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Trump Mum On Twitter After Outcry Over Virginia Response; Trump Expected To Speak Again On Virginia Attack; Trump Quickly Rips Merck CEO, But Still Mum On Nazis; Pence Takes Questions Amid Charlottesville Backlash. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news. An accused killer in court and the U.S. president facing extraordinary criticism right about what he didn't say about that Virginia car attack.
Just minutes ago, James Alex Field was formally arraigned, charged with plowing his car into a crowd of people, killing one person, injuring 19 others. He was denied bond by the judge in court today.
The victims involved here were among those protesting the weekend rally by white supremacists. In condemning the violence that broke out, President Trump did not single out the white hate groups, instead he blamed, quote, "many sides," many sides, he said.
That comment from President Trump triggered bipartisan criticism for being vague, evasive, and equivocating. The president is now expected to speak again on the issue today.
We do know that he is being briefed this hour on the case by his attorney general and the new FBI director. Attorney General Jeff sessions, this morning, wouldn't predict exactly what the president would say, but came to the president's defense for his initial response.
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I thought it was a pretty -- it was a good statement delivered a few hours after the event. The next day, yesterday, they explicitly called out the Nazi's and the KKK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president did not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Session, that statement that you are referring to came from the White House. It was attributed to --
SESSIONS: It came from the White House. It sure did. It was authorized.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is the president, as you know, General Sessions, is not afraid to take to Twitter to chastise a number of folks, yourself including, call out terrorism overseas. Here is a president that didn't do that. Why?
SESSIONS: The president did do that yesterday. His spokesman said --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wasn't the president. It's not the same as the president of the United States.
SESSIONS: You are interrupting me. You asked me, I am giving you an answer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
SESSIONS: There was a White House spokesman that made that statement explicitly condemning these groups by name. I'm sure he will talk again about it soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, with the president of the United States today is going to explicitly condemn the so-called alt-right groups and white nationalist groups?
SESSIONS: He will be speaking to the people today. I am not sure what he will say. That's my understanding. He's been firm on this from the beginning. He is appalled by this.
BOLDUAN: So, stand by for that. Let's begin with White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, and the president's meeting this hour, and what the president could be saying this afternoon.
Jeff, despite the backlash that we've been seeing, it's been silent so far on Twitter from the president on Charlottesville. What are you expecting today?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, so interesting, it has been silent on that topic. The president has been active on other topics. He's taken a brief, prescheduled departure from his working vacation here in New Jersey.
He is back at the White House at this hour. He will be meeting shortly with the attorney general and the director of the FBI. I am told by a White House official that they expect him to take questions about Charlottesville and other matters later this afternoon.
But we will see what the president says about this. He, of course, keeps his own counsel on this. Many advisers have urged him to say something. They also, I'm told, believe that all this, you know, blowback is misplaced as you can hear from the attorney general.
But there's no question, Kate, this has consumed his August vacation, at least this part of it. It was left to his vice president, Mike Pence, who is traveling in South America, to talk directly about this. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate.
I will say, I take issue with the fact many in the national media spend more time criticizing the president's words than they did criticizing those who perpetrated the violence to begin with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, that was something, Kate, you heard the vice president again going after the media and others for the coverage of this. But the issue here is the Republican members of Congress, the House, the Senate, the bipartisan group of governors have come out and condemned this and have called on the president to specifically and directly condemn the white supremacist here.
So, I think you have a window into the mindset of the president and the White House here with the vice president's remarks there. We do expect him to talk about it again today.
But one White House official told me earlier today, Kate, it's his call how much he directly talks about this. It's a fascinating moment for this president. Many of his supporters would like him to issue some moral clarity on this and move on. But we'll see what he does later today -- Kate.
[11:05:04] BOLDUAN: Yes. In terms of if it's his call, it always has been, it was when he made his initial statement and it will be now. So, exactly right. Great to see you. Jeff, thanks so much. A lot to come.
The president not talking about Charlottesville yet this morning, but he was quick to take to Twitter to call out someone else by name. Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of the major pharmaceutical company, Merck. This came just after Frazier announced that he was quitting President Trump's White House manufacturing counsel.
