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STATE OF THE UNION

Trump Faces Backlash for Charlottesville Remarks; Steve Bannon Out at White House; Charlottesville Mayor Says Everything Changed Last Weekend; Removal Of Confederate Statues; Confronting Race After Charlottesville; Full Solar Eclipse In Nearly 100 Years In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 20, 2017 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION (voice-over): Passion and anger as thousands take to the streets in Boston to protest bigotry.

As debate rages nationwide about racism and free speech, what can be done to calm the country's racial unrest.

And shocking words. President Trump faces bipartisan backlash for his reaction to the violence at a neo-Nazi demonstration in Charlottesville.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there's blame on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Did the president's words embolden white supremacists.

Plus, Bannon ousted. President Trump fires his embattled chief strategist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, the former from Trump insider vows to go to war using a far white website as his weapon, but who is he going to war against.

Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington where the state of our union is still reeling. Just seven days after the violence, deadly neo-Nazi and Klan protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, a much calmer scene in Boston.

Police estimating 40,000 protesters, almost all of them peaceful, took to the streets to protest Nazis, the Klan white supremacists and the alt-right. President Trump had first took to Twitter to condemn anti- police agitators, as he called them, but then an hour later, a change was made in his tweet. "I want to applaud the many protesters in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one."

A different tone from the previous tweet. It was a much different response as well than the one we saw earlier in the week when President Trump refused to place blame solely for the violence and hatred on the groups of hateful bigots who came to Charlottesville to spew hatred of Jews, African-Americans and other minorities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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.

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 and you don't have any doubt about it either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The president also saying that there were very fine people on both sides. And he faced withering bipartisan criticism for those comments.

Capped his week off as well by firing chief strategist Steve Bannon, one of the strongest nationalist voices in his White House.

Joining me now to talk about all of this, plus more, Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich. Governor, thanks for joining us today. What is your reaction to the firing of Steve Bannon? Do you think it's a positive or negative step for the nation?

JOHN KASICH (R), GOVERNOR OF OHIO: Well, Jake, that's up to the president. The problem you have is when you have chaos among your staff, staff in, staff out, new people here, new people there, it's hard to get anything done.

You have to be focused. You have to build a team. And it has to be a team that can argue, including argue with the president, like my staff argues with me as the governor. But at the end of the day, we all row in the same direction and we all have the same purpose.

My concern is, when you have that kind of chaotic situation in terms of staff, they need to settle it down. But the president clearly has a right to have the people that he wants around him.

The way that I believe it works best is when you get people with different points of view, you sit down, you argue out issues carefully and then, at the end, you all come together. And if you're not going to go along with the leader, then you have to leave.

And so, I don't know what all the inner workings are, but they've got to get some stability among the staff. And I think that's probably what General Kelly is trying to do with so many changes here in the last couple weeks.

But the changes have to stop and we have to have a team. You can't keep putting new people in the lineup and think you're going to win a world championship.

TAPPER: You called the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville "pathetic." Mitt Romney says that he thinks President Trump needs to actually apologize to the nation, acknowledge he was wrong in order to avoid "an unraveling of our national fabric."

Do you agree? Do you think President Trump needs to apologize?

KASICH: I think, Jake, in some ways, we're looking backwards, OK. Where I want to look now is what are we going to do to deal with the fundamental issues that we have in the country. The issue of race, the issue of police and community coming together and developing policing methods that can unify - we've done it in Ohio - the need to reform a welfare system.

So, instead of just having people do make work - and a lot of people don't know this, if you're on welfare, you get cash assistance right now if they work 30 hours a week. And people don't know that. If you don't work, we take you off of welfare.

The point is, is that effort, that time you have to put in to be responsible needs to be meaningful. We've got to get people to job training, so they are not stuck in poverty for generations. We need to think about what we can do to make sure minorities have a piece of the pie.

What we have to do in our country to make sure that we begin to discuss the difference between the wealthiest and the poorest in our country? All these things, if we can have a dialogue on that, that is what's going to bring people together.

[09:05:14] And people who have very different points of view, if they have goodwill, it's amazing how much we can agree upon.

TAPPER: Well, governor, I think one of the issues is that there are a lot of people in the middle, on the left, even on the right who are very troubled because they believe President Trump has difficulty condemning white supremacists.

