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Protesters Rally One Year After Charlottesville Violence; Giuliani: No Conversation Between Trump, Comey On Flynn. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 12, 2018 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:17] RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Fredricka Whitfield. And we start with breaking news.

Right now, you are looking at live pictures from Washington, where anti-racism protesters are filling the streets marking one year since the deadly racist riot broke out in Charlottesville. This group is hoping to drown out the white nationalist rally set for tonight and send a clear message that hate is not welcome.

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, a heavy police presence is barricading off a portion of the street where Heather Heyer was killed in last year's protest. Earlier, Heather's mom visited the site, saying it's been tough since the loss of her daughter, but that, quote, it's not all about Heather, it never was.

Let's begin our coverage now with CNN's Brian Todd. He is in Freedom Plaza in Washington following the anti-racism protests. Many people already gathering there, Brian, they've been there all morning. What's the situation right now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, these counter protesters are about to go on the move, we're told in just a few minutes, well, here they go. They are actually starting a little bit early than they planned. They're going to go from here down to the White House, across from the White House in Lafayette Square. They've already started their march.

Our photojournalist, Harlan Schmidt is taking a nice pan shot of them as they start to go on the move. And I'm going to go down kind of the other way and come around Harlan here as he's going to show the route that they're taking. They're going over here to 14th Street. They're going to turn right and go probably a total of about four blocks to Lafayette Square.

Now, in just a few minutes, Ryan, this is going to be the real litmus test of how this day is going to unfold. How close are the police going to let these counter protesters get to the white supremacists? That is going to be key. The police have not given us any information as to how close they're going to let these people get, but they do say they will keep the two groups separate. And the distance that they keep them apart is really going to be crucial.

I've just talked to several protesters from different groups from Antifa to other groups here. And I've asked them, you know, what is your intent? Do you want to confront or do you wanted to just shut down their message? And just about all of them said they have absolutely no desire to confront their opponents on the other side, to confront those white supremacists. They just want to get their own anti-hatred message across, maybe shout them down a little bit, and go on from there.

They have no desire for violence, no desire to continue what happened in Charlottesville last year. The Charlottesville Police Chief, RaShall Brackney told CNN, look, we've got to own what happened last year. We've got to learn from it or we can't move on.

Well, the D.C. police, Ryan, have really taken that to heart. They are -- there's a heavy police presence here. There were several vans right behind me that just left for Lafayette Square. Full of police officers down the street. There are police officers on the corner. They are prepared to basically ring this crowd as they move.

And we're going to be moving with them, Ryan. But the police here have told us they have absolutely no intent to let these people confront the other side as each side speaks. The white supremacists starting their speeches at about 5:30 p.m. Eastern time, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right, Brian Todd, thank you for your reporting.

Let's go to the other side of Washington, D.C., now and Sara Sidner, who's in Washington, at Lafayette Park. We actually, Sara, do already have some pictures of those white supremacists who have gotten off the Metro near Foggy Bottom. And we're showing those pictures next to your live picture as well. So this is starting to happen, Sara. I mean, what's the mood like there right now? Is everything calm at this point?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very calm. And look, I want to give you an idea. We talk about what the police are going to do. We know what they're going to do. And I can show you what they're going to do.

You're seeing the group here. They are anti-fascist. They are against Unite the Right. They are against the white nationalists. They are against racism. They have been going since 1:00. And those numbers have grown quite a bit.

Now, here is where the Unite the Right folks and Jason Kessler, here is where they're coming from Foggy Bottom. Now, look, the police there, you see this sort of no man's land. No one is allowed in between. And this is the side, right over here, where we are expecting the folks from Unite the Right to show up. And so, you get some idea of just how separated they're going to be.

The Charlottesville police made a mistake, it is very clear -- groups to come together. The D.C. police are not having it. The park police are in charge of Lafayette Park. The D.C. police, you'll see out there on the streets. And you could see they've got horses that they have brought in as well.

And then of course the White House is right there, so you have the secret service who is also here. And they've got eyes in the sky. There are choppers flying over. They have eyes on top of the White House as well. The security is very tight, it's very serious and they're trying to make sure that these two groups, unlike what happened in Charlottesville, do not come together, and they're trying to make sure that there is no violence.

[15:05:08] If they want to yell and scream, they can do that all day long, but the officers here are keeping the two apart. Ryan?

NOBLES: All right, Sara Sidner, thank you for your report. We're going to continue to keep a very close eye on this situation as those white supremacists make their way in front of the White House. We'll go back if something warrants that coverage.

And today, of course, bringing another contradiction from the President's legal team. President Trump's Attorney Rudy Giuliani now says the President never asked former FBI Director James Comey to let the investigation of Michael Flynn go. Comey testified in June that President Trump asked him to drop the investigations of Flynn during a conversation at the White House in February of 2017.