Why you wonder? Well, it is over the president's failure to condemn white supremacists in his remarks this weekend. Frazier is one of the country's most prominent black corporate executives.
For more on this, which is becoming a big story, let me bring in right now, CNN's Alison Kosik. What exactly is going on here, Alison?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right, so Kate, what happened here is the CEO of Merck, Kenneth Frazier, took to Twitter to resign from the president's manufacturing counsel say that this was all in protest of how the president responded to the violence that we saw over the weekend in Charlottesville.
Now here is what Frazier said, in part, "America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal." He goes on to say as CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism. Once this was put out on Twitter, the president wasted little time in his response, almost counting on Frazier saying this in a tweet.
Saying, "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from the president's manufacturing counsel, he will have more time to lower rip off drug prices" -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: So, that's where things are today, but what do we know about the relationship between Ken Frazier and the president?
KOSIK: So, Ken Frazier joined the counsel, the American Manufacturing Counsel, back in January. You see lots of pictures of the president sitting next to him. They were complimentary toward each other.
He was the only male black CEO named to this advisory council. As you said, he is one of the most prominent black corporate executives in the U.S. -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. Alison, thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Joining me now for much more on this, CNN political commentator, Keith Boykin, a former Clinton White House aide, and Republican strategist, Ron Nehring, a former spokesman for Ted Cruz's presidential bid, and Lou Gargiulo, a former county chair of the Trump campaign in New Hampshire. Thank you all for being here. I really appreciate it.
Ron, first to you, we are, as Jeff Zeleny was laying out, we are going to hear from the president later today. He is expected to speak about Charlottesville again later today. Does it matter what he says now in your view? Because no matter what, it comes after his evasive vague response that he came up with initially.
RON NEHRING, FORMER CHAIRMAN, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Yes. I think it's very important what the president says on the matter today. I really wish that Ken Frazier would have taken more time to see what the president has to say on the matter following this meeting with the attorney general and the FBI director today on this topic, and then make a decision on that.
But you know, that dye has been cast. What the president says on this matter is really important because we are going to have a debate, discussion on race issues in this country right now, and the president needs to be in a position where he's articulating in very, very clear terms. Why it is that --
BOLDUAN: It was important the first time, too, right, Ron?
NEHRING: It's unquestionably important. I think that the response to the president's initial statement is not what the White House had anticipated for sure. I think the president is going to take the opportunity to inject some further clarity on his thoughts on the matter and to lead on the issue. I think that's essential for the president this one time. BOLDUAN: Keith, do you think, Ron says it's for clarity. It's essential to lead on this issue. What he says today, what impact will it have on you?
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: At this point, nothing. I don't understand. I agree with what Ron said about the importance of moral clarity because we haven't had much from the president lately, but I don't agree that Ken Frazier should have waited.
Why should he wait for the president of the United States to speak out clearly against white supremacists, murdering white supremacists? Donald Trump didn't wait more than 54 minutes to respond to Ken Frazier for criticizing him.
He didn't even mention him by name. Ken Frazier didn't mention Trump by name. But Trump can't even, after two days can't attack murdering a white supremacist. This is a tragedy of what's going on America.
I fear for our country when the president of the United States has no moral authority or willingness to speak out against the clearest violation of our social norms. That's reprehensive.
BOLDUAN: Lou, what do you say? What is your reaction on what the president said?
LOU GARGIULO, TRUMP ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, NH CO-CHAIRMAN: I think the president went far in identifying not only the white supremacists but all the hate groups that were in Charlottesville. As a country, we should not only identify one. If one looks at the circumstances surrounding the event, there were other groups there as well, also looking (inaudible) hate.
[11:10:09] The time has come in this country that we identify all of those. If they are coming to riot as they did in Charlottesville, the police, the FBI, and all the law enforcement agencies have to take a stand and --
BOYKIN: Who are you referring to, Lou? The people who ran over those innocent civilians, that was a white, racist supremacist. Those are white racist supremacists. Let's call it what it is. This is racism. Until you unequivocally and the president of the United States do that, you will not be able to solve the problem. Stop pushing (inaudible), deal with the problem.
