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EARLY START

Trump Has No Regrets About Charlottesville Remarks; Emotional Vigil on UVA Campus; World Leaders Reject Trump's Charlottesville Remarks; Key Obamacare Subsidy to be Paid in August. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 04:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[04:31:32] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is defiant in the face of growing criticism for defending white supremacists. New friction with his party, his military, world leaders, and the business community, as well, jumping ship.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And a vigil on the University of Virginia campus, the site of an ugly march last week, transformed into an emotional moment of hope. We have all the elements of the story covered around the world this morning.

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

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

This morning, widening fallout from President Trump's defense of white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville. Some of the president's now advisers all concede the pushback is hurting chances to advance an agenda once the president returns to Washington next week. Now within his own party, a growing number of Republicans being forced to decide whether to stand by this president.

Many GOP lawmakers appear to believe deserting the president now could only harm their political fortunes. But others are going public calling out the president by name.

ROMANS: Senator Lindsey Graham saying his words are dividing, not healing Americans, adding: Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world.

Ohio Governor John Kasich said this --

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GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Pathetic, isn't it? Just pathetic listening to this and hearing these marchers. The president has to totally condemn this. And this is not about winning an argument. This is about the fact that now these folks apparently are going to go other places and they think that they had some sort of a victory. There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-Nazis, and anybody else.

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BRIGGS: In a rare move by military leaders, all five U.S. joint chiefs issuing public condemnations of white supremacist groups in the wake of the racial unrest in Charlottesville. Perhaps most striking, the business community abandoning the business president.

ROMANS: That's right. The president forced to dissolve two business advisory councils. He dissolved them after the CEOs were running for the exits following his comments. Through it all, Mr. Trump remains defiant even as he stays out of public view.

We get more from CNN's Jim Acosta near the president's golf club in New Jersey.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, a day after his incendiary comments on race, President Trump was laying low, steering clear of the cameras, and the White House was trying to stay on message, insisting the president had no regrets about his comments. Still, we're told some White House officials were upset by the president's remarks. But one adviser said his comments are not, quote, disqualifying.

That may explain why Vice President Mike Pence was still backing the president as he explained to reporters down in South America. Here's what he had to say:

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy, and the president has been clear on this tragedy, and so have I. I spoke at length about in heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia, and I stand with the president and I stand by those words.

ACOSTA: In the words of one White House official, quote: Nothing surprises me. There are many people around the White House who saw the president survive the "Access Hollywood" video scandal during the campaign and they believe he will survive this firestorm, as well -- Dave and Christine.

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[04:35:04] ROMANS: All right. America's CEOs are abandoning the CEO president. At least eight executives quit Trump's Manufacturing Council, a response to his remarks on Charlottesville. And just as a second economic strategy council was about to dissolve itself, the president tweeted that he disbanded the groups.

Make no mistake here, people were leaving. There was a big conference call at 11:00 in the morning, 11:30 in the morning, where a bunch of these leaders said, hey, we're getting out. They let the White House now, and then the president said, no, no, no, I'm dissolving them anyway. The biggest names in business who sat on the strategy council

including the heads of Blackstone, JPMorgan, Pepsi, GM, Wal-Mart -- these are people who employ hundreds of thousands of Americans and have millions of customers. The collapse of this group is an unprecedented rebuke to the business-friendly president. Despite disagreeing with Trump on other things, like climate change and immigration. Most CEOs were willing to work with him on business advisory issues, you know, and they've got tax cuts that they want to have a seat at the table to talk about.

All that was fine until he blamed, quote, both sides, for the violence in Charlottesville, spurring many of them to call out the sitting president. JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon said this, he criticized the president for equivocating when denouncing racism, adding that it's a leader's role in business or in government to bring people together, not tear them apart. A break with business does not bode well for the future of Trump's economic agenda. He is relying on their help to push for things like tax reform.

So, I mean, I've never seen a rebuke like this of America's business titans leaving -- leaving the side of the president of the United States. You've got the GOP, CEOs, military, you've got just about every kind of power structure in America walking away --

BRIGGS: Not long ago, this nation's CEOs were roasted for executive pay and golden parachutes. Now, they are suddenly our moral arbiter. It's an interesting time in this country, indeed.

OK, Democrats pouncing on the president and Republican leaders claiming hate groups have found a safe haven in the GOP.

DNC chairman Tom Perez sending a letter to his GOP counterpart, Ronna Romney McDaniel, saying, quote: There is no denying that these white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan have made their home in this president's Republican Party. As chairwoman, you bear a responsibility not just to reject hateful ideology generally but to hold accountable the individuals in your party who have allowed that ideology to flourish.

ROMANS: And former CIA Director John Brennan says the president is putting national security at grave risk. In a letter to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, he sent Wolf a letter. He writes this: 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.

BRIGGS: Let me be clear about the Romney McDaniel issue. She gave clear pushback yesterday to the white supremacists, to the KKK, to neo-Nazis. Tom Perez, fine, made his point. She did, as well. She may not have criticized the president directly, but she made her thoughts very clear about white supremacy.