Why do you think he does seem to have this issue? Do you think he's concerned about alienating bigots because they might be a part of his base?

KASICH: Well, look, I didn't see all of his reaction yesterday to the rally in Boston, which was very uplifting. The police were fantastic in the way they handled it. There were so many protesters saying we reject hate.

And my understanding is the president came out and praised people, praised the police, praised the fact that the radicals were really marginalized and that those who marched for against hate, he praised. So, look, I think it's all, Jake, about people getting to him and explaining to him we've got to bring the country together. And blaming one side or another when we're talking about the KKK or white supremacist, there is no comparison between these hate groups and everybody else.

So, I feel positive about what he had to say about Boston from what I understand in the news reports.

TAPPER: President Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign style rally in Phoenix, Arizona Tuesday. The Democratic mayor of Phoenix has expressed concern. He says he hopes President Trump postpones it in light of all the recent events.

Glenn Thrush of "The New York Times" tweeted "lots of nervousness in White House and in Trump's broader circle about this trip to Arizona."

Do you have any concerns about President Trump holding this rally on Tuesday in Arizona?

KASICH: Jake, let me say just a couple of things. Look, the president is our president. We want him to be successful. People around him have to get to him, including his own family, to say, OK, you need to show leadership, you need to bring the country together.

You're going to go to Phoenix and make a speech? Fine. That's you're right. You can go there. He's got free speech just like the rest of us have it. But when you go, try to use that as an opportunity to say something that's going to bring people together.

You might recall, when he delivered that speech to the Congress, the day after, the people on CNN said, well, tonight Donald Trump became president. He has it within him if he can maintain discipline. He has within him, I think, to overcome this and move forward.

Because, if all we're doing is questioning his motives and what's in his heart, and the right and the left, all we're doing is fighting and yelling, back and forth - Jake, you're all asking the question, how does the country make it with all this fighting? This is ridiculous at this point.

Everybody in America needs to take a deep breath and think about your children and think about our country. We don't do well when all we do is fight. So, let's all take a deep breath and let's think about what we can do to heal some of the basic issues in this country, which are still out there.

That's why I'm going to go, for example, to Appalachia. A lot of people, poor. They're not minorities. They look like you and me, Jake.

The fact is, we've got to get to the knob of why people think they don't have opportunity and we need to fix that because America is the land of opportunity.

I'm sorry to go on and on here. But I just feel strongly now that we've got to just stop it. Stop it now and figure out how to find things that we can agree upon.

TAPPER: All right, governor. Stay right there. We have much more to talk about. We're going to take a quick break.

Coming up next, a report this week that Governor Kasich might be more convinced now that someone needs to challenge Trump in the primaries in 2020. We'll talk about that next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with Ohio Governor John Kasich. Governor, according to a report this week, sources close to you are saying there's a growing sense of "moral imperative for President Trump to face a primary challenge in 2020."

Now, I know you're not going to announce any plans on my show and you've made no plans, but if everything continues as it has been, does a Republican need to step forward to challenge President Trump in three years?

KASICH: Well, Jake, as you said, I don't have any plans to do anything like that. I'm rooting for him to get it together. We all are. We're only like seven months into this presidency.

And, look, what we have to start thinking about, all of us, not just the president, but down where we live, in the neighborhoods, in the communities, we've got to build a stronger America.

Look, why am I on this show? You asked me to come on. I'm trying to have a responsible voice, to call things out when they need to be called out, but also to support my country.

So, what I hope is going to happen is I think we're going to - I hope we're going to have stability, the president is going to learn from these episodes, and we're going to do better. That's what I hope is going to happen. We'll have to wait and see.

TAPPER: Minutes ago, Defense Secretary Mattis announced that President Trump has made a decision about what to do next in Afghanistan, though we haven't heard what the decision is. This is what you had to say about troop levels in Afghanistan last year. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASICH: I now believe we need to get out of Afghanistan. If I were president, I wouldn't be announcing the timeline, but I would give the aircraft that the Afghans need and I'd get out of there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: There are an estimated 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan. Do you think President Trump should be planning a complete withdrawal of US troops?

[09:15:03] KASICH: Well, I wouldn't be in favor of him trying to add troops. Here's the thing. We've been there 16 years. We went there primarily to make sure that Afghanistan was not going to be a launching pad into United States with terrorism.

