Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Condemns KKK, Neo-Nazis And White Supremacist; Three CEO's Quits President's Council. Aired 11-Midnight ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:23] This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: Breaking news, President Trump finally calling out the white supremacists for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, but it's too little too late for some of this country's top business leaders who are distancing themselves from the President tonight. This is "CNN tonight." I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us. The President earlier today with an attempt to clean up the mess left after this weekend's response to the Charlottesville white supremacist demonstration that turned deadly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs. Including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, that wasn't enough for some. Late breaking news, two more CEOs resigning tonight from President Trump's American manufacturing council Under Armor founder and CEO Kevin Plank saying in a statement, love our country and company. I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring and uniting through power of sport. And the CEO of Intel announcing late tonight that he is quitting the council, as well.
Will the President suffer politically for waiting too long to blame white supremacists? I want to bring in now CNN Political Analysts Carl Bernstein journalist and author and Abby Phillip, a White House report for "the Washington Post" and David Drucker, CNN Congressional Correspondent for the Washington Examiner. Good evening to all of you. Abby, I am going to start with you, we now have three CEOs who have distanced themselves publicly from this President and have now resigned from the President's council beginning earlier today with the Merck CEO, then the Under Armor CEO, now the Intel CEO. This is a big development.
ABBY PHILIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it signals really that there is a tide moving in a direction that is not really favorable to the President. I mean I remember the days when a Presidential tweet an angry tweet about someone's company would really scare a lot of corporations out of saying anything negative about this President. Now you're seeing the opposite in the minutes after the Merck CEO removed himself from the council that company's stock went up. And that is a huge difference from where we were several months ago. I think in the broader scheme of things, there's really been a theme beyond just corporations.
It's also been Republicans in congress. It's been elements of the military, elements of the government, all sort of becoming more comfortable pushing back against this President. I think the cumulative effect of all of this is yet to be seen, but it could mean that Trump is going to have a harder time getting what he wants. There are people becoming much more comfortable saying no and that is being demonstrated every single day as we move forward, partly because it's uncomfortable in some cases to deal with some of the chaos and the drama and the division that has become so closely associated with this presidency so far.
LEMON: David Drucker, two out of the three CEO's stepped down after the President's latest statement where he specifically named white supremacists and neo-Nazi and criticized events in Charlottesville. That could suggest at least in the mind of these CEO's that the CEO's of these companies that they represent, this is not cleaned you. This statement today didn't help. It should have come faster.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, the President clearly isn't the only person concerned about protecting a brand. And I think it's striking when you have titans of industry disassociating themselves from a Presidential council that is about jobs, because they don't want to be associated with the President. They have all their reasons that they state, but that is the reason right there. And I think the problem that the President had as fine as his statement was today 48 hours later, is that he has set his own standard for commenting on events all around the world and commenting very specifically both domestically and internationally, especially when it comes to things like radical Islamic terror, he never hesitated to call something out by name, call the perpetrators out by name to do so quickly and to do so specifically.
So the President was being judged against the standard he has set and that is why the bland statement on Saturday and the length of time it took him to get specific was so glaring and so troublesome especially for so many Republicans who decided to criticize him either implicitly or explicitly. These weren't the usual Trump critics, Don.
[23:05:03] These were Republicans like Cory Gardner who runs the Republican senate campaign arm, people who work closely with the President. We weren't just talking here about Jeff Flake or John McCain or Lindsey Graham. It was across the party that the President was being in a sense condemn for not being specific and called out and asked to be specific. I think that is why this thing hasn't gone away.
We saw with the President's tweet this evening a couple hours ago where he is obviously very upset about the media coverage that continues and again, he quickly and specifically called out the people that he was angry at, the media, and it is a comparison that goes back to how he handled this whole thing beginning Saturday that I think sets this up to be a story at least for the next couple of days.
LEMON: So the CEO of Intel tweeting Carl Bernstein or putting out a statement saying I want you to respond to this he says I've already made clear by abhorrence at the recent hate spewed violence in Charlottesville and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and committed violence. I resigned because I want to make progress. While many in Washington seem more concerned, attacking anyone who disagrees with them, we should honor not attack those have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change and I remain willing to serve when it does. That is really powerful, Carl Bernstein. What do you say?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a lot of powerful current moving in Washington today and it's about the fitness of Donald Trump to be the President of the United States which has now become in the open a question being debated by Republicans with each other, is Donald Trump fit morally, ethically in terms of competence to be the President of the United States. And there are a lot of negative reports on that. The more people I talk to, senior Republicans, high intelligence officials in the military who deal with the White House and with Donald Trump, they have lost confidence in the fitness of Donald Trump to be the President of all the American people.
