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Trump Blames Both Sides; More Executives Quite Trump Council; Baltimore Takes Down Statues. Aired 9:30-10:00a
Aired August 16, 2017 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:24] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning, the president's blame on both sides statement is getting praise from at least one side. David Duke is thanking the president for his response, praising him for his courage. This as people continue to gathering to mourn the life -- mourn the loss of Heather Heyer at a public memorial service that is set to begin in just over an hour.
My panel is back with me. And also joining us is Bruce LeVell, executive director of the National Diversity Coalition for President Trump.
Bruce, thanks so much for joining our very little group here.
BRUCE LEVELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DIVERSITY COALITIONFOR TRUMP: Thanks.
BERMAN: CNN obtained a copy of the talking points from the White House. How the White House wants its allies to respond to the events yesterday. And the very first line is, the president was entirely correct. Do you feel the president was entirely correct, Bruce?
LEVELL: Yes, thanks, John. Thanks for having me.
And before we begin, I'd like to send, on behalf of the coalition, our condolences to the fallen troopers, as well Ms. Heyer, and their prayers are with them.
Well, you know, the president was on point. You know, I think he spoke it very loud and clear that, you know, he won't condone any hate groups coming to this precious right to a symbol, no matter where you are, who you are, and that everyone that came with intent to harm and hurt our American citizens are at guilt. And I think that's a fair statement.
The other thing, too, in the former segment here, I just want to clarify something as it relates to Mr. Javier Palomarez. We're the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, which was founded by Michael Cohen (ph), son of a Holocaust survivor. We are the largest diversity coalition in the history of any GOP candidate. We're over 2 million strong. CEO Pastor Darryl Scott (ph) and myself. Many, many cultures. Ndctrump.com.
I believe Mr. Palomarez is on the counsel or some other council. He was extended an invitation to come join us back in January. But I saw the news article yesterday and I was kind of confused. I'm like, he's not part of our coalition, but I guess he's part of another council. So I just want to classify that for the record, sir.
BERMAN: All right, Bruce, you do say you stand by your comments that the president was entirely correct. One of the things he said was that there were some very fine people marching Friday night in that torch- lite rally.
BERMAN: I just want to play a little bit of the sound from that so you can see it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: You will not replace us! You will not replace us! Jews (ph) will not replace us! Jews (ph) will not replace us!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, now, the president made clear, he did not think that the people chanting these slogans, the neo-Nazis, were very fine people, but he did say there were very fine people alongside them.
In your accounting of things, would very fine people allow themselves to march alongside or be connected to the people chancing, you know, Jew will not be here for us or whatever it was those awful people were saying?
LEVELL: If I had to make an assumption based on I assume (INAUDIBLE) we're trying to make assumptions on in the president's mind, the terminology of fine people are people who go out and peacefully protest. People who go there and not harm or kick down store windows or harm people or shoot people or burn people or harm people. Fine people are people who practice that precious right to assemble and not harm people. So, fine people determined, if I have to -- if I do -- and I do know the president. I know his heart was that no matter where you're assembling that the fine people are the ones who have intentions to go, and whatever they're protesting, no matter where you are in the world and want to assemble peacefully.
BERMAN: He also called them good people beyond just fine. (INAUDIBLE).
LEVELL: Well, you are -- you are good when you don't harm or shoot someone, sir, or try to maim them.
BERMAN: Are you good when you stand alongside people chancing anti- Semitic slogans?
LEVELL: Well, no. I mean I don't -- I don't like it. And I will tell you, the worst thing that we're doing with this -- with this whole debacle is that the mainstream media is trying to paint this narrative is that we keep giving life and the spirit to a person that's useless that came from Louisiana that I will not mention or give the liberty of even saying his name on national TV because he doesn't deserve to have his name (INAUDIBLE).
BERMAN: I'll say it, David Duke. And David Duke loved what the president had --
LEVELL: Well, you just gave -- you just gave him life, John. There you go. See, I will -- the diversity council, we won't give him --
BERMAN: He doesn't need me.
LEVELL: We won't give him the respect of saying his name on national TV, because that's what he wanted. He wanted everyone to buy into that.
BERMAN: Is this, Nia -- you know, Nia-Malika Henderson, the question, again, and I go back to what now. What now for these groups? And Bruce doesn't want to necessarily mention some of the people affiliated with them by name. But where do you think this goes next for them? Do you think they go away after Charlottesville?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No. I think they're very much energized. Bruce LeVell said there that he doesn't want to give David Duke sort of credence and give him life. Well, you know, just let the president has very much given David Duke life.