We largely have accomplished that. But somehow, we've gotten ourselves involved in nation building, trying to build a strong central government in a country where central governments don't work. It's done in a regional way.

My view would be, no, I think we need to begin to leave there and I think we can reserve the opportunity to use intelligence to be able to strike any of these training camps, any of these places where our intelligence community begins to think that they are now building a base and a launching pad that would be harmful to us and to our allies.

So, continuing to put more troops in, is not the way I think we should go. I think we should begin to leave and then I think we should reserve the opportunity and the right, with the proper basing of our forces, in the region to be able to strike if we think that there is an effort being made to create another launching pad.

But to just stay there after 16 years, I want our people to be able to come home.

TAPPER: North Korea -

KASICH: Thank goodness, I didn't change my mind from a year ago, Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. Not a good 'gotcha'. You stand by what you said.

North Korea, of course, has threatened the US and South Korea ahead of tomorrow's planned military drills between the US and South Korea. North Korea calling them reckless behavior, driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.

These exercises, of course, come after these weeks of growing tensions in the region with North Korea, focusing on American targets such as Guam and possibly Hawaii.

Do you think that the US should consider postponing these drills?

KASICH: Not at this point. I think if they were like two weeks in the future, perhaps we could consider it. But when both General Mattis and Tillerson, the negotiators, negotiated all over the world, have a sense that we have to keep the pressure on, I agree with that.

I do - I will give credit to administration that has talked about how important it is to protect the continental United States and that we are going to have every option on the table. And I think it's gotten the attention of the Chinese. A lot of people pooh-pooh, the Chinese are not going to do anything.

Let me just tell you, Jake, if I were the president of the United States and we had a regime like North Korea and they were able to develop the technology to target the United States of America, we would have no choice but to take those systems out. No choice. And it would change the very fabric of that peninsula.

And so, if the Chinese are worried about what's going to happen in North Korea, the best way to get - to have things happen that they don't like is just to sit back and do nothing. I think they're beginning to put the heat on Un, that dictator over there.

So, at this point, I think we continue with the exercises, but we look for a way to get some sort of a freeze on that program, a verifiable freeze and begin to think about how, over time, we can have a more stable group of people who run North Korea.

TAPPER: But you would not only not rule out, but you would enact a preemptive strike if North Korea were proven to be establishing and developing nuclear-capable ICBMs that could hit the United States?

KASICH: Yes. Let me put it to you this way, Jake. I wouldn't take a chance on a government that unstable and a leader who is that erratic to be able have the capability to launch and to land a missile in Los Angeles and kill people there. Yes, I would reserve that right.

And I would make it clear to the Chinese. I would send an envoy to see the Chinese now and say there is a red line. We're not going to sit back and have our people targeted by this regime and you can do something about it. And if you don't do something about it, you're going to have to live with the results. Yes, we have to protect Americans before we worry about anything else out here.

So, what can happen is the Koreans can stop all their crazy testing and then we can get to a point where we can begin to talk about denuclearizing the whole peninsula. There's a lot of things we can talk about, but it needs to be made very clear to the Chinese. This is in your hands and you don't want to do anything? You're going to have to live with the result because we are not going to risk the lives of our people.

TAPPER: I do want to ask you about healthcare. The Republican effort, obviously, to repeal and replace Obamacare collapsed in the Senate.

President Trump has threatened to stop the subsidy payments to Obamacare to help insurance companies pay for -

KASICH: That would be a disaster.

TAPPER: So, he made the August payment -

KASICH: No, that would be a disaster.

TAPPER: You think that he should -

KASICH: You can't do that.

TAPPER: Pledge -

KASICH: No, he's got to continue to fund it. No, you cannot just cut this off and create more chaos.

Look, John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado, Democrat, and I are working together on a plan that can stabilize those markets, which we would be glad to present to people in the Senate. I'm hoping we're going to get an agreement on it. We're getting closer and closer.

You've got to do this in a bipartisan way. And the thing you have to do is stabilize those insurance markets.

And if you wanted to take away payments, you're going to create chaos. We can't have that.

Let's stabilize those markets first. Let's not worry about Medicaid at this point. Let's get the Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare in terms of a package to deal with the rising debt we have in this country and do that in a responsible way.