Well, today on CNN's "State of the Union," Giuliani told Jake Tapper, the President never discussed easing up on the probe of Flynn. And because of the conflicting accounts, the President's legal team is reluctant to allow President Trump to be interviewed by the Special Counsel, fearing it could be a perjury trap.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: There was no conversation about Michael Flynn. The President didn't find out that Comey believed there was until about, I think it was February, when it supposedly took place. Memo came out in May.

And in between, Comey testified under oath that in no way had he been obstructed at any time. And then all of a sudden in May, he says he felt obstructed. He felt pressured by that comment, you should go easy on Flynn. So we maintain the President didn't say that.


NOBLES: CNN's White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez in New Jersey near the President's golf resort, where he's staying for his working vacation. Boris, how did Giuliani's comments today differ from what he has said in the past?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ryan. It's an apparent contradiction. One that Rudy Giuliani has tried to explain by saying that it is a misunderstanding. He is saying that ultimately this is because he used a device in legal argument known as arguing from the alternative.

Suffice to say, he did not make that clear in his interview with ABC News in July. Then he argue that President Trump told James Comey to cut Michael Flynn a break, something that Giuliani says he was asked to do many times as a prosecutor, something Comey should not have taken as a directive from the President and therefore not obstruction of justice.

Let's listen to exactly what the President's attorney said back in July.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: How is he a good witness for the President if he's saying that the President was asking him, directing him, in his words, to let the Michael Flynn investigation go?

GIULIANI: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was, can you give him a break?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Comey says he took it as direction.

GIULIANI: Well, that's OK. I mean, they've taken it that way. I mean, by that time, he had been fired. And he said a lot of other things, some of which have turned out to be untrue.

The reality is, as a prosecutor, I was told that many times. Can you give the man a break, either by his lawyers, by his relatives, by friends. You take that into consideration but, you know, that doesn't determine not going forward with it.


SANCHEZ: Now, Giuliani has apologized for the confusion. We should point out, Ryan, as you well know, this is not the first time that the President and his legal team have sought to clarify and then re- clarify remarks that they have made, whether about that June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and other women, and now the basis of the firing of James Comey and what was even said to James Comey. Of course, the President's attorneys say that this is part of the reason that they don't want the President to testify before the Special Counsel because as Jay Sekulow put it last week, facts are developing. Ryan.

NOBLES: OK. All right, Boris Sanchez live in New Jersey with the latest on President Trump.

We are actually going to go back to the situation in Washington. The President not at the White House today. As Boris points out, he is at his golf resort in his working vacation.

This is the scene just a few blocks from the White House. This is the Unite the Right group. Their leader Jason Kessler, who was in charge of that rally in Charlottesville last year, which essentially turned into a racist riot, this is part two of that protest this time in the nation's capital. And we can see these protesters. They actually took the Metro from suburban Northern Virginia into Washington, D.C.

There was a heavy police presence around that Metro. And now they are making their way to the White House. Brian Todd is actually with the other side of this protest, the anti-racism, anti-fascist protesters as they're describing themselves.

Brian, that group making their way to the White House as well. I mean, are we concerned about a confrontation between these two groups?

TODD: Well, Ryan, the police have been concerned about a possible confrontation for a long time about that. And they've been taking steps to make sure that that doesn't happen. There was a concern about how to get the white supremacists from their location at that Metro stop to the White House without any confrontations with some of the protesters. So far, that doesn't seem to have unfolded.

[15:10:08] And there is a heavy police presence here around these protesters as well. You've got -- this is kind of the head of the line of the protesters. They have come here and they have kind of assembled here and stopped. They're about to were marched over here on 14th Street.

Let's come on over here, and I'll show you a little bit of the police presence. Our photojournalist Albert Lutan and I are going to take you over here. There are police over here to my right. And there's a heavy police presence up here. They're going to escort these people over toward Lafayette Square.

And again, a big test of this and how this afternoon is going to unfold is how close they let these folks get to the white supremacist protesters in Lafayette Square, how close they're going to be able to get to actually maybe shout them down during their speeches, or not. And that's really going to see -- we're going to see how this unfolds from a security standpoint. The D.C. police say they are confident that this is going to come off peacefully. They want, of course, have an interest in doing that and they've been preparing -- I'm sorry, a lot of flags around here. They've been preparing for this for several months now, Ryan. So, crucial test of it coming up in the moments ahead.

NOBLES: Yes. And Brian, I know that you've talked to several of those anti-racism protesters and they were very explicit with you that they don't want this to come to a physical confrontation. Is that your sense that the vast majority of these protesters want this to be as peaceful as possible?

TODD: Absolutely it is that sense, Ryan. They do not want a confrontation. These people here are just bent on getting their own message across anti-racism, anti-hate. They were playing music. It was actually a festive atmosphere here a little while ago.

They want that to continue. They want to shout them down, they want to kind of drown out the white supremacist protesters. But no people here that we have spoken to are eager for a confrontation, Ryan. And again, the police are going to try to ensure that.

