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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
CNN Sources: Trump "Without Regret" After Off-the-Rails Remarks; . Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 16, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Tonight, we're told that President Trump has no regrets, no regrets about what he said yesterday. No regrets about putting neo-Nazis and white supremacists and members of the KKK on the same moral plain as the people who showed up to protest them, no regret about equating George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who helped found this country with Robert E. Lee who led an army to tear it apart.
Tonight, we're told by sources that Donald Trump has no regrets about saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before, if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
I'm sure in that group there were some bad once. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, no regrets about those words we're told.
The president claims he looked tat people who attended the rally on Friday night. Not all those people were Nazis, he claims. Not all those people were white supremacists. They were protesting very quietly the taking down of the Robert E. Lee statue the president claims. The president says he looks closely and that's what he saw Friday night.
The president of the United States is either blind or blinded by the white. Consider for a moment if that were a crowd of Muslim protesters chanting, Jews will not replace us. Ask yourself would the president have had the same reaction?
In a moment, we'll speak to a reporter from Vice Media who was in that crowd. But I think it's worth showing you thousand some of what she saw marching amidst the protesters, only some of whom the president says were bad ones. This was the group marching with lit torches, a symbol of the lit torches used in Nazi rallies.
Listen to what these people, hundreds of them, were chanting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTERS: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.
Blood and soil! Blood and soil! Blood and soil!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. They also cried blood and soil, a phrase used by the Nazis. They called the small group of people that spoke against them faggots.
Would a good person march with one of those torches, in a crowd of angry men chanting against Jews and chanting Nazi slogans? The president seems to think so. The president has no regrets.
But Heather Heyer's mother does. She regrets losing her mother, who is murdered when a car plowed into her alleged -- into her allegedly by a neo-Nazi. Heather Heyer was remembered today in a memorial in Charlottesville. Her mother Susan Bro spoke at the memorial.
She asked mourners to look for ways of making a difference in the world, ways of making it better. Ways of making heather's murder and the emptiness her mom feels mean something more than what are plainly, simply and sadly now is, the deepest would any parent can sustain.
The president did not speak with Susan Bro today. He did not travel to Charlottesville, though yesterday, moments after his incendiary comments, he made sure to promote the fact that he has a winery there. He claimed it's one of the biggest, one of the largest in the country. It's not. It's another lie the president told yesterday, but he has no regrets.
President Trump did tweet once about Heather Heyer today before heading to his New Jersey golf club. He also had to dissolve a pair of advisory boards as one big name CEO after another quit, many in protests over his remarks yesterday. Previously, the president had claimed the CEOs would be easily replaced. Apparently, that turned out not to be not true either, but he has no regrets.
All heads of the five military branches issued statements affirming the values of their branches of the military, values they suddenly all felt the need to reaffirm after the president spoke.
And the former CIA Director John Brennan said the president is putting the country's national security at risk. Both former Presidents Bush spoke out critically, though not naming the president. We're told President Trump tonight has no regrets.
In just a moment, we'll show you more of that truly striking video from "Vice Media" of what it really looked like on the ground on the night the president referred to. We'll speak with the "Vice" reporter who is on the street Friday night what she heard.
We begin, though, with the president and politics. Our Jim Acosta joins us now not far from the president's club.
So, Jim, how were the president and his team dealing with this backlash over his comments yesterday?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you did hear that comment. You were passing it along about the president has no regrets about what he said yesterday. But for a president who has no regrets, and keep in mind we don't hear the president express regrets for his behavior very often, we did not see much of him today.
[20:05:01] He was lying low, staying away from the cameras. We barely caught a glimpse of him as he was traveling from Trump Tower in New York City out to his country club here in Bedminster.
But we do understand, Anderson, by talking to a couple of White House sources, that people in the White House are upset about what the president had to say yesterday. Not everybody, but some people who are upset about it. Yet, I did talk to one adviser to the White House who said that the president's comments in this person's view, was not disqualifying, not, quote, disqualifying. That is a pretty low bar to set for the president of the United States.
COOPER: You said there's some people in the White House who are very upset. Has any single one of them stood up and resigned?
ACOSTA: No. And as a matter of fact, the secretary of veterans affairs, David Shulkin, he was over here at the press hotel, near Bedminster earlier today, talking to reporters about care for veterans. And he was asked specifically about the president's comments and he said that the president -- he was with the president on Saturday, and that he observed President Trump to be outraged and upset about what was going on in Charlottesville.
