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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Trump: Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists "Repugnant"; Trump Touts Economy Before Condemning Hate Groups; Trump Slams Merck CEO After Charlottesville Response; Official: U.S. Satellites Observe Missile Launcher Activity. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired August 14, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to the WORLD RIGHT NOW. I am Paula Newton in for Hala Gorani now.
Now in the immediate aftermath of the hate-filled rallies and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. President Donald Trump fail to condemn the
groups responsible by name and that's important.
Earlier today, though, he finally said the words, many Americans have waited 48 hours to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including
the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: There he is calling out those groups. We should say that was a few hours ago. You were looking at live pictures. We will hear from the
president again at any moment.
Now officially, Mr. Trump is scheduled to sign a memorandum about China and trade, but these scenes are still dominating the agenda. This was Saturday
in Charlottesville as white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters.
We want to get straight to our panel, Stephen Collinson, a CNN White House reporter, Abby Philip covers the White House for the "Washington Post," and
Larry Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He is based in Charlottesville and witnessed the protests.
Now Abby, I want to get straight to you, though, Abby, in terms of what we did finally hear from the president, did it come in time and was it enough?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly wasn't in time. It was about three days late and I think we need to take a step back and
look at this incident for what it was, which was sort of a moment of terror -- a person, an individual was killed.
There were white supremacists and KKK members marching in the streets with torches and the idea here was to terrorize this community. And what was
necessary was for the president to speak out on the day that happened on Saturday.
And it took several days and a lot of pressure from Republicans in Washington and outside of it for him to finally do it. I think the words
that he uttered today were important.
He has called racism evil. He called these groups repugnant, but at the same time, one of the things that I thought was interesting that we did not
really hear much about was the history of all of this.
Speaking to the fact that this goes deeper than this -- this rally over the weekend. There are a lot of groups in this country, particularly African-
Americans who have a long history of being terrorized by groups like the KKK.
And I think that was a little bit missing here, but, I guess, better today than never, but still far too late I think.
NEWTON: Yes. It's so importantly what you say, Abby, in terms of the historical perspective when very clearly you saw torches during that
protests, which have sent a shiver down the spines of many, many Americans.
Larry, you are there in Charlottesville. I mean, tell me a little bit about how perhaps the president's response, however, late will be received.
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, they were fine words although he never mentioned the alt-right, did he? He
didn't denounce the alt-right. At least I didn't hear it.
But as Abby was just saying, this was several days of a lot of dollars short. It was so completely inadequate to the moment because he did not
rise to the challenge as other presidents have done and it was so easy, so easy.
I have students who could have written this for him, but he wasn't able to do it because the truth is, many of these people are his allies. They
voted for him and he knows it.
NEWTON: Yes. And many people unfortunately fear that there was that shrewd calculation in the comments he had made two days prior. Stephen, if
I can get you for a moment. One thing that was quintessential Trump today was before he made those all-important statements, he had something else to
say first about the economy. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I'm in Washington today to meet with my economic team about trade policy and major tax cuts and reform. We are renegotiating
trade deals and making them good for the American worker, and it is about time. Our economy is now strong. The stock market continues to hit record
highs. Unemployment is at a 16-year low and businesses are more optimistic than ever before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: You know, Stephen, he just could not stay on script and you write something on your CNN column about the fact that this is a guy who just
hate to give into his critics even if his critics happened to be right.
[15:05:04] STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, that clip there was quintessential Trump showing almost sort of primal need for
credits and affirmation that we've seen played out throughout not just his presidency, but his campaign as well.
I think what happened here -- and that also shows by the way that this appeared to be a grudging appearance. It was something that Trump needed
to do for his political interests, given the uproar that ensued over the weekend after he failed to get this right the first time.
Rather than necessarily, you know, his real feelings and the desire to sort of correct a wrong. The question is, can he restore the moral authority
that he lost for his presidency on Saturday just by giving a speech on Monday?
I think the question is, we will see what his reaction is the next time this happens, the next time there is a big racial controversy. He is a
hair-trigger president. He reacts very quickly.
If his first reaction is to come out and condemn racist sentiments or far right political sentiments then we'll see that he's changed.
NEWTON: Stephen, I'm going to cut you off right there. The president in fact will be speaking now. Let's listen in.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Ambassador (inaudible), you are empowered to consider all available options at your disposal. We will safeguard the copyrights,
patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and other intellectual property that is so vital to our security and to our prosperity.
We will uphold our values. We will defend our workers and we will protect the innovations creations and inventions that power our magnificent
country. Thank you and God bless America. Thank you all very much. It is a very move. Thank you.
NEWTON: A very short statement there as you see from President Trump talking about wanting his administration to look into Chinese practices of
intellectual property. He signed a memorandum about China.