[09:35:13] I mean David Duke, in his ilk, and those white supremacists and neo-Nazis essentially see themselves as foot soldiers in Trump's revolution, right? I mean they have said they wanted to see Donald Trump in the White House because they see him as an ally and as a fellow traveler. And at no point have we seen Donald Trump say that he doesn't want their vote. He doesn't want their support.
So -- and I think they have said -- and this is one of the times I think we should listen to what white supremacists says. They have said that they feel emboldened and that they will be back. And as a result, I think many Americans woke up this morning with the realization that this is a president who isn't going to denounce them. I think a lot of folks woke up afraid about what this means for this country, that this group --
BERMAN: It is --
BERMAN: It is interesting. Some of the reaction that we've heard over the last 24 hours has been from the U.S. military, from the leaders in the U.S. military, from members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The most current, from the Army Chief of Staff Mark Milli (ph) who wrote, the Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks. It's against our values and everything we've stood for since 1775. Again, that's statement from General Mark Milli.
You know, Salena, it is interesting and unusual to hear these army leaders -- and this is the third -- these military leaders make statements like this, feel like they have to.
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, they're in charge of men and women of all different sizes, shapes and colors. They have to be leaders. They have to be competent leaders and leaders that people look up to. And, you know, people that serve in the military are putting themselves and their lives and their fellow -- you know, everyone is sort of on the line and could be in jeopardy. So you have to show leadership there. You have to say out front, look, this is not tolerated anywhere in the military, and, you know, I think that was smart. Might be unprecedented, probably is, but I feel like we're in month seven of unprecedented. So, yes.
BERMAN: It runs out. After a while, it sort of becomes precedent at some point, right?
Steve Bannon -- or you want to -- I don't want to -- you look like you want to weigh in on this.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I was just going to say two things. I think one thing what the military leaders are saying is they're partly a sort of -- can be seen as a criticism of the president, but I think it's partly that there were members in their ranks that were out at these rallies and they're setting down a clear marker.
But I want to just come back to something that Bruce said because I'm sitting here slightly dumbfounded and I want to make sure I understood what Bruce said.
It sounded like you were saying that protesters, no matter how disgusting their views, deserve some kind of affirmative endorsement as long as they don't engage in violence and that that justifies the president saying that these are good people. Is that what you were saying, Bruce, because if that is --
LIZZA: That just, to me, is an example of how --
LIZZA: Of being really twisting into a pretzel to defend this president. But it sounded like you were saying that they deserved to be characterized as good people as long as they don't engage in violence, even if they're yelling things about Jews and all the rest.
LEVELL: No, I -- and I'm sorry you're in some kind of fog of a dream trying to put words in my mouth. But I'm here to tell you that there are many, many more people -- and I just want to commend Attorney General Sessions for putting troops on the ground immediately, unlike the other former administration that let a city almost burn to the ground until they finally sent someone out there. So the ongoing investigation is going to find out that there's probably more and more people that came up here to harm this great town called Charlottesville and harm other people.
But I'm here to tell you, any person, no matter what group you are, if you peacefully protest and you don't harm anyone, no matter where you're from, it's fair to say that its -- that that person is nice enough to not to try to burn up your building or blow up your house or whatever, regardless of what group it's from. And that's my statement --
LIZZA: So you think that Nazis should get a pat on the back because of didn't burn anything down or engage in violence?
LEVELL: No, absolutely not. And I disavow that. And the president has said I think 13 times. It's interesting how the media won't go back to 1991 or show the 2000 clip where he's on the Matt Lauer show just showing how he totally disavowed this --
LIZZA: Bruce, we're talking about August 2017, what happened this week.
LEVELL: Yes, and it's -- and it's a terrible tragedy. It's terrible. It's a terrible (INAUDIBLE).
LIZZA: But I don't understand the position -- I don't understand the position that Nazis deserve some kind of affirmative endorsement.
LEVELL: I didn't say -- they don't deserve an affirmative endorse. Sir, don't try to put words, don't try to play the game.
LIZZA: Well, what --
LEVELL: The bottom -- Heather Heyer was a decent -- she was good people. There were many, many people that came with other intentions.
And, remember, they came about a statue. So I don't know the gist -- excuse me -- I don't know the gist of every single person that came there. I'm sure the investigation will uncover when the sheriff, the city police chief, when they finish their copulation of their investigation, then maybe find more who was involved, who were the instigators. I hope they do and I hope they're prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, as well as the hate group and everybody else that came out there to terrorize this great little town.
