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Trump Says Both Sides To Blame Amid Charlottesville Backlash. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- of the Empire State Building. But today it can take us long as a decade and much more than that. Many, many stories where it takes 20 and 25 years just to get approvals to start construction of a fairly routine highway. Highway builders must get up to 16 different approvals involving nine different federal agencies governed by 29 different statutes. One agency alone can stall a project for many, many years and even decades.

Not only does this cost our economy billions of dollars but it also denies our citizens the safe and modern infrastructure they deserve. This overregulated permitting process is a massive, self-inflicted wound on our country. It's disgraceful. Denying our people much needed investments in their community and I just I want to show you this, because it was just shown many see, I think I'm going to show it to the media. Both real and fake media, by the way. This is what it takes to get something approved. Today, Elaine, you see that.

So this is what it takes, permitting process flow chart. That's a flow chart. So that can go out to 20 years. This shows about 10 but that can go out to about 20 years to get something approved. This is for a highway. I've seen a highway recently in a certain state, I won't mention its name. It's 17 years, I could have built it for $4 or $5 million without the permitting process. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars but it took 17 years to get it approved and many, many, many, many pages of environmental impact studies.

This is what is we will bring it down to. This is less than two years. This is going to happen quickly. That's what I'm signing today. This will be less than two years for a highway. So it's going to be quick. It's going to be a very streamlined process. And by the way, if it doesn't meet environmental safeguards, we're not going to approve it. Very simple. We're not going to approve it. So, this is -- maybe this one will say, let's throw the other one away. Would anybody like it from the media? Would anybody like that long, beautiful chart, you can have it.

So my executive order also requires agencies to work together efficiently by requiring one lead agency for each major infrastructure project. It also holds agencies accountable if they fail to streamline their review process. So each agency is accountable. We're going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking and the permitting process will go very, very quickly. No longer will we tolerate one job killing delay after another, no longer will we accept a broken system that benefits consultants and lobbyists at the expense of hardworking Americans.

Now, I knew the process very well, probably better than anybody. I have to get permits for this building and many of the buildings I built. All the buildings I built in Manhattan and many other places. And I will tell you that the consultants are rich people. They go around making it very difficult. They lobby congress, they lobby state government, city governments to make it very difficult so that you have to hire consultants and that you have to take years and pay them a fortune.

So we are streamlining the process and we won't be having so much of that anymore. No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay. While protecting the environment we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, railways, water waste, tunnels and highways. We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel. We will create millions of new jobs and make millions of American dreams come true. Our infrastructure will again be the best in the world.

We used to have the greatest infrastructure anywhere in the world. And today, we are like a third world country. We are literally like a third world country. Our infrastructure will again be the best and we will restore m the pride in our communities, our nation. And all over the United States we will be proud again. So, I want to thank everybody for being here. God bless you. God bless the United States. And if you have any questions, we have -- Mick, you could come up here, please. Come on up. Mick Mulvaney. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you think the CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?

[16:05:03] TRUMP: Because they're not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you're talking about, they are outside of the country. They're having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example, take a look at where - excuse me, excuse me, take a look at where their product is made. It's made outside of our country. We want products made in the country. Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they're leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside.

And I have been lecturing them including the gentleman that you're referring to about you have to bring it back to this country. You can't do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That's what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you wait so long --

TRUMP: I didn't wait long. I didn't wait long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) TRUMP: I wanted to make sure unlike most politicians that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement but you don't make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don't know the facts. And it's a very, very important process to me. And it's a very important statement. So I don't want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.

If you go back to my statement, I brought it. I brought it. I brought it.


TRUMP: As I said on - remember this, Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. And then I went on from there. Now, here is the thing as to -- excuse me, excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here is the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn't even happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts.

So I don't want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear is a fantastic young woman and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through -- I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman. But her mother, on Twitter, thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike - excuse me, unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.


TRUMP: They don't. They don't.


TRUMP: How about -- how about a couple of - how about a couple of infrastructure questions.


TRUMP: Say it. What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CEO of Walmart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?