We did not expect him to take questions. He may still take questions, but right now he is just signing that memorandum. Again, we want to bring our
panel on this.
Abby, I'll put this into perspective, this is something the Trump administration has spoken at length about the fact that China does not play
fair. How does this play into President Trump's agenda, though?
PHILLIP: Yes. It's an important moment for him to really make good on some of the promises that he made to his supporters. Remember in the
campaign, he was so tough on China, constantly calling them currency manipulators.
Saying that he was to get tough on them for trade. We haven't quite seen in his actual presidency as quite as --
NEWTON: We are going to listen -- sorry, Abby, I'm just going to interrupt you just to see what else he seemed to be (inaudible). Let's listen in.
That's all going to hear from President Trump today. I believe that was our own Jim Acosta there trying to get in with some questions about getting
context to his statements earlier today.
Clearly, the president wanting these two actions today to stand, one is the earlier statement where he actually called out by name those groups at the
heart of the controversy in Charlottesville and of course, that referendum on China.
Just Abby, I want you to get you to complete your thought there. You know it is interesting this president is very clear he wants to talk about the
economy in China today and wants those other statements to stand without being challenged.
PHILLIP: Yes. And you know, it's not a bad thing that he wants to talk about the economy. I mean, frankly, a lot of Americans want to talk about
the economy. They want him to move forward on some of these things.
And I would even argue that the move on intellectual property is probably something that in calmer times, he would see a lot of Democrats supporting
or being generally supportive of.
The problem is the fact that the president prolonged this whole situation in Charlottesville has overshadowed this announcement. It has caused him
to be incredibly distracted by something that should not have been a controversy in the first place.
So, that is the kind of tie that binds these two events and it's unfortunate for the president's agenda that is something that was entirely
preventable, has been kind of like the talk of the country for the last 72 hours now.
NEWTON: And Larry, I want to get to you. I know that we are pushing on your availability here, but you are in Charlottesville. Can you put in
perspective for us, you know, that this started or perhaps ends over statue, and the controversy going out in many different cities in the
United States about what these statues mean? Why has it become such a flash point?
SABATO: Well, it's become a flash point in part because Donald Trump was elected and you have to look at his past. Too often I think all of us who
are connected to media and analysis focused just on what's happened today or the last 10 minutes or the last four hours.
[15:10:11] This guy, Donald Trump, has a long history of questionable actions on race. You must look at it in the context of his life. The lead
birther going after President Obama falsely claiming that he was not born in the United States, a long series of clashes with African-American
leaders, Hispanic Americans and others.
That is why we focus in on it so much and it's one of the reasons why he was so hesitant to speak out. Look, you know, he can give all the speeches
he wants to. A friend of mine said as he was giving it, I do not care if he stands on his head and juggles, it makes no difference to me now. He
was not there when we needed him. That is how most people look at him.
NEWTON: Yes. The comments too in a certain respect to look quite grudging and one of the reasons some insiders are saying, Stephen, is that Donald
Trump really was forced to make those statements that that was the tipping point after he lashed out on Twitter today.
He lashed out at the CEO of pharmaceutical giant, Merck, that was after Kenneth Frazier quit Mr. Trump's manufacturing council. Now this was a
statement issued before Trump called that those hate groups specifically.
Remember, he hadn't made the statement yet. Frazier said, in part, "America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting
expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy."
Remember that after making that comment he said forget it, I quit that manufacturing council. Trump quick at the Twitter, "Now that Ken Frazier
of Merck Pharma has resigned from president's manufacturing council, he'll have more time to lower rip-off drug prices."
You know, Stephen, many people making a common in the last few hours that he was so quick to denounce the African-American CEO of this drug company,
but would not name those nationalist groups in Charlottesville.
COLLINSON: Yes. And that's a real comparison, it shows I was saying about the hair-trigger nature you get, the president's real sentiments in the
instinctual moment when he reacts to something.
We know he is very susceptible to attacks on him personally and anything that appears to slide him. You know, I think as Abby was saying we need to
step back and this is a real moment in his presidency.
After all the first line of the Declaration of Independence talks about the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. White supremacy by
definition goes against that and in his first reaction to the events on Saturday, the president of the United States, the moral leader of this
country did not immediately call that out.
I think that is the reason why this issue will not just go away with a speech by the president, even though there will be some new controversy,
some new outrage. The damage from this will linger and we will have to wait until the next racial issue before we see whether the president is
really going to live up to the sentiments he expressed today.
NEWTON: Yes. And unfortunately, as many people have mentioned, this is still a nation divided on race and in class and other things that are bound
to be obviously more controversies.
Abby, though, in terms of mentioning this, one thing that he also mentioned in the statement was the fact that this will be investigated. It's so
interesting that that Jeff sessions, his attorney general, someone he has not got along with in the last few weeks, someone he has called out against
He's saying will have a full investigation and that people will be brought to justice. What is the confidence in this ministration to be able to pull
off something like that right now.