There's ways to get this stuff done, Jake. Believe me, I've been there. I saw us reform welfare. I saw us balance the budget. I saw us reform the Pentagon. We can do it if people will just get off their political soapboxes and begin to think about the country.

Because I've got a message. We all get old and we all leave this planet. So, we're going to be judged in many ways by what we did when we were here. Stop playing games. It just doesn't make any sense. Do something. Be bigger than yourself. Live a life bigger than yourself.

That's where we need to go in Washington. That's where we need to go across the board in all of the United States, with business and sports and religion, across the board. Let's get our act together and think bigger than ourselves.

TAPPER: All right. Inspirational words from Governor John Kasich. We always appreciate being here, sir. Thank you so much.

KASICH: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Opponents who celebrated the president's decision to fire Steve Bannon may have popped the proverbial Champale a little too soon.

The former White House chief strategist has rejoined "Breitbart News". And he's made it clear, he is still going to fight for the Trump agenda, saying, "in many ways, I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on. And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with." Ending a sentence with a preposition notwithstanding.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House - ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, good to see you as always.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIFORNIA: Good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: So, in response to President Trump's firing of Bannon, you tweeted, "Glad to see Bannon gone. He never belonged in the White House, but the problem persists since the most profound source of division cannot be fired."

Your position on President Trump and Bannon clear there. But let me ask you. Is there anyone else in the White House that you think should not be there?

SCHIFF: There's certainly a lot of people in the White House staff and NSC staff that shouldn't be there, people like Miller and Gorka and others, who not only, I think, represent the same thing that Steve Bannon did, but aren't capable of doing the job well.

So, yes, I think there's more cleaning house that ought to take place. But as I mentioned in that tweet, Jake, the more fundamental problem is at the very top.

I think what the president had to say about the demonstrations in Boston and elsewhere was perfectly fine, perfectly unobjectionable, but also perfectly inadequate after that debacle of a press conference he had supposedly on infrastructure.

The real, I think, challenge and job for the chief executive in a country where race has always been such a difficult conversation is to do everything possible to bring our country together, to help make us a more perfect union.

And what the president did this week was as if he stood on a line dividing the country and pushed to separate one American from another with all his might. And that is not what this country needs.

TAPPER: After President Trump's comments appearing to equate white supremacists and the counter-protesters, your fellow Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Jackie Speier tweeted, "POTUS is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that placed the country in grave danger. Time to invoke the 25th amendment." That's the amendment that would allow the removal of the president.

Do you agree that President Trump is mentally unstable?

SCHIFF: Well, I certainly think that there is an issue with the president's capability. There is some attribute of this character that makes him seemingly incapable of introspection and a broad understanding of what the country really needs.

And I think it's a question that people are asking, what is going on with this president, what can explain this kind of behavior.

It began at the very beginning, Jake. I remember when he had won the election and within days seemed to suggest that the only reason he didn't win the popular vote was that millions of people illegally came to the country and voted.

And I thought to myself, oh, my God, this man is not only going to not grow with the job, but is willing to say things that are just patently untrue. I'm convinced, if you took somebody off the street of America and you said you've just become president, but here's the deal, you didn't win the popular vote, they would have the common sense to say, look, I'm going to do everything I can to win over everyone. I realize that many people - indeed most people didn't vote for me.

But he didn't do that. He is not capable of doing that. And I don't understand why. But I do recognize what a serious problem that is.

And I think more than when I say it or when Jackie Speier says it, the fact that Bob Corker now says things along the same lines shows a broadening recognition that there are some serious issues with our president that aren't going to go away, that aren't going to get better, and indeed, with the pressures of the job, may very well get worse, and I think, for that reason, at a minimum, we need the very best people around him in the White House.

And that means that not people like Bannon, not people like Miller, not people like Gorka, but rather some more adults in the room.

[09:25:14] TAPPER: It sounds like you're saying that you don't disagree with Jackie Speier who said that President Trump is showing signs of erratic behavior, mental instability. So, it sounds like you're not disagreeing with that.

What about the 25th Amendment part, which would call for the removal of the president? Do you agree with that?

SCHIFF: I don't think we're at a point of thinking about the 25th Amendment. For one thing, this is something that the vice president and cabinet would need to come together on.