TRUMP: Not at all. I think the country -- look, you take a look. I've created over a million jobs since I'm president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting record. We have the highest employment numbers we've ever had in the history of our country. We're doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm so the head of Walmart, who I know who's a very nice guy was making a political statement. I mean -


TRUMP: I do it the same way and you know why? Because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. And there was no way - there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts unlike a lot of reporters -


TRUMP: Unlike a lot of reporters -


TRUMP: I didn't know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts as they started coming out, were very well- stated. And in fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner that would have been good. I couldn't have made it sooner because I didn't know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don't know all of the facts. It was very important -- excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made after with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things -- excuse me.

[16:10:01] There are still things that people don't know. I want to make a statement with knowledge, I want to know the facts. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was this - two question. Was this terrorism and can you tell us how you're feeling about your chief strategist -

TRUMP: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. And that is -- you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That's what I'd call it because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us how you are feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon? Can you talk about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would ask (INAUDIBLE) question. Steve Bannon has -


TRUMP: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us probably what your -- do you have still have confidence in Steve?

TRUMP: Well, let's see. Look, look, I like Mr. Bannon. He's a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that. And I like him. He is a good man. He is not a racist. I can tell you that. He is a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon but he's a good person and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- has called on you to defend your national security adviser H.R. McMaster against these attacks.

TRUMP: I did it the last time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he called it again linking -

TRUMP: Senator McCain? Senator McCain, you mean the one who voted against Obamacare?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he said that -

TRUMP: Who is - you mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good health care?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks and he linked that same group to those that perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I can't tell you. I'm sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about. But when you say the alt- right, define alt-right to me, you define it. Go ahead.


TRUMP: No. Define it for me. Come on. Let's go. Define it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain defined them as the same groups --

TRUMP: OK. What about the alt- left that came charging at - excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the -as you say the alt-right? Do they have any assemblage of guilt?


TRUMP: What - let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging - that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. You know, as far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute. I'm not finished. I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.


TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have - you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent and nobody wants to say that but I'll say it right now. You had a group - you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?

TRUMP: Those people - all of those people - excuse me. I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. So - excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see and you know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases, you're not.

But many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it's is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down, I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you all - you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? But they were there to protest - excuse me, you take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the state of Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do state of Robert E. Lee stay up?

TRUMP: I would say that's up to a local town, community of the federal government depending on where this is located.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you against the confederacy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) race relations in America. And do you think things have gotten worse or better (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I think they've gotten better or the same. Look, they've been freed for a long time and you can ask President Obama about that because he makes speeches about it. But I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs. You see where companies are moving back into our country.

I think that's going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations.

We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin, just announced. We have many companies, I would say, pouring back into the country.

I think that's going to have a huge positive impact on race relations. You know why? It's jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. When they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I'll tell you, we're spending a lot of money on the inner cities.

We're going to fix -- we are fixing the inner cities. We are doing far more than anybody has done with respect to the inner cities. It's a priority for me and it's very important.

REPORTER: Mr. President, are you putting what you are calling the alt left and white supremacists on the same moral plain?

TRUMP: I'm not putting anybody on a moral plain. What I'm saying is this, you had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch.

But there is another side. There was a group on this side -- you can call them the left, you've just called them the left -- that came violently attacking the other group. So, you can say what you want, but that's the way it is.

REPORTER: On both sides, sir? You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides?


TRUMP: Well, I do think there is blame. Yes, I think there's blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. You don't have doubt about it either.

If you reported it accurately, you would say that.

REPORTER: The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville, protesting --


TRUMP: Excuse me. (INAUDIBLE) And you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had some very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.

You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.

TRUMP: George Washington as a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status?

Are we going to take down -- excuse me. Are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington?

How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?

REPORTER: I do love him. TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down his statue? Because he

was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

So, you know what? It's fine. You're changing history. You're changing culture. And you had people and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You got a -- you had a lot of bad -- you had a lot of people in the other group too.

REPORTER: Was treated unfairly, sir, I'm sorry, just (INAUDIBLE) you were saying -- you were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?

TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally. I looked the night before. If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.

But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because, you know, I don't know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn't have a permit.

So I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.

Does anybody have a final -- does anybody have -- you have an infrastructure question?

REPORTER: What makes you think you can get an infrastructure bill? You didn't care health care.


TRUMP: Well, you know, I'll tell you. We came very close with health care. Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You will have to ask John McCain why he did that. But we came very close to health care.

We will end up getting health care. But we'll get the infrastructure. And actually infrastructure, something that I think we'll have bipartisan support on. I actually think -- I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.

REPORTER: President, have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car attack?

TRUMP: No. I'll be reaching out. I'll be reaching out. REPORTER: When will you be reaching out?

TRUMP: I was very -- I thought that the statement put out, the mother's statement I thought was a beautiful statement.

[16:20:03] I will tell you, it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific. And really, under the kind of stress that she is under and the heartache she is under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won't forget. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

REPORTER: Do you plan to go to Charlottesville, Mr. President?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Good afternoon and welcome to THE LEAD.

Wow. That was something else. He is still talking. Let's stay listening.

TRUMP: It's in Charlottesville. You'll see.

REPORTER: Is that the winery or something?

TRUMP: It is the winery. I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It's in Charlottesville.


REPORTER: What do you think needs to be done to overcome the racial divides?

TRUMP: Well, I really think jobs can have a big impact. I think if we continue to create jobs, over 1 million, substantially more than 1 million and you see just the other day, the car companies come in with Foxconn. I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I'm creating jobs, I think that's going to have a tremendous impact, positive impact, on race relations.

REPORTER: And what you said today, how do you think that will impact the racial --

TRUMP: Because the people are going to be working. They're going to be making a lot of money, much more than they ever thought possible. That's going to happen.

And the other thing, very important, I believe wages will start going up. They haven't gone up for a long time. I believe wages now, because the economy is doing so well, with respect to employment and unemployment, I believe wages will start to go up. I think that will have a tremendously positive impact on race relations.


TAPPER: Wow. That was something else. President Trump amid the backlash over his conflicting tweets and

statements going off in extraordinary fashion, an event where he signed an executive order on the infrastructure permitting process which changed off of that subject pretty quickly into the president strongly defending his initial response to the Charlottesville violence.

It's interesting. President Trump said his statement on Saturday condemning the violence and hatred on many sides, on many sides. Then, his staff spent days insisting that he was condemning the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis and white supremacists and he was not equating them with the counterprotesters, some of whom obviously were also violent. That he was focusing on the Nazis and the racists who had come into this progressive college town and marched and chanted saying, anti-Semitic things and racist things.

And then, he went and said the statement that people wanted him to make. He did that yesterday, in which he specifically condemned these groups, the Klan, white supremacists and Nazis. And then here, we have President Trump revealing that actually what he said to begin with was what he meant, that both sides were to blame. Both the Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists, the alt-right, and the counterprotesters were to blame.

And in fact, not only did he say that both sides were to blame, he said that there were also good people on both sides, not just good people on the counterprotesters, but good people amongst the Nazis and the Klansmen and the white supremacists and the alt-right. It was a stunning tour de force by President Trump.

He also talked about the purpose of the march which was, of course, from these racists and extremists. They were protesting that Charlottesville is talking about getting rid of a statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee. And he said, where is that going to end? It might be Robert E. Lee one day and then, next is George Washington and next is Thomas Jefferson, because, obviously, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners as well.

He refused to condemn the alt right. He demanded that a reporter who asked about the alt right define what that means.

Let's take this in with our panel. It was a lot to see.

Sara Murray, you have been covering President Trump. This is the President Trump, the Donald Trump that you covered on the campaign trail.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, a sort of free- wheeling stream of consciousness president. I think one thing came through. You could see how livid he is at the media for the coverage of his initial statement. And then, what has happened since then.

[16:25:01] But these are statements --

TAPPER: Can I interrupt for one second? He admitted that the coverage of the initial statement was completely accurate. That he holds both sides accountable.

