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Trump Ripped for Tepid Response to Racist Group; U.K. Rejects Trump's Suggestion for U.S. Ambassador; Ex Pentagon Officials Reserves "Never-Trump" Stance; Trump Meeting Back on with "NYT". Aired 11:30- 12p ET

Aired November 22, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCNHOR: What's the distinction between Alt-Right and what we saw there, which was Neo-Nazi, white supremacist stuff, coupled with what they said in other instances, over the weekend, that Jews are not people?

RYAN LENZ, SENIOR EDITOR, THE INTELLIGENCE PROJECT & HATE WATCH, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, there's absolutely no distinction to be honest. Alt-Right is simply white supremacy rebranded for the digital age. It's the new term for an idea called everything from white nationalism to race realism to white pride.

BERMAN: What do you think the effect is of, A, calling it Alt-Right as opposed to Neo-Nazi or white supremacist and, B, the Trump transition not specifically condemning this meeting?

LENZ: The threat all along has been these ideas would be legitimized. During this bruising campaign during, which Donald Trump blew a dog whistle to a number of ideologies on the far right, the fear was these ideas would not only be legitimized but possibly normalized. If you call it the Alt-Right, it's important to know exactly what we're talking about. We're not talking about some new sophisticated brand of conservativism. We're talking about simple racism.

BERMAN: Sorry, someone was talking in my ear. I didn't hear you were done. I apologize for that.


BERMAN: Listen, talk to me about what effect the 2016 campaign has had on the rhetoric you all monitor around the country.

LENZ: Well, the rhetoric has exploded to be honest. It started to explode, you know, almost immediately upon Donald Trump announcing his candidacy. Remember, he announced his candidacy by promising to build a wall on the border with Mexico. I mean, for a white supremacist who's interested or concerned with the, you know, racial demographics of this country, there's no greater promise that a politician can make. Almost immediately, the rhetoric exploded. And as Donald Trump has said, you know, he says he denounces this brand of racism and denounces it thoroughly. But he's speaking in some ways out of both sides of his mouth. Because as he said on "60 Minutes," that he asked these protesters, rather these people carrying out acts of hateful intimidation and harassment in his name, he said to stop it. But then the next day he announces that Steve Bannon is his chief strategist --


BERMAN: Let me just play --


LENZ: And there's one more example I can give you.

Let me just play a sound because Donald Trump did look at the camera and tell people engaging in violence around the country to quit it. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am so saddened to hear that. And I say stop it, if it, if it helps. I will say this, and I'll say this and I'll say it right to the camera, stop it.


BERMAN: That's a good message, yes, Ryan?

LENZ: Yes, it's a good message, but it doesn't seem to have had any effect. We've received reports of more than 700 incidents of hateful harassment, intimidation since the election. They continue to come in.

The issue here is not whether Donald Trump will stand up and say stop it. It's whether he'll address the very groups that are propagating the rhetoric, leading to this violence. Which, as you pointed out, he's refused to do or hasn't done yet.

I'd like to make one more point. So yesterday, Donald Trump released his 100-day plan on YouTube. He announced some very thorough, some specific things he was doing by executive action. He referenced a phrase in the midst of this speech. He said he's going to "drain the swam swamp". "Drain the swamp" was a meme, a Twitter hash tag that grew, exploded, really, after Donald Trump came forward with plans -- with allegations it was a rigged election. And it was spread specifically -- or -- among the people spreading the "drain the swamp" hashag were avowed racists, white supremacists who exist on Twitter to harass and demean various ethnic groups.

So, we have a little bit of a two-sided message here. Yeah, he's saying stop it, but he's also, you know, giving a wink-wink, nod-nod to the very people he's asking to step away from their violence.

BERMAN: All right, Ryan Lenz, thank you.

We should note, different phrases mean different things to different people. There are plenty of people who say "draining the swamp", not having lobbyists involved and taking some of the money out of politics that I'm sure have no notion at all -

LENZ: That's true. BERMAN: -- that it has in any in connection or supported by groups like this. But I appreciate the point.

Ryan Lenz, thank you so much.

I want to discussing this further with CNN political commentator, Angela Rye, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Carl Higbie, a Donald Trump supporter and former Navy SEAL.