I think what the authors of the amendment principally had in mind was some kind of physical incapacitation or serious mental illness or a breakdown, an inability to function in office, and I think we're still far from concluding that that's the case, even though we find, many of us, his conduct an anathema and there to be a serious problem here.

But I don't think it, particularly at this point in time, makes a lot of sense to focus on the 25th Amendment.

I do think it means that we have to put real constraints on this president. We have to make sure that our system of checks and balances in Congress work. I think, frankly, the most powerful thing we can do, rather than pursue the 25th amendment at this point, is just make sure that one house or the other, and ideally both, are in Democratic hands. Frankly, the hands of a party not in the White House to be a more effective check on some of the damage this president can do.

TAPPER: Congressman, let me ask you, President Trump was, obviously, widely condemned for his comments, in which he seemed to be equating both sides for the violence and hatred in Charlottesville.

But, obviously, let's remove the idea that there's any moral equivalence, is there any legitimacy to the argument that the violent tactics of groups like Antifa make matters worse and that Democrats and progressives need to condemn them?

SCHIFF: Anyone that's committing violence ought to be condemned. Anyone. There's no justification for it whatsoever.

But I do think that that cannot be allowed to obscure the fact that millions of people are gathering around the country, and have since this present was inaugurated, in the most peaceful form of protests.

And we can't allow the commander-in-chief to somehow equate the handful of people that would make those protests violent with any kind of sentiment that condones white supremacy or neo-Nazism.

And I think it all gets back to the point you made earlier, Jake, and I think the fundamental problem here is that the president of the United States can't bring himself to repudiate a part of his support, and that is that small group of bigots that are supporters of his.

He's taken a position essentially that if you're with me, you can do no wrong. And I won't condemn you practically anything that you do.

His difficulty during the campaign, in your interview to condemn David Duke is not at all unlike the difficulties he has this week in a full- throated, unequivocal repudiation of the sentiment and an ideology that we not only find repugnant, but we fought a World War over.

So, I think that's the root of the problem.

TAPPER: Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, thank you so much. Good to see you as always, sir.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: One Republican Senator now saying he worries that there is more violence to come and he says he doubts President Trump can bring the country together in the event that that happens. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:33:07]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL SIGNER (D), CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: I think everything changed last weekend. I think that was one of those moments in a nation's history where everything turns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's the mayor of Charlottesville, Michael Signer, speaking just one week after that white supremacist rally, the tiki torch march through his town. Let's talk about it all with our panel.

Bakari Sellers, let me ask you. Do you think that it's true that everything changed for the country last weekend?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it was a tragic day for the country.

But white supremacy is not new. It didn't start with Donald Trump. It has been magnified and lift up and put on another playing field.

But I don't think anything has necessarily changed. It won't change until individuals who don't look like Nina and I decide that enough is enough. This isn't a partisan issue.

And so many people confuse patriotism and prejudice. And what we saw on display was so much prejudice. And I hope that individuals especially white evangelicals in the United States of America decide to stand up and say enough is enough and Donald Trump is perverting in giving these individuals a platform and he should not.

That's all we're asking for.

TAPPER: Congressman, you've seen a lot of the tensions up close this week in your home state -- I'm sorry, your home commonwealth of Virginia.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Yes.

TAPPER: What was your reaction? What do you think?

TAYLOR: Actually, ironically I was in Israel when all that stuff was going on. And I've seen that.

I agree with some of the things that Bakari said in terms of folks need to rise up. And -- largely you have seen that of course. I think there's no place for hate in Virginia or America.

And I think that you did see that on both sides of the aisle, Democrat and Republican people coming out and condemning what was going on. It was a tragic day for Virginia and for the nation, of course, too.

I was critical of the president of how the third -- I think the second press conference was strong and hit the right note but the third was not. But at the same time I think it's important that we -- that politics of identity, racial politics, tribal politics, quite frankly, are not what this nation needs and anyone espousing them I think are wrong.

[09:35:03]

I think we should be focused on building this country as opposed to tearing it down.

TAPPER: Nina, what was it like for you this last week?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Heavy, Jake.

