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Trump Expected to Speak again on Attack; Trump Lashes Out at Merck CEO; Now: Car Attack Suspect Facing Judge. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman. The breaking news, any minute now in Charlottesville, Virginia, the man facing second degree murder charges after ramming his car into a crowd of protesters this weekend is due in court. James Alex Fields is expected to appear by video link. A judge will decide whether he will be granted bail for the incident that left one person dead and 19 injured.
Developing now, CNN is told the president will hold a meeting on Charlottesville very shortly and will speak again on the subject. But will he directly condemn, by name, the white supremacists who were there? Aides tell CNN, quote, "it's his call." Yes, it is his call whether he thinks it is worth a mention.
One thing that he does think is worth a mention, Ken Frazier, the African-American CEO of Merck who resigned from the President's American Manufacturing Council. This man resigned saying that U.S. leaders must reject, quote, "hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy." The implication there is he does not believe the president did that adequately over the last few days.
Now, the president has taken hours to respond to the violence in Charlottesville. He took less than one hour to respond to Ken Frazier's resignation. What did he do? He went after him. The president said, "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to lower rip off drug prices!"
So if you are keeping score at home, no mentions of white supremacists or neo-Nazis, one mention of Ken Frazier. As this is going on, the Justice Department and FBI have launched a civil rights investigation into the incident. The attorney general has spoken out on the president's response and the fallout. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yesterday, his own spokesman explicitly condemned by name the Nazis.
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST, "CBS THIS MORNING": That's the spokesman, not the president.
SESSIONS: It's the president's spokesman. And I'm sure he will speak about it again. His own spokesman said that. I just think we are making too much out of this.
ROSE: Fair enough. And that is why we are talking to you. But it's wrong to make a moral equivalency between these two groups of protesters, is it not?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Absolutely. No moral equivalence says the attorney general, which is pretty different than what the president said over the weekend when he said that many sides, many sides were responsible for the hatred, bigotry and violence.
I want to bring in CNN's Kaylee Hartung who is in Charlottesville, Virginia right now, the site of this court hearing which begins any minute, Kaylee.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we are learning more about James Alex Fields, the 20-year-old man who grew up in Kentucky but was living in Maumee, Ohio in the Toledo area as he traveled here to Charlottesville to participate in this weekend's rally. When his mother first learned of the charges against her son, she was in disbelief. Saying she'd never really discussed her son's political views with him. But we received a very vivid description from one of his high school teachers about those views.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEREK WEIMER, TEACHER, RANDALL K. COOPER HIGH SCHOOL: He had some very radical views on race. He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler. He's also -- a huge military history, especially with German military history and World War II. But he was pretty infatuated with that stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: Field's teacher, Derek Weimer, who you just heard from there. And he says that Fields' views became apparent as early as his freshman year of high school. -- While he was teaching him during his junior and senior years, they developed a rapport and Weimer tried to show him historical examples of why his infatuation, as he called it, with Nazism and white supremacy were wrong. He says he now feels as though his efforts failed. He said, John, this is a nightmare scenario.
BERMAN: All right, Kaylee Hartung for us in Charlottesville. Thank you very much.
Again, we're waiting for this court hearing to begin. We have reporter inside. We'll bring you the details when they get to us.
Meanwhile, there is breaking news on the political fallout of all of this. Ken Frazier, who is the CEO of Merck, a man who sits on the President's American Manufacturing Council or did. One of the preeminent African-American CEOs in the country has quit that council, clearly over the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville this weekend.
I want to read you the statement from Kenneth Frazier. He says, "I am resigning from the President's American Manufacturing Council. Our country's strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs.
[10:05:01] America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.
As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."
I want to bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny who has been following the president in his nearest resort in New Jersey right now. And Jeff, the president has already responded to this resignation.
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, John. He responded very abruptly, very swiftly. In fact, that's how the word of this resignation actually was disseminated, the president responding to this. And this is what he said in a tweet this morning. Let's look.