It's a new kind of debate that we're watching going on. It's a crisis in the presidency such as we've never seen and what happened this weekend is a kind of demarcation line that we're going to remember for a long time, because the rules have now changed. Donald Trump is not just about his base. He is the President of his base but there's very little proof now that he is President of all the American people and that he can bring them together or that he can continue in a way that serves him to continue as President in an effective way, because of how people are talking about him. It's also a journalistic question. We need to be reporting on what these Congressman and high military officials, Intel officials are really saying to one another about their view that this President is unfit to be the President.
LEMON: Carl, because they'll say one thing privately but publicly, they may not -- they're not saying that. So I have to ask you, Abby, with Carl having said that, we haven't heard much of a response from the President's remarks today. Should we read anything into that? What does that say to you?
PHILIP: Well, I think Republicans are sort of hoping that this goes away. Many of them are very upset and annoyed, frankly, that this episode wasn't handled well from the beginning. As many people have pointed out, this is extremely easy to do. Denouncing white supremacist and Nazis is not hard. It is not hard part of his job. And so many Republican, there's a lot of frustration. They're waiting for some of the dust to settle to see where this goes, but you know, if you're a Republican right now, you're looking very closely at the President's twitter account. You'll see what he is been up to this afternoon.
He is been attacking the media for reporting on what other Republicans are saying about his statement. He is been attacking the African- American CEO of a publicly traded company. And he has been all over the map here. There has not been a follow-through on his comments denouncing white supremacists and about unity. There has been none of that. I think many people are probably rightfully holding back, because you never really know what's going to happen on twitter a couple of minutes or hours after the President delivers remarks from a teleprompter in the west wing.
LEMON: Let's look at some of these, ok, David.
BERNSTEIN: Don, let me say something about that you mention there had a minute ago about the journalism of all this and people being unwilling to say it publicly. I've been a reporter in Washington for more than 50 years. I have never ever in 50 years heard people talk about the President of the United States in the way that members of congress and in the military and in the intelligence community are now talking about him.
23:10:04] And there is a way to report this story. We don't know the extent, how pervasive this view of him being unfit is, but it's a real story. It's not going to be people speaking on the record with their names. But we ought to be going out and talking to all members of congress, all members high up in the Pentagon who we can reach and do a story that says what we found. Maybe my observations are somewhat wrong if there's pushback. But let's find out as reporters, because I think it's the real story and we've never seen anything like this.
LEMON: Go ahead, David.
DRUCKER: Don, I don't really think it's actually that hard to do. If you talk to Republicans on the hill, the way they talk about the President six months in is that this is somebody who is new to politics and new to governing and he is still figuring everything out. So you've got to cut him some slack. I feel like a year ago, six months ago, you could sort of understand that as they're trying to figure out how this guy who has never governed before and never a professional politician before was going to handle the job. But six months in, when you came to the job and you're bona fides were as a manager and executive that could get things done, what it sounds like now is that they're cuddling him in a way that really is insulting to the man, because what they're really saying is look, you can't expect him to actually do the job yet, because he doesn't note enough and hasn't had enough time to figure it out. That is the kind of language they use. They use it in softer terms, but it's almost like they've got nothing else to say at least for the parts of the job that he has not figured out yet.
And for Republicans, you've seen their patience with him grown thin. His patience with them has grown thin. He looks at them as subordinates and thinks he is not delivering for them. This is just another episode in an ongoing battle with them that they're having together. To me the key and this is not about this episode but from the past couple of weeks when Republicans got together with Democrats and passed a bill that doesn't allow the President to negotiate a deal with Russia without their signoff, what that was saying they don't have confidence in this President to negotiate deals. That is what he is supposed to be good at. I think that tells you a lot about the relationship the President has was members of his Party on the hill. With voters, I think it may be different. This is somebody who called Judge Curiel a Mexican. We know about the Billy Bush tapes and we know about everything else and they still vote for him. There is a lot of the tension between the President and Republicans on the hill.
