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NFL Players Take Knee, Raise Fists in Preseason Games; President Trump Doubles Steel and Aluminum Tariffs on Turkey; Trump Says "Stayed Tuned" on Mueller as He Meets with Giuliani. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:07] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with me this Friday.

This morning after numerous NFL players took knees and raised fists during the national anthem, protesting social injustice, the president is lashing out against them. Just minutes ago, the president ridiculed the, quote, "outrage" that he claims most players are, quote, "unable to define."

"Stand proudly," writes the president, "or be suspended without pay." In fact repercussion from the league non-existent, at least for now.

There is a lot to unpack here this morning and it goes far beyond football. The politics, race and the state of social justice in America, we will get into all of it. Let's start, though, with what happened last night, Andy Scholes is with me for all of that.

So, Andy, this is numerous players from a number of different teams taking different action to make their voices heard. What did we see?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, we saw, like you just said, players on different teams doing different things but right now there is no rule or discipline coming their way because the NFL released a statement last night again saying how they enforce their national anthem policy was on hold while they continue to have discussions with the players on how to handle it. So in the meantime, you know, that means there's no punishment for players demonstrating during the anthem, and last night multiple players did do just that before the first pre-season game of the year.

So there right there is Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson taking a knee during the national anthem before their game with the Bucs. Stills has kneeled during the anthem the past two seasons and he spoke about the decision to continue to do it after the game.


KENNY STILLS, MIAMI DOLPHINS WIDE RECEIVER: Being a part of this protest hasn't been easy. And you know I've -- I thought I was going to be by myself out there and today I had an angel with me, with Albert being out there, and you know, I'm grateful that he see what's happening and he wants to stand up and do something about it as well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Now Colin Kaepernick who started the movement tweeting about Stills saying, "My brother K Stills continue his protest of systemic oppression tonight by taking a knee. Albert Wilson joined him in protest. Stay strong, brothers."

And elsewhere around the league, according to reports, four players raised their fists during the anthem while several others remained in the locker room during the anthem before then taking the field.

Now back in May, the owners agreed to a national anthem policy where teams would be fined if players did not stand for the national anthem. Then those teams would then decide how to punish those players but after outrage the league decided to put that policy on hold while they work it out with the players' union on what to do.

And Poppy, only Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has flat out come out and said that his players have to stand for the anthem.

HARLOW: Right. That's right.

Andy, thank you very much. Stay with me because I want to talk about all of this in just a moment with our panel.

I do want to bring in Abby Phillip who joins us now. She's reporting close to where the president is on this working vacation in New Jersey. Another headline out of the president this morning, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Absolutely, Poppy. And I just want to put some of this in context. We are on the eve of another, you know, white supremacist march in Charlottesville in Washington. Last year around this time after the first Charlottesville march was when President Trump first made these comments about the NFL. He was at a rally where he called them sons of a B word and said that they should stand for the national anthem.

A year later the president continues to bring up this issue and continues to amplify these protests. The question is why. A lot of people believe it's because it works for his base. The president here demanding the players either proudly stand for the anthem or be suspended without pay and as Andy just pointed out, the league has been trying to work this out, trying to work it in spite of the president's comments which they have found largely unhelpful but the result has been that these players are now -- these protests are now spreading more widely than ever.

President Trump weighing in this morning not unexpectedly because of course this is something that he finds to be really important to his base. Of course a lot of Americans agree with him but a lot of Americans also believe that the president is using this issue to exacerbate divides that already exist. This is again coming on the eve of yet another one of these marches that's going to be quite contentious and the president really not doing much to address the central issue that these players are protesting which is racial injustice and the treatment of black Americans in this country. The president has never talked about that issue. He simply wants to

put it aside and wants to make this about disrespecting the flag. I think this is just a continuation of what has been going on now, Poppy, for over a year at this point.

HARLOW: Abby, you're so right and such important context for us on the eve, as you note, of one year since that deadly Unite the Right protest in Charlotte.

[09:05:07] Abby, thank you for the reporting. I'll get back to you in a minute on some more headlines out of the president, but let's stick with this for now.

Back with me is our sports correspondent Andy Scholes, Cornell Brooks, former president and CEO of the NAACP also joins me.

So, Cornell, this morning as I'm reading the president's tweets what struck me so much is this part of the first one on this, quote -- and I quote the president, "Numerous players from different teams wanted to show their outrage at something that most of them are unable to define."