But when asked about, and when pressed on the president's comments yesterday, Secretary Shulkin did not back those up and offer his opinion on those comments. It just goes to show you, Anderson, not only are officials in the White House sort of trying to avoid what their own boss is doing right now, cabinet secretaries are running away from this question. And the question becomes, I think, as the days go forward, when you sit down or try to ask the question of one of these top administration officials, what exactly are they going to say to try to justify the president's remarks?
Vice President Pence was asked about this earlier today, traveling in South America. All he could say is he stands by the president and he danced around the question and only offered that kind of comment to reporters, Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Part of why the president now faces the backlash he does, stems from the enormous gap between how he sees what happened in Charlottesville and how things actually played out. As you heard at the top of the broadcast, he sees Friday's torch-it by protesters as full of good people, quietly protesting. Not all of whom he said were neo-Nazis or white supremacists. It's as if this video from "Vice News" simply never existed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.
Blood and soil! Blood and soil! Blood and soil!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "Vice News" correspondent Elle Reeve was in the middle of that. She joins us now.
Elle, thanks for being with us.
You were at this Tiki torch march. Explain for us what you saw and the chants you heard.
ELLE REEVE, CORRESPONDENT, VICE NEWS TONIGHT: Well, the most striking thing is how well-organized it was. There's people doing crowd control. There are people dropping off specific locations.
There was security. There are people handing out extra Tiki torches. Everyone who was there knew exactly what they were signing up for.
COOPER: When you say there was security, you mean security by the neo-Nazis, by the white supremacists, by the protesters?
REEVE: That's right. They have a circle of mostly Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who now do security for Richard Spencer and other white nationalist groups.
COOPER: And when the president says that there were good people at this march, that they were quietly there to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, that not all of them were neo-Nazis or white supremacists, what do you think -- is that true?
REEVE: No. Everyone who was there knew what they were doing. They were shouting, Jews will not replace us. It was very well- coordinated. They had an order to the chants. Like there was no mistaking. There's no innocent people wandering up and accidently getting involved in this.
COOPER: So, there wasn't a contingent of just, you know, Confederate statue-loving, civil war history buffs who --
REEVE: History buffs? No.
COOPER: -- who came later and joined -- happened to stumble in upon this neo-Nazi march. Everybody who was there was part of this and knew exactly what they were doing?
REEVE: That's right. They had a set time. They lined up. Everyone got in line. They got their torches.
We saw them snake all the way through the field. It was very clear that they had planned this.
COOPER: I just want to play another clip from your extraordinary reporting for our viewers. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REEVE: The car that struck a protester, that's unprovoked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not true, and you know that it's not true. You've seen the video.
REEVE: I've seen a video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
REEVE: I don't know much about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I understand that --
REEVE: Can you describe what the video appears to show?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So, the video appears to show someone striking that vehicle, when these animals attacked him again, and he saw no way to get away from them except to hit the gas. And sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals who don't pay attention, they couldn't just get out of the way of his car.
[20:10:01] And some people got hurt. And that's unfortunate.
REEVE: So you think it was justified?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was more than justified.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm wondering, is that a sentiment that was commonly described? Because I mean, obviously, we have all seen the video, you know, the incident in which Heather Heyer was killed. And we'll play it right now. I mean, what was going through your mind when this guy is saying that?
REEVE: I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. I expected him to make excuses. I expected him to say mentally ill people show up to these things or that accidents happen.
But when he said it was justified, I didn't know what to say. Just as a human being.
COOPER: In terms of the president's comments yesterday, I'm wondering how they're being perceived by some of the neo Nazis, the white supremacists that you've been speaking with.
REEVE: They love it. They -- the president continues to exceed the expectations of white nationalists. One texted me last night, my God, I love this man. He really has our back.
COOPER: So even though the president, you know --
REEVE: They are taking cues from him.
COOPER: Even though the president said, you know, I condemn neo Nazis, white supremacist, white nationalists, that's -- they don't believe he really believes that?
REEVE: No. They're saying that's for the media so the media will quiet down. But the real statement is that he's OK with them, at least in their interpretation. And that the real bad guys are the anti-fascists or the liberals.