PHILLIP: Well, you know, the president also met with Jeff Sessions today. I think that this is so plainly a violation of civil rights statutes. It
really -- you would really have to be blind to not see this for what it is and I think that's essentially what Jeff Sessions has said.
It is obvious that this needs to be investigated for what it is and so in some ways, the decision is quite easy. It is good that it's being
investigated in this way and I think Jeff Sessions deserves to be recognized for moving very quickly to make that declaration.
But, you know, I would just argue that it is like -- what we would be talking about more -- what would be more alarming is if there was some kind
of delay in making that kind of declaration.
Rarely are these cases so black and white. In this case, you allegedly have someone who is a self-professed neo-Nazi and white supremacist
seemingly deliberately driving a car into a crowd of protesters. I mean, it really does not get more clear than that.
NEWTON: You know, and Larry, on the ground there, are they looking to the Justice Department for this kind of leadership on this and yet there
haven't a time even for healing it seems in your community?
SABATO: Well, it will take a long time for that. Of course, we are opening up this week and bringing a whole new class of students in under
very difficult circumstances.
[15:15:08] But look, it is the heavily Democratic localities, 80 percent Democratic, the surrounding counties, it's two-thirds Democratic. So, I
think it's fair to say there isn't a whole lot of confidence in Jeff Sessions and certainly not in Donald Trump.
That isn't the point. It is rather that race continues to be a major dividing issue. We already seeing the statue issue spread out in Richmond,
Virginia about an hour from here. There is going to be another patriot rally at a statue of Robert E. Lee on September 16th.
They will be a lot of other cities around the country. Will Donald Trump simply refer to his prior statement? Are we going to get back from all the
people in the White House? He has already addressed that issue.
Now with race, you need to confront it constantly. It is a learning experience for everyone, even people who think they are very liberal.
NEWTON: Yes. And that is an important point to make. There are many people here who believe they are on the right side there, but many people
not having the insight that they need to really speak authoritatively on this issue.
The violence as you point to on the weekend did turn deadly and that was the real unfortunate part of this. The suspect accused of killing a woman
when he drove into a crowd of counter-protesters appeared in court today.
Saturday's horror was caught on tape and of course, we wanted to warn you that this video is disturbing.
NEWTON: The 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of killing 32- year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 other people. A judge appointed an attorney for Fields, who appeared via video link wearing a black and white
jumpsuit. Bond was not set.
While there is no word on any possible motive for Saturday's attack, a former teacher recalled Fields was fond of Adolf Hitler and had in her
words very radical beliefs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had some very radical views on race. He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler. He also had a huge military
history, especially the German military history, World War II. But he was pretty infatuated with that stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: That of course was a male teacher their speaking about what he knew to believe was of his beliefs at a young age. Now, it's all bringing
the racial tension and social unrest to the forefront.
We want to go live to Washington and William Cohen. He is a former defense secretary and CEO of the Con Group and edited a book called "Race and
Reconciliation in America," a very relevant guest to have with us today.
You know, I could not help but looking at your book, which again is not quite a decade old, but still at a time recalled very painful racial divide
that existed in America still exist in America.
You know, at the beginning of this kind of a form that you are looking at JFK speeches and you tweak to the fact that Kennedy said what really counts
is not the immediate act of courage or a valor, but those who bear the struggle day in, day out.
And yet we have this young woman, Heather Heyer, who by all accounts by her mother and her friends and her colleagues at work say that is what she was
in this instance. She was trying to stand up for what she thought was right and for her it was a day in day out struggle without much fanfare
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I can just say thank you for pointing out the book "Race and Reconciliation in America." That
was a conference that my wife and I held back in 2009 in anticipation of what kind of issues the president of the United States then President Obama
would have to confront.
And what we tried to do is hold a series of conferences and explain the history of race in our country and racism, how we can confront it, how we
can bring people together.
And we are actually planning to have more such conferences because this has to be stopped. It continues and I know the president is apparently has
spoken. I did not hear his words today.
But I have a difficulty understanding why he cannot simply label white terrorism for what it is. If you are a member of the clan, you are
involved in white terrorism.
If you are a member of the of the Nazi party or the neo-Nazis, you are not an American. You're an enemy of the state. I know that the president like
to call the media the enemy of the state, but when you have hate groups who pledge allegiance to Hitler and who hate Jews, who hate Blacks that is an
enemy of the state of the United States.
And so, I think is important that the president speak out much more forcefully and condemn those acts and not give them any excuse that he
somehow is giving them a pass. This is simply an exercise of free speech.
[15:20:05] This is an exercise of hate that leads to hateful action and now death, and I think it is incumbent upon the president to speak as clearly
and loudly as he can on those issues.
