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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Arrives In New York City To Protests; Trump Attacks Media After Criticism Of His Charlottesville Response; Protesters In Durham, NC Topple Confederate Statue. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:-00:48] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. We're just after the top of the hour. The president has apparently moved past expressions of solidarity with people of Charlottesville, Virginia or even specific condemnations to the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who made it so toxic and deadly over the weekend. Instead, after calling them out for the first time today, which he did, they're refusing to do the second time when asked to do it later. He's taking a new tact tweeting a complaint about the press coverage, "Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realized once again that the fake news media will never be satisfied. Truly bad people." Worse than neo-Nazis and allegedly homicidal driver, he didn't say.
Certainly, plenty to talk about in the hour to come along with the protests greeting him tonight where he arrived from Washington just a short time ago and is making his way to Trump Tower, as well as the second CEO departure from a presidential advisory council.
The head of Merck earlier today, the CEO of Under Armour moments ago saying his company is about sports, not politics.
First, the day in full and all the news the president made. Sara Murray joins us from the White House. Do we know, Sara, exactly how the president's statement today which was clearly right off a teleprompter and very carefully worded, how it came about and compared to the statement he gave on Saturday?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Anderson, we don't have all the details. We know that a number of his advisers, obviously, were encouraging him to say more. We know that they wrote out this statement, crafted it today, and he delivered it from a teleprompter. But I think you can tell by the president's tweet they certainly felt that the media coverage, and frankly their critics on all sides were bearing down on them -- Republicans, Democrats, Trump's backers on Wall Street have all come out and said that what the president said on Saturday did not go far enough.
And in many ways, Trump's team underestimated the backlash that was going to surround his original statement, which is kind of shocking when you think about the fact that the president has been in this predicament before as a candidate and he has fumbled sort of handling these racial issues a number of times, and yet he and his team do not really seem to be learning that lesson.
COOPER: What else did the president say today?
MURRYA: Well, he was asked, basically, why did this take you so many days to reach this full-throated response, to specifically call out hate groups, to call out the KKK, to call out white supremacist? Here is what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDEN: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've been condemned. They have been condemned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So no explanation as to why there was this delay. The president saying they have been condemned, and then making it clear that he wanted to move on to other issues. He spent the afternoon talking about trade policies and talking about the U.S. economy, Anderson.
COOPER: Sara Murray, thanks, from the White House. Let's bring in the panel, Ryan Lizza, Bakari Sellers, Scott Jennings, Tara Setmayer, and Jeffrey Toobin.
Ryan, you said over the weekend, you said tweeted on Saturday that it was by far the most disgraceful day of Donald Trump's presidency.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it was. I mean, I just I think the fact that the president of the United States, who is outraged by the most -- the smallest things, and he's been more worked about Rosie O'Donnell or someone that complains about his ratings than he was about Nazis and violence in Charlottesville.
So I think it's the bare minimum for a president to come out and talk about something like that. It's the bare minimum of what you would expect. That's why I tweeted that. I think the fact that it took him several days to come out and said what he said this afternoon, it's too little too late. I mean, one's initial response to something like this is the most important response, not after there's a media outcry and an outcry from Republican leaders that you need to do this. It doesn't count. You don't get a mulligan as president of the United States. And --
COOPER: We're also talking about white supremacists and neo-Nazis here. It's not a --
LIZZA: It's not a hard case.
LIZZA: This is not a tough call. This is just the most -- I mean, the fact that we're even talking about it seems like it's not real life. We're talking about the president couldn't condemn Nazis.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I also think, though, that many Americans who are persecuted by the same neo-Nazis, many people who suffer under the thumb of oppression, who deal with this -- what has become America, which is white supremacy are not surprised by this at all. I mean, you take Donald Trump, whose father was arrested in 1927 in a KKK rally you. Take Donald Trump, who was sued by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination, the central park five, and then he becomes president. He involves and becomes president. And in his White House is Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon.
[21:05:08] This whole kind of whole surprise and outrage is for many of us who see Donald Trump for what he is, this is nothing new. His reaction was exactly what we expected it to be. I am very pleased that now in Charlottesville, what we saw in Charlottesville is the face of white supremacy, and now America gets to see it, because these people aren't fringe. These people are loan officers. These people are position assistants.
COOPER: College students.
SELLERS: College students, teachers. These people are those individuals in Flint, Michigan, who don't want people to get clean water, their legislators in South Carolina who have a quarter of shame. I mean, the economic injustices, the environmental injustices, the criminal justice system which is crippled, that is what we're talking about. But now America gets to see it, and its name is Charlottesville.