COOPER: Was it -- did you feel a danger being there? I mean, obviously, this is a group that's not favorably disclosed to reporters a lot.
REEVE: Yes. They called me Lugenpresse. That's a Nazi term for lying press. They said really misogynistic things to me. Additionally, it was just a thousand angry, foolish men with many, many guns. The man I interviewed, he carries three guns on his person at all times. In his hotel room, he had an AK and an AR-15, as well as several other weapons he keeps as extra backups in case something really bad happens.
COOPER: I got to say, it really depresses me to hear that there are veterans of our great military providing security for one of these neo-Nazi -- I don't know if leaders is the right word, but, you know, spokespeople, most prominent people.
REEVE: I've spoken to some of them. It's shocking to me, because people in the military must serve with people that come from different backgrounds and racism is not allowed. But they said that they were radicalized in Iraq, that you couldn't bring democracy there. And so, that made them committed to this racist cause.
COOPER: I mean, it's a dumb question, but what are they so angry about? I mean, they have -- you know, they're a bunch of young, white males. What is it that they want, they just don't like black people, they don't like Jewish people, they don't like gay people, they don't like anyone who is not who they are?
REEVE: As ridiculous as it sounds, they feel like they're the ones who are truly oppressed. The feel like -- Cantwell, for example, almost started crying to me when he was tying race to IQ, and how somebody called him racist and how hurtful that was to him, or how other people lost their jobs for being called racists. They feel like they're under assault and white Western culture itself is under assault.
COOPER: Elle Reeve from "Vice News", I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.
REEVE: Thank you. COOPER: There's an update on Christopher Cantwell, who we've been
talking about, who Elle mentioned. You just saw a moment ago. Not perhaps a newsflash because it's not really news to report that bullies are frequently also sniveling cowards. When Elle Reeve spoke with Cantwell during the rally, he was happy to talk tough for the cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL, WHITE NATIONALIST: When the Trayvon Martin case happened, you know, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, and all these different things happened, every single case, it's something black (AUDIO DELETED) behaving like a savage and he gets himself in trouble shockingly enough. Whatever problems I might have with my fellow white people, they generally are not inclined to such behavior, and, you know, you got to kind of take that into consideration when you're thinking about how to organize your society.
I'm carrying a pistol. I go to the gym all the time, I'm trying to make myself more capable of violence. I'm here to spread ideas, talk in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that. Somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew.
REEVE: So Donald Trump, but like more racist?
CANTWELL: A lot more racist than Donald Trump.
I don't think that you can feel about race the way I do, and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl.
I came very well prepared for this thing today. Kel-Tec P380, 380 ACP.
[20:15:04] Glock 19 .9 millimeter. Ruger LC-9, also 9 millimeter. And there's a knife.
Well, I actually have another AK in that bag over there. You get to lose your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) guns, huh? I ain't saying it was worth it.
We knew we were going to meet a lot of resistance.
The fact that nobody on our side died, I'd go ahead and call that points for us. The fact that none of our people killed anybody unjustly I think is a plus for us. And I think that we showed -- we showed our rivals we won't be cowed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that was then. Now, just a few days into the outcry over what Cantwell and his thuggish friends inflicted on Charlottesville and country -- well, listen to him now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTWELL: I want to be peaceful, I want to be law abiding, OK? That was the whole entire point of this. And I'm watching CNN talk about this as violent white nationalist protests.
We have done everything in our power to keep this peaceful, you know? We've tried to do the right thing. And they just won't stop, you know?
We have done everything in our power. We have used every peaceful and lawful means by which to redress our grievances. And our enemies just will not stop.
We've been (EXPLETIVE DELETED) assaulted. They are threatening us all over the place.
And by the way, if the University of Virginia was not a gun-free zone and I had my pistol, I would have stayed far away from that Goddamn melee, OK? I -- when I do not have a weapon on me, I feel it necessary to stop threats before they get out of hand.
When I have a weapon, I'm as cool as a cucumber, folks. I do not -- I do not (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with people. You would have heard about it by now. If I was a violent guy, you would have heard about it. Everybody and their mother wants to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with my life, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Somewhere, the world's smallest violin is playing the world's saddest song, we think for poor Christopher Cantwell.
Much more ahead tonight, including our panel's take on the notion now raising through Washington that the Trump presidency may somehow be politically dead in the water. We'll see about that.