NEWTON: Well, you have just spoken very clearly and very authoritarian loudly. Do you believe General Kelly who's now his chief of staff who
would have at Homeland Security secretary quite frankly seen firsthand that these groups do raise and point a threat to the United States. Do you
think he is -- can you witness anyway that he is getting through to him on these issues?
COHEN: It's hard to tell. General Kelly is new in his new position as chief of staff. He does have some challenges ahead of him. This is not
the first time the president has failed to say something that is critically important.
When he appeared in Brussels at the of the NATO assembly as such, the conference, he failed to invoke or say that we were committed to Article 5
of the NATO Charter.
Those words went unspoken even though they were in the script. Now I happen to be in Singapore at the time talking to the -- all of the Asia-
Pacific defense ministers at a security conference.
And they heard very clearly that the absence of those words meant that even our Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who was speaking, that maybe he was
speaking for the president.
So, these things have to be really focused upon. When this president speaks, he has to understand the gravity, not only the situation, but the
gravity of the words that he uses.
So, that everyone can understand clearly what his intent is, what his meaning is and whether he is committed to the virtues and the values that
the American people stand for.
NEWTON: Yes. Important points all there. We want to turn to the issue of North Korea as well, CNN is now reporting that they know from a U.S.
defense official telling CNN that preparations are being made for a possible intermediate ballistic missile launch, another one from North
Of course, the official saying they see evidence of this, but they can't know for sure what is going. Just having been in this situation, you
having dealt with the North Korea situation firsthand, we are told many, many times that the defense options are not good. Strategically, though,
if you are sitting in the seat, what could you do now?
COHEN: Well, I have spoken to this issue before. I have to again be careful in the use of words. We cannot out shout or out taunt Kim Jong-un.
That's reducing us to his level --
NEWTON: The president has tried. To be frank, the president has tried.
COHEN: He has done that and I think it is inappropriate and unwise. He has thereby reduced the stature of the White House, the presidency to Kim
Jong-un's level when he engages in that kind of a diplomatic trash talk as such, if you can call it that.
So, it's more schoolyard bullying that's taking place between two people shouting at each other that my guns are bigger than your guns or my bombs
are more powerful than your bombs. That is simply inconsistent with good leadership.
So, I think what we have to do is now talk directly to the Chinese. This is getting serious now. We are going to conduct exercises soon in that
region. Kim Jong-un is threatening to fire missiles. If he fires them anywhere near Guam, I think the president will respond with some kind of
So, right now, I think our job is to persuade the Chinese that President Trump is not bluffing, and if he were bluffing and they take it as bluff
and then I think that the North Koreans will continue to do what they are doing and take us even down a more dangerous road than we are currently
So, what I would do is I would stand by the statement that Secretary Jim Mattis made very strong, very straightforward. You attack us or any of our
allies, we will respond in overwhelming fashion. That is a statement. That is a fact, and that is a pledge of the United States.
In the meantime, I would beef up the defense of the South Koreans. I would in fact accelerate the deployment of the THAD antimissile system. I would
only put it in all South Korea, which they are doing now.
I'll also offered to Japan to see if they could have a similar type of capability and then I would go to the Chinese and say, look we have a
common interest. We do not want to see a North Korea that gets out of hand with its missile program and nuclear program.
So, let's work together. I need you to really squeeze the economy of the North Koreans because they've had a policy of guns and butter. They've
been able to make the guns and the Chinese, the Russians, and others have been furnishing the butter.
Go take the butter away and say, no, you are not going to be able to have an economy that is able support your people if you continue to do what you
are doing and really mean it.
At that point, start squeezing them saying you will not survive as a regime if you continue on the path that you are going. So, I would enforce those
sanctions and then I would say to the North Koreans let's find a way out of this.
You can become part of an economy which is prosperous, which brings your people to a level that they have not seen in generations.
[11:25:08] But you got to stop threatening the rest of the world including the United States with these missiles and nuclear weapons. If you do that
we can reduce the tensions. We could even have an agreement whereby there is a reduction of U.S. presence in the region, which will benefit all.
So, this a deal to be made. We have to make it first with the Chinese to say are you serious about cracking down and then do so in conjunction with
the South Koreans to be sure, the Japanese and the Russians.
NEWTON: Well, it will be interesting because the White House seems -- some in the White House do seem to think that, look, by bringing this to the
fore by perhaps creating a bit of a crisis out of it that they can get to a solution.
We'll continue to watch it all. You're welcome any time to come back, sir, and talk to us about this and many issues as we continue to follow issues
in both Virginia and the Korean Peninsula. Appreciate it.
COHEN: Thank you very much.
NEWTON: Now still to come tonight, Activist Cornell West, witness to the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville this weekend, we'll talk to
the Harvard professor that's coming up.