He said, "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to," in all caps, "LOWER RIP OFF DRUG PRICES!"
That is all, John. No direct comment on the substance here of what Ken Frazier was talking about. And John, I find this so interesting because over the course of the last six months or so, President Trump has been in office. He's had so many American CEOs in to talk with him in different meetings in the East Room of the White House, in the Cabinet Room, the Roosevelt Room. I have seen Ken Frazier sitting directly next to the president in all of these rooms, praising one another, receiving his praise.
So, John, this is very striking that a CEO, Ken Frazier from here in New Jersey, decided that this episode over the weekend was something that he had to take a stand on. But, the president, again, not urging him to stay or you know, commenting on the matter at hand here. He went after him directly. Kind of reminds you of the Jeff Sessions loyalty issue with this president. Someone who was very loyal to him, then the president went after him.
Now, speaking of Jeff Sessions, the president will be meeting with the attorney general in a couple of hours or so when he returns to Washington and the new FBI director to talk specifically about the attack over the weekend and hate groups in America. John, what we are watching for is if the president, later today, we're told, he is going to address this again, if he is going to call this an act of domestic terrorism, as his attorney general did this morning in network interviews.
Again, we are told by the White House, the president will take another shot at addressing this. But as a White House official told me this morning, it's his call if he responds directly to white supremacists and other groups. We'll see if he does, John.
BERMAN: Indeed. It is his call whether or not he calls out white supremacists by name some 36 hours after the violence we saw in Charlottesville. It took less than one hour for him to call out by name the African-American CEO of Merck who quit the Manufacturing Council in protest over the president's response.
Jeff Zeleny, we will come back to you. Thank you very much for being with us.
I want to talk about the legal angle right now because the person accused of second degree murder for mowing down that crowd, killing one woman, is appearing in court right now. Joining me is Page Pate, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney and Areva Martin, a CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney.
And Page, I just want you to tell us what we will see. We won't see it because there are no cameras inside, unfortunately. But what will happen inside that courtroom today?
PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, this is a type of initial appearance that anyone charged with a serious crime gets the benefit of. I understand this is going to be by video link. And that's not uncommon. The defendant in this case, the suspect is held in custody at a detention center. There will be a judge in a courtroom. They will be able to communicate with each other. There will be a lawyer present.
I anticipate, the judge will inform Mr. Fields what he is being charged with, his rights to a lawyer, his trial rights, all the constitutional rights that he has. Now, there's the possibility that the judge could also consider bond. But I do not expect that is going to happen at this appearance or even in future appearances because of the nature of the crime that was committed here.
BERMAN: And Areva, this has to do with the state charges. We do understand now that there is a federal civil rights investigation that was launched Saturday night by the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the attorney general has been speaking about it all morning. What is the significance there?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Very significant, John, because in a case like this where there are allegations that this crime may have been motivated by racial animus. James Fields may have plowed that car into that crowd of protesters because he was targeting people because of their race, their ethnicity, their religious background or their religious beliefs. And the attorney general has made it very clear, that he is looking at every possible federal statute including federal hate crime statutes that can be utilized to prosecute James Fields.
So although the state has primary jurisdiction at this time, that doesn't preclude the federal government from coming in, the Department of Justice in filing federal charges against him and he could be facing stiff penalties, including the death penalty. And even though Virginia has a death penalty statute, the federal hate crime would allow the federal government to prosecute him and to seek the death penalty.
[10:10:04] BERMAN: It is interesting though with the hate crime statute, the federal hate crime statute because that includes characteristics including race, religion, national, origin, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. When we're talking about Heather Heyer, the woman who died here, she was white, Page. And now, I don't know how that complicates things because I do believe there are African- Americans and people of many races who were injured in that. But you know, the case here could be a little complicated.
PATE: I think so, John. I really am concerned that if the federal government pursues him for hate crime violations, they have to show in front of a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, that his crime, his actions were motivated not just by hate. I mean, clearly, the guy is full of hate, but you have to prove it's a specific type of hate under the statute.