[09:40:16] BERMAN: The president said they were very fine people out there Friday night along with those folks chancing Jew will not replace us. Again, just, yes or no --
LEVELL: No, he -- no, he didn't. Don't --
BERMAN: Yes, he did. He actually --
LEVELL: Don't marry it -- don't --
HENDERSON: That is what he did say. He acted like it was a candlelight vigil.
LEVELL: Don't marry it to the -- no, no. You had policemen out there that were trying to keep the safety. The picture that's viral of the African-American officer that was standing there upholding the First Amendment and the oath of his office. There are many fine policemen. Many people were there.
HENDERSON: That's from July. That's not from this moment. But --
LIZZA: Nobody was talking about that one.
BERMAN: He mentioned Friday night, the torch light vigil to the statue, which you mentioned. And there is a video from Vice. I'm not sure we can pull it up right now. But the video from Vice, that touch light vigil with people marching towards the statue. They were chancing, Jew will not replace us. Jew will not replace us. It's right there --
LEVELL: And that's totally repulsive. I mean that's just totally -- that's repulsive.
BERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, again, what the president said, he said there were bad people but there were also some very fine people out there that night. And my question to you is very simple one. And you may think the answer is yes. Would very fine people allow themselves to be seen next to them?
LEVELL: John, I just -- John, I just explained this to you. The fine people are not part of a hate group such as that. There were other people, one more time, that possibly showed up that wanted to protest a statue that had nothing to do with that hate group that was exercising their constitutional right of freedom of assembly and protest of another person. That is pretty much the statement the president's making, a fine person that comes out and doesn't blow up something. Do not try to marry those hate groups with that situation, sir.
BERMAN: I clearly -- I clearly said there's a difference.
LEVELL: I won't work.
BERMAN: I was asking about the other people. But I do appreciate --
LEVELL: No, you're trying to marry it together, John. It's not going to work. I'm sorry.
BERMAN: I think everyone should remain single in this relationship, Bruce, I really do. I'm just trying to figure out what the president was condoning, who he was condoning and what it means going forward and what it means for this country.
LEVELL: John, the --
LEVELL: I'm just -- let me finish. As we try to understand what we are about. I'm going to end this now because we've got to take a break.
Bruce LeVell, Nia-Malika Henderson, Ryan Lizza, Salena Zito, thanks so much, guys. I appreciate it.
HENDERSON: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: All right, more dropouts. The president's business council, it just got smaller. Will it stop there?
[09:46:49] BERMAN: All right, more industry leaders out of the president's business council. CNN chief money correspondent Christine Romans joins me now.
What's going on here?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, there are a lot of other ones who are deciding whether they should stay here. Look, Richard Trumka, who runs the AFL-CIO, Thea Lee, who's at the AFL-CIO, they both said that they're not going to be advising this president any more. Richard Trumka this morning on another network saying frankly they hadn't even met. And so this idea of making manufacturing great again, it wasn't really getting off the ground anyway.
You can also see Scott Paul there, the Alliance for American Manufacturing. A lobby group for American manufactures also leaving. This is after Merck, Under Armour, Intel, those CEOs left the president's advisory council.
And even more notably, the Walmart CEO, who's on a different advisory board, the Walmart CEO out with pretty sharp comments in a message to his own employees. Keep in mind, Doug McMillion, runs a company, Walmart, that is basically kind of main street America, right? It's got the largest private sector work force in the country. About a million, a million and a half workers. He said this. We too felt that he missed a critical opportunity of -- Donald Trump, the president -- to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.
So you're seeing companies, the business class, breaking with the business president here because they are not in step on this issue, just like they're not in step on climate change. Just like they're not in step on other issues as well. You know, the -- immigration is one pointed -- a noted departure as well.
BERMAN: Yes, Doug McMillion, the president was asked about him yesterday, you could see it sort of got to him a little bit.
BERMAN: He says he knows Doug McMillion. But that was a political statement from the head of Walmart there.
Interesting we talked to Javier Palomarez, who's the chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
BERMAN: I think you know Javier.
ROMANS: Yes. BERMAN: He's sticking around. He's staying in the diversity council because he thinks he can have a voice. How much pressure do you think these guys are feeling?
ROMANS: You know, they are feeling a lot of pressure from their shareholders, from their customers. There was a big online push on social media for Campbell's Soup, for that CEO to step back, saying it's just not in step with like the image that they want at that company.