LEMON: Interesting. Having said that, Abby, the President has done a lot of things to get his Party to condemn him in the past. As David just mentioned, there was the "Access Hollywood" video. There was saying Senator John McCain not a war hero because he was captured, attacking a gold star family and also TV Anchor Mika Brzezinski and also insulting TV Anchor Megyn Kelly, but it seems like, no what matter Republican officials, no matter what happens, they just continue to support him. Do you think this time it's going to be different? David says they're not ready to jettison him now, throw him overboard. What do you think?
PHILIP: I think David's right. That is the big question here. There are a lot of Republicans saying I think pretty vocally that they disagree with the President's behavior that they refuse to listen to his agenda that they believe that some of the things that he is said and done are not befitting of the office. At the same time, they kind of want the same agenda that he does. And when push comes to shove, when it's time to pass tax reform, he I think it's going to be hard for a lot of Republicans to really be on a different page from that.
I mean, the devil will ultimately be in the details on some of this. But I don't think we have seen yet the kind of pushback in actual actions that would be required to making this moment something more than just I disavow what Trump just said or did. But I'm going to support him anyway. That is what Republicans did throughout the 2016 campaign. That is essentially what they're doing now only time will tell. I will say though, we are more than halfway through 2017.
As we get closer to the end of this year, political survival is going to kick in for most members of congress, especially in the house but a lot of members in the senate. They are going to focus on what it takes for them to win with or without this President and right now, at 34 percent in the latest gallop poll, things are not looking good. It does not make sense for many Republicans to stand with the President at this moment. And you're going to see them exerting much more independence over the course of the next few months unless something dramatic happens where he can turn things around.
LEMON: Thank you all very much. I appreciate it, and when we come back, protests and vigils all across this nation in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. A strong response from the American people coming after the President took days to come out with a strong statement of his own. Why his hesitancy to condemn is a pattern. That is next.
[23:17:41] LEMON: President Trump waiting a few days to condemn neo- Nazi and white supremacists behind the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. If history is any guide, his delayed action is not unusual. Over the years, Donald Trump has often been slow to call out hate groups and hate speech. CNN's Brianna Keilar reports.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It takes a lot, too much even those in President Trump's own Party argue, for him to strongly criticize and disavow hate groups. Take David Duke. He rallied this weekend in Charlottesville and supported Trump's candidacy early on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Did he endorse me or I don't know what's going on, because I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: But Trump did know about David Duke. He had spoken publicly about hip as early as 1991 shortly after Duke had an unsuccessful but surprisingly strong run for governor of Louisiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the David Duke thing bother you, 55 percent of the whites in Louisiana vote for him.
TRUMP: I hate seeing what group he is on, but I guess it just shows there's a lot of hostility in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: July of 2016, Trump tweeted this picture of Hillary Clinton against a background of dollar bills which originally came from a white supremacist message board. Trump called the controversy a creation of the "Dishonest media," even dismissing the image's obvious use of the Star of David.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's a star. And it actually looks like a sheriff's star. But I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Not long after, he weathered scathing criticism from Clinton who charged that he was embracing the so-called alt-right an ideologically nebulous group linked to white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and xenophobia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There's always been a paranoid fringe in our politics. A lot of it arising from racial resentment but it's never had the nominee of a major party stoking it encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone until now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And she took particular aim at Trump for his year's long obsession with President Obama's birth certificate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Barack Obama should end this and he should provide the public with a birth certificate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Trump took the fringe conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn't actually American mainstream and in October, he insisted to CNN that the so-called central park five, the young men wrongly convicted of raping and assaulting a jogger Manhattan central park in 1989 were still indeed guilty. One of them Yusef Salaam campaigned for Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:20:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Donald had his way, I would be dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: At the time, Trump took out full page ads in newspapers calling for New York to reinstate the death penalty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am saying f they are found guilty, if the woman died but if she died I think they should be executed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The Central Park Five were exonerated years ago by DNA evidence and the confession of the real perpetrator and the City of New York paid a $40 million settlement, but Trump never apologized or admitted he was wrong. A rare condemnation by Trump of the alt-right came shortly after his election when the white nationalist organization national policy institute convened in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hail Trump. Hail our people. Hail victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Pledging support to the President-Elect with a Nazi salute and displaying racist imagery at their gathering. Trump finally told the New York Times, I don't want to energize the group and I disavow the group. Brianna Keilar, CNN Washington.
