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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Condemns Racist Groups Two Days After Deadly Unrest; Trump Attacks Merck CEO And The Media On His Tweets; Trump Leaving White House For NYC After Condemning Racist Groups. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, protests growing at this hour as President Trump finally condemns Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists by name. Not, though, before he insisted on talking about the stock market. Why is this no-brainer such a head scratcher for Trump?
Plus, more white nationalist protests planned across the country.
And breaking news, a new threat tonight from North Korea. The defense secretary warning, game on.
Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, we begin with breaking news. His hand was forced, President Donald Trump surrendering to pressure today after days of punishing criticism over his response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The response sparking protests outside Trump Tower at this hour. You're looking right there live on Fifth Avenue. Crowds have been growing. Some of the protesters have actually at this moment made their way inside Trump Tower.
The president will be there. Back there for the first time since inauguration. And he'll be arriving just after 9 o'clock Eastern this evening.
Today, the president finally saying what many were waiting to hear. Listen to Trump on the deadly Charlottesville unrest, take 2.
(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)
BURNETT: Those remarks were very specific and very clear, calling out the hate groups by name and calling them repugnant. That, of course, is something the president did not do on Saturday. At that time, he blamed, quote, many sides for what happened.
Even today's statement, though, wasn't a priority because Trump actually began the remarks that you just heard this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our economy is now strong. The stock market continues to hit record highs. Unemployment is at a 16-year low, and businesses are more optimistic than ever before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, a White House official tells CNN that Trump was the one who decided on the order here. He insisted on beginning his speech talking about the economy and the stock market and then ending it with those comments about the KKK.
This two-day process with his message with Trump slamming the KKK in the middle of his speech today is not the first time Trump has struggled to condemn racism. He struggled to do this, actually, it started it seems in an interview here on OUTFRONT in January of 2016.
At that time, I asked then candidate Trump about a robocall that was running in newspaper created by a white nationalist super PAC. Here's the exchange.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't need Muslims. We need smart, well- educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.
BURNETT: Mr. Trump, when you hear that, does that shock you? Do you denounce that?
TRUMP: Nothing in this country shocks me. I would disavow it, but nothing in this country shocks me. People are angry.
They are angry at what's going on, they're angry at the border, they're at the crime, they're angry at people coming in and shooting (INAUDIBLE) in the back in California and San Francisco.
They're angry when Jamiel was shot in the face by an illegal immigrant. They're angry when the woman, the battered 65-years-old is raped, sodomized, and killed by an illegal immigrant.
And they're very angry about it. And by the way, and thousands of other cases like that. They're very angry about it. So I would disavow that but I will tell you, people are extremely angry.
BURNETT: People are extremely angry. But to be clear, when he says we need smart, well-educated white people to assimilate our culture, vote Trump, you're saying you disavow that, you do denounce that?
TRUMP: Well, you just heard me say it. How many times do you want me to say it?
BURNETT: A third would be good.
TRUMP: I said I disavow.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: The interview ended after that. Trump was not happy.
And then there was this. And you may remember, in February of 2016, Trump was asked multiple times about the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and his support of Trump's candidacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?
TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And here's how the president addressed a question about anti-Semitic violence that same month, again, February of 2016, when given a chance to condemn it.
TRUMP:: It's not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question.
So here's the story, folks. Number one, i am the least anti-Semitic person you've seen in your entire life. Number two, racism. The least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:05:08] BURNETT: Now, here's the thing. When Trump wants to, as we all know, he speaks very directly and very quickly. For example, today, the Merck CEO -- the CEO of drug company Merck resigned from Trump's Manufacturing Council. He said he was doing so because of the president's failure over the weekend to condemn hatred.
Trump immediately responded to the African-American executive with this tweet just moments after he quit. Quote, now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to, caps, lower ripoff drug prices.
Sara Murray is OutFront. And Sara, just moments ago, another new tweet slamming the Merck's CEO from the president.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. President Trump just took off from the White House, he is heading to New York but before he left, he fired off some angry tweets, including one at Merck, saying, "Merck Pharma is a leader in higher and higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back and lower prices."
Fun fact. The CEO of Merck was at the White House just about a month ago to tout a new initiative that would create more jobs in the United States (INAUDIBLE). Now, there was another angry tweet from Trump, this one dealing directly with Charlottesville. He said, "Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realized once again that the fake news media will never be satisfied. Truly bad people."
That gives you an indication of the way Trump and his advisers felt the pressure of this negative news cycle around his first set of comments. Now, both of these tweets, clearly something President Trump was upset about. He has made it very evident when he's upset at people by firing off in a 140 characters.
