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Trump Criticized For Not Condemning White Supremacy; FBI Investigates Deadly Car Attack; Top U.S. Military Official Arrives In South Korea Amid North Korea Tension; Syrian Government Steps Up Offensive Against ISIS. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 14, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:32:00] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Pence, administration officials, and lawmakers all denouncing white supremacists groups after weekend rallies in Virginia turned violent and deadly. Critics in both parties asking why won't the president do the same?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, the 20-year-old suspect in court today accused of ramming his car into anti-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, killing one woman. New details on the federal investigation into that crash.

Welcome back to EARLY START this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And, I'm Dave Briggs. It is 32 minutes past the hour.

We'll be live from both South Korea and Syria later in this half hour.

But first, President Trump under fire for failing to explicitly denounce the role of white nationalists and neo-Nazis in clashes with counter-protesters. Those clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia turning deadly.

It was left to Vice President Pence, who is traveling in Latin America, to say what the president did not.


PENCE: We have no tolerance for hate and violence and white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

The president's call for unity yesterday, though, was from the heart. It was a sincere call in these two divided times in our country.


ROMANS: Democrats and Republicans alike slammed the president's initial response to the violence in Charlottesville and his reluctance to single out the extremists, some of whom have been, and are Trump supporters.

He said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides -- on many sides.


ROMANS: On many sides. Many people say this will always be the 'on many sides' speech from President Trump.

BRIGGS: Yes, those were the words that stuck out.

A White House statement Sunday trying to clarify the president's remarks, saying he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course, that includes white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. That from an unnamed White House spokesman.

ROMANS: That clearly wasn't enough for members of the president's own party who are pleading -- pleading with his president to speak out forcefully and directly himself against white nationalists groups.

Calling the killing in Charlottesville more than just murder, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeting very important for the nation to hear the president describe events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists.

And this from Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

"We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home."

[05:35:04] BRIGGS: GOP leaders not only calling on the president to condemn white supremacy groups by name, they're pressing him to do it now so that groups don't become emboldened.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would urge the president to dissuade them of the fact that their -- that he said that their cause -- their cause is hate. It is un-American. They are domestic terrorists and we need more from our president on this issue.

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: This president needs to do exactly that today. To call this white supremacism, this white nationalism evil and let the country hear it and let the world hear it. It's something that needs to come from the Oval Office and this White House needs to do it today.


BRIGGS: Meantime, the president's own daughter, Ivanka Trump, had this to say in response to the Charlottesville violence.

"There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy, and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans and be one country united."

Let's talk more about all this with "CNN POLITICS" reporter Eugene Scott. Good morning to you, sir.

ROMANS: Hi, Eugene.


BRIGGS: All right. Why is it so important to Orrin Hatch, Marco Rubio, and Ivanka Trump's own words -- why is it so important to name these groups if you are the President of the United States?

SCOTT: Because this weekend has shown, as has much of the last year, that many white supremacists think that President Donald Trump is on their side.

We saw on the "Daily Stormer" which is the newspaper and newsletter of some white supremacists groups, praising the president's response for not being aggressive.

We saw David Duke when he was running for the Senate last year, also use this opportunity to say that he wanted to be in -- on the Trump train -- a part of the Trump White House --

ROMANS: Right.

SCOTT: -- because he thought that they had the same values.

We saw the KKK newspaper endorse Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

The reality is that these groups that Donald Trump hasn't aggressively named think he's one of them and so if he does do that, that could send them a message.

ROMANS: It's interesting. It was a year ago -- exactly a year ago --


ROMANS: -- that Hillary Clinton gave this big speech --

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: -- in which she laid out this very dark vision of Donald Trump and his language giving a safe space to these exact kind of people.

SCOTT: Right.

ROMANS: Why doesn't the Trump administration -- now that he's president, why don't they aggressively call these folks out? I'm not talking about the people around Donald Trump who since, in the past 24 hours, have started to do that, but Donald Trump, himself. It's not a priority?