I want to read a brief quote from Dr. Crystal Fleming. She wrote an article in "The Root" that I think informs exactly what Bakari just said. She said, it is clear that our nation is in the midst of a very public and painful reckoning with the memory and among other things ongoing white supremacy. And that's it. That in other words what transpired in Virginia was just a tipping point but this has been happening in this country all along. And until we go deeper, showing disgust for and standing up very clearly and unified against racism and bigotry like the neo-Nazis and KKK inspired but we've got to go deeper to deal with mass incarceration in this country that locks up more black and brown folks and poor folks.

We got to deal with income and wealth inequality -- inequality in our school system. So dealing with neo-Nazis is one thing but dealing with systemic racism is another. And this is a day of reckoning for our country.

TAPPER: Senator?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. That kind of talk that really, I think, causes problems for a lot of America that says somehow or another that if you're white, you're somehow racist.

And -- I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Nobody ever said that.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: You (ph) talked about -- you (ph) talked about systemic racism and as opposed to neo-Nazis.

I agree. I mean, I think everybody has stood up and said, you know, that we're obviously against white supremacy. I don't know of anybody who has spoken in favor of --

TAYLOR: Certainly (INAUDIBLE).

SANTORUM: Yes. Certainly nobody that I'm aware of but the idea of then saying, well, this is a, you know, a larger problem that is that -- I just would say that, you know, we have problems of racism in this country. But that's not -- tying that to white supremacists, I think, is a --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Two hundred and fifty years worth of slavery -- 250 years worth of slavery. Almost a hundred years worth of Jim Crow in this country, the fact that the systems in this country still treat black folks, in particular, African-American folks as second-class citizens.

And part of what the senator doesn't want to face is also part of the problem. No one has said -- Bakari and I or nobody has said that all white people are racists. But we do, in this country, have racist institutions.

Look there were white folks out there, marching against the neo-Nazis and the KKK. But the fact that we can't deal with systemic racism in this country, something is wrong with that. SELLERS: And I -- and I hope that -- and I hope that you're uncomfortable with the conversation because this conversation is uncomfortable. It's something that we have to deal with.

But the fact is that we can go to East Chicago or we can go to Flint, Michigan. Let me tell you that they have environmental injustices that do not happen in Orange County.

TURNER: Right.

SELLERS: There are places that do not happen in affluent areas of this country, affluent white areas of this country. In South Carolina --

SANTORUM: How about poor white areas?

SELLERS: We -- no doubt about it.

TURNER: No doubt.

SELLERS: They are suffering. But let's have a conversation about systemic injustices that we have. And there's a direct --

SANTORUM: Systemic injustices are not necessarily race injustices.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You're saying -- you're saying that they're more -- you're saying they're --

SANTORUM: There are some but --

TAPPER Class is what you're saying?

SANTORUM: Yes. This -- look, this is an issue about -- and I think we can agree on this.

There are -- there are problems in this country where there are millions of people who do not have -- who do not have opportunities to be able to rise. But you can find -- you can find that in rural areas of this country throughout Appalachia, areas (ph) of my state and West Virginia and Kentucky just so you can find them in Detroit, in Philadelphia and other places and to suggest that is racist in base, I just think, covers -- clouds the issue that we have serious problems to confront here and covering it with race is I just think not --

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR: Let me touch on a couple of things. I think there are some good points on both sides here. You know, both Nina and the senator have brought up good points.

And when you look at -- I think you have to separate some things. So when you look at Virginia you can't drive five to 10 miles without seeing something that is a monument to the war dead in the civil war or a civil war battlefield or a monument itself. That is a separate issue to one of the things that Nina brought up which I agree with.

We do have a big problem with criminal justice reform here and we need improvement. There's no question about that. Economic opportunity for folks both in white Appalachia as well as in black communities as well too. There's no question about that.

But you have to separate the two. They are not the same thing.

SELLERS: But they are.

TAYLOR: Hold on. They are not the same thing when you're talking about white supremacists and marching and taking monuments, saying that that symbol -- like a monument to war dead or something like that, or even Jefferson, for example, (INAUDIBLE) and you have seen the conversation move to that direction.

There are very real problems that we need to address in criminal justice improvement and other substantive problems. That's not the same thing as marching and taking down a statue that someone has driven by a thousand times and never had a problem with.

TURNER: I mean, income and wealth inequality. My only point is this --

TAYLOR: I agree with that.