And that's part of the reason that it's been so fascinating to watch him continue to fumble with this question of denouncing racism over and over and over again. Obviously, we saw it when it came to this pair of statements over the last few days. We saw it with the David Duke support that he offered President Trump, then candidate Trump during the campaign.
But we've also seen Trump retweets white nationalist accounts. We saw him rise to prominence by questioning whether Barack Obama, the first African-American president was in fact born in the United States.
So for some people questioning whether Trump really meant the words he said today, you know, they have some things to point to when they say it feels a little hollow, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much Sara. And OutFront now, David Gergen, who served as adviser to four presidents, April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Chris Cillizza, our editor-at-large for CNN Politics.
David, let me just start with the question here that Sara posed -- the questions that people are saying, look, when he came out today, it was incredibly forceful and incredibly clear. But of course, it took two days to do so and he put it sort of in the middle of a speech where he lead talking about the economy. Do you think his change of tune today was genuine?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Who knows? I think we should acknowledge that the president did the right thing today. We've been pounding on him for two days, and the media, then politics, in the newspaper, everywhere, to condemn -- and he named the KKK and the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists and the like. And he did that, so, you know, good for him.
And having said that, I think (INAUDIBLE) flow of blood but he's grievously wounded over this. You know, I think in the beginning of the day, just within an hour of Ken Frazier, you know, retiring from his board, Donald Trump unleashes a terrible attack on an African- American CEO, one of the only ones in the country, and he did it again tonight.
One has to sense that his statement today about Charlottesville was grudging and not very authentic and that the real Donald Trump, the authentic Donald Trump is the one we saw in the tweets at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. And I can just tell you this, Erin. He said he wants to bring love, not hatred to the country. Good. We need to deal with hatred.
But he needs to deal with the hatred in his own heart if he wants to bring more love to the country.
BURNETT: So April, why? Why do you think he changed his tune today, called out the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as he did by name so clearly, calling them repugnant, when he refused to do so over the weekend? And now, of course in this tweet as Sara just mentioned, he's saying, you know, that the media, you know, basically got what they wanted here, and still he says he doesn't feel like he's being given credit.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Why? Because the president just heard the outpouring from black, white, Jew, Gentile, Protestant, and Catholic. People are upset. His silence for two days was defining.
The president's actions spoke louder than words by inaction for those two days. People are very, very upset. And, yes, there is division here and I'm watching Twitter all day. People are very angry and they were saying, look, the president shows more anger about the fact that Ken Frazier left his manufacturing council versus the Charlottesville situation.
[19:10:08] And in going to Ken Frazier, Ken Frazier is a man who, from what I'm understanding from many of my sources, that he's a man who has worked with both Democratic and Republican administrations. He is there to help. And for this president to attack an African-American man at a time that there is an issue about this confederate statue in Virginia, there's a big problem here. It's a lot of -- it looks like it could be hypocrisy.
And my big question right now is, what was the conversation over these last two days with this president and David Duke for the president to be able to feel comfortable without David Duke coming back, saying, look, your constituency, the people who voted for you are waiting for you, and don't do this. I mean, I want to know what that conversation was, really.
BURNETT: So Chris, you know, because what he said on Saturday and what he said today were very different, and I just want to play them side by side so that everybody can hear the difference for themselves. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it's been going on for a long, long time.
As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. And as I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws. We all salute the same great flag and we are all made by the same almighty God.
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)
BURNETT: So Chris, on Saturday he said "on many sides", today, as he lead into what was a very strong statement condemning specific hate groups, he twice said, as I said. But of course, he hadn't said, right. Obviously, this is something new.
And then he came out and he said it and he was very direct and clear about it. Why? Why do you think when he was criticized by many members of his own party, as well as people on the other side of the political spectrum, but why do you think he felt forced to do it?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Because I think he thought he wouldn't be able to get beyond it. And that it would just continue to come up and that he would have to say something similar to it in order to check a box, which I think is really what he viewed it as.
I think you're right, Erin, to focus on the "as I said on Saturday", "as I've said many times before", I think that gives you a lot of inside into how Donald Trump came to the statement he gave today which is grudgingly.
He clearly believed he had done enough, he had said those things both on Saturday and in the past, that as you played he's the least racist person in the world, he believes that in his heart. That is who he fundamentally is.
The statement he gave to check a box and I think the two things you mentioned, "as I've said", the one thing I'll add is, the lead-in talking about the jobs and economy. As David Gergen can tell you, you don't give a speech about or remarks about someone who lost their life and dozens of people injured and start it with, hey, things are going great. I'm not getting enough credit for it.
But let me talk about this other thing. He did that on Saturday and again today which tells you that, you know, this is dutiful, this is grudging. He did it, the box is checked and as you saw with his tweets, (INAUDIBLE) he now has turned back to blaming the media for, I guess, having him say that racism is evil.