Later, the striking parallels between the words of one white nationalist on Charlottesville, and what the president said just two hours later at yesterday's news conference. You'll want to see what Drew Griffin uncovered.
[20:21:19] COOPER: People in Charlottesville are planning an answer tonight to Friday's angry march. It will start on the University of Virginia campus. Organizers plan to retrace the path taken Friday night by all the neo-Nazis and white supremacists and the white nationalists with their Tiki torches. The aim, they say, tonight is to reclaim it and cover it with love and peace.
I want to bring in my panel, Gloria Borger, Van Jones and Carl Bernstein.
Gloria, President Trump and his administration has been relatively mum since the president's presser yesterday, and today, amid all the fallout, a condemnation from both sides of the aisle, we're hearing the president saying himself is, quote, without regret. And, frankly, for all the criticism by some Republicans, nobody in this administration seems to be resigning in protest, where in a lot of the criticism isn't even using his name. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. You know, they're
not resigning in protest. There are reports that they are privately upset. Nobody has done anything. There are some Republicans who have called him out by name, but not a majority of them.
And look, this is a president who has no regrets. He lives in the world of no regret, because he never admits he makes a mistake. So he can't regret it.
He didn't regret his remarks about Judge Curiel or Khizr Khan. That's not the way he operates. And so, if you're working for Donald Trump, he's back to business as usual. And he wants to believe that it's business as usual.
But it wasn't business as usual today with the CEOs. Their support for him completely collapsed. His two outside groups collapsed. He tweeted then that he was getting rid of them, but actually they quit on him.
And Congress is out of town. And we'll have to see what happens, Anderson, when they get back in town and whether the leaders, the Republican leaders of the Congress go down to the White House and say something to the president. I would like to believe that that would happen. But we just don't know.
COOPER: Van, after all we've seen and heard the last couple of days, will anything change?
VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE MESSY TRUTH: Well, something is changing right now, which is at the base level for both movements. You're seeing an energizing effect. In other words, for the racist movement, the white supremacists, et cetera, they understand very well that they are a small marginal force, but they grow through conflict and controversy.
And so, every time they're able to dominate a news cycle or get out there and do something crazy, they feel emboldened and they get the president's support, they feel more emboldened. That is a change. The process of de-marginalizing a racist, terrorist movement is under way with the support of the president.
But also, the response to that is gaining energy and momentum. And so, you see Republicans, business leaders, faith leaders, students, intellectuals, most of the mainstream media, all, you know, galvanizing and moving forward. So, there's a process now under way by which this tug of war over the character of the country, the mix of the country in terms of its idealism, in terms of its demographic composition, that tug of war is moving to a new gear.
This will not stop. This process is going to have to work its way out. The president could have shut it down. He didn't. So, now, we're going to go through a process now.
I think the weight is on the side of the anti-racist. But a lot of the energy is still on the side of the racists who are newly empowered. And this is a very unusual situation. It's not just about Washington, D.C. It's about the country. It's about what is happening at kitchen tables, campuses and water coolers across the country now. We'll see how it works out.
[20:25:00] COOPER: Carl, how do you see this in terms of the president, his power and his agenda?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's considerable evidence that there's a consensus developing in the military, at the highest levels, in the intelligence community, among Republicans in Congress, including the leaders in the business community that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is unfit to be the president of the United States.
And that's the undercurrent. I've talked to you about it for weeks, that I've been hearing in Washington. There is increasing talk about his emotional and mental stability, as David Gergen referred to earlier.
This is extraordinary. It's a dangerous moment in our history. Trump is under siege. Also from a special prosecutor, his family is under siege from a special prosecutor.
But more than anything else, I think there's a sense among military, congressional, business leaders that he's in a kind of freefall, and he made not have many parachutes left except for his base to land safely. And that's awful thin cushion.
We've never seen anything like this. We don't know where it's going. We're in a presidential crisis of leadership, because his moral authority is gone with these constituencies that are essential for him to govern.
COOPER: Van, you know, Carl's idea of him being in free fall, people are grabbing on to others can bring a lot of others down with them. I mean, free fall is not just happening in isolation. This could be very long, very drawn out and very ugly.
JONES: Well, big picture, the three big dangers I see for the country. Internally, you have these divisions.