Again, we are looking at kind of a -- not a cordon, but a couple police officers over here in a vehicle, in a motorcycle, getting ready to escort them up 14th Street, then they'll turn left, and they will go toward Lafayette Square, Ryan. And also, I could say, here's one of the officers, a lot of officers intermingling with these people here just to kind of keep the emotions down a little bit, keep the temperature down.

NOBLES: OK, Brian, stick with me. I just want to point out what our viewers are seeing right now. Kind of explain this situation here. So this is the group of protesters from Unite the Right, as they call themselves, the white nationalist group that was responsible for the riots in Charlottesville last year.

It's actually a relatively small group of people, which might be difficult to discern from these pictures because there are a lot of people in these pictures. But from our reporters that were there with them when they got on the Metro in suburban Northern Virginia and then made their way here to Washington, D.C., tell us that the group of reporters, media, and counter protesters that are surrounding the group of neo-nationalists, the white nationalists, is actually very small. And -- So essentially anybody you see in a fluorescent vest or anybody walking backwards or anyone beyond them in fluorescent vests are not part of the protest group. That protest group is very small, essentially inside that circle of law enforcement that's helping them get to this protest site at Lafayette Park as safely as possible. So, there are people lined up along this street on either side that are yelling at them. It's hard to discern whether or not they're yelling back.

But at the very least, this is the lengths that the Washington, D.C., police are going to, to prevent this from becoming a -- the type of situation, I guess we should say, in Charlottesville. And to that degree, obviously they're learning the lessons from that. But it should also be pointed out that Washington, D.C., deals with protests of this sort perhaps more than any city in the world, and they are prepared for this type of conflict.

So Brian, if I can check back in with you, I assume you can still hear me, I mean, how close are your group of protesters to getting to the White House? How much longer do they have to walk?

TODD: Ryan, I think they've got about -- I'd say four blocks total. They're going to go up 14th Street here, turn left, and then there only going to be about a block or so from Lafayette Square which is across the street from the White House. It's really not a very extensive march route to the White House.

And if you can see these police officers behind me, pretty heavy presence here, but, again, the police are being pretty subtle here. They're mingling with the crowd. They got a couple of vehicles here.

There -- this is -- look, as you mentioned a minute ago, Ryan, this city and the police here have been dealing with this for beyond five decades. Riots, protest like this, they know how to do this. And they know how to keep groups apart.

The key question is, once these groups start seeing each other, kind of even from a distance, you know, can something spark? You mentioned Charlottesville. I was on the ground during President Trump's inauguration in January of last year.

[15:15:00] We know from experience that these kinds of confrontations can start in an instant. They can -- and almost anything could incite them. So, once we get there, once we get to Lafayette Square, and we are on the move right now, we are going to see what unfolds.

And again, I think I can't emphasize enough the distance is going to be keep. The distance that the police keep these protesters away from the white supremacists is going to be an absolutely crucial factor. I think we're going to be able to give you that visual pretty shortly, Ryan.

NOBLES: OK. Brian Todd, as I mentioned before, please stick with me. If we come back to you or something happens, please let us know.

Let's have a conversation about this, though. Tara and Paris joining me here on the set. I mean, guys, you're watching this unfold. Paris, I want to start with you. Are we making too much of this? I mean, this is a very small group of white supremacists that are making their way to the White House, but it's getting all kinds of attention. I mean, what's your view of this from your seat?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I've always thought that giving white supremacists and KKK members and people like David Duke a platform, be it on social media or the national media like on CNN was always a mistake, because in my opinion, what they are doing is utilizing the media to advance their message of hate. And so I don't even think this is significant in terms of size, significant in terms of message. I think they're doing this on purpose, to spread it.

So I don't like it. And I don't think that it's really helping move the country together or helping the dialogue.

NOBLES: But can we ignore it, Tara, after what happened last year?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course not. And to try to say that it's the media's fault for elevating this, I think, is a cop out. This is obviously something that has -- these folks have been emboldened. It's obvious.

The Washington Post just did a feature story last Sunday about this, using the example of Potter County, Pennsylvania, which is the Aryan Nation headquarters. And direct quotes from these people saying that the Donald Trump presidency has in fact emboldened them now to be more public and more with their racist, white supremacist, nazi views. That's unfortunate. I know a lot of people don't want to acknowledge that.

I was reluctant in the beginning even to say, well, you know, Trump's not -- I was, you know, I don't like throwing the word racist out there. But when you see his history, you see what he has said, you've seen how he's behaved during his presidency. It's very difficult not to say that we don't have a racist President. Fifty-seven percent of the American people in a recent poll believed that the American President is racist. That saddens me. What's going on here saddens me. And the fact that the President of the United States cannot come out and has yet to do it, his tweets yesterday, they ring hollow now. When he was confronted with this multiple times, he did not unequivocally come out and condemn this. That has been different from Republican presidents in the past.

George H.W. Bush had no problem condemning David Duke when he -- in his elk when he ran in Louisiana. Bill Buckley, my conservative hero, he -- when the John Burr society started with that racist nonsense, he said there's no room for that in the conservative movement. We have not seen that from this President. And a lot of people in his circle have made excuses for it, and that saddens me more than anything.