COOPER: Scott, I know you are critical to the president not going far enough Saturday, what do you make up of what he said today?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought the president's statement today was correct. It would have been better had it been delivered on Saturday. I thought when they tried to cram the Charlottesville statement inside of another event on Saturday, that was operationally incorrect. I thought his tweet tonight was unproductive. I think the statement today, if you read it, if you listen to his words was very good.
This is a moment that requires precision in language. I saw some people today criticizing the president for using a teleprompter. What was the alternative? Send him out there again to ad lib? I mean, I've got two words for you on that strategy, insane, OK? He needs to use precise language at a moment like this. He's a Republican president. He has to put on the mantle of being in the party of Lincoln, and he has to get it right.
And so the statement today got it right. The tweet was not good. The Saturday statement was not good. And now we have to see. What are we going to do next? The DOJ is investigating. His Homeland Security advisers have to watch out for these Nazis and these white supremacists because I'm certain they're going to have rallies in other places. And what are we going to do now? So there's more to do, and they've got to get it right. TARA SETMAYER, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, ABC NEWS: You know, as a political communicator, yes, reading -- if you had read his statement, you would have been oh, that's great. If you watched it, he once again looked uncomfortable. He looked like he was forced to do it, that he didn't want to be bothered with it. His disposition was almost like I have to do this. And that does not instill confidence or unify the country when the president of the United States is basically forced to have to condemn white nationalism. That is -- but that's who he is. What you saw on Saturday, that is who Donald Trump is. And for reasons that Bakari listed with Donald Trump's history all the way to his father, to even more than that, but, you know, you had racial discrimination against dealers in Atlantic City in his casinos there. And comments that he has made in books where he said he didn't want blacks counting his money. He never disputed the facts in those books that was written about him.
I mean, Donald trump, just his basic my African American, calling out a Mexican judge, (INAUDIBLE), you know, because he was Mexican- American, he can't be fair. I mean, Donald Trump has no credibility on this issue. And his continued intransigence on this is just very disheartening. And what do you look, what do you see?
As an American, I look at this and it make miss heart sick that we have people that are continuing to protest in front of, you know, Donald Trump's, you know, Trump Tower, that protests all over the country after we saw after he got inaugurated. That's heartbreaking for me to see as an American, because we are so far from united. And Donald Trump is not helping the situation. And his acolytes that are trying to continue to be enablers for him, it is not helping the situation. And he is who he is, though. This is who Donald Trump. He is never going to change. And I don't know how we as a country unify behind someone that behaves like this.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know. I'm still sort of in shock that you think -- Saturday was worse than when he fired James Comey. I think that was by far the worst day of his presidency. For the first time in American history, to have a president fire a guy who was investigating him, unless maybe the Saturday night massacre when Nixon fired -- had Archibald Cox fired. But certainly I would say it was second. It was second.
COOPER: We heard from the White House over the weekend, you know, from unnamed people in the White House that he didn't want to dignify these groups by mentioning their names. But, you know, he held an entire press conference about MS-13. I've done tons of stories on gangs. And every gang probably will tell you the same thing when you're doing the story. They say please don't mention the name of the gang, because it just gives them credibility. It just raises them to higher platform. He had no problem doing that on MS-13 to not mention the KKK or neo-Nazi?
SELLERS: But who buys that, because he's already dignified them because he has hired them.
TOOBIN: Listen, come on. Let's be fair. I mean, Steve Bannon is not in the KKK.
SELLERS: No, but Steve Bannon is a white --
TOOBIN: All right.
TOOBIN: So let's be a little more fair.
SELLERS: No, no, no, no, no, no. No, and let's have a frank conversation about this because Steve Scalise, God bless his spirit. I'm really glad he's back on the road to recovery. He himself, who is the majority whip of the United States Congress, said I'm David Duke without the baggage. I mean, nobody fines offense to that? This is permeated throughout -- this is not something that's out of the realm of what we live in every day. This is our political structure. And yes, Steve Bannon is a white nationalist. And yes, and Stephen Miller is a white nationalist, and yes, they need to be rooted out. It's a culture. With all due respect to everyone, and Democrats are going to jump on me for saying this, this didn't start with Donald Trump. This is not a Donald Trump phenomenon. He is the embodiment of it. But this did not start with him. And now we have to deal with it as a country.
[21:10:47] TOOBIN: Well, I mean, I think it is worth drawing a distinction between the people who were literally in the KKK and American Nazis and the alt-right. I'm not defending either one of them. But there are differences among them. I think what is in common is the president's refusal to disassociate himself with it. That's what's problematic.