CILLIZZA: He's kind of an obvious one.
BURNETT: Right. And let me play, David, an exchange he had with Jim Acosta, obviously CNN reporter today when he was being asked about this delay. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?
TRUMP: They've been condemned. They have been condemned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And it sort of sounds like he's saying, David, and that's it.
GERGEN: Yes. He was saying that's it. You know, he doesn't want to go back to it. And he's told Jim Acosta, you know, I'm not going to talk to you because you're fake news.
It was very personal. His hatreds are very personal in nature. I think we've all agree here that (INAUDIBLE) seemed extremely grudging. Check the box I feel was a nice phrase.
[19:15:09] And I think it's left us with one of these questions, you know, moments come in a presidency that are remembered well, and they can either go well for a president or badly for a president. If you go back to Bill Clinton and his presidency was really fumbling for a while and Oklahoma City came along with a bombing out there and he was extremely impacted, he would jumped right on it and he was -- he captured the mood of the nation and was a good leader, and it lifted his presidency -- it was -- and it turned his presidency around.
Similarly, George W. Bush in a different way, you know, with Katrina, flying over it and everybody watching that, and realizing he hadn't paid much attention to it, seemed indifferent to it. That wounded him for the rest of his presidency.
This has the potential. We'll have to wait and see where it goes. But Charlottesville has the potential for being the wound for this president that will not go away easily or quickly.
BURNETT: And we're looking, by the way, live pictures of the president at Andrews Air Force Base, getting ready to head here to New York where as I said he's expected right around 9 o'clock Eastern, April. There are protesters around Trump Tower, some of them even inside. So obviously, we'll see how they handle all of that to get him in there.
But this point that you raise about Ken Frazier, who is the African- American president of Merck. When he came out in his statement today, quitting the manufacturing board and, by the way, others have quit, right? You and (INAUDIBLE) another one of the president's councils.
But Ken Frazier said, "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." It took less than an hour, as I indicated a moment ago, April, for him to slam the CEO of Merck on Twitter. He has done so again within the past hour. Turning the conversation completely to drug prices.
Obviously, this is something where it seems like he did not catch on some level the link here to race at all or he did and he didn't care?
RYAN: This president catches a lot. This president understands that he is using a scapegoat now, changing it from him, throwing it over to Ken Frazier who left. He's an African-American who understands the history, he understands what terror is from history for African- Americans in this country.
Think of strange fruit hanging from a tree, speaking of lynching, that's terrorism that has happened in this country. Slavery by itself. And then to have this issue of the confederacy, the confederacy was fought, the Civil War was fought, about the issue of slavery. The confederacy wanted what, slavery.
So, he understands -- this president understands intrinsically what's going on. He understands that if he throws the attention to Ken Frazier, that it kind of gets the attention off of him, but it's not going to work this time because this overarching issue of tolerance versus intolerance with this administration, is an albatross around its neck, and they've got to deal with it.
Ken Frazier, I don't believe he's going to be (INAUDIBLE). People are seeing through this right now.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much.
And next, Republicans were among the first to slam Trump for his initial response to Charlottesville. What's their reaction tonight? My guest, Congressman Carlos Curbelo.
Plus, the man accused of mowing down people with a car in Charlottesville made his first court appearance today. His extreme views and disturbing past, we are learning more about that at this hour.
And breaking news, North Korea issuing a new warning at this hour. Kim Jong-un reviewing, he says, a final plan to fire missiles at Guam.
[19:22:11] BURNETT: Tonight, protests across the country as President Trump finds himself under pressure following his initial response to the Charlottesville attack. You're looking at live pictures, this is outside of Trump Tower here in New York.
As you just saw, Trump departing Andrews Air Force Base for New York, his first night in Trump Tower since taking office. He should be arriving here in about an hour or so. This comes hours after Trump finally condemned racist groups by name two days after the unrest in Charlottesville. And OutFront now, the Republican congressman from Florida, Carlos Curbelo, and thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Congressman.
I know you were very open about it and you were very direct. You were critical of the president's initial response to the Charlottesville attack. At the time, you tweeted, and I quote you, Potus has always called out radical Islamic terrorists. He must now call out radical white supremacists terrorists.
What do you make of his comments today, Congressman?
REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: Well, Erin, good evening from Miami. First thing I'll say is better late than never. I'm glad the president came out and called evil by name, singled out these groups that are dividing our country, that don't accept the idea that we are a diverse country, a nation of immigrants. So I appreciate that.
However, I am concerned with that glowing omission on Saturday. And I think the president needs to take steps, if he truly wants to unite this country, if he truly wants to help heal this country. He needs to take steps to make sure things like this never happen again.