Listen, I think we sometimes underestimate the heroism of our own cause as Americans. The idea you're going to have 300 million people, every color, every gender impression, every sexuality, every faith, every kind of human ever born in one country and run it as a democracy is a little bit of a crazy idea. And it requires extraordinary leadership, extraordinary commitment to values and ideals, and the rule of law and institutions.
And so, we're in a situation where it turns out that, you know, everybody is not on board for this agenda. And so that's a big, big challenge that we are facing.
And so, yes, there are some serious dangers of us spiraling away from each other and real damage happening. And, of course, there are external threats as well. What I am heartened by is that, you know, there does seem to be a
place beyond which the mainstream Republican Party just will not follow him and will not apologize and is willing to speak out. Not bold enough yet, but you're beginning to see a possibility for him to become more isolated even within the conservative movement. That could set him up to be primaried. There's other opportunities to begin to box him in beyond just prosecution I think is important.
COOPER: Gloria, does this have any effect on his agenda? I mean, because, you know, there's plenty of folks support his agenda, but right now, you know, Scott Jennings spoke powerfully last night on our broadcast about, you know, wanting his agenda to move forward, but having a hard time standing by him in other ways.
BORGER: Well, Scott Jennings speaks for lot of Republicans. I mean, that's what -- I spoke with one Republican today who said exactly that. I mean, Republicans have been so excited at the beginning of this administration, and a lot of them didn't support Donald Trump. He didn't hike the establishment. He's always been an island in the Republican Party.
But they were thrilled because they finally had control of the Congress and they had control of the White House. And they were going to do great things. They were going to do health reform, tax reform, infrastructure, all the rest.
And that hasn't happened. And the reason that hasn't happened is because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump has not been the deal maker. Donald Trump has not been involved in the details. At every juncture, Donald Trump has created problem after problem for them.
And while they shouldn't be surprised because they saw it during the campaign and many backed away from him, they wanted to get a fresh start. Well, there is no fresh start with Donald Trump.
And so, the question they're going to have to ask themselves, at what cost? At what cost to ourselves, to our country, to our conscience do we stick with this guy? And maybe they have to isolate him, and maybe in a perfect world they could actually get something done without him. But I think that these are conversations that are going on right now, and will continue when they come back into town in the fall.
BERNSTEIN: I've talked to some of the military leaders, and what they are saying is extraordinary. They believe that this president traffics in racism. We're talking about a military in this country that's 30 percent non-white, 40 percent non-white if you include Hispanics in the definition. They have no use for what they are seeing. They have given up on this president. And also --
COOPER: I mean, the fact that the five heads of the military came out with a statement.
BERNSTEIN: Exactly. The statements are so significant by the military leaders today. They have parted company. COOPER: It's unprecedented.
BERNSTEIN: This is unprecedented. That's exactly right. Donald Trump knows the peril of where he's in because he is cognizant of what he is facing. That he now knows that things are closing in on him, that he has lost the constituencies, the business leaders that he had to fire, as it were or dismissed from an advisory council before. Whoever heard in the history of this country, Republican largely business leaders saying, oh, no, I've got to quit this council and then the President disbands the council? We are inn territory we've never been in but again what we're hearing and I think all reporters need to be checking their sources and finding out what people on the hill, in the military, the intelligence communities are saying. Because of this element that David Gergen said today, somebody who served in many White Houses about the stability and mental condition of the President of the United States.
BERNSTEIN: This is something we haven't dealt with before.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, Gloria Borger, Van Jones, thank you.
The President has just tweeted. We'll tell you what he said next.
Also America's top generals as we just talk about five joint chiefs, they are publicly taking a stand against racial hatred and extremism right after the President's remarks. Are they sending a message to the commander -in-chief who reportedly has no regrets? We'll look at that ahead.
[20:35:32] COOPER: Some breaking news, the President has just tweeted not about Charlottesville, but Phoenix. Why phoenix? Well, the President puts it. Join me at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 22nd in Phoenix, Arizona at the Phoenix convention center. Tickets at -- and there's a link.
Phoenix's Mayor by the way is asking the President to postpone the visit in the wake of Charlottesville. More now in a rear mood that we talk about earlier by America's top commanders that we just touch on with Carl. Five U.S. joint chiefs are publicly condemning hate groups after the deadly violence in Charlottesville. All of them posted comments on Twitter since Saturday. Three of them just today, less than 24 hours after the President's off the rails news conference.