COOPER: We got to take, I'm sorry, a quick break. We'll hear from Scott when we come back.
A quick note, the president just arrived at Trump Tower for the first time since moving to the White House. We're told he managed to avoid the protesters. We're going to take a break.
Coming up next, the mayor of Charlottesville, who has been one of the president's sharpest critics in the past several few days, question, did anything the president say today change his view? Find out when we continue.
And later new job approval numbers for the president, a new record low. We'll look closer how this latest tragedy could affect them as we continue.
[21:15:08] COOPER: We're continuing to keep an eye on anti-Trump protests here in midtown Manhattan where the president is spending the next few days. He arrived just a few moments ago. His handling of the Charlottesville tragedy drawing most of the protester's ire tonight. One of his sharpest critics, no doubt, has been the mayor of Charlottesville. I spoke with Democrat Mike Signer shortly before air time.
COOPER: Mayor Signer, this morning you told CNN about the president's comments on Saturday that he, quote, "had his opportunity and he whiffed." That was your expression. Did the president's comments today, specifically denouncing neo-Nazis, the KKK, the white supremacists, did it make a difference for you?
MAYOR MICHAEL SIGNER, (D) CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA: I'm really glad he made them. He's the president of the United States. And I'm glad he spoke up about the bigotry and the, you know, the folks that we saw come to Charlottesville this weekend. I think it was great.
And now I think that we all should get started on the hard work of rebuilding and strengthening. That's kind of what I've been focused on today. It was a weekend of grieving and sorrow and mourning. That obviously is going to continue for a long time. But I really firmly believe that we all are going to start working on our democracy in different in new and very helpful ways, starting today. So that's really what I'm focused on. I'm glad he said what he did.
COOPER: Richard Spencer, the leader in the white supremacist movement, an organizer of this past weekend's rally announced today that he plans to hold another rally in Charlottesville. Is that a rally that should take place? Would you city grant the permits needed to hold it?
SIGNER: Let me tell you about Charlottesville. We are one of the greatest cities, and that is not an exaggeration in the country, if not the world. I will say that today, you know, after a weekend of mourning, getting back to work as mayor of this great American city, I've been working on three things. The first one is I think we do need to look at how we work on permitting for events like this if they are brought to a city like ours with the intent of incitement, with an unpeaceful intent. It's our job as officers of the constitution. I'm sworn to uphold the constitution to strike the right balance when we protect the first amendment, which is sacrosanct. We need even unpopular speech to be heard. But we also need to do it in way that is consistent with public safety. We have to do that. So that balance may be changing in a little way depending on what's coming to us. So I strongly think that we should examine deeply how to have these first amendment events while they're safe for the public.
COOPER: Mayor Signer, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SIGNER: Thank you.
COOPER: Much more on that issue and all the complications surrounding it just ahead in this hour. Back now with the panel. So the president -- the White House said the president is not planning to travel to Charlottesville. Is that the right thing?
SETMAYER: Well, at least has he called the victims' families? I mean, he didn't even mention that.
COOPER: He hasn't said the name. In his speech he didn't say the name.
SETMAYER: Right. It's like an after thought. He kind of glossed all over all of this. And it just, again, I find it hard to believe that it has taken this long, and that the president of the United States needs to be chided into giving a full -- a full disavowal of white Nazi group.
LIZZA: I mean, previous presidents would go to a place like Charlottesville in the aftermath of an event like this --
LIZZA: -- to calm the waters, to speak to the community.
SELLERS: They wouldn't, though. Barack Obama didn't do it. George Bush didn't do it. But the reason they don't --
LIZZA: Didn't do it where?
SELLERS: Barack Obama didn't go I believe it was New Orleans and Baton Rouge after flooding or after Alton sterling. I mean, they don't make these moves because of the resources it takes away from the city. I mean, when Donald Trump moves, it's not as if Donald Trump is taking the NYPD and two officers with him.
SETMAYER: That's a fair point.
SELLERS: And so, I will give him credit for at least recognizing or someone recognizing the fact that this may not be the best time for president of the United States because of the resources necessary to go elsewhere for him to be there.
LIZZA: I think when there's a natural disaster, there's a reason not to bring the secret service and all the rest there. I don't think that's the problem with Charlottesville. I think the problem is you want a unifying figure to go and speak to the people there and so far Donald Trump has not been able to be that person. So it's not clear to me what he would use the bully pulpit for.