BURNETT: So, as you know, you pointed out sort of in your reference to the tweet about how he's handled Islamic terrorism. He bragged to the Associated Press back in April that he was 10-0 when he predicted that attacks were terrorism. So he was very quick as a candidate to suggest that Islamic-related attacks were terror and that continued when he was president.
Just after the London Bridge attack in June, he retweeted a tweet from the Drudge report that said, quote, fears of a new terror attack after van mows down 20 people on London Bridge. Obviously, he did that before it had been confirmed it was terrorism. And then there were these instances when he spoke about attacks in Paris and Manila.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It looks like another terrorist attack and what can you say, it just never ends.
I would like to begin by addressing the terrorist attack in Manila. It is really, very sad as to what's going on throughout the world with terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I just want to play out, Congressman, as a point of fact, Manila actually didn't end up being a terror attack. But, my question to you is, why do you think he will call an Islamic-related terror attack terror, and will do so before the intelligence agencies do so but he did not do so in this case?
[19:25:05] CURBELO: Well, Erin, first of all, let me tell you that, I think every political leader is responsible for his or her statements and for any omissions in those statements. But I'll also say that I think part of the problem, a big part of the problem is that there are members in the president's White House staff who believe in accommodating this alt-right movement in the United States, and apparently don't want to offend anyone who associates with it.
Now, alt-right, just so that people understand, is not a group of people who have certain ideas about tax reform or about immigration reform or anything like that. Alt-right is about white nationalism. It is about racism, it is about dividing this country, and regrettably, there are members of the president's staff who at least believe that this movement should be accommodated.
And my point is that there is no place for this movement in American politics and I think that's why the president has lacked clarity in some of his statements. Now, again, he is responsible but we all know that the modern American president doesn't sit down and draft his statements, doesn't draft his own speeches.
These aides are very influential and I really think the president needs to start listening to the highly competent, highly professional, patriots on his staff, people like General Kelly, General McMaster, General Mattis, people who have sacrificed for this country, instead of those who believe in accommodating people who are hell-bent on dividing this country on excluding American citizens from the American experience.
BURNETT: And to your point, right, there's a lot of people who could have influence over a president but at a moment like this, you know, one would think that what you actually say to the American people would be your own words and from your own heart. But, you have said now in that answer, you said aides and you said members. You used the plural in both cases.
So you think there's more than one person who supports the alt-right in the president's inner circle?
CURBELO: I do believe so. And they have been named numerous times obviously --
BURNETT: So, who are they? Are talking about Steve Bannon -- OK.
CURBELO: Steve Bannon is the most prominent. I think a lot of these ideas that you see coming from Stephen Miller are also associated with these groups and that's unfortunate. And look, I'm not saying these people are racists. I'm not saying that they want to advance a racist agenda, but it is pretty clear that they believe that these groups should be accommodated.
And, look, I visited Normandy recently, Erin, where Americans went to fight against these kinds of ideas and many of them died. I also recently visited Berlin where a lot of these hateful, nasty ideas were born decades ago. We have always fought against these ideas.
Those ideas are as unAmerican as they come. And for there to be people in the White House seeking to accommodate groups that advance these types of ideas is totally unacceptable. And I think that the president would go a long way towards improving his approval rating if he starts listening to others, not those that have taken him down this path.
BURNETT: Should he fire them, Stephen Miller and Steven Bannon, to make a point about where he stands? Does he need to go that far? Is there something short of that that you would settle for?
CURBELO: I think the president needs to make a strong statement regarding how he feels about this country, showing that he really wants to bring us together. Erin, I was disgusted by the last presidential campaign. I thought both sides really worked hard to divide the country.
Now it's time to unite the country. You cannot unite the country when there are people on your team who want to accommodate groups that are doing everything they can to divide this country.
I don't know if they need to be fired. Maybe they need to be marginalized, maybe the president just needs to start taking advice from the right people, and there are a lot of good people in that White House. He ought to listen to them.
BURNETT: Congressman Curbelo, thank you for your time tonight.
CURBELO: Thank you Erin. Have a good night.
BURNET: And next, we're learning more tonight about the man accused of plowing into a Charlottesville crowd with his car. Should his long-held views about Hitler and Nazis have set off alarm bells long before?
And police in Charlottesville, tonight, defending their actions. Expressing regrets over what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost three lives this weekend. I have -- I certainly have regrets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:33:34] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump about to be faced with hundreds of protesters as he makes his way to Trump Tower here in New York City. It's the president's first visit to his home since taking office and that crowd there tonight, not what he would have expected before what happened Saturday in Charlottesville. They are there because they're furious over his response to the deadly alt-right protest that happened in Virginia over the weekend.