Army chief of staff General Mark Milley wrote this morning, "The army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It's against our values and everything we stood for since 1775."
Air Force chief of staff General David Goldfein posted this, "I stand with my fellow service chiefs in saying we're always stronger together. It's who were as Airmen, integrity, service, and excellence. That's what America's air force is all about." The chief of the National Guard Bureau also tweeted his support for his fellow joint chiefs. And here is our former CIA Director John Brennan responded to the President for his comments. In a note to my colleague Wolf Blitzer, Director Brennan wrote impart "Mr. Trump's words, and the beliefs they reflect, are a national disgrace, and all Americans of conscience need to repudiate his ugly and dangerous comments. If allowed to continue along this senseless path, Mr. Trump will do lasting harm to American society and to our standing in the world. By his words and his actions, Mr. Trump is putting our national security and our collective futures at grave risk."
Joining me now, two CNN military analysts, retired Army Lieutenant Mark Hertling and retired navy, Rear Admiral John Kirby. Admiral Kirby, I know you personally know that joint chiefs. I've never heard of a case where they have weighed in on a domestic tragedy like this. Is this completely unprecedented?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED) CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't know if it's unprecedented, Anderson but is definitely unusual for them to all comment on something like this that happens domestically. They do that very, very carefully, if at all. And you can tell their words were measured. And don't forget this started with the navy, the head of the navy doing it even before the President had a chance to comment.
They very much religiously abide by an apolitical code. They do not get involved in politics. And I will tell you having served with these guys, they don't believe what they did was weighing into politics. They believe what they did was an active leadership, it was sending a strong message to their people, to their families, to potential recruits and frankly the American people what the military stands for, the values that we espouse and what you can expect from your military going forward. I think for them this was very much an important strategic moment to lay down a marker about what the U.S. military will and will not tolerate.
COOPER: General Hertling I mean do you see these tweets as any kind of repudiation of the way the President handled the events or was this more about military leaders feeling responsibility to do it because of the circumstances? I mean the command African-American troops, and Jewish troops and Gay troops and others?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. It's definitely the latter, Anderson. I agree with my good friend John Kirby on this one. They have a leadership responsibility. Their mission is to train, lead, equip, and man the forces. So they have to keep the continual emphasis on values and ethos.
You know, Mark Milley comment about, he specifically said, "our values since 1775." The army was established a year before the nation was. And the seven army values are something that are continually emphasized in basic training and in units. Three of those values are loyalty to one another, respect for each other, and personal courage to stand up when you see something going wrong. So as the chief of staff of the army and all the other chiefs as well, they're saying, hey, there are some things going on in our country. Don't get distracted by these things. You can debate them, but remember, you have an oath to defend the United States constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. You can't take sides in this fight.
COOPER: Admiral Kirby though I mean, you know, these comments coming, some of them on the heels of the President -- shortly after the President's, you know, off the rails press conference. It is hard not to, certainly for some people, to see these as a comment on what the President himself said or didn't say.
KIRBY: Sure. No, sure, I understand. I mean the timing is -- you can look at the timing and suggest that. But also consider the timing about what was happening in Charlottesville. And that's what really prompted him to do this, not the President's give and take with the press corp or the trouble that he's gotten into with his follow-on comments. It was about what they saw when they turned on the T.V. and saw that image and saw what was happening to people around the country.
[20:40:11] And of course, the whole debate over race and bigotry and it means a lot to them. I mean, this is a very visceral issue for the military, diversity is our strength. We go to war, we go to sea, we fly and fight with people from all walks of life. It's who we are. And to see anybody want to use violence in that kind of vile language, to denigrate anybody else who also is an American, just anathema to what these chiefs do everyday and the people that they represent. That's what this really about.
I do not think this is a repudiation of President Trump at all. People have said maybe it was an act of defiance. I think it would be an act of defiance and it wouldn't be an act of defiance if they didn't speak up and say something.
COOPER: General Hertling, I'm wondering --
HERTLING: You know, Anderson --
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.