LEMON: Brianna, thank you so much for that. I want to bring in F. Michael Higginbotham from the University of Baltimore and the author of "Ghost of Jim crow, ending racism in post racial America," and CNN Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, the author of "Right full heritage, Franklyn D. Roosevelt and the land of America." so glad to have you guys on to get perspective about this. Douglas, an as you see Brianna's story, President Trump has a troubling past when it comes to of race. Given that history, were you surprised that his original statements over the weekend that they were so weak?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I wasn't surprised. I mean, we've talked a lot, Don, over the past year how he is one part you know George Wallace, Donald Trump. He is got Joe McCarthy in him, Gerald K. Smith, Father Coughlin. He beats a fascist drum often and he never wants to criticize anybody on the alt-right. He sees them as his food soldiers. He does it only very reluctantly and he tried to my mouth it over the weekend and it didn't work. The publics outraged. August 12th is going to be marked as a time when the name Donald Trump is forever kind of associated with indifference towards hate crimes, towards neo-Nazi. So it's real low ebb and a President that is had miserable months but this means that people I think many Republican Senators don't really even want to be in a photo op with him at this point.
LEMON: Mr. Higginbotham both that many, what do you think?
F. MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: I think he is absolutely right. The President, you know, once again on issues of race is a day late and a dollar short. He could have easily, this was an easy opportunity for him to come out and reject unequivocally and clearly white racial supremacy. And he did not. The American people most of them are against this. And it would have been an easy call for the President to do so. He didn't. He missed an opportunity. It is an opportunity for Americans of all colors to come together and say to the President that we reject this ideology.
LEMON: Do you think President Trump sympathizes with these groups or is there another explanation for why he struggles to condemn David Duke and Nazis, Michael?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Well, as Brianna Keilar's segment showed there's a long history her of President Trump embracing this ideology, and what he did during the election campaign I think shows that it's very difficult for him now to reject that because you know, I mean it's hard for a leopard to change its spots. He ran a very racially divisive campaign. Many examples beginning with the wall, building a wall against Mexicans, calling them criminals that were coming in, know, stating he wanted a Muslim ban and being very unsympathetic to minority victims of racial police brutality, racially motivated police brutality. So it's hard for President Trump now to reject that approach once he is in office.
LEMON: Douglas, the White House announced the President is not going to be visiting Charlottesville in the wake of this violence. Should he go?
BRINKLEY: It would be appropriate to go. I don't know if he would be very well received. But that is a decision he has to make. I think what he needs to do is not go to Charlottesville necessarily but fire Steve Bannon, Bannon is a lightning rod figure. We all know he is bad news.
[23:25:02] Everybody knows he is sort of been spewing hate. He is a leader of that movement. Just like General Flynn had to get canned who was way far into the crazy right. We now have to get rid of Steve Bannon. He is become a symbol of hate in America. And also I think the internet which is -- there's been a vast increase in white supremacist activity on the internet. Donald Trump needs to lead a government action to rip down those hate sites. There are no more recruiting online. There are things you can do like banning of confederate flags. I was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Smoky Mountains and saw gift shops selling it on Main Street. We've got to stop being so insensitive to in promoting that kind you have fake confederate narrative and thinking it's ok because it gets you southern states. That was parts of Nixon's southern strategy in 1968. It's made the south red, but this confederate mania that is kind of going on in some parts of the south, Donald Trump needs to disown it and stand up to it.
LEMON: I don't know if you can ban that, but I mean for African- Americans, it's a kin to selling a swastika, right, in a store?
BRINKLEY: I think if you sell it in a store like I was by Smoky Mountain gateway in Gatlinburg, if you're not allowed to say fire in a movie theater, why are you allowed to sell a confederate flag in a store window? It's inciting something. There is something in our society we just can't have. That symbol of the flag just being marketed to people and put on barns and put everywhere is asking for conflict anymore than we just can allow Nazi swastikas to be tattooed all over the country in public squares and courthouses, Nikki Haley ripped down the confederate flag in South Carolina that began a process of this. Mitch Landrieu took down Robert E. Lee in New Orleans, the statue in the circle. More of this has to continue.
LEMON: You can imagine where people -- where Jews would not want to go into places that bore their oppressor's name but yet you have to go into schools named Robert E. Lee high school. There are confederate flags still hanging in parts of the country. Why would anyone feel safe with the oppressor's flag hanging over them or in a building they have to sit in, Michael?