We're learning at this hour, some new and disturbing details about the suspect who drove his car into the crowd.
Brian Todd is OUTFRONT.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boiling tensions outside the courthouse in Charlottesville as the man suspected of driving his car into a crowd of protesters after a white supremacist rally is charged with second-degree murder. Inside court, James Fields, the 20-year-old suspect, appeared by video link, now held without bond on multiple charges. Authorities say he rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people, killing a 32-year-old woman, injuring 19 others.
CNN has learned Fields recently moved to this apartment complex in Maumee, Ohio. He told the judge he works at a security firm, makes $650 every two weeks, and couldn't afford a lawyer.
A picture now emerging of a troubled young man with strong white supremacist views, according to those who knew him.
DEREK WEIMER: He had some very radical views on race. He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler.
[19:35:03] He also had a huge military history, especially with German military history in World War II, but he was pretty infatuated with that stuff.
TODD: Fields' mother said she knew her son was traveling to Virginia but was unclear on the reason.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know it was white supremacist. I thought it had something to do with Trump.
TODD: Fields enlisted in the Army in August 2015, according to documents obtained by CNN. He reported for basic training but soon released for active duty, quote, due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015. As a result, he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training.
A motive isn't yet clear but according to a Justice Department official close to the investigation, federal investigators may have gathered enough evidence to suspect the accused driver wanted to send a message.
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It doesn't meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute, you can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought because this is an unequivocally, unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.
TODD: And according to a Justice Department source, investigators are looking into whether Fields may not have acted alone.
JOHN FISHWICK, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF VA: The thing that they will look at is not just who was driving the car but who was helping that person, who was an accomplice to this, who was behind this. It will be a wide scope investigation, as it should be.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Even though he said he could not afford a lawyer, the judge said that James Fields could not be appointed a public defender because, according to the judge, someone in the public defender's office had a relative who was affected somehow by Saturday's violence. The judge did not go into specifics on that.
We reached out to the attorney that was appointed for James Fields. That attorney has not gotten back from us. Also tonight, we've got a statement a short time ago from a firm from Ohio called Securitas which says it did employ James Fields as a security officer. That firm says he came here to Charlottesville on a vacation request and that he's been terminated -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brian.
And OUTFRONT now, Pastor James Davis at the New Spirit Revival Center, and Marc Lamont Hill, CNN political commentator.
Let me start with you, Marc. You know, the president was obviously frustrated today that he was asked, again, about why it took him two days to condemn white supremacists. He just tweeted, and I'm going to read the tweet. This is the president: Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realized once again that the fake news media will never be satisfied. Truly bad people.
Basically admitting, I guess, that he was forced to do it. Are you satisfied with what he said today, which was declarative?
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, in the last seven days, Trump has decided finally to tweet that someone is a bad person, and some people are truly bad people, and he didn't choose the KKK. He didn't choose the Nazis. He didn't choose the anti-Semites. No. He chose the media.
This is emblematic of the broader problem. The president has refused to call people out when it comes to white nationalism and this is someone who couldn't hold his fingers back when it was time to talk about Meryl Streep or when it's time to talk about Hillary Clinton, but somehow he could hold his powder when it came to this issue. And the fact that he's irritated that people weren't satisfied where he blamed all sides, as if we are all on equal moral footing here, it says a lot about who the president is and what his agenda is about.
PASTOR JAMES DAVIS, NEW SPIRIT REVIVAL CENTER: I would -- I would say this, that most of the immediate counterpunches that came via Twitter, he had been hit and he was simply hitting back. He immediately came out and said we are watching things.
The media deserves some of the blame here because a thousand times, things get wrong in the initial stage or they come out wrong and the record is never corrected. And he's had plenty of missteps in jumping on things before he heard the entire matter, and in this case, he waited to hear the entire matter. And then there was a secondary that came out from -- (CROSSTALK)
BURNETT: We knew the entire matter well before this afternoon, Pastor, right? That's just a fact.
DAVIS: Well, they didn't know the entire matter when he was -- he didn't know because he said we are carefully watching what's going on in Charlottesville. And so, in that, that's saying that he's not going to step all over it, but then in an immediate -- a secondary message came out from the White House and then now, today, another tertiary message has come out, and then everyone is still not satisfied. I think he's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't.
HILL: No. He's just damned if he doesn't. Again, you don't need a full news bulletin or a DOJ investigation to know that white nationalists carrying torches at night saying that they are anti- black, anti-Jewish is a bad thing.
All he had to say is, hey, this is bad. That would have been an amazing start. He could still investigate and unfold further but he didn't do that. He refuses to name white nationalism on that first day as the fundamental problem.
He says everybody needs to stop. Everybody calm down.