COOPER: I mean, someone said, according to the Daily Beast, one White House official when asked about this said why the hell would he do that? Saying that it would be used against him, which is also a very possibly a fair point that, you know, it would become something to be used against him.
JENNINGS: I think it depends on what you're going to say. Are you going to go there and -- are you holding your own event? Are your attending someone else's event? I mean, what is the reason you're going there and how are you speaking? I think something that we should talk about tonight that's very important is the need for the Republican Party to separate itself from people who are literally marching around American streets carrying Nazi flags. And I want to single out the chairwoman of the RNC, Chairwoman McDaniel. She made a very strong statement today saying if you're somebody out there trading on the name of Donald Trump or the Republican Party and you're carrying around a Nazi flag, you're not in the Republican Party. We don't represent you, and you don't represent us. I think that was vital, vital that they do that.
[21:20:19] SETMAYER: The president should have said that.
TOOBIN: I mean, you know, for the Republican Party to come out against Nazis isn't that great, but how about coming out for voting rights? How about not disenfranchising people?
JENNINGS: I'm sorry, if that hadn't happened, I shudder to think what you'd be saying to me right now. Here is the reality. This event happened this weekend. The president did not get it right on Saturday.
JENNINGS: He did better today. I said this weekend I thought the chairwoman of the RNC had an absolute responsibility to delineate between actual Republicans and these people. And she did it. And I wanted to bring it up because I thought it was the right thing to do.
TOOBIN: But to quote a Republican president, George W. Bush, I think you are engaging in the soft bigotry of low expectations. The fact that -- Republicans can do good work by condemning Nazis I think is really a very low bar.
SETMAYER: I agree with you. But I think that's partially because so many Republicans have sold their souls to enable Donald Trump because any other time this wouldn't even have been a discussion. It's because Donald Trump has been so obtuse about this that we are even in a situation where Republican elected officials have to come out and make this distinction. I agree. It's --
COOPER: But to Scott's point, had Republican officials not come out.
COOPER: Damned if you do and damned if you don't.
JENNINGS: David Duke, Spencer, the others are out here saying we're here to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.
SETMAYER: That's right.
JENNINGS: We're here to make good on what he said we're going to do, take back our country. I'm not sure it would be wise for the president to utter David Duke's name because I don't want this guy to be elevated to the level of having the president speak it. But I think it is vital that Republican leaders from the chairman all the way down to local Republicans denounce it.
SETMAYER: And a lot of Republicans did on Saturday.
SELLERS: I agree with them. But the fact that the level of discourse that we're at in this country, that the political dialogue this happening within the Republican Party is hey, man, you should disavow the Nazis today. Like, that should be your goal today. I mean, we are at a point right now where it's very hard for us to talk about what white supremacy has permeated into, the systems like the criminal justice system that Jeffrey and I talk about, how people of color are persecuted in the. It's hard to get to that level when we have a president who won't even disavow the people who are behind those systems.
And so I agree with it. I just think that not only are we peddling in the soft bigotry of low expectation, but I mean, damn, Anderson, we're at a point right now where in the United States of America we're having a conversation of whether or not the Republican Party is going to separate itself from Nazis who many of us can say are part of their base. That is astounding.
SETMAYER: Well, in fairness, as a conservative, that is a very, very small fringe part of the base. And this has only been elevated because of Donald Trump's inability to tell them to go back under the rocks they came out from.
SELLERS: I agree, I agree.
SETMAYER: So that's why --
JENNINGS: As the Republican Party, we cannot give any quarter on the political spectrum.
JENNINGS: To these people.
JENNINGS: And if we don't speak out against them, even though you say well, it's soft bigotry of low expectations, the bar is low, if we don't speak out against them, then they will do it again and again and again and again. And that's not acceptable.
SELLERS: Can I ask you a question, though? Can I ask you a question? Just a honest question. Where were you in disavowing majority whip Scalise when he said he's David Duke without the baggage? Where were you when that statement was made? And why all of the sudden now do we want to disavow, because, you know, God forbid we had a death yesterday. And she was out there fighting what I fight against every single day. But why does it have to take that? For example, Nikki Haley gets all this credits -- SETMAYER: Bakari, that was years ago.
SETMAYER: Yes it does. Because then you can say the same thing about Robert Byrd and other Democrats that had come to Jesus moments. And if Robert Byrd change, --
SETMAYER: -- then Steve Scalise can realize.
SELLERS: But at least Robert Byrd vocalized that change.