Carl, we were sitting here watching the comments together from this white supremacist group. I think we both had the same reaction, this is garbage. It's racist Nazi garbage that we heard from them over the weekend. So why not just say that if you're the Trump team?

CARL HIBIE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, these people are idiots. You and I both - we both gave the thumbs down when he came on. But the fact is, Donald Trump has said this, like, I don't endorse these people, I don't support them, and I denounce them. If he wants to run around every single time some moron comes out and throws up his right hand and says I'm for white America, whatever, he's going to spend his entire presidency trying to respond to stupid people. Let's move forward. Let's stop worrying about all this crap. Look, these people are idiots. That's what it comes down to.

[11:35:13] BERMAN: They were doing it blocks from the White House. They were doing it in his name.

HIGBIE: Right.

BERMAN: When asked specifically about it, they had the statement, you know, has continued to denounce racism. David Gergen, last night, who doesn't have a dog in this fight, called it a namby-pamby response to hate speech.

HIGBIE: Look, Hillary Clinton took $20,000 from these same white supremacist people --


HIGBIE: It's not, but the fact is --

BERMAN: Donald Trump is the president of the United States and he was asked about people who said anti-Semitic, racist, Neo-Nazi stuff.



HIGBIE: I would wouldn't call them out by name because you're just going to validate them. I would just say stop this garbage, stop being stupid.

BERMAN: Angela?

RYE: I think what's interesting here is, one, we continue to find space for Hillary Clinton. No surprises here. Of course, she won the popular vote.

But what I would say to you is we've watched Donald Trump denounce people. We watched him denounce groups. We've seen him denounce "Saturday Night Live." We've seen him denounce "The New York Times." We've seen him denounce "Hamilton, the Musical." Yet, he can't find it in his heart, he can't find the gall to denounce white supremacist groups. He couldn't find the gall to denounce David Duke. Of course, he rebuked him, as he said later on a few days later. But the reality of it is he continues to lack the ability, the courage, to stand up to white nationalism, white supremacy in this country.

Part of the reason for it is because Donald Trump's very business record has been built on some of these things. Perhaps it wasn't intentional racism but it was a racist impact. Whether we're talking about the Department of Justice settlement, talking about the ways in which he's treated black employees. He ushered them off the floor of a Trump casino. He's talked about a black accountant being lazy and the only guys he wanted, counting his money -- guys, by the way -- were guys with yarmulkes.

He has a problem denouncing racism and denouncing it and, in fact, embraced it. It is time for the president-elect to turn the corner, to turn the corner and to do something different.

As you heard from your last guest, 70 incidents of hate crime, of harassment. I don't know about you, but my tweeter feed is a good example of that. All since he was elected.

It is high time for him to do something courageous and no longer stand on the backs of these people who are enraged and need someone to blame. This is not their country they're taking back. This is land we took from other people. It's time for us to start embracing the fact this is a melting pot, perhaps even jambalaya because we're all different and web need to embrace those differences.

BERMAN: Carl, one of the things people like about Donald Trump is he speaks his mind and he's not afraid to use blunt talk. When he's talking about Islamic terror, for instance, Donald Trump makes a point saying call it what it is, call it radical Islamic terror, which is something a lot of people agree with. You know, why dancing around the terminology here. Why is he so willing to campaign on calling terrorism radical Islamic terrorism, but he won't sit there and say this group who says it supports me is a bunch of Nazis or racists?

HIGBIE: Probably because he's too busy calling out the same people marching down the streets tearing down local businesses.

RYE: Come on.

HIGBIE: Probably because he's too busy with the people that are shooting our cops in the street.

Look, these people are morons. They're idiots, OK. But we're the Republican Party. We're the party that freed the slaves. We're the party of Martin Luther King -


RYE: Oh, no, no, no. You're not the party of Martin Luther King.


HIGBIE: Yeah, actually, he was a Republican. Look at your history.


RYE: Oh, my history is clear. Your history is ass backwards.

I will tell you this, very plain and simple.


HIGBIE: Is it? OK. The Republican Party is not the ones who passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendment?

RYE: Let me help you.

HIGBIE: Please do.