HIGGINBOTHAM: These are tough issues, you know, we have a long history of freedom of speech. First amendment rights and we have to be very careful the Supreme Court has decided some of these issues. We tend to err on the side of speech. And so it has to create a clear and present danger. I mean, that is the famous Oliver Wendell Holmes decision, clear and present danger to current law on freedom of speech. And so we, I think we need to make sure we have the proper balance. The flag certainly is a symbol, the confederate battle flag certainly a symbol of hatred, a symbol that creates fear in many Americans. And I think you know its place is in a museum, not on a state capital. I think it's very easy to set that distinction that it cannot be that flag cannot be flying on state or government property.
LEMON: Perhaps it would be better to educate folks, as well. So stay with us everyone. When we come back, white supremacists embracing the President's initial statement about Charlottesville, we're going to break down why. That is next.
[23:32:38] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: We have some breaking news tonight. Two more CEOs quitting President Trump's manufacturing council, the leaders of Intel and Under Armour join the CEO of Merck in leaving that body. Back with me Michael Higginbotham and Douglas Brinkley. So Douglas, when President Trump finally got around to condemning the KKK, Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist for this violence, he also mentioned other hate groups. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. We are a nation founded on the truth, that all of us are created equal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What is he talking about when he says other hate groups? Is that a signal to his supporters on the far right?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I don't know. I picked up on that also. It was to me a little disconcerting when he tried to roll out his economic package today as a signal that look, the death in Charlottesville matters but I'm going to talk about something else first. It all depends how much of Trump you want to study. But it was welcomed today that the President I thought, Don, made those remarks. But the question is, is he just trying to get it out of his hair, blame the media, call it a pr problem or can he have some kind of epiphany to realize that the birther movement and his talk of the wall and his disrespect to Latinos and Latinas and on and on, whether the LGBT issue he brought out of nowhere a week ago to create disunity in our country, whether Charlottesville woke him up. Did he have an epiphany? I doubt it, but we have to wait and see.
LEMON: Michael, in his first statement he talked about a need to cherish our history. Here it is right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We must love each other, in respect each other and cherish our history and our future together, so important. We have to respect each other. Ideally we have to love each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Some people said that was a dog whistle to the white supremacist. I mean given that one of the goals of the Unite the Right Rally was to protest the removal of a confederate monument. Do you think it was?
[23:35:08] F. MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: I mean, I think that I think the protest -- the protest that was going on was to remove this monument. That is why the white supremacists were there. They were protesting.
LEMON: You think him saying we have to cherish our history was a dog whistle.
HIGGINBOTHAM: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I think the President sends out a number of messages and if you look at the entire speech that he made on Saturday, it was very disturbing.
LEMON: Michael, let me just you right he is tweeting -- by the way the black CEO, it took him 48 minutes. He hasn't talked about the other CEOs. He is tweeting about other things.
HIGGINBOTHAM: Took him 45 hours to respond to express.
LEMON: He is tweeting now this alt right pro Trump media figure who indulges in conspiracy theories, one is about Seth Rich, which has been debunked as a conspiracy theory, the other is pizza gate. That is what he is doing tonight re-tweeting stuff like that. That is your President, everybody. There you go.
HIGGINBOTHAM: That is a problem. I mean, he had an opportunity to say clearly and unequivocally and he should say it often that he condemns white racial supremacists. He didn't do that. This is an opportunity for Americans to come together and reject that approach and condemn those supremacists.
LEMON: What do you think about now that he is re-tweeting this alt- right social media figure that indulges in conspiracy theories, Douglas Brinkley, instead of talking about what's happening in this country, talking about white supremacists and on and on?
BRINKLEY: It just goes to what I was just saying. Today was inconvenient that he had to talk. He billed it as a press conference. He didn't. He is sending mixed signals like gosh, look at the media, fake news is CNN and they're pushing I did something wrong and now he is back to his tweeting and re-tweeting and he sees himself as a leader of the alt-right. He sees himself like a Wallace or Joe McCarthy. That is going to be hard for mainstream Republicans and conservatives to grapple with in the coming months because they are the great GOP. They are the Party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Eisenhower and Reagan. They're being tainted by becoming the Party of Trump and in the long-term game of history.
LEMON: Thank you, Douglas, thank you, Michael. I appreciate it. When we come back, the group behind the rally in Charlottesville blaming police for the violence, we're going to show how the police chief is responding. That is next.
[23:40:32] LEMON: A blow that went wrong over the weekend in Charlottesville and during a news conference today, the chief of police was asked if he had any regrets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL THOMAS, CHIEF, CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE: I certainly have regrets.