TURNER: -- is that in our face over racism and bigotry that was on display in Virginia is one thing.

SANTORUM: A small tiny little --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: No.

[09:40:01]

But we deal with that. But I'm saying beyond that -- and that's what Professor Fleming was saying, too. How do we deal with in this country systemic racism?

I get Appalachia. I visit Appalachia. I travel Appalachia.

I understand. I talked to a woman yesterday by the name of Portia who lives in Ohio, who was crying her eyes out. She is on the front lines for racial equality but she also talks about the fact that in her county in Ohio that there are poor white folks. And I get that.

And so the fact that we're willing -- we're willing to talk about class but sometimes you guys don't want to talk about race.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: Yes. You got to talk about both.

TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) Bakari and then the senator (ph). SELLERS: I can't let you separate that. Because that's an easy way out. That's a cop-out.

And the reason -- the reason

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: The reason -- the reason that it's a cop-out is because you have this conversation about race. And these statues, these monuments, many them were erected during the Jim Crow era --

TURNER: That's right.

SELLERS: -- when we were making civil -- when we were making progress in civil rights. It was a big thumb in your eye. That's why the confederate flag went up in South Carolina, that's why these monuments went up throughout the country.

And they have a statue of some --

TAYLOR: Not all of them.

SELLERS: But a lot of them. To have a statue of someone like a Robert E. Lee, to have a statue of someone like a Pitchfork Ben Tillman or John C. Calhoun, whose name by the way was John C. "Kill- hoon" (ph). To have these individuals just revered -- do you understand how a black -- you may not but as a black man, let me tell you, that is very, very painful.

TAYLOR: Don't talk -- don't talk about --

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: No, I'm not. But I'm just saying that is very painful. And the reason that is painful -- and this conversation has to be uncomfortable, the reason that it's painful is because --

TAYLOR: I'm comfortable having these conversations.

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR: And let me say, you have to be able to separate some things. There's no question about it.

Look, I understand you can be empathetic on -- to understand where you're coming from and where we're coming from. Some of these monuments in Virginia, for example -- and there are millions of Virginias who don't support this because some of these are their families, some of those are sacred monuments to war dead. Those are big issues.

History is very layered. Let me paraphrase the black mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, who is a great man who said a couple of months ago -- this has since changed but a couple of months ago he said -- because of politics but he said, keep the statues, but teach the context. Create more statues to teach history and context. That is extremely important.

Our history is not perfect. It's imperfect. But we have the ability to move toward a more perfect union and most countries don't have that.

TAPPER: We're just going to take a very quick break and continue this conversation. We just have to pay some bills. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:46:53]

TAPPER: We're back with our panel.

I want to put something up in the midst of this essential but admittedly uncomfortable conversation. Here are the covers of the "Time" magazine and "The Economist" and "The New Yorker" all with President Trump or thereabouts tying him to a Nazi salute and twice to the Klan.

Senator Santorum, your thoughts?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, look, the fact that we're having this conversation is a good thing. The fact is that we don't have this conversation very often because it does tend to descend into that which is -- you know, OK, if you have any -- if you speak out at all and try to --- and try to have any kind of conversation about this from a conservative perspective, well you're just -- you know, you're a bigot. You're a racist.

And the reality is that there are real problems in this country that some of them are -- race is an issue but there are a lot of issues that cut across that. And I think that's -- the fact that everything gets conflated that it's race I just think is wrong. I mean, the reality is that a lot of people in this country are suffering.

I don't think it's class either. I don't accept the class -- there are classes in America, like there are in other countries in the world. But there are people who are hurting that we have to have solutions and be able to address those.

And when the issue is if it happens to be a minority that somehow it's -- the condition is because of their race, I think it just obscures the larger problem. And that's where I think the discussion needs to rest.

TAPPER: Nina?

TURNER: I mean, it's just our unwillingness to really deal with this.

I mean, every generation, we're hit with something that reminds us of where -- how we started as a country. Yes, there's lots of suffering in this country but a lot of the undercurrents of that suffering we can link in some way to race and/or class. And that is how this country was founded. This whole revisionist history about, you know, the framers, all men are created equal when we know good and doggone well that all men were not created equal when the framers wrote those words. Now the fact that they wrote -- to form a more perfect union somewhere in there, that's what we're doing generation after generation.