MURRAY: Exactly, exactly. But what he is mad about is the indication that that he should have said more at the time and he defended that by saying you need to have all of the facts before you are going to make a stronger statement.

But the reality is that we have seen this president get ahead of the facts over and over again. He has done it as a president. He's done it as a candidate. He has called things terrorist attacks before federal authorities, before local authorities will do it usually when we are talking about radical Islamic terrorist attacks. That is what he calls them.

He, in fact, labeled an attack in the Philippines a terrorist attack at the outset. And authorities there still say that that was an armed robbery essentially gone wrong.

This is not a president who waits for the facts when he considers it to be an issue of radical Islamic terrorism. Now, where he struggles and fumbles his response, where he equivocates on both sides is when you're talking about issues of racism, when you're talking about issues of the alt right. Frankly, when you're talking about people who the president knows in some numbers, not in all numbers but in some numbers, supported him and helped him get to the White House. And that is where he really stumbles.

TAPPER: Bill, you were on my Sunday show. And you said that presciently I suppose that what he said on Saturday was what he meant. And even if he was going to go on and clean it up, what he said on Saturday was what he meant. And you have been proven correct.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Unfortunately, I think so. And I don't think people can no longer be surprised by President Trump in this respect. I was struck by what you said to Sara at the very beginning, exactly what I was thinking, which is what we just saw was so reminiscent of candidate Trump that you covered.

But, look, and this I think in his mind, he was candidate Trump. He said, Mexican judge, totally inappropriate. A judge born in Indiana, well-respected, being attacked for his parents' ethnic background or country background I guess, national background.

He said Muslim ban. We all said, totally inappropriate. That helped him I think he thinks in the Republican primaries. And he is still candidate Trump.

It did get him the Republican nomination. It got him against a divided field. He only got 45 percent of the vote, whatever, he got enough votes to win the Republican nomination and through the (INAUDIBLE) Electoral College, he won the presidency. But it is -- in my opinion, he did damage to the country for a candidate for a presidency of the United States for saying those things, a major party nominee.

It is a whole different thing when a president of the United States has the exact same attitude as he had as an irresponsible and demagogic candidate. But he does, and we have to accept that, and I don't think that's going to change. And then the question becomes for everyone, serious people in the White House, serious people elsewhere in the administration, people in Congress, people in the business community, how do you contain and manage and isolate and lessen the damage that Donald Trump does?

TAPPER: Jen, one second. I do want to bring in David Chalian, our political director.

David, your initial candid response to what we just heard from President Trump?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, my initial, candid response, Jake, was that this was a president who has lost touch with the country he represents. It's that simple.

He is not -- by returning to his comments on Saturday, after going through the process of getting all those words in the teleprompter for Monday and clean it up, Saturday was his initial instinct and revealed himself. And today, revealed himself further to the American people and he is just clearly not in sync with where the country is overall on these issues, having nothing to do with ideology, not left, right.

This is just not things to be equated. There aren't multiple sides into neo-Nazism. It doesn't exist.

And so, the fact that the president's instinct is to get out there and continue to dig a hole for himself, while you see that he has not -- there's not sort of anything he's done in the seven months of his presidency to sort of expand his reach to represent a majority of Americans. He continues to dig a hole deeper and sort of convene back to his most core base. And I think what you saw today is losing touch with the country he represents.

TAPPER: It's really remarkable, Jen Psaki, because we know from reporting that the new White House chief of staff, retired General John Kelly, was among the staffers, urging President Trump, you need to fix this. You have to go out there and condemn, I can't even believe I have to say this. You have to go out there and condemn Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists, who I think every civilized human being in the world would agree have evil thoughts and are bad people that need to be -- that should not be tolerated or people shouldn't try to appeal to them.

And he did so. And he read from the prompter. But, he, obviously, somewhere inside of him, he resented it. And he wanted to say what he really felt. And there it is.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, this is -- as the panel touched on it already, this is a pattern we have seen over and over and over again. And if you want to know what Donald Trump thinks, don't ask his staff, ask him.