There are CEOs, though, who say, look, we think we should have a seat at the table. We want to be there and talk about manufacturing and talk about American jobs. But it is notable how much pressure these CEOs are under.
There's also kind of a feeling among some of them that there's a post Trump world now. That it's a pro-business environment. Maybe they still will get a tax cut down the line. But they're kind of looking beyond the drama in the White House toward their own businesses.
BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, great to have you here with us. Thanks so much.
BERMAN: All right, President Trump lashed out at the removal of confederate statues. Now four more monuments, confederate icons, taken down overnight. That happened in the city of Baltimore. We will speak to the city's mayor, next.
[09:53:13] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself. where does it stop?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So it didn't stop last night. In Baltimore, four confederate monuments taken down, including one of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. They were removed before dawn, barely two days after the Baltimore city council voted unanimously to remove them following the violence in Charlottesville.
I'm joined now by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.
Mayor, thank you so much for being with us.
I guess let's start with what you did and why you did it so quickly last night. Explain that.
MAYOR CATHERINE PUGH (D), BALTIMORE: Well, let me just say that it was Monday that I let the city council know, and the president of the city council first, that we were going to be moving quickly and quietly as related to the confederate statues because in 2015, I believe it was, the former mayor set up a task force and they issued a report to this -- some of the members of this city council in August of 2016 and so nothing really had been done since then.
And the things that are occurring around this country, I believe as a mayor, I have a responsibility to make sure that my city is safe and that we have more harmony in our communities. And so last night I said to the council prior to that I was meeting with contractors, I was making sure that I dotted my i's and crossed my t's and that I was going to move quickly. And I did. Quietly, as I said that I would, starting around 11:30 last night, and finished up about 5:00 a.m. So I know I look tired.
BERMAN: Right. You don't look tired. I'm the one who looks tired here.
The president asked the question of when -- when will it stop? And suggested if you're going to remove the statues of Robert E. Lee, do you then take down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Do you have plans to remove the statues or memorials to George Washington in the city of Baltimore?
[09:55:11] PUGH: We have no such plans. And let me just be real clear. You know this whole movement of us taking an inward look at what we are putting up in front of people in our cities throughout the nation really began in July of -- I believe that was June of 2015 when the white supremacists killed nine people in South Carolina. I think that's what began this study that took place in Baltimore.
And people are rallying all across this nation wanting confederate statues to be torn down. And I think that if anybody had listened to Mayor Landrieu's speech and other speeches regarding why they should be taken down, I just thought there was no need for fanfare. Let's just get it done and move forward.
BERMAN: Do you think -- what did you think when you heard the president make that connection, though, between, you know, Stonewall Jackson, for instance, and, you know, President George Washington? Do you think they are on the same moral plane?
PUGH: Well, let me just say, this movement here is about white supremacy. It is about confederate statues. It is about what you should be doing for the people in your city and your communities.
You know, I have so many things to focus on in Baltimore. You know, we're right now just choosing our monitor for our consent decree. You know, making sure that our young people are working. Making sure that people understand that we can move our city forward. So President Trump has his issues. Catherine Pugh, as the mayor of Baltimore city, is working for the people of our city.
BERMAN: Sure. And I appreciate that. And the president did say that he did feel it was up to the local communities and states and cities and whatnot to make decisions for themselves. Obviously, though, you're not just the mayor of Baltimore. You're also
African-American. And I am curious, when you have gazed upon the statue of Robert E. Lee your whole life in your city, you know, growing up and seeing it as an African-American, what feelings did it give you?
PUGH: Well, let me be clear, I'm not originally from Baltimore. I am the mayor of this great city. So I didn't gaze on this statue of Robert E. Lee.
But let me just say, what I do believe that it is a part of our history and there should be something that says why that statue was once there, what it represented and, more importantly, why it should not be there. Because you know the confederacy did not fight to unite this country and we are the United States of America. We should be focused on how we become a more united, a more loving city, state, country and that we will find out that we have more in common than we don't. And that if we work together, our city, our state, our country, our nation, this world will be a better place for all of us.
So I just think there's too much hate going on and we need to just move forward as a community and we need to understand that loving each other and working together is what this nation needs. And that's what we intend for Baltimore city because, as I said, we've got a lot of things to focus on. And the statues should not be a distraction.
BERMAN: We will let you get back to work. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, thank you for your time. Thank you for letting us know why you made the decision you did. Thanks.
All right, happening right now, mourners are lining up for the memorial service for Heather Heyer. She is the woman who was killed during the Charlottesville protest. A city, a nation remembers her.
Stay with us.