NEWTON: All right. We are recapping some news for you. We just heard from the U.S. president for the second-time moments ago. We will have much
more on his reaction to the violent protests in Virginia.
But first the other news we are following, in Sierra Leone, a horrendous scene is unfolding.
NEWTON: Unbelievable. This is the street in the capital Freetown, a torrent of mud running down it. The Red Cross there says at least 200
people are dead and more than 600 are still missing. The country's government says it is focus on search and rescue. It is offering support
to those affected.
In Burkina Faso meantime, at least 18 people were killed and nearly a dozen wounded in an attack on a restaurant in the capital. Authorities say
the two attackers were also killed. There have been no claims of responsibilities.
Britain's Theresa May is expected back from a three-day holiday later this week and right at the top of her inbox, as you can imagine, is the crucial
issue of Brexit. Her return comes as the government plans to release its views on a number of very crucial Brexit issues including the complicated
matter of Ireland's border with Northern Ireland.
Now if you have ever visited London, you will know this sound -- yes, that's the famous Big Ben that chimes. It actually helped keep me on time
when I lived in London. They have going now for more than 150 years, but come next Monday, yes, won't be hearing them anymore.
Time will fall silent for four years, four long years, so that major conservation work can take place on the tower. That work will cost more
than $40 million. We should say that for special, special events, they will try and strike up those chimes again, only special occasions, though.
Coming up, we will have much more reaction as President Trump directly condemns white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Stay with us. We'll have much
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- the intellectual property of American companies and, very importantly, of American workers. The
theft of intellectual property by foreign countries costs our nation millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars each and every year.
For too long, this wealth has been drained from our country while Washington has done nothing. They have never done anything about it.
But Washington will turn a blind eye no longer. Today, I'm directing the United States Trade Representative to examine China's policies, practices,
and actions with regard to the force transfers of American technology and the theft of American intellectual property. As President of the United
States, it's my duty and responsibility to protect the American workers' technology and industry from unfair and abusive actions.
We will stand up to any country that unlawfully forces American companies to transfer their valuable technology as a condition of market access. We
will combat the counterfeiting and piracy that destroys American jobs.
We will enforce the rules of fair and reciprocal trade that form the foundation of responsible commerce. And we will protect forgotten
Americans who have been left behind by a global trade system that has failed to look, and I mean look, out for their interests. They have not
been looking out at all.
This is what I promise to do as a candidate for this office, and this is what I am doing right now as President.
Ambassador Lighthizer, you are empowered to consider all available options at your disposal. We will safeguard the copyrights, patents, trademarks,
trade secrets, and other intellectual property that is so vital to our security and to our prosperity.
We will uphold our values. We will defend our workers. And we will protect the innovations, creations, and inventions that power our
Thank you and God bless America. Thank you all very much. It's a very big move. Thank you.
And this is just the beginning, I want to tell you that. This is just the beginning.
Raytheon, congratulations. You guys have been pretty fascinating (ph). Keep up the good work (ph).
[15:35:03] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by
name over the weekend?
TRUMP: They have been condemned. They have been condemned.
ACOSTA: And why are we not having a press conference today? You said on Friday you would have a press conference.
TRUMP: We had a press conference. We just had a press conference.
ACOSTA: Can we ask you some more questions, then, sir?
TRUMP: It doesn't bother me at all. But, you know, I like real news, not fake news. You're fake news.
Thank you, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, haven't you spread a lot of fake news yourself, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: You have just been watching President Trump from just a few moments ago. He signed a memorandum regarding China trade practices,
wanting to, what he says, crackdown.
But, at the end there, what you just witnessed was our own Jim Acosta trying to ask him more questions. You will recall that we have been
telling you for a while that he was going to have a press conference today. He did not.
He'd, again, as we heard before, condemned CNN but saying that, look, we had a press conference. So we did not hear more from him. We did hear,
though, was he called out, finally, by name and condemned the KKK, neo- Nazis, and White supremacists. He did that a few hours ago.
And this all comes in the wake of the violence this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the President's delay in condemning those
attacks to criticism. We just heard Jim try and talk to the President about it earlier.
Before this, on Sunday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, though, took a different tack and denounced White supremacists by name in a speech in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump, clearly and unambiguously, condemn the bigotry, violence, and hatred which took
place on the streets of Charlottesville. We have no tolerance for hate and violence.
White supremacists, neo-Nazis, or the KKK, these dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate. And we
condemn them in the strongest possible terms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Is this enough from this administration?
Activist and professor of African-American studies, Cornel West, was in Charlottesville this weekend during some of the protests and violence. He
describes being held hostage in a church. Cornel West joins us now from New Hampshire.