HERTLING: If I can add to that too. I think John brings up a very good point. A lot of people will claim how great the United States military is. Some say, it's the best it's ever been. That's -- that can be discussed. But here's the thing, the reason it's so good is because it's also diverse. It represents the country. There are all kinds of people in our services who are wearing the cloth of the nation. And because of that, it's challenging to put teams together. But that's what we do to defend the nations. There are some people that say, we've sometimes turned into the sentinels at the Bacchanalian feast. But the fact to the matter is, we define our way of life. And you can't have any chinks in the armor when you do that.
COOPER: General Hertling, Admiral Kirby, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Coming up, the mayor of Charlottesville was at the memorial today for Heather Heyer who was killed while she was standing up against hate. We'll talk to the mayor next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[20:45:32] In a moment, we'll hear from Charlottesville's mayor, mike signer about some media reports that allege the police didn't step in earlier to stop the violence because of some kind of a stand down order. He sets the record straight on that, he says.
First though, the mayor was among those who gathered for the memorial service today for Heather Heyer, the 32 year-old woman who was killed when a car ran into her and others who were standing up against the racist hate that invaded her city.
Heyer's Parents both spoke at the service. I want to listen to some what her mother had said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable. We don't all have to die. We don't all have to sacrifice our lives. They killed my child to try to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I spoke with the Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer just before airtime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mayor Signer first of all, I wonder how was Heather Heyer's memorial service today?
MIKE SIGNER, MAYOR, CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A.: Anderson, it was one of the most extraordinary experiences I've had in public or private life. You know, Charlottesville is an incredibly loving, warm city that is creative and tolerant and very progressive. And what happened today at that service was -- you saw the collision of what John McCain talked about recently where he said, we are seeing a battle between our best angels and our worst demons. And the city of Charlottesville was there. This -- Heather Heyer was kind of the best that we have.
COOPER: Mr. Mayor, we were told that President Trump today has no regrets on what he said yesterday. I'm wondering A, when you hear that, what do you think? And just what do you think of the remarks he made yesterday?
SIGNER: Well, I mean, I think they kind of spoke for themselves. We were visited by evil last week. You know, I said over and over the last few days this old saying of when you dance with the devil, you don't change the devil, the devil changes you. And if we just watch and listen, there's more and more evidence of this, and I do think that this all speaks to itself. I don't want to say much more about it. I think that it's very clear as we watch all this why the country has moved on from this President. You see it in the opinion polls and you see it in virtually every other aspect of the whole government apparatus. And I think they've moved toward what cities like Charlottesville represent.
COOPER: You may be aware, and I want you to be able to have a chance to respond if you want, that some right wing radio folks, TV hosts, people like (INAUDIBLE), Sean Hannity. They're suggesting that you and Governor McAuliffe issued some sort of stand down order to police in Charlottesville.
COOPER: Just -- to be on the record, did you give a stand down order, do you know if anyone who did? Was there a stand down order?
SIGNER: So just to address -- I mean, we've seen the fact-free environment and the lies and the conspiracy theories that are all over this universe, the alt-right universe. We are in a city manager form of government in Charlottesville. Every Virginia city and county other than Richmond has a city manager form of government. The police chief does not report to me. If I wanted to issue a stand down order, I could not legally, A. And B, the police chief had a press conference yesterday where he stated categorically that no, no stand down order was issued. So this just, you know, conspiracy theory, false nonsense, and it's the job of you journalists, we in public life to kind of navigate through these grenades that people with nothing better to do with their time. They're not -- certainly not interested in achieving results through government or actually helping the working people in this country. I just have to kind of rise above it, because it's false.
COOPER: Some of this is based -- I was trying to research where this comes from, and I guess some of it comes from an ACLU of Virginia tweet, that said, clash between protesters and counter-protesters, police say, "will not intervene until given command to do so."
SIGNER: Right, which was unattributed. I mean, this is part -- I mean, we all pay a lot of attention to tweets. We can have a longer conversation about the fact that so much of -- not just dialogue but government in our country seems to be driven by what you can put in 140 characters. That was an unattributed tweet.
[20:50:09] COOPER: Has the President called you or have you heard from him in any way?
SIGNER: He has not. I got a call on Saturday that he was going to call, and an aide was in touch with me and said that I should expect a call and that never came. And then I was asked on Monday, sitting down with our congressman here, asked if I would take a call from the President. I said, of course, of course, I would, and still have not heard.
COOPER: Mayor Signer, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SIGNER: Thanks Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, coming up, Drew Griffin spoke yesterday with someone who called himself a white advocate. The interview is actually two hours before the press conference but what this man said was very similar to what this President then said. We hear that next.