RYE: And the Republican Party is not the party of the 13th and 14th and 15th Amendments any more. Your party is the one of oppression. Your party is one of pushing forth voter suppression legislation all throughout this country. Your party is the one who helps ensure that Shelby versus Holder would gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Your party is the one in Pennsylvania where a GOP legislator said these laws were put in place to ensure that Republicans would win back the House, the Senate, the presidency. Let's be clear about what it is. Your party is living and thriving off of oppression.

HIGBIE: Absolutely not.

RYE: Perhaps you were the party of anti-slavery and abolition back in the day but that is not who you are today, sir. You're not going to do that today.

HIGBIE: No, you know what it is? 175 years ago, largely Democrats traded a steady stream of labor and housing - housing and food in exchange for labor. Now that same Democratic Party seeks to share that same exchange of housing and food, vouchers, affordable housing, in exchange for a steady stream of votes. The Democrat Party seeks to divide -


RYE: Is that what we're doing?


RYE: Oh, lord.

HIGBIE: The Democratic Party seeks to divide and keep this country guessing for them, playing for them. The Republican Party wants to have people with their eyes on the horizon achieving as much as they can. That's what Donald Trump represents. When you look at the New York City skyline, you see achievement. You see Donald Trump's achievement. And he wants every American to achieve the same thing.

RYE: On the backs of poor people.

HIGBIE: The Democratic Party wants to keep you dependent on them.

[11:40:05] RYE: No, on the back of poor people.

John, I have to respond to this. On the backs of poor people. A Donald Trump that refused to pay contractors. A Donald Trump who used immigration laws and abused immigration laws to build these same buildings. You just compared what Democrats have done, whatever that is, to slavery. You're saying that Democrats and the fact that people are not who and what they should be, they haven't been able to economically thrive in this country, you're comparing them to slaves? If you want to talk about that, let's talk about economic inequality and what your candidate is going to do to address some of that. Part of the real issue here, Carl, is the fact that he won't denounce white supremacy.

HIGBIE: He has. How many times do you want him to do it?

RYE: No, he hasn't. No, he hasn't.

HIGBIE: Not this time.


RYE: That's how he uses everything else. But until he goes on a platform and says this is not the path for our future, we will not be able to benefit off of the backs of poor people and continue to push this racist propaganda, we need to call it for what it. The very people who you're talking about who you think are looking for free gifts and handouts are people who have been disenfranchised since they got off the slaves in this country. Until you recognize that and pay for that, we're going to continue to --


HIGBIE: Now we're going to pay for it?


HIGBIE: Now you want us to pay for it? I'm happy to have that conversation but -


RYE: -- there's not enough time to --


HIGBIE: That's the most ridiculous un-American statement I've ever heard.


RYE: Oh, there's nothing un-American about reparations.

HIGBIE: Do you want white people to pay black people for the responsibility of slavery?

RYE: No. I don't think -- I think that's a really dumbed down way of talking about it. It's a really intellectual conversation to have.

HIGBIE: What do you propose? How do you make this better? Let's talk about -


RYE: There are housing --


BERMAN: Hey, guys.


RYE: I knew we didn't have time for it, John.

BERMAN: By the way, not time for it, I think we have shifted a little far afield.

RYE: I agree. But we went down this road talking about blaming Democrats for slavery, which is a favorite Republican talking point, and it is just wrong. Racism is to blame for slavery.


BERMAN: Both of you condemn this meeting that happened over the weekend.

HIGBIE: Yes, absolutely.

RYE: Right. A point of agreement.

BERMAN: Both of you think it was hateful rhetoric.


RYE: Yes.

BERMAN: Racist anti-Semitic stuff both of you are perfectly willing to say?


RYE: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right, well, that's good. I don't think you can ever say it too much. And I don't think our leaders frankly ever can say it too much. So, carl Higbie, Angela Rye, appreciate you being here. A thoughtful


You know, you brought up a lot of subjects. I hope we get the time to talk about this at greater length coming up.

Thank you, guys.

RYE: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: All right, Donald Trump, he is busy picking his administration, but not so busy that he can't recommend positions for other governments. Why his suggestion for an ambassadorial position from the United Kingdom raised some eyebrows. That's next.


[11:47:02] BERMAN: President-elect Donald Trump making appointments, including one he has no power over, or at least suggesting them. In a tweet, overnight, he said, "Many people would like to see Nigel Farage represent Great Britain as their ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job."