ROMANS: That's becoming a distinction, though. It's easy to say white supremacy is bad. It's harder to criticize the president for his failure to do so, more strongly. BRIGGS: Sure.

OK. The driver police say ran over and killed a woman during last weekend's protest had a history of military service. So did many other white supremacists at Friday night's rally in Charlottesville, as we've learned some were providing security for these white supremacists. That's part of the reason the nation's top military officials are breaking with the longstanding tradition of staying out of politics.

Overnight, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, told "Reuters" there's absolutely and unambiguously no place for bigotry in the United States military. The chiefs who report to Dunford also weighed in without directly commenting on the president.

We get more from CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

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BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Dave, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are some of the most senior military advisers in any administration. And they like to say that they do not get involved in politics -- especially in the Trump administration. They're all about making sure a military force is trained, equipped and ready to face any threat.

But all of them, all five, have now stepped into the national conversation following the events in Charlottesville. In the last couple of days, all of the chiefs, the head of the National Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines, and the Army, all of these generals and admirals have tweeted, reminding people if they need reminding that the U.S. military does not tolerate racism, bigotry, or violence in its ranks. That there is -- this is completely unacceptable social behavior, and people will be booted out if they engage in it.

[04:40:10] So, you might wonder why they are doing this if they say they're not involved in politics. Well, they have all indicated through their aides that they're weighing in on Charlottesville because it is part of the national conversation. And they want to remind their own troops, military families, and Americans that this is not what the U.S. military is about -- Dave, Christine.

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BRIGGS: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

Charlottesville still grieving but trying to heal.

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BRIGGS: Candlelight vigil and march held Wednesday night on the University of Virginia campus. Hundreds of people taking part in the vigil against hate and violence in what organizers said was an effort to, quote, take back the lawn. Marchers covering the same ground that torch-carrying white nationalists had taken Friday. Last night's vigil was not advertising on social media out of fear that white supremacist groups might try and disrupt.

ROMANS: All right. Anger with President Trump's comments extends beyond the U.S. could diplomatic efforts be hindered as world leaders, world leaders are speaking out against the president's words?

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[04:45:36] THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I absolutely abhor the racism, the hatred and the violence that we've seen portrayed by these groups. I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them. And I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them.

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ROMANS: The British Prime Minister Theresa May joining a chorus of world leaders expressing anger -- outright anger over President Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacists.

Officials from Europe to the Middle East all weighing in, raising new questions about the president's ability to perform his duties on the world stage.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us now with more on the fallout in Europe.

And, Fred, you grew up in Germany, you know, post-war Germany, a place where -- where a country had to really grapple with how to deal with such a heavy history. What are people saying there about this controversy in the United States?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know what, Christine, they're angry and quite shocked about this. As you mentioned, Germany, obviously, in its past only about 70 years ago, some of the things that you've seen in Charlottesville over the weekend, you saw in Germany on the streets there. I mean, things like those torch marches, people brandishing swastika flags.

Those are things that still really evoke shock among many German people to see that in modern day America. It's something where the German public has come out and said, look, this is not the kind of thing you mess with. You need to understand the gravity of what you do when you show symbols like that.

And certainly, the political leaders in the United States need to understand and condemn something like that no matter if they, you know, believe that the other side was protesting against it might have been at blame, as well. In Germany, generally if it's a far right thing and neo-Nazi thing, it's way out of bounds.

And that's one of the reasons why German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, quote, we see what can happen when you give free rein to right wing extremists, obviously, alluding back to the 1930s when far right Nazi movements came up in Germany and Angela Merkel who generally has quite a rocky relationship with President Trump, she came out and said, it is racist far-right violence and clear and forceful action must be taken against it regardless of where in the world it happens. Of course, the Germans essentially saying look at our history, and don't under any circumstances allow anything like this to spread in the United States.

All of this, Christine, also, of course, becoming a diplomatic problem for European leaders. Case in point being Theresa May, where we heard that sound byte earlier. She originally came out and said, look, this is all Donald Trump's own opinion. She was then forced to make a more forceful opinion afterwards because the public in Europe certainly don't like what they're hearing from the U.S. president at this point, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us this morning, tanks for that perspective, Fred.

BRIGGS: OK. President Trump's comments even helping Israel and Iran find common ground. Leaders of both nations scolding the president and condemning racism. But in one country, Russia, there is notable silence.

Let's get to CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem.

Oren, need we give Iran any credit for speaking out on anything related to human rights?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is that rare situation where they make a comment that actually falls in line with what most Israeli politicians are saying. A little bit of common ground here from this, coming from Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, who is an on-the-record Holocaust denier. In this case he says the U.S. needs to deal with its own racial indiscrimination and institutions and its public before it starts meddling in the affairs of others.

So, he took a crack at Donald Trump there and took a crack at this racism that he's seeing in the U.S. I don't know that that absolves Iran of any of its other issues, but it is the rare case where they find some common ground with Israeli politician who across the political spectrum have condemned what they see either directly as President Donald Trump or in his comments where he seems to draws some sort of moral equivalency here between neo-Nazis and white supremacists and those who oppose neo-Nazism and white supremacists. And that's where we've heard the unanimous call to unequivocally condemn neo Nazism and white supremacists. Some naming Donald Trump correctly, some going after inference there that there is some sort of symmetry here.