[20:55:06] COOPER: The President has spoken publicly now three times about the racist tragedy in Charlottesville. One of those times was not like the others, the one where he was reading from a prepared statement. Yesterday before the press conference that left no question is to what the President believes.
CNN Senior Investigator Correspondent Drew Griffin spoke with a leader in the white nationalist movement and found some striking similarities to the argument that the President himself would present just two hours later. Here's Drew's report.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To a member of a movement steeped in symbolism coded messages, and belief in secret support for this cost, the President's initial response to Charlottesville --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- violence on many sides, on many sides.
GRIFFIN: Was a sign the President had their backs. He didn't attack us, wrote Andrew Anglin, the creator of neo-Nazi website other white nationalist posts included, he left the door open and clearly said, we are all equal under the law.
TRUMP: Racism is evil.
GRIFFIN: Monday, when President Trump finally branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups who take part in violence as criminals and thugs, the alt-right viewed that as a double meaning.
GRIFFIN (on camera): So was the President's second response, the delayed response, one that you believe he was pressured into and he doesn't believe?
JARED TAYLOR, EDITOR, AMERICAN RENAISSANCE: He was clearly pressured into it. Now, I don't think Donald Trump is an advocate for white people. I think he probably is entirely sincere when he says neo- Nazis, white supremacists, whoever those people are, are very bad and evil and go away. I think he entirely believes that. But his first statement was much more accurate in human hand that there was blame --
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Jared Taylor is editor of what he calls a white advocate website called American Renaissance. He tries to be a soft- spoken voice in what most Americans call a hate movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center says Taylor's group is racist with ideas that most would describe as crudely white supremacist. Taylor calls himself as a white advocate.
GRIFFIN (on camera): What is a white advocate?
TAYLOR: A white advocate is someone who speaks up for the legitimate interests of white people. White advocates just want to be left alone. They would rather have a nation which was overwhelmingly white.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And Taylor says the President understands this even if the press does not. It's why Taylor backed Trump during the Presidential primary campaign, producing racially charged robo calls like this, that then candidate Trump eventually had to denounce.
TAYLOR: We don't need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people.
I am a farmer and a white nationalist. Support Donald Trump.
GRIFFIN: This week, Donald Trump took a page from white nationalist's talking points. I interviewed Jared Taylor Tuesday afternoon, two hours before President Trump's news conference in New York. The answers so similar it's almost as if the President was listening in. 2:00 p.m. --
TAYLOR: And there would have been no violence whatsoever, if there had not been counter-protesters showing up with baseball bats and helmets and masks.
GRIFFIN: Mr. Trump, two hours later.
TRUMP: Let me ask you this, what about the fact that came charging -- that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs. Do they have any problem? I think they do.
GRIFFIN: 2:00 p.m.?
TAYLOR: If those folks hadn't showed up, there would have been no violence. I believe they are much more hate motivated than the people who wanted to gather and talk about preserving the Lee statue and preserving a white majority.
GRIFFIN: 4:00 p.m.
TRUMP: But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists. By any stretch.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, what national --
TRUMP: Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.
GRIFFIN: Then this --
TAYLOR: When are we going to rename the capital city, Washington, D.C. he was a slave owner. When are we going to write out of history the first seven of nine Presidents who owned slaves? Are they all going to come down? TRUMP: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down -- excuse me, are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson.
COOPER: Drew Griffin joins me now. Sir, what exactly does someone like Jared Taylor, a so-called white advocate, want exactly?
GRIFFIN: Anderson, an apartheid-style white-only America, that's what he wants where blacks and Hispanic are pushed out of a whites-only geographic zone, Americans borders divided along racial geography and if that means break up the United States, Jared Taylor said he's fine with that.
COOPER: And he thinks that many Americans agree with him?
GRIFFIN: Secretly, he says. Secretly. He told me his movement is growing, but they base that on traffic to a website. There's no real membership he can point to. He also told me, Anderson, his convention last year was a sell-out, a sign that strength is growing in the movement. But that they had to actually turn away people. I asked him exactly how many people attended. He said, 300. So not that many.
[21:00:09] COOPER: Where do us gays get to go?
GRIFFIN: I don't know.
COOPER: Do we get our own group or what?