SELLERS: That's my only point. And so now --
SETMAYER: And Steve Scalise came out --
SELLERS: My only point, my only point, my only point to both of you guys at this table is let's not be selective in our outrage. Let's not try to root the cancer out just because it's offensive in our face today. I think that the Republican Party has a cancer in its base. And that cancer is not only debilitating to the Republican Party, that cancer is debilitating to the United States of America.
COOPER: We got to take a quick break. Protesters topple a Confederate statue in North Carolina tonight. This comes after the violent protests obviously in Charlottesville over the Confederate statue there. Should these statues be taken down and are we racing history? I'll get the panel's take when we continue.
[21:28:43] COOPER: In Durham, North Carolina tonight, protesters toppled the statue of a Confederate soldier engraved with the words "The Confederate states of America." North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper just posted this tweet supporting the demonstration. He wrote, "The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable. But there is a better way to remove these monuments. #Durham".
Back now with the panel. Should these monuments be taken down? I Scott you waited on this.
JENNINGS: Yes, for Louisville we just took one down. There was a statue in honor of Confederate soldiers that was originally it determine the century it last (ph) since we put in the middle of the field but wind up overtime in the middle of the University of Louisville.
And for many, many years the town debated whether to take it down. And finally the mayor and the old president of Louisville took down the Confederate monument. There is still another one in Louisville that we're debating on now. And the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky has now come out and said we should take down the monument. So, this is going on in towns all over the Southern United States. There are Confederate monuments everywhere. I suspect because of the weekend events, we're going to see more of these today.
TOOBIN: I don't think people who live in the north, people like me have any idea --
TOOBIN: -- how many memorials there are like this. Here are a couple examples. In Alabama, they don't celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday.
TOOBIN: They celebrate a joint Martin Luther King/Robert E. Lee holiday there is a Confederate Memorial Day holiday, you know, a war to preserve slavery. I mean, and, you know, you go anywhere in the south, you go to the grounds in Austin of the state Capitol. There are enormous memorials to the Confederate. I don't know where you would start, but you should start somewhere and get rid of them.
[21:30:22] LIZZA: And interesting being politically about this debate is because there are so many Democratic mayors of cities, it's a debate that's happening within the Democratic Party, especially in the south --
COOPER: I mean, look at the different argument for some cities is, and in Charlottesville, the mayor, you know, told me earlier they had appointed a commission, a majority African American commission who looked into this issue for a long time and decided not to take down the statues because the African American members on the commission felt that it was basically kind of pretending that history never happened.
SETMAYER: That's right.
COOPER: -- support and to keep it as a memory who happened.
SETMAYER: I have mix feelings about this. My mom and I are actually was just talking about this over the weekend based on after what happened. But I think that you can't erase history. But I think there has to be a way where you can use them as teachable moments. Put them in museums then, perhaps. If towns decide that they want the take these monuments down, then by all means do it. This is, you know, a new century and the symbolism of these things are horrible for a lot of people. So you know what? Maybe we shouldn't be honoring these folks. But don't erase history, though. Put them in a museum or somewhere preserve that where they're not honored but it's educational.
There's got to be a happy medium. I don't like seeing people just tearing down statues. It reminded me of, you know, the Saddam Hussein statue coming down in Iraq like it was -- there is just something about that is a little untoward to me. I don't like kind of a mob justice here. There's got to be a more civilized way to do it since, you know, that's the message we're supposed to be sending by taking them down.
SELLERS: I don't think anyone is trying to erase history. I mean, I think people are trying to not glorify the extreme of the extreme. I mean, when we're talking about these southern governors, when we're talking about these southern United States senators from back in the day? I mean, "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman, for example, is a statue that's in South Carolina. John C. Calhoun, you know what John C. Calhoun's nickname was? They called him John C. kill a coon.
SELLERS: That is what they called him. Pitchfork" Ben Tillman. And I want to get this quote correct, "After President Roosevelt met with Booker T. Washington, he said the action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the south before they learn their place again." This is somebody who's revered wit the statue that simply says he was a governor. He was a senator. You know, he created our state constitution in South Carolina. There's no truth to that? And so for someone who is a little brown boy in South Carolina, I mean, I mean people have to understand that oppression. And you were right how geographic that is, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Bryan Stevenson is a civil rights leader in Montgomery, Alabama. Many people know the equal justice initiative. He is building in Montgomery a memorial to the victims of lynching. There are no -- there is no memorial to the victims of lynching in the United States. Montgomery has dozens of memorials to the confederacy. And that may be one answer. That you don't take the other memorials, but you add other memorials.
COOPER: In Southampton, Virginia, there's no memorial to Nat Turner who led a, you know, a slave revolt which didn't last very long, but was an important chapter in history. You know, there's one little roadside marker. There is, you know, there's a lot of monuments obviously to the confederacy there.