We lost three lives this weekend, a local citizen and two fellow officers. We certainly have regrets. It was a tragic, tragic weekend. We had agreements and worked out a security plan to bring the groups in and separate entrances. Again, they decided to change the plan and entered the park in different directions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I want to discuss all of this now with CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Cedric Alexander, the author of the New Guardians and Richard Cohen, the President of the southern poverty law center and Chris Swecker and he is a former FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division. I got to tell you, before I get to the police response, the police would not have been out there had these hateful people not entered the streets. Richard, what did you want to say about the situation and how the President responded?
RICHARD COHEN, PRESIDENT OF THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, you know, look the President has finally condemned white supremacy, you know, and the problem isn't that he was late in doing it. The problem wasn't that he did it under pressure. The problem is that he still hasn't taken any responsibility, Don, for his role any energizing the white supremacist movement. He makes it seem like he didn't have anything to do with it. He needs to take some responsibility. I think he needs to fire Mr. Bannon, the person who proudly claimed that he made Breitbart the platform of the alt-right and made Richard Spencer a hero. And then I think he needs to take some concrete actions to undo the damage that he is done, starting, of course, with taking -- telling the federal agencies to take white supremacy seriously. Merely condemning it is not enough.
LEMON: Cedric, one of the main criticisms that has been leveled at law enforcement, it's been officers saying the protesters that they sort of stood back. Is that protesters on opposing sides that they weren't kept separately that they weren't separated that they had the chance to get too close together. What do you think of that? That caused all of this just to evolve. What do you think of this?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, CNN: Well, I heard comments from the chief there today and certainly having been a chief twice in two American cities I know the challenges that comes with what he was confronted with, but here's the questions that he is going to really have to answer and the questions I would imagine that is going to come his way is that the night before and even days before, there was clear evidence as I understand or intelligence that had been gathered that this group was going to be violent.
If that was the case, then there certainly should have been maybe additional preparation that could have been taken to get in between these groups. And I also have to account for the fact that the chief said something today that they were expecting them to come in one direction but they came in from a variety of different directions. And that certainly can be a challenge, as well, too. But I think going forward, that chief and that community and its leadership has to respond to really very challenging questions as to how much did you know and why did you not get in between these two groups prior to the violence that took place.
LEMON: Chris, so Jason Kessler who is a white supremacist who organized the unite the right rally released a statement saying the blame for today's violence lies primarily with the Charlottesville government officials and the police officials who failed to maintain law and order, to protect the first amendments rights of rally participants and provide for their safety. If they had started to engage with these protesters as we saw, a lot of them came very heavily armed as you can see. Would they have risked a shoot-out and possibly more deaths?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Well, it's their job to protect the public, and let me tell you in, the '90s when these incidents were very common, you had to build up a good base of intelligence about these organizations and these types of events ahead of time. You have to know that these -- when these two groups come together, there's a high potential for something bad to happen.
LEMON: Chris, I just want people to be clear about the pictures that we are showing. Those were the members of this group who came there. The Unite the Right, who were heavily arm right there, those weren't pictures of police officers. Sorry, Chris, go on. I hate to cut you off. I just wanted to be clear for the audience.
[23:45:08] SWECKER: Yes, I hate arm chair quarterback law enforcement in general. There should have been some anticipation that there were going to be armed individuals at this event that there was going to be a high potential for violence. That is when you bring in officers in greater numbers than you even think that you need and make sure these groups are separated. This something looked bad from the very beginning, looked like it had high potential.
LEMON: Richard, did the right wing militia use this level of armament to intimidate law enforcement for exactly this purpose, do you think?
COHEN: You know, I think that is a good question, Don. I think many people came there looking for a fight. I think they were looking for a confrontation with the counter protesters perhaps with the police. It was a really, really dicey situation. We think it's critical always that law enforcement officers have a really good plan, good intelligence and what I worry a little bit about and I don't want to speculate too much here, but I worry that perhaps the -- there would have been more law enforcement officers there had there been 500 black protesters who showed up I'm not so sure.
LEMON: You just took my next question to Cedric because I got to ask him, I mean, what do you say to that? If this were a crowd of African-Americans carrying the same weapons, would there have been more pro active police presence there do you think?