Notably, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been very muted in his reaction. It took him three days from the initial Charlottesville rally to react. And then he did so only on social media and only after president Donald Trump condemned racism and white supremacy.

[04:50:02] And then after Trump backtracked there and tried to draw that symmetry, Netanyahu has been notably quiet. There, he's perhaps trying to preserve the diplomacy between the leaders and between America and Israel.

David, it's worth noting, as you pointed out, Russia has been very quiet on this. Not really issuing a statement, leaving them in the minority of countries that have not weighed in on this at this point.

BRIGGS: Yes, certainly an interesting silence.

All right. Oren Liebermann live for us in Jerusalem -- thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The Charlotte's violence putting a renewed focus on those Confederate monuments and whether they should stay or go. It's not just local communities making these decisions. The federal government faces the issue, as well, including in the hallowed halls of Congress. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker plans to introduce a bill to have them removed from the Capitol building.

We get more from CNN's Ryan Nobles inside the capitol.

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RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Every state in the union is given the opportunity to honor two of its most famous residents with a statue here at the U.S. Capitol. Many of them are on display here in statuary hall. There's nine of those states have decided to honor someone with a tie to the Confederacy. Among them, Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederate States of America from Mississippi.

Right below statuary hall, in an area of the Capitol known as crypt is a statue honoring perhaps the most Confederate general and the same general at the center of the controversy in Charlottesville, Robert E. Lee of Virginia.

Each state gets to pick which person is represented here at the Capitol and some states like Mississippi and South Carolina have chosen to honor figures with direct connections to the Confederacy. But it's not without controversy, like this statue honoring Confederate General Kirby Smith, he's from Florida. And Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has called for this statue to be replaced.

And while the Confederacy is certainly well represented here on Capitol Hill, there are civil rights leaders here honored as well, among them, Rosa Parks, whose position here in statuary hall is ironically right across from the former vice president of the Confederate States of America, Alexander Hamilton Stevens of Georgia.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.

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ROMANS: Thanks for that, Ryan.

BRIGGS: Perhaps that's a good situation where you can -- this is about education. You can go to the hall and be educated on our past without just wiping away monuments. That debate will continue.

ROMANS: All right. The Trump administration agreeing to pay a key Obamacare subsidy, at least this month. CNN "Money Stream" is next.

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[04:56:47] BRIGGS: A hotel in Switzerland under fire for alleged anti-Semitism. A manager at the hotel in the resort village posted signs instructing Jewish guests to shower before using its pool. The hotel manager did not respond to CNN's request for comment but did defend herself to Swiss media saying she is not anti-Semitic. The signs have since been removed.

ROMANS: A desperate search goes on off the coast of Hawaii for five missing crewmen after their Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the water near Oahu. Search and rescue crews have been scouring the area for about 24 hours now. Officials say debris has been spotted in the water and recovered. They say two black hawk helicopters were taking part in routine nighttime training when the communication with one of the choppers was lost.

BRIGGS: It's a ceremonial first pitch one photographer will never forget. Seventeen-year-old Jordan Leandre on the mound at Fenway Park last night. The pitch just a bit outside. Afterwards the call -- the count had to be two balls and one strike.

As to the photog, he's actually fine and laughed it off on Twitter. A photo just before the ball arrived with the caption, feel free to caption this, America. We did because it is two balls, one strike. That's our caption.

ROMANS: I love that caption, I'll stay out of it. All right. Thanks so much for that.

Let's go check CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Now, global markets lower today after -- Wall Street closed slightly higher, just slightly higher. You know, the collapse of two of Trump's business councils kept gains in check. I would say honestly, Wall Street and investors were riveted by the rare, rare break with the president from business America. Stocks briefly popped after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its July meeting. Janet Yellen and company are split over the future of interest rates, include figure there will be another rate hike this year. Right now, U.S. futures are lower now.

The Trump administration is agreeing to pay a key Obamacare subsidy at least in August. That's according to the White House. Those cost- sharing payments help insurers pay for lower income enrollees. Trump has threatened to stop them. He's actually called them a subsidy or bailout for insurance companies. That uncertainty has prompted premium hikes in 2018. In fact, the CBO found that ending them completely would cause rates to soar 20 percent next year.

Silicon Valley joining a backlash against neo-Nazi groups by removing them from their services. Companies like Twitter, Spotify, Facebook, and the security firm CloudFlare are citing policy violations to ban hate groups. For example, the webhost GoDaddy dumped a neo-Nazi site over an offensive story about the Charlottesville victim. Tech companies have steered clear of making judgments about contacts.

And in fact, many have criticized these very companies for allowing the oxygen for these people to be able to spread their hate. The crackdowns show how far they're willing to go to protect hate speech. Tech companies have been working to remove violent propaganda from terrorist sites, terrorist groups on their sites. Now, neo-Nazis, as well.

BRIGGS: Seems the debate is everywhere.

EARLY START continues right now.

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BRIGGS: President Trump defiant in the face of growing criticism for defending white supremacists.