LIZZA: And, you know, a Democratic mayor who took a different approach than the mayor of Charlottesville is Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans. New Orleans is a place that where slaves were sold. It was one of the capitals of the slave trade. And there are no real monuments to that in New Orleans. There are dozens of Confederate monuments. He gave a very important speech a few months ago that a lot of Democrats --
COOPER: An incredible speech.
SELLERS: Actually there are a lot of us who are -- I'm waiting on Mitch Landrieu to call me so he can come to South Carolina, because that catapults him into another stratosphere. Because someone had the audacity to have courage to stand up against something which is pervasive in our culture right now which goes back to the white --
COOPER: A huge deal in New Orleans, too, which has a history of -- we were talking about this during the break -- of not removing the names and sort of adding to it. LIZZA: Yes.
COOPER: But not actually taking it down which they're now doing.
LIZZA: He made a very important point in that speech. He said, you know, there's a difference between reverence of history and remembrance of history. And a lot of the Confederate statues in New Orleans and other states and other cities were put up during the cult of the last cause period in American history. Not, you know, during the civil war itself, but later to revere the confederacy and to revere the lost cause. And that changes what the meaning of those statues, right? It was basically a way to lie about history and to tell a tale about American history that's actually accurate.
SETMAYER: But at least there's a bipartisan effort even with what Nikki Haley did in South Carolina and what we're seeing what happened there in Kentucky. At least we're seeing a bipartisan effort to do something about this since culturally it seems to be something that is important to a lot of people. So I get it.
[21:35:11] JENNINGS: It's true. In Kentucky Republicans have actually been the ones who have been on the forefront of wanting to take Jefferson Davis out of the state capitol rotunda. There's a statue of Lincoln and there's a statue of Jefferson Davis. Kentucky birthed both of them. There's actually an obelisk in the Kentucky, Western Kentucky countryside marking where Jefferson Davis was born. It's a state park. But in the state capitol rotunda you have both men, and there's been an effort to move Jefferson Davis out. It's been resisted by some Democrats. Matt Bevin the governor, Senator Mitch McConnell, have both called for it to be taken out. And so there is a bipartisan effort in some places. But it is a really interesting a wrestling with history that's going on in a lot of southern states right now.
COOPER: We got the take a break. More with the panel.
We're keeping an eye on the situation a few blocks away from our studio, where crowds have gathered outside the Trump Tower not exactly welcoming the president home. We'll also have the latest on the president's approval numbers, a new low, ahead.
COOPER: The president's approval rating is the lowest of his administration so far, according to multiple polls. Last week we reported the latest CNN polling showing his approval rating at 38 percent. Now the latest Gallup tracking poll it's even lower, just 34 percent, the lowest of his administration so far.
[21:40:11] Back now with the panel. I mean, at what point do key Republicans start to, you know, just look at these numbers and back away?
LIZZA: Well, the truth is the country is so divided that there are a lot of Republicans who just happen to be in places where Trump is very popular, right? So a lot of the senators that might be running next year in red states where this national poll doesn't actually matter. But historically, it's really rare for a president to be that low this early.
LIZZA: I think Barack Obama never actually reached 34 percent in Gallup. It took George W. Bush to the very end of his term when the Iraq war was very unpopular after Katrina, a very, very low point in George W. Bush's term to get to that point. So the fact that halfway through the first year, he's hit that point, often when presidents hit that low, they don't really recover. So historically, that's a tough place to be. But because of the sort of structural advantages a lot of Republicans have, --
LIZZA: -- that number looks worse nationally than it does district by district and state by state. And that keeps a lot of Republicans, you know, fairly solid.
TOOBIN: What makes this number I think even more extraordinary is look at the economy.
TOOBIN: The economy is by historic standards very good shape. Unemployment is what, 4.3 percent, something like that. Inflation is low. We are not in the middle of a war with a lot of troops, which is what brought George Bush down in 2007-'08. It's all because of how Trump is conducting himself as president. I've just never seen before.
LIZZA: One, just to contract myself a little bit, the danger sign in this poll is that the recent loss is among Republicans. It's among his strongest supporters.
JENNINGS: There's a path back. And first of all, some presidents have recovered. Bill Clinton got down --
JENNINGS: He was in the mid 30s.
JENNINGS: And he did come back. So it has happened be. But the way back here is to do stuff. Go back and try to get health care right. Pass tax reform. Do the things that they ran on. I think part of the reason you're seeing a degradation in the numbers is the Republicans who elected this government are concerned that the promises are not going to be fulfilled. And so the way you reverse those trends is to fulfill the promises there's time to do that.