The British government pointedly declined the suggestion. A spokesperson said, "There is no vacancy. We already have an ambassador to the U.S."

Joining me, former NATO adviser, former assistant secretary of Defense for George W. Bush, Mary Beth Long.

Mary Beth, thank you for being with us.

You know, there are people who look at this and say this is the president-elect not quite understanding how it works. Your reaction.

MARY BETH LONG, FOREMR NATO ADVISER & FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think that's probably unfair in one of the instances in which we have very dynamic unpredictable president-elect who made a comment on tweet -- or on Twitter by tweeting many people would like to see this guy as the British ambassador, the U.K. ambassador to the United States, he's excellent. This is not a suggestion. I think this is a dialogue the president-elect is having with the people.

BERMAN: By the way, there are plenty in this country who would likely say, you know, what we want a guy who doesn't stick to the stale old conventions. We want someone in there who maybe doesn't always tow the same line everyone's expecting.

LONG: I don't think actually even the president was saying that. I doubt he's even met the U.K. ambassador. They're saying is new blood, new changes, I like what I hear about this guy. Certainly, the ambassador I've met in Washington from the U.K., I can't say that he's stodgy, I can't say much about him. I don't think the president-elect was either. Look, the guy --



LONG: Excuse me, I'm sorry.

BERMAN: No I, was going to say, Mary Beth, you signed a letter early on in this campaign as a Republican who was not supportive of Donald Trump. You came out against him. Then before the campaign, you changed your mind. You voted for him. Now you were supportive of him during this transition period. What do you like you have seen transition? We don't have, you know, we have a national security adviser appointment Steve Bannon as special assistant and maybe the secretary of defense maybe James Mattis going forward. What do you think so far of the foreign policy picks?

LONG: I think the foreign policy picks are very mature. I don't think anyone can make any criticisms of General Mattis. There have been a lot appointments, the calling Governor Romney in to speak with him.

Look, this is a president who is taking his time meeting with a variety of people, all of whom, or many of whom, were frankly Republican candidates or those who were considered under both Republican and Democratic regimes. He's taking his time. He's looking for wisdom. He's looking for experience. I don't think he's made any premature -- in fact, every media outlet I hear say he's about on track with where President Obama was in his appointments at this period of time.

BERMAN: No, no. He's certainly on track. The idea that he's behind schedule, I don't think it right. I agree with you.

Quickly, 10 seconds or less, one area of concern you may still have?

LONG: Russia. We have to be more forceful and a little less campaign-like with our foreign policy direction with Russia. The president-elect is getting there, and I have every confidence he'll take on Russia the way it deserves to be taken on.

[11:50:17] BERMAN: Mary Beth Long, thank you for your expertise.

LONG: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Meeting back on. Donald Trump, the president-elect, after a public cancellation of a meeting with "The New York Times" now says he will sit down with "The New York Times" in just a few minutes. Why the back and forth? That's ahead.


BERMAN: All right. Moments from now, Donald Trump will sit down with "The New York Times" after cancelling a meeting earlier this morning. This comes after he met with top television executives and anchors off the record.

And joining me, CNN senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

What the heck's going on with "The New York Times?"

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, REALIABLE SOURCES: Donald Trump wakes up, reads the newspaper, gets angry and tweets. Seen it several days in row. This morning, cancelling a meeting with the "New York Times" about 6:00 in the morning. However, by 8:30, an aide on the phone, and the "Times" publisher trying to reschedule. In a few moments, he'll head over to "The New York Times" on the record for a chat, and more importantly, an hour-long on-the- record interview. One of Trump's most in-depth conversations with reporters yet. We could learn more.

[11:55:21] BERMAN: Ask whatever they want?

STELTER: So far, a 60-minute interview, about it. A unique opportunity. Trump was very hostile with broadcast executives. We'll see if he takes as similar tone today. He may despise the press, and it seems like he does, but he knows he has to speak with us.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, thank you. Appreciate it.

STELTER: Thanks.

BERMAN: Next, more on the breaking news. Donald Trump's charity, the Trump Foundation, apparently, admitted to breaking the law. That on the very same day we learned that Donald Trump is backing off his promise to push his administration to prosecute Hillary Clinton.