You know, you have a chilling tweet here, saying, we were held hostage in the church because of the threatening torch march. Where were the police?
Professor West, I mean, now that you've had time to digest everything, why did this happen and how did it happen?
CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF THE PRACTICE OF PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, I think the larger context is American empire is in
decay. We've got a president who is not just a pathological liar. He has normalized mendacity, and he has facilitated our fellow citizens to hate in
public without any serious accountability.
We've got a death of a very precious sister, very precious fellow citizen, Heather Heyer. There's very little focus on her death.
She was a freedom fighter. She was a White woman in deep solidarity with the struggle for Black freedom, Brown freedom, and the struggle for gay,
lesbian, bisexual, as well as trans folks' freedom.
We're in a very, very bleak moment in this nation, and we're just trying to bear witness to love and justice. And that's what we were trying to do
this weekend. We would have been crushed like cockroaches by the neo- fascists if it were not for the anti-fascist forces, and especially the anarchists who went to the streets.
We only had 20 of us standing, 20 clergy as it were, and they were making a direct move toward us. So that I must say, there's not a lot of space left
in the culture for prophetic witness, to seriously talk about loving each other regardless of color, sexual orientation, religion, and national
identity. But some of us are going to be committed to be faithful unto death.
NEWTON: You know, you mentioned Heather Heyer. She lost her life in what many, you know, hoped it wouldn't happen, but some had predicted that it
would end in violence.
WEST: That's true.
NEWTON: She was, by many respects, an everyday woman who decided that she just absolutely had to attend this protest and speak up. I mean, Professor
West, what went wrong?
You know, the question is out there. Was there something police could have done to make sure that people's free speech was protected? I'm sure you're
in favor of that, but that it did not turn the corner into hateful violence and speech.
WEST: Well, in terms of the immediate situation, I think the police certainly could have been more effective. They held back the fighting that
was taking place, discrete skirmishes, as well as the throwing of bottles. The right-wing fascists had shields. They had the whole host of weaponry.
They were militarized in a way in which we were not.
At the same time, you know, this larger context is the one that I worry about, namely that, in a democracy, you have to have a strong public life.
Well, public life is collapsing.
[15:40:03] You have to have elites that have some integrity. Well, we've got massive corruption of our elites, and then we've got military overreach
as well. And so there's no serious way in which you can rejuvenate and regenerate the best of American democracy.
And that's what we're trying to do. This is what it is, to take seriously the great legacies of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in Dorothy Day and
Martin Luther King, Jr. They were trying to regenerate the best of America. Very, very difficult to do that these days and times, even though
we've got some young people who are making great efforts to do it.
NEWTON: In terms of the Trump administration, its reaction, President Trump's comments most recently calling out these groups for what they are.
It's not enough, as far as you're concerned?
WEST: No. But, I mean, he is reading a script he didn't write. He can hardly read it, unfortunately. That's not coming from his heart, and it's
a P.R. operation in that sense.
You can see how quickly he responded when the Black CEO of Merck resigned. He trashed him immediately, but he couldn't do that in relation to the
Nazis. He couldn't do that in relation to the Klan. He couldn't do that in relation to the host of neo-fascists who were on display. And this is
the biggest such display in 50 years in the history of this nation.
It's a very sad commentary on the level of hatred. I have never seen this kind of hatred in my life, and I stood there for 2-1/2 hours as each group
marched by and, of course, cussing and so forth and so on to myself and the others. And we were trying to just bear religious witness.
Myself, as a Christian. We had Jews. We had Hindus. We -- you know, we had Jews, we had other -- Christians from other denominations, as well as
Muslims. It was a beautiful coming together.
And it's very important to keep in mind that Charlottesville, as well as the nation, we do have prophetic fight back. That some of us are going to
go down swinging in the name of love and justice, not because we think we can win solely, but because it's right and it's moral and it's just. And
when the worms get us, at least we know we tried to bear witness.
NEWTON: You know, as you're speaking, we are showing photos of that march. Chilling to see the torchers there, in the sense that they bear witness to
all the injustices in the United States and decades past. What was it like for you so many years now, this is 2017, to witness this? What did you
hear from them and what did you see there?
WEST: Well, I mean, I have -- this is not a surprise to me, a Black man in America. You know, we have progress and regress. It's three steps
forward, two steps back.
But I take very seriously the legacy of Anton Chekhov and John Coltrane and Toni Morrison and then the others who give us a sense that most of human
history is a history of hatred, envy, resentment, domination, oppression. And the best we can do is to break that cycle.
And how do you break that cycle? Love, justice, courage, sacrifice. Connected to something bigger than you, public interest, common good. And
we're trying to break that cycle.
So that there is always that sense of the hatred coming back and getting a recast. And as I said before, it's not just a matter of the Nazi. We got
the rule of big money. We got massive militarism.