And in this case, I think the government would try to show that it was based on racism, racial hatred. But as you pointed out, the victims in this case, it was a diverse group of folks. And the person who died was white, not African-American. So, I could see the government running into trouble if they indict this person under the federal hate crime statute.
MARTIN: I should point out -
BERMAN: Go ahead, Areva.
MARTIN: No, I was going to say, I should point out that there are also other federal statutes that may be called into play. There's a Ku Klux Klan Act which says if you are -- injure someone or you cause the death of someone because of political speech, if you can prove a conspiracy, then that could also be an avenue that the federal government could pursue. And we know that there's this broad investigation happening at this point.
They have gone to his hometown. They've talked to his mother. They're talking to teachers. There's been an investigation of his social media accounts. So, we don't know at this point if he was a lone actor, if he did this spontaneously or if he was acting in concert.
We know there are photographs of this man standing with this hate crime - I'm sorry - these hate groups, the Vanguard, carrying the shield, wearing their uniform. So, there's a lot of evidence that needs to be gathered and possibly can link this to a broader conspiracy because clearly, this group was there to enact fear, to enact hate and to really cause damage to these peaceful protesters who are opposing their racist views and their racist chants and activities.
BERMAN: One last point, Page, quickly. The attorney general says this in his mind meets the criteria of domestic terror. That affects the investigation, though, more than the prosecution, correct? PATE: Exactly. And I think Areva is right. There are other federal statutes. And to me, the best statute, the best definition of this crime would be domestic terrorism. But there's a problem. Congress only criminalized terrorism when there's an international component. So, although there's a definition that would fit this criminal conduct in this case, you can't bring a federal criminal prosecution for this type of domestic terrorism. Now, that's something that Congress would and should fix. But as of now, even if he's investigated for terrorism, he can't be prosecuted for it based on what happened so far.
BERMAN: It does change, though, the investigation. It would give them more powers in the investigation right now and that in and of itself could be significant.
Page Pate, Areva Martin, thanks very, very much.
Obviously, there were many victims here. People injured and there were three deaths, one of them, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was killed in the attack. A memorial to Heyer is growing and family and friends are speaking out about the woman they knew.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: 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.
MARISSA BLAIR, CLOSE FRIEND OF HEATHER HEYER: If you knew Heather, you would know that she loves everyone. And all she wants is equality for everyone, no matter who you love, no matter what color you are. And she was very strong in what she felt. And she spoke with conviction. And she would never back down from what she believed in. And that's what she died doing. She died fighting for what she believed in. But Heather was a sweet, sweet soul and she will never be replaced. She'll never be forgotten.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Heather Heyer was 32 years old, killed because she was protesting hate. As of today, 19 people were injured, 10 of whom were listed, Sunday, in good condition. Nine patients have been released.
And I also want to mention the names of the two people on the helicopter, who were killed, Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates and Lieutenant Jay Cullen. They lost their lives as well responding to the violence in Charlottesville.
The president of the United States, he will arrive in Washington any minute now. He is in here headed there. He will meet with his FBI director and attorney general on the Charlottesville investigation. But the big open question is. Will he address white supremacists by name? He hasn't done it yet, although he has gone after other people in just the last few minutes. We will discuss that as well. [10:15:03] Plus, pushing for diplomacy, America's top military official meets with South Korea's president as tensions grow on the Korean Peninsula.
BERMAN: All right. You're looking at live pictures of Air Force One. President Trump just arrived at Joint Base Andrews. He is headed to Washington, where today, he will hold meetings with his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the FBI director Christopher Wray to talk about the violence in Charlottesville. He also has another event. And we are told he will speak about the events in Charlottesville in public. What will he say? That is what we do not know. The White House will not say that he will name the white supremacist or the neo-Nazis who sparked the violence there.