NOBLES: So, Paris, you're a President Trump supporter. I mean, how would you respond to what Tara has to say? I mean, there are, I mean -- and we shouldn't try and typecast all of Trump supporters in this show, but there are specifically groups of people that identify themselves as white supremacists who say they feel more emboldened because of the Trump presidency. Do you think that's happened?

DENNARD: I think what -- again, what these people do is utilize the media to get a platform. And quite frankly, you give it to them. So, if I'm someone who wants the media savvy, I'll say whatever I need to say to do that. It's hard to say that they are looking at this President as someone who supports them when he's denounced them, when he's denounced them on multiple occasions. Be he actually denounced David Duke and the KKK and these types of things before Charlottesville.

It's hard to say that -- to look at it with any credibility when you see what he's said and you see what he actually does in terms of his policies and actions that have actually benefitted minority communities.

NOBLES: All right. We have to take a quick break. I know you got -- and we both -- everybody's got a lot to say about --


NOBLES: -- this particular topic. We're going to have some time to talk about it, I promise you. This obviously just a developing story. We do need to take a quick break.

It appears that these protesters are just about to get to the point where they may have sight of each other. And we want to make sure that we're there for that to happen. So let's take a quick break and we'll continue with our breaking news coverage of this protest in Washington, D.C. You're watching CNN.


[15:23:44] NOBLES: And you're looking at live pictures in Washington, D.C. This is a group of anti-racism protesters that have gathered ahead of a planned rally by the Unite the Right group. This is the group that planned the rally in Charlottesville a year ago this week that led to racist riots in that small town. The rally now being brought here to the nation's capital. A very small group of Unite the Right protesters making their way to a park in front of the White House. They're being met by this very large group of anti-racism protesters.

We are now going to go live to Sara Sidner. She's at Washington -- or in Washington, at Lafayette Square Park, right across from the White House, where both of these sides are expected to confront each other. Sara, what's the latest there from your perspective?

SIDNER: They're going to confront each other with words, but they will likely never be able to confront each other physically. Both sides saying that they want to do things nonviolently and that this is going to be -- you can see the stage that is there where you're going to hear from likely Jason Kessler, the organizer of this Unite the Right rally, but a tiny number of people that are headed our way. We understand they'll be here in just a few minutes.

Giving you a look at the scene, the White House just there. And then if you look over, you'll see the police are out in force. They've got horses, there are cars, helicopters, they've got people on top of the White House, as they normally do, but more than normal.

[15:25:09] And then that is the crowd that is standing against racism, standing against the Unite the Right rally and those who support those ideals. It's gotten quite large at this point. But the police have it very well separated at this moment. We understand that as the Unite the Right rally organizers and participants were coming up, there were people trying to find them and counter protesters trying to show them that they're not wanted here in D.C.

But once they get here, you can hear, you know, the chants, but there is -- it's very unlikely that the two groups are going to come together. I'm going to turn the camera around real quick because as we understand it, they are beginning to make their way up Pennsylvania Avenue.

But right now it is quiet here. The mass amount of anti-protests, if you will, the marchers on the other side, that's who we're hearing from at this moment. Right now, things quiet. The police are standing at the ready. They're under horses there.

And that's the scene here for right now. You can see the large separation. I'll have here Peter (ph) that camera over there. You can see that in between the no man's land, there is not supposed to be anyone there. And that will separate a large area to separate broth of these groups.

And you do remember, Ryan, what happened in Charlottesville, the D.C. police obviously treating this very differently with the police from Charlottesville. The folks in Charlottesville admitted they made a mistake, letting these two groups come together. This time they're doing everything they can to keep that from happening. Ryan?

NOBLES: All right. Sara Sidner, thank you for your reporting. We'll check back with you in just a minute as those protesters from both sides make their way to Lafayette Park.

This again, the live picture of the Unite the Right protesters. And I think this illustrates pretty well that it is a relatively small group of people representing the white nationalist side of this argument.

Let's go to Brian Todd now. He is with the much larger group of anti- racist protesters. Brian, I assume you're getting closer to the White House.

TODD: We certainly are, Ryan. I'd say we're about a block and a half away from the White House, getting closer to when these protesters are going to be maybe face to face with some of the white supremacist protesters for the first time. At least as far as large masses of both crowds.

Our photojournalist Albert Lutan and I can kind of get you a little bit closer, show you some of the signs here. The main group of protesters is called Unite Against Hate. That's their banner. Black lives matter is over there. This is a coalition of about 30 different groups protesting against racism and hatred.

There's a good picture of Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed in Charlottesville last year. These people have been very slowly, methodically, and I will have to say they've been pretty well organized, making their way over here toward Lafayette Square from Freedom Plaza.

You know, we don't want to get into crowd as there several hundred people were behind us. It's very likely that they're going to heavily outnumber the white supremacists once they get to Lafayette Square. And police are kind of moving ahead of them, keeping a very subtle presence here, but you do sense that police are all around us, Ryan.