You got patriarchy running amok. You got homophobia, transphobia. You got anti-Jewish, anti-Arab, and especially anti-Black and anti-Brown immigrant,
being fanned and fueled by elites who have no moral substance, who are spiritually empty, and who have simply smiles as spectacle, but no serious
witness in terms of trying to do the right thing.
That's what we're trying to come to terms with at this moment in the history of the American empire. But we do it with a smile on our face.
NEWTON: But Professor West --
WEST: We do with a smile in our hearts because we know --
NEWTON: Professor West --
WEST: -- that we do make a difference.
NEWTON: Professor West, you are a leader, though, on the African-American community and beyond for those who look to you for guidance. What we've
just talked about for the last few minutes, people are bound to find incredibly pessimistic.
Where do you go from here? I mean, the Justice Department says they are investigating. Where do you put your faith in the things that -- your
faith that things will change and can change?
WEST: Well, one, I'm not a leader of anybody. I'm a -- I try to be a lover and justice is what love looks in public. And so I'm trying to fight
for justice. I'll fight alongside people.
I like to be in solidarity with people. I'm not way out in front. I don't believe in that messianic model of leadership at all, or that vanguard
notion of leadership. You're fighting with the folk alongside them and to be a hope in your acts, in your deeds, in your willingness to sacrifice and
serve. That is what hope is, being in motion.
[15:45:00] Put your body on the line, keeping a vision of love of everybody. Be it in Somalia, be that on -- in Gaza, be that on Tel Aviv,
be that in Chicago, be that in Ethiopia. It's the best that we can do as a species, to try to bear witness to that love and justice and go down
Every generation has a challenge. We tried to meet the challenge in the '60s and '70s. We did, to some extent. Reagan comes along. Right-wing
pushes us back.
Now, we've got neo-fascism escalating. And we're trying to pass on to our -- to the younger generation some sense of a willingness to speak to truth,
to bear witness, and come to terms with this ecological catastrophe, escalating nuclear catastrophe, the moral, the spiritual catastrophe, the
economic catastrophe of grotesque wealth inequality, and yet still be able to find in relationships, in music, in the arts, with grands, with smiles,
a willingness not to allow despair to have the last word.
But anybody who is not in despair, in some sense, is not sensitive to the realities of the day. You just don't want to allow that despair to have
the last word.
NEWTON: Certainly, Heather Heyer did not want despair to have the last word. She went there in hope and faith. I'm sure her family and friends -
WEST: That's right. And this is the Heather we'll never forget.
NEWTON: Yes. I'm sure her family and friends hope her death stands for something.
Professor West, thank you so much. Before I let you go, do you expect to be at more of these protests coming up in the next few weeks?
WEST: Oh, absolutely, and I plan to be there to.
NEWTON: OK. All right.
WEST: Oh, indeed, indeed.
NEWTON: We really look forward to checking in with you again. Professor West, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
WEST: Thank you so very much. Have a great day.
NEWTON: Now, racial tension and political fallout, you just can't remove one from the other. The political reporter for "The Atlantic" joins me
NEWTON: Welcome back. As Donald Trump tries to deal with the unrest in Virginia, conflict persists in his own West Wing. There are new signs that
Donald Trump's controversial chief strategist is on very thin ice these days.
A source inside the White House tells CNN, Chief of Staff John Kelly has now soured on Steve Bannon, and Bannon's agenda doesn't mesh with the power
structure Kelly is putting into place.
Now, Bannon has deep ties to the alt-right, a relatively new term for people who embrace White identity. Bannon is also the former head of
right-wing news site, Breitbart. Now, a second source told CNN, it's not only Brandon and Kelly who are on the outs but also Bannon and the
I want to go to Molly Ball, political writer for "The Atlantic." She joins us now from Washington.
You know, it's important to note that as all of this was going on today, if you checked in with Breitbart this morning, they were still defending the
fact that President Trump did not, by name, you know, point out the KKK and White supremacy and denounce it, once and for all. It really speaks to
Steve Bannon's influence. And we have to say, he apparently can still wield some influence at Breitbart.
[15:50:00] MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I don't think we know actually. I've heard some conflicting reports about what kind of sway
he still has. He is officially no longer a part of Breitbart, but it's definitely fair to say that they share a worldview.
Now, Breitbart has sometimes been critical of Trump and of the Trump administration when they feel that he has deviated from the ideology that
they have set out. And so they had not been pure Trump propaganda. They see themselves as sort of keeping Trump --
NEWTON: But, Molly, just -- but just --
BALL: -- on the keg of the populist/nationalist movement --
NEWTON: But do you think that --
BALL: - that they represent.