[10:20:06] One person he has named, however, in just the last couple of hours, is the CEO of Merck, Ken Frazier. One of the preeminent African-American CEOs in the United States who just quit the President's Manufacturing Council over the president's response or nonresponse, in his mind, this weekend to the events in Charlottesville.
With us now, Errol Louis, Ana Navarro, Ben Ferguson, to discuss this.
And Errol, first to you, I want to talk about the president's reaction to Ken Frazier. Ken Frazier quit the President's Manufacturing Council. Ken Frazier may have been on the president's side many times when this group have been meeting. Ken Frazier quit. And what did the president do about it? He went after him. The president wrote, "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to lower rip off drug prices!" And again, if you are keeping score at home, that's one mention of Ken Frazier in the last 48 hours, zero mention of white supremacists.
ERROL LOUS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. This is the Trump style. You get in his face. He'll hit you back as he says. He's a counterpuncher. -- He throws everything at you and so forth and so on. You know if we ever heard that about, say, Vladimir Putin that would be interesting. If we ever heard anything like that about any of the foul racists who committed murder and disruption over the weekend, that would be a great thing, too.
But that's not who we have as president, you know. And the question has become I think for a lot of people. And this is why I think the Merck CEO resigned and why you see religious leaders, Charles Blake, the leader of the Churches of God in Christ, big statement for an entire religious denomination over the weekend. People are sort of going back to their core principles. They're speaking from a place of conscience. They're trying to do what many people thought the president might do or should do. But this is an act - a time of conscience, a time of choosing for everyone. And people are choosing to do what they have seen the president failed to do.
BERMAN: It's interesting, you said, if you get in the president's face, he will respond. What if you get in America's face? You know what if you get in freedom's face? I think that's what people are asking. Will he respond to that directly by name?
Ana Navarro, look, full disclosure, you are an extreme critic of President Trump and have been for a long, long time. Nevertheless, this is what you wrote this weekend. I have been embarrassed about having Trump as president many times, but no time worse than today. I'm beyond embarrassed. I'm ashamed. Why do you feel this was the worst of the worst?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know he was so embarrassing when he was a candidate, right? And there were so many things he did which just made you cringe, just made you indignant. I was embarrassed when he shoved the national leader at the G20. I was embarrassed when he wouldn't shake Angela Merkel's hand.
But this now, he's six plus months into the presidency. There are times when the president of the United States needs to step up and be the unifier in chief, be the consoler in chief, be the healer in chief. This was such a moment for him and he blew it to such a level in order to pander to members of his base who he did not want to antagonize. At a moment, when the country so badly needed to hear from the president of the United States about healing and unity and condemning white supremacy and condemning racism and condemning neo- Nazis. He was a coward. He didn't have the spine to behave like the leader of the United States. And I feel that to be shameful.
And I'm glad the Republicans are calling him out on it. I'm glad elected leaders in the Republican Party are finally, finally -- stopping looking the other way and confronting the fact that he's not only unfit to be president. In my book, his lack of empathy, his lack of leadership, his lack of courage, he's unfit to be human.
BERMAN: OK. Let's talk about him as the president of the United States for a second, Ana, right now. We are told the White House says that he will address this later today. What could he say, Ana, that would correct this in your mind?
NAVARRO: Nothing. It's been three days since the march. It's been two days since Heather Heyer died, was murdered by a white supremacist. It's been days since all sorts of spiritual government elected Republicans, Americans have been asking him and calling on him to say something and have the spine to call out white supremacy. And it's going to take how many focus groups? It's going to take how many days? It's going to take how many pressure points?
Look, he had an opportunity. He's had two days. He's had more than two days to address this and he has failed to do so. To do so now under duress because of public perception, because of public pressure, thank you, buddy. I really don't need it. I think it's the spiritual leaders. I think it's the governors. I think it's the other elected leaders. I think it's the U.S. citizens. I think its regular people that need to step-up and we need to be the ones that unify and heal ourselves because the president of the United States is a shameful nincompoop incapable of doing it on his own. [10:25:08] BERMAN: OK. First of all, the president of the United States is arriving at Joint Base Andrews right now. You're looking at live pictures of his arrival.