It's very interesting when, you know, we were told that basically we didn't think that there would be one police officer in D.C. not working today. That's probably the case. But despite a heavy police presence, the police here are expert at kind of -- just kind of melting into the background, blending in, not necessarily, you know, putting big police lines of people up. They're going to let these people do their thing and march in. And then they're just going to monitor it from there.

We do see several police officers over here. Let me just see Albert can pan over to our -- to your right, my left. You see several police officers there. Now, that is the walking entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue right in front of the White House. And Lafayette Square is just over here. So you get a sense of how close we are getting here.

And it looks like now -- yes, they are not going to let people walk into that walking plaza of Pennsylvania Avenue. So I believe now we're going to have to go up at least the block and then turn left.

So again, you know, police cordoning off certain areas here. They're going to restrict the movements of some of these people, again, keep them some distance apart. And again, as we've been saying, Ryan, the actual distance that they're going to keep these people apart is going to be absolutely crucial in the minutes ahead.

NOBLES: OK. All right, Brian Todd, thank you, with the anti-racist protesters there on one side of Washington. And as we can see, live pictures happening right now, you can see the Unite the Right protesters making their way into Lafayette Park.

If you can make him out there, their leader Jason Kessler, he's the one holding the American flag. He's the one who was the principal organizer behind the rallies in Charlottesville last year that led to all the conflict. And he is the one that filed the paperwork for the permits to take -- for this rally to take place this year.

Let's talk about this. We've got two very smart voices, Paris Dennard and Tara Setmayer. Paris and Tara, you guys are both important voices here. You're both African-American. You're both Republicans. You both feel differently about President Trump and his role in all of these.

[15:30:08] And Paris, I want to get back to a conversation that we're having before about, perhaps the amplification of these voices. And certainly, and as we can see from these pictures, this is not a very big group of people leading this protest. But it was a much different scene in Charlottesville last year. There were a lot of people there. Could it be that after a year's worth of time that perhaps these voices are being suppressed to a certain extent to at least to the point where they don't feel comfortable coming out in large numbers to a protest like this one?

DENNARD: I mean, I don't know what motivates people -- these hateful people to galvanized in Charlottesville or try to come down to D.C., but I do believe that the aftermath of the Charlottesville last year and that obviously the horrible death of Heather Heyer highlighted the fact that in today's society, modern America, there's no place for this level of hatred or any level of hatred that would lead to somebody's life being taken. And so I think if people came out there on one hand to talk about a monument being up or down and then it turned into what it turned into, those same thralls of people are not going to be there today. And they're not there today as of right now, because I think they understand that this is not something that we as Americans support, tolerate, or want to give a platform to or should give a platform to.

NOBLES: Tara, just give me one second, I want to get your perspective on this. But I want to go to Sara Sidner who's there in Lafayette Park, who can kind of give us the view of what's happening there. Sara, this -- I mean, this -- the pictures that we're seeing now indicate just how small this group really is. What's the view from where you are?

SIDNER: If you can imagine, Ryan, that there are -- I mean, I can count them on two hands, basically, the number of people who have managed to create the spot here.

NOBLES: OK. All right, we're having a hard time hearing Sara. So we'll check her mic and come back there. But -- And Tara, I mean, you can see the pictures here. This is a pretty meager group here. This is not a -- I mean, we didn't expect this group to be very big, but I think it's even below those expectations.

SETMAYER: Well, sure. I think there's a couple dynamic that are a bit different. A, Washington, D.C. is not Charlottesville.

NOBLES: Right.

SETMAYER: No offense to Charlottesville, but Washington, D.C. has a different police force, a different presence. There are a lot more experienced with protests and counter protests. So, I'm sure that these cowards weren't willing to come and face the potential backlash of a heavy police presence that understands how to handle these situations. So that doesn't surprise me that they aren't there in larger numbers than appear to be in Charlottesville.

You know, but I want to go back to something that -- to respond to something Paris said before. He said that the President of the United States condemned David Duke and that he condemned racism and white supremacists, but not quite. He had plenty of opportunity to do it immediately and he did not. He hedged on David Duke when it happened. He hedged on Charlottesville when it happened.

When he read from a statement that was prepared for him that no one really believed was sincere. You could just tell by his body language. Those were nice words. But then when he had the opportunity to freelance and say how he really felt, that's when there were fine people on both sides came out.

The problem is that the President had not been definitive on his condemnation of these kinds of people, which is what has led to 57 percent of the American people believing that he's a racist. He's trafficked in this. His entire career whether it was the housing discrimination lawsuit, the '70s. Whether it was comments he made that were attributed to him in a book that said he didn't want blacks counting his money because blacks have a lazy trait. He never disputed that.

Black dealers in his casinos in Atlantic City sued him for workplace discrimination because of how they were treated. The Central Park Five, he never ever apologized for the way he went after them.

NOBLES: So let's get --

SETMAYER: So those kinds of things are what leads people to believe that the President of the United States is a bigot.

NOBLES: Right.