COOPER: I think it was you who said several months ago on a panel we were having that, you know, if the president can accomplish two other things.
COOPER: He's got the Neil Gorsuch nomination.
COOPER: Two other things under his belt, he can run on that.
JENNINGS: Yes. There are always one to two issues away from being successful. And right now the most recent taste in the mouth of Republican voters is well, they failed on health care. So they've got to go back and reverse that failure.
I think the failure to repeal Obamacare, if left to stand is going to absolutely depress Republican votes. So getting that right and then getting tax reform right and, you know, infrastructure, whatever. But if you go to the midterms having done the Supreme Court, having repealed Obamacare and replaced it, and having made done something on tax reform, that's a very successful record. But they're not there yet. They've got to get to that point to recover.
SELLERS: As a Democrat, I don't have a lot of faith in these numbers as saying that Donald Trump all of the sudden is vulnerable. Because what I remember is prior to November 8th, Donald Trump, over 60 percent of the American public thought that he didn't have the temperament to be president, 60 percent said that he was unqualified to be president. I mean, you had all of these numbers where Donald Trump just plummeting, and he still won on November 8th. And Republicans, no matter his intellect, his qualifications or his temperament, still came out and voted for him.
And so, yes, I would watch that Republican number. But until Donald Trump bottoms out, or until there is a Republican like Paul Ryan or a Mitch McConnell who has the fortitude to stand up against Donald Trump and say hey, or a donor, whomever that may be and say hey, you're driving the country into a ditch, these numbers to me, I mean, they don't really -- they don't indicate much.
SETMAYER: You're right. And those numbers actually are still at high for people that don't think that, you know, that Donald Trump is bringing up -- I think in that poll also, David Chalian have brought it up earlier that there was a question embedded in there about whether you think he's elevating the office of the presidency. And the majority of the people said no. You know, people are looking at Donald Trump, and they don't trust what comes out of the White House. Something else in that poll said that only 24 percent believed anything coming out of the White House was absolutely true. I mean, so the confidence in what used to be measurements that mattered is not there. But yet, I think it's 79 percent of Republicans are still supporting Donald Trump strongly.
Now the white middle class, the non-college educated middle class numbers, they have dropped, which is interesting from a full -- I think it was up to 79 percent or 73 percent, and it's down to 59 percent that strongly support Donald Trump because they're frustrated, as Scott said, with nothing being done. Well, you promised all these. He said it would be so easy to do all these things. Yet, we're not reaping the results of that. We don't see it.
[21:45:16] So, you know, Donald Trump have to be careful. Don't think that he doesn't see what's going on. They know what's going on with the polls. That's why he's going the talk about infrastructure tomorrow. That's why he talked about China today. Those are things that he knows rally the base.
COOPER: We've got to take care of another quick break. Continue the conversation in a moment. We'll talk more about what's going on with Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Are his days numbered in the White House? That's next.
COOPER: Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is one of several people in the president's inner circle with ties to hate groups. Bannon is the former head of Breitbart which in the past has been called the platform for the alt right. A collation of major civil rights and faith groups has called for him to be ousted, separate from the Charlottesville controversy. A source inside the White House tells CNN that Chief of Staff John Kelly has soured on Bannon who is seen as pursuing his own agenda according to the source.
Meanwhile, amid the meet press yesterday, National Security Advise H.R. McMaster dodged questions on Bannon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you and Steve Bannon still work together in this White House or not?
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECUIRTY ADVISER: I get to work together with a broad range of talented people. And it is a privilege everyday to enable the national security team.
[21:50:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't answer. Can you and Steve Bannon work in the same White House?
MCMASTER: I am ready to work with anybody to help advance the president's agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe Steve Bannon does that?
MCMASTER: I believe that everyone who works in the White House, who has the privilege, the great privilege every day of serving their nation should be motivated by that goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOOBIN: Can I translate?
TOOBIN: That's what it says.
SETMAYER: He got an A-plus in training right there. That was a masterful way of avoiding the obvious answer of no.
COOPER: It wasn't that masterful. It was pretty obvious he was avoiding.
LIZZA: It was painful.
COOPER: I mean, there's all these reports Steve Bannon is on the thin ice. But those reports have been around for a long time.