GARGIULO: That was one individual that did it.
BOLDUAN: Here is the thing, there's a delay here with the skype, Lou. It's going to be a frustration we are going to work through on this. The vice president, the attorney general, Republicans, elected lawmakers, all of them coming out, not only to call out not multiple hate groups, not other hate groups, but white supremacists, neo-Nazis on the ground, they were there. That's what started it, don't you agree?
GARGIULO: I think that there were a number of group that started it and I think that clearly -- BOLDUAN: Are you saying the vice president is wrong now and the
attorney general is wrong now?
GARGIULO: I never said the vice president is wrong. What I'm saying is that we should be condemning all of the groups that are creating the energy in this country and they should all be dealt with accordingly.
BOYKIN: What group is attacking people with poles. What group is running over people with cars? They are not the people protesting. Those were the white supremacists. I'm sick of this moral equivalence, Lou.
This is not acceptable behavior from people who come on television and talk about our country as if we didn't have a history of slavery and segregation, and still a continuation and perpetuation of racism in this country. It doesn't help when the president of the United States refuses to stand-up to that.
BOLDUAN: Here is the thing. You say we should call out everybody. Here is the thing. I want to get Ron in on this, but Lou, Donald Trump over and over again said you need to call out the enemy and call the enemy out by name.
He said that about radical Islamic terrorism more times than I can count. He is calling the CEO of a pharmaceutical company very quickly and there's no problem rushing to judgement on that. Why then isn't he calling out white supremacists for this?
GARGIULO: I think the president called out the white supremacists. He could have called them out more directly, of course. I think he will do so. The statement that came out yesterday was very clear and concise on that particular subject.
What happened in Charlottesville was wrong. What happened in Missouri a year and a half ago was wrong. These things are all wrong and should be condemned by all sides. This isn't a white and black issue.
This is a national issue of hatred within the country that needs to end. We need to come together and if we continue to attack each other, nothing positive will come from it.
BOLDUAN: Let's get Ron in. Ron, at this point, is this just clean up now coming from the president?
NEHRING: I don't think it's clean up because I don't think the discussion is over. I watch these images from the background of someone who, look, my family grew up under the Nazi regime in Germany. My father grew up in the '30s and '40s. I'm shocked.
My parents, if they were still alive would be shocked to see someone waving a Nazi flag in the United States. We have to be careful of the fact that these losers, which is what they are, the flakes, losers, misfits who are down there in Charlottesville, deserve to be called out. And it needs to be exposed for the fact that what they are trying to do is nobody follows these guys. This is a tiny little band of misfits and losers who are desperately trying to get attention, and they are following the strategy of the mosquito.
They are going to continue to sting in the hopes that they get more media attention to their twisted ideology. We should be careful about giving them more credibility than they have. These guys do not have a coherent ideology. These guys would have no idea how to survive under the regime --
BOLDUAN: It's a Nazi ideology.
NEHRING: Well, which is amazing that these folks are importing an ideology from Europe. This is not an American ideology that they are espousing. Nazi is a European concept as is Marxism.
BOLDUAN: Right, right, right.
NEHRING: It's shocking that these guys are advocating for something --
BOLDUAN: I'm not here to give more time, believe me.
NEHRING: I agree.
[11:15:04] BOLDUAN: Nothing more than happy, Ron and all of us would to ignore misfits and mosquitos. But right now, this is an issue that has been raised to the presidential level because, again, President Trump is one who has no problem jumping to a conclusion before all the facts are known.
Sometimes he is right and sometimes he is inaccurate if you look at this attack in this casino in the Philippines for one example when he jumps to these conclusions. Why do you see this hesitancy, vagueness -- why do you think he feels he needs to be vague at this moment with this kind of attack?
NEHRING: I think he's going to be more specific today. I think that's absolutely called for. I think that these white supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK, you know, misfits and losers down there in Charlottesville need to be called out specifically.
But then it has to go further. We have to call out specifically why it is what they are espousing is wrong because it's been some time since we defeated the Nazis the last time in World War II.