ALEXANDER: well I think most Americans regardless of who they are can answer that question tonight and say yes. Let's not even toy around with that. And I think that is one of the unfortunate situations here that continue to perpetuate this whole idea that certain groups of people are treated very different than others. But getting back to the whole point, quite frankly, in regards to
whether police were intimidated by this group or not, I would tend to say no, they were not. What I would tend to say the question I would ask was preparation made for this type of crowd. There was clear evidence, Don that they were going to have problems with this crowd. And should better precaution could have been taken here again, I don't want to second-guess this chief. I know what it's like to be in that position, but those are going to be the questions that are going to have to be answered.
LEMON: Chris, I got to tell you, according to a bulletin obtained by foreign policy magazine confirmed by CNN, the FBI and department of homeland security issued an intelligence bulletin about the growing threat from the white supremacist groups earlier this year. The FBI and the DHS believe that members of the White Supremacist movement likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year. Do we have a growing terror threat here at home that people are now the focused enough on?
ALEXANDER: Yes. I'm sorry, go ahead.
SWECKER: That is a good question, Don. Is that for me?
LEMON: That is for Chris.
SWECKER: Yes, that is a good question, Don. I question whether we're beginning to see a resurgence of the domestic terrorist groups of the '90s. If you recall the '90s were a very active period for neo-Nazi, white supremacist militias, anti-government and we sort of took our eye off the ball there. We -- I shouldn't say we but the FBI, my former colleagues had a pretty good program of informant coverage, good intelligence, I'm not sure we have that now. This goes all the way back to 2015 when the Justice Department said there was resurgence in particularly white supremacist violence. We've seen some sporadic incidents over the last couple of years that may lead us to believe that there is resurgence in this white supremacist or far right wing domestic terrorist group activity.
LEMON: Richard Cohen, I know you have thoughts on that. We'll get them right after the break. Don't go anywhere.
[23:52:14] LEMON: So, back, now, with my panel. Richard, I want to get in on this. Let's talk about the people around the President and also, let's talk about domestic terror. Here, is the adviser to the President Sebastian Gorka. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's this constant, oh, it's the white man. It's the white supremacists. That is the problem. No, it inst Maggie Haberman. Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East and tell me what the problem is today. Go to Manchester.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What about America, Richard?
COHEN: I think Mr. Gorka looks like a fool in light of what happened in Charlottesville. We have a long history since 9/11 of minimizing the white supremacist threat. The day after Trump announced his campaign for presidency on June 16, 2015, the day after that, Dylan Roof killed nine people on an African-American church. We can't take our eye off that ball, no matter what people around Mr. Trump would like us to do.
LEMON: Chris, what do we do? At this rally -- there could be another rally taking place, because this yup is group is -- unite the right and other hate groups, they are not going to stop rallying, what should we do?
SWECKER: Police Chief like one in Charlottesville is going to rely on the federal resources at the ATF and the FBI for intelligence. All they have is what they have in front of them in their own county. We need to get back into the domestic terrorism business and get our resources back up, build the intelligence back up. And when events like this are up coming, you have to be anticipatory and do your homework. Be out there in numbers that would deter this type of conduct. Here in North Carolina, we have some special event laws. You can declare a special event and outlaw arms and other types of weapons in the venue, in and around the venue. I think we need to see more of that.
LEMON: Cedric, what lessons can law enforcement draw from this weekend's violence? And is it going to spread to other cities, where there are the same questions about removing confederate monuments and so on.
ALEXANDER: Two great questions. Let me start by saying, I certainly hope it does not spread to other cities. Here's what can circumvent that. We need a President right now at this very moment, to have this, those involved in alt-right, KKK, neo-Nazi, or any other hate group for the President come out and consistently state, not being pushed to do so by a staff, about what the American people are saying, but take the leadership position to make this part of his platform for the next number of years, however long that may be that he serve, because I think it's important, what this country wants and needs right now, is begging for, the leadership from the commander in chief, to take a stand.
[23:55:16] And speak out wholly without being initiated by somebody else but taking his own initiative and saying that we're a better nation than this. To be able to say that tonight is great. However, it's clearly important he is going to have to demonstrate it through his actions. As you heard many others have said. Removing a number of people off his staff, one example is Bannon, and others clearly demonstrate that to clear example. I think you can go beyond that and make what is happening very concerning in this country, which is domestic violence, being opposed on others is unacceptable. He has to do something different. Thanks Don. LEMON: Thank you, absolutely. When you see all those people out
there marching, no hoods, no sheets, you just wonder how many walk among us every day. And we don't know about it. Thank you, all. That is it for us tonight. Thanks very much for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.