This is about social injustice in America and he is saying that black American men who are kneeling or staying in locker rooms or raising their fist are unable to define what that is like.

CORNELL BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Yes. The president is essentially saying that American citizens who are standing up for their rights under the Constitution are too stupid, too ignorant, unable to articulate what in fact they're standing against.

These players know full well that a young black man is 21 times more likely to lose his life at the hands of the police than his white counterpart. These players understand full well that police misconduct goes on unchecked in this country, and that black and brown bodies are essentially the punching bags of bad policing and police unaccountability.

The president knows that but our commander-in-chief is in fact the racial opportunist in chief in this country. He's using this issue to stir his base. In other words he's using race to incite the base not bearing in mind that his irresponsible presidential rhetoric literally results in racial tensions being exacerbated.

HARLOW: You know --

BROOKS: And literally lives being put at risk.

HARLOW: Cornell, to your point, and I am glad you brought that up because there's important reporting on that. There's a deposition that was given by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and in that deposition, according to this reporting from the "Wall Street Journal" the president told Jones on a phone call that him focusing on kneeling and the NFL players, and I quote, "this one lifts me."

So let me bring Van Jones into this conversation as well and Van is going to be with me a little later. We're going to talk about criminal justice reform, another focus of the president. But on this issue saying this one lifts me. He knows that is, as Cornell just said, stirs his base and he knows exactly what this does in America.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I mean, it's really sad. You have the tale of two presidencies. On the substance he actually has hurt the NFL players and is doing stuff on criminal justice, and even said I want the NFL players to help me on criminal justice, but on the symbols, it's just -- it's catnip for him. He's addicted to the symbolism of this conflict, stirring the pot, it does give his base some cheap sense of yes, he's sticking it up to -- you know, sticking it up to those people and at some point, you know, it's just frustrating.

Literally the NFL players have been calling for something to be done about criminal justice reform. The president is actually doing something about criminal justice reform but nobody knows about it because he cannot get away from getting in these racially charged conflicts.

HARLOW: He did it yesterday at a roundtable discussion which we're going to talk a lot about a little bit later in this hour. Because you're right, I mean, he is acting on that.

Let's remind people, gentlemen, where this started. Right? It started the conversation, the action from Colin Kaepernick, right, the former quarterback for the 49ers. So he wrote this morning, he took to Twitter and, you know, he hasn't given interviews on this, he has not spoken out a lot about this but he's done a lot. He's put his name and money and effort behind enacting change and moving forward in this country.

Here's what he writes this morning, "My brother @Kstills continue this protest of systemic oppression tonight by taking a knee." And he said, so and so, joined him in the protest. His message, stay strong, brothers.

Andy Scholes, you know, remind us where Colin Kaepernick is in all of this because of course he wasn't resigned, there's been a lot of debate about that.

SCHOLES: Of course there has been. He's the one who started it and, you know, it turned out that he had to fall on the sword for the whole thing and if you look at it now, if you think about, it's silly the way Colin Kaepernick's NFL career ended because of this because he wasn't the only one kneeling, he was just the guy that started the movement, and the fact that he doesn't want to have a job in the NFL anymore it's basically just not right.

Because to think that Colin Kaepernick is not one of the best 90 quarterbacks in this country is just can't be true. He can't be the guy that takes the team to the Super Bowl as one of the budding stars in the NFL to all of a sudden not being able to play in this league so, you know, he has the collusion case going against the NFL, you know, most would think he has a case because of the fact that his skills do show that he should be playing in the NFL, but again he's on the sidelines, Poppy.

He didn't get another tryout or contract this off season going into pre-season, it's not looking likely that's going to happen for him again especially with the way this has become such a hot button topic and the way that the president continues to tweet about it.

[09:10:04] HARLOW: Cornell, I'd be remiss not to focus on the timing here. Sunday marks one year, one year since that Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, a rally that took the life of Heather Heyer, that took the life of two police officers there and where the president I think, you know, one thing that he will always be remembered for is saying in the moments after, both sides, both sides are to blame.

So what we hear from him this morning, what does that mean in the context of the mark of what this weekend is?

BROOKS: The president's tweet this morning confirms what much of America knows which is that the president has demonstrated and displayed coward December, a fecklessness. So in other words his presidency will be defined by two moments, at least two moments, Helsinki and Charlottesville when he refused to stand against Putin and when he refused to stand against Nazis and fascists in the streets of Charlottesville.