SCOTT: Well, author Joshua Green wrote a book, "Devil's Bargain" and he talked about this and interviewed Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist, about it.

And after that speech, actually, her lead over Donald Trump narrowed. Like it did not have the impact that she and her team were hoping it would have.

And Bannon said he polled people and it didn't matter. The issue -- the race issue -- many of the voters that they were hoping to attract, it wasn't a big option -- a big problem for them.

And so whether or not they feel like it should be a priority -- whether or not they feel like it's something that they need to draw attention to, they said they don't, based off of their own polling.

BRIGGS: Steve Bannon mentioned there, and Steve Bannon a hot topic of conversation right now inside this Trump administration. In fact, last night the hashtag #firebannon became a national trending topic because there's apparently some discord between himself and H.R. McMaster.


BRIGGS: Can they get along? H.R. McMaster, on "MEET THE PRESS," could not say when pressed three times if he could work with Steve Bannon moving forward.

And, Anthony Scaramucci, the former heads of comms for 11 days, finally spoke out in an interview to "THIS WEEK." Here's what he had to say about Steve Bannon inside this administration.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think the president knows what he's going to do with Steve Bannon.


SCARAMUCCI: Well, let's leave it up to the president. It's his decision.

But, I mean, at the end of the day I think the president has a very good idea of who the leakers are inside the White House. The president has a very good idea of the people that are undermining his agenda that are serving their own interests.

STEPHANOUPOLOUS: Do they include Steve Bannon?

SCARAMUCCI: Oh, yes. I mean, look -- you know, we're not on a phone call and a taped phone call and so we're on live television, and so I would prefer to let the president make the decision that the president needs to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Perhaps there's a fork in the road right now for the president and it's because of Charlottesville. He can go down one road, which is sticking with Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka or go another way toward H.R. McMaster and the folks that want to push him towards a unifying tone, working with moderates, working with Congress.

What will Steve Bannon's further existence inside this administration -- tell us, and how long can he last?

SCOTT: I think a good person to look at right now would be John Kelly. And so, John Kelly and Steve Bannon have worked together in the past in some film projects related to the Marines and the military.

But, John Kelly has been very vocal about wanting to end the drama and there are many people in the White House who point to Steve Bannon and some of his team -- Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka as being some of the movers and shakers of some of the most traumatic and dramatic incidents related to the White House and some of its negative attention.

[05:40:00] And so whether or not he will remain in his current capacity or still be in the White House, but maybe in a less influential role, isn't clear right now, but there certainly is pressure.

Bannon, of course, doesn't think he's going anywhere because of his relationship with Kelly and this isn't the first time Bannon has -- there have been rumors about him being close to being on the outs.

ROMANS: Well, there's also the idea of maybe it's better to have Steve Bannon close to the White House or inside the White House --


SCOTT: Right.

ROMANS: -- then it is to have him outside the White House where he could have his own message.

All right. I just want to really quickly show a full screen -- a graphic, if you will, of the last 15 years of terror attacks in the United States. I think -- this surprised me and I think this is really important.

Violence committed by far-right violence extremists, 62 attacks since 2001. Committed by radical Islamists extremists, 23 attacks since 2001. It doesn't seem like it should be a hard call for the president to call that out.

SCOTT: If he really is as concerned about terrorism as he says he is, what happened last night would be -- or I'm sorry, this past weekend --

ROMANS: Right. SCOTT: -- would be consistent with what has happened in other parts of the country in the sense that it is someone violently attacking someone else because of who they are, what they believe, and what they value.

And that's why you had Lindsey Graham, and that's why you had even McMaster saying --


SCOTT: -- that the president needs to call this out.

BRIGGS: Perhaps we'll hear more from the president today. He's back at the White House later this afternoon. We shall see.

Eugene Scott --

SCOTT: We'll see.

BRIGGS: -- good stuff. Thanks, my friend.

ROMANS: Thanks, Eugene.

BRIGGS: OK. The Department of Justice and the FBI launching a civil rights investigation into the deadly events at that white nationalists rally in Charlottesville.

Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields accused of driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person. He's now in custody facing multiple charges, including second-degree murder, and is expected to make his first court appearance today.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on the suspect and the investigation.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, we've got some important new information about the suspect accused in the car strike which killed that young woman on Saturday here in Charlottesville.

According to our justice producer, Mary K. Mallonee, she got this information from a Justice Department official familiar with the investigation.

Federal investigators have enough evidence to be suspicious that the suspect, James Field, Jr., intended to send a message, not just harm the immediate victims, and they're looking into that. They are also looking into whether he had any accomplices -- anybody who might have helped him in the attack.

Some other information that we're getting about the suspect according to a teacher who taught him history in the last two years of high school. This teacher's name is Derek Weimer who taught him in high school in Northern Kentucky.

He said that this suspect, James Fields, had some very disturbing views about Nazis. That he had an infatuation with Nazis.

Now, this all comes as we come off another day of high tension here in Charlottesville because the organizer of that Saturday rally -- the white supremacist organizer Jason Kessler, showed up here on Sunday intending to hold a news conference.

He spoke for several minutes at this outdoor news conference but really didn't get much of a word in edgewise because a crowd of counter-protesters were shouting him down making all sorts of noise.

Some people converged on him slowly. At some point he went down to the ground. He either fell or was pushed.

The police swooped in, got him out of there, got him around the side of the building, and then into this building behind me, the Charlottesville Police Department, where they held him for his own safety, and then they whisked him away.

A lot of protesters here angry that these white supremacists have still -- have hung around. At least one of these leaders, Jason Kessler, hung around to again try to espouse his message. He later tweeted that his free speech was being tamped down.

But again, none of that suppressing the anger and the frustration here in Charlottesville -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right, Brian Todd. Thank you for that.

We are learning more about the three people who died in the violence in Charlottesville.

Heather Heyer was killed when that car plowed into the crowd of protesters on Saturday. She was a paralegal who assisted clients through bankruptcy.

Heather's mother says she had passionate beliefs and was a champion for others.


SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: It was important to her to speak up for people that she felt were not being heard. To speak up when injustices were happening.

And she saw in the lives of many of her African-American friends particularly, and her gay friends, that equal rights were not being given.


ROMANS: Her father called her a warrior for social justice.

Two Virginia state troopers are also being remembered. Police say Lt. H. Jay Cullen and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates were

killed when their helicopter crashed while assisting public safety resources with the situation in Charlottesville. It was a tragedy.

BRIGGS: Indeed. All right.

Ahead, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the military's highest officer in South Korea, right now facing down North Korea's nuclear threat. We're live from Seoul with details, next.


[05:49:00] BRIGGS: All right, some big news.

China just announcing it will impose a complete ban on the importation of North Korean coal, iron, lead, seafood, and more, its first steps in enforcing sanctions against that country.

This coming as America's top general, Joint Chiefs Chairman Joe Dunford in Seoul for talks with South Korea's president Moon on dealing with the North Korean threat.

CNN has learned American diplomats have been in touch with their counterparts in Pyongyang for months now.

Let's go live to Seoul and CNN's Paula Hancocks for the latest. Paula, good morning to you.

What are you hearing about this meeting between Gen. Dunford and President Moon?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, we've just had a press conference at the air base just before Gen. Dunford left for China and he said within that press conference that the joint military drills between the South Koreans and the United States militaries will go ahead from April -- I'm sorry, August 21st to August 31st.

[05:50:00] Now, a little later on we had heard KCNA, a North Korean report, that North Korea condemning those war games, as they call them, saying that if they went ahead there would be a possibility for a war. Saying if there is a second Korean war that it would be a nuclear war.

These always anger North Korea, these military drills, but the U.S. general there confirming they will go ahead as planned.

We also heard from the Blue House. The presidential office spokesman here talking about what President Moon was saying within that meeting, saying that they were focusing on the diplomatic and economic efforts and options when it comes to North Korea. That they have the military option if that fails -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul. Thank you.