NEWTON: But do you think that that's the very problem? That that's why Donald Trump and Steve Bannon may be on the outs because he, certainly, the
President, has been quite vocal of the fact that he's happy with Fox News, and, he, perhaps, feels that Steve Bannon should be able to wield the same
kind of influence at alt-right Web sites or in the alt-right community.
BALL: Well, the reports that I have been getting from my sources in the White House are that that is not exactly why Trump is mad at Bannon. And,
you know, it should be said that all of this sort of palace intrigue in the Trump White House has been a constant.
It happened in the campaign, and it has been going on. Since the beginning of the administration, there's always people with knives out for one
another. This is not a new phenomenon. And it is not necessarily a good sign predictor that somebody is going to get fired because we hear, so
often, that someone has fallen out of favor with Trump, that he's mad at them, and then they stay on.
You know, Bannon has been at Trump's side since the campaign. And mostly, we hear that Trump doesn't like it when anybody gets too much attention,
when anybody seems to be taking credit for Trump's success. And so that is the source of most of the reports that he's mad at Bannon.
That, and the conflict, as you mentioned, with General Kelly. But what remains to be seen, because Kelly is a relatively new chief of staff, is
how much authority Trump is going to give his chief of staff.
BALL: General Kelly was given certain assurances as a condition of him taking that position. He has made some very high-profile firing so far,
but it's not clear how far Trump will let him go.
NEWTON: Right. And it is interesting, I don't have to tell you, that the former White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, is among
those critical of Bannon. Let's listen to him on ABC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You also got this sort of Bannonbart influence in there, which I think is a snag on
If the President really wants to execute that legislative agenda that, I think, is so promising for the American people, the lower middle class
people and the middle-class people, then he has to move away from that sort of Bannonbart nonsense, if you will.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You mean Bannon and Breitbart?
SCARAMUCCI: Oh, yes, that --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Steve Bannon?
SCARAMUCCI: Yes, the whole thing is nonsensical. It's not serving the President's interest. He's got to move more into the mainstream --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: And so, Molly, how about that? Is that payback by Mr. Scaramucci there, or is there something to that?
BALL: I think it's both. I mean, on the one hand, certainly, Scaramucci felt burned by his experience in -- his brief experience in the White
House. But there is an ideological battle inside the White House.
And it is between the Bannonist/Breitbartist ideology on the one hand, which is also embraced by advisors like Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions,
even though he sometimes has been on the outs with the President. And then on the other hand, you have traditional Republicans who would prefer to see
Trump going more out of what they consider a conservative direction, more like what the Republican Congress wants to do.
And then you also have a faction of more moderate or even liberal players, such as Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Gary Cohn, the adviser who was
formerly with Goldman Sachs, who would like to push Trump more toward the conventional middle.
And what the President hasn't done is really stake out an identity for himself, make a decision between these. Instead, he's continued to have
what you could generously, I suppose, call a team of rivals. And it's led to paralysis. It's led to a Washington where nothing is getting done on
any of these agendas, really. And the President is just surrounded by this constant chaos and conflict.
NEWTON: Yes. And I think a lot of people, whether it's General Kelly or those close to him and his family, really wonder how much influence they
can bring to bear. I mean, going back to the incidents at Charlottesville, President Trump's own wife and daughter, you know, they both tweeted.
Ivanka Trump said: there should be no place in society for racism, White supremacy, and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans and be
one country united.
And, you know, Melania Trump, the first lady, tweeting: our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate with our -- without
hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.
You know, Molly, a lot of people commented that, if the President had just stuck to the line of his closest advisors, which, in many cases, are his
family or General Kelly, he wouldn't have caused so much consternation in the country about the events in Virginia.
BALL: I think that's right. And I think that that is why this episode has seemed so damning in so many people's eyes, why the President's statement,
although it was the statement that many people were seeking today, is viewed as too little, too late by so many. Because that delay seemed so
revealing of what was truly in his heart. I mean, you referenced what was on the front page of Breitbart, and that seems to be where Trump's gut is.
[15:55:00] Trump's gut seems to be with those more populist, nationalist, even White identity politics, forces within his base. He has a very hard
time denouncing them or rejecting their support. And that is something that's very disturbing to a lot of people.
NEWTON: Yes, disturbing and continues to cause a lot of confusion inside and outside the White House.
Molly, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.
BALL: Thank you.
NEWTON: And we will be right back.
NEWTON: The violence and hate and unrest seen in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend was triggered by statue. But history in the American South is
just a lot more complicated than that.
This is the statue in question. It's the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He led Southern forces in the American Civil War and was a supporter
Earlier this year, the city of Charlottesville voted to remove the statue. A push is underway across the Southern U.S. to try and reduce the presence
Confederate monuments. And it lies with the controversy of those events you saw in Virginia.
This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thanks for joining us. I'm going to send you upstairs to my friend and colleague, Richard Quest, for "QUEST