Can you imagine, in the middle of an uprising somebody say, everybody be cool, everybody be cool, everybody here is too violent?
[19:40:01] No, of course, because slavery is wrong. We assume that it's wrong. We don't have to say all sides be cool. And essentially, that's what Trump did when it came to white nationalists and the people fighting white nationalists.
DAVIS: If I could retort, Erin. Here's the thing -- the current Klan enrollment is somewhere, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, they are saying that the current Klan enrolment is somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 people. And if we continue to give air to people like David Duke, they don't even keep the numbers for the neo-Nazis because it's probably much less. Let's call it 10,000 at every college campus.
At the end of the day, this is a microcosm of evil that keeps continuing to get all of the airplay and as such --
BURNETT: If that's the case, though, it should be so easy to denounce that.
BURNETT: Because 10,000 votes don't matter. So, what's holding him back?
DAVIS: What's holding him back is the fact that the mainstream media continues to give air to someone like David Duke that should be buried by now because his group is tantamount -- (CORSSTALK)
BURNETT: The mainstream media giving time to David Duke has nothing to do with a white supremacist driving a car ISIS-style into a crowd.
HILL: Right. I mean, that's the point. When President Obama was in office, he said President Obama refuses to call terrorism terrorism, and comes up with all these fancy, warm and fuzzy names, but refuses to call it terrorism, specifically talking about al Qaeda. Suddenly, now, someone, as Erin just said, drives a car into people, which is an al Qaeda-style terrorist act and he refuses to call it terrorism.
This is not complicated. Would you agree that's an act of terrorism?
DAVIS: I would agree it's an act of terrorism.
HILL: And do you acknowledge --
DAVIS: I would -- I would agree, also, that he probably could have been more firm with acknowledging which groups were doing what and not just saying all people. I will be conciliatory in that regard. But at the end of the day, he didn't hear the entire matter and as such we shouldn't be giving air space to these small groups --
HILL: Yes, we are.
DAVIS: -- because he had a populism, because he had a message of populism and then today he comes out and he rebukes it. So, that matter should be off the table right there.
BURNETT: Can I ask you a question? I don't know if you just heard the Republican congressman, you know, but he was pointing out to what he believes is the president's reliance on members of his inner circle, including Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, according to the congressman who was just on, that they are either racist or accommodating racist points of view.
Would you agree? Do you think that they have a positive role in this White House or would you also say that they should go?
DAVIS: The jury is out on these two in some regard. Do they need to go if that will appease everyone? Then maybe he needs to make some different selection in this. But the bottom line is, he thought -- he had a message of populism all throughout his campaign, into his presidency, and there are people that are low thinkers and they heard national -- white nationalism, when in fact it was American populism.
HILL: No, it wasn't American populism. When you say make America great again and you conjure up colonial nostalgia, you conjure up moments in history where black people and brown people and --
DAVIS: Who conjured that?
HILL: -- and Jewish people are disenfranchised and marginalized -- HILL: Who conjured that? That's something that -- you painted on
that. Again, that's low-thinking people. That's low-thinking people that hear, that hear white nationalism.
HILL: Let me finish my point.
Yes, we hear white nationalism when white nationalists are resonating with your message. We hear white nationalism when David Duke says we're going to fulfill the agenda of President Trump. We hear white nationalism when you have a message that says Muslims are bad. We hear white nationalism when you say Judge Curiel can't be objective because he's Mexican.
We say we hear white nationalism when you say you're going to build a wall across the border. We hear white nationalism when you as a Donald Trump had never articulated an agenda that is in the interest of the vulnerable, the black, the brown, the poor, the Jewish, et cetera. This is the reason why we hear it.
So, to pretend somehow that Donald Trump is just populist when the only people resonating with these populist messages are a certain sort of people, a certain pocket of American life suggests --
BURNETT: Marc, you got the first word.
Pastor, let me give you the last.
DAVIS: That is -- that is ridiculous because then that would say it resorts back to the lousy 10,000 people that follow Duke. When is somebody going to put a microphone in Duke's face and say, what are you taking back? He says, we're taking this nation back. We put President Trump in the office. What is he taking back? White folks control everything. And so --
HILL: Be careful, now.
DAVIS: We are in the dregs of secular humanism and until this nation comes back to God, we're going to continue to see this hatred on the front street.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.
And next, white supremacist Richard Spencer planning to hold another rally in Charlottesville. That city's vice mayor is my guest next.
And breaking news at this hour, North Korea says Kim Jong-un has reviewed a plan to fire missiles at Guam. The defense secretary tonight warning, game on if they shoot.