All right, time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joining us this morning, certainly speaking about Charlottesville.

ROMANS: Good morning, Chris.

BRIGGS: Good morning, Chris.

Why, to you, is it so important that the president name these groups? Just so American people don't think we're getting caught up in semantics here?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Well, I think it's almost a rhetorical question. This is one of the more baffling things we've had to deal with in covering this presidency so far.

There just isn't -- to answer your question, Dave, there's not a range of thought when it comes to the right or wrong of hate. So it is jarring, at the least, to hear a leader not embrace the obvious in a situation.

It's just not a time to parse right and wrong. It's not about different sides.These are hateful people that tear at American fabric.

Do they have the right to assemble in certain circumstances and to speak out about their beliefs, of course? Uniquely so in America. But just because you have the right to do something doesn't make it right.

So, the president's response or lack thereof is baffling. It's not just about semantics. It couldn't be less about semantics.

So what's motivating it? Why was this the conclusion of the White House that there was so much talk about it? Why would there even be so much talk about this?

So we're going to get into that because it has united left and right in a way that is good to see but is still very troubling. I mean, you know, you can't -- unless you want to just jump to the conclusion about what the president -- what's in the president's heart, this is a situation that just doesn't make sense.

And similarly, it's also not the only headline of the morning.

You have Paula Hancocks in there --


CUOMO: -- teeing up what's happening in North Korea.


CUOMO: But this story in Charlottesville isn't just about our humanity. It's going to reverberate once again as a reflection of the president's ability to empower his agenda because this is going to take up space, and rightly so.

ROMANS: Words matter and what you don't say matters as well when you're the President of the United States. All right, Chris Cuomo. Thank you.

We'll be right back.


[05:57:15] BRIGGS: ISIS on its heels in Syria as the U.S.-led coalition battles the terror group in its self-declared capital of Raqqa. Syrian government forces are engaged in heavy fighting to the east.

CNN was given access to the Syrian Army's front line near the site of a recent ISIS massacre.

Our Fred Pleitgen live from the Latakia where Assad regime and Russia hold control. Unique access inside Syria. Good morning to you, Fred.


And it's a very active front line of the Syrian government and its Russian backers have against ISIS in that area that we were in.

And one of the things the government fighters were telling us is they said look, since the U.S. and its partners have been cracking down on ISIS and Raqqa, a lot of the ISIS fighters have actually been fleeing south and that's where they've been conducting some of those massacres like the one in the town that we went into where ISIS invaded that town. It killed about 50 civilians before they were driven out by government forces.

Now, the government troops that we were took us to a hill overlooking the front line and we witnessed about a dozen airstrikes in the time that we were there. The Syrian government is also bringing new reinforcements into that area and they are now saying after a very long time that right now fighting ISIS is their main priority.

You know how the U.S. has been telling both Russia and the Syrian government that it needs to do more against ISIS? Well, they are saying they are doing exactly that right now, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Fred Pleitgen live for us in Syria. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. It is 58 minutes the past hour. That's it for us.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he was slow and then he slammed on the gas right into people that were in front of another car.

TRUMP: The hate and the division must stop and must stop right now.

TOM BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: The president condemned the violence and didn't dignify the names of these groups of people.

SCARAMUCCI: He needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: An American citizen was assassinated in broad daylight by a Nazi -- a Nazi.

DEREK WEIMER, FORMER TEACHER OF JAMES ALEX FIELDS, JR.: He was very infatuated with the Nazi's, with Adolph Hitler.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The events were horrible themselves and very depressing, but President Trump's reaction was almost as depressing.

GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: I have a message for all the white supremacists and the Nazis. Our message is plain and simple. Go home.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, August 14th, 6:00 here in New York.

Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joining me. Thank you for doing so.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's good to be here.

CUOMO: We'll be together all week.

Here's our "Starting Line."

Democrats and Republicans united in blasting the president's response to the violence sparked by white supremacists in Virginia. The president did condemn violence but said on many sides -- on many sides. Twice, he said something that shocks the conscience of members of both political parties and people across this country.