SETMAYER: And he is racially insensitive, if not a racist flat out. So these other little tidbits because he trots out, you know, someone black as a token to me say, oh, see, look, I'm not racist. You know, it's like saying, you know, I'm not a racists, I have black, you know, black people over for dinner. It's -- it rings hollow unfortunately. His track record and his own behavior --


SETMAYER: -- demonstrate himself.

NOBLES: I will give you a chance to respond to that, but we do have Sara now. And Sara can give us the perspective of what's happening there. So Sara, tell us what you're seeing.

SIDNER: It's remarkable that this small number of people have basically shut down this area in front of the White House. I'll give you a look at the Unite the Right rally, which is anemic at best. There are a couple of handfuls of people that are there. And then, if you look to your right, Peter is going to show you where the major crowd is. And that is groups like Black Lives Matter.

[15:35:02] And there are several groups that have gathered here. They've called this protest, Shut It Down D.C. They are all here facing the white nationalists from Unite the Right. They are all here saying shame, shame, shame on you.

They've been screaming all kinds of different things that the KKK is not welcome. They talked about anti-fascism. They've got signs saying racism is wrong. There is a huge number of people gathered and chanting across this park, but they are very well separated. You will notice the police line there dealing with the group, the large group of anti-racist protesters.

And then Peter, may have you swing back. I mean this is a very, very small number of people who came for Unite the Right. And there are going to be people, I'm already seeing them on social media, talking about the fact that this small number of people had this kind of impact on this town. And there were people who I talked to here in D.C. who were fearful about what might happen because of what happened in Charlottesville, because there a huge mistake was made by police. They let the two groups come together and you saw what the result of that was. There was violence and there was death.

The death of Heather Heyer and many people injured when police say someone who is a neo-nazi sympathizer got in a car and ran over a lot of people. And then, you know, he ended-up getting caught, but here that is just not likely to happen. If you look at the anemic numbers from the Unite the Right, there is no way they are going to be engaging with the hundreds of people that are out here protesting against them, Ryan.

NOBLES: OK, Sara Sidner, thank you for that view of the reality of the situation on the ground.

I want to get back to our conversation with Paris and Tara. So Paris, I want you to specifically respond to what Tara said about the President's response in the wake of Charlottesville. And he did use that language, talking about both sides. And it required Republican voices like Tim Scott and others to really encourage him to make a more definitive statement about what happened there. You know, how do you explain that and how do you allow for it especially given the fact that you're African-American and someone that supports the President?

DENNARD: How do I allow for what?

NOBLES: The fact that he wasn't as equivocal in his denouncement of the organizers of this rally in Charlottesville last year?

DENNARD: Well, in my opinion, and I think if we are all going to be accurate and factual, it is inaccurate and it's not factual to say the President did not or has not or has not repeatedly while either running for president or President of United States denounce racism hatred, bigotry, KKK, and David Duke lie.

NOBLES: But what about that -- but the specifics --

DENNARD: But the facts are -- that the facts are he has done it. So whether or not you like the timing, whether or not you like the fact that it wasn't within seconds or a millisecond, the facts are he did to it. And he did tweet about it yesterday in terms of, once again, denouncing hatred and violence and specifically going back to Charlottesville.

So, as an African-American, as an American first of all, I think the President did the right thing. And I think it's disingenuous for anyone to go ahead and say that, oh, he used a script or that somebody wrote for him. I've had the honor of working in a White House, and I know for a fact that all presidents utilize things written for them.

And when there is something that is important that they want to get out, it is normally a typed out and put on a teleprompter --

SETMAYER: He shouldn't have to type out a statement to condemn white supremacists. I mean, that's the point here, though, that he is saying that --

NOBLES: But whether it was type or written --

SETMAYER: But the response whether it was not immediate or not, matters, because most people, good and decent Americans don't need someone or an adviser to come in and craft a statement to condemn white supremacists, neo-nazis. That's the problem here. So, the fact that it was initially scripted and yes, presidents do work with that, but something as innately simple as denouncing hatred and racism like this shouldn't require that level of advisers.

NOBLES: But he worked off the script, didn't he Paris?

SETMAYER: That's right.

NOBLES: I mean, he added the both sides statement --

SETMAYER: Where the truth came out.

NOBLES: -- and to the script. I mean, that initial statement where he came out, it was at Trump Tower, I believe at the time, and said the both -- that there were -- there was problems with both sides in that. That didn't bother you at all into that language?

DENNARD: Well, I think we should be accurate. He was not at Trump Tower and he did not -- that wasn't the full statement. I think we should read the full statement. But as I interpret what he said, he was talking about the violence on both -- on many sides, the violence. SETMAYER: That's not what he said. That's not what he said. We're still debating this. There's still a question that --

DENNARD: No. Actually, there is no question. There is no debate.

SETMAYER: They're still defending it.

DENNARD: The President was referring to the fact that there was violence on many sides, on both sides of that.

SETMAYER: He said very fine people on both sides.

NOBLES: All right.