[19:48:41] BURNETT: Breaking news, fallout after the deadly weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. New questions tonight about whether public officials and law enforcement did enough to prevent the chaos and violence. Tonight, the police chief is expressing regret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POLICE CHIEF AL THOMAS, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But tonight, Richard Spencer, the white supremacist who helped found the so-called alt-right movement, says he's planning on holding another rally in Charlottesville.
OUTFRONT now is Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy.
And thanks so much for being with me, sir. I appreciate your time.
I want to ask you about Richard Spencer's comment but first I want to give you a chance to respond to the president. You were very vocal this weekend in calling for him to condemn white supremacist groups. He did not do so over the weekend but did so today.
Do you accept what he said what he said this afternoon?
WES BELLAMY, VICE MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: Well, before we get into the comments before myself and 45 or anything else, I think it's important that we express our condolences to the families of Heather and the two officers who lost their lives this weekend. That's first and foremost, my condolences to the family once again.
We can't say it enough. We're going to do everything we can to make this right. I promise you that.
Heather was a freedom fighter from day one.
[19:50:01] So, we are going to continue to push for all of the things that she wants in her honor.
Now to your question --
BELLAMY: -- in regards to 45, Mr. 45, he gave his comments. I feel like to a certain extent, it's too little too late. But I am -- I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact -- and I am indeed appreciative of the fact that he denounce the KKK, at least he did call them white supremacists and I think that's a step in the right -- excuse me, that's a step in the right direction.
Listen, I've been on who's made mistakes in my life. I'm hoping that the president can learn from his mistakes and he continues to disavow these clowns, these individuals who think that they can come in and scare us.
Richard Spencer, you are a clown. You are not welcome here. You have been told that by several individuals from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low. You are not welcome. Take your minions with your TIKI torches and leave. Do not return back to Charlottesville.
BURNETT: So, that's a firm no, he cannot come back with another rally?
BELLAMY: We don't want him back. He's not welcome here, point blank, period.
BURNETT: The police response this weekend, as you know, Vice Mayor Bellamy, is being criticized by some law enforcement officials.
Charles Ramsey is the former head of the Washington and Philadelphia police forces and he said, and I quote him: Demonstrators and counterdemonstrators need to be within sight and sound of each other, but somebody has to be in between. That's usually the police.
He said he didn't think that happened on Saturday.
And I know your police chief, Al Thomas, has defended his team's response. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS: We did make attempts to keep the two sides separate. However, we can't control which side someone enters the park. We had agreements and worked out a security plan to bring the groups in, in separate entrances. Again, they decided to change the plan and enter the park in different directions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Did law enforcement in Charlottesville make a mistake?
BELLAMY: Well, listen, I haven't had a chance to speak with Chief Thomas yet. We haven't been debriefed. So, I'm going to reserve my comments. I don't think it's the right thing to do right now, to jump to conclusions from my personal beliefs in regards to how the police responded at this moment.
I've spoken to community members and different individuals. I have -- again, I was yet to speak to Chief Thomas, I'm waiting to talk to him and I'm sure we'll have that conversation relatively soon.
And again, I think it's important for us to not necessarily look to shift blame. Look, we can try to say the police should have done this and they should have done that. But at the end of the day, white supremacy did this. If the white supremacists did not come to Charlottesville and these alt-right idiots come to our city, none of this would have happened. So again, it's very easy to place blame on anywhere else except for where it should be, and that is with the alt- right.
BELLAMY: Those individuals decided to come here. BURNETT: Vice Mayor, you referenced a moment ago --
BELLAMY: Go ahead. Sorry.
BURNETT: -- that's OK. In the interview, you referenced that you've made mistakes and you've been open about this. But our viewers may not know.
BELLAMY: Yes, ma'am.
BURNETT: In the past, you have said some horrific things, insulting and inflammatory things on Twitter
BURNETT: -- about women --
BURNETT: -- whites and gays, just a couple of examples that I can say on television. From 2009, you said: I don't like white people, so I hate white snow with five exclamation points. You continue to say, I hate black people who act white with three exclamation points.
Look, I know you've apologized for these things.
BELLAMY: My question to you, though, is, do you think some of these white nationalists would deserve a second chance? That they could, like you, change?
BELLAMY: That's the hope. And again, I apologized to the city of Charlottesville. One of the reasons why this is so personal to me, is that this city of Charlottesville is the one that helped me grow from that immature and in some cases ignorant young man into the father I am today, and to the husband I am today, and to the community leader. It's through different experiences and being open with my heart and open with different people and them showing me a different way in order for me to grow and mature.
That young man who I was, again in 2009, at 22, 23 years old is not who I am today. And I'm hoping that through this tragedy, the white supremacists, the individuals who may have been on the side of the fence, the moderates, whomever, can truly grow from this and learn. I know if I can do it, then I'm hoping that they can also. And that's the God I believe in, he can change people. People can grow.