And we need to remind people why people of all backgrounds can succeed in America -- that case needs to be made. So, it needs to be more than call these people out. Everybody has to make the case.
BOLDUAN: It starts there.
BOYKIN: It's Monday. This attack happened on Saturday. They were marching with torches on Friday. It's taken three days, the entire weekend for the president of the United States to respond to a racist, murdering white supremacist.
If Barack Obama had been president of the United States and waited three days to wait to respond to a terror attack from radical Islamic extremist as President Trump calls it, he would have excoriated Obama for doing that. You know that.
So, the hypocrisy is stunning here. Unfortunately, the president of the United States does not understand he cannot just be president of his base. He keeps trying to cater to those base, racist and white supremacists and deplorables.
But he has to be president of the entire United States of America. He has to reach out and ask for unity, which he attempted to do on Saturday in his ambiguous speech.
On Sunday, he released an ad attacking his enemies and today he is attacking the black CEO of a pharmaceutical company. This is not how you build unity. This is how you build more divisiveness and Donald Trump is directly responsible for that.
BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Lou.
BOYKIN: How dare I --
GARGIULO: How dare you call Trump supporters racist, sir?
BOYKIN: My God. You stand-up here and defend Nazi shows, you are a racist, sir. Don't you dare call me what I can't call -- Trump people are supporting racism. You call me out for calling you out.
BOLDUAN: Hang on.
GARGIULO: How dare you call Trump supporters --
BOYKIN: How dare you -- first of all, not all Trump supporters are racist.
GARGIULO: Thank you. Thank you, sir.
BOYKIN: Those who don't stand-up and call out the racism coming from Trump and Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorca and Steve Miller in the White House, those people are racist and they need to be called out for it.
GARGIULO: How dare you --
BOYKIN: How dare you even question me on that. You have a lot of nerve -- national television.
BOLDUAN: Keith, hold on. Lou, please go.
GARGIULO: Yes, it's appalling that he would call Americans, Trump supporters racist. There are racist --
BOYKIN: Trump supporters are racist. If you don't know that, you are exactly the problem, sir.
GARGIULO: Let me respond.
BOLDUAN: Guys. Guys. Hang on. I'm going to say this. Keith made the clarification, not all Trump supporters are racist. Lou, go. With that in mind, go.
GARGIULO: This is a national issue. Both sides the right and the left support unity. This isn't about racism. This is about --
BOLDUAN: Hang on. I'm going to cut you all off for the vice president of the United States. Let's listen in.
PENCE: -- brought her grandchildren here five days ago. The children had to get up at 4:00 in the morning to get a ticket to be able to buy a piece of bread. I asked her how long this crisis, to use her word existed in Venezuela.
She said from the very beginning of the Maduro regime. It's extraordinary to think one of the wealthiest countries in South America, in the last century emerges as one of the most prosperous nations in Latin America would now be collapsing into dictatorship and poverty and deprivation as well as the upheaval.
The election of a constituent assembly that existed to facility a dictatorship, more than 130 Venezuelans have died in efforts to oppose the Maduro regime. President Trump has made it very clear, we will not stand by while Venezuela collapses.
And the dictatorship, we will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles, but it's important to note, as the president said, that a failed state in Venezuela threatens the security and prosperity of our entire hemisphere and the people of the United States of America.
[11:20:10] A failed state in Venezuela will become an even greater problem for narcotics traffic that flow into the country, across the southern border and victimize families and tear communities apart.
A failed state in Venezuela will drive even greater illegal migration across Central America and into country compromising our borders, compromising our economy and in some cases compromising the security of our community.
So, the president sent me here with a message of compassion for these family that are fleeing Venezuela. We are here with them. We stand with them to restore democracy in Venezuela.
Also, a message of resolve to our partners all across Latin America here in Columbia and beyond that we are absolutely determined to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until we see democracy restored in Venezuela.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you making an argument for regime change in Venezuela? And, also, what would the U.S. offer for families like these or for what could become a problem of migrants coming from Venezuela?