But not to be able to sit here and tell the truth about these issues and every time African-Americans want to talk about the injustices that happen to them in this country all of the sudden they're told no, no, no, your pain -- you didn't hurt that much. Or what's happening to you and your neighbors and down the street is not really that much pain.

When Bakari brought up the Flint, Michigan, that whole thing, in the terms of the fact that they still -- almost four years still do not have the infrastructure that is necessary to give them clean water. Now I will add a point that there are 3,000 other areas in this country where the lead levels are higher than that, than Flint, Michigan. But when you look at environmental injustice or environmental racism, you look at communities, mainly communities of color and then on the other side, communities that are poor.

So, we've got to deal with this.

TAPPER: So, Bakari, let me ask you, the idea of the framers writing "all men are created equal" it seems to a lot of people that the aspirations of the framers -- remember, it says all men, it doesn't even mention women.

TURNER: Right.

TAPPER: That the aspirations are what's important, not necessarily who they were at that moment in time.

[09:50:03]

Is that not a fair argument?

SELLERS: I think that's a legitimate argument.

I think -- and that helps us in this argument where Donald Trump was somewhat perverting history by equating Robert E. Lee to George Washington. We know that one was an aspirational figure who although he owns slaves and we need to reckon with that and deal with that.

TURNER: We do.

SELLERS: We have to deal with that and understand that. He was -- his goal was a more perfect union. Robert E. Lee thought that slavery was actually good for the mentality of the African-American -- or the African. He thought that that was good for people who look like me. And that's not where we are.

But I have to comment quickly because I want Senator Santorum to understand that I want his voice to be a part of this discussion. Like you are a white evangelical Christian. SANTORUM: Catholic.

SELLERS: Catholic. Sorry.

TAPPER: But evangelicals love him.

SELLERS: But evangelicals love you.

But we still want you to be part of the conversation and your voice is necessary because what we saw Saturday in Charlottesville, those people weren't fringe elements. Those were bankers and physician assistants and they are teachers and college students.

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR: I mean, I think that --

SELLERS: The neo-Nazi fascist. I'm saying those are real people.

TAYLOR: Of course they're real people but that is a very, very small piece of the population that got a tremendous amount of headlines.

And for whatever reason we can argue why they got the headline I think it is important one of the things you said it is important to understand who Washington was. It's important to understand who Robert E. Lee was. It's important to understand how we are, where we are today.

And I think what's important and I've been to many countries around the world where you don't have racial justice and no mechanism to be able to move in that direction. There are many problems today and I acknowledge those and I love this conversation, I think it's great. And I'm working towards this in Congress to deal with these issues.

But the reality is our imperfect history or imperfect union has a mechanism to get better. Now it is -- it could be faster for some people, there's no question about that, but the reality is thank God that we have the ability to improve like many other countries do not.

TAPPER: Thank you one and all. I'm sorry. Thank you.

It was a great conversation, to be continued. Hopefully all over America for the next few decades.

These topics are sure to come up tomorrow night when I'm going to be moderating an exclusive town hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan. He'll take questions from voters and constituents. That's tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:55:25]

TAPPER: Welcome back in just over 24 hours this nation will experience something that hasn't happened in nearly a hundred years, a coast to coast solar eclipse. But in the way we have been experiencing this phenomenon for more than a year. And that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): As the sun rises and a new week begins it occurs to us there has been a lot of news on the horizon that perhaps hasn't gotten the light it deserved.

A Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher met with fugitive WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange. NASA launched its newest communication satellite hoping to relay data from the Hubble and other spacecrafts. The Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly criticized Chicago's Sanctuary City policy saying the rule of law has broken down.

And Kim Kardashian revealed President Obama was her partner the one and only time she did karaoke.

KIM KARDASHIAN, ACTRESS: It was so cool. It was with Obama, Kanye, and like, maybe 15 people.

TAPPER: And now we're just hours away from another huge news event. The first solar eclipse visible coast to coast in the United States since 1918. You're forgiven if you've missed one or all of the stories, something else has been eclipsing other news quite often.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. You have to see what's outside, you wouldn't believe it -- unbelievable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Remember not to look at it directly.

Thanks for watching.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.