LIZZA: You know, he's survived a lot of turnover in this White House a few months ago there was the same kind of, you know, reporting and leaks that he was on his way out and everyone thought he was about to be fired and he survived. And then he survived, you know, Scaramucci coming in and they were at war with each other. And then he survived Kelly, you know, coming in and Scaramucci leaving. So he is the one person that has survived a lot of turmoil and change in the White House. And wow we're going through another round of is he in or out? I thought it was very interesting today he was not at an event that was very important to him, this event about China and trade.
COOPER: Scaramucci would be very involved with.
LIZZA: very involved with pushed that. I mean, he's, you know, he's pretty policy oriented.
COOPER: And he wasn't at, according to Maggie Haberman, he wasn't at Bedminster with the president.
SELLERS: But the question is --
LIZZA: And I think that what's really interesting is, if Bannon leaves imminently, it's not going to be because all these liberal groups are saying he shouldn't be in the White House. It's going to be for much more personal reasons that Trump has lost faith in him. It's not related to any of the history on racial issues.
SELLERS: I think Bannon is leaving. I think this whole climate is kind of creating an exit for Bannon and Bannon actually gave himself a timetable --
SELLERS: -- leave. So I think that that kind of fits in there. I think that also one of the fears that Donald Trump has and rightly so, is when you have someone on your team that is a wildcard or a maverick, like Steve Bannon. What do they do when they're on the outside and how, you know, how badly do they burn you when they're not under you every single day?
But how -- I have to go back to this because Jeffrey and I had this discussion earlier in the hour. I don't care if he's a Nazi or white nationalist. I put them kind of all in the same category together. Steve Bannon is a cancer to America. And I have a fundamental problem with someone who is the editor and chief of Breitbart who gave a platform to that type of racism, bigotry and xenophobia, being a senior adviser to the president. So if he leaves I'm going to send him an edible arrangement because he needs to go.
SETMAYER: I agree. So I agree with you. And, you know, what Steve Bannon represents is something that I shuddered to think about him receiving taxpayer dollars working in the White House in a position of power and influence like that.
Ryan and I were talking about, you know, the over under on whether Bannon was going to stay or not. And I think the difference this time is that the pressure is coming from other places. Rupert Murdoch, it was reported, told Trump that Bannon should go. That there's this battle between him and McMaster and what's going on with the NSA. And Trump has come out and backed McMaster in his support -- I mean, on the NSC, yes, our National Security Council. He's showed his support for McMaster, not necessarily Bannon. And this has been going on for a couple of months now this back and forth.
So Bannon now -- he's losing allies in the White House, Reince Priebus isn't there anymore. He's kind of a man on an island. And the fact that, I think that yes, he can be potentially dangerous on the outside because of his influence in the alt-right and conservative media circles like that. That is potentially a problem. Because Steve Bannon I think has as much for himself, I think, there's a certain selfish motivation here --
COOPER: Saturday remarks were kind of -- a reflection of Steve Bannon. I mean --
SETMAYER: A lot.
TOOBIN: He wasn't there.
COOPER: But Maggie had reported in "The Times" today when we had her on earlier that in general, Bannon has warned the president about speaking out too much against far right groups who are a small part of his support, but a -- enthusiastic.
TOOBIN: Absolutely. You know, everybody should read Joshua Green's terrific book, "Devils Bargain", which is about Steve Bannon and his role in the Trump campaign. And what you see is how much Bannon was the architect of using, you know, immigration, using these issues of resentment and Breitbart, which Bakari was talking about, and how important he has been to creating the base that Donald Trump cares so much about. I mean, if you look at how Trump organizes this presidency, it seems all about keeping the base happy. So that's one reason I wouldn't count Steve Bannon out so quickly, because he is the ambassador to the base.
[21:54:59] JENNINGS: There's only one qualification for this job, that you have the pleasure of the president. And so, the dangerous thing for someone -- well, I don't know Mr. Bannon, but the dangerous thing right now is that if it is attributed to him, that the debacle that was Saturday, it makes it all too easy for a president to say, well, you messed that up so you're out. I don't know what's going to happen to him. But at the end of the day, reading tea leaves, external pressure, I'm not sure any of that matters. The only thing that matters, you have the confidence and the pleasure of the president. Do you make the president comfortable on that given day? That's it. That's the only --
TOOBIN: And his daughter and son-in-law --
TOOBIN: I think it's important.
SETMAYER: And he battled Jared Kushner. They didn't get along. Hold on one second, Bakari.
SETMAYER: The president also rebuked Steve Bannon for leaking stories and, you know, caught wreaking some havoc and planting stories about others. He told him to knock it off. So he's been rebuked before.
COOPER: We got to take a break. Thank you everybody. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. See you tomorrow.