PENCE: Well, the United States of America has a long and storied history of generosity with regard to refugee populations and it's happening here in Columbia from people fleeing as these families I have heard from today, fleeing from the neighbor to the east and economic deprivation and instability that exists there today.
But, the American people will always come alongside allies like Columbia should this crisis continue to drive a greater refugee flow into Columbia and neighboring countries.
That being said, the president sent me here with a message that the regime is experiencing change right now and what we are witnessing is Venezuela is collapsing into dictatorship.
The election of a constituent assembly, the dismissal of chief prosecutor in Venezuela all show the Maduro regime is committed to using processes to change the laws and the structures and ultimately the constitution in Venezuela to full dictatorship.
That's simply unacceptable to the United States. It's unacceptable to allies. It was disheartening with the 12 Latin American countries to take a strong stand against Venezuela's collapse into dictatorship and the United States is going to continue to send a message of resolve and determination.
We are going to continue to bring all the resources of our nation to bear. The president said we have many options with regard to Venezuela to ultimately make it possible for the people of Venezuela to see their democracy restored.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On North Korea, the strategic patience is over, can you explain to Americans what they might expect to see (inaudible).
PENCE: Now, for several decades, the United States has embraced the failed policies of strategic patience with regard to North Korea. Successive administrations in both political parties have believed that negotiation and patience with North Korea would achieve the long- term objective of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
That has utterly failed. As we continue see the Kim regime and its head-long pursuit of ballistic missiles and usable nuclear weapons that they could mount on those and President Trump made it clear early this year that the era of strategic patience is over.
The United States is putting all options on the table, marshalling the support of our allies in the region as well as China in unprecedented ways to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically.
The president will be speaking later today to Prime Minister Abe. He spoke to President Xi over the weekend. We are putting all -- all of the resources of the United States and the energies of this president behind an effort to resolve this present confrontation with North Korea, peaceably.
As the president said, all options are on the table and, as our secretary of state said, there is no future for the regime and Pyongyang with possession of nuclear weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Russia, (inaudible).
PENCE: During all my experience on the campaign, I never witnessed any evidence of collusion. Not aware of that ever having occurred. The president has spoken his mind and, look, we'll fully cooperate and are cooperating with special counsel.
[11:25:12] We'll provide them with any and all information. The president remains focused, I remain focused on the job we were elected to do for the American people, which is restoring America's place in the world.
Rebuilding our military, restoring our economy with the kind of policies, we've seen now more than a million jobs created all across the country. Confidence among American consumers and American businesses, and just continue to stay focused.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks. We have to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On January 15th, you said that Michael Flynn's conversations did not involve Russia sanctions and there was no contact between Russian government and the campaign. We now know both of those to be untrue. Has there been a point you have gone back to everybody that was involved with the campaign and asked them to be fully transparent with you and the American people?
PENCE: I think I was very clear. What I spoke on television is precisely what General Flynn had told me. I believe the president was right to move him out of his position in the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody affiliated --
PENCE: I've also made it very clear, I'm not aware of any contacts from the time I was on the campaign and between any officials of the Russian government and officials with the campaign. I stand by that.
But again, we'll continue to fully cooperate with the special counsel and provide them whatever information they require. We'll stay completely focused on the task at hand, which is to make America prosperous again, make America safe and to make America great again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all very much.
BOLDUAN: All right. There you are listening to Vice President Mike Pence speaking in Columbia. They were taking questions from reporters on Russia to North Korea and Venezuela, did not receive questions on the conversation we were having on what the president said about the attack in Charlottesville and what needs to say today.
Also, we are going to move on. Moments ago, the man accused of the deadly Charlottesville car attack appearing before a judge charged with murder. Hear what happened inside.
Plus, the suspect's former teacher speaking out, calling him a Nazi sympathizer. You will hear his chilling words and what investigators found in the suspect's apartment.
And friends and family of the victim talking about Heather Heyer's life now, her passion and what they hoped she is remembered for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was very strong in what she felt. She spoke with conviction and she would never back down from what she believed in. That's what she died doing, fighting for what she believed in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)