DENNARD: Let's be accurate.


DENNARD: Go back and read exactly --

NOBLES: Well, we'll get back to this conversation --

DENNARD: What she is saying is incorrect.

NOBLES: Let's get more on what's happening on the ground there. Brian Todd is standing by with the latest. He's with the anti-racist protesters. Brian, tell us what you're seeing.

[15:40:06] TODD: Ryan, we're about to get into Lafayette Square where the protesters are going to come face to face with the white supremacists. A lady here just took a tumble. They're helping her up. She seems to be OK.

I'm going to talk to one of the protest leaders, David Thurston. David just spoke to the group as they were marching. David, you are about to come face to face with some of the white supremacist protesters. What do you want to do at this moment?

DAVID THURSTON, PROTESTS LEADER: Well, do you want to wait a second because I'm putting a --

TODD: No, no, it's OK.


TODD: Just come over here.


TODD: Just keep going.

THURSTON: So this mobilization has been built on something called the diversity of tactics where some people are prepared to take greater risk than others. So there are folks during direct accident prepared to directly stop the nazis from coming towards Lafayette Square. Other folks are more here to stand at a broader political message and standing solidarity with those folks.

TODD: Are you --

THURSTON: So I personally was the emcee of the rally and the art's organizer for the overall mobilization. So I'm going to be trying to make sure that all the art we produce that puts our message out is vibrantly and creatively as possible gets collected. So I'm not personally going to be risking arrest, but I'm standing in solidarity with everyone who is.

And one thing we're not going to allow the state to do is make us be the protest police, but we're saying, oh, you know, so-and-so broke a window, so that's the bad protesters. You know, we have to recognize that alt-right, these neo-nazis, and fascists, their agenda is viciously violent and is being backed up by state power in the form of Trump's administration. So if we are attack to, they're going to defend themselves.

TODD: Are you saying they're prepared to confront the police or the other side in any way?

THURSTON: I think that there are folks who were prepared to confront the police if they're defending the nazis, if they sort of attacking or mass arresting. I was one of the organizers for the protest around the inauguration. Trumps first comes inauguration G20 and we had more than 200 people facing massive charges of property destruction, felony to riot. All those charges were -- most of them were dismissed or charges were dropped.

So I think if the police are going to not be trying to mass arrest today, but if they do try to mass arrest protesters, who knows what the response will be. But to me, the onus for that is on the state because the reason things got crazy on G20 was the police started peddling and sending tear gas and mace at people. People react when those things happen. It's a basic reptilian core of our brain, fight, flight, or freeze. And if people are attacked, they either fight, fight or freeze, you know, so that's what I would say.

TODD: All right, David, thank you very much for talking us, good luck.

THURSTON: Do you have a card?

TODD: Oh sorry, I give it to you in a second. Thanks.

THURSTON: All right, that's good.

TODD: I give my card in a second. Well, let's take a visual over here. The protesters have kind of stopped here Ryan. But you can see way down, this is F -- this is H Street, I believe we're on now. You can see them way down on the other side.

The Lafayette Square is just over here to our left. So the protesters are stopped and I think they're about to turn left into the square and get as close as they possibly can. We're going to try to give you the visual of how close they're allowed to get because, again, this is that moment of truth where these people, many of them, are going to come face to face with the white supremacists and try to counter that message. What's it going to look like physically? That's what we're about to find out, Ryan.

NOBLES: OK. Brian Todd live for us in Downtown Washington, D.C., where these dueling protests were taking place. We have the story covered from every possible angle.

We're going to take a quick break and have more when we come back. You're watching CNN.


[15:47:44] NOBLES: As these protests unfold this weekend in both Charlottesville and Washington, the community of Charlottesville is still trying to recover from last year's deadly rally there.

I want to bring in Bishop Harry Jackson. He leads (ph) a live picture from Washington by moments ago, actually not a live picture. And I'm going to go now to Charlottesville to talk with the senior pastor of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. Bishop, what have you been hearing from the community since the death of Heather Heyer and the protests in Charlottesville? What have things been like a year later?

BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, SENIOR PASTOR, HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN BELTSVILLE, MARYLAND: Well, they want to see healing in the community. They want their community to be remembered as a place where the church comes together and they begin to heal racial division. And they believe that their disunity is part of the backdrop of the story, why the community was vulnerable to such external attacks.

NOBLES: And we've seen tragedies like this around the country sparked by racism.


NOBLES: From your perspective as a pastor, how do you approach these issues with members of your congregation?

JACKSON: Well right now, I'm telling folks that a 400-year-old problem is being exposed and I believe that we're on the verge of seeing a civil awakening, meaning that the average Joe wants to see racial justice, wants to see women not abused in terms of the Me Too movement, wants to see things come into a greater equity in our democracy. And I'm proud of America now that we're facing the problems that we have had.