Ben Ferguson, you know, I want to give you your response to what Ana just said. And Ben, I want to note here that I have listened to you over the weekend. You were on quite a bit over this weekend with this all developing. You know with some very thoughtful commentary noting that the president did call for love and he did call out hate in generic terms. That's what you heard.
But before you respond, I want to tell you what many of these white supremacists heard, the "Daily Stormer," which is one of the journals that you know, chronicles their thoughts. They liked the president's comment. They said Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together, nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry and imply that there was hate on both sides. So that's what they heard. At a minimum, does he need to tell these groups, hey, guys, you know, I'm not with you?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think two things here. One, all these white supremacists groups, it's pretty clear they know how to play the media and get media attention and get their message out there and bring in new members. They mentioned Donald Trump's name. They get in the media and people pay attention to them, whether it's David Duke or this crazy magazine that I have never heard of until this weekend. Now, they have people that have literally found them and people that are going to focus on them and they be even join them. So, I expect them to play us this way. And I don't think we should give them credibility.
Second thing is this. I think the president today is going to clarify his remarks. I think it's very clear that he needs to specifically call out these groups by name. I also think his perspective, when he was saying what he said, talking about and using the word bigotry, egregious violence and bigotry that was on display over the weekend. I think his point at that moment was simple.
He had just talked to the governor. And the governor declared a state of emergency. They wanted to ratchet down both sides. They did not want this to turn into more death on the streets that night and riots. Thank goodness no one else died that night.
I think sometimes the president, you have to look at the tone and realize that you have a moment when you can bring people together, talk about love, say that we are bigger and better than this, meaning these racist bigotry groups. He used the word bigot very clearly. Obviously, people wanted him to say the word white supremacist or KKK. I think today, the president has a duty to clarify that, so that everyone understands where he was coming from.
I also think him talking about the back story of this, about his conversation with the governor, about the state of emergency, about the fact that someone had just died. It's easy to go out there and throw bombs. It's easy to say the president is a nincompoop or not a human as Ana just said.
But when you are the president and you see violence like this. We know what many times happens at night afterwards. There are people that are angry on both sides. They go back out, there are riots, people die, policemen die. We have seen this in different venues around the country for the last several years. And I think he had a responsibility to tell people that we are bigger than this, that we love one another and as a country, we need to come together. And that was one of the tweets he did send out that no one gives him credit for.
BERMAN: Again, you know, as we noted, you did talk about that over the weekend. We all heard you had to say. Also notable right now, that you think the president needs to go further, needs to say more in those comments. The White House will not tell us if, in fact, he will do that. We are standing by to hear.
Errol Louis, Ana Navarro, Ben Ferguson, thanks very much. I got to cut this discussion off.
We have breaking news out of Charlottesville right now. I want to go right to CNN's Rosa Flores. The suspect involved in this deadly car attack this weekend has appeared in court. Rosa, you were inside the courtroom. What did you see?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me take you inside that courtroom. Fields appeared in court through a video conference. He was in a small monitor on the left side of the courtroom. He was wearing a white and black jump suit and all he said was, yes, sir, as the judge referenced to him.
But here is the breaking news coming out of Charlottesville. The judge setting no bond in this case. And let me explain why. The judge said that normally he has someone from the Public Defender's Office available there to provide to the defendant in this case, but he said that a relative of someone from the Public Defender's Office was somehow related or hurt during this incident, so he couldn't just reach out to the Public Defender's Office. Instead, he said that he has to go through a different list of public defenders and then has assigned a public defender for Fields in this case. But again, no bond has been set and the next bond hearing is set for August 25th.
Now, emotions flared just outside the court just right after this announcement was made by the judge. It was a member of Unite the Right rally, we believe. He never gave his name, but he blamed the media for the coverage, blamed the media for what was happening in Charlottesville. And then there was a very emotional counter protester that was also screaming --