This is an indictment of this president. For him to tweet about American athletes who stand against police misconduct that they should be cool and be happy which is the moral equivalent of Laura Ingraham's shut up and dribble is insulting, it's insulting to not only the athletes but it's insulting to millions of Americans, particularly young Americans who are in our streets standing up for justice and standing against injustice, particularly this weekend.

This is the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville, and the murder, the murder of Heather Heyer.

HARLOW: Right.

BROOKS: Has the president spoken about that? Has he expressed outrage or sympathy or any kind of empathy? Or any kind of moral maturity? He's not demonstrating any of that. And this is an indictment of him.

HARLOW: And Cornell, stick around because you're with me again in a little bit, talking about that. We'll hear from Heather Heyer's mother one year later.

Van, to you on this. When you look at the polling -- guys, let's pull up that gallop poll that just shows how Americans feel -- we don't have it. But I can read you what it says. How do you feel about the state of race relations, Van, in America, if you look at 2012 it was 51 percent of Americans felt satisfied, 40 percent felt not satisfied. That's reversed course. This year 29 percent of Americans feel satisfied about race relations in this country, 64 percent not satisfied.

It's been on a downward trend even in the final years of the Obama presidency.


HARLOW: Into the Trump presidency.

JONES: Well, it's tough because we do have changes demographically in the country. The question is, does the leadership of the country think it's a good thing or a bad thing? Are we trying to figure out common ground? Are we trying to figure out, you know, separate grievances? And unfortunately I believe Obama tried very hard to get us to common ground but it's a tough conversation. And when you open up that conversation, you can open up some anxiety. Yes.

HARLOW: Go ahead. Yes.

JONES: So when you open the conversation like that, you really want to be able to continue it to sustain it. Instead the whole thing got hijacked by Trump's nativism and we are now in a situation where I think it's almost fashionable in some corners to add to the --

HARLOW: Fashionable?

JONES: Fashionable to add to the racial grievance.

HARLOW: All right. Gentlemen, stick with me, thank you very much for weighing in on this. We have a lot ahead.

The president also did just make some big news when it comes to tariffs on Turkey. He's announced major tariffs on steel and aluminum. This all stems from a much bigger story.

Abby Phillip is with me to explain what is behind this and why it's so significant this morning.

Abby, walk us through it.

PHILLIP: Yes, that's right, Poppy. Another escalation in this dispute over the detainment of a pastor, an American pastor Andrew Brunson, who's been detained in Turkey since 2016. The Trump administration has been working behind the scenes with Turkey to try to free this pastor. Vice President Mike Pence has been involved in this effort as well but talks have broken down and a couple of weeks ago the administration announced sanctions against Turkey, a huge step, a huge escalation in this dispute, and now today another escalation in the dispute, the president saying in the tweet that aluminum will now be 20 percent, those are tariffs, and steel 50 percent.

He says, "Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time." It's a big change from where we have been with Turkey just a year ago. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was at the White House having a really cordial visit with President Trump and now this dispute over the pastor has been a source of a souring of this relationship with the expression.

Now it's really not clear what kind of authority the administration is using to engage in using tariffs as opposed to sanctions to put pressure on Turkey but what this signals is that they are making progress behind the scenes. This pastor continues to be detained and the administration who has focused a lot on trying to release Americans who are detained in countries abroad, very unhappy with the Turkish government's unwillingness to do more to free Brunson -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Right. And this has been escalating since the coup attempt, you know, two years ago.

Abby, thank you very much for that.


Still to come, the president railing against the Mueller probe again. Two words that intrigued us and have us asking questions. "Stay tuned" writes the president.

Also, homeowners in California this morning scrambling again as these flames reach their backyards, some using garden hoses in a desperate attempt to save what they can. We are following the latest on the destructive fires in California.

And the federal government tried to deport a mother and her daughter seeking asylum in this country claiming years of abuse and death threats, but when a federal judge heard about it, he ordered the government to turn the plane around, bring them back to the US and he threatened to hold the attorney general in contempt. Ahead.


HARLOW: The so-called Manhattan madam has a date today with Robert Mueller's grand jury in the nation's capital. Her name? Kristin Davis. She once ran a high-dollar escort service and did jail time for it and is a close friend of long-time Trump confidante Roger Stone.

[09:20:00] Apart from that, her potential value to the special counsel is just not clear. For his part, the president has put out yet another blistering statement against what he calls the rigged witch- hunt.

This one, though, ends differently than most with these two words - "stay tuned." And with that, I bring in CNN political analyst Molly Ball and Jackie Kucinich.