But it takes with accepting responsibility. It takes with us also all denouncing those things.
And again, the reason I love this community so much is that people very plainly told me way before now, years ago, while I was growing and maturing, that way of thinking is not right. And my experience has changed. And that's what we're hoping for, all of these individuals who have such hatred in their heart, how can you hate a community like Charlottesville? Grant it, we're not perfect, we're a place of imperfect people working to create equity and make this place as best as we can for everyone. So, don't bring your hate here.
BURNETT: All right. Vice Mayor Bellamy, I appreciate your time and thank you tonight.
[19:55:01] BELLAMY: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.
BURNETT: Breaking news: Game on if North Korea fires a missile at the United States. Those are the exact words used by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis moments ago. He also added that if a North Korean missile is assessed to be hitting Guam, quote, we will take it out.
This comes as a senior U.S. defense official tells CNN that U.S. spy satellites have detected activity at a mobile missile launcher and that North Korea could be ready for a potential missile launch within the next 24 to 48 hours.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, a lot to ask you about tonight. But let me start with this. How concerned are you when you hear this, North Korea could be hours away, 24 to 48, from our reporting, from possibly launching a missile?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, I'm very concerned, Erin, given the very heated rhetoric, the very belligerent rhetoric from Kim Jong- un, the dictator of North Korea. I think it's appropriate that we make preparations, that we defend our vital allies in South Korea and Japan, that we continue to bring online the missile defense system, the THAAD system, and that we make it clear that any attack on American territory, any attack on American troops or on our close allies will be met forcefully.
BURNETT: So, just moments ago, we're hearing a response from Korea. Kim Jong-un indicated he will hold off on making a decision to launch ballistic missiles towards Guam. And the words that he used, Senator, are quote, he -- well, it's quoting him from the North Korean state news agency. So, they say, quote: He would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees spending a hard time of every minute of their miserable lot.
OK, do you think this is a sign he's trying to tone things down? They're saying he's going to watch a little bit more. Is that significant?
COONS: Well, Erin, I'm hopeful that we're going to see a repeat of the historic pattern from North Korea, where they are initially very belligerent, quite aggressive and threaten attacks. And then when confronted, they stand down. This has gone off and on for many years.
What makes the current situation with North Korea much more dangerous than previous confrontations with the West is that they have both nuclear weapons and ICBMs and they are closing in on the capability to marry the two and they are threatening to use them against the Continental United States.
BURNETT: So -- COONS: So, this is a more dangerous situation than we've faced in the
OK. They also, KCNA, continues to quote Kim Jong-un saying: If the Yankees persist in their extremely reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and its vicinity, the DPRK will make an important decision, as it already declared. It seems a very clear reference to whether they will do that test off the coast of Guam.
Two questions for you on this. The first is this: they're talking about our actions on the Korean peninsula. Should the United States proceed with its annual military drills with South Korea, which have precipitated tests for missiles from North Korea before?
COONS: Yes. We should continue to conduct drills and exercises with our allies, South Korea and Japan. Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis had a joint editorial in "The Wall Street Journal" today
COONS: -- where they very appropriately laid out that we have no intention of trying to overthrow the North Korean regime, of trying to invade or occupy North Korea, that we are open to negotiations, and that in those negotiations, we may be willing to make compromises but not in the face of threats and not in the face of ongoing missile tests, missile launches and nuclear detonations.
BURNETT: So, do you support --
COONS: So I felt like they took the right tone in that editorial today.
BURNETT: Do you support a strike if Kim Jong-un tests a missile, test a delivery off the coast of Guam? I.e., it's not a military strike on Guam, nobody tests, it's a test. Do we take that out of the sky for the first time? Do you strike back or do you say no?
COONS: I think if a missile is launched at Guam and we have the capability, which I believe we do, we should knock down the missile. We shouldn't allow a missile that launched in North Korea --
BURNETT: But what if at Guam? I know I'm being annal here, but there's Guam and they said they're going to go 19 to 25 miles off the coast of Guam. Is that at Guam?
COONS: Right. Erin, while a missile is in the air launched by North Korea and en route to Guam, if we mistake the trajectory by even a small amount, it could hit Guam rather than in the waters off of Guam.
It is completely appropriate for us to use a defensive missile system to disable an incoming, aggressive nuclear -- excuse me, North Korean ballistic missile. Because we won't know whether it's a dummy missile or an armed missile until it hits and we won't know exactly where it's targeted, the waters off of Guam or hitting Guam itself until it comes down. The trajectories that an ICBM typically follows are very steep and we would only have a manner of minutes to make a judgment call.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I think that's very clear. And I appreciate your time, Senator Coons. Thanks.
COONS: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And Anderson's next.