The church has got to do a better job, I think, of leading the way and saying here's how we heal these divides. I think that's where we as a church have failed, that we haven't challenged, let's say the evangelical community to rise up and lead the way, and things like criminal justice reform and the practical outworking of what a racially color blind America would look like. We haven't been advocates for justice. And this is our moment. If we're going to lead and be relevant in this generation, on the church (ph), he's got to stand up, lead the way and take action.

[15:50:03] NOBLES: And I wonder if you've seen any of these pictures today in Washington. You sound hopeful --


NOBLES: -- about the future of race relations, but there's obviously still a lot of conflict right now. I mean, where do you see the future of race relations? Are you concerned that we could see more events like we saw in Charlottesville a year ago or do you think we're close to the tipping point where the country will start to come together around a common vision for issues like these?

JACKSON: Well, I think that's a very insightful question. I think the small number of demonstrators in Washington shows that nobody on the other side, the hate side really wants to show their face. I think that we're at the point where we're going to be seeing a tipping point, but again, what does it look like? What does nonviolence lived out look like?

How do Latinos and African-Americans get a voice? How do the least of these, the poorest of the poor in our communities? How do they get a leg up? How do we retrain people that are coming out of the criminal justice system?

I think that the practicality of the steps of action need to be laid out. America is ready. America is waiting. I believe that the god of America, if you will, is ushering us into the place to make a difference.

NOBLES: All right, it sounds fisher, but that the protests are one thing, but now actual action needs to take place for this healing to really begin. We appreciate your perspective today, sir. Thank you for joining us.

JACKSON: Thank you.

NOBLES: OK. And we're going to take a quick break. We'll have more on what's happening here in Washington, D.C. when we come back.


[15:56:14] NOBLES: Welcome back. We are continuing our breaking news coverage of the counter protests in Washington, D.C. marking the one- year anniversary of the riots in Charlottesville after an event planned by white nationalists there. This is a small group of individuals who go under the banner of Unite the Right. Actually, I'm not sure, this seems to be a group of counter protesters as well. But that small group of protesters under the banner of Unite the Right are staged in Lafayette Square Park, very small group of people while there was a very large group of counter protester.

And let's bring in CNN Political Commentators Paris Dennard and Tara Setmayer to talk about this. Paris, I want to go back to our previous segment and our conversation with Bishop Harry Jackson.


NOBLES: I thought he was very insightful and particular what he talked about. It's one thing to have a protest, right? It's one thing to shout about things that you are upset about. He talked about the tangible action. Is that an opportunity for President Trump?

I know, one of the things in particular that President Trump has talked about is, is prison reform as being one of the things that he is concerned about. Could that be a way to show people of color in this country that the President is looking out for them?

DENNARD: Well, look, I have the utmost respect for people like Bishop Harry Jackson, our courageous bishop and pastor who is willing to come and sit at the table, speak truth to power and represent his community and his church with this President particular on specific issues that impact our nation. Many Pastors have done that. Pastor Darrell Scott is another one. And what they are doing is talking about this urban revitalization agenda. I call it the jobs and justice agenda that this President is talking about. So yes, the Investing in Opportunity Act which we saw under the tax bill which was championed by Tim Scott, endorsed by the President, with this opportunity zones is a powerful thing.

When we look at the prison reform, and now the expansion of the prison reform going far beyond what they have talked about before. These are the positive steps that this President is doing and that this administration across the board is doing to address some of these key issues that impact some of the issues, the underlying issue of why we have such deep divisions especially the minority communities in our country.

NOBLES: Tara, what do you think? Do you think the President can -- is there an opening for him there to reach out to people of color?

SETMAYER: I think that there was an opening in the beginning of his presidency to do that which is why a lot of black folks were like, we'll give him a chance, he is a businessman, you know, we'll give him a chance. I think he squandered that opportunity in a couple of areas based off of what we've already litigated before with his comments and some of his behaviors and that history. But there is some -- there is for prison reform, that is certainly an area with a lot of bipartisan support that is a lot of folks on the Republican side have been working on for years. So yes, there is an opening there.

Unfortunately, there are no senior black officials in the White House. My friend Jeron Smith is doing a great job on the economic side of things, working on the opportunity zones, but he is not a senior official. Since Omarosa left, there aren't any. Kellyanne Conway today stuttered and avoided the question on the Sunday shows trying to name who's in those positions. There really aren't any.


SETMAYER: So God bless people like Bishop Jackson and others who were trying to do things on the ground in their communities. I personally wouldn't put the name of Darrell Scott who is a hustler and a disgrace to -- in the same sentence of Bishop Harry Jackson. He's an honorable man. He's actually doing something positive.


SETMAYER: But, yes, there are small openings with HBCUs in things as well. But if you don't have the people in place, we don't hire the best people which clearly the President has not done then it's very difficult to get policy done and actually do something tangible.

NOBLES: OK, Tara and Paris, you guys can go back and forth all day, I'm pretty sure. I do appreciate your time today in rolling well with the punches in our breaking news coverage. We so appreciate your perspectives and thank you for being here.

[16:00:04] NOBLES: Hello, and thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Fredricka Whitfield. And we start today with breaking news.