation that is closed in America's racial history and America's current contemporary racial context.

And so -- and again, and beyond that, you have a president who has time and time again employed racial dog whistles, who has winked and nodded about these type of things, going to Alabama, calling a bunch of black athletes "SOBs." I mean, come on.

CAMEROTA: Enough said.

BERMAN: Yes. Wesley, David, Karoun, thank you so very much.

Coming up in our next hour, legendary sportscaster Bob Costas, he joins us to talk about this firestorm.

CAMEROTA: We have much -- a lot of other news, including the travel ban. The Trump administration unveiling new restrictions for travelers in now eight countries, North Korea and Venezuela among the new additions to the list, which stands to replace President Trump's executive order.

Jessica Schneider is live in Washington with all of the breaking details. What do you know about it, Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this ban will be a permanent replacement to what we saw over the summer. Beginning October 18 there will be new restrictions. In some cases an all-out ban on travelers from eight different countries. So here they are: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.

[07:15:13] Now, there are some notable new nations on this list, in particular North Korea. Chad and Venezuela have also been added. And the administration may use these additions to bolster its argument that this is not a Muslim ban as the past two executive orders have been criticized as.

Now these new travel restrictions are taking effect after the Department of Homeland Security spent the summer reviewing the way countries all over the world vet their travelers. And those that don't have sufficient screenings, those are the ones now on the list. Now the president addressed this overnight, tweeting in part, he said, that "We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet."

But you know, civil rights groups are already crying foul about this new order, saying that this is just one part of the administration's ugly white supremacist agenda. Of course, this could be taken up with the Supreme Court, deals with the travel ban. The legality on October 10. But this new order will go into effect in mid-October with these other countries -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Jessica, thanks so much.

President Trump says the objections to the anthem protests are not about race. So what are they about? We ask two NFL veterans on both sides of the argument. That's next.



[07:20:26] TRUMP: It has nothing to do with race. I've never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.


BERMAN: President Trump reigniting a controversy. He says NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem should be fired or suspended. So if it's not about race, as he says, what is it about?

Here to debate, Earnest Byner, who played for the Browns, Redskins and Ravens before going on to coach, and former NFL player Dante Stallworth, who among other teams, played for the New England Patriots.

Earnest Byner, I want to start with you. You say you're in favor of protests in general, but you don't think it should happen on game day, essentially, on company time. Do your job. Explain.

EARNEST BYNER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, the thing about this -- first of all, I would like to say that we're getting caught up in some of the issues more than focusing on what -- what is this really about?

I do believe that guys have -- we all have the freedom of choice, the freedom of speech, the freedom of protest. We all have that. But to me, on your job is not the place where it needs to be done.

Now, we do have platforms. And those platforms should be used outside of the game, as opposed to at the stadium. And, you know, we -- we talk about the -- you know, the veterans and, you know, disrespecting the flag and disrespecting the country. We should respect the country. We do respect the country. And also, the fact is, we should -- we should be spreading more and more love, as opposed to getting caught up in these issues about the flag, about -- about the discrimination. You know, we've got to -- we've got to get some more love happening in our world.

BERMAN: Dante.

DANTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I think the No. 1 issue when this initially started with Colin Kaepernick was to promote awareness, was to promote a conversation, and inspire conversation to bring this to the forefront.

This is an issue that's been going on for a very long time. And until we're -- until we're able to face these uncomfortable truths about our society and our criminal justice system in particular, I think that this conversation is going to be much more difficult.

But I -- I continue to go back to, and it's -- it's becoming redundant to -- for me to try to get people to understand, or at least to understand where they're coming from, how this has anything to do with the military, how this has anything to do with disrespecting or respecting the country when -- when players are human beings just like, you know, everyone else. And they are obviously allowed and afforded their First Amendment rights.

So when you say that someone can't or shouldn't do something at work, then you are limiting your -- the very First Amendment was the most important amendment that the Founding Fathers of this country thought that they should have as the No. 1 amendment. So whenever you start to tell people this is -- this is when they can't talk or this is when they should talk, then anything is up for grabs, not only on the -- in the Constitution but especially, again, with the most important of all, the First Amendment.

BERMAN: I want to play some sound from Tom Brady, obviously, the Patriots quarterback, someone who was friendly with Donald Trump, had a made in America hat in his locker last year. This is what he said just this morning on the radio about the president's comments. Let's listen.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I certainly disagree with, you know, what he said and, you know, thought it was just divisive.


BERMAN: So Earnest, to you, you say you would rather that these players not be protesting on the field. But what about the president's comments specifically, when he called a player would who protest a son of a bitch? Is that appropriate for the president to say about people who play football professionally?

BYNER: Well, I don't think any of the athletes look at themselves and characterize themselves as that. I think, you know, when you -- when you try to -- when you try to balance what's going on, what has happened, you know, in this country and what has continued to happen, you know, one of the things I think is paramount in what has happened here is this has galvanized a lot of people. This has brought a lot of people together. We need to use this energy in a way to produce the type of growth that is necessary.

You know, when I say that I feel like it's probably -- it's not a place where, at your work, to go ahead and -- and protest, when I say that, I really mean that -- obviously you've got freedom of expression. You have -- we do have that.

[07:25:17] And we do have the respect for the veterans. I mean, it's a lot of things that we're doing with -- with different aspects of this life that is -- is building.

We need to build from this. We don't need to keep being divisive. We need to keep focusing on the fact that we are divisive. We have a lot to build on. This country is a great country. We love this country. And we'll continue to try to build from different aspects of the experiences that we go through.

BERMAN: Dante, what do you say to people who say, you know, "Athletes, they should just go play the game. Make this about sports. Politics shouldn't be part of the game"?

Or what we've also heard from some supporters of the president: "These players are also privileged. They have the privilege to play this sport and make a lot of money. It's disrespectful not to stand during the anthem"? How do you respond to those arguments?

STALLWORTH: There's a lot of people in this country who are making a lot of money and, for some reason, athletes or, quote unquote, "celebrities" seem to draw the eye more than other people. You have -- you have executives on Wall Street who -- who essentially ran this economy into the dirt. And no one talks about the money that they make, or no one talks about a game show host making tens of millions of dollars. So to me, that point is moot about how much money you make.

I think when you're in a position to influence positive change, then you can't -- you can't allow yourself to be deterred by what others are saying about you not being patriotic. I mean, again, this goes back to what Martin Luther King and Mohammad Ali told us and showed us of the Vietnam War, when it was not popular. People were calling them unpatriotic and anti-American. We see that history has indicated those men, because they were against the Vietnam War when it was so obvious and clear-eyed to them and not so for many others. And it's a similar situation with today in my eyes.

BERMAN: It's an important discussion. Dante Stallworth, Earnest Byner, an honor to speak with both of you. Fans of yours for a long, long time. Thanks, guys.

BYNER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. To health care now. Will revisions to the Senate Republican health care bill get them the vote they need to pass it? We talked to one senator who is set to take part in today's only health care hearing, next.