So, ladies, I hope you've come with answers. Molly, to you first. Stay tuned on what?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, obviously, this is an ongoing investigation. I think it's also the case that the president knows more than the rest of us, although he does do his best to keep us informed via Twitter of every development and every evolution in his thinking.

But this is also something - it's sort of something Trump says a lot. He likes to say stay tuned. Sort of the TV impresario part of him likes to string people along. So, that's all I really read into that.

HARLOW: Moving on, Jackie, to sort of what we've seen - and the president has been talking about the Manafort trial on Twitter and tweeting about it. So, quite a week for that, right, for his former campaign chairman.

Something really interesting happened yesterday in the courtroom tied to the Trump campaign. A sidebar. They had asked the judge to seal the transcript of this sidebar that happened between the attorneys, the defense, prosecution and the judge earlier this week that discussed Rick Gates and discussed his interview with the special counsel as it pertains to his work on the Trump campaign. The judge agreed to keep this sealed. What do you read into that?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It just shows how much we don't know that Robert Mueller knows. Despite the sort of performance art of the president and Rudy Giuliani and what they say their interactions with Mueller have been or haven't been, Mueller hasn't spoken. Mueller hasn't really tipped his hand at all. And this is another example of just how much is still under the radar.

And, yes, Rick Gates had not only with the Trump campaign, with the inaugural committee, his ties are pretty deep even if the president doesn't really want to acknowledge how much Manafort actually had to do with his campaign.

HARLOW: It's also important to note, Molly, that Rick Gates has - part of his plea agreement here with Mueller is that he has to cooperate in the investigations of the Russia probe as well. So, it's not just that he's critical and the star witness in the Manafort trial, that he has to cooperate with them on that front as well.

So, that takes us to that probe and whether or not, Molly, the president ever going to sit for an interview with Mueller's team or not. Rudy Giuliani had dinner with the president last night. This is eight months, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

I mean, are we at a point where this thing just isn't going to happen or do you get the sense that we're getting closer to an actual sit- down.

BALL: I don't know. And I think that a lot of the public litigating of this question that Giuliani has been doing is not necessarily informative.

Right, there are these ongoing negotiations. And I think that Giuliani and Trump's legal team are purposely not saying no because they don't want to provoke a subpoena fight, which would be a big legal battle and which is where this is probably headed if they give a concrete no.

At the same time, Giuliani has thrown up so many obstacles to a potential interview that, at some point, it's going to be a deal breaker, right? If he says, oh, sure, we'll do the interview, but you can't ask about any of the things that are the reason for the interview, at some point that interview is not worthwhile for the Mueller team.

So, we don't know the full extent of the interactions behind the scenes. We know what Giuliani tells us, which he is telling for PR purposes, for political purposes, among other things.

HARLOW: Right.

BALL: But I don't - we don't know yet whether and how this may or may not happen.

HARLOW: Jackie, I've got 30 seconds left. Who's winning the PR fight here? Set aside the legal fight. Who's winning the PR fight?

KUCINICH: That's what I was about to add to what Molly pointed out. It seems like Giuliani is as much a hype man as a lawyer for the president. And he said kind of the quiet part aloud, this week, saying this might have to do about politics, that if they don't - if the president doesn't cooperate, if this keeps going on, that actually might be good for the president because it would hype up the base who want to protect the president.

So, they're looking toward the midterm elections and how this, no matter what happens, could benefit them. And that's as much Giuliani's strategy here as what he's doing behind the scenes legally.

HARLOW: All right. Ladies, thank you. Jackie, Molly, have a great weekend. Appreciate you being with me.

KUCINICH: You too, Poppy.

HARLOW: Next, we turn to California where there is a state of emergency now in two Southern California counties as the holy fire burns closer to homes, forcing thousands more to evacuate. We'll take you there next.


[09:29:29] HARLOW: All right. In California, the pain and misery continues. Cars on fire, entire neighborhoods covered in ashes, evidence of the destruction caused by the holy fire in Southern California has grown to more than 10,000 acres since Monday.

Take a look at this man. Look at him on the right side of your screen, desperately trying to save his home by watering it down with a garden hose as the blaze is just feet from his house. Police told him he had to leave.

Our Nick Watt is with me now in Lake Elsinore, California. People are desperate to do whatever they can.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, Poppy. It isn't the size of this fire, about 10,000 acres